Friday, February 22, 2013

"Fish, Zucchini, and Lemon Kebabs" For A Meatless Friday

Spring may not have made a commitment to New York just yet, but regardless of the weather, it’s that time of year again: Lent. Fish or a meatless meal has always been a tradition for Catholics all over the world. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the faithful, as they await the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. As good Catholics we do not eat meat on Friday during this season.

Everyone knows that fish is good for you. The fats in fish, especially fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel, help to prevent Heart Disease and can even aid in preventing diseases like Alzheimer’s and stroke. Did you know that Americans eat only about 15 lbs of fish per person in a year, but we eat two times as much fish in restaurants than at home? I wonder why that is? Buying, storing, and cooking fish isn’t difficult; it just requires a little knowledge. Here are some ideas that will assist you in all things about “Fish.”

When you buy fish the first thing that you should do is smell it. Fresh fish should smell sweet like you are at the edge of the ocean. If you smell a strong or fishy odor that means that the fish is not fresh and it is past its peak. Do not buy it! The next thing when you are purchasing fresh fish is to look at it. If you are buying a whole fish it should look like you just caught it on your fishing pole and pulled it out of the water. It should have firm flesh and bright eyes which would indicate that it was extremely fresh. If fish fillets or fish steaks are your choice make sure that they are firm and bright looking, with no discoloration of any sorts.

When storing your fresh fish keep it in your refrigerator for only a day or two. Any longer than that it will be perishable but you can freeze it if you wrap it tightly in freezer wrap. (Make sure you date it)  Fish that is frozen can be thawed in the refrigerator, in the microwave, or under cold running water.

Don’t forget about the bones in a fish. Many types of fish including salmon and trout have small pin bones. These can be easily removed by using your fingers or small tweezers. You can buy fish with the bones taken out by your fishmonger but it will be generally more expensive. When I was a child my mother would make fish for Friday night dinner and she always told us not to talk when we were eating the fish. Her reasoning was that if there were any bones we could swallow them while we were talking. Which made perfect sense to a young child, but I don’t know if she was also trying to keep us quite so we could finish our dinner and not dilly-dally. You know mothers sometimes have ulterior motives!

When cooking fish to test if it’s done, see if the fish “flakes”. Insert your fork gently into the thickest part and see if the fish begins to separate along the natural lines. There is a balance between flawlessly cooked fish and overcooked- fish. Remember fish cooks quickly and if you leave it in the pan it’s cooked in for a while it will continue to cook. Tuna and salmon can be served medium rare, but some people like their fish cooked well done. It is your own preference, you choose.

So, have I caught your interest? Will you cook some fish tonight? Looking for a fish dish for Fridays? I have the answer, my recipe this week is a very easy and delicious meatless meal for not only Fridays but any day of the week. It is called “Fish, Zucchini, and Lemon Kebabs.” These small rolled fish filet kebabs are so superb. The combination of the zucchini and the lemons add freshness to the dish. The aroma of this recipe is so appealing that it will be pleasing to your appetite. This amazing recipe serves 4 and you can serve it on a bed of rice with a big tossed salad. Definitely a Friday night to remember! Enjoy and Mangia!

Fish, Zucchini, and Lemon Kebabs

16 small, thin sole fillets, or 8 larger ones, skinned and cut in half lengthways
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1/2 juice of a lemon
Finley grated rind of 1/2 lemon
Salt and black pepper to taste
3 drops of Tabasco sauce (optional)
2 medium-sized zucchini cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 green / 1 red pepper (to give some color to the dish) seeded, cut into 1 inch pieces

Roll up each sole filet like a Swiss roll and secure with a cocktail toothpick. Place the fish rolls in a shallow dish. Mix together the olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, lemon rind, salt, pepper, and Tabasco sauce. Spoon the olive oil mixture evenly over fish rolls and chill for no more than an hour. Remove the toothpicks and carefully thread the rolled fish fillets onto the kebab skewers alternately with the zucchini slices and pieces of green and red pepper slices. Brush each kebab with a little of the lemon and oil marinade. Arrange the kebab skewers on a grill pan and cook under a moderately hot grill or broiler about 8 minutes, carefully turning the kebabs once or twice during cooking and brushing them with a little of the remaining marinade if required. Serve on a bed of rice with lemon slices on the side. Deelish!!!!

Till Next Time………………………………....

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

Friday, February 15, 2013

"Cherry Dump Cake" For "Presidents' Day" And "National Cherry Month"

Presidents' Day is Monday, February 18th and it is observed in honor of two of our greatest presidents; George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. For many years, Americans celebrated both Washington’s Birthday and Lincoln’s Birthday separately. Beginning in 1971, Congress combined these celebrations into one holiday. Presidents’ Day is when we recognize the lives and achievements of all America’s Presidents, past and present. Washington and Lincoln still remain the two most recognized leaders of America. It is also a Federal Holiday banks, schools, and the post office are closed in honor of America’s Chief Executives. Presidents’ Day is used by many historical groups that stage celebrations, reenactments, and other events. Some states also require that schools spend the days leading up to Presidents’ Day teaching students about the accomplishments of the presidents, which focus on the lives of Washington and Lincoln. 

Besides Presidents' Day, February is National Cherry Month and February 20th is National Cherry Pie Day. Did you know that in the United States, most cherries are grown in Washington, California, Oregon, Wisconsin and Michigan? The varieties of cherries grown in the states include the sweet Bing, Brooks, and the Sweetheart. Then you have Royal Ann or Queen Ann, which are lightly colored and used for the Maraschino Cherry. The sour cherries are called Evans and Nanking and come from Traverse City, Michigan which is called the “Cherry Capital of the World.” They host a National Cherry Festival and they make the largest Cherry Pie on record. So let‘s celebrate the Presidents and Cherries by eating them fresh off the trees, mixed in a pie, placed in a cold drink, covered in chocolate or in a delicious dessert, anyway you eat them they will be enjoyable and delightful.    

Want to have some fun? Well, here are some facts about cherries, see how many did you know?

Cherry Trivia Facts:

  • Michigan grows 75 percent of the nation’s tart cherries.
  • Cherries are a true ancient delicacy; explorers have found cheery pits from the Stone Age in European caves.
  • Cherries were brought to America by early settlers in the 1600s. Cherry trees, in fact were part of the gardens of French settlers when they established Detroit.
  • It takes about 250 cherries to make a cherry pie, enough cherries grow on the average cherry tree to make 28 pies, industry officials say.
  • Tart cherries ripen two or three weeks after sweet cherries. Look for them in mid to late July.
  • Tart cherries have fewer calories and more beta-carotene than sweet cherries.
  • Tart cherries are loaded with antioxidants that are believed to relieve the pain of arthritis and gout, plus help fight cancer and heart disease. They are also especially high in the antioxidant melatonin, which may help prevent or reduce brain deterioration associated with aging. Plus to top it all off is that they are high in Vitamin A and Beta-Carotene.
My recipe this week is a perfect way to help celebrate Presidents' Day and National Cherry Month. It is called a “Cherry Dump Cake”. I know it may not sound very appealing, but believe me when I tell you, it is amazing. A medley of cake, sweet cherries, pineapple and crunchy nuts are all “dumped” in a pan and you bake it. Henceforth the name “Dump Cake”. This sweet cake is so simple, full of fruit, and the taste is so delicious. You can serve this warm or room temperature, and what would be really yummy is a spoonful of whipped cream, or a scoop of Ice Cream on the side. Oh my goodness, I could just taste it right now!  

"Cherry Dump Cake"

Servings: Makes 12 servings

1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple with juice, do not drain.
1 (21 oz) can Cherry Pie Filling (Comstock or your favorite)
1 box of yellow cake mix or chocolate (your favorite)
1 cup of chopped walnuts
1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 13-X-9 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray. Dump pineapple with juice into pan. Spread evenly. Dump in pie filling and spread that evenly. Sprinkle cake mix evenly over cherry layer. Sprinkle walnuts over the cake mix. Melt butter and pour over cake mix. Bake 50 minutes or until top is lightly browned.

Optional: You can add 1/ 3 cup of flaked coconut in-between the layers. Also try apple or peach pie filling instead of cherry. They all work well. Enjoy!

Till Next Time…………………………..

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

Friday, February 8, 2013

“Pasta Shells With Walnuts & Cream Cheese” To Celebrate My Dad's Birthday & Valentines Day

Welcome readers…Here we are upon a Blizzard on Long Island called Nemo. This storm is supposed to bring much havoc to the Eastern states by a super snow storm this time. Last October (2012) we had Super Storm Sandy which brought devastation to many states along the Eastern seaboard. The year before that was Hurricane Irene, which was horrible as well. So now we are on the fringe of major snow totals. They, meaning the weathermen are saying that this could be the snow storm of the century. As you, my readers know that I love SNOW, but let’s not get crazy here. 

This weekend I have plans, so I hope that we can dig out because Saturday, February 9th is my father's Birthday and we are having a family dinner to celebrate. He will be 86, but you would never know it. He is as active as ever. He and my mom are always out either visiting friends or family. My dad has a lot of compassion, love, and strength. He is sensitive and will do anything he can for you. Commitment has always and still will be very important in his life. If he commits to anything, come hell or high water he will be there which is a great tribute to his character. I always admired his dedication to his family and his faith in God. He can be funny, warm, honest, fair, organized, and shares his wisdom to others. One of his commitments is to St. Thomas More Church where he is a member of the choir and is also the president of “The Young At Heart Senior Club.” My dad has a passion for puzzles, music, sports, reading, food, and most of all spending time with his family.

Besides my dad’s birthday this week there are other celebrations to be acknowledged such as Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras) which is the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Then on Thursday, February 14th is Valentines Day. A day where love, romance, and indulgence is in the air. Your loved ones may receive chocolates, flowers, and cards to express your feeling towards a special person. Some find romance on this day with couples becoming engaged. My dad proposed to my mom on Valentines Day in 1949 and they married in 1951. This year it will be “62” years of blissful marriage for them. My parents told me the story on how they got engaged when we went to dinner the other night. Seems that my dad took my mom to a Chinese restaurant that Valentines Day and he put the ring in the tea cup. Just before he poured the tea, my mom said, “What is in this cup?” And low and behold she saw the ring and that is how it all began. So the moral of the story is always look in the cup before you have some tea! 

Mom & Dad
My recipe this week is to honor my dad with something he loves called, “Pasta Shells with Walnuts and Cream Cheese.” My dad loves cream cheese, nuts, and pasta, so this has all of his favorites. This dish is something you can create for Ash Wednesday as it is meatless. This pasta recipe would also make a delicious creamy romantic dinner for your special Valentine too! The combination of the nuts with the creaminess of the pasta is very pleasing to your palate. So enjoy your Valentines Day, stay safe with the storm, and I will tell my dad Happy Birthday for you.

Pasta Shells With Walnuts And Cream Cheese

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4 people

1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp oregano
1 oz of unsalted butter
4 tbsp of whole milk
4 oz of cream cheese
4 oz of walnuts, chopped very finely
(Keep some extra on side for presentation)
Salt and pepper to taste
10 oz of pasta shells
4 tbsp of cream
Parmesan Cheese, grated

Heat the oil in a pan. Add the crushed garlic and oregano and cook for 1 minute. Add the butter, milk, cream cheese, chopped walnuts, and salt & pepper to taste. Stir and leave to simmer gently for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta shells in plenty of boiling water for 10 minutes, or until shells are tender but firm. Drain in a colander, shaking to remove any trapped water. Put into a warmed serving dish. Remove the sauce from the heat; add the cream and stir. Pour over the shells and toss to coat evenly. Garnish with the walnut halves. Serve immediately with grated Parmesan cheese on top and a big tossed green salad.   Bellissimo!!! (Lovely)

Till next Time……………………..

