Friday, May 27, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend....A Day To Honor Our Soldiers.......

Well, its here, Memorial Day weekend! The unofficial start of the Summer season. The last Monday in May is celebrated as a federal holiday in the United States since 1971. It was formerly known as Decoration Day and then changed in 1882 to Memorial Day. A day that we commemorate for all American soldiers who died in military service. Memorial Day is an occasion for expressions of memory, as people visit the graves of their deceased relatives, whether they had served in the military or not. As time marches on it now has become a long weekend increasingly devoted to shopping, family get-togethers, BBQ’s, fireworks, trips to the beach, and national media events such as the Indianapolis 500 auto race, held since 1911 on Memorial Day.
(from the left) My grandfather Louis,
my grandmother Julia, my mother Madeline,
my father Robert, and my grandfather Julius
( 1952 )

Recently my mother shared with me a story about her father, my grandfather who fought in the war. I really never knew the story about my grandfather and his Army days, so this is what I learned …..
My grandfather Louis Fiore served in the Army. He was a corporal in the 9th US Infantry and was in Company A. When he was 17 he enlisted. (which he was under age) My great grandmother Madeline had 9 children and five were boys all of whom were in the service at the same time. One of my grandfather’s brothers was in the Coast Guard and his other three brothers were in the Army the same as he was. My grandfather fought in WWI and was wounded, (shot in the leg) in the battle at Chateau-Thierry, in France. My grandfather was taken to a MASH unit and told the Dr’s to take care of the other soldiers first. He was very compassionate and thought that there were other men that were hurt more than he was. Finally, he had his surgery and was taken with an ambulance to another site, as they were leaving in the ambulance, they looked back and the MASH unit where he had his surgery had been blown up. He received a Purple Heart for his bravery and other medals as well. After his leg healed, he chose to go to Germany and joined the Army of Occupation with his old unit. He also wanted to see if any of his Army buddies were still alive and made it out ok. (The Army of Occupation goes into a defeated country to enforce peace and keep order.) When he passed on he was buried with honors in the Long Island National Cemetery, Farmingdale, New York. I am so proud to have a grandfather who loved his country to defend it for our freedom. So today I honor him on this Memorial Day weekend.

For us Italian Americans it is especially important to remember that more that 1.5 million Italian Americans served in World War II – thousands of them died to liberate Italy. All Italians and Italian Americans have much to be grateful for today on this Memorial Day. Memorial Day is also a time to celebrate peace and sacrifice. There are many popular activities that some may enjoy such as, Memorial Day parades that take place in your local towns or cities. Some towns have long week-end festivals, and then there are shopping frenzies with sales and discounts to honor our servicemen. Going to the beach and family BBQ’s are also a fun way to celebrate. Some fun activities that children can do to commemorate this Memorial Day weekend may be to create a scrapbook, with highlighted memories from your local town’s celebration. Another game may be to see who can name all of the states. As you travel, count how many license plates can be found from the different states. Who ever counts the most wins.

 One way to kick off the summer is with a family barbeque. There is nothing like cooking outside on a grill. As you and your family reminisce about loved ones in the service there are so many quick and easy ideas for a very tasty BBQ. Some options are fresh corn on the cob roasted on the grill, enjoy the flavor of blueberry and rhubarb pies with homemade vanilla ice cream, and don’t forget, the gooey barbeque sauce or glaze to coat on your favorite meat, seafood or fresh vegetables…… yum, finger lick’ in good.

This weekend’s recipe is called Jell-O Poke cake. May 28th is National Jell-O day so what better way to honor the day with a wonderful and easy cake recipe. My family has used this recipe for many occasions. I remember when I first learned how to make this cake. I had so much fun when my Mother said to poke holes in the cake and then we would pour the Jell-O so it would flow throughout the holes. You can make this cake at anytime of the year; only use the Jell-O flavors that correspond with the holiday. Like if you were going to use it for Easter, you could use Lemon and Lime Jell-O. For Christmas you can use Red (Cherry) and Green (Lime). I think you can figure out the rest. Peter Cooper, inventor and founder of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, obtained the first American patent for the manufacture of gelatin. In 1895, cough syrup manufacturer Peal B. Wait purchased the patent and developed a packaged gelatin dessert. Wait’s wife May, named it “Jell-O” and the rest is history. This is the perfect dessert for a patriotic weekend. It is made with Red and Blue Jell-O, plus cool whip, a very refreshing and sweet way to end your celebration of Memorial Day. So enjoy your BBQ and your Jell-O Poke Cake.

Jell-O Poke Cake

2 baked 9 inch white cake layers (any cake mix will do)
2 cups of boiling water
1 package of Jell-O (red)
1 package of Jell-O (blue)
1 tub of Cool Whip (20 oz container)

Place cooked layers top sides back in 2 separate 9” round cake pans. Pierce cake with large fork at 1/2 inch increments. Stir 1 cup boiling water into each flavor of the gelatin in separate bowls for 2 minutes or until dissolved. Carefully pour red gelatin over cake layer and lime gelatin over the second layer. Refrigerate 3 hours. Dip pan in warm water for 10 seconds, to help un-mold and then onto a serving plate. Spread with 1 cup of whipped topping. Un-mold second layer, carefully place on first layer covered with whipped topping. Frost with remaining whipped topping. Garnish as desired with some berries. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving. Store in refrigerator if there is any left.  
Tips: You can substitute with Cool Whip Light and also the cake can be made with sugar free Jell-O

However you celebrate your Memorial Day remember to incorporate your holiday traditions with your family and no matter where you are, take time to be thankful for our freedom.

Till next time……..
Copyright © 2011 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Italian Festivals and Feasts

On Sunday May 22, 2011 history will be re-created in Massa Marittima, Tuscany, Italy. Every fourth Sunday in May and an additional Sunday in August there is a contest called, Balestro del Girifalco which is the acclaimed 106° crossbow-shooting challenge. It is an organized competition for 24 participants who dress up in medieval clothing and recreate this contest. The May crossbow is dedicated to Saint Bernardino from Sienna who was born in Massa Matittima on September 8th 1380. The archers shoot arrows out of ancient style Italian crossbows which are based on the weapons that their ancestors used, it is a way of being transported back though history. After the arrow has been loaded, the archers yield their position and aim at the target, which is a disc about 18 inches wide and just over 35 meters away. The crossbowman who shoots his arrow closest to the centre of the target, becomes the winner. A gold arrow made by an artist is the prize for the winner of the completion as well as a large painted silk banner. There is a lively historical parade with about 200 people who dress in reproduced medieval costumes. They run through the streets with banners and flags before they end up at the Piazza del Duomo. There is plenty of food, drinks and merriment plus the abundance of history which is accomplished by this re-creation and fun filled day is had by all.

As I think about celebrations and feasts, what comes to my mind is a memory as a young child going to the Italian festival called the “Feast of San Gennaro” with my parents….. Being an Italian American family, this was a special treat for my family to attend this annual outdoor feast which takes place in “Little Italy,” New York. This year the feast will turn 85 years old which will be celebrated on September 15-25, 2011. This is the longest-running, biggest and most religious festival in lower Manhattan. This neighborhood which became home for hundreds of Italian immigrants who came seeking to improve their lives in the early part of the 20th century. This feast attracts more than three million people from all over the globe to Little Italy to participate in the annual celebration of faith with the patron saint of Naples, Italy the Statue of San Gennaro. This feast includes religious processions, colorful parades, free musical entertainment, games, rides ( Ferris wheel, merry-go-round) and a wide variety of ethnic foods, charming outdoor café’s and even a world famous cannoli eating completion. The feast of San Gennaro reflects Italian American culture and heritage which brings the world to “Little Italy” and “Little Italy” to the world. If you would like more information it can be found at

One of my families many favorite things to do at this feast were the games that we could play. I remember my brothers and I trying to get the little white ball into the small fish bowl. This bowl had a real goldfish in it and if you were able to throw the little white ball in the neck of the bowl, you would be able to take home the goldfish, and you were a winner. Another one of my favorite games was the horse race. This game took skill and good aim. You would have to hold a water gun steady and try to aim it on the round disc. If you keep the water on the disc, your race horse would move. The first horse to get to the other end of the row wins. When you did win a game sometimes you could chose a stuffed animal or doll. Many  times throughout the years of attending the San Gennaro festival, I would be going home with my stuffed animals. Another big part of the feast were the different types of foods, so delicious and the smells were fantastic. I remember walking with my Dad down one of the streets (Mulberry Street) and seeing the cotton candy booth, ice cream (Gelato), and of course the truly authentic traditional Italian foods such as pastas, fried zeppoles and one of my parents’ favorites, sausage peppers with onions on an Italian Bread roll. You really don’t have to be Italian to enjoy sausage and peppers. You can’t help seeing them and smelling them as you walk up and down the streets of the festival. These are sweet or hot Italian sausage which is cooked on a hot grill and served with piles of peppers and sautéed sliced onions. If you ask anyone at the festival they will tell you that the sausage and peppers are the top selling food items.

I don’t know about you, but all this taking about food is getting me hungry. So, I would love to share with you a wonderful recipe of Sausage, Peppers, with Onions. This recipe is one of my families very favorite meals. Which can be eaten as a dinner meal, for lunch and even to take on picnics as the summer is approaching. This dish is very simple and easy. All the flavors blend together and the onions as they caramelize give the peppers a sweet taste. Wine would be a good beverage to have along side your dish. You can also pair a Red or White wine which will work very well with pork. You should try to aim for lighter reds like Pinot Noir, Beaujolais or Chianti, or softer reds like a Merlot. Chardonnay is a good choice for a "porky" white. 

Sausage and Peppers
2 large green peppers, cored, seeded and cut into 1 inch strips or chunks
2 large yellow peppers, cored, seeded and cut into 1 inch strips or chunks
1 large red pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1 inch strips or chunks
2 large yellow onions, cut into 1 inch wedges
1 / 4 cup of olive oil or as needed
2 tablespoons of Oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 to 2 lbs of Italian style pork sausage-with or without fennel seeds
(the amount of sausage depends on how many people that are eating)

Preheat the oven to 375° Spread the vegetables in a shallow roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and oregano. Make sure vegetables are in a single layer so they will all cook and brown evenly. Now pierce or stick each link of sausage two or three times with a fork, so they will cook through. Place sausage in between the peppers and onions. Bake till sausage and vegetables are cooked and browned. Bake uncovered about 45 minutes depending upon your oven. Your vegetables should be still firm, and no traces of pink should remain in the sausage. Serve hot, with bread or a tossed salad.

I hope that you enjoy this recipe and you never know, maybe one September night on Mulberry Street, in Little Italy, as I am enjoying the San Gennaro Festival, I may see you eating a Sausage, Pepper with Onions sandwich.

Till next time……

Copyright © 2011 All Rights Reserved

Friday, May 13, 2011

Kitchen Omens and Italian Superstitions

Today is Friday the 13th — the unluckiest day on the calendar. Be careful, don’t take any chances, or walk under a ladder, watch out, it’s a black cat---oh no, and for God’s sake stay away from men in hockey masks.

The number 13 has been unlucky for centuries. It dates back to a least 1700 BC. In Italy the number 13 is a lucky number. The number’s association with Friday didn’t take hold until the 20th Century. In 1907, an eccentric Boston stockbroker Thomas Lawson published a book called “Friday the Thirteenth.” The book sold nearly 28,000 copies within the first week. In 1916 the book was turned into a feature-length silent film. Then in 1980, Paramount Pictures released a movie called “Friday the 13th” This horror/slasher movie centers on Jason, born on Friday the 13th who murders summer campers. So, try not to go to camp on Friday the 13th. You have been warned!!

Omens reveal many things and are all around us. They can be quite beneficial especially in warning us of possible dangerous situations ahead of time. The technique is knowing how to interpret them. The kitchen is one place in which many omens and superstitions manifest. This is an example of one of them, if a fork accidentally falls onto the floor, a woman will soon knock on your door, a spoon indicates the arrival of a gentleman. (In some parts of the world, the fork means a man, and the spoon means a woman.) Another one is that money will soon come your way if any of these things occur: bubbles appear in a cup of coffee, you accidentally knock over a sugar bowl, rice forms a ring around the edge of a pot, or tea leaves float to the top of the cup. If salt is spilled that means a quarrel. This may be avoided by throwing a pinch over the left shoulder. If pepper is spilled on the table or floor, prepare to be in an argument. If you dream of eating ham then you will lose something that means a lot to you. If you dream of eating honey that foretells that you will have wealth and love.

Growing up in an Italian American household, many of these rituals and beliefs were practiced by my parents and grandparents. Some of these Italian American superstitions were practiced by countless generations. The fact that these superstitions are still with us is a testament to just how strong forces of good luck, prosperity and good fortune are even with us in today’s world. The following are some commonly known Italian American rituals and superstitions. There are many more to numerous to mention, but this may give you an example of some of them.  

The Evil Eye (Malocchio): The evil eye is caused by jealousy and envy. By coveting somebody’s possessions or more importantly admiring another family’s children. You can test this curse, by dropping olive oil in a plate of water. If the oil formed one large drop in the middle of the plate it was a sure sign of the Evil Eye. To break this curse, chanting of the right prayers that only women were allowed to know, over the oil, and it would break up into tiny droplets and spread out. Now the curse was broken. 


The Devil’s Horn (Corno): These twisted red coral; gold or silver amulets are often worn as necklaces by men to ward off curses on their “manliness” very similar to a Mojo. Most men who wear one will say it represents one of the horns of the devil. The hand gesture that implies the Evil Eye is extending only the pinkie and index finger like a pair of horns and pointing it down. When the gesture is made poiting upward, it is an insult to somebody, meaning their husband or wife is unfaithful.

No Birds In The House: Italians believe that having a bird in the house brings bad luck. Some versions of the superstition include even bird feathers, especially peacock feathers with their potentially “Evil Eye.” The reason for birds being bad luck stemmed from the Bible, when St. Peter denied that he knew Jesus three times before the cock crowed.

Blessing or Exorcising a New House:  Some Southern Italians immigrating to new lands as they moved into their first new home, would practice the necessary rituals to rid the new place of any spirits that may have been left by the previous owners. Before moving into their new home, they would take a broom and sweep away the evil spirits, followed by sprinkling of salt in the corners of the house to purify it. Holy water that was blessed by a priest was also used to exorcise any evil spirits. I remember my grandmother telling me when you visit someone in their new home you bring a loaf of bread (not to go hungry) salt (to season your life) and last but not least sugar (to add sweetness to your life.)

One person’s superstition is another person’s religion, way of life or cultural identity. It is all about perspective. No matter how strange the omens or superstitions may seem to groups who don’t practice or understand them, it can bring cultures and people together. Different cultures will pass down their traditions from generations to generations. Just the way my grandmother passed down traditions to my Mother and now my Mother continues and passes them to me, and now we can pass the things that mean the most to our family down again another generation to my children, and it just continues, and continues. That is just the way it is.  

Today, I would love to share this simple but tasty authentic Italian cookie, called Italian Sesame Cookies. This recipe is very simple and fun to make. You can even have your children help by coating the cookies with the sesame seeds before baking. Children love to help cook and bake. Let your family help and create many memories together. Enjoy this cookie with a cup of coffee or tea. To store them, put them in a covered tin, for long lasting flavor. (If they last that long)
Gustare!! English translation: to taste, to enjoy, to relish.

Italian Sesame Cookies
4 cups of flour
1 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1/ 4 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of Crisco Solid
2 eggs
1 / 2 cup of milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla
Sesame seeds

Cut in 1 cup of shortening (Crisco Solid). Beat slightly 2 eggs. Add to eggs: 1/ 2 cup of milk. Combine dry and liquid ingredients. Pinch off a small amount of dough and roll in your hands.
Shape into a size of a finger and taper at each end. (You can also create any shape to make these cookies in example: crescent, star, round etc) Now roll in the sesame seeds. Bake at 375° for about 12-15 minutes depending on your oven and the type of pans you use.
 Copyright © 2011 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Friday, May 6, 2011

Happy Mother's Day "la festa della mamma"

Mother’s Day is an annual holiday that recognizes mother’s and motherhood. In the United States we celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May. The holiday was created by Anna Jarvis who lived in West Virginia. The year was 1908 and she wanted to accomplish a dream her mother had, which was to have a celebration for all mothers. She kept promoting the idea and even enlisted John Wanamaker, a wealthy business man from Philadelphia. Her persistent promoting finally paid off, President Woodrow Wilson finally make it an official holiday in 1914. Eventually the holiday became so commercially publicized that Anna Jarvis ended up opposing the holiday she helped to create. When she died in 1948 she regretted that it had become a holiday in the United States. Today, Mother’s Day still remains one of the biggest days for selling flowers, greeting cards, and other gifts to celebrate mothers. It is also the biggest holiday for long -distance telephone calls. Carnations, became the traditional flower to represent the celebration of Mother’s Day. Anna Jarvis, chose the carnation because it was her mothers’ favorite flower. As florists sales expanded the more types of flowers were sold. Florists promoted wearing a red carnation if your mother was living, or a white one if she had passed on.

In Italy, Mother’s Day was celebrated for the first time on May 12, 1957, in the city of Assisi. Throughout Italy, it is usually celebrated on the second Sunday in May just like the United States. Italian Mother’s Day is not as commercialized like the United States. It is a day for families and for very personal expressions of love. Italian mothers, traditionally celebrate Mother’s Day by bringing the whole family together. La Mamma is not allowed to do any housework on that special day. She will have breakfast made for her, (fresh pastries and coffee/tea.) Cards are not as popular either. It is far more common for children to write their own poems or thanks for Mother’s Day than buy a store bought card. As for Italian mothers, attending church on Mother’s Day morning is still an important part of their tradition. In Christianity, the word “mother” is referred to the mother church, the giver of spiritual life.

I remember, as a young girl many a Mother‘s Day that my brothers and I would try to make breakfast for our Mother. We always tried to make eggs and toast, or waffles, and if we really got creative maybe some pancakes. I am the oldest plus the only girl so I was the one who was more responsible. Our breakfast was not the best, but it really showed our mother that we loved and appreciated all that she did for us. Then after breakfast we attended Church, and back home for the rest of the family to get together for a dinner later that day. We would include in our guest list, of course my grandparents, some aunts and uncles, cousins and other relatives that may have been alone for the holiday. You see my parents, especially my Mother was always asking the relatives that had lost a spouse or lived alone to join us as well, not only for Mother’s Day but for all of the holidays throughout the year. She just couldn’t have them be alone on such a joyous occasion. That is one of the many attributes that my Mother possesses which is another reason to love her. She is very kind and generous to everyone. Her attitude is always positive and is always trying to make everyone comfortable. Even if she is tired and exhausted, she pushes to make everyone happy. To her, my Dad and the family are so important. Her children and grandchildren are extra special in her life as well.

Well, Mom here’s to you! “Auguri per la Festa della, Mamma” (Happy Mother’s Day) I just want you to know that you are very special to me. You’re my mother, and a friend also. Just want you to know how lucky I am to have you in my life. Thanks for always being there for me and I love you very much. So “Ti Viglio Bene Mamma” ( I Love You, Mother) to you, enjoy and relax. It is your day to celebrate.
 One of my Mom’s favorite foods is a frittata. It’s a thick, Italian omelet with an egg base but adding anything you like to its contents. It is cooked in a frying pan on top of the stove and sometimes it is finished in the oven. Inside of the frittata, it is moist and can be eaten for breakfast, brunch or a light lunch. It is often make up from other ingredients that had been left over from previous meals. The most popular ingredients to add to the egg base is potatoes, onions and cheese. Veggies can be used but diced into small pieces. If you are going to use veggies, they should be cooked first, as the frittata only takes about 20 minutes or so. You can boil, steam or sauté until tender. If using frozen veggies make sure that they are defrosted and are lightly boiled. If meat is your added ingredient, make sure that it’s cooked and diced into small pieces as well. Left over spaghetti or pasta is another ingredient you can add, just as before, make sure it is cooked and then cut into small pieces. A nice crisp salad is a wonderful addition to your frittata meal.

To prepare to cook your frittata, you can heat some olive oil in your frying pan (just enough to coat it.) Heat your oven to 300° Whisk the eggs with some salt and pepper to taste. Then add your cut up veggies, diced meat or what ever you decide to have and mix with your egg mixture. Now pour the egg mixture into the heated frying pan. Leave your egg mixture to set for about 5-8 minutes. Once you see it set up a bit, now you can place the pan in the oven for several minutes until the top is set and is golden brown. Remove from the heat and loosen the frittata from the pan. Slide it onto a serving dish and serve while still hot or leave to cool. And then enjoy!!!! Buon Appetito !!

Another great addition to you frittata with a salad is a very refreshing drink called a Peach Bellini. It is made with an Italian sparkling wine (prosecco or champagne) and a peach puree. It is a very delicious drink to add to your Mother’s Day festivities. The Bellini was invented by Giuseppe Cipriani, a bartender at Harry’s Bar in Venice Italy, in 1934. It was the vivid paintings with pink hues that a painter by the name of Giovanni Bellini created. This painter was the inspiration that Giuseppe Cipriani named his drink after. It was also Ernest Hemingway’s favorite aperitif when in Venice. If you would like to have a Bellini for your Mother’s Day celebration, please go to Barefoot Contessa web site. Ina Garten’s (Barefoot Contessa) recipe for the Peach Bellini.
As I close this post for now, just a wish for all of my readers who are Mothers to have a wonderful and relaxing day. Everyday should be Mother’s Day. Enjoy the Frittata, your Bellini and make many memories with your family and friends. Till next time…….

Copyright © 2011 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED