Friday, March 29, 2013

"Rack Of Lamb With Roasted Fennel And Garlic" For Easter Dinner Plus A Fun Drink To Celebrate Called "Peeps On The Beach"

Buona Pasqua! Happy Easter! “May your Easter basket be filled with blessings and joy. I wish you, your family, and your friends a day filled with loving memories.”

It’s finally Spring time on Long Island! You can see the trees starting to bud, the flowers are starting to bloom, the sun is getting a little warmer, and the air has that hint of freshness that only spring can bring. Easter falls in the spring, which is when the earth renews itself after winter. Easter is a day to dress in your Sunday best, go to church, celebrate life, enjoy traditional foods with your family, and of course eat way too much chocolate. But, sometimes we forget that Christians all over the world celebrate Easter as a religious holiday, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the son of God. In Italy, the church bells stop ringing on Holy Thursday and Good Friday to remember the death of Jesus on the cross. Then on Easter Sunday morning, the church bells ring out once again, telling people that Jesus has risen. Italian children wake up on Easter morning and find eggs scattered in their rooms. Eggs, rabbits, and young animals are thought to represent re-birth and fertility in the spring.

Throughout the world the most popular Easter symbol is the lamb. The reference to the lamb in Christianity goes back to the book of Genesis, from the Bible. In past centuries it was considered a lucky omen to meet a lamb, especially at Easter time. In the 7th century the Benedictine monks wrote a prayer for the blessing of lambs. A few hundred years later a roasted lamb became the feature of the Pope’s Easter dinner, and has ever since. Little figures of a lamb made of butter, pastry, cakes, or chocolate have been used for Easter table centerpieces. Many Easter Sundays, I can remember my mom cooking lamb for Easter dinner along with our Italian traditional dishes. 

If you do not want to have the bone in your roast you can ask your butcher to remove it, but remember when you cook the meat on the bone it is much more flavorful. There are numerous ways to cook lamb along with many different spices and ingredients. My recipe this week is called, “Rack of Lamb with Roasted Fennel and Garlic”. Fennel or in Italian we call it “Finocchio” are leaves of delicately flavored and similar to those of dill. The bulb is a crisp vegetable that can be sautéed, stewed, braised, grilled or eaten raw. The greens of the fennel (fronds) can be saved and used to put in soups and stews. Fennel seeds are sometimes confused with those of “anise,” which are similar in taste and appearance, though smaller. The flavor of Fennel if you eat it raw is said to have a licorice taste.

Rack of Lamb with Roasted Fennel and Garlic

Recipe from New York Times- November 1994

2 teaspoons olive oil
5 cloves garlic, 2 cloves minced, 3 cloves thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 rack of lamb, prepared by your butcher
3 medium-sized fennel bulbs, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise,
Then across into 1/4 inch thick slices
1/4 cup chicken broth, low sodium canned or homemade

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Combine 1 teaspoon of olive oil, the minced garlic, fennel seeds, mustard, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper in a large bowl. Rub the mixture over the back of the lamb. Set aside. Place the fennel in a large, shallow roasting pan and toss with the sliced garlic, remaining olive oil, chicken broth, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper to taste. Roast, tossing from time to time, for 35 minutes. Place the lamb over the fennel and roast until the lamb is medium-rare, about 30 minutes longer. (Depending on how you like your lamb) Let stand for 10 minutes. Carve the lamb. Season the fennel with additional salt and pepper if needed. Divide the lamb and the fennel and serve immediately. Yield: 4 people 

I also have a fun adult drink to celebrate Easter which is called, “Peeps On The Beach”. We all know what marshmallow “Peeps” are and they are more popular than ever. A web site called has many different adult drinks that use Peeps as a garnish for their cocktails. Try this one as we are getting into the spirit of summer. 

"Peeps On The Beach"
1 oz vodka
1 oz peach schnapps
2 oz orange juice
2 oz of cranberry juice
1 marshmallow peep

Fill a highball glass with ice (or chardonnay glass). Add vodka and peach schnapps, then fill glass with equal parts of orange juice and cranberry juice. Garnish with a peep. Not only delicious but colorful as well.  Enjoy!

Till Next Time…………………..

