Friday, July 27, 2012

Welcome to my 100th Blog Post!! & Three Top Blog Recipes

Welcome to my 100th Blog Post!! On January 18, 2011, I introduced my first post into the food blogging world. I remember being very excited about sharing my thoughts with you. When I started my blog I had said, “That you would find plenty of family stories and recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation. Family, Food and Love seems to tie it all together very nicely, that you can’t have one without the other and I will also share stories of my life growing up in my Italian family.” Now, at 100 posts I think I have overwhelmed myself as well as you, my readers. “Family Plus Food Equals Love,” I think has taken on its own personally. It has evolved from a small personal blog into a great deal of information, research, plus family stories, and a wonderful source for finding delicious simple recipes.
I get great pleasure from writing this blog as it gives me the opportunity to share with you my readers two of my loves and that is; writing and my family recipes. Your inspiration and willingness to continue to read my words are very encouraging. I had no idea that people from across the world would welcome my writing. I originally thought that my readers would be just my friends and relatives, but I had no idea that my blog has been viewed over 24,400 times (and counting) plus 126 countries. Out of that 24,400 people more than half are coming back to read my posts every week. You all are just amazing!

With that being said, I need to say “Thank You” to all of my readers, here in the United States and also to my International readers as well. I have to say a special Thank You to my new foodie friends who post comments and suggestions. Finally to my friends, family, and my mom (Madeline) in particular who has given me encouragement and shared the recipes of our family members. There is also a special friend who I have to say “thanks” to and that is Daniela. If it wasn’t for her effortless help in teaching me many new computer skills, I don‘t know how I would have posted many of my stories and photos.

I am honored to share with you an award that I received from Raquel, of I was chosen as “Chef of the Week” (June 8 to June 14, 2012) Thanks Raquel. I was also very thrilled that two of my friends Christine and Jodie presented me with Blog Awards. Thanks, to my very thoughtful friends.

 My top blog was on May 6, 2011. It was my post on “Happy Mother’s Day: la festa della Mamma” and the recipe is an “Italian Frittata”. My readers seemed to really love this recipe especially in Italy. My Flag counter views showed me that 310 new visitors and a total of 862 people read this post for that day alone. Totally amazing! Thank you!
I thought it would be fun to go back and revisit my three top blogs and the recipes that I posted with them.

My second top blog post was on December 13, 2011. This was, “12 Days of Christmas Day 1” and my recipe is called “Struffoli”.  I had posted one story and recipe for each day of the 12 days of Christmas. This was much fun to share my family recipes especially at Christmas, which is my favorite time of the year. Struffoli are towers of little fried dough balls that taste like tiny pillows of bliss covered with sweet honey and candy sprinkles. My readers loved this blog post and I’m sure many made this recipe for their holiday table.

My third, top blog post was on October 13, 2011 and it was a story about the “Eurochocolate in Perugia, Italy & Easy Chocolate Cream Filled Torte”. The recipe that I added is so decadent and very easy to make. This was a big hit with my readers especially anything made with chocolate.

I do hope that you try all my recipes and continue to enjoy reading my blog. Please feel free to post comments or suggestions at any time. Thanks for following me and here’s to the next 100 posts!
Till Next Time………..

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

Friday, July 20, 2012

Italian Culture & "Sofia's Peas And Pasta"

A few days ago I was watching a video called “Discovery Atlas: Italy Revealed.” It depicts the passionate culture of Italy as it follows six stories of Italians, including a jockey participating in a traditional “palio,” to a former fisherman trying to set a diving record off Sicily’s coast, to the Missoni family of the fashion world, and a Venetian gondoliers attempt to keep his family in his native city. I was amazed while I was watching this very scenic and heart warming video. It brought to mind that the Italian people are on a journey, that features many cultural customs such as fashion, cinema, food, music, and architecture just to name a few.

When the Italian’s came to the United States, they developed many customs that were not part of their lives before they came here; creating a culture that is independent of any other. As I continued to think about this, I thought that it would be an interesting subject to share with you my readers about Italy‘s cultural icons.
Giovanni & Sofia
(my great grandparents)

Since, my great grandparents came from Italy to the United States I can understand the culture behind my family's heritage. It must have been extremely challenging for them to come to another country, with another language and now have to learn how to fit in with other customs that they did not understand. I feel very blessed and honored to have come from a background of exceptionally strong and dedicated men and women to seek a better life for their families. Here are some of the famous Italian Cultural Icons that may give you a better understanding of why Italy is the birthplace of Western Culture and is often nicknamed ll Bel Paese (The Beautiful Country).

Architecture: Italy has a very broad and diverse architectural style. Some famous structures are the Coliseum, Tower of Pisa, Grand Canal (Venice), Sistine Chapel, and St Peter’s Square (Vatican).

Visual Art: Over the centuries, Italian Art has gone through many changes. Italian painting is traditionally illustrated by warmth of colors and light. Some famous paintings and figures are Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo’s David, others by Raphael, Donatello, Caravaggio, and Botticelli. Many of these artifacts are religious in nature.
Literature: The basis of the modern Italian language was established by the poet Dante Alighieri (The Divine Comedy), Boccaccio, Leopardi, Petrarch (invented the sonnet), Giordano Bruno, and Niccolo Machiavelli.

Music: From folk to classical, music has always played an important role in Italian culture. The Italian Opera, O sole mio, Antonio Vivaldi, Giuseppe Verdi, Toscanini, Rossini, Puccini, Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, and Enrico Caruso.

Cinema: The Italian film industry was born between 1903 and 1908. Some famous icons are, Dario Argento, Rossano Brazzi, Federico Fellini, Isabella Rossellini, Marcello Mastroianni, Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, Anna Magnani, Roberto Benigni and Dino De Laurentiis.

Fashion and Design: Italian fashion is regarded as one of the most important in the world. Milan, Florence, and Rome are Italy’s main fashion capitals. Armani, Roberto Cavalli, Dolce & Gabbana, Ferragamo, Gucci, Prada, Pucci, Valentino, and Versace.

Italian Cuisine: Ingredients and dishes vary by region. Cheese and wine are major parts of the cuisine, playing different roles both regionally and nationally. Some famous dishes include pasta, pizza, lasagna, focaccia, gelato, bread, olive oil, salami, Parma ham, coffee, and cappuccino.

Famous Places: Adriatic Sea, Bologna, Calabria, Catania, Emilia-Romagna, Mt. Etna, Florence, Genoa, Lake Como, Milan, Modena, Naples, Pisa, Rome, Perugia, Parma, Sardinia, Sicily, Turin, Tuscany, Tyrrhenian Sea, Venice, Verona, and Mt. Vesuvius.

Italy is filled with beauty, culture and history. There is so much more to this boot shaped country and its people. My recipe this week is one that my great-grandmother Sofia passed down and eventually it was taught to me. It is a simple but yet very tasty dish that is from Calabria, where my mother’s family originated from in Italy.

"Sofia’s Peas & Pasta"

Ditali, Shells or any small pasta -1 lb
1 pound of fresh or frozen peas
2 large onions sliced
Garlic 1 clove sliced
Oil olive, coat pan
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Pecorino Romano to taste or to top dish

In large pot bring salted water to a rapid boil. Cook pasta according to directions until the pasta is al dente. Meanwhile heat olive oil in pot and add sliced garlic. Now add onions when garlic is softened and color is light. Sauté onions till soft and translucent. Next add peas, plus a small amount of pasta water to coat peas. Add salt and pepper, cook until tender. By this time pasta should be cooked, drain and add to peas with onions. Mix well and add grated cheese to top your dish. Serve immediately. Yields: 4-6

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

Friday, July 13, 2012

National Pickle Month & An Italian Giardiniera Recipe

Do you love pickles? Well if you do then this blog post is for you! July happens to be National Pickle Month. The pickle is one of America’s favorite “side” condiments. Pickles are used for snacking, serving with a hamburger or sandwich and making a tangy relish. A pickle is simply a cucumber that has been pickled in a brine vinegar and left to ferment for a period of time. Cucumbers were first pickled about 4,400 years ago in Mesopotamia. The pickling process was also known to the Ancient Greeks; Aristotle was to have praised pickled cucumbers for there healing effects. Today, this tangy pickle juice is used by many professional athletes to fight off muscle cramps. The benefits of this juice are that it replaces essential electrolytes that are lost due to physical activity, especially on hot and humid days. So instead of drinking sports drinks that contain sugar and other additives, choose to drink some pickle juice. Who knew?

Pickled cucumbers became popular in the United States due to the influence of the cuisine of European immigrants. Soured cucumbers are most commonly used in an assortment of dishes for example; pickled-stuffed meatloaf, potato salad, chicken salad, or egg salad. They can also be deep fried. There are many varieties of the pickle. They can be sour, dill, or sweet and take on many shapes such as large, midget, gherkins, spears, sliced round (chips), and deli slices.

Some Pickle Fun Facts:
The pickle was brought to the New World by Christopher Columbus--George Washington, John Adams and Dolly Madison liked pickles--Cleopatra claimed pickles contributed to her beauty--Dill pickles are the most popular.

The “Christmas Pickle” is an Old World German tradition related to the Christmas tree. In this tradition, a family decorates its Christmas tree with ornaments including one pickle. On Christmas morning, the first child to find the pickle hidden in its boughs would get a special gift and would supposedly have a year of good fortune. This tradition is commonly believed by Americans to come from Germany, but this is probably fictional. In fact, the tradition is widely unknown in Germany. These pickle ornaments can be made in glass, and even crocheted. I crocheted Christmas Pickles many years ago and gave them to my nieces and nephews for stocking stuffers. Now it has become a tradition to see who can find the pickle first.

We are pickle lovers in my family, especially my dad. Every time we go to a restaurant he always asks for extra pickles. His preference is the kosher dill ones. I prefer the sweet gherkins. No matter what shape or flavor I can say we definitely are a pickle family. Italian Giardiniera is a mix of pickled vegetables that are in vinegar and are typically eaten as an antipasto or with salads. In Italian it is also called “sotto aceti”, which means “under vinegar”. This mix of flavorful spicy vegetables is very common in many Italian kitchens. It is truly a favorite and my niece Lauren loves it so much that when she comes home from school she has some Giardiniera with slices of sopressata (Italian Dry Salami) for a snack. 

My recipe this week is one that I love to make. It is not hard, just takes patience, and it is from one of my favorite shows “Ciao Italia” with Mary Ann Esposito. I hope that you try these pungent pickled vegetables. Mangia Tutto!

Pickled Vegetables or Italian Giardiniera

2 1/2 cups cut up vegetables, such as:
Sweet green, yellow or red bell peppers
Pearl or Cipollini onions
Pepperoni (hot green peppers)

Pickling Mix:
3 cups distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon pickling salt
1 1/4 cups of water
3/4 cup of sugar
1/4 tsp each whole mustard seed, celery seed, cloves, fennel seed, allspice, and peppercorns

Several new canning jars with lids, either 8 or 10 oz or quart size. Have a pan of ice water ready for “shocking” vegetables. Be sure all veggies are free of blemish, washed, and cut into uniform size, about 1-inch pieces.

Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of table salt and cook the vegetables for about 2 minutes (each group separately). With a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to the pan of ice water. Allow the vegetables to cool for a minute and then drain them in a colander and set aside.

Combine the vinegar, pickling salt, water, and sugar in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil. Turn off the heat.

Mix the dry spices together in a small bowl and divide them among the jars. Fill the jars with the vegetables, leaving about 1/4-inch space at the top. Pour the vinegar mixture over the vegetables to cover them. Cap and allow the jars to cool before storing in the refrigerator. Use after two days or keep refrigerated for up to a month.

Till Next Time……

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

Friday, July 6, 2012

It's "Christmas In July" & A "Raspberry Trifle" To Keep Cool

It has been extremely hot across the country this summer so far. Everyone is wishing for some relief from the heat. Aren’t you? As we think about the fall and winter with those crisp cool nights we know we can‘t change the season, but we can dream of “Christmas in July!” That is what many people do year after year. It’s an unofficial holiday which refers to a Winter-Christmas-themed celebration held in July.

The specific beginnings of the “Christmas in July” tradition are not very clear, but it is believed to have started in Europe, as a way to celebrate Christmas in the summer. It is often said that a group of Irish tourists who went on vacation in the Sydney’s Blue Mountains in the summer months of July in 1980, were overjoyed at the sight of snow there. It is believed that these travelers convinced the owner of a local hotel in the Blue Mountains in New South Wales to hold a party called “Yulefest”. The idea was an instant hit and now each year in July they hold a Christmas Party. Hence forth “Christmas in July” became a tradition and continues to this day with a festival and many celebrations.

In the Northern hemisphere there are parties that are given in July that mimic Christmas celebrations, bringing the atmosphere of the holiday but with warmer temperatures. In the midst of the scorching summer months, people have parties which may include Santa Claus, ice cream and cold foods. In the United States, this festival has become highly commercialized. It is used more often as a marketing tool than as an actual unofficial holiday. Many retail stores offer special “Christmas in July” sales that started in about 1950. Restaurants offer special discounts and even television stations show re-runs of Christmas specials. The shopping networks like QVC and the HSN have also included shows that are titled “Christmas in July”. This is mainly because most retailers tend to sell Christmas items in July to make room for next year’s inventory and before the “Back to School” shopping period begins in August.

Some families love this concept of “Christmas in July,” especially if their family members are scattered across the states, because it is easier for them to have a get-together in July when the weather is more favorable for a vacation, rather than in the freezing winter months when long distance travels are really hard. Celebrating “Christmas in July” can take place at any time during the month of July. At the Bakken amusement park in Denmark, Christmas is celebrated in July for three days and witnesses the annual World Santa Claus Congress, attended by Santa Clauses from all over the world, accompanied by their wives and elves. Then, there are those individuals that choose to celebrate “Christmas in July” just because it is a transparent excuse to have a party.
My readers know that I love Christmas! This concept is a wonderful way to spread cheer and have fun in the summer no matter what way you celebrate “Christmas in July”. It is a great way to deal with the heat of the day. My recipe this week gives us the opportunity to celebrate the summer and “Christmas in July” together. It is called a “Raspberry Trifle”. This recipe is from Taste of Home magazine. You can make it ahead of time and refrigerate so it is nice and cold, especially for summer parties. Each spoonful is a bit of heaven as you can taste the sweet berries, mixed with the tart and a creamy texture all wrapped in one simple bite. Enjoy and try to stay Cool!

Taste of Home
Raspberry Trifle Recipe
Prep: 20 minutes & chilling
Yield: 12-15 Servings

1 loaf (10-3/4 ounces) frozen pound cake
1-1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup of sugar, divided
2 packages (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 packages (10 oz) frozen sweetened raspberries, thawed
2 tablespoons baking cocoa
1 box of fresh raspberries
1- 3-quart glass trifle bowl

Slice cake into 18-20 slices about 1/2 inches thick, set aside. In a bowl, beat cream with 1/4 cup of sugar until stiff peaks form. In another bowl, beat cream cheese, lemon juice, vanilla and the remaining sugar. Fold in 2 cups of the whipped cream; set aside for topping. Drain raspberries, reserving juice; set berries aside.

Line the bottom of a 3-quart glass bowl with a third of the cake slices. Drizzle with some of the raspberry juice. Spread with a fourth of the cream cheese mixture. Sift a fourth of the cocoa over the top. Sprinkle with a third of the berries. Repeat layers twice. Top with the remaining cream cheese mixture, whipped cream and sifted cocoa. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. Garnish with fresh raspberries.

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