Friday, January 25, 2013

“Eggplant Parmesan” Recipe With Antioxidants & Super Foods

So, here we are into the last week of January! Didn’t this month go by really fast? Most of the country is in an arctic freeze this past week. Snow, wind, and temps in the teens with below zero in many places will continue through this weekend. Whether you are searching for ways to boost your immune system, or recovering from a cold or flu, doctors often recommend healthy lifestyle changes. Prevention and management of symptoms can be helped through the foods that we eat. Experts say a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, can help you ward off infections and help your body heal faster. They call these foods “Super Foods” due to the fact that they contain immune-boosting antioxidants.

Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that protect, and repair cells from damage. Fighting off damage with antioxidants helps keep your immune system strong, making you better able to ward off colds, flu, and other infections. Where do you find these antioxidants? Well, some foods are higher in antioxidants than others. The three major antioxidant vitamins are beta-carotene, vitamin-C, and vitamin-E. You will find them in colorful fruits and vegetables-especially those with purple, blue, red, orange, and yellow hues. To get the best benefits of these foods eat them raw or lightly steamed, don’t overcook or boil them.

Beta-carotene include: apricots, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, corn, green peppers, kale, mangoes, turnips, collard greens, nectarines, peaches, pink grapefruit, pumpkin, squash, spinach, sweet potato, tangerines, tomatoes, and watermelon.

Vitamin-C include: berries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit, honeydew, kale, kiwi, mangoes, nectarines, orange, papaya, red, green or yellow peppers, snow peas, sweet potato, strawberries, and tomatoes.

Vitamin-E include: broccoli, carrots, chard, mustard and turnip greens, mangoes, nuts, papaya, pumpkin, red peppers, spinach, and sunflower seeds. 

Other foods that are called “Super Foods” and are rich in antioxidants include: prunes, apples, raisins, all berries, plums, red grapes, alfalfa sprouts, onions, eggplant, and beans.

Vitamins are not the only antioxidants in food. Other antioxidants that may help boost your immunity include: Zinc: found in oysters, red meat, poultry, nuts, seafood, whole grains, fortified cereals, and dairy products. Also there is Selenium: which is found in Brazil nuts, tuna, beef, poultry, breads, and other grain products.

If you can’t get enough antioxidants in your diet by eating fresh produce, some experts recommend taking a multivitamin that contains minerals, too. But be cautious about taking individual immune supplements to boost immunity. With antioxidants as with most anything, moderation is the key. Getting too much of Vitamins A and E for example are stored in the body and eliminate slowly. Getting too much can be toxic. Remember, if you don’t have good nutrition, get plenty of rest and exercise you are missing key weapons against colds and flu. Hands washed? Yes, Flu shot? Yes, Eating an immunity-boosting diet? Yes!!!!!

My recipe this week is “Eggplant Parmesan”. This recipe is one of my mom’s recipes and it is a total immune-boosting meal. Remember, eggplants are one of the “Super Foods” that have antioxidants included in it. Besides, it is delicious and very tasty. Made with the freshest ingredients and of course Love. As you take a bite of this wonderful dish, your cheese oozes and the eggplant with tomatoes are an awesome combination! What flavor and very satisfying. You would never know that you are eating something that was good for you. Enjoy, Mangia!

Eggplant Parmesan
1 eggplant, cut into 3/4 inch slices
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup of Canola or Vegetable oil
1 lb of shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano grated cheese
2 eggs, beaten
3 cups of plain bread crumbs & about 2 tbsp of flour added
4 cups or more of your favorite Marinara sauce

Sprinkle both sides of the eggplant slices with salt. Place slices in a colander and place a dish underneath the colander to capture liquid that will sweat out of the eggplant. Allow to sit for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350° F. Rinse the eggplant in cold water until all salt is removed. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Now dredge eggplant slices in egg and then in breadcrumb/flour mixture. After egg and breading them place one layer of eggplant in the oil and brown each side. When browned place on paper towel to drain. Repeat with the remaining eggplant slices, using additional oil if necessary. In a 9x13 inch baking dish, evenly spread Marinara sauce on bottom of dish, and then arrange a single layer of eggplant slices on top of sauce. Top the eggplant with some of the mozzarella cheese and grated cheese. Repeat process until all the eggplant and cheese is layered. Pour remaining sauce on top of layers and sprinkle with remaining Pecorino Romano grated cheese or more mozzarella. Bake 30 to 45 minutes in your preheated oven, until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted.