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

Friday, March 22, 2013

Traditional, Italian, Calabrian, Easter Cakes Called, "Cuzzupa"

Spring has finally arrived, even though the weather is still cool. But that is not going to stop the coloring of eggs, bunny rabbits, Easter bonnets, parades, and egg hunts as Easter is right around the corner. It’s also time to start thinking about baking Easter cakes and sweet desserts for your Easter dinner. Christians in over 80 nations will be celebrating Palm Sunday this week and Easter Sunday next week. “Happy Easter” is translated in Italian as “Bouna La Pasqua,” and “Happy Palm Sunday” is “Felice Domenica delle Palme.” 

On Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday as it is often called, Christians celebrate the entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, the week before his death and resurrection. The Bible reveals that when Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem, the crowds greeted him by waving palm branches and covering his path with palms. In Italy, this Palm Sunday and Easter, mass will be celebrated by our newly elected, Pope Francis I. He is the 266th pope and spiritual leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.

Also want to wish all of my Jewish friends out there a “Happy Passover” as well. Passover begins at sundown on Monday evening March 25th and concludes April 2nd. Passover is a beautiful and meaningful holiday. It allows the Jewish community to relive its past, celebrate the present, and hope for its future by lovely rituals and by being together with family and friends which is bound by tradition.


I have a recipe that I would love to share with you. It is a very traditional Italian Easter cake called "Cuzzupa". This recipe was my great-grandmother; Sofia’s and originated from Calabria in Italy. It is baked with Anise seeds (licorice flavor) and made into a braided wreath or nest and colored sprinkles are added to top off the cakes. The consistency is a cake type of dough not bread and the anise flavor adds a very distinct taste to them. We had a large kitchen and we would prepare for baking day with a large wooden board that we used to roll out our dough and create our special cakes and cookies for special holidays through out the year. This antique pastry board was passed down through the years which now I have inherited to create my own delectable sweet treats. As I roll out my dough, I think back to a simpler time. The smells in the kitchen would always give me that warm and toasty feeling. It was a feeling of love, family and food. Food was and still is a big part of my family.


6 cups of flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
Anise Seeds (between 1/3 and 1/2 oz of crushed and cleaned anise)
4 tablespoons Crisco (room temperature)
1 cup of sugar
6 eggs (save 1 egg white to brush on cakes before baking)
3/4 cup of milk
Confetti candy sprinkles

Color hard boiled eggs (amount is up to you) a few days ahead of time. Preheat oven to 350° -375° depending on your oven. Grease flat cookie sheets or pans.
Crush Anise seeds and put into dish (before, use a cotton handkerchief to gather anise and twist hanky under it. Then rub hard on the ball of Anise. After rubbing it rolled up in between both hands (make fists.) Open carefully and sort out Anise from brown husks and sometimes small stones.)
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Then mix in Anise. Mix in Crisco with sugar and after make a well shape. (Remember, this is the traditional Old Italian way, but you can also use a bowl to mix all ingredients.) Put in eggs (save/1 egg white) and milk.
Gradually take flour from sides of the well and mix with eggs and milk. Don’t break the wall as all liquid will run out. When all mixed you knead dough till all mixed good and a smooth texture. Might have to put a little flour on board or counter, so it will not stick. Not too much flour or the cakes will be too dry. Then cut a chunk and leave the rest on the side of board or counter.
Roll out dough in a long and thin strip. Make the strip the thickness of a wooden spoon handle, not any thinner as the dough will break. If you twist 2 strips together to make a braid make each a little thinner than your finger. They will swell as they bake. Put your colored eggs in the braid, nest or dolls, whatever you decide to create. Be careful as you put them on a baking sheet so they don’t break or crack. Roll small pieces of dough and then flatten out with the palm of your hand to cover around the side of the egg on dolls or nests. This helps keep the eggs more secure. If you make dolls, put a slit on feet and hands.
Now beat saved egg white and with a pastry brush, brush egg white on all parts of your cakes. (Careful not to get egg white on cookie sheet as it will burn and also try to keep egg white off of colored eggs as they will be spotty after they bake.)  After the egg whites are on brushed on the cakes dip a finger in egg white mixture and then dot with candy confetti sprinkles on the dolls, crosses or what ever you made.
Then bake in oven for about 20-25 minutes depending on your oven. They should be lightly browned. Let them sit about 10 minutes to cool off before taking them off the cookie sheet/pans, they may crack or break so be careful removing them from the pans. You can store in an air tight cookie tin for about a week, if they don’t get eaten before that.

Till Next Time…………….

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

Friday, March 15, 2013

"Irish Soda Bread" For St. Patrick's Day And The Feast Of St. Joseph

“May the Irish hills caress you. May her lakes and rivers bless you. May the luck of the Irish enfold you. May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.” This is a blessing for St. Patrick’s Day which is celebrated on March 17th. This is a day that everyone is Irish, a day to be merry and commemorate the love of St. Patrick for his followers, Irish or not. This is also a day when stories of Leprechauns and spirits are told.

In Irish mythology, a Leprechaun is a type of male faerie said to inhabit the country of Ireland. According to folklore, these “faerie folk” were to have inhabited Ireland before the arrival of the Celts. Leprechauns usually take the form of old men who enjoy partaking in mischief. In most tales and stories Leprechauns are depicted as generally harmless creatures that enjoy solitude and live in remote locations. They are said to have been cobblers or shoemakers. They are supposed to be very rich, having many treasure crocks filled with gold buried in secret locations. Another popular belief is that you may find a Leprechaun and his pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Some say that they have mythical power and magical control over the workings of Earth, and even have the power of trickery that confuses their target allowing the Leprechaun to play tricks on his victims. In 1831 Samuel Lover describes the Leprechaun wearing a red coat that was laced with gold, a cocked hat, pointed shoes, a beard like an elf, silver buckles on his shoes, and spectacles stuck on his pointed nose. The modern image of the Leprechaun is depicted by having red hair; with a beard, wearing an emerald green frock coat, and often with a crock of gold.  He has knowledge of the many locations were more treasure is buried.

Did you know that the color associated with St. Patrick was originally blue not green? Green was the color that was most widely associated with Ireland and the Irish people.  St. Patrick‘s color now in modern times is green, also due to the phrase, “the wearing of the green". St. Patrick used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant to explain the Holy Trinity to the pre-Christian Irish. The shamrock is now the symbol of Ireland. Shamrocks are considered to bring good luck. The change from blue to green began about the 1750s.

“St. Joseph, protect me and my family as you did with the Holy Family. Kindly keep us ever united in the love of Christ, ever strong in the virtue of the Blessed Mother, and always faithful in devotion to you. Amen” This is a blessing to St. Joseph which the Italian people celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph on March 19th. As like St. Patrick often it is expressed through the “wearing of the green,” “wearing of the red” is what the Italian people do for St. Joseph. The spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus’ step father, St. Joseph has solemnity and rank in the Roman Catholic Church. St. Joseph was a carpenter by trade and is the patron Saint of not only carpenters but also, married people, family life, and workers. In Italy, especially Sicily, St. Joseph is also regarded as their patron saint. In some Catholic countries, mainly Spain, Portugal, and Italy, St. Joseph’s Day is regarded as Father’s Day. Giving food to the needy is a St. Joseph’s custom. In Italy a typical St. Joseph’s Day alter would have flowers, limes, candles, wine, fava beans, cookies, specially prepared cakes, breads, and Zeppole. (A Neopolitan pastry)  This is done as a thank you to St. Joseph for surviving a famine that the Italian people went thorough. Foods that are traditionally served containing bread crumbs to represent saw dust since St. Joseph was a carpenter. The alter usually has three tiers to represent the Holy Trinity.

St. Joseph’s Day is also the day when the swallows are traditionally believed to return to Mission San Juan Capistrano after having flown south for the winter.

My recipe this week is “Simple Irish Soda Bread”. This sweet, delicious bread is traditional for St. Patrick’s Day. It can be served warm with some butter or room temperature with a cup of tea or a mug of cold beer. Enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day and the Feast of St. Joseph. Hope that you find the luck of the Irish and the peace of St. Joseph!

