Sunday, December 30, 2012

"Happy New Year" With "Italian Stuffed Artichokes" And "Stuffed Mushrooms"

As the clock strikes twelve midnight, on December 31st, people all over the world will wish each other a “Happy New Year-2013”. New Year’s is thought of as a time for hope, new goals, and new opportunities. We celebrate by going to parties, drinking champagne, eating, dancing, fireworks, and especially by being with our loved ones. Many cultures believe the key to a Happy New Year is beginning with lucky foods for New Year’s Eve and on New Year’s Day. There are many other traditions of the season not only lucky foods to eat, but also the making of New Year’s Resolutions.

“First Foot Day” or “First Footer” marks the beginning of the New Year and is said to bring good luck. It is the first male person who enters your home on New Year’s Day, who brings good fortune for the coming year. The First-Foot usually brings several gifts, including coins, bread, salt, coal, or a drink, usually Whisky. This represents financial prosperity, food, flavor, warmth and good cheer. This tradition started in Scotland and England. So watch who steps into your house first! It is also believed that the more you eat on New Year’s Eve the more money you will have for the year.

The Italian people welcome the New Year by tossing old things out of their windows! This is supposed to make room for the new and lucky items to enter their households and lives in the year to come. Some of the lucky foods that are eaten are round fruits such as oranges and pomegranates which symbolize coins and bring a prosperous New Year. Many people make Struffoli which are round little dough balls held together with honey. These are to symbolize the year coming full circle. Lentils and sausage is also a traditional dish that brings prosperity. (cotechino con lentichhie) Many cultures eat Pork because the fatty meat is symbolic of fattening their wallets. Cooked collard, spinach, cabbage and kale are all to symbolize paper money. Black Eyed Peas and cornbread is a traditional Southern dish in the US.

Did you know that if you eat 12 grapes one at a time as each chime strikes at midnight on the clock, it is supposed to guarantee sweetness and fortune in the coming year? Each grapes follows a month, (first grape is January etc.) so if you happen to get a sour grape along the way, it is said to predict that month will be a challenging one in 2013. Fish is also a lucky food choice since most fish swim forward and the scales are believed to symbolize silver. No lobster or crab as they walk sideways and backwards.

So, as I close this post, I want to wish everyone across the world who reads my blog a very “Happy New Year 2013”. May we all have a year filled with Love, Family, Friends, Happiness, Health, Wealth, and Food. This week I have two recipes to share, “Stuffed Italian Artichokes” and “Italian Stuffed Mushrooms”. I guarantee you will not only enjoy these delicious recipes but you will want to make them for your family throughout the year.

“Stuffed Italian Artichokes"


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


Cut off stem and 3/4 off the top of artichoke. Then remove some of the outer leaves at the bottom. Use scissors to clip off top of side leaves. (That removes the sticky point on each leaf) Then wash in deep bowl. Fill large pot with water and boil. Place the artichokes in pot carefully and lower heat to medium for about 7 minutes. Fork test bottom of artichoke for tenderness. If fork goes in and out easily, they are done. Next drain and run cold water on artichokes let them sit and cool off. While they are cooling down, mix the bread crumbs, parsley, minced garlic, grated cheese and a sprinkle of salt with pepper. Mix in a little oil with hands. When it feels like a sandy consistency then you are ready to fill. Gently spread the leaves a little apart and sprinkle some of the bread crumb mixture between each of the leaves. Place the stuffed artichokes in a glass Pyrex baking dish. (7x11x1.5) Drizzle a small amount of oil on top of each artichoke. Put a small amount of water in bottom of pan about 1/ 4 inch deep. Bake for about 25-30 minutes at 350° The top should be a little browned and crispy. Serve hot.

“Italian Stuffed Mushrooms”

48 oz large white button mushrooms
2 cups of plain dried bread crumbs
1/3 cup of Pecorino Romano grated cheese
3 teaspoons of minced garlic fresh or jar
2 tablespoons of fresh chopped Italian parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup of olive or vegetable oil


Preheat oven to 350 F. Clean mushrooms and take the stem off. Mix the bread crumbs with the parsley, garlic, Pecorino Romano, salt and peeper in a small bowl. Now add some oil (about 2 tablespoons) and mix with hands. If you need more oil put in small amount each time until you are mixing the right consistency. When it feels like a sandy consistency then you are ready to stuff the mushroom caps and place on a large cookie/pan sheet. Now, drizzle a small amount of the remaining oil over the top of each mushroom. (This is so they do not dry out, but do not soak) Bake until mushrooms are browned and tender about 25-30 minutes.

Till Next Time……….
Copyright © 2012 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

"Buon Natale a tutti"…. "Merry Christmas"

"Buon Natale a tutti"  …. "Merry Christmas"


From my family to yours, I would like to wish all of my readers a Blessed Merry Christmas. Thank you for your support and visiting “Family Plus Food Equals Love”. I hope that you have enjoyed my stories and recipes. Be sure to come back next week as I have more recipes to share.

Love & Peace,

Till Next Time………………………………...

Copyright 2012 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Thursday, December 20, 2012

"Biscotti With Cranberries And Pistachios" Plus "Italian Sesame Cookies"

Tis’ the season to be jolly and fill your tummy with some Biscotti! Christmas is less than one week away and it’s time to finish your baking. I have a few more desserts and cookies to bake before Santa comes tumbling down that chimney.

As I go through my recipe file, I am reminded of my favorite Christmas story, “A Christmas Carol,” by Charles Dickens. (December 19, 1843) Dickens resurrected the celebration of Christmas. He gave a rebirth to religious beliefs, jubilation, joyous feasts, family, generosity, and good will towards men by writing this beloved tale. Dickens illustrates how self-serving, insensitive people can be. Then transformed them into charitable, caring, and mindful members of society.

The practice of wishing others “Merry Christmas” can be traced back to “A Christmas Carol”. Christmas dinner became a respected tradition with the richness of family and friends. We need to cherish our loved ones every moment of the day and show them how important they are in our lives. This Yuletide season gives us an abundant amount of Christmas joy with friends, family, and the Ghost of Christmas Present! “God Bless Us Everyone!” (Quote by Tiny Tim, from a Christmas Carol)

I have two recipes of cookies to share with you this week. One is an “Italian Biscotti” and the other is an “Italian Sesame Cookie“. The Biscotti is a dry cookie that is twice-baked and traditionally served with a glass of Vin Santo wine after dinner. These crunchy cookies that taste sweet and savory are complemented by coffee, tea, or cappuccino. The Italian Sesame Cookie is also a cookie that reminds me of little Italian bread rolls. The sesame seeds add to the hint of anise flavor in this delightful small cookie. What a way to celebrate the Christmas season!
Buon Natale everyone!

Italian Biscotti with Cranberries and Pistachios

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp.
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup dried sweet cranberries chopped

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer beat the sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl to blend. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the flour mixture with cinnamon and beat just until blended. Stir in the pistachios and dried cranberries. Form the dough into a 13-inch wide log on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until light golden brown, about 40 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes. Place the log on the cutting board. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the log on the baking sheet.
Bake the biscotti until they are pale golden about 15 minutes. Transfer the biscotti to a rack and cool completely. You can also dip one end in melted chocolate and then dip in chopped pistachios. The biscotti can be made ahead. Store them in an airtight container up to 4 days, or wrap them in foil and freeze in re-sealable plastic bags up to 3 weeks.

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
1 teaspoon of anise extract
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.
Till Next Time………………………..

Copyright © 2012 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Traditions & "Sicilian Rice Balls" Recipe

Family, traditions, religion, giving, sharing, and food. All of these words describe what Christmas is all about to me. As Christmas is almost a week away I sometimes wonder what traditions are really all about? I know that in my Italian family our customs are very important as we celebrate the Birth of Jesus, which is what they say is the "reason for the season". Our festivities include being together as a family, Christmas Mass, plus enjoying all the foods that have been passed down through many generations. We all know about the Christmas tree, Santa, and the Nativity. But do we really know how these customs became traditions?

The word Christmas is derived from the English “Christemasse” which it’s meaning is “Christ’s mass”, hence forth the word Christmas. This day commemorates the birth of the baby “Jesus”. Although no one knows the exact date Jesus was born, Christians have favored December 25th since ancient times. It is the date on which the Romans marked the Winter Solstice.

Modern customs include gift giving, exchange of Christmas cards, various decorations including the Christmas tree, lights, and of course Jolly Old Saint Nick. Santa Claus is also referred to as Father Christmas. It is believed that Santa first appeared in the 19th century and resembles Saint Nicholas. The first Christmas tree was brought to America from the German people that immigrated in the early 1800s. Tradition states that the tree symbolized the cross that Christ died for our sins. The green tree represents new life and the lights on the tree symbolize the birth of Christ, that He is the “Light of the World“. Red ornaments signify the blood Jesus shed for our sins. To top the tree either an angel or a star is used, to symbolize the angels that were there when Jesus was born, and the Star is to guide the Three Wise Men or the Magi to the baby Jesus.

Grandparents, Julia & Louis Fiore & me
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day is a time when family and friends enjoy feasting on traditional foods, sweet desserts, and drinks to enjoy the season. Eggnog, Fruit Cake, Gingerbread Men, Candy Canes, and Cookies are very popular at this time of the year. My mom would prepare her menu and guest list many days ahead of time. My maternal grandparents used to live upstairs from my family. I remember when I was young going upstairs, my grandfather would play with me. He loved wood puzzles, the kind that you had to fit the pieces into a ball or square. My grandfather Louis died when I was 7 years old so I can only remember a little of my time with him. But whatever I remember he was a loving man and my grandmother Julia, was a sweet, person who loved her family very much. She died much later in my life, when I was about 20. So I remember many times baking with her and my mother. In Italy, Christmas Eve is called “La Vigilia di Natale” and Merry Christmas is called “Buon Natale”.

My recipe this week I would love to share is called “Sicilian Rice Balls” or “Arancini”. These fried balls of tasty rice are filled with cheese and Italian ham all rolled into one ball of delightful flavor. You just can’t have one.

Sicilian Rice Balls

1 cup of Arborio rice
3 large eggs
Salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup of grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
1/4 cup of diced mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup of diced Prosciutto or ham (about two ounces)
3 tablespoons finely minced fresh parsley
2 cups bread crumbs
1/4 cup of tomato sauce
Vegetable oil for deep-frying

Cook rice in 2 1/2 cups of boiling water for about 15 minutes. The rice should be still quite firm. Drain and put in bowl. Lightly beat 1 egg and add to the rice, along with the grated cheese, parsley, 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce and salt plus pepper. Mix well. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. In another bowl, mix the mozzarella cheese, prosciutto or ham and the remaining 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce.
With floured hands, divide the rice mixture into 8 or 10 portions and roll each portion into a ball, the size of a small orange. Poke a hole into the center of each ball with your finger and insert about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the mozzarella mixture. Reshape and smooth the balls to enclose the filling. In a shallow dish, beat the remaining 2 eggs. Put breadcrumbs into a shallow dish. Dip the balls into the eggs, coat well. Then coat into breadcrumbs evenly. Let them dry on a plate in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
In deep fry pan, heat oil to 375° F. Fry the balls until they are golden brown on all sides. Drain them on paper towels and serve immediately, with some tomato sauce. Enjoy..Abbondanza!!!

Till Next Time……….

Copyright © 2012 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Friday, December 7, 2012

“Poinsettia Cocktail” & “Mexican Wedding Cookies” To Get You In The Holiday Spirit!

Christmas is almost here! I am so excited! Christmas is my very favorite holiday. Each year I start to plan my decorating strategy from the summer. Where to put my tree, what decorations should I use, and what new ideas have I learned throughout the year? If I could I would have Christmas all year long, but I don’t think my family and friends would appreciate seeing Santa next to the Easter Bunny. The colors I usually use at Christmas are the traditional gold, greens, and reds. My green tree is decorated with mini white lights and strings of white pearls as a garland that shimmers in between the glowing lights. I use many ornaments on my tree from beautiful sparkling balls to memorable items that have been made or given to me from family or friends. On top of my radiant Christmas tree I place a white Angel that glows just like a beacon of light as she shines on all of the spectacular decorations. One of the last items I will purchase to finish off my magical Christmas is some beautiful red Poinsettia plants that just bring the warmth of family and friends to any room. It just screams Merry Christmas to one and all!

Speaking of Poinsettias, December 12th just happens to be “National Poinsettia Day!” On this day it is a tradition to give a poinsettia plant to someone in your family or a friend, so they can enjoy its colorful beauty for the holiday season. The Poinsettia is also known as the Christmas flower. According to legend a child who couldn’t afford a gift to offer to the Christ child, was told by an Angel to pick some weeds from the side of a road. The tale continues that a humble gift, if it is given with love, would be acceptable in God’s eyes. The weeds turned into brilliant red blooms which we now call the Poinsettia. The Star-shaped pattern of the Poinsettia leaf is said to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem.
The Poinsettia is indigenous to Mexico and Central America. Its English name came from Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first US Minister to Mexico, who introduced the plant into the United States in 1825. The plant has dark green leaves and it colored leaves can be in a pale green, white, pink, cream, marbled, and of course flaming red. Poinsettias are also known as the Winter Rose, Lobster Flower, Mexican Flame Leaf, and the Christmas Star. Poinsettias are grown as indoor plants and need exposure to the morning sun and then shade in the hotter part of the day. In North America, Poinsettias are the number one selling potted plant, grossing more than $250 million in sales during the 6 week period before Christmas. 90% of all Poinsettias are exported from the U.S. and California is the top producing state. So, this year be sure to give someone you love a Poinsettia plant. After all it is “National Poinsettia Day!”

This week I have two recipes to share. One is a “Poinsettia Cocktail” that will put you in the spirit of the holiday season. The other is in honor of the Poinsettia called “Mexican Wedding Cookies”. Both are simple and scrumptious that you will add these two recipes to your Christmas celebrations every year. Enjoy! 
Poinsettia Cocktail

1 part of Vodka
1 part of Champagne/sparkling white wine
2 parts of cranberry juice
Some cranberries for garnish

Chill Champagne flutes before serving. First add the cranberry juice and vodka into a glass, mix well. Then just before serving, gently top off this mixture with the bubbly. Garnish with cranberries, even over crushed ice is nice. Merry, Merry Christmas!!!

“Mexican Wedding Balls

1 cup of unsalted COLD butter (2 sticks)
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of Vanilla extract
2 cups of all purpose unbleached flour; plus more for dusting hands
1 cup of chopped pecans or walnuts
Powdered sugar to coat balls

Preheat oven to 300° F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar at low speed until it is smooth. Beat in the vanilla.
At low speed gradually add the flour. Mix in the nuts with a spatula. With floured hands, take about 1 tablespoon of dough and shape into a ball. Continue to dust hands with flour as you make more cookies. Place onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 20-30 minutes. When cool enough to handle but still warm, roll in confectioners sugar. Cool on wire racks. Yield: depending on the size of the balls you make. This recipe makes about 2 dozen. Enjoy!

Till Next Time…………………………….

Copyright © 2012 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Friday, November 30, 2012

Cookie Cutters and an "Anise Cutout Cookie" Recipe

Welcome, I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend filled with family, friends, food, and fun. Now that Thanksgiving is behind us for another year, it is time to prepare for my favorite time of the year, which is Christmas! Have you decorated and put up your sparkling tree yet? Were you one of the many people that went Christmas shopping on Black Friday? Did you get all of your gifts on your list? Have you even thought of what to serve for Christmas Eve or Christmas day dinner for your family? I know, here we are and it is December 1st already and it is overwhelming. So many things to do, places to go and not enough time to really enjoy the season. Well, I have one solution for you!

It is time to bring out the cookie cutters! December 1-7th is "National Cookie Cutter Week," just in time for your holiday baking. This may be one thing that you can cross off your “Holiday To Do List“. Do you know what other day is celebrated on December 4th? It is "National Cookie Day". So what better way to honor one of the most loved desserts in the world? By making cookies with cookie cutters. What a delightful way to bring in the holiday season!

“National Cookie Cutter Week” was started in the mid 1990’s by Paula Mullins from KY. She designed a cutter for each year for the “Cookie Cutter Collector’s Club”. Lyn Linder took over in 2007 when Mullins decided she no longer wanted to be involved. The English word “cookie” is derived from the Dutch word “Koekje,” which means little cake. Bakers used to place a small amount of cake batter in the oven to test the temperature. They soon discovered that these little bits of cooked batter were quite tasty on their own, and the “Cookie” was born!

The holiday season means lots of goodies, especially cookies. In the next few weeks many people will be searching their kitchens, pantry, and drawers for the cookie cutters, which may have been passed down through their family generations. Cookie cutters come in many shapes and sizes. At this time of the year, you see Christmas Trees, Santa, Snowmen, Bells, Stars, Snowflakes, and Gingerbread people to name just a few. Choose simply shaped cookie cutters that are open in the back. If you have cookie cutters that are closed in the back, it is more difficult to work with as the dough warms up, they stick sometimes. Before you make your shape on the dough with your cookie cutter, dip the cutter in a small amount of flour. This prevents the cookie cutter from sticking on the dough. Any dough that you use cookie cutters with should be chilled before baking. Cookies can be classified into 3 categories. Drop cookies, Rolled and pressed cookies. They can have nuts, cranberries, raisins, and be decorated with sugar icing.

There is nothing more fun and relaxing than making home made cookies with my cookie cutters that have been passed down from my mom to me. It is a wonderful way to bake with your family and make memories that will last a lifetime. Let this be the day that you buy a new cookie cutter and start your own tradition. Enjoy your home made cookies with a tall glass of cold milk or hot chocolate. Remember 'tis the season to be merry!

My recipe this week is called “Anise Cutout Cookies”. This recipe I found in the “Taste of Home” magazine. What drew me to this recipe were the anise seeds which my family uses not only in baking, but also cooking, and eating raw. Fennel or Anise (Finocchio is the Italian word) is a vegetable like a celery. It has a fresh, sweet flavor. I bet you can’t just have one of these delicious cookies!

Anise Cutout Cookie Recipe

2 cups of shortening
1 cup of sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons anise seeds (crushed)
6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 Teaspoon of salt
1/4 cup of apple juice
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1 Teaspoon ground of cinnamon

In a bowl, cream shortening and sugar until fluffy; add eggs and anise seeds. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; add to the creamed mixture. Add the apple juice and mix well.
On floured surface, knead until well blended, about 4-5 minutes. Roll dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Now, use any shape cookie cutter and cut into 2-inch shapes. Place on greased baking sheets.
Bake at 375° for 12-16 minutes or until lightly browned. Combine sugar and cinnamon; roll cookies in the mixture while still warm. Cool on wire racks.
Yield: about 4 dozen, depending on what size cookie cutters you use.

Till Next Time………………

Copyright © 2012 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Italian Style & Two Italian Recipes

My wish for you, my readers is a festive Thanksgiving holiday filled with family, friends, and all the fixings. I, among everyone else, have many things to be thankful for, especially to you my readers from coast to coast and across the seas. May your day be filled with past blessings and prayers for a bright future! Thanks for coming back and enjoying my stories and my favorite family Italian recipes.

Italians love any holiday that brings family, friends, and food together. Every Italian family has traditions and recipes that are unique and make their Thanksgiving special. As well as turkey and the trimmings, Italian Americans will often add to their Thanksgiving dinner an antipasto, a pasta or soup course, and then the desserts come. The desserts are not only your typical pumpkin pie, but sweets and pastries that Italians have been baking for years. I have two recipes this week to share with you my readers. The first one is called “Ricotta Pancakes with Honey and Raisin Sauce”. What a light, fresh, and sweet dessert for after your Thanksgiving meal. A delightful accompaniment with a cup of tea, coffee, or an after dinner drink.

“Ricotta Pancakes with Honey and Raisin Sauce”
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 2-3 minutes
Serves: 4 people

4 tablespoons of clear honey
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon of raisins
1 tablespoon of Pine Nuts

8 ounces of whole milk Ricotta Cheese
Grated rind of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons raisins
1 tablespoon of Pine Nuts
8 small, (8 to 10 inch) pancakes. The pancakes should be sweeter and thinner than a pancake but thicker than a crepe.

To make the sauce, put all the ingredients into a small pan and warm through gently. For the filling, beat the cheese and lemon rind until soft; mix in raisins and pine nuts. Divide the filling among the hot pancakes and either roll them up or fold into triangles. Arrange the pancakes on a warm plate spoon the sauce over the top and decorate with twists of lemon. Serve immediately warm or hot.
The second recipe is one that my mom has used for Thanksgiving for many years. It is so delicious that we ask her to cook this dish even if it is not a holiday. This recipe has been passed down from my great-grandmother Sofia. It is called “Rice Stuffing: Rice, Sausage & Onions” My family loves this stuffing as it is made in a baking dish and not stuffed inside the turkey. The flavor is sweet from the onions and sausage plus has that savory taste from the cheese. It is a perfect marriage to have along side of your turkey dinner.

Sofia, great-grand mother
  “Rice Stuffing: Rice, Sausage & Onions”

1 1/2 lbs of sweet sausage bulk (out of casing)
2 cups of rice (uncooked) Uncle Bens
3 large eggs
2 large onions (sliced thin)
3/4 cup of Pecorino Romano grated cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté sausage in pan with a little oil. Before sausage is totally cooked add onions and finish cooking. While sausage is cooking cook rice. Drain rice and put in a large bowl. Next beat eggs in a small bowl. Then mix together cooked rice, raw beaten eggs, grated cheese, and cooked sausage with onions. Put in a baking dish. Bake in a 350° for about 40-45 minutes until mixture sets.

So, as we say in Italian, “Abbondanza!!” (Plentiful & Abundance) “Happy Thanksgiving” to everyone…..

Till Next Time…………………………

Copyright © 2012 “Family Plus Food Equals Love”
All Rights Reserved

Friday, November 16, 2012

"Winter Salad With Pears and Pomegranate Seeds"

Long Island is coming back slowly but surely after hurricane “Sandy”. Everyone has a story to tell or knows someone that has lost their homes to this horrible tragedy. My thoughts and prayers go out to all that are still without electric, heat, and homes. They still need your help. Please go to your local Red Cross Center and give blood, your time, and food which are still needed. Here is where you can go to help. American Red Cross Phone: 1-800-HELP-NOW (1-800-435-7669) Online: Go directly to the Red Cross Donation page. Thank you to all who have helped.

As I walk down the aisle in my supermarket, I can see that one of my favorite winter fruits are being displayed. The Pomegranates have arrived! I remember when I was young my grandmother (Nanni) was the first person to show me a pomegranate and how to eat them. She loved them and would always tell me stories of when she was young and how she learned about this colorful sweet, tart, juicy fruit. Mostly at holiday time is when she would visit and bring the pomegranates. We would pull up our sleeves as not to get them stained and start opening them. Sometimes we would eat the seeds as we were opening them, but other times we would not touch one and fill a big bowl. Then we would take a spoonful and pop them in our mouths. We would giggle as we could see our lips turn red from the seeds that we just squished in our mouths. This time of the year brings back many wonderful memories of pomegranates and more so of my Nanni.
The season for Pomegranates runs from September to February. They grow on shrubs or small trees and are considered a berry. The seeds are edible and can vary from 200 to about 1400 seeds in each depending on the size. Italians love them and consider them “Royal” fruit because they appear so much in Renaissance paintings. Pomegranates were also thought to be the “apple” that Eve plucked in the Garden of Eden. Many cultures have used the pomegranates throughout the world for symbols, health benefits, and religious reasons.

Nutritional benefits of eating a pomegranate include vitamin C, vitamin B5, potassium, fiber, flavonoids, unsaturated oil, and micronutrients. The rind of the fruit and the bark of the pomegranate tree are used as a remedy against diarrhea and dysentery. The seeds and juice are considered a tonic for the heart and throat. The astringent qualities are also good for a variety of purposes from stopping nose bleeds to skin aliments.

This sweet, juicy, and ruby red exotic fruit can be intimidating to anyone that has not tasted it before. However, opening a pomegranate and removing the juicy red seeds (actually arils) is quite simple. With a sharp knife, cut off the crown top of the pomegranate. Make a spiral cut in the skin around the fruit. Holding with both hands, pull the pomegranate apart to break into half, then into quarters. Invert each quarter by pushing the skin with your thumbs to let the seed fall out. There still may be remaining seeds, take them out with your fingers. You should be able to get 1 cup of seeds. Remove any white pith as they are bitter in taste.

You can use pomegranate seeds and juice for a number of recipes, from adding them to warm or cold soups or to creating scrumptious desserts. My recipe this week is called “Winter Salad with Pears and Pomegranate Seeds”. Hope that you enjoy!

Winter Salad with Pears and Pomegranate Seeds

Depending on how many people you are serving will determine how much salad greens you need. So, I am giving you just the names of the ingredients. You can decide on how much you need.

Ken’s Steak House Lite Raspberry Pomegranate Vinaigrette Dressing
Red Bartlett Pears (ripe) cored and cut into thin slices
1 Pomegranate (seeds)
Toasted and coarsely chopped walnuts
Combination of salad greens:
Baby Spinach, Romaine, Red Leaf, Endive, Radicchio, Boston or Bib Leaf, Arugula, Frisee, and Iceberg Lettuce
Cucumber slices (thin)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Wash and clean all salad greens, then pat dry. Tear the greens gently and place in a big bowl. Add the cucumber slices and then pour on the Raspberry Pomegranate Vinaigrette. Gently toss to coat. Salt and Pepper to taste. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and toasted walnuts. Place salad on a plate or in a bowl and then add your Red Pear slices on top of the dressed greens. Beautiful, colorful, and delicious too!

Till Next Time………………………

Copyright © 2012 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” Rights Reserved

Monday, November 5, 2012

Hurricane "Sandy" and "Pasta Spirals With Bacon & Spinach"

It was a tough week for the entire East Coast especially New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York/Long Island where I live, as “Hurricane Sandy's” destruction left an unforgettable imprint on the lives of millions. I did not post last week due to the fact that I did not have electric and was staying with family. I finally was able to get my power back but my parents, brother, and my sister-in-law did not. As last week progressed my parents did get their electric back but the rest of my family has not. I apologize to my readers, but Mother Nature seems to be in charge lately and it can not be helped. I am very grateful to the powers that be, that my family and I have been OK and we did not have floods, lose our homes, or lose lives. So we just have to be so thankful for “Sandy” sparing us from total devastation. I look at photos from this major super storm; I can’t believe that this is New York, Long Island. As I watch the news and I see the damage across the East Coast, it reminds me of another world, or another country. I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime and pray that I never will again. Now as if what has happened was not enough, I have heard that another nor’easter is on the way towards the New York, New Jersey area on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Pray that those of us that have our power back stays on and we don’t go backwards instead of forwards due to this storm. My prayers and thoughts go out to all of those people who have lost family members, lost their homes due to floods and fire, and to everyone that has been affected from this horrible nightmare called “Sandy”. My heart goes out to the young, the elderly, the sick, and many pets that have been misplaced. This tragedy will have touched our lives for many years to come. We are a strong nation these “United States of America” and it just seems to me that everyone comes together when there is a catastrophe from one coast to the other. People from all over the USA and the world have been helping in one way or another to ease the pain and upheaval of the East Coast. Thank you everyone!

With that being said, it is important that the victims of Hurricane Sandy get the help they need now. The Disney/ABC Television Group will donate $2 million to those severely impacted by “Sandy”. They call it a “Day of Giving”. During the network programming of daytime, news, primetime, and late night the message of giving and hope will be flashed on the TV screen. Please help out the victims of Hurricane Sandy by donating to the American Red Cross not only today but any day. Here’s how you can help:

Text to Give: Text ABC to 90999 to give $10.00 to the American Red Cross
Phone: 1-800-HELP-NOW (1-800-435-7669)
Online: Go directly to the Red Cross Donation page.

Our prayers and the little things that we can do for our family, friends, and neighbors will I’m sure be a blessing to all whom have been effected.

PS: Please don’t forget to VOTE, it is your right as an American!

My recipe this week puts a twist on an Italian favorite with this classic spiral pasta (fusilli) dish. The spiral shape provides lots of nooks and crannies to hide all of your delicious ingredients. This dish can be doubled and tripled to feed many people. So let’s make a big batch to be shared with others that need the food, warmth and company.

Pasta Spirals With Spinach and Bacon

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4 people

1 red pepper
6 oz of sliced mushrooms
1 onion
6 pieces of uncooked bacon
1 red chili
1 lb of pasta spirals (fusilli pasta)
1/4 cup of olive oil
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 (9 oz) bag of fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 cup of Pecorino Romano grated cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash the spinach, remove the stalks and roughly chop. Core and seed the pepper and slice finely. Peel the onion and chop finely. Chop the bacon into small pieces. Now remove the seeds from the chili and slice finely. Cook the spirals (fusilli) about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Now drain when the pasta is al dente. Meanwhile, warm the olive oil in a large heavy pan over medium heat. Add the garlic till fragrant about 2-3 minutes, do not burn. Now add the onion, bacon, chili, mushrooms, and red pepper. Sauté for 3-4 minutes. Then add the spinach and sauté for 3-4 minutes until it wilts, while stirring. Season with salt and pepper to taste. When all is cooked together toss with the pasta spirals. Top with Pecorino Romano cheese and serve immediately.
Till Next Time…………………………

Copyright © 2012 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 26, 2012

"Oatmeal" A Warm Comfort Food & An "Oatmeal Walnut Bread" Recipe

It has been cool here on Long Island, as October is winding down. The colors of the leaves on the trees are spectacular especially when they twirl in the air and touch the ground. It seems in spots you are walking on a crisp carpet of colors. Today was a chilly, windy, overcast day with rain in the forecast for the weekend. Days that are gloomy with rain makes me want to just curl up on the couch with a warm, soft, blanket and read a good book or watch a movie. It also brings to mind the thoughts of a cup of hot tea and warm comfort foods like a big bowl of warm oatmeal. Yes, I did say oatmeal! I remember when I was a young child my mom would always make oatmeal on a cool day or when it snowed out. It was so good and tasty that with each spoonful, it warmed up your belly. My mother would tell my brothers and myself that, “Eating oatmeal or any hot cereal would stick to your bones and keep you warm throughout the day”. I guess that is why I am thinking of oatmeal on a day like today, it makes me feel like I am home again, sitting at the kitchen table with my family as a young girl.

As I look at the calendar I am reminded that October 29th is "National Oatmeal Day." Can that be possible, that oatmeal has its own day? I guess so and there are so many more ways to make oatmeal than just in a bowl. Before I share an oatmeal recipe with you, there are many facts about oatmeal that you should be aware of after all it has its own day.

Oatmeal, also known as white oats is ground and can be crushed, rolled, and steel-cut. Instant oatmeal is pre-cooked and dried, usually with sweetener and flavoring is added. Both types of rolled oats may be eaten uncooked as in muesli. It can be called by many different names such as; porridge, gruel, and farina. Oatmeal is also used as a thickening agent for soups and stews. It is an ingredient used in baking, as a stuffing for poultry, and is also know as a major component of the Scottish dish called Haggis. An oatmeal bath, made by adding a cup of finely ground oatmeal to the bathwater is commonly used to ease the discomfort related with such things as chickenpox, poison ivy, sunburn, and dry skin.

There are so many health benefits to enjoying a bowl of oatmeal, that in recent years an increase of consumption has been reported. It is found that easting a bowl of oatmeal can lower blood cholesterol, because of its soluble fiber content. In 1997 the FDA found that a food with a lot of oat bran or rolled-oats may reduce the risk of heart disease when combined with a low fat diet. Oatmeal also contains more B- vitamins, plus it encourages slow digestion and stabilizes blood-glucose levels. You can dress up your oatmeal with healthy berries, nuts, fruits, and honey, which will enhance your oatmeal’s disease-fighting properties.

My recipe this week is an “Oatmeal Walnut Bread”. The crunch of walnuts, the rich molasses and the nutty flavors of the oats create a wonderful tasty warm bread. A perfect comfort food for a rainy, cool, gloomy day.
 "Oatmeal Walnut Bread"

2 cups of Bread Flour
1 package of Red Star  Platinum Yeast (1/4 oz)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup of water
4 Tbsp of Molasses
2 Tbsp of Vegetable Oil
1/2 cup Quick rolled oats
1 cup of whole wheat flour
3/4 cup Walnuts, chopped
Egg, water, and rolled oats for topping

In large mixing bowl, combine 1 1/4 cups bread flour, yeast and salt; blend well. Heat 1 cup water, molasses, vegetable oil and rolled oats until warm. (120° -130° F) Add to flour mixture. Blend at low speed until moistened; beat 3 minutes at medium speed. By hand, gradually stir in whole wheat flour, nuts and enough remaining bread flour to make your dough firm. Knead on floured surface 5-8 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. Use additional flour if necessary. Place dough in lightly oiled bowl and turn to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm place about 15-20 minutes.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; punch down to remove air bubbles. Roll or pat dough to a rectangle, approximately 14x7. Starting with shorter side, roll up tightly, pressing dough into roll with each turn. Pinch edges and ends to seal. Place in a greased 8 x 4-inch loaf pan. Cover; let rise until indentation remains after lightly touching the side of the loaf, about 30-40 minutes. Combine egg and 1 tablespoon water; brush top of loaf. Sprinkle with rolled oats. Bake in preheated 375° F oven 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from pan; cool.
Till Next Time………………………………................

Copyright © 2012 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved