Thursday, August 30, 2012

Happy Labor Day! & A "Festive Fruit Tart" Recipe That Is Delish!

Labor Day is on Monday September 3rd, and I’m sure we are all looking forward to a long enjoyable weekend as we start the month of September. This weekend celebrates the “unofficial” end of summer. Everyone is going to the beach, having picnics, BBQ’s and enjoying the last weekend of their summer activities. After Labor Day most school districts start school back up again
for another year.

You may ask, what is Labor Day and why do we celebrate this day? So here are some facts about the holiday. Labor Day is an American Federal Holiday that celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers. We pay tribute to the achievements of the American workers with parades and fireworks that are a sight to see. It is also supposed to be a day of rest and considered a workingman‘s holiday. The first Labor Day was held on September 5th 1882 in New York City. Then on June 28th 1894 it became a Federal holiday, stating that the first Monday in September of each year would be legal holiday in all U.S. territories. In addition, Labor Day marks the beginning of the season for the National Football League, (NFL) and some college leagues as well. Labor Day is also a great day for stores to have “End of Summer” sales.

Whether you spend the day quietly at home relaxing, or enjoying one final celebration of the summer, you are sure to relish the day with your family and friends. A wonderful way to end this day is with a “Festive Fruit Tart” for dessert. This mouth-watering, sweet, and juicy fruit tart not only looks beautiful on your holiday table, but it is delicious as well. Simple, easy, and quick is what is on the menu for your day. This recipe is one that I have prepared for my family many times and it is a crowd pleaser. This fruit tart is courtesy from “Taste of Home” magazine. Hope that you enjoy and Happy Labor Day to all of my readers!

Festive Fruit Tart

Prep: 20 minutes
Bake: 10 minutes + cooking
Yield: 12 servings

Pastry for single-crust pie (9 inches)
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon almond extract, divided
1 cup of fresh blueberries
1 cup of fresh raspberries
1 medium ripe peach (peeled and sliced thinly)
1 kiwi (peeled and sliced thinly) (I added)
2 tablespoons apricot preserves (Sorrell Ridge)
Press pastry onto the bottom and up the sides of an un-greased 9 in. tart pan with a removable bottom; trim edges. Generously prick the bottom with a fork. Bake at 450° for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack.
In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract until smooth; spread over crust. Arrange fruit over cream cheese mixture.
In a microwave, heat preserves ad remaining almond extract, uncovered, on high for about 20-30 seconds or until warm. Brush over fruit. Store in the refrigerator.

From Left: Uncle, my Mom & Dad, & Aunt
© I would like to wish a special “Happy Anniversary” to my aunt and uncle who have been married for “55” years. My uncle is my dad’s brother and my godfather as well. My Aunt Ann and Uncle Vincent are both very special to our family. My hope is that they have many more years of love with family, have health, and pray that their faith will bring them blessings. The best is yet to come! Leo Buscaglia said, “Love is life. And if you miss love, then you miss life.”

“When there is love in a marriage, there is harmony in the home; when there is harmony in the home, there is contentment in the community; when there is contentment in the community, there is prosperity in the nation; when there is prosperity in the nation, there is peace in the world.”
- Chinese Proverb

Till Next Time………

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

Friday, August 24, 2012

"Squash" Plus An Italian "Stuffed Cucuzza Long" Recipe

I can’t seem to fathom that the end of August is upon us. It feels like yesterday was Father’s Day and July 4th all wrapped into one. The days and the months are just flying by like a butterfly over flowers. Now I can understand what my grandparents and parents told me years ago about time going so quickly. September is approaching which means that school is starting soon here on the East Coast. Even though the kids are not looking forward to getting back in the routine, I know that many parents are. Colleges are about to begin their first semester and my niece Lauren is embarking on her freshmen year as her college journey commences. So with that being said it is also a time to start harvesting your garden and enjoying your many varieties of home grown fruits and vegetables.

Squashes, tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, and lettuce, are just some of the veggies that people are using to prepare for their family table. I always loved this time of the year, as it starts to get cooler and summer is winding down. Before you know it, the leaves will be changing colors and the trees will be like a kaleidoscope of colors. This is a perfect time of year to not only enjoy your own garden of home grown foods but also to frequent your Farmer’s Markets for their produce. They are stocked with many varieties of fresh tasty foods and are waiting for us cook them to perfection. One of my favorites is the squash.

Summer Squash
Squashes come in many sizes, colors, and shapes. They are considered a vegetable in cooking, but botanically speaking, a squash is a fruit because of its seeds. In North America, squash is grouped into two categories, “summer” and “winter”. Summer squash is divided into 4 groups such as, crookneck, zucchini (green and yellow), straight neck, and scallop (patty pan). They have thin, edible skins and soft seeds. Summer quash are high in vitamin A and C plus have niacin. The flesh is tender and sweet plus requires little cooking time. Winter squash can be stored through the winter, even though they are a warm weather crop. Some Winter squashes are acorn, spaghetti squash, calabaza, butternut, hubbard, turban, banana, and many other varieties including pumpkins. The winter squash has hard, thick skin, which requires a longer cooking time. They are high in vitamin A and C, plus iron and riboflavin. Gourds and pumpkins are from the same family as squashes.

Winter Squashes
I remember my mother used to make a type of squash called Cucuzza (means super long squash), but we called it in Italian “goo-gutzalong”. She would take this Italian squash and stuff it with a meatball stuffing, cook it and serve it over rice. Cucuzza comes from the southern regions of Italy; Campania, Calabria, and Sicily. It’s skin color is light green and the shape is very long, curved and bottom heavy. It is prepared just like zucchini and has the same tender, mildly-sweet flavor with it‘s pure white flesh. This Italian squash can grow to three feet in length. The season for this squash is from June until frost. Cucuzza is high in vitamin C and fiber plus contains no fat or sodium.
Italian recipes using Cucuzza range from very simple to quite complex. Anyway you prepare this sweet appealing squash would be a palatable experience and certainly full of flavor. I would love to share with you my mom’s recipe, called “Stuffed Cucuzza Long”. Mangia! Molto Bene!

Stuffed Cucuzza Long


1 long Cucuzza
Celery cut in chunks plus leaves
Tomato sauce (small amount)
Olive Oil to coat bottom of pot
Salt & pepper to taste
1 recipe of “Mama’s Meatballs” (click link below)


Prepare Cucuzza by peeling it and cutting it in rounds or cylinders about 2” thick. Next take out the seeds and leave most of the white pulp, just enough to be able to stuff with meatball stuffing mix. Put aside and prepare the un-cooked meatball mix. Once that is ready you can now stuff the cut rounds of uncooked Cucuzza. Stuff but not overflowing, then put aside. Now take a Dutch oven or large heavy pot and coat the bottom with some olive oil. Cut up your onions and celery. Once oil is shimmering add the onions and celery, sauté till somewhat soft, then add about 1/2 cup of tomato sauce for color. Stir and then add your rounds of stuffed Cucuzza. Add some salt/pepper and water to pot not to cover the squash, but just enough to go half way up each piece, to cook in. Cover and cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes. You need to turn each piece every 15 minutes, so each piece gets cooked and remember you are cooking uncooked meat. If you need more water add a small amount at a time. Cook for about 1 hour or so depending on the size of your Cucuzza rounds. You can serve over rice. Enjoy!

Till Next Time………………………….

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

Thursday, August 16, 2012

When Life Hands You Lemons, You Make Lemonade!

What can be more refreshing, tasty, and perfect for this hot, humid weather most of us are experiencing? Give up? It is Lemonade! Yes, what better way to cool off with a big glass of Lemonade over ice? National Lemonade Day is August 20th, so I am honoring this lemony old favorite that everyone loves.

The lemon is a small yellow fruit that is native to Asia. The origin of the lemon is somewhat a mystery, but it is a hybrid between a sour orange and citron. Lemons were found in Europe near Southern Italy no later than the 1st century AD, during ancient Rome. They were later recorded in Persia, Iraq and Egypt around 700 AD. The lemon was introduced to the Americas in 1493 by Christopher Columbus, who brought us the lemon seeds. Today India produces the most lemons and then Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Spain, China, USA, Turkey, Iran and Italy.

There are many health benefits to lemons, one is that it has high levels of vitamin C. The average lemon contains approximately 3 tablespoons (50 ml) of juice. The vitamin C acts as a powerful antioxidant against harmful environmental toxins, and protects the immune system which reduces the risk of hypertension. Historically lemons were used to fight scurvy on Navy ships.

There are many other uses for lemons besides lemonade. One way they can be used is for aromatherapy, which seems to enhance your mood. The low pH of its juice makes it antibacterial. The juice of the lemon may be used for cleaning and a deodorizer as well. Lemon oil is used for a polish, a wood cleaner, and an insecticide treatment. Many children start lemonade stands in their neighborhoods to make some spending money. Who knew that the lemon was so versatile?

The lemon is mostly used for its juice, pulp, peel, and zest, which are used in preparing many recipes. Lemon juice is also used to make lemonade, soft drinks, and cocktails. The lemon leaf accompanies foods as a garnish, plus many teas are made with lemon leaves for flavor. Now that you know about lemons, let’s make some Lemonade!

Lemonade is a lemon flavored drink made from lemons, water and sugar. It comes in other forms as well as fresh, from frozen juice, dry powder, concentrate, slush (lemon ice) and carbonated. The Femminello St. Theresa, or Sorrento lemon is native to Italy and the zest is traditionally used in the making of Limincello an alcohol based drink. Lemonade is made in many flavors such as pink, strawberry, watermelon, and its traditional lemon flavor. Pink lemonade is very popular and it is made by adding fresh raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, or grenadine to the lemonade which typically makes the color pink. All of these are cool and refreshing drinks and make great bases for cocktails too. The basic lemonade recipe has been popular in the Southern United States for years. Sweet tea and lemonade are trademarks for great southern hospitality.

This week I have two recipes to share, one is a Traditional Lemonade Recipe (non-alcoholic) and the other is called a Blueberry Sangria Lemonade courtesy of Sandra Lee from the Food network. These two drinks should quench your thirst on a hot August day or for any day of the year. You get the sweetness from the sugar and berries, which enhance the tartness of the lemons all wrapped up in one cool, fresh, flavorful drink.

Traditional Lemonade Recipe

6 medium lemons, yield 1 cup of juice
3 1/2 cups of water
3/4 cup of sugar (can be adjusted by taste)
Lots of Ice

Juice the lemons on a citrus reamer. If you roll the lemons on a counter before you squeeze, you will get more juice from each lemon. You can add some pulp if you prefer, but discard the seeds. Dissolve the sugar in the water. Combine the juice and sugar water in a pitcher. Stir well and serve over ice cubes.

Blueberry Sangria Lemonade

1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries
1 (12 oz) can of frozen pink lemonade concentrate
1 bottle of (750ml) Chardonnay
3 cups lemon lime soda (recommended: Sprite)
1/2 cup of Cognac

In a large pitcher, combine all ingredients and stir. Refrigerate for 1 hour to blend all the flavors. Serve chilled in glasses filled with ice. Serves: 4 people

Till Next Time…………………….. 

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

Thursday, August 9, 2012

La Notte di San Lorenzo & “Steak Pizzaiola” Recipe

Benvenuti, Welcome…..In Italy, there is always a feast or holiday to celebrate. The Italian people celebrate with gusto everything from family to religion and we can’t forget about the food. That is what is in the heart of every Italian person. Many of their holidays revolve around a religious Holy day or to give homage to one of the many feast days of the Saints. Special traditions of these days could be parades, family gatherings and attending church to say “thank you” for the many blessings of the saints.

August 10th is known across Italy as “La notte di San Lorenzo” or the “Night of the Shooting Stars. These shooting stars are also called Saint Lawrence's tears, or Saint Lawrence's fire. This is to symbolize the sufferings of the Saint during his martyrdom, which happened in the year 258 on this particular night, in Rome. As deacon of Pope Sixtus II, San Lorenzo had been ordered by one of the tyrant Valerian’s judges to offer up the church’s treasures; San Lorenzo presented the poorest of his congregation, and said, “These are the treasures of the Church”. Then the judge ordered San Lorenzo to be burned alive on a gridiron. San Lorenzo bravely faced his death and his famous words were, “I am roasted on this side; turn me over and eat.” He is the patron saint of many things related to fire-cooks, chefs, and bakers. The Basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, in Rome was built over the saint’s tomb in the fourth century.
Basilica of San Lorenzo

Scientifically, why do the stars fall during this time of year, you ask? This phenomenon is due to the rain of meteors, which represent the debris left by the “Comet Swift Tuffle,” identified in 1862. Small fragments which are stationed in space come into contact with the atmosphere, resulting in an intense long glow with great speed. The falling of the stars is due to the passage, inside the Earth’s orbit, the asteroid belt of the constellation Perseus. If it is a clear night this year it will be more visible on August 13-14th at the rate of 60 or more per hour in the Northern Hemisphere. As with all meteor showers, the rate is greatest in the pre-dawn hours, since the side of the Earth nearest to turning into the sun scoops up more meteors as the Earth moves through space.

The feast day of San Lorenzo in Rome has become a venue for a huge public celebration. The La Notte Di San Lorenzo starts out on August 9th at the Grand Harbor in Malta Italy, with a spectacular fireworks show. The Gran Finale will be a large pyro musical display where fireworks will be perfectly synchronized to all types of music.

As the celebration continues more than 150 Italian towns take part in an event organized by the Movimento Turismo del Vino called, “Calici di Stelle”. This tradition is dedicated to all those passionate about wine tasting and to reveal the local producers new wine collection. Calici di Stelle is one of the most awaited wine tasting events of the year. Historic and renowned wineries will open their doors to visitors with music and entertainment. Local markets, guided visits, and tantalizing themed menus from local eateries will fill your weekend with splendid memories to last till at least next years celebration. “La Notte di San Lorenzo” or “The Falling Stars” combines fireworks, good food, family and flavorful wines with tradition which is an expression of the local heritage in the streets of Italy. Have fun star gazing and don‘t forget to make a wish!

My recipe this week is called “Steak Pizzaiola.” This recipe is ready in no time, when you keep tomato sauce on hand. The aromatic spices enhance the flavors of the steak and believe me; you won’t be able to get enough. Mangia!!

Steak Pizzaiola”

1 pound boneless sirloin steak, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cloves of garlic sliced
1 onion sliced thinly
1 red bell pepper sliced thinly
8-10 button mushrooms washed and sliced thin
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 1/2 cups of prepared tomato sauce
1/3 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
Pecorino Romano grated cheese for topping

Season the meat on both sides with salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Sauté the meat in batches if necessary, on both sides until lightly browned. While meat is cooking put olive oil in another sauté pan and add the garlic, onion, peppers and mushrooms. Cook until soft and caramelized. If you need more olive oil add a little at a time. Once the meat is done sprinkle with the oregano. Stir your tomato sauce and simmer the mixture for 15 minutes. Now take your vegetable mixture and add to the meat in sauté pan. Next take your cooked tomato sauce and pour on top of vegetables and meat. Stir in fresh parsley and plate. Serve with some grated Pecorino Romano cheese and enjoy. Serves about 4 people according to how big your steak pieces are.

Till Next Time…………

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

Thursday, August 2, 2012

August Is "National Peach Month" & A "Fruity, Nutty, Chicken Salad" Recipe

Everywhere I look this summer there are delicious, sweet, juicy peaches. There is a reason why I am seeing more peaches all over and that is because August is “National Peach Month”. This holiday is honoring and enjoying the flavor of the peach. The peach is a member of the Rose family. It was first cultivated in China. The peach tree is considered to be the tree of life and peaches are symbols of immortality and unity. Peach blossoms are carried by Chinese brides and the image is placed on pottery as a gift which has great value. 

Travelers along caravan routes carried the peach seed to Persia before it was cultivated in Europe. In the 1600s Spanish explorers brought them to the New World and by the 1700s missionaries had established peaches in California. Columbus brought peach trees to America on his second and third voyages. The United States is the world’s largest producer of peaches. The peach is the state fruit of Georgia and South Carolina. The peach blossom is also the State Flower of Delaware. Johnston, South Carolina is known as “The Peach Capital” of the World. 

Map of Italy's Peach Region
Other major producers are Italy, France, Greece and Spain. Peaches (or pesca in Italian) have grown in Italy since the Middle Ages. The yield time is from July to September. There are four main growing regions in Italy and they are; Emilia Romagna, Campania, Piedmont, and Veneto. Many products are made from peaches such as; peach marmalade, peach essence, peach juice concentrate, and peach puree to name a few. My mother told me that my grandfather would slice a peach into a glass of wine. In order to eat the peach slices, they would take a knife and use the tip to spear them in the glass. This is the classic Italian way. The peach adds a pleasant accent to the wine, and the wine can be either red or white depending on the region you are in. We are all peach lovers in my family. My dad especially loves them on top of cereal and I love peach pie.

Peach varieties can be either clingstone, where the flesh of the fruit clings to the stone, or freestone, where the stone twists away from the fruit. The peach pit contains hydrocyanic acid, which is a poisonous substance. Peaches are a good source of vitamins A, B and C. Medium peaches contain only 37 calories. You can ripen peaches by placing them in a brown paper bag for two to three days. Nectarines are a variety of peach with a smooth skin, and are not a cross between a peach and a plum. The juice from peaches makes a wonderful moisturizer, and can be found in many brands of cosmetics. Summer and peaches make a perfect pair. Peaches are a favorite fresh snacking fruit and make wonderful pies and jams. Peach ice cream and peach sherbet are a cool and refreshing summer favorite. Ripe peaches also freeze well for later use.

My recipe this week is another recipe that I created for my sewing group. It is called, “Fruity, Nutty, Chicken Salad”. This recipe is a perfect summer lunch or for a light dinner. It enhances many different textures that explode your taste buds. The juicy peaches added to the chicken, with the nuts which adds flavor and raspberry vinaigrette. Simplicity is at its best. Don’t forget to get your peaches, fruits and vegetables at your Farmers Markets. It is important to support our local farmers.

Fruity, Nutty, Chicken Salad” 

2 1/2 cups cubed cooked chicken breast
2-3 fresh large peaches, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup fresh carrots cut into julienne strips
1/4 cup raisins or currants
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup raspberry walnut salad dressing of your choice
(I use Ken’s or Newman’s Own)
1 package spring mix salad greens (5 oz)

In small bowl, combine all the ingredients. Divide salad greens and top with your chicken salad. Yield: 4 or more servings depending on the size of your ingredients.

Till Next Time………………………..

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