Till Next Time…………………….

Copyright  © 2013 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Friday, January 18, 2013

"Asparagus Soup" To Celebrate My Blogiversary!!! Year "2"

Family Plus Food Equals Love” is “2” years old today! I can’t believe it! 730 days ago was my first post. I had no idea how this blog would impact so many people besides me. I have learned so much from my research, other bloggers, family, and friends. My passion for my family traditions, recipes, and new experiences has given me confidence and drive. My potential to give you the best stories and recipes I can is limitless. I have learned about different ingredients and many recipes that have come from other cultures. I have shared with you my readers personal stories that I thought I never would have been able to do. I found that blogging is one of my loves and passion. I have made so many friendships online and everyone I meet has given me support.

So with this being said, I would like to take this opportunity to say “Thank You” to each and everyone of you across the world for reading, following, and supporting, “Family Plus Food Equals Love”. I can’t thank you enough for commenting, interacting with me, and your friendship which has been extremely special and rewarding within these two years. Every one of you have made me feel that I have something important to say and share. I am not sure where year "3" will take me, but I do know that I will continue to write stories of my family and I am looking forward to new experiences with new recipes to share. I hope that you will continue to come back and share in my journey for year "3" So let’s celebrate!

What better way to celebrate my blog’s anniversary is with some comfort food like hot “Soup?” January just happens to be, “National Soup Month”. It is like a warm blanket comforting you as you sip the soup from a cup or scoop it up with a spoon. With the winter weather upon us, January is the perfect month to celebrate and enjoy soup of all kinds.

What is soup? Soup is a liquid that is made by combining ingredients such as meat, vegetables or beans in stock or hot water, until the flavor is extracted forming a broth. Soups are classified into two groups: clear soups and thick soups. Clear soups are bouillon and consommé. Thick soups have a thickening agent; purees are vegetable soups thickened with starch; bisques are made from pureed shellfish thickened with cream; cream soups are thickened with béchamel sauce by using eggs, butter, and cream. Tomato soup and Chicken Noodle soup are the top 2 soups that are most popular today. We have all been raised eating and loving soup. Every country in the world has soup recipes and family traditions from long ago. There are many types of soup which are not hot, such as cold soups, desserts soups, fruit soups, and beverage soups. Which is no surprise that soup is probably the oldest form of food right up there with bread?

With the Flu season in full motion, soup has anti-inflammatory properties that help sore throats and stop the flow of mucus that accumulates in the lungs and nose. Sipping the hot soup and breathing in the steam helps clear up congestion. Spices that are often added to soup, such as garlic and pepper (these are ancient treatments for respiratory diseases), work the same way as modern cough medicines making it easier to breathe. Chicken broth contains drug-like agents similar to those in modern cold medicines. For example, an amino acid released from chicken during cooking chemically resembles a drug prescribes for bronchitis and other respiratory problems. 

My recipe this week is a soup that my mom would cook for us called “Asparagus Soup.” There is no better way than to come in from the cold and enjoy a warm comfort bowl of soup. Grab a blanket, a pair of fuzzy slippers, and get cozy while you enjoy this flavorful soup. It is good for you and you will want to eat more than a bowlful that‘s for sure. 

Asparagus Soup

1/4 cup of vegetable oil
3 cloves of chopped garlic
1 1/2 lbs of thin asparagus (cut off tough bottom part & discard)
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh parsley (a hand full / rough chopped)
1 egg (beaten)
Pecorino Romano grated cheese to top the soup
Small soup pasta (optional)

Coat bottom of large pot with oil. When oil is warm, put in chopped garlic. Cut up asparagus into 2-3 pieces. Then place asparagus in oil with the garlic. Add a little salt and stir together. Add water to cover the top of asparagus. Then add the fresh parsley. Cook on medium heat for about 15-20 minutes. Once asparagus is cooked then stir in 1 beaten egg. Use a beating motion to stir in the egg as you want it to look like egg drop soup. Serve with small pasta mixed in (optional) or just plain. Also tastes wonderful with some Pecorino Romano grated cheese on top.

Till Next Time…………………..

Copyright © 2013 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Friday, January 4, 2013

An “Italian Beef and Pepper Soup” Recipe For The Epiphany, Plus La Befana Visits

I hope you have all had a wonderful Happy New Year with lots of partying and celebrations with your friends and family! However the fun is not over yet. The feast of the Epiphany is this Sunday which is celebrated all over the world. The Epiphany is the twelfth day of Christmas and on that day the Three Wise Men came to pay homage to the Christ Child called Jesus.

Storytelling, legends, and traditions are a way for us to preserve family history and its culture. In Western liturgical practices the Feast of the Epiphany the priest blesses water, frankincense, gold, and chalk. Yes, chalk. Chalk is used to write the initials of the three Wise Men or Magi over the doors of churches and homes. The letters are CMB, which is for Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. This translates the phrase “may Christ bless this house” or (Christus, mansionem, benedicat.) 

In Tuscany and other regions of Italy there is a tale of the La Befana. The La Befana is derived from the word Epifania, the Italian word for Epiphany. Every child of Italian heritage I’m sure has heard of La Befana, a character in Italian folklore who delivers presents to children throughout Italy. It is believed that the legend of La Befana may have originated in Rome, then spread to the rest of Italy and throughout the world.
La Befana With Children

In keeping with the tale, Befana is a witch with her clothing worn to rags. She flies through the Italian skies on her broomstick during the night, and fills children’s stockings with toys, and sweets for the children who were good, and coal for the ones that were naughty. According to the legend, the night before the Three Wise Men arrived at the manger, they stopped at the shack of an old woman to ask directions. They invited her to come along but she replied she was busy cleaning her house with her broomstick. Later that night, she saw a great light in the sky and decided to join the Three Wise Men, bearing gifts that had belonged to her child who had died. She held her broomstick up to the star and the magic of the night gave her broomstick the ability to fly. As the legend continues in gratitude for the woman’s generosity the Holy Child gave the woman the most wonderful blessing and gift of all. His blessing to the woman was that for one night, the eve if the Epiphany for all eternity the woman would have all the children of the world as her own. His gift was that her name be called “La Befana” the “Giver of Gifts”.

La Befana In Rome
Many cities in Italy celebrate the Epiphany with parades, food, and have Living Nativities. In Vatican City, Rome, following another Epiphany tradition, a procession of hundreds of people in medieval costumes walk along the avenue leading up to the Vatican, carrying symbolic gifts for the Pop. The Pope says morning mass in St Peter’s Basilica to commemorate the visit of the Wise Men bearing gifts for Jesus. So, with this being said, share these stories with your children and give them traditions and tales of long ago for them to tell their children.   

My recipe this week is a delicious Italian soup called “Italian Beef and Pepper Soup”. The winter is upon us and it had been really cold here in Long Island, NY. We need to cook something hearty but warm and I know that if La Befana comes to your door looking for the Christ Child she will be hungry. I’m sure when you invite her in she would just love a big bowl of this flavorful and mouthwatering dish. 

"Italian Beef and Pepper Soup"

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
Serves: 4 people

1 1/2 lbs skirt or chuck steak, cut into 1 inch cubes
4 medium onions, peeled and chopped in quarters
2 green peppers, cored, seeded, and chopped
4 tomatoes skinned and quartered
4 tablespoons of tomato puree
1 pint of beef stock
2 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon of oil
1 lb of potatoes peeled and cut into bit sized pieces
1 tablespoon of flour
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in pan. When hot add the steak in batches so not to overcrowd and Sauté over high heat until browned on all sides. Remove and set aside. Add the butter, onions, and green pepper and fry until onion is lightly browned. Stir in the flour and then remove from heat. Add the stock, return to the heat and boil, stirring continuously. Add the tomato, tomato puree, and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat, return the meat, cover and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more stock or water if necessary. Add the potatoes and cook gently for a further 20 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through. Serve with warm Italian bread and a glass of Red Wine like a Pinot Noir or Chianti. Enjoy, Mangia!   

Till Next Time………

Copyright  ©  2012-2013  “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved.