Thursday, May 31, 2012

"National Doughnut Day" & A "Whipped Cream Zeppole" Recipe

Let’s celebrate! Friday, June 1st is “National Doughnut Day!” Who knew that this incredible, edible, sweet, and torus-shaped piece of dough which is deep-fried would be one of our nation’s favorite foods? The doughnut or aka “donut” was first served to the soldiers by the Salvation Army during World War I. National Doughnut Day started in 1938 as a fund raiser for Chicago’s Salvation Army. The goal of this day was to help the needy during the Great Depression, and to honor the “Lassies” of the Salvation Army.

Soon after the US entered into World War I, The Salvation Army concluded that the needs of the US soldiers could be met by creating “huts”. These huts were canteens or social centers that would serve baked goods, provide supplies such as stamps, writing supplies, and a clothes mending service. They had six staff members per hut which included four female volunteers who could “mother” the boys. Because of the difficulties of providing freshly baked goods from these “huts”, two Salvation Army volunteers (Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance) came up with the idea of providing doughnuts. This idea became an instant hit and soon many soldiers were visiting The Salvation Army huts. Margaret Sheldon wrote one busy day, “today I made 22 pies, 300 doughnuts, and 700 cups of coffee.” As the legend spread of the provision of doughnuts to US soldiers, the term “doughboy” was created to describe the US infantry. Today, National Doughnut Day is still used as a fund raiser run by the Salvation Army. So be sure to check out your local donut shop and other bakeries across the nation, they are sure to be celebrating. We have to thank Margaret and Helen for helping out our soldiers and giving them something so deliciously sweet to eat. 

Now, instead of an American donut method, I thought I would share an Italian donut recipe which is what I call a Zeppoli. (Zeppole is one and zeppoli is many) They also can be called Sfinge or Crispellis. I can’t imagine going to a feast or a carnival and not getting a bag of hot fried dough balls covered in powdered sugar. Also you can find them around the feast of St. Joseph. I know this sounds like a health hazard, which it probably is, but they are the most delicious dough balls ever. I would think that everyone has had a few in their lifetime, but if you haven’t had one I will try to explain what they taste like. They are like the middle of a doughnut, only bigger. They are chewy, sweet, and a lot greasier than a regular donut. You should have them hot, right from the oil served with confectioners sugar (powdered) sprinkled all over them. I have to tell you to try them, but I should say do not, due to the fact that they are so good and addicting.

Zeppole originated in Italy and is known in many Italian American communities in the United States as well. They can also be filled with custard, jelly, cannoli-style pastry cream, whipped cream, candied fruits, chocolate pudding, and also filled with ricotta mixed with small pieces of chocolate chips. The custom was popularized in the early 19th century by the Neapolitan baker Pasquale Pintauro. The terms zeppole and sfinge also are used to refer to baked cream puffs made with choux pastry. Zeppoli can also be savory, and consist of fried bread dough often filled with anchovies. In parts of Calabria, Italy, (my mom’s family is from there) the anchovies are consumed on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. In Malta, anchovy zeppoli are traditionally consumed during the Lent fasting period.

To honor National Doughnut Day, I am sharing my version of an Italian donut called “Whipped Cream Zeppole.” This recipe is taken from Mary Ann Esposito (Ciao Italia). She filled hers with a Ricotta filling but I am using whipped cream instead.

Whipped Cream Zeppole

2 cups of water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
2 cups unbleached flour
6 eggs
Vegetable oil for frying
Whipped cream
1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
Powdered sugar (optional)
Maraschino Cherries (optional)

Bring water, butter, and salt to a boil. When boiling, add flour and stir until thoroughly mixed, for about 1 minute. Take off fire. Put into mixing bowl and cool for 10 minutes, so the eggs will not curdle. Mixing at a low speed add 1 egg at a time allowing each egg to blend. Put dough into a pastry bag. (a star tip) Cut 12 pieces of waxed paper into 3-inch squares and lightly dust with flour. Pipe a doughnut shape onto each piece of paper.

Heat oil to 350° F. Carefully slide batter off the wax paper into the oil. Fry for 7 to 8 minutes turning every couple of minutes. Doughnuts should double in size. Allow to cool on absorbent or brown paper. When cooled slice horizontally.

Mix the chocolate chips into the whipped cream. Put cream into a pastry bag and fill around the zeppole. Press the top of the pastry onto the bottom. Sprinkle with powered sugar and place a cherry on top of each pastry. Enjoy!

Till Next Time……………..

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

Friday, May 25, 2012

Strawberries, Farmers Markets, Plus A "Quick Coffee Fruit Torte" Recipe

It’s Memorial Day Weekend and that means the unofficial start of summer. A time to be outside enjoying the warmer weather, having fun, cookouts, and remembering our veterans. As May comes to a close there still is one more honor that we have to salute to and that is the “Strawberry . The month of May is National Strawberry Month. This holiday is when we can celebrate the love of strawberries and be aware of the value this small sweet fruit has to offer. We also have to say a big shout out to our local farmers markets, which has brought us their very best, fresh, safe, sweet fruits, and vegetables that are grown here within our local neighborhoods.

It is so important to buy local every season. The local greenhouses, farm fields and vineyards are what make our neighborhoods so special. We have to invest into our own community which is vital for each of our regions to thrive. There are 5 reasons to buy at your local farmers markets.

1. Know that your food comes from a safe environment. Strict polices and regulations are put into place to keep our food safe and free of all pesticides, so buy organic as well.
2. Small farms and family owned. Growers often come from generations of farmers who have lived and worked in local communities. 3. Taking care of the land and protecting the environment by helping to develop new ways to reduce our carbon footprints, water usage, recycling, and be active environmentalists. 4. Good for economic reasons, which create sales tax, income tax, and real estate tax. Businesses add a lot of tax for each state. 5. Jobs and employment helps support hundreds outside those on the farm. Machine manufacture, equipment, dealers, suppliers and produce distributors.

Now, let’s get back to one of my favorite berries, which is the strawberry. The Garden Strawberries are the most common name known and was first bred in France in the year of 1750. This fruit is known for its characteristic aroma, bright red color, juicy texture and its sweetness. It can be either eaten as preserves, pies, ice cream, milk shakes, and yogurt. Strawberries are also known as the romantic picnic foods. They can be added to cream and also dipped in chocolate. You can also use them for cake decoration and fillings. The strawberry is an excellent source of vitamin C and 1 cup equals 45 calories. Strawberries are an easy plant to grow, and can be grown almost anywhere in the world. The best time to plant strawberries are in the middle of Spring. Strawberries can also be grown in clay pots, and will still produce fruit. Some farmer’s markets or farms stands will allow you to pick your own strawberries. Harvesting your own food is not only a family affair but also connects you with where your food comes from, the Earth.

I remember a story when I was about 22 years old; I had some relatives that lived upstate on a farm. We had a fun summer that year with the family and the air just seemed to be fresher. One day my uncle took us strawberry picking in the local farms. I was so excited. Well, remember I lived in Queens, NY, and I had never been berry picking or even knew anything about farms or produce. As we are in the car and riding along to the farm, I thought I saw some strawberries in the trees. Here I am looking in the trees and not having any idea of how they grew. Needless to say that this city girl was laughed at by the family the whole trip. I had no idea that they grew low to the ground. It was one of the best days in my life, getting that close to nature and spending time with my family.

So, in honor of strawberries and farmers markets, I want to share this recipe with you. This is an easy and delicious recipe for dessert as you enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend. It is called “Quick Coffee Fruit Torte” from Quick Cooking Magazine, but I put a “berry spin” on it. Hope that you have fun, be safe, and treasure your family time.

Quick Coffee Fruit Torte

1/4 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of water
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
1-1/2 teaspoons of butter (unsalted)
2 bananas sliced thin
1-1/2 pints of fresh strawberries, sliced (save a few whole ones)
1 frozen pound cake (10-3/4 ounces), thawed
1 carton (8 oz) frozen whipped topping, thawed
Grated Chocolate, optional

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water and coffee. Bring to boil; cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, stir in butter. Cool slightly.
Split cake into three horizontal layers. Place bottom layer on a serving plate. Brush with about 1 tablespoon of coffee mixture, spread with 1 cup of whipped topping. Next place sliced bananas and sliced strawberries on top of whipped topping. Repeat layers. Brush remaining coffee mixture over cut side of cake layer; place coffee side down over topping. Spread the remaining whipped topping over top of torte. Garnish with grated chocolate, whole strawberries and chill until served.
Yield: 6-8 servings Prep/Total Time: 20 minutes
Till Next Time………..

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

Friday, May 18, 2012

Birthday's And Coconut Shrimp Lunch

Nestled in the heart of Smithtown, Long Island, sits a restaurant called “The Garden Grill”. I have passed this charming old Victorian country house many times going through town, but never had the pleasure of dining there, until last Wednesday.

My “sewing” group friends chose this lovely restaurant to take me out for lunch and celebrate my Birthday. I was pleasantly surprised when they suggested going out for lunch. Usually about every Wednesday we all get together to have our “sewing group at my house. When I say “sewing,” that means many different things, which would include crocheting, knitting, counted cross stitch, embroidery, crafts, and of course your traditional sewing projects. We all have learned from each other and have shared in each other’s celebrations as well as sorrows. It is a day of friends getting together that have the same things in common, we laugh, tell stories, chat about family, vent, share photos, recipes, and sometimes even cry. I was very blessed to have met these ladies and am very pleased to welcome them in my home.

As I entered The Garden Grill for the first time, I felt like I was stepping back in time. This 120 year old Victorian house was converted into a family owned country inn. The rooms are all romantically decorated with beautiful floral accents, ornate moldings, antique furnishings, black and white old photographs of family weddings, beautifully crocheted doilies, tea pots with cups, and so much more you didn’t know where to look first. The décor was definitely reminiscent of another era but had such a warm atmosphere that if you love the Victorian old world, this is the place for you to enjoy.
The Garden Grill

Our table was round with an elegant gold damask tablecloth. Flowers adorned the center of the table and water with lemon was poured in our glasses. The china was white with gold trim, and everything was placed perfectly. The choices on the menu at The Garden Grill include a wide variety of pasta, steak, seafood, and salads. As we were reading the menu everyone was saying that the description of each dish sounded scrumptious. There was a basket of sun-flower seeded bread on the table and to accompany the warm bread was sun dried tomato butter. Now our lunch was served and I couldn’t wait to taste my choice. The luncheon platter that I selected was called Coconut Shrimp. It arrived in a large white bowl filled with crispy fried, coconut crusted shrimp, on a bed of mixed greens with pecans, walnuts, mandarin orange slices, and drizzled with a ginger dressing. Simple but tropical, crispy and flavorful, I definitely made the right choice. No doggie bag this time, I ate it all and enjoyed every mouthful. My friends had a variety of different menu choices and they all agreed that our lunch was a yummy way to celebrate my special day. So as we left The Garden Grill that day, I know I will unquestionably go back there again someday.

After we had our fabulous lunch we all went back to my friend’s house to work on our sewing. Again to my surprise there was tea, coffee plus cake for my Birthday all out on her beautiful dining room table. The cake was not a traditional Birthday cake, but huge cupcakes that they put a candle on to sing Happy Birthday. The cupcakes were so big that we cut them so we could taste a piece of each. They were so delightful and different, but unbelievably decadent. The choices included were a carrot cake cupcake, red velvet, German chocolate, strawberry shortcake, hostess, and an Oreo cupcake. That to me was a perfect ending to a wonderful Birthday, with friends, good conversation and of course delicious food. So a big thank you to Carolyn, Ginny, Elaine, Debra, and Cathy plus two other “sewing” group friends that were not able to attend Kris and Carolyn.

So, as I was writing this blog I kept thinking about the Coconut Shrimp that I had at The Garden Grill. Wouldn’t it be fabulous to recreate the crispy fried Coconut Shrimp dish? I found a recipe that I had from a while ago, that I created and think you will love it. So, thank you Garden Grill and to my friends for a wonderful Birthday that I will remember for a long time. Enjoy!!

Coconut Shrimp

1 lb of uncooked shrimp peeled, deveined, with or with out tails.
Peanut oil or vegetable oil (for frying)
1/2 cup of ice water
1/4 cup of cream of coconut (you can find this in the drink mix isle)
3/4 cup of flour, sifted
3/4 cup of Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/2 cup of shredded unsweetened coconut
Salt and pepper to taste

Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix ice water, cream of coconut and flour together in a bowl, add your salt and pepper to your taste, this is your tempura batter. (You can also buy in the grocery store pre made mixes of tempura batter) Next, mix in a shallow bowl the Panko breadcrumbs and the shredded coconut together. Set aside. Put oil in pan and heat up, so you will be ready to fry the shrimp. Working with one shrimp at a time, dip in tempura batter, then coat the shrimp in the panko with the coconut and place on baking sheet. You can have all the shrimp ready to fry and can be prepared up to 4 hours ahead of time. Cover and chill. Now once oil is heated, place very carefully in hot oil and fry till golden brown. Can be served on top of a mixed green salad or also as an appetizer with a ginger dipping sauce or ginger vinaigrette.

Till Next Time………

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

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May is Lupus Awareness Month! Band Together For Lupus!

Welcome! This week I am going a little off track and sharing something with you my readers, that I have never written about. I have a chronic illness called, Lupus (SLE). I was diagnosed when I was 45 and have been living with its wrath for over 13 years. Yes, it has been really hard dealing with this chronic illness, like a roller coaster ride, pain, lots of pills, doctors, side effects, other medical issues that add to my Lupus, fatigue, tears, and too many more to mention. But even with those issues I look at it as a blessing in some sort of a crazy way. The blessing is that I have learned so much from having this illness such as, life lessons about having patience, being a strong person mentally, have discovered the importance of being optimistic, understanding how people feel with disabilities, knowing and appreciate how important it is to have faith, family and friends, plus being proud of the woman I am despite having Lupus. It isn’t that I didn’t know all this before, but it just seemed different to me now, as I am a person fighting everyday with this illness.

There are two reasons why I am sharing this information and the first is that it is “Lupus Awareness Month, which is observed in May. The other is that I hope sharing my experiences will help others who have Lupus know that they are not alone. May 10th is World Lupus Day, and May 18th is POP day, which stands for “Put On Purple”. The colors of Lupus are Orange and Purple. So, please show solidarity and support by wearing purple or orange in the month of May.

“Lupus Awareness Month,” is observed to increase public understanding of the unpredictable and potentially life-threatening disease that affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans and at least five million people worldwide. Someone in the US is being diagnosed with Lupus every 30 minutes. Lupus is a complex autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and can damage any organ in the body. Many symptoms of Lupus mimic those of other illnesses, which makes it very difficult to diagnose. Everyone who has Lupus can have different symptoms and different problems. No Lupus patient is the same. Researchers do not know the exact cause of Lupus, but it is NOT infectious, NOT cancerous and you CANNOT catch Lupus by coming in contact with someone who has the disease. It is important to emphasize that a complete medical evaluation by your doctor is essential to ensure a proper diagnosis and treatment. I hope that this gives you, my readers some understanding of the illness. We all have illnesses in our families, and try to give to so many different charities, I indeed understand. A new drug that will help Lupus patients just became available after 50 years. So we need more funding and support for awareness. Please, Band Together, so we all can Change Lives and join or give generously to the Lupus Foundation of America.

I remember when I was living in upstate New York, (which is where I was diagnosed), my parents came up to visit me in the summer. My dad had found an article on a website that he thought I may want to check out. The article was about the founder of this new web site called Christine Miserandino has Lupus and is an advocate for people with all kinds of invisible illness. I couldn’t believe it when I visited her site. There were others who had Lupus plus other invisible illness and everyone was finding out information, expressing their feelings, and supporting each other. What a great title to call this website, as that is what everyone was always telling me, “but you don’t look sick” to have Lupus. Christine has hit it on the head, with this web site, where others can find a collection of stories, articles, book information, health resources and it is a very positive place for those who are living with chronic pain. So, needless to say I found a goldmine, I have to say a BIG thank you to my dad who found this article. 

Christine Miserandino you are my hero! Thank you for all you do. She gives inspiration to everyone that comes in contact with her. But when it comes to her “Spoonies” she is like a mother hen. Yes, I did say “spoonie”. I am a “spoonie” and so are over 11,000 other people that have joined Christine and the ButYouDontLookSick family. Christine is the author of "The Spoon Theory"which is a story to explain what life was like living with Lupus, a chronic illness to her friend. She used a “spoon” a normal every day item, so people would understand and be reminded of the small struggles and choices “we” make every day. When you are healthy you do not have to think about every thing you do within a day, such as working, cooking, the walk from your car to the store, or cleaning your house. It is a story about using your energy, choices and consequences, of every day life. The Spoon Theory is like our mantra or the secret society of the invisible illnesses. So that is why I have a spoon on my profile picture on Facebook and on Twitter. It is called a Twibbon to show that I can identify and support “The Spoon Theory”. Christine and the ButYouDontLookSick website has been my go to place where I can network with friends, have a positive attitude, and accomplish my goals.

Thanks for reading my story and I hope this has given you a better understanding of what it is like to have Lupus. “Spoonies” unite and please support our cause.

Come back next week for another recipe and more stories of my Italian family.

Till next Time……..

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

Friday, May 4, 2012

May Is "National Salad Month" & A "Tricolor Cauliflower Salad" Recipe

As we begin the month of May, the weather is getting warmer. This means that you will be outside more and enjoying your days in the sun. As you participate in activities outside, you will want to prepare quick and nutritious meals for your family. Well not to worry, because May is “National Salad Month“. Who knew that a whole month was allocated to celebrate and enjoy the “salad”? What can be more simple and easy so you are not stuck in the kitchen cooking all day by a stove or oven, so let’s make a tasty salad!

Salads can be served as an appetizer to stimulate your appetite, a side dish that will accompany your main course, for your entrée which would include your protein, (beef, pork, chicken, or fish) and also for desserts that you can add gelatin and whipped cream for a delicious sweet treat. The salad can be made from many different ingredients, not just lettuce such as vegetables, legumes, eggs, cheese, and pasta. They may be served either cold or hot, often raw vegetables are added and many sweet fruits.

The word “salad” comes from the French “salade” which has the same meaning. The first appearance of the word “salad” was in the 14th century. Salt is also associated with salad because the vegetables were seasoned with a brine or a type of vinegar dressing. The “Salad Bar” term first appeared in American English in 1976. Many food historians say that the Romans ate mixed greens and dressing over two thousand years ago. In the United States the “salad” became very popular in the late 19th century. Throughout the second half of the 20th century salads have been sold in supermarkets, at restaurants, (salad bars) and even fast food chains that appeal to the health conscious customer.

A simple “green salad” or “garden salad” is the most common to be consumed. It is composed of leafy vegetables such as lettuce varieties, spinach, and arugula cut into bite sized pieces. Due to their low caloric intake, salads are a common diet food. Other vegetables can be added to your “tossed salad” which includes; cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, carrots, nuts, and so many others too numerous to mention. That is what is so wonderful about a salad, you can make it your own by adding whatever you would like to your salad. There is no right or wrong, no special recipe, and you can use what is in season.

Sauces for salads are often called “dressings”. In our Western culture, there are three basic types of salad dressing; the first is called the Vinaigrette, which is an emulsion of salad oil mixed with vinegar, spices and herbs, plus salt & pepper. The second one is Creamy Dressings; usually a mayonnaise based, but may contain yogurt, sour cream, or buttermilk. The last is the Cooked Dressings, which resemble creamy, but are usually thickened by adding egg yolks with a gentle heating. In North America, mayonnaise based Ranch dressing is most popular, with vinaigrettes and Caesar-style follows close behind. Some other popular dressings are Italian, Blue Cheese, Russian, French, and Honey Dijon Mustard.

In my Italian family, there was never a dinner without a huge bowl of salad. My family would always say, that there was, “always room for salad“. Served along side our entrée or at the end of our meal, was mostly a green tossed salad with all the trimmings. An Italian vinaigrette dressing which consisted of the finest olive oil, Balsamic vinegar, and spices were drizzled on top of the salad. It was so tangy and sweet at the same time. Preparing any kind of salad is easy especially now you can purchase pre-washed salad greens at the supermarket or by supporting your local farmer’s market. So, no matter what type of salad you make for lunch, brunch or dinner, remember enjoy, and make family memories together.

My recipe this week is called, “Tricolor Cauliflower Salad”. One night I was watching “Ciao Italia” with Mary Ann Esposito and I saw her make this recipe. It looked so colorful and delicious that I had to try it. Fantastic! Not only the colors are so beautiful, but the taste is sweet and the scallions add a twist to its flavor. So enjoy a salad in the month of May and be creative with your ingredients.

Tricolor Cauliflower Salad

2 cups yellow cauliflower, separated into small florets
2 cups white cauliflower, separated into small florets
2 cups of green or purple cauliflower, separated into small florets
2/3 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/3 cup of White Balsamic Vinegar
Salt to taste
1/2 cup of diced scallions
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of golden raisins
1/2 cup of diced black oil-cured olives

Blanch the cauliflower florets in salted water for about 2 minutes. Drain and shock in a large bowl of ice water for about 1-2 minutes. Drain into a shallow bowl.
Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, salt, scallions and garlic together. Pour over the cauliflower and toss well. Sprinkle the raisins and olives over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinate for 30 to 45 minutes at room temperature before serving. Serves: 4-6 people
Till Next Time……

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