Simple Irish Soda Bread

1 cup of all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of salt
4 - 1/2 teaspoon cold butter
1 egg
1/3 cup Buttermilk
3 tablespoons of raisins or currants

In a small bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in butter until crumbly. Combine egg and buttermilk; stir into crumb mixture just until moistened. Fold in raisins. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; gently knead 6-8 times. Shape into a 5-inch round loaf. Place on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Using a sharp knife cut a 1-inch cross about 1/4 inch deep on top of loaf. Bake at 375°F for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Yield: 1 loaf 

Till Next Time……………….

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

Friday, March 8, 2013

Think Spring! "Baked Spaghetti With Cauliflower And Anchovies" For My Mom's Birthday

Daylight Saving Time starts at 2am this Sunday March 10th. This means you will “spring ahead” and move your clocks forward one hour, which unfortunately because of the time change you lose an hour of sleep. Everyone now has to adjust to their own spring schedule. Speaking of spring, March 20th is the first day of spring officially and the warmer temperatures will be headed our way. Right now we are in the throes of a snow storm again here on Long Island. It has been snowing throughout the evening and it is still coming down this afternoon. Everyone is hoping that this is the “last hurrah” for the Winter Season. Spring is on its way, I could hear the robins singing the other day and some flowers are pushing up from the ground. Easter is upon us which means New Life and everything is waking up from winter’s slumber. So don’t forget to change your clocks ahead before you go to bed on Saturday night or you‘ll miss spring and stay in winter.

This Sunday, March 10th is a special day in my family. It is my Mother’s Birthday! Mothers are angels sent from God. They are like snowflakes; each one is different and unique in their own way. Not until I had my son did I realize the sacrifices mother’s make. My Mom is the heart of our home. She is the one that gets everyone together for Birthdays and Holidays. She loves to cook meals for the family. She exhumes Love, Joy, Faith, and has the patience of a Saint. Everyone in the family can attest to her strength, her honesty, and her warmth. My Mom embodies what a Mother should be and shares her wisdom with everyone she meets. Her hobbies include reading, gardening, cooking and spending time with my Dad, her family and friends. I have so many memories of my childhood with my Mom, but these thoughts are a special way to wish my Mom a Happy Birthday !!!
My mom Madeline

My mom was a teacher by profession and as they say chief, cook and bottle washer. She did it all. Took care of three children, ran a home, worked, and there was always a hot meal on the table at night for dinner. On Sundays, church was always the top priority as the whole family would go to Mass together. Sunday was not only for church but for family. We always had grandparents, friends, and relatives to share in our Sunday dinner. The table had to be set just so, with the proper placement of forks, spoons, and knives. A typical Sunday meal was centered on pasta (macaroni or mac’s for short we would call it) and meatballs as a first dish and then came the entrée with all the trimmings. After every one was almost busting out of their clothes came the coffee, demitasse, (Italian black coffee) tea, fruit, nuts, figs, and the desserts. We of course do not eat like that anymore, thank goodness or we will have to be rolled out of the house. Things were different then. Both my parents are my heroes. They not only share their love of family and food but also their faith. No matter what life brings, they taught me to be strong and know that family and God is always there with love and support. So, I dedicate this blog post to not only my mom but my dad as well. Abraham Lincoln said, “All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother.”  

Here is a recipe that my Mom really enjoys. She loves pasta of any kind. If she was on an island and could bring only one kind of food with her it would be pasta. So this one is for you Mom…Hope that you enjoy your Birthday……
Love your daughter Dottie xx :)

Baked Spaghetti With Cauliflower And Anchovies

1 large cauliflower--Washed and cut in florets
3 medium onions (sliced)
3 cans of Anchovies
Salt and black pepper
1 lb of spaghetti
Vegetable oil to sauté
Pecorino Romano grated cheese

Boil water and cook your spaghetti. Drain and leave on the side. After washing and cutting cauliflower put in large pot with water and par-boil until tender. I large pot put a tin layer of oil on bottom. Put in onions and sauté, then add anchovies and mix with the onions.

When cauliflower is cooked and drained (save some water) put in with onions and anchovies. Add some liquid from cauliflower cooking water, (not too much) not quite covering the cauliflower. Stir together carefully. In baking pan spoon some cauliflower mixture into pan. Place 1/2 of pasta on top of cauliflower. Sprinkle grated cheese on top. Then arrange another layer of cauliflower mixture and then spaghetti, grated cheese on top again. Bake for about 25-30 minutes at 350° F. Should be lightly browned and crispy. You can serve with a big tossed salad and according to your taste add extra grated cheese on top.  Abbondanza!!

Till Next Time……………………….

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

Friday, March 1, 2013

"Tomato Cheese Biscuits" for "National Flour Month"

Another month has passed us by, today is March 1st and it is the beginning of another busy month. With St. Patrick’s Day, first day of Spring, Daylight Savings Time begins, Passover, Easter Sunday, and my mother’s birthday, I will have just enough time to bake my mom a special treat using flour. Oh, I forgot to mention that March is also known as “National Flour Month”. Come, join me as we take a look at many different types of flour and how can we use it?  

Flour is an essential ingredient in baking and cooking. In European and American culture it is a defining ingredient that is used for making breads, pies, cakes, cookies, pastries, pancakes, and can be also used as a batter for frying foods. When brought together with the help of a few basic ingredients flour can be transformed into a delightful treat. Flour is a fine powder made by grinding grains that is high in starch. It is commonly made from wheat but also can be made from corn, rye, barley, and rice. Ground legumes and nuts such as soy, peanuts, almonds, and other tree nuts are also called flours. Grinding stones from Italy, Russian and the Czech Republic have been found embedded with starch grains, suggesting that many years ago people processed roots from cattails and ferns into flour.

In today’s world we have different types of flour that comes in many varieties of flavors, textures, and colors. Some of them I know you have used but some you haven’t and may want to try experimenting with. All purpose flour or plain flour is the most widely used. Bleached or non-bleached, that is the question? Bleached flour is when they put bleaching agents to whiten the flour which also gives it more gluten-producing potential. In my opinion, I use only non-bleached, but it is your preference. 
Bromated flour is another type that also has bleaching agents added to its finely milled flour. Bromated flour has been banned in much of the world, but remains available in the United States. Then there is cake flour, Graham flour, Pastry, Cookie, or Cracker flour, and Self-Rising or Self-raising flour, and Wheat flour. Some other types include; Corn, Rye, Tapioca, Brown Rice, Noodle, Buckwheat, Chestnut, and Chickpea flour. Did you know that Pillsbury began its annual “Bake Off” in 1950 to promote its “Flour” line?

Besides using flour for baking my family uses it as an egg and bread technique for frying fish, chicken, pork, and vegetables. Flour is added to the breadcrumb mixture as that will help the egg and breadcrumbs stick to the food. It also helps the fish, etc. not stick to the frying pan, and makes your foods crispy. 

My recipe this week is a perfect way to celebrate “National Flour Month” with “Tomato Cheese Biscuits”. A savory, cheesy biscuit--delicious--served with a flavored spiced butter. This biscuit is delightful as an accompaniment to a warm bowl of soup.  Enjoy! 

Tomato Cheese Biscuits

Ingredients: For Biscuits
2 cups of all purpose unbleached flour
1 tbsp. of baking powder
2 tbsp. of cold unsalted butter
1 cup of grated medium cheddar cheese (white or yellow)
1 cup of Buttermilk
1/4 cup of Delallo sun-dried tomato paste (6.5 oz jar)
1 Egg yolk, fork beaten

Ingredients: For Spiced Butter
1/2 cup of unsalted, softened, butter
2 tbsp. Chopped fresh chives
1 tsp. of Chili powder

Directions: For Biscuits
Combine flour and baking powder in large bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add Cheddar cheese, buttermilk, and paste. Stir until soft dough forms. Press (do not roll out) mixture onto lightly floured surface to 3/4 inch thickness. Cut 2 1/4 inch rounds from dough with biscuit cutters. Arrange, just touching, in greased 9 x 9 inch pan. Brush tops with egg yolk. Bake in 450°F oven for about 15 minutes until tops and bottoms are golden. Let stand in pan for 5 minutes before removing to wire to cool.

Directions: Spiced Butter
Combine butter, chives and chili powder in small bowl. Makes 1/2 cup of spiced butter. Serve with biscuits. Yields: 10 biscuits.


Till Next Time………………….

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