Thursday, February 23, 2012

Meatless Meal For Lent “Penne with Broccoli & Mozzarella”

This year, Winter feels like it is Spring here on Long Island. To me personally, it feels like a yo-yo. Some days the temperature is in the 50s or higher and then a few days later it is freezing again. There has been only a few days of my waking up with a dusting of snow on the ground, as compared to last year, which was extremely cold and mounds of snow were piled up for days. I guess it is true what they say that when you get older the days, weeks, and months go by so fast. Here we are almost approaching the beginning of March. The weather is unsure of what time of the year it is, but my calendar is showing me that we have approached the beginning of the Lenten season.

The Lenten season officially started on February 22, Ash Wednesday and continues till Easter Sunday, April 8th. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the faithful, as they await the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. This is done by prayer, penance, and giving up certain types of luxuries for this season. A favorite food or drink for example; chocolate or soft drinks may be what someone would give up for Lent. I remember when I was a young girl my parents always made sure that we would give up something that was important and special to us. I remember the one thing that I would give up every year which was chocolate. As you, my readers know, I love chocolate and this was extremely hard for me. Then on Easter Sunday we would get a basket filled with goodies and I was able to enjoy my chocolate fix once again.

As good Catholics we do not eat meat on Holy Days of obligation which would include Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, plus on every Friday during the season of Lent. Observing these days were established by the Church to give Catholics another way to draw nourishment from a different source. As acts of penance, fasting and abstinence this helps us acknowledge the sins in our lives, which we can then take the attention away from ourselves. This tradition is based on the idea of denying oneself to focus on something greater.

So with this being said, I would love to share a recipe that I think would be a delicious meatless meal to serve on those Fridays during Lent called “Penne with Broccoli and Mozzarella”. So quick but very tasty and aromatic. This yummy recipe comes from"Great Chicago Italian Recipes". You can serve this dish with plenty of freshly grated Pecorino Romano on top and don’t forget a slice of garlic bread with a crisp green salad. My wine recommendation would be a light white wine called Pinot Grigio, Red Chianti or a Sangiovese. 
Buon Appetito !!!

Penne with Broccoli and Mozzarella

2 bunches of broccoli in cubes or florets
1 pound of penne pasta (I usually use Barilla)
1 onion sliced
2 cloves of chopped garlic
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons of butter
3/4 cup of seasoned bread crumbs
3/4 lb of fresh mozzarella cubed or sliced
Salt & fresh black pepper to taste
1/2 cup of freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Cook broccoli until almost tender. Cook the pasta until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, use a large pan to sauté the sliced onions and garlic in olive oil with butter for about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the breadcrumbs and cook until they are slightly browned. Toss the cooked broccoli into the pan. Drain the pasta and toss into the broccoli mixture. Stir in the mozzarella until slightly melted. Season with salt and pepper. Plate your dish and serve topped with freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

Serves: 4-6 people

Till Next Time………..

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

Friday, February 17, 2012

Celebrate "President's Day" With A "Lemon Meringue Pie"

Monday, February 20th, is President’s Day. On this day we celebrate the birthdays of George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln. These two President’s were very instrumental in the formation of our country, the United States of America.

George Washington was born, February 22, 1732. He was the leader of the Continental Army in the American Revolution, presided over the writing of the Constitution; he became the 1st President of the United States, and was regarded as the “Father of Our Country”. Abraham Lincoln was born, February 12, 1809. He was the 16th President and led his country through the American Civil War, preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and promoting economic and financial modernization. He was a country lawyer, and an Illinois State Legislator, plus a one term member of the House of Representatives.

Did you ever think about whom Washington and Lincoln really were? What they really thought about, what were their hobbies, and what did they like to eat? Yes, we know mostly about their official Presidential life, but what about who they really were as men.

Washington as a young man had red hair. He did not wear a wig, instead he powdered his hair. Washington had great physical strength. He was praised for his riding, which also benefited his hunting, his favorite hobby. George was an excellent dancer and enjoyed the theater. He drank in moderation and disliked gambling and profanity. Even though he grew tobacco, he eventually stopped smoking. Washington suffered from problems with his teeth throughout his life. His false teeth were not wood, but made from elephant ivory, held together with gold springs. George Washington is often associated with cherries, which he loved. He also loved a variety of fruits and fish. He would rather eat a simple meal than a fancy one. He ate heartily, didn’t have much dessert, and drank a few glasses of Madeira Wine. He was very fond of nuts, especially hazelnuts, he would buy them by the barrel. When he had guests he would have a table filled with Presidential foods such as beef, veal, turkey, fowls, hams, puddings, fruits, nuts, figs, raisins, a variety of wines, and punches. By no means were these dinners simple. If you would like to read some of Washington’s family recipes, they were recorded in “Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery” by Karen Loft Hess, Columbia University Press.

As a young man, Abraham Lincoln enjoyed wrestling, playing ball, athletic activities, but his humor and storytelling ability is what separated Lincoln from his peers. He did not have many friends, but enjoyed the friendship of men. Abraham’s favorite hobby was reading. He believed in education and self education. Lincoln would often borrow books and when he was faced with a problem, he turned to books searching for answers and comfort in times of high stress. He enjoyed writing poetry, going to the theater, and he often recited Shakespeare word for word. Mr. Lincoln grew up on the frontier, were he ate very plain food. When Abe was young his diet consisted of cornbread, mush, bacon, eggs and milk. Lincoln’s breakfast was an egg and a cup of coffee; at lunch he barely ate a biscuit, a glass of milk, and a plate of seasonal fruit, especially apples. He never outgrew his love of wild game, fish, nuts and berries. He enjoyed his vegetables cooked soft and his meats cooked well, with not much seasoning. Abe loved sweets such as pies, cakes and puddings, but did not like beer or liquor. One of the few entrees that would tempt Lincoln was his wife’s recipe of Chicken Fricassee. One of Lincoln’s favorite treats was gingerbread, which his mother would make for him. If you would like to read about Lincoln’s favorites, there is a book that I would recommend, “The Taste Is in My Mouth a Little…Lincoln’s Victuals and Potables” by Wayne C. Temple

My recipe this week is one that honors our President’s, “Lemon Meringue Pie”. I remember my mom making this pie when I was young. It is so light and the lemon flavor is so refreshing. It is made with Jell-O Lemon pudding. Hope that you enjoy celebrating our “Presidents” and have a piece of Lemon Meringue Pie.

Lemon Meringue Pie
Prep time: 25 minutes

1 box Lemon-Jell-O pudding and pie filling
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1/4 cup of water
2 egg yolks
2 cups of water
1 baked 9 inch pie shell

Mix contents of package with sugar, water and egg yolks. Stir in 2 cups of water. Cook and stir constantly over medium heat until mixture comes to a full boil. Cool for 5 minutes, stirring twice. Pour into cooled, baked 9 inch pie shell.

3 egg whites
1/3 cup of sugar

Beat 3 egg whites until foamy. Gradually add 1/3 cup of sugar, beating until stiff. Spread over filling sealing to the edge of pie crust. Be generous as the meringue will shrink when baked. Bake at 350° F 10-15 minutes or until meringue is lightly browned. Cool at room temperature 4 hours, then refrigerate. Serves: 8

Till Next Time……….

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

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Celebrate Valentine's Day with "Chocolate Drizzled Cream Puffs"

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Take your loved one by the hand, and as this day of “Love” approaches, enjoy some interesting facts about this day called Valentine’s Day. Valentine greetings were very popular as far back in history as the Middle Ages. Written Valentine greetings did not appear until after the 1400s. The oldest known Valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London and wrote a poem for his wife. It is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a Valentine note to Catherine of Valois. By the middle of the 18th century, it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange a small token of affection or handwritten notes. In the 1900s printed cards replaced hand written notes due to the progress in printing technology.

Americans began exchanging hand-made Valentines in the early 1700s. Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced Valentines in America in the 1840s. She is known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” and made creations with real lace, ribbons, and colorful photos. Today, it is estimated that 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making it the second largest card sending holiday. (Christmas is # 1)

The religious history and meaning of Saint Valentine started back on February 14, 269 A.D. who was killed for his faith on this day. He had refused to worship pagan gods, and some stories say he was a priest who would marry young couples who loved each other, in secret, but did not have parental permission. In the year 496, his “Saint Day” was established. He is associated with “Love” because he fell in love with the daughter of his jailer, and would pass love notes to her. His final note before he was executed, read “from your Valentine.”

In Italy, Valentine’s Day is greeted by a feeling of energy, spirit, and romance throughout the country. Showering of gifts such as; the sweet scent of flowers, sparkling diamonds, mouth watering chocolates and expressed words of love are believed to be the best way to communicate your feelings. Valentine celebrations were usually conducted outside centuries ago. Spring time is the season, when birds look for mates to propagate, which is why Valentine‘s Day is celebrated with great passion. Young men and women would gather around trees and gardens as they would listen to poetry or music.

Italian stores get decorated several days ahead of February 14th and prepare filling their shops with a variety of chocolates and candies. A delicious treat is called Baci, by Perugina, which is a small chocolate enclosed with a hazelnut filling. In its wrappings, a loving lyrical quote is expressed in four languages. Another wonderful idea to celebrate Valentine’s Day is to organize a candlelight dinner, with music, and wine overlooking the Italian country side.
Chocolate is known for romance and indulgence. Baking chocolate came about in the form of cocoa powder in 1828 and chocolate bars in 1842. Cream filled chocolates were either rolled into balls or dipped in melted chocolate, to create a shell. The flavors of the cream are made from liquors and extracts mostly, maple, vanilla, fruit, and coconut. Russell Stover was the first company to create a heart shaped box to beautifully hold your chocolates for a Valentine’s Day gift.

My recipe this week is a simply light and heavenly pastry called the, “Cream Puff . What a way to celebrate your Valentine’s Day with your sweetheart, than by eating one of these luscious cream filled pastries, especially drizzled with chocolate. So enjoy with your favorite person and have a “Happy Valentine’s Day“!!!!!!

“Cream Puffs”

1 cup of water
1/2 cup of butter (no substitutes)
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of unbleached all purpose flour
4 eggs
1 teaspoon of sugar
3 cups of whipped cream (cool whip or homemade)
Melted Chocolate

Place butter in a medium saucepan. Add water and salt. Bring to boiling, stirring till butter melts. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook and stir till mixture forms a ball that doesn’t separate. Remove from heat; cool 10 minutes. Once cooled add eggs, one at a time, to flour mixture, beating with a wooden spoon after each addition for about 1 minute, or till smooth.
Scoop up some dough with a tablespoon. Use another spoon to push off the dough in a mound onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Leave 3 inches between the puffs for expansion. Bake in a pre-heated 400 F. degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove puffs from pan, and cool on a rack.
Slice off the tops (or cut in half). With a fork, gently scrape out any soft, moist dough. Work carefully so that you don’t puncture the crust. After they are filled, you can drizzle melted chocolate on top as well.
Yield: about 15 or more servings, depending how big you make them.

Till Next Time………………..

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

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Happy Birthday! Charles Dickens & Celebrate With Rice Pudding!

Today is the 200th Birthday of Charles Dickens. He is one of my very favorite authors of Victorian English literature. He is much loved for his contributions of epic stories and vivid characters which have become unforgettable classics in literature.

His own story is one of rags to riches. He was born on February 7, 1812 in Portsmouth, England. He was the 2nd of eight children born to John and Elizabeth Dickens. His father was a clerk in the Navy Pay-office. Charles spent most of his time outside and reading books. His memories of his childhood and his near photographic memory of people and events added to his writing later in life. His private education was brief and came to an abrupt end due to financial difficulties of his family. His father John lived beyond his means and was imprisoned in the Marshalsea, debtor’s prison in 1824. Charles was then sent to live with a family friend Elizabeth Roylance in Camden Town. To pay for his board and help out his family, Dickens began to work 10 hour days at a boot-blacking factory.

Charles’s father, John, inherited some money from his grandmother that died, paid off all his debts and was released from the Marshalsea prison. Charles then worked at a law office. Having learned shorthand which he taught himself, he left the law office and became a freelance reporter. In 1833 Dickens’s first story, “A Dinner at Popular Walk,” was published in a periodical magazine. His first novel “The Pickwick Papers,” was published in March of 1836, which began his literary career. Often the characters in his novels were based on people and places he knew. On April 2, 1836, he married Catherine Thomson Hogarth. They had 10 children, but separated from his wife in 1858, many years later.
Catherine Dickens (wife)

In 1842, Dickens made his first trip to the United States and Canada. He visited President John Tyler at the White House in his support for the abolition of slavery. He spent a month in New York City, giving lectures, raising support for copyright laws. As the years went by he continued to write his classic novels, spoke at lectures, and became involved in Philanthropy. Charles also furthered his interest in the paranormal becoming one of the early members of “The Ghost Club“.

Between 1868 and 1869, Dickens gave a series of “farewell readings” in England, Scotland, and Ireland, until he collapsed on April 22, 1869, showing symptoms of a mild stroke. After further readings were cancelled, he began work on his final novel, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.” On May 2, 1870 he made his last public appearance at a banquet in the presence of the Prince and Princess of Wales.

 On June 8, 1870, Dickens suffered another stroke at home, after a full day’s work on Edwin Drood. The next day on June 9th, he died never having regained consciousness. He was laid to rest in the “Poet’s Corner” of Westminster Abbey. An epitaph circulated at the time of the funeral reads: “To the memory of Charles Dickens, who died at his residence, Higham, near Rochester, Kent, 9 June 1870, aged 58 years. He was a sympathizer with the poor, the suffering, and by his death, one of England’s greatest writers is lost to the world.” Charles Dickens’s last words, as reported in his obituary in The Times were alleged to have been: “Be natural my children. For the writer that is natural has fulfilled all the rules of art.”

In the 1800s food was prepared exactly as it is today, by baking, broiling, frying, and steaming. Until around the middle of the 1800s cooking was done over an open fire. The use of cast-iron stoves was rapidly spreading by the end of the nineteenth century. Technological innovations transformed the nature of food production as the population grew. The invention of the railways immensely improved the quality of produce in the cities. Milk was transported by rail and kept fresh with the aid of a mechanical cooler. The spread of the railways also brought international trade across European markets. The Victorian kitchens were also transformed with the addition of new ovens and nifty gadgets such as: graters, pastry cutters, pie molds, and muffin tins.

So, in honor of Charles Dickens Birthday, my recipe this week is "Rice Pudding," which was enjoyed in the Victorian Era. With your dish of creamy Rice Pudding, don‘t forget to read some of Dickens novels, you will be hooked I‘m sure!

Rice Pudding

1 cup of Carolina Rice (uncooked)
3 eggs
1/2 pint of Heavy Cream
2 cups of milk
1 cup of sugar
A pinch of salt
2 tablespoons Vanilla
1 tablespoon of Cornstarch
1 teaspoon of ground Cinnamon

Cook rice according to directions on box. While rice is cooking, in a bowl combine with whisk the rest of the ingredients, except the cinnamon. Add mixture in pot, to cooked rice and stir continuously on medium heat until thickens. (when it starts to bubble) Pour into glass baking dish and sprinkle with cinnamon on top while hot. Cool on counter and then refrigerate for 10-12 hours before serving. Optional: you can add raisins or currants.

Till Next Time………………….

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

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Feast of Saint Blaise and "Double Raisin Bread Pudding" Recipe

As we begin the month of February, we are reminded by so many special days and events such as Groundhog Day, the Super Bowl, Black History month, Valentines Day, and in my family, it is my dad’s Birthday. But, there is one special day that is important to the Roman Catholic religion and on February 3rd we celebrate, “The Feast of St. Blaise” or the Patron Saint of “Throat Illnesses.”

Very few facts are known about Saint Blaise. It is believed that he was a physician and a Bishop in Armenia who was martyred in 316 A.D. He was born into a rich and noble family who raised him as a Christian. As the persecution of Christians began, he received a message from God to go into the hills to escape persecution. Hunters discovered a cave surrounded by wild animals that were sick. St. Blaise walked among them unafraid, curing them of their illnesses. The hunters recognized St. Blaise as a bishop and captured him to stand trial. On the way to trial, he asked a wolf to release a pig that belonged to a poor woman. When St. Blaise refused to renounce his faith, he was thrown into prison where he helped the sick prisoners and saved a child who was choking on a fish bone. When St. Blaise was sentenced to be starved to death, a woman in gratitude, sneaked into the prison with food and candles. St. Blaise was tortured by having his flesh torn with wool combs and he was finally killed by the orders of the governor.
Montepulciano, Italy
St. Blaise Church

Many Catholics remember Saint Blaise’s feast day because of the Blessing of the Throats. Two candles are blessed, held slightly open, and pressed gently against the throat, while a blessing is said. Saint Blaise is the patron Saint of physicians, sick cattle, wax-handlers, wool combers and of wild animals because of his care for them, and most important he is invoked against afflictions of the throat. 

In Italy and Sicily, where St. Blaise is known as “San Biagio“, many stories and devotions are celebrated on his feast day, especially where wool is worked. Slices of Panettone bread or little cakes are baked on February 1st and blessed on St. Blaise’s feast day, February 3rd. In Serra San Bruno, in Calabria, a cookie is baked in the shape of a walking stick or a bishop’s crosier, which is called “abbacolo.” The legend says, that the young men of the town offer these cookies to their sweethearts. If the girl breaks the piece in two and gives part back to the boy, keeping the other for herself, it means she will marry him. On this feast day, Italians eat Panettone and drink a glass of red wine. This is done to “bless the throat.” Saint Blaise celebrations include a special mass, with blessings of the throat, parades with music, and many bonfires. The town of Mugnano di Napoli, is known for a huge fireworks display for this festive feast day. 

My recipe this week is in honor of St. Blaise. It is my take on Panettone bread. Usually Panettone Bread is made at Christmas time or sold in Italian Specialty stores. Sometimes we can’t always have  availability of this type of bread, so I think that this recipe is a delicious way to celebrate St. Blaise with a bread that can be found in stores mostly all over, Sun Maid Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread. My recipe is called “Double Raisin Bread Pudding.“ Don’t forget the wine glasses to enjoy some fabulous medium bodied red dessert wines, which are packed full of fruit flavors, making this variety an excellent choice for this recipe. A nice glass of Port or Vin Santo wine would be a tasty way to celebrate this feast day of Saint Blaise.
“Double Raisin Bread Pudding“

6 slices of Sun-Maid Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread (cut into 3/4 inch cubes)
1/2 cup of Sun-Maid Raisins
2 cups of milk
2 large eggs
1/4 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
Unsalted butter to coat baking dish

Heat oven to 350 ° F (325° F for glass dish) Butter a 1 quart square or round baking dish. Combine bread cubes and raisins in baking dish. Combine with a whisk; milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Blend well. Pour over bread cubes and raisins. Let stand for 5 minutes. Bake uncovered 45-50 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature, plain, with ice cream or a spirited sauce over the top. (optional)
Yields: 6 servings

Spirited Sauce:
1-1/4cups of powdered sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup of Dark Rum, Brandy or Apple Juice
In saucepan, combine all sauce ingredients. Cook over low heat stirring constantly until thickened, about 3 minutes. Add sugar, continue to stir. Serve over warm pudding.
Till Next Time………….

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