Friday, April 24, 2015

“Tuscan Salmon Pasta” A Recipe From "The Old Farmer's Almanac"

Welcome; All of my followers and readers know that one of my passions is reading, which includes books, magazines, short stories, and of course I wait every year to read the “Old Farmer’s Almanac.” I love this magazine/book. The Almanac is full of interesting stories, has so much information as to gardening, the weather facts, and of course how to grow foods and flowers. Each page has so much information, it is like an encyclopedia. If you have not tried a copy of the Old Farmer’s almanac you need to get a copy, you will not want to put it down. Do you know who’s Birthday is today? Robert B. Thomas’s Birthday is today…You may be saying to yourself who is Robert B. Thomas? Read more and you will find out….

Today, Robert Bailey Thomas was born in 1766. He was the founder and long time editor of the “Farmer's Almanac,” now known as the “Old Farmer's Almanac.” There were many competing almanacs in the 18th century, but Thomas's upstart was a success. In it’s second year, distribution tripled to 9,000. The initial cost of the book was six pence (about four cents). The words of the Almanac's founder, Robert B. Thomas, guides us still: "Our main endeavor is to be useful, but with a pleasant degree of humor." To calculate the Almanac's weather predictions, Thomas studied solar activity, astronomy cycles, and weather patterns. He also used his research to develop a secret forecasting formula, which is still in use today. Other than the Almanac's prognosticators, few people have seen the formula. It is kept in a black tin box at the Almanac offices in Dublin, New Hampshire.

Robert Bailey Thomas

Thomas also started drilling a hole through the Almanac so that subscribers could hang it from a nail or a string. Thomas served as editor until his death on May 19, 1846. As its editor for more than 50 years, Thomas established The Old Farmer's Almanac as America's "most enduring" almanac by outlasting the competition. In 1832, with his almanac having survived longer than similarly named competitors, Thomas inserted the word "Old" in the title, later dropping it in the title of the 1836 edition. After Thomas's death, John Henry Jenks was appointed editor and in 1848, the book's name was permanently and officially revised to “The Old Farmer's Almanac.”

The Old Farmer's Almanac, North America's oldest continuously published periodical, since 1792, features the best in home, garden, history, food, and fun. All this and the famous weather forecasts: as always, traditionally 80% accurate. The Old Farmer's Almanac is a reference book that contains weather forecasts, tide tables, planting charts, astronomical data, recipes, and articles on a number of topics, including gardening, sports, astronomy, and farming. The book also features anecdotes and a section that predicts trends in fashion, food, home décor, technology, and living for the coming year. 

The Old Farmer's Almanac has spoken to all walks of life: tide tables for those who live near the ocean; sunrise and planting charts for those who live on the farm; recipes for those who live in the kitchen; and forecasts for those who don't like the question of weather left up in the air. Released the second Tuesday in the September that precedes the year printed on its cover. In recent years, The Old Farmer's Almanac line of products has expanded, always with an eye on Mr. Thomas's wise words about keeping things fun and practical. So now they produce many calendars, cookbooks, journals, the All-Season Garden Guide, music CDs, and many handy reference charts. In its bicentennial edition, the Almanac stated, "neither we nor anyone else has as yet gained sufficient insight into the mysteries of the universe to predict weather with anything resembling total accuracy."

Today’s recipe is one that I am sharing from the “Old Farmer’s Almanac.” This dish is not only easy but a great way to incorporate Smoked Salmon and veggies together for a scrumptious pasta dish.

Tuscan Salmon Pasta

8 oz. bow tie pasta
1 cup broccoli florets, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 oz. (3 to 4 tbsp) low fat cream cheese, roughly cubed
3 oz. smoked salmon, roughly chopped
4 artichoke hearts, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta as directed until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, steam broccoli. Drain pasta and add cream cheese to the pasta. Toss a bit to melt the cheese, then add smoked salmon, artichoke hearts, broccoli, and lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Till Next Time………

Copyright © 2015 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

“Ravioli with Snap Peas & Mushrooms” & “Blue Sea Martini” For Earth Day!

Yes, I am back and ready to post fabulous stories and the most yummy and delicious recipes, that I know you will love and enjoy! So welcome back to “Family Plus Food Equals Love.”
It is “Earth Day’s” 45th Anniversary (tomorrow) April 22. In 1970 the first Earth Day was celebrated by 20 million people across the United States with Senator Gaylord Nelson as its founder. Senator Nelson realized that the US cities were being choked by smog and the rivers were getting polluted which meant that our environmental landscape in the USA was gloomy. This US Senator from Wisconsin succeeded in passing a Congressional resolution declaring April 22 a National Celebration of the Earth. This ground breaking effort earned Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom award. More than 5,000 groups from 184 countries celebrate Earth Day. National events are held across the globe from Africa to Washington D.C. Today, Earth Day is an event to celebrate the environmental victories of the past four decades and consider the many opportunities for improvement in the future of our Mother Earth. Earth Day is a catalyst for ongoing education, action, and change. It simultaneously broadens the base of support and rekindles old commitments through highly participatory strategies.

Pledge to plant and speak for the trees, for April 22, 2015 - Be a part of the biggest grassroots effort in history by planting a seed/tree as a “give back” to Earth. It's a Native American tradition that when you take something from the Earth, you must give something back. Earth Day 2015 will be a global "give back to Earth" event, for all the planet gives humans. Their goal is to plant one billion seeds or trees! Please plant something that is organic, perennial, and suitable to the growing conditions in your area. Please nurture your plantings, like children, until they can sustain themselves on their own!

A great way to celebrate Earth Day is to prepare your food in a way that is easy on the environment. Earth day recipes should include local produce of fruits and vegetables which would contain less harmful pesticides as well as support your local farmers. If you use organic it could cut your families pesticide exposure by almost 90%. Purchase foods with less packaging so you do not crate more waste. Use your own reusable containers for your grab and go foods. Start to rethink the most energy efficient cooking methods for your foods. Avoid using your oven, and go for using your stove top, crock pots or even a toaster oven. When cooking, prepare enough to save or freeze to eat later. You will use fewer resources. Eat more raw foods, less to cook and better for your health. Run only full loads of dishes or clothes with Energy Star appliances. Wait till after 8 PM, as it saves energy by avoiding the power “rush hour,” when more resources are strained by higher emissions. These are just some ways to help out planet earth and our environment. So next time you purchase a bottle of water, remember to please recycle!

One of my two recipes this week is a very environmentally friendly dish. You can use organic vegetables from your local farm growers and only use your stove top to prepare this recipe. Don’t forget to celebrate Earth Day and be environmentally friendly! Enjoy!!

Ravioli with Snap Peas & Mushrooms

Serves: 8
1 package (20 ounces) refrigerated cheese ravioli
1 pound fresh sugar snap peas, trimmed
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 pound sliced fresh mushrooms
3 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups fat-free evaporated milk
8 fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced or 2 teaspoons rubbed sage
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup hazelnuts, (or whatever nuts your family likes) coarsely chopped & toasted

In a large saucepan, cook ravioli according to package directions, adding snap peas during the last 3 minutes of cooking; drain. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, shallots and garlic; cook and stir until mushrooms are tender. Stir in milk, sage, lemon peel, lemon-pepper and white pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 2 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened. Add ravioli and snap peas to sauce; heat through. Sprinkle with cheese and hazelnuts.

Yield: 8 servings

Wine Pairings: Full-Bodied White Wine---Enjoy this recipe with a full-bodied white wine such as Chardonnay.


My second recipe is a cocktail called “Blue Sea Martini.” This delicious concoction gets its beautiful blue color from the addition of blue Curacao. Although this may look like the beautiful ocean, it certainly doesn't taste like it (thankfully) and instead tastes like a tropical island vacation.

Blue Sea Martini

Serves: 1
1-1/2 ounces lemon vodka
1 once blue Curacao
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 cup light white cranberry juice
Lime and lemon for garnish

Mix all of the ingredients in a chilled drink mixer filled halfway with ice. Shake vigorously. Strain drink into two chilled martini glasses and garnish with your favorite fruit!

Please Drink Responsibly…….

Till Next Time…….

Copyright © 2015 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

"Easter Greetings" & An Important Message

           To All My Family, Friends, Followers, & Readers : 

                     Wishing you all the Blessings of Easter
                               and all the Joys of Spring…

   Dottie  *                                  

*****IMPORTANT: Thank you for all of your comments and reading my posts every week. I will be taking a hiatus for some R & R for 2 weeks. I will be back stronger, with more fabulous recipes, and an updated blog on April 21 for “Wordless Tuesday.” 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 © 2015 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Friday, April 3, 2015

“Baked Fresh Ham with Port Wine” & “Bunny Buns” To Celebrate Easter Sunday

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

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

In Italy, the church bells stop ringing on Holy Thursday and Good Friday to remember the death of Jesus on the cross. Then on Easter Sunday morning, the church bells ring out once again, telling people that Jesus has risen. Italian children wake up on Easter morning and find eggs scattered in their rooms. Eggs, rabbits, and young animals are thought to represent re-birth and fertility in the spring. Easter is considered the most important religious event of the year in Italy, even shadowing over Christmas in its religious and cultural importance.
Lauren (my niece) at Egg Hunt

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

Throughout the world the most popular Easter symbol is the lamb. The reference to the lamb in Christianity goes back to the book of Genesis, from the Bible. In past centuries it was considered a lucky omen to meet a lamb, especially at Easter time. 

Butter in shape of lamb

In the 7th century the Benedictine monks wrote a prayer for the blessing of lambs.  Little figures of the lamb are made of butter, pastry, cakes, or chocolate have been substituted for the meat, forming Easter table centerpieces. Many Easter Sundays, I can remember my mom cooking lamb for dinner along with our Italian traditional dishes.
Easter celebrations have many customs and legends that have nothing to do with the religious Christian celebration of Christ’s rising. Did you ever think of where and how these traditional celebrations of colored eggs, cute little bunnies, and Easter Lilies come from? Let’s start with the Easter Bunny, which was a symbol of spring and fertility, due to the rapid reproduction habits of the rabbit. This custom originated in Germany and brought to America particularly to Pennsylvania. The German children would eagerly await the arrival of the Oschter Haws, a rabbit who delighted children on Easter morning by laying colored eggs in nests. The German’s baked cakes for Easter in the shape of bunnies they spread the tradition of chocolate bunnies and eggs across the country. The practice of making nests for the rabbits to lay its eggs in became decorated baskets and colorful eggs which were swapped for candy, treats and small other gifts. The white Easter Lily has come to symbolize the spiritual values of Easter; purity, life, and renewal. The flower’s trumpet shape is a reminder of the heralding of Jesus, returning to Jerusalem.

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

My recipe this week is called “Baked Fresh Ham with Port Wine.” My brother found this recipe in the New York Times, many years ago and thought my mother would like to prepare this as our Easter Sunday Dinner one year. And I must say it was delicious. Between the ham, wine, rosemary, and sage, the aromas were incredible as well as the taste. This dish can be prepared for any day or any occasion.

Baked Fresh Ham with Port Wine

1  12-to-14-pound fresh ham, unsmoked 

3 large garlic cloves cut into 12 slices
1 tablespoon crumbled leaf of rosemary
1 tablespoon crumbled sage
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 medium-size onions, peeled
1/2 cup port wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups water, if necessary.

Preheat the oven to 375°F  Place the ham, skin side up, on a flat surface and, using the tip of a very sharp knife, make 1/4-inch-deep gashes, from the butt end to the shank end, cutting through the skin at 1-inch intervals. Insert a sliver of garlic into each gash. In a small mixing bowl, blend well the rosemary, sage, salt and pepper and rub the mixture on the ham. Place the ham, flat side up, in a large baking dish or roasting pan and place in oven. Bake, basting occasionally, for 2 1/2 hours. Remove all the fat from the roasting pan and add the onions. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and cover with aluminum foil. Continue baking and basting for an additional 30 minutes.  Remove the fat from the pan. In a small mixing bowl, blend the wine, chicken stock and tomato paste. Add to the ham in the roasting pan. Re-cover ham with foil and continue baking for 1 1/2 hours or until the ham is thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of 165
°F degrees. If the liquid is reduced too much, add 1 or 2 cups of water. Remove the ham from the roasting pan. Tilt the pan and using the spoon, skim off the fat and return the ham to the pan.  Cover with foil and let the ham rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.  Serve the ham sliced with the pan gravy spooned over. Yield:  12-20 people

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

“Bunny Buns”

12 Rhodes Dinner Rolls, thawed but still cold

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

Till Next Time…………………..

Copyright © 2015 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"Easter Bunny Cake" & An "Easter Basket Cocktail" For Wordless Tuesday

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

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

Easter Bunny Cake

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

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

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

I also have a fun ADULT drink to celebrate Easter which is called, “Easter Basket Cocktail.” We all know what marshmallow “Peeps” are. They are more popular than ever. A web site called has many different adult drinks that use Peeps as a garnish for their cocktails. Try this one; I am sure you will love this very colorful drink. 

Easter Basket Cocktail”

Rim a martini glass with thick simple syrup and then dip into dyed green coconut flakes, then adorn with a little marshmallow peep. Think of it as your very own adult Easter Basket, but instead of being filled with candy, it’s filled with liqueur! Prepare the glasses ahead of time and put them on a tray decorated with jelly beans and other seasonal delights for a stunning effect.

For the cocktail:

1 1/2 ounces Cherry Vodka
1/2 ounce Triple Sec
3 ounces Half and Half or Milk
Dash Grenadine

Shake with ice until chilled. Pour into decorated glasses and serve.

Remember to DRINK RESPONSIBLY! Thank you

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

Copyright © 2015 "Family Plus Food Equals Love" All Rights Reserved

Friday, March 27, 2015

“Cuzzupa” or “Cruzzupe” Italian Easter Cakes For Palm Sunday

This post is a revise from April 10, 2014. Everyone always asks me about my Easter Cake recipe so I thought I would revise the whole blog and recipe. Hope that you enjoy! 

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

On Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday as it is often called, Christians celebrate the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, the week before his death and resurrection. The Bible reveals that when Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem, the crowds greeted him by waving palm branches and covering his path with palms. In Italy, this Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, mass will be celebrated by Pope Francis I. On Palm Sunday when I was growing up, we would go to church, and receive the Palms. When we returned home I can recall creating palm crosses and beautiful braided wreaths.

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

Also want to wish all of my Jewish friends out there a “Happy Passover” as well. Passover begins at sundown on Friday April 3rd and ends the evening of April 11th. Passover is a beautiful and meaningful holiday. It allows the Jewish community to relive its past, celebrate the present, hope for its future by lovely rituals, and by being together with family and friends which is bound by tradition.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2015 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

"Roasted Sausages, Peppers, Onions, & Potatoes" As "National Cleaning Week" Begins

Long ago, I remember when I was young, spring time meant cleaning or “Spring Cleaning” as my mom would say. This meant that homes all over the country, mostly housewives opened the windows, shook out the rugs, cleaned closets, drawers, and spiffed up the house for springtime. It just seemed right due to the fact that all winter everything was closed up tight. Today, in 2015 we are far too busy to dedicate a week or a couple of weeks just to spring cleaning.

Were you all aware that the 4th week in March just happens to be “National Cleaning Week?” This week is for cleaning up after one season and getting ready for the next. It's for getting your environment clean so you can feel good about yourself and your home. The environment where you spend most of your time can be at home, at work, your shop, basement, or anywhere that you spend a lot of time. It's when we put away and toss out everything from one season to the other and clean up everything that we are going to keep out for the new season. We wash and scrub everything.  

For some reason when we "spring clean" it makes us feel really good. It feels like were getting rid of the old and gloomy winter days and welcoming the new birth of spring. We put away all the winter clothes and joyfully bring out the spring clothes. We open all the windows and doors of the house and we start letting the house air out. We welcome the new spring breezes that blow through all the windows into our house to freshen up every single corner. What do we do next? We clean, clean, clean! We wash the windows, we mop the floors, we swipe the cobwebs out of the corners of the ceiling, and we clean all the air conditioner vents. 

Not only do we clean inside, there is outside that needs cleaning up as well. We pull out the grill that's been stored in the garage through winter and we start cleaning up the grills and adding new parts while replacing the old tank (if it’s not charcoal). We start organizing the potting shed and dragging out the rakes, shovels, hose, and potting soils. We pull out the flower pots and get them all cleaned up because we know they are soon to be the new home of a beautiful flowering plants. We get all the old junk that has collected up on the back porch or the yard over winter and put it all away to make room for the hanging baskets and flower pots. We sweep the leaves that have collected from the winter. We pull all the matching chair cushions out of storage and put them back on the chairs. 

Now I know you must be thinking, oh my goodness where do I start? So much to do and what do I do first? This must be overwhelming for everyone, but not to worry I have some tips that will help make your home and outside look amazing. Pick one thing a week that you would like to tackle. It may be the front closet or the upstairs windows. If you don’t have time to fit these things into your schedule can you hire someone? There are lots of teens looking for part-time work. You don’t need to be the only one in the household looking after all of these things. Teach your children early on about the ‘chores’ that need to be done. Break tasks down and don’t overwhelm them with the sudden urge to have a cleaning day. You’ll only turn them off and make it more difficult to get things done. Find a way to get and keep your organization. Get rid of clutter. Become a minimalist. If it is not necessary – get rid of it and let someone else use it. There are a number of books and sites out there on simplifying life and dejunking your space. Put one or two of these ideas into practice and feel the stress lift. My rule for getting rid of things is, “If I haven’t used the item in a year, then it is out!”

What does “Spring Cleaning” mean to you? If you have any tips or ways to spring clean that you want to share, just comment below…..would love to hear from you.........

Make your own cleaners:

*********WARNING: Never mix cleaning products containing bleach and ammonia as dangerous fumes will result.****************

General Purpose Cleaner:
1 teaspoon borax
1/2 teaspoon washing soda
2 teaspoons vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dish washing liquid
2 cups hot water

Combine all the ingredients. If you don't have washing soda (generally found in the laundry section of supermarkets), use 1 teaspoon baking soda instead. For a more pleasant smell, use lemon juice instead of vinegar. Be sure to label the bottle accordingly.

Heavy Duty Disinfectant Cleaner:
1/4 cup powdered laundry detergent
1 tablespoon borax
3/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup pine oil or pine-based cleaner

Slowly stir the detergent and borax into the water to dissolve. Add the pine oil (available at hardware stores and supermarkets) and mix well. For bathroom cleaning, use the mixture full strength. In the kitchen, dilute it with water.

Wood Cleaner:
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Mix the ingredients well, rub on the floor, and buff with a clean, dry cloth.

Carpet Freshener:
1 cup crushed dried herbs (such as rosemary, southernwood, or lavender)
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda

Combine all the ingredients in a large jar or other container with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well to blend. Sprinkle some of the mixture on your carpet, let it sit for an hour or so, and then vacuum it up. It will give the room a pleasant smell and neutralize carpet odors.

Now that you have this valuable information you are ready to clean your house inside and out. Just remember your home is your castle, so make sure you enjoy your life and surroundings, not to get overwhelmed, and if you don’t finish a project remember, that "tomorrow is another day"…..

When you are in a cleaning mood, you have no time to create an elaborate dinner, so I am sharing my mom’s recipe for her “Roasted Sausages, Peppers, Onions, & Potatoes” dinner. It is all in one pan and you can prepare it all ahead and store in your refrigerator till you are ready to bake it. 

“Roasted Sausages, Peppers, Onions, & Potatoes

3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peel & cut into 1-inch chunks
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded & cut into 1-inch pieces
2 green bell pepper, cored, seeded & cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large onions cut into 1 inch chunks
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp of oregano
Salt & pepper to taste
1 pound Italian-style link pork sausages 

Preheat the oven to 375°F Spread the vegetables in a shallow roasting pan. Drizzle with the oil, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and oregano. Make sure vegetables are in a single layer so they will all brown. Pierce each sausage, if using links, in two or three places with a fork. Place sausage in between the peppers, onions, and potatoes. Bake till sausage, vegetables, and potatoes are cooked and browned. Bake about 45 -60 minutes. Serve with a salad and a piece of Italian bread. Enjoy!


Till Next Time………….

Copyright © 2015 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Friday, March 20, 2015

“Spaghetti with Asparagus Tips” For The First Day Of Spring!

We have “sprung ahead” for daylight saving time and now spring begins today March 20, 2015 at 6:45 pm EDT. The first day of spring, also known as the Vernal Equinox, is when the Sun crosses the equator from North to South signaling the beginning of our spring season in the Northern Hemisphere.

But, I don’t think Mother Nature has received the memo that winter is leaving us for another year. There is a cold snap and a snow storm on its way to blast us one last time. (I hope) Yet another round of snow is set to strike the Northeast with between three and six inches of snow expected to fall between West Virginia and Massachusetts. Everyone is dreaming of spring, temperatures rising, budding trees, flowers pushing through the earth, and the promise of new birth.

Many cultures celebrate spring festivals and holidays around the March Equinox, like Easter and Passover. Christians celebrate Easter during the spring season to glorify Christ’s resurrection and a metaphor for rebirth of nature or new life. Eggs are traditionally a symbol of fertility and growth. This is why Easter eggs are so popular at this time of the year.

According to folklore the first day of spring is the only time of the year that you can balance a raw egg on its end. The egg legend got its start in 1945 when a reporter for Life Magazine wrote a story about a Chinese ritual in which people stood eggs on its end the first day of spring. The truth is that you can balance a raw egg any other day of the year. The pull of gravity or the position of the Sun has nothing to do with it. But it is fun to try. I remember when my brothers and I were young, we tried to balance the eggs one first day of spring. But we had to balance them at the exact moment spring arrived. We would look at the clock and take our raw egg to the kitchen table and then try to balance it. Sometimes, all three of us would get real close, but then it would roll the other way. A few times they cracked and raw, gooey eggs would be on the table. Needless to say it really didn’t work, but the fun and laughter we had will be a memory that will last forever.

This year some people around the world will have the chance to experience a total Solar Eclipse, Supermoon, and the Spring Equinox all in one day. We in the United States will not be able to see a total eclipse. A much larger portion of the world gets to see varying degrees of a partial solar eclipse (Greenland, Iceland, Europe, Northern Africa, the Middle East and Northwestern Asia). The next time that the equinox will happen at the same time as a solar eclipse in 2053 and 2072, though it does not always appear as close together as that. If you would like more info on these experiences, there is a website that I always use called Space Weather. They are a wonderful website that shows photos of the Northern Lights as well as anything to do with weather in space, which really at times affects us on earth. Just click on Space Weather and the link will take you there. 

There are many things that spring time is known for. It is a prelude for summer to clean up your garden to get ready for planting and enjoying your backyard for relaxing in the warmer weather. There are many events and holidays that fall in Spring time, to name a few Major League Baseball starts, Spring fashions, Earth Day, Easter Sunday, Passover and of course Mother’s Day.

At this time of the year it seems that we all are getting tired of winter vegetables.  Some fruits and vegetables reach their peak in the spring. To name a few of my families favorites which are Artichokes, Asparagus, Fennel, and Beets. I have a recipe that I know you will love. It is a real favorite of my family. It is called “Spaghetti with Asparagus Tips.” Please try it as it is easy and very nutritious for you. Asparagus has a lot of vitamin K. I know that you will enjoy this recipe and make it a favorite in your house too. Asparagus grows wild, thin, and tall in Umbria, Italy. There are many favorite ways to prepare it, including grilled, marinated in salads, and combined with spaghetti. In this dish only the asparagus tips (punte) are used; save the slender stems to use in soups or sautéed with other vegetables.

Spaghetti with Asparagus Tips” or “Spaghetti con Asparagi

Serves: 6

1/4 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 pounds thin asparagus, trimmed, & tips cut 1-inch long
6 large plum tomatoes, peeled, & cut into small pieces
1/4 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
Freshly fresh black pepper
1 pound spaghetti
1/4 cup reserved cooking water
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese plus extra for sprinkling on top

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan large enough to accommodate the cooked spaghetti (at least 12-inches in diameter). Stir in the garlic and asparagus and cook until they begin to brown slightly. Stir in the tomatoes, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and pepper, lower the heat, and cover the pan and cook the mixture for 5 minutes or just until a knife is easily inserted into the asparagus tips. Keep the sauce warm while the spaghetti is cooking. Bring 4 to 6 quarts of water to a boil in a pasta pot. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt and spaghetti. Cook until the spaghetti is al dente, firm but cooked through. Drain the spaghetti, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking water. Add the water and spaghetti to the pan with the asparagus sauce. Over medium heat, reheat the mixture, stirring quickly to blend all the ingredients. Sprinkle the cheese over the top and stir in. Transfer the spaghetti and asparagus sauce to a platter and serve immediately. Pass extra cheese for sprinkling on top. Enjoy & Happy Spring!


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 his radio tour. All these radio programs and DJ personalities (in the poster below) will share his new digi single, "Everything Happens For a Reason." Please follow Micheal on this tour and hear some behind the scenes stories. He will reveal one unique story for every show, so stay tuned to hear the story unfold. There will be more radio interviews set up during the month of April and will create a new flyer to include those dates/times etc. Micheal thanks all of his fans for their awesome support and love.  


***** An add on WROC at 9am EST on 3/22 With Michael Moran and “The Italian Carousel” with Joe Capogreco


Recipe taken from “Ciao Italia” 

Till Next Time……………….

Copyright © 2015 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved