Friday, September 19, 2014

September Is National Honey Month, “Baked Apples With Figs, Raisins, Nuts, And Honey”

“That buzzing noise means something. Now, the only reason for making a buzzing noise that I know of is because you are.. a bee! And the only reason for being a bee is to make honey. And the only reason for making honey is so I can eat it!” Pooh Bear himself said this quote and it was from, “Winnie The Pooh and The Honey Tree.” Yes, honey is a sweet and gooey fluid produced by honey bees, and derived from the nectar of flowers. According to the US National Honey Board, “honey is a pure product that does not allow for the addition of any other substance…this includes, but is not limited to, water or other sweeteners.”

You must be wondering why I am talking about bees, honey, and Winnie the Pooh? That is because September is “National Honey Month,”which is why beekeepers and honey lovers are celebrating! Honey collection is an ancient activity. Humans began hunting for honey at least 8,000 years ago. In ancient Egypt and Rome, honey was used to sweeten cakes and biscuits, plus many other dishes. Ancient Egyptian people used honey for embalming their dead. The art of beekeeping in ancient China appears to be untraceable and was used not only for culinary purposes, but also for practical health uses. In 2010, China, Turkey, and the United States were the top producers of honey.

Did you know that honey is not all the same? Honey is available in many varieties! When bees visit mostly one kind of flower as they gather nectar, the honey they produce has a unique taste, aroma, and color from that particular flower. Other honeys are delicious blends of floral sources such as clover and wildflowers. There is raw honey, which contains enzymes that help digestion, several vitamins, and antioxidants.

This brings me to the medicinal uses of honey. For at least 2,700 years, honey has been used to treat a variety of ailments through topical applications. Only recently honey has been found to have antibacterial properties and an antimicrobial agent for treating a variety of ailments. Did you know that honey is used in the treatment of diabetic ulcers? Honey also prevents dressings from sticking to healing wounds. I bet that you didn’t know that honey combined with lemon is often taken orally by laryngitis sufferers, in order to soothe them? But as we all know the main uses of honey is in cooking, baking, as a spread on bread, and as an addition to various beverages, beer, and tea. 

My recipe this week is in honor of “National Honey Month,” a baked apple recipe with dried figs, raisins, nuts, and of course honey. As the weather is getting cooler and the first day of fall is right around the corner, this recipe is a perfect warm and scrumptious dessert to serve for your family. Apple season is getting into full swing, so this is a delicious way to use those crisp, juicy apples. We know that baked apples are a favorite in America, but it is also a favorite in northern Italy. Half of the Italian crop of apples comes from the Alto Adige and Trentino regions. This comfort dessert is not too hard and it makes your taste buds dance. So enjoy and have some “Honey”!

“Baked Apples With Figs, Raisins, Nuts, And Honey”

4 large Delicious or Cortland apples
5 dried figs (I use Mission / Kalamata Figs)
4 dried apricots, diced
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 cup of raisins
1/4 cup of honey
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, in small cubes
1/2 cup of orange juice or apple juice

Put the figs in a bowl and pour hot water over them which will allow them to soften up; let them stand for about 30 minutes. Drain the softened figs, cut off the stems and discard. Now cut figs into small pieces and place them in a bowl with the apricots, walnuts, raisins and cinnamon. Stir in the honey and coat well. This is your filling for the apples. Preheat oven to 350°. Next core apples and peel just the tops  approximately 1 inch deep, this is so the apples don’t explode and it makes a better presentation on your plate or bowl. Divide and stuff the mixture in the cored apples. Dot the apples with the butter and place them in a baking dish. Pour the orange or apple juice in the bottom of the dish. Now bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the apples are just soft enough but not collapsed. If filling begins to blacken, cover the apples with foil and continue cooking. Serve warm with some of the pan juices or a dollop of whipped cream. “Yummy in my tummy,” Winnie the Pooh would say!!!

Till Next Time…………..

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

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

“Fresh, No Bake Blueberry Pie” For "Wordless Tuesday"

Welcome to “Wordless Tuesday!” Where I have a mouthwatering recipe which I know you have been waiting to try…….. Enjoy!

As we are in the last full week of summer, blueberries will be soon out of season. This may be your last chance to enjoy the fresh taste of these very nutritious little berries. Check with your Farmers Market to see if they still have any left. You will be pleasantly surprised as to the sweet and tartness of this easy and awesome pie. You will feel like you are on a cloud as you taste a slice of this light and heavenly pie. Enjoy!

                                          "Fresh, No Bake Blueberry Pie”


1   9- inch Keebler Graham Ready Crust Pie shell or (reduced fat)
2 large Bananas
1 (13.5 oz) jar of Polaner Sugar Free Apricot Preserves
1-2 Pints of fresh Blueberries
1 container Cool Whip Whipped Topping or (Lite/Fat Free)

This pie is so delicious and easy, it actually takes about 10 minutes to assemble. Start by cleaning the blueberries, wash and pull off stems and ones that are not good. Put in a bowl and set aside. Now take the Graham Ready Crust Pie shell and take off the cover, as well as pull up the sides of the aluminum a little bit. Take the two bananas and peel, clean, and cut into small rounds. Arrange bananas on bottom of graham cracker crust, in rounds. Put the 1 1/2 jars of Polaner Sugar Free Apricot Preserves in the bowl with the blueberries, and stir gently not to break down the berries. After all is mixed together now gently place the blueberries on top of bananas in the pie shell crust. Spread to the ends of the pie crust. Lastly add the softened Cool Whip Whipped Topping to the pie and cover. (Plastic cover that comes with the crust) Now refrigerate till you are ready to use at least an hour. Serve with a cup of coffee or tea for a dessert to remember. 

NOTE: If you have any left, you must use up the pie within 1 to 2 days tops, or it will go bad.





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

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

Friday, September 12, 2014

“Italian Wine Dunking Cookies” To Celebrate "The Purple Foot Festival"

Some of my readers maybe too young to remember an iconic TV show called “I Love Lucy.” In 1956 one of Lucille Ball’s episodes was called, “Lucy’s Italian Movie” or better known as “The Grape-Stomping” episode. On the route to Italy, an Italian producer offers Lucy a role in a film called “Bitter Grapes.” So she decides to take a job in a vineyard to absorb a “little color.” This was one of the funniest story lines ever and one that will live on forever.

Did you know that you can re-create this Grape-Stomping episode by attending the Casa Larga Vineyards in Fairport, New York? The Casa Larga Vineyards is New York’s premier wine producer and has won many awards for their highly regarded production of table wines. On Sunday September 14, 2014 the Casa Larga Vineyards will be host to “The Purple Foot Festival.” This is a way to celebrate and kick off harvest time at the Casa Larga plus take into account the owners (Colarutolo) family’s Italian heritage.

Casa Larga  is best known for the authentic old world grape stomping that earned it the name of the “Purple Foot.” Grape stomping is done only at certain times of the year, when the grape harvest is in full swing. This event gives you the opportunity to experience and learn traditional grape stomping methods. Their process is taking grapes and put them in wine barrels that are cut in half which then are pressed by machines. “Back in the day,” in Gaeta, Italy, the grapes were pressed by women because they had gentler feet. The idea for this event was thought up 18 years ago and it is fun to watch people’s expressions when they step in the barrel.

But the “Purple Foot Festival” offers much more than foot-staining grape stomping. Guests can take their purple feet around the vineyard on hayrides or attend and Italian dance class. There are activities for those under 21, including a children’s area with a maze, a magician, crafts, live music, and many vendors with irresistible goodies. Adults will enjoy beer tasting, Casa Larga’s wine tasting, hard cider samples, winery tours, and seminars on food paring with wines which can be purchased at their vineyards. Fairport is located in Monroe County, New York and is 9 miles east of Rochester. It is also known as the “Crown Jewel of the Erie Canal” and was named in Money Magazine’s “Best Place to Live.” So, if you find yourself up in that part of New York State, have some fun, turn your feet purple, and visit Casa Larga Vineyards. If you are not on the East Coast in New York, you should check where you live, I am sure being harvest time, they may have a "Purple Foot Festival" your local vineyards. Have fun...

My recipe this week is called, “Italian Wine Dunking Cookies,” “Biscottini al Vino,” or “Ciambelle.” This recipe is adapted from “Ciao Italia.” When these cookies are baking you can smell the wonderful scents of the wine and I’m sure it brings back memories of long ago. These cookies are made for dunking in wine or with coffee. They are not soft and keep well in an airtight container. My great-grandmother Sofia had a recipe for wine dunking cookies but that recipe was not written down and sadly my great-grandmother is no longer with us to ask. But this delicious, hard cookie is a keeper, and tastes just like my great-grandmother’s years ago. 

Italian Wine Dunking Cookies

1 cup of sugar
1 cup of vegetable oil
1 cup of red wine such as (light) Vin Santo or Corvo Red
4 1/2 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg plus 1 tablespoon water, mixed together for egg wash

In an electric mixer on medium speed, blend together the sugar, vegetable oil, and wine. Mix the flour and baking powder together, then add them to the sugar mixture and blend together at medium speed until a soft dough forms. The dough should not be sticky, but soft and smooth. Transfer the dough to a bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Once chilled, the dough is very easy to work with. Preheat the oven to 350°F. To form the cookies, break off small pieces and roll them with the palm of your hand to form a 4-inch rope that is 1/2-inch thick. Bring the ends together and pinch them tightly, forming a circle that looks like a miniature bagel. Place cookies 1/2 inch apart on un-greased baking sheet. Brush the tops of each cookie with the egg wash. 

Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until the tops are firm to the touch and the bottoms are golden brown. Remove the cookies to a cooling rack and cool completely.    Yield: 6 dozen--depending on how big or small you make them.

Till Next Time………

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

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

“Lemon, Pepper, and Rosemary Rubbed Chicken” & “Roasted Root Veggies”

Welcome to “Wordless Tuesday!” Where I have just one or two mouthwatering recipes which I know you have been waiting to try…….. Enjoy!

Lemon, Pepper, and Rosemary Rubbed Chicken

Lemon and pepper are a classic combination. In this recipe, crushed whole peppercorns and coriander seeds add an appealing crunch, and rosemary gives this dish a lovely fragrance.

Serves: 4    Total Time: 45 min      Prep Time: 10 min

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, needles removed and chopped
3/4 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 small chicken legs split (4 thighs, 4 drumsticks)

Heat oven to 425° F. Using a heavy-bottomed saucepan, or a mortar & pestle, crush the peppercorns and coriander seeds; place in a small bowl. Add the lemon zest, Rosemary, and 3/4 teaspoon salt and toss to combine. Stir in the butter and oil. Place the chicken on a large rimmed baking sheet and rub with the lemon-rosemary mixture. Roast until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through, 40 to 50 minutes. 


Roasted Root Veggies

2 large sweet potatoes (or yams), sliced in medium-sized wedge-style
6-8 carrots, quartered (lengthwise)
2 large white onions sliced
8-10 baby red potatoes, sliced in halves or bite-sizes
approx. 3 Tbsp. olive oil to toss
Fresh Basil (handful)
Fresh Rosemary (handful)

Cut all veggies about the same size so they can roast at the same time. Use a covered pan; toss vegetables with olive oil, sprinkles of basil and rosemary. Bake for 45 minutes at 350° F covered, uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes to get that “roasted flavor.” 


Till Next Time……………………………….........

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

Friday, September 5, 2014

"Cheese Pizza" To Celebrate "National Cheese Pizza Day!"

As far as history has been recorded, bread has been a basic part of the world’s eating habits and a traditional companion with meals. There are various assortments of breads which include different textures, flavors, and toppings. The most popular bread type by far is the Pizza Pie. Come with me as we explore and celebrate “National Cheese Pizza Day!” Every September 5th we celebrate this day by eating cheese pizza. That's right today is the day to go to your favorite pizza parlor and order a really large cheese pizza. Better yet, drag out the pizza stone and cutter, because today is the day to make your own homemade pizza dough and honor National Cheese Pizza Day the homemade way. It’s party time, invite all your friends and have the biggest cheese pizza block party you've ever had! You can't get any better than that!

Everyone in the world knows that a Cheese Pizza is a pizza with lots of cheese! This world-popular dish of Italian origin, made with an oven-baked, flat, generally round bread that is often covered with tomatoes or a tomato-based sauce and mozzarella cheese. Other cheese varieties are added according to region, culture, or personal preference. To understand the fascination of this awesome dish we call Pizza, we need to understand about the dough or crust first.

A pizza's crust can be made using almost any dough or bread recipe. White flour is commonly used for a soft crust that won't crumble, which is usually considered desirable. Whole wheat flour can be used to make a firmer crust. Cake flour can be useful if a crumbly crust is desired. Other common ingredients in crusts include Olive oil (usually extra virgin), active dry yeast, sugar, and salt. What type of crust to use is matter of taste. There are several types of pizza crust that are constructed differently and have (sometimes) wildly different textures, though the taste remains fairly consistent. The most common styles are Neapolitan, thin, New York-style, deep dish, Sicilian, and pan pizza crust. There are many different techniques for preparing dough, most largely dependent on the type of crust you've decided to make. Because pizza crusts almost always contain yeast they must be allowed to rise at least once, though some recipes recommend improving the flavor and texture of the dough by allowing the crust to rise 2 separate times.

The next part of the pizza is the tomato sauce. A simple sauce consists of tomato paste, basil, and oregano. Using tomato puree will give a runny sauce that must be spread thinly to prevent the cheese and toppings from sliding off. Diced, dried, or crushed tomatoes may be added for extra flavor and texture. Onions, peppers, garlic, and sugar are often used as well. Spices are more flavorful when ground right before use. Pizza with cheese baked onto it, without any sauce at all, is sometimes called a white pizza.

Now we come to the cheese, which is my favorite. The basic pizza cheese is mozzarella. (My personal favorite) Feta is often used in combination with a spinach topping. Cheddar can be used for a more southwestern taste. Ricotta cheese is used for White Pizza. (No red sauce) Commercial pizzerias almost always use a blend of various cheeses, the most common of which are mozzarella, parmesan, and romano.

Toppings go on top of the cheese and they are very popular with today’s pizza. Put plenty of topping near the edges to protect the cheese from burning there. A pizza without toppings will cook much faster than one with toppings. Anchovies, oil-coated broccoli, black olives, pepperoni, onions, mushrooms, green peppers, precooked and drained sausage, bacon, hamburger, salami, or tomatoes, and finally precooked chicken or ham.

Last but not least, pizzas are typically baked directly on special surfaces for short periods at temperatures in excess of 500° F (260° C). Coal and brick ovens are preferred for baking pizza because of their even heat and superior heat-retention. Some pizzerias prefer to use a wire-mesh pan though, as working with pizza peels can be difficult for some. Home bakers can attempt to duplicate the effects of a brick oven by using a baking stone (also called a pizza stone), a slab of porous stone that evenly heats the pizza, helping it develop a better crust. Baking/pizza stones become "seasoned" after frequent use, a characteristic that is said to improve the flavor of crusts baked on them.

Whatever role pizza plays in a meal, the delightful aromas fill a home and it stirs all the senses. I remember when my grandmother (whom we called Nanni) would come over for a visit; she would make us a pizza with onions, oil, grated cheese, and the freshest herbs she could find. No tomato sauce and no mozzarella cheese. Instead of a round pizza pan, she would make the pizza in a flat sheet pan. Her crust was always soft and thick something like a Sicilian pizza would be. It was always fun making pizza with her as she would always tell a few stories about her Italian roots as we were eating. This recipe is very similar to my grandmothers. I hope that you enjoy your pizza; it really makes the house fragrant. It is what I would call, “real comfort food.”

Cheese Pizza

Ingredients for dough:
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups of warm water (110° -115° F)
3 1/2 to 3- 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Ingredients for Pizza toppings:
Marinara sauce
Mozzarella cheese
Some extra virgin olive oil
Pecorino Romano grated cheese
Plus what ever topping you like…

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water. Allow the yeast to proof until it is foamy, about 10 minutes. Add 3 cups of flour, salt and sugar. Mix the dough with your hands or use a mixer with a dough hook. Add the remaining flour as needed to make dough that holds together. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead it for about 5 minutes, just to get the gluten moving. Grease a bowl with the olive oil and place the dough in the bowl. Turn the dough a few times in the bowl so the oil coats the dough. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let it rise for 2 hours in a warm place. Then punch down the dough and knead it for a few minutes on a lightly floured surface. Use the dough to make one large pizza or divide it in half to make 2 small ones. Now that your dough is made you can make your pizza with any ingredients you wish. Make a ridge around the outside of the dough. Just make sure the ingredients are fresh and you will have a mouth watering pizza that you can’t wait to eat. . If you need a marinara sauce for your pizza, please check out my post for my “Mama’s Marinara Tomato Sauce recipe. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cook for about 30 minutes or until the crust becomes light browned and the cheese is melted. Mangia!

Till Next Time………………………….

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

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

“Peppers, Onions, & Eggs Sandwich" With A “Peach & Mint Iced Tea” For "Wordless Tuesday"

Welcome to “Wordless Tuesday!” Where I have a mouthwatering recipe or two which I know you have been waiting to try…….. Enjoy!

My recipe this week is my mother’s, “Peppers, Onions, and Eggs Sandwich.” I remember when I was young, my mom used to make this sandwich for us when we would go to the beach or have picnics. It really is a one meal sandwich. You have your peppers, eggs, onions, and it was all encased in crispy Italian bread or a roll. This is a great sandwich as you can eat it hot or room temp. What makes this sandwich irresistible is that when you take a bite of the peppers with onions it gives a sweet taste to the eggs. It’s also very juicy, which the Italian bread or roll soaks up some of the juices but if I were you, I would make sure you have a napkin and a fork to pick up every last piece. September is beginning but the weather feels like July, so I thought that you would need a refreshing drink a “Peach and Mint Iced Tea” So, this one hits the spot and it will cool you down! 

“Peppers, Onions, and Eggs Sandwich

Serves: 4

4 green peppers, washed, seeded, & sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 eggs, beaten in a bowl
1/4 cup of olive oil (enough to coat bottom of pan)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 loaf of Italian or French bread (rolls or ciabatta can be used as well)


Heat a large skillet over medium heat then, add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of pan. Now, add peppers and onions, stirring while regulating the heat so the onions will not burn. Sauté until the peppers have softened and the onions are caramelized. Then add the beaten eggs and continue stirring until the eggs are cooked and set. Next, salt and pepper to taste. Make sure all are combined. (just like scrambled eggs) Now slice the bread or rolls lengthwise without cutting all the way through. Next, fill the rolls or bread with the cooked mixture. You can wrap a cooled sandwich in wax paper and put it in your picnic basket.

*****Optional: You can sprinkle some grated Pecorino Romano Cheese on top of mixture or even put a slice of American or Provolone cheese in the sandwich. (if you eat it while it is hot, the cheese melts) You can also use red or yellow peppers if you prefer. 

“Peach and Mint Iced Tea”

Yield: Makes 8 servings

8 cups boiling water
8 tea bags
4 ripe peaches cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 small bunch fresh mint sprigs
Sugar, to taste (if desired)

Pour the water into a heat-resistant pitcher. Add the tea bags and let steep for 10 minutes. Remove and discard the bags and allow the tea to cool to room temperature before refrigerating. Add the peaches, mint, and sugar (if using). Strain, if desired. Pour over ice.


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. He is performing at the SOPAC (South Orange Performing Arts Center) in New Jersey. Please take a moment and read through the newest Press Release. Don’t forget to purchase tickets to this awesome event that you will not want to miss! Thank you, from Micheal and myself. Ciao!!

                          In Celebration of the Italian Spirit Michéal Castaldo Plans,
                      Free Art Exhibit in Conjunction with His Concert, Sept. 21, 2014

Tamar Russell Brown, exhibit coordinator, shown here with two of framed original art entries that will be on display at SOPAC on September 21 in conjunction with A Musical Celebration of the Italian Spirit—A Feast for the Ears, Eyes, and Soul, Michéal Castaldo’s première performance at SOPAC

August 30, 2014 -Celebrated musical artist Michéal Castaldo has organized a special showcase of art that exalts the glories of Italy and her people. The exhibit of original artwork—created by 15 professional artists—will be on display in the Grand Lobby of the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) in South Orange, New Jersey, on September 21, 2014.

Artists selected to participate in the art exhibit will include renowed Italian artists Andrea Viviani, Claudia Giraudo, Dorianno Tosarelli, Giuseppe Bianco, Lido Bettarini, Pillino, Rubens Fogacci, and Salvatore Magazzini, all represented by the Just Art Gallery in Providence, Rhode Island; Italian artist Yleni Mino of New York, New York; American artists Colette Shumate Smith, David Smith and Luann Hume of Leominster, Massachusetts; Greek artist Iphie Burg of Fitchburg, Massachusetts; German artist Ilse Buchert Nesbitt of The Third and Elm Press in Newport, Rhode Island; and American editorial photographer Simao Ago of Newark, New Jersey.

The framed artwork on display will be part of a Silent Auction benefiting La Dolce Vita Foundation a nonprofit organization founded by Michéal Castaldo to grant severely ill children, teens, or adults with the ultimate “Joy Ride” in a classic, exotic, two-seat convertible roadster designed for Driving the Blues Away™.

The Art Exhibit is open to the public from noon to 8:30 pm. Admission to the exhibit is free. The Silent Auction winners will be announced at 8:30 pm.

The art exhibit is being held in conjunction with A Musical Celebration of the Italian Spirit—A Feast for the Ears, Eyes, and Soul, Michéal Castaldo’s première performance at SOPAC, which is sponsored by Investors Bank and produced by Majestic Castle Music, of New York City. There will be two distinctly different shows, a 2 p.m. matinee, and a 6:30 p.m. evening performance. Each show runs 90 minutes, with a 15 minute intermission.

Professional dancers from the Rocha Dance Theater will perform vibrant routines to compliment the songs performed by Castaldo, and The John J. Cali School of Music Strings will accompany Castaldo. Stunning visuals of beautiful Italian landscapes will appear on a large projection screen above the stage throughout each show.

Tickets to the Italian Cultural Event may be purchased at where ticket prices range from $37 to $57. For more information, please call SOPAC at 973-313-ARTS(2787).

For questions and further details regarding the art exhibit, contact the exhibit coordinator, Tamar Russell Brown, at 718-974-3328 or

Contact Person:
Charlotte Jayne
Administrative Assistant
Phone: 631-256-6515

Till next time……Ciao! 

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

Friday, August 29, 2014

"Eggplant Parmesan" For Your "Labor Day" Weekend Celebration...

Coming to terms with the end of summer is a rough thought for some people. Were did it all go? Yesterday seems like we were just staring the month of June and here we are going to start September! Parents all over are getting prepared with supplies for their children to start another year of school. Before school begins and we start packing up the beach gear, lawn chairs, pool supplies, plus our grills, we have one more weekend of summer time fun which is called "Labor Day!" Personally, nothing says Labor Day weekend to me like a family BBQ, cookout, or a family gathering. Labor Day is on Monday September 1st this year, and I’m sure we are all looking forward to a long enjoyable weekend as we start the month of September. This weekend celebrates the “unofficial” end of summer. Everyone is going to the beach, having picnics, going to fairs, and enjoying the last weekend of their summer activities. 

You may ask, what is Labor Day and why do we celebrate this day? So here are some facts about the holiday. Labor Day is an American Federal Holiday that celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers. We pay tribute to the achievements of the American workers. It is also supposed to be a day of rest and considered a workingman‘s holiday. The first Labor Day was held on September 5th 1882 in New York City. Then on June 28th 1894 it became a Federal holiday, stating that the first Monday in September of each year would be legal holiday in all U.S. territories. In addition, Labor Day marks the beginning of the season for the National Football League, (NFL) and some college leagues as well. Labor Day is also a great day for stores to have “End of Summer” sales.

In Italy, many Italians observe Labor Day as well. It is called "La Festa dei Lavoratori." They observe this nationwide holiday on May 1st each year. A holiday that was connected with agricultural cycles and still celebrated in some regions throughout Italy. Farmers and workers traditionally took the day off. They relaxed and had parties with food, drinking, and dancing. This was to show their support for the labor union movement’s social and economic achievements on this day.

So before you bid this summer farewell, go out with a bang on this Labor Day! Whether you are heading out of town, staying in the city, spending the day quietly at home relaxing, or enjoying one final celebration of the summer, be sure to relish the day with your family and friends. Remember, Summer is over but your memories will last forever!

My recipe this week is “Eggplant Parmesan” and will be a hit on your Labor Day weekend. This recipe is one of my mom’s recipes and it is a total immune-boosting meal. Remember, eggplants are one of the “Super Foods” that have antioxidants included in it. Besides, it is delicious and very tasty. Made with the freshest ingredients and of course Love. As you take a bite of this wonderful dish, your cheese oozes and the eggplant with tomatoes are an awesome combination! What a flavor and very satisfying too. You would never know that you are eating something that was good for you. A full body “Zinfandel” wine would go wonderful with this recipe, so have a glass or two..   Enjoy, Mangia!

Eggplant Parmesan


1 eggplant, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup of Vegetable oil
1 lb of shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
2 eggs, beaten
3 cups of plain bread crumbs with about 2 tablespoons of flour added
4 cups or more of your favorite Marinara sauce

**(you can use flavored bread crumbs if you like that better)


Sprinkle both sides of the eggplant slices with salt. Place slices in a colander and place a dish underneath the colander to capture liquid that will sweat out of the eggplant. Allow to sit for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350° F. Rinse the eggplant in cold water until all salt is removed. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Now dredge eggplant slices in egg and then in breadcrumb/flour mixture. After egg and breading, now place one layer of eggplant in the oil and brown each side. When browned place on paper towel to drain or on a brown paper bag opened up. Repeat with the remaining eggplant slices, using additional oil if necessary. In a 9x13 inch baking dish, evenly spread Marinara sauce on bottom of dish, and then arrange a single layer of eggplant slices on top of sauce. Top the eggplant with some of the mozzarella cheese and grated cheese. Repeat process until all the eggplant and cheese is layered. Spoon remaining sauce on top of layers and sprinkle with remaining Pecorino Romano grated cheese or mozzarella. Bake 30 to 45 minutes in your preheated oven, until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted. Mangia Tutti!

Till The Next Time……………………….

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

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

“Ritz Parmesan Chicken” & “Heirloom Tomato & Zucchini Salad” For "Wordless Tuesday"

Welcome to “Wordless Tuesday!” Where I have just one or two mouthwatering recipes which I know you have been waiting to try…….. Enjoy!


Ritz Parmesan Chicken

A quick dip in a mayo-lemon juice mix and a roll in crushed Ritz crackers could make this Parmesan chicken breast recipe a new family favorite. A glass of wine would be a lovely addition to this dish; you can add a Red Pinot noir or a light Merlot, a Sangiovese or even a Chianti….


1/4 cup Mayonnaise (Low Fat if you choose)
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
25 Ritz Crackers, finely crushed (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup Parmesan grated cheese
2 tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. dried parsley flakes
4-5 boneless chicken breasts (depends on size)


Heat oven to 400°F. Mix mayo and lemon juice in medium bowl. Combine cracker crumbs, cheese, basil, and parsley in separate bowl. Dip chicken, 1 breast at a time, in mayo mixture, then roll in crumb mixture until evenly coated. Place on baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Bake 35-40 min. or until done (165°F)

Serves: 4




“Heirloom Tomato & Zucchini Salad”

Tomatoes give this salad a juicy bite. It's a great use of fresh veggies from your own garden or the farmers markets.

Servings:12  Prep/Total Time: 25 min.

Heirloom Tomatoes


7 large heirloom tomatoes (2-1/2 pounds), cut into wedges
3 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 medium sweet yellow peppers, thinly sliced
2 medium sweet onions, sliced thinly
1/3 cup cider vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon each minced fresh basil, parsley, and tarragon


In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, zucchini, onions, and peppers. In a small bowl, whisk vinegar, oil, sugar and salt until blended. Stir in herbs. Just before serving, drizzle dressing over salad; toss gently to coat.

Yield: 12 servings (3/4 cup each)


Till Next Time……………………………….........

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

Friday, August 22, 2014

“Zucchini, Prosciutto, Tomato & Cheese Panini” For "National Sandwich Month"

Welcome readers, Andiamo a mangiare un panino! (Let’s eat a sandwich!) Yummy! As the summer months are winding down, we can’t forget that August is “National Sandwich Month.” I know that everyone has eaten at least one or more delicious filled sandwiches in their lifetime. We have carried them to school, work, picnics, and other activities. They usually can be eaten for a lunchtime meal or sometimes just when you are looking for that special something to eat. Sandwiches can be made with many combinations of vegetables, meats, fish, poultry, cheese, sandwich spreads, eggs, etc. They are sold all over the world in cafes, restaurants, deli‘s, food trucks, and even fast food restaurants. 

The first form of a sandwich is attributed to an ancient Jewish Elder, who is said to have put meat from the lamb and bitter herbs inside a matzo. (A flat unleavened bread) During the Middle Ages, thick slabs of coarse stale bread, called “trenchers,” were used as plates. The trenchers you could say were the first “open faced sandwich” that we know of today. In the United States, a sandwich is, made with two or more slices of bread, and with one or more layers of filling, typically meat, fish plus cheese, with the addition of vegetables. Sandwiches can be make hot or cold, open faced or can be a Triple Decker, a Dagwood, or a Monte Cristo. They can be a club or a sub, or French Dipped. Then of course we have a few of America’s favorites which include, a BLT, Grilled Cheese, Philly Cheese Steak, and the most favorite is the Hamburger! The bread can be coated with butter, oil, mustard or other condiments to enhance flavor and texture. A sandwich can also include tacos, burritos, bagels, wraps, and even are made of Ice Cream. Just use your imagination and you too can enjoy “The Sandwich.” 
Tuna Fish

Some of my readers may have heard this story before, so I thought I would repeat this memory for my new readers. I remember a story when I was young…. “Gone With The Wind,” the movie was playing at a theater near where we lived. It was one of my mother’s favorite movies. At that time in the late 1960’s, my mom was not sure if they would ever play it again and wanted us to see this classic. She took my two brothers and me to see the movie. It was on a Friday late in the afternoon and my mom made each one of us a tuna fish sandwich to eat for a quick dinner as the movie was 4 hours long. As a Catholic you could not eat meat on Fridays in those days. The movie had an intermission because it was so long, and that is when we started to eat the sandwiches. They were delicious as my mom put lettuce and tomato, with the tuna in between an Italian roll. We enjoyed them, but as you all know tuna does smell a little. I remember everyone looking at my brothers and me all lined up in the row eating the sandwiches. I remember saying to my mom, “everyone is looking at us”, and she said, “Do not worry about them looking; they are just jealous that they are not eating this fantastic sandwich.” Still to this day we remember that afternoon with the tuna sandwiches, my mom, and the movie. It will be a memory that we hold dear to our hearts. By the way “Gone With The Wind” is now one of my favorites and every time I watch it, I remember the tuna story.  

In Italy, “Panino” is the word for a sandwich made from bread other than sliced bread. Some examples of bread types used are ciabatta, sourdough, and country style. The bread is cut horizontally and filled with deli ingredients such as salami, ham, cheese, other meats, as well as veggies and sometimes served warm after having been pressed by a warming grill. The term Panini has been adopted to refer to a pressed and toasted sandwich. Then there is Brischetta, an open faced, toasted bread brushed with olive oil and rubbed with garlic, topped with savory items, which might include tomato, basil, and thinly sliced Italian ham.

My recipe this week is a scrumptious sandwich called: “Zucchini, Prosciutto, Tomato & Cheese Panini.” Seasoned and salt-cured but not smoked, prosciutto is an Italian ham that is usually served in paper-thin slices because of its intense flavor. Prosciutto from Parma, in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, is considered the best. When this sandwich is grilled to perfection, the cheese oozes out and all the flavors melt together. This sandwich is a delectable way to celebrate “National Sandwich Month.” 

Zucchini, Prosciutto, Tomato & Cheese Panini

Makes: 1 sandwich

2 slices country style bread or sourdough-type bread 1/ 2 inch thick
drizzle of olive oil
Drizzle of Balsamic Vinegar
Slices of Prosciutto or ham
Shredded young Asiago or Mozzarella cheese
Slices of tomato thinly sliced
Shredded zucchini

(I did not give you amounts of ingredients as you can add more or less of whatever you like)

Drizzle the olive oil over one slice of bread and layer the prosciutto over it. Sprinkle the cheese over the prosciutto and then add the tomatoes, and zucchini. Then drizzle some Balsamic Vinegar on top before putting the other slice of bread over it. Top with the second slice of bread and grill in a Panini maker. Follow directions on your Panini maker. If you do not have a Panini maker, you can use a skillet with grill lines. 

If using a skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a non-stick sauté pan; when it begins to sizzle, add the sandwich and weight it down with a grill press, cast-iron pan, or a brick covered in aluminum foil. When browned on the bottom, turn it over and brown the other side. Can be served with a hot cup of soup for lunch or dinner. Mangia! Enjoy!

Till Next Time……………………………….........

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