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

Friday, October 19, 2012

"Double, Double, Toil And Trouble" A "Witches Garden" & An "Italian Fries" Recipe

A dark Cave. In the middle, a Caldron boiling. Thunder! Enter Witches.

Three witches speak: --------'tis time! 'tis time! Round about the caldron go; “Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble.”

If that sounds familiar to all of my readers, it’s because it is a sentence from “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare. As Halloween is right around the corner, I thought it would be fun to talk about what is called a “Witches Garden”. Right now you must be thinking that I am a little “witchy” but everyone has used the items that are grown in a “Witches Garden” at one time or another.

A Witches Garden is an herb garden specifically designed and used for the cultivation of medicinal herbs and herbs used in everyday cooking. For centuries the “Wise Women” and healers understood the “magic” that herbs did for healing. During the medieval period, monks, and nuns acquired this medical knowledge and grew the necessary herbs to heal people. In fear of losing their power the nobility called the Wise Women and healers, “Witches” and evil for using these practices to help heal the common people. They were eventually burned.

In today’s world, a “Witches Garden” is the center of her creations. The medicinal qualities from many plants and flowers growing within her scared space are simple in design. They contain a wealth of magical materials that can be used for healing such as essences, lotions, and cures, if they are ground up or dried. Some typical plants and herbs that are found in a Witches Garden are Rosemary, Sage, Parsley, Mint, Catnip, Marjoram, Chives, Thyme, Angelica root and leaves, Bay leaves, Oregano, Dill, Basil, Mugwort and wildflowers of all sorts.

Then there is the “Kitchen Witch.” Her garden is also her home as well as her kitchen. She works with the cycles of the seasons and the moon as she nurtures her garden sanctuary and growing sacred trees, wildflowers, plus harvesting culinary organic fruits and vegetables. The Kitchen Witch will spend time in her garden connecting with Mother Earth and enjoying nature’s beauty. She meditates in a quiet spot perhaps on a calming chamomile lawn or under a shady tree. The Kitchen Witch shares her harvest with birds and wildlife. She recycles, composts, and tends to her plants with tender loving care. The Kitchen Witch recognizes that food is sacred, life-giving, and is part of the balance of nature. She uses the freshest ingredients with intent and purpose. She adds a little “magic” as she puts together a nourishing healthy meal using her herbs with her expert cookery skills. Her kitchen usually contains a comfy chair, she has utensils that are blessed and carved with scared symbols or sprinkled with a little “magic oil”. Don’t forget to look in your kitchen you may see a special witch’s apron hanging on a hook, if you look hard enough!

Herbs are an important addition in Italian cooking and can be grown easily in pots or in the garden. They should be stored in the freezer or hung up to dry in a cool place away from the heat. Once dry, they should be placed in air tight containers. The list of spices and herbs that Italian’s mostly use with their recipes are too many to mention, so I am going to give you a few of the important ones that my family uses. Basil, Garlic, Oregano, Bay Leaves, Mint, Parsley, Black Pepper, and Fennel.

My recipe this week is a delicious way to use your herbs. This recipe is called “Italian Fries” a mouth watering finger food that you bake not fry. I have modified this recipe to my families’ tastes, but you can use whatever herbs or potatoes your family likes. Recipe is courtesy of “Mad Hungry: Feeding Men & Boys” cookbook by Lucinda Scala Quinn. These savory scrumptious fries are full of flavor and I know you can’t just have one. Enjoy and remember if you pass an herb garden, know that a “Witch” is not far away…...

Italian Fries

6 or 7 Yukon gold or Sweet Potatoes
4 or 5 tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon each of dried Italian Herbs or combo of (I use basil & oregano)
2 cups of freshly grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
1/4 cup of minced Italian parsley
4 tablespoons butter
Salt & Black Pepper to taste
You can use a small pinch red pepper flakes to top them (optional)

Preheat oven to 400° F. Peel potatoes and slice into 1/3-inch thick French fry style strips. Place them in cold, salted water so they don’t turn color while you work.
Now drain potatoes and pat dry with paper towels. Spread 1 tablespoon of oil on each of two rimmed baking sheets and spread out the potatoes. Overlapping is fine. Sprinkle the dried herbs evenly over the potatoes. Liberally spread cheese and parsley on top. Drizzle the remaining oil over the cheese. Scatter bits of butter around the pans. Bake until the potatoes are golden brown, rotating the pans after 30 minutes, for a total baking time of 45-50 minutes. Baking time depends on the size of your cut potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve hot.
Till Next Time………………

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

Friday, October 12, 2012

"Peppers and Eggs Italian Style Sandwich" Recipe for World Egg Day!

Happy World Egg Day! Every year the second Friday in October is celebrated across the world as World Egg Day. The first World Egg Day was held in 1996 and since that we have seen many events honoring the “egg” planned across the world. Eggs have a vital role to play in feeding people around the world. They are an “eggs“-cellent, affordable source of high quality protein.

Whether it’s your first time to celebrate World Egg Day or you are a pro, start “eggs“-ecuting plans today to commemorate the “egg”. Here are some “egg“-samples: family festivals that include games, or word games that have to do with eggs, who can cook the fastest egg contest, seminars that include egg information and nutrition, and my favorite is looking in cook books for recipes that include the “Egg”.

Eggs have been described by nutritionists as nature’s large vitamin pill, a mineral cocktail; they contain many of the essential vitamins and minerals required for a healthy diet. Jam-packed full of goodness; from vitamin A, which is needed for healthy development of the body’s cells, helping maintain healthy skin and eye tissue, vitamin B12, which is necessary for the formation of red blood cells, and it is important for the immune system to function accurately. A large egg contains only 70 calories and 5 grams of fat. Egg protein has just the right mix of essential amino acids needed by humans to build tissues.

Some “egg” trivia, see what you know? Did you know that the fastest omelet maker in the world made 427 two-egg omelets in 30 minutes? Yes, it is true, he is known as the Omelet King, Mr. Howard Helmer. He holds three Guinness World Records for omelet making. Here’s another one; to produce one egg, it takes a hen 24-26 hours, and as a hen grows older she produces larger eggs. An average hen lays 300 to 325 eggs a year. Here is one that I never knew; if an egg is accidentally dropped on the floor, sprinkle it heavily with salt for easy cleanup. Did you ever wonder why some yolks are more yellow than others? Well, here is the answer; Yolk color depends on the diet of the hen. The type of food she eats determines the color.

So let's all get “cracking” and make this World Egg Day the biggest and best ever. My recipe this week is my mom’s “Peppers and Eggs Italian Style Sandwich”. In Italy eggs are used all the time for many different recipes, from baking to putting sliced hard cooked eggs in Lasagna. “Uova” is the Italian equivalent of the English word “eggs”. I remember when I was growing up; my mom would make this sandwich for us on a chilly day or even for picnics. But my favorite time I can remember is when she would make it for my brothers and I on Fridays during the time in the catholic religion called Lent. My dad always joined a bowling league after work in New York City on Friday. We would eat dinner earlier and then go with my mom to the Long Island Railroad station to wait for him to come home on the train. Friday nights were always a fun night, it was a night that nothing was planned and what ever we wanted for dinner was on the menu. We would say, “Mom, please make peppers and eggs sandwiches!” It was an all in one sandwich. You have your peppers, eggs, onions, and it was incased in a crispy Italian bread or roll. This is a great sandwich which you can eat hot or cold. What makes this sandwich irresistible is that when you take a bite of the peppers with onions it gives a sweet taste to the eggs. It’s also very juicy, which the Italian bread or roll soaks up some of the juices but if I were you, I would make sure you have a napkin and a fork to pick up every last piece.

Peppers and Eggs Italian Style Sandwich

4 green peppers, washed, seeded and sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 eggs, beaten in a bowl
1/4 cup of Olive Oil (enough to coat bottom of pan)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 loaf of crispy Italian bread or Ciabatta rolls
Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and then add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of pan. Next, add the peppers and onions, stirring while regulating the heat so the onions will not burn. Sauté until the peppers have softened and the onions are caramelized. Then add the beaten eggs and continue stirring until the eggs are cooked and set. Next, salt and pepper to taste. Make sure all are combined. (Just like scrambled eggs) Now slice the bread or rolls lengthwise without cutting all the way through. Fill the bread with the cooked mixture; don’t be afraid to stuff it fully. Enjoy with a tossed lettuce salad or a tomato with cucumber salad.

Optional: You can sprinkle some grated Pecorino Romano cheese on top of mixture or even put a slice of American or Provolone cheese in the sandwich. (If you eat it while it is hot, the cheese melts, yummy!) Mangia Bene! (Eat Well)

Till Next Time………

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


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

"World Animal Day" & "Little Bears" Homemade Bread

Anyone who knows me knows that I love all animals. From domestic to animals in the wild, they are all God‘s beautiful creatures. I have been an advocate to save the whales, seals, polar bears, and of course all sheltered domestic animals, just to name a few. I have had the pleasure of sharing some of my life with fish, dogs, cats, a box turtle, a bunny, and even a bird. Even after all of these animals, I would have to say that my favorite furry companions are cats. Our pets are just like family members. I, like so many other people have devoted time and love to our furry friends.

The reason why I am talking about these sweet creatures is that, October 4th is celebrated as the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment. "World Animal Day" is known internationally and has now gone beyond being the celebration of a Christian saint and is today observed by animal lovers of all beliefs, nationalities and backgrounds. The origin of this holiday started in Florence, Italy in 1931.
On this day, animal life in all its forms is celebrated with special events planned all over the globe. Numerous churches throughout the world observe the Sunday closest to October 4th which is the feast day of St. Francis and recognizes him with what they call the “Blessing for the Animals”. Many animal blessings are not only held in churches or in synagogues, but also in parks, and fields. In the spirit of St. Francis, the celebration honors animals that share our lives and touch our hearts.

My recipe this week is called “Orsi Piccoli”, in Italian, which means “Little Bears.” This scrumptious, soft, warm homemade bread is in the shape of a teddy bear. It is courtesy of Mary Ann Esposito. It is a perfect way to celebrate the feast of St. Francis and “World Animal Day”.

There is a very famous quote that I love and it says it all within one sentence. This quote is from Anatole France; a French poet and novelist. The quote reads, “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains un-awakened.”

Little Bears

1 1/3 cups of milk
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2/3 cup of sugar
5 - 5 1/4 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of salt
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp milk, for egg wash
Brown sugar for sprinkling
Raisins or currants

In a saucepan, bring the milk almost to a boil. Let cool until warm (110° to 115° F).
Pour the mild into a large bowl, add the yeast plus 1 teaspoon of the sugar and stir to blend. Cover and let proof for about 10 minutes, until the yeast is foamy.

In another bowl, mix 5 cups flour, the salt, and the remaining sugar together. Add the butter and work it into the flour mixture until is resembles coarse meal. Slowly add the yeast mixture, and mix with your hands until a ball of dough is formed, adding additional flour only if the dough is very sticky. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, about 10 minutes.
Lightly butter a bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Grease two cookie sheets. Punch down the dough and divide it into 24 equal pieces. Use 4 pieces for each bear. Roll 3 pieces if dough into balls about 2 inches in diameter. Place the balls of dough together in a line on one of the cookie sheets, as if making a snowman. One for the head, one for the upper body, and one for the lower body. Divide the fourth piece of dough into 7 pieces for the ears, nose, feet, and hands, and attach to the bear. Repeat with the remaining dough, placing the bears 3 inches apart on the sheets. Cover with a towel and let rise for about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350° F. insert raisins or currants into the heads for the bear’s eyes. Brush the bears with the egg wash and sprinkle the bodies with the brown sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Be careful when you take them off of the cookie sheets. You do not want them to crack. Cool on wire racks, and then tie ribbons around the necks. Makes: 6 bears.
Note: You can make more bears by using smaller pieces of dough.
Angel Kitty

In memory of my sweet cat, “Angel Kitty” 1998-2008. He was my friend and the love of my life. I know that someday I will see him again, near our special spot, under the tree.   

Till Next Time…………

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