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

Friday, February 1, 2013

A "Colorful Corn Salad" Recipe To Celebrate The Month Of February

There are many things celebrated in February, among them are Ground Hog Day, the Super Bowl, Valentines day, Presidents Day, Ash Wednesday, and we can’t forget my Dad’s 86th Birthday. But I think we forgot that February is “National Canned Food Month.”

Now, as you know I am an advocate for fresh fruits and vegetables, but there are some things that you need to eat that come from cans. When I was growing up my family used canned foods a lot. At that time (1950-1970) they did not have all of the fresh or organic fruits and veggies that they have today. Frozen foods were not readily available either at that time. Some of these items were what you would have called “off season.” So that is why canned foods were used more often. Foods in a can have a longer shelf life especially with canned soups and vegetables. What was a grilled cheese sandwich without a bowl of hot Campbell’s tomato soup? Or what would an Ambrosia Salad be without your cans of fruit?

We know that canning is a way of processing and preserving food to extend its shelf life. This is done by using a method of sealing foods in an airtight container. A cans typical shelf life ranges from one to five years. In the late 18th century in France, the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was concerned about keeping his armies fed and offered a cash prize to whoever could develop a method of food preservation. After 15 years of experimentation a man by the name of Nicholas Appert came up with the idea of an airtight container so the food would not spoil. He used glass jars sealed with corks held in place with wire. In 1812, Thomas Kensett who immigrated to the United States, opened New York’s first canning facility for meats, oysters, fruits, and vegetables. Louis Pasteur more than 50 years later demonstrated that growth of microorganisms is the cause of food spoilage which explained the effectiveness for canning. At that time the cans were made of tin, now in 2013 today’s cans are made of 100% recyclable steel.

Today any food that is harvested or processed will be found in a can. The consumer has many more options and will often find fresh and frozen food alternatives to canned food, but canned foods still remain an essential part of your modern day pantry.

Some Canned Food Trivia For Fun:

  • Did you know that the “Can Opener” was invented 48 years after cans were introduced?  Most people feel they still haven’t invented one that works all the time.
  • Almost 200 Billion cans of food are produced in the world each year.
  • The Hormel Company of Austin, Minnesota sold the first canned ham in 1926.
  • What a story! A 40-year old can of corn was found in the basement if a home in California. The canning process had kept the corn safe from contaminants and from much nutrient loss. In addition the kernels looked and smelled like recently canned corn.
  • Did you know the most common food found in a can are baked beans, canned sardines, canned tuna, Pineapple, Vienna Sausage, Tomato soup, and last but not least Spam? 

I hope that you enjoyed the fun trivia. My recipe this week is a perfect dish for a Super Bowl party or any kind of celebration. It is my way of celebrating “National Canned Foods Month.” I call it “Colorful Corn Salad,” which is my rendition of a recipe I found in a magazine. (Taste of Home) I made this delicious cold salad one day for lunch for my “Sewing Group.” Everyone raved and wanted my recipe. I served it along side of “Chicken Salsa Wraps” and called it my Tex-Mex luncheon. The combination of all the ingredients mixed together is not only colorful but also is harmonious in your mouth.  I hope you all enjoy and don’t forget to buy some extra canned goods for your local Food Pantry, which will help some people to eat a meal they can’t afford. Thanks......

Colorful Corn Salad”
Courtesy of Taste of Home
3 cans of sweet corn niblets (water drained)
1 can of black olives (pitted) and chopped
3/4 cup of chopped grape tomatoes
1/2 cup of chopped green pepper
1/2 cup of chopped red pepper
1/4 cup of chopped onion or scallions
1/2 cup of ranch salad dressing (your favorite)

In a large salad bowl, combine all vegetable ingredients, and then add the salad dressing. Stir till all coated, cover and refrigerate until serving. Serving is for 8 people or more, depending on how much of the ingredients you use. You can also add another ingredient or take one of them out. Your choice…just enjoy and Mangia Tutti!

Till Next Time………………………………...........

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