Friday, June 28, 2013

“Italian Pasta Salad” For Your July 4th Celebration!

Wishing you, my readers a Happy Fourth of July! We're so grateful to live in this country and to celebrate the birth of our Nation. Most of us celebrate with family, picnics, BBQ’s, parades, and showing a great emphasis on the American tradition of Freedom. The most common symbol of Independence Day is the American flag, but other symbols include the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor and Macy’s fireworks display viewed all over the United States. I have to mention “thank you” to the servicemen and women who have been fighting for our freedom and keeping our country safe. These are the people that our founding fathers would have called our heroes!

Independence Day, is the anniversary of the publication of the Declaration of Independence. How it all began was in 1775, people in New England began fighting the British for their independence. On July 2, 1776, the Congress voted for independence from Great Britain. The Declaration of Independence was first published two days later on July 4, 1776. John Adams wrote in a letter to his wife, Abigail how the day should be celebrated. He described “pomp and parade, with shows, games, bells, bonfires, and illuminations” throughout the United States. Interesting trivia: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, both signers of the Declaration of Independence and Presidents of the United States, died on July 4, 1826 - exactly 50 years after the Declaration of Independence.
Fireworks have been used by Americans for July 4th since the nation's very beginning. The earliest documentation of fireworks dates back to 7th century China, where they were invented. The fireworks were used to accompany many festivities. It is a part of the culture of China and had its origin there; eventually it spread to other cultures and societies. The first recorded display in England celebrated the wedding of Henry VII in 1487. 

In 1986 the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty on July 4th lit up the skies over New York Harbor with a dazzling fireworks display destined to surpass any others held in this country, or the world. The "Statue of Liberty Centennial Fireworks Spectacular" was an international display, with fireworks from many different countries including Japan, China, Germany, Italy, England, France, Spain, Canada, Australia, Taiwan, and Brazil. As I recall when I was young, my dad would always buy a few packages of sparklers. When it got dark out, he would light them and watch us as we swirled them around in the sky. This was a lot of fun and it made us feel like we were part of the celebration.

My son, Paul "1986"

Fireworks come in so many different shapes, colors, and sizes such as stars, rotating circles, fish, and even 3D shapes. They are sometimes programmed to music as in Disney World where the fireworks are fired off to music with colors. Fireworks are used in celebrations of theme parks, Olympics, Halloween, Christmas, New Years, and Political events. States such as New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Delaware ban all consumer fireworks completely. Only legal professional authorities can be approved to operate firework displays. Please be responsible and do not use fireworks unless a professional person is on hand. Please be sure to keep your pets inside where it is safe. They do not like the noise and tend to hide.  

My recipe this week is an appetizing cold dish which can be served at your July 4th celebrations. This delicious dish is called “Italian Pasta Salad” and it contains all the freshest of ingredients. It is very simple and everyone loves the combination of the Italian flavors. So have a Happy Fourth of July, be safe, and enjoy the fireworks!

Italian Pasta Salad

1 lb. cooked spiral pasta, rinsed with cold water
1 1/2 tsp. of salt
1/2 tsp. of fresh ground pepper
2 medium red onions, chopped
3/4 cup of Sun Dried Tomatoes, chopped
1 cup of Artichoke hearts, marinated, drained, chopped
2 medium green peppers, diced
12 oz. green olives, chopped
3 oz. black olives, chopped
1/2 lb. of hard salami, diced
1/4 lb. of pepperoni, diced
1/2 lb. Provolone cheese, cubed
1 bottle of your favorite Italian Dressing

Mix well, with about 1 cup of dressing and let set at room temperature for 3 hours before serving.

Notes: you can use the Tri Color Pasta spirals and add whatever vegetables you like. (just chop small) If you choose you can substitute Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil for dressing instead of bottled.

Till Next Time………………………………..

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

Friday, June 21, 2013

"Ice Box Pudding Cake" For The Summer Season

Welcome to the Summer Solstice! Today is the first day of the summer season. This is the day that most people in the USA were waiting for! Summer time! The timing of the solstice depends on when the sun reaches its farthest point north of the equator. We notice that the sun is higher in the sky throughout the day, and its rays strike Earth at a more direct angle, causing the efficient warming we call summer. The summer solstice is the day with the most sunlight during the whole year, which is why they call this day the longest day of the year.

How will you celebrate the summer season this year? Let’s see, I have some ideas…

  • The first thing that comes to mind is the beach. Everyone loves the water and especially in the summer heat. A nice cool swim and relaxing on the sand is a fun way to spend a summer day. Oh, and I forgot to tell you, bring plenty of sunscreen.

  • Planting and gardening are also a great way to spend a day in the summer. But remember to use gardening gloves and a big wide brimmed hat.

  • Another idea maybe a camping trip. Plan a camp-out and enjoy the great outdoors whether in a tent or in a cabin in the woods. But don’t forget the natural insect repellent that may come in handy.

  • One of my favorite ideas is to plan a family cook-out. There is nothing as tasty as grilled food with family and friends on a summer evening. I always use Citronella candles to ward off the bugs, plus it adds to the ambiance of the night.
  • As the temperatures rise and lazy days develop. A great way to relax is with a good book to read. Whether you are at the beach, on your porch, or inside if it is raining, one of the best ways to enjoy a summer day is to read up on some gardening tips, natural health, a romance, or that mystery you wanted to see if you can figure out.

  • Lastly watch the night sky! Go outside after dark and explore the night’s sky from your own backyard. See if you can spot the Big /Little Dipper, the North Star, or maybe a comet. A good pair of binoculars would help you count the stars.

Now would love to hear from you about how you plan to celebrate the summer season? What are your ideas? Going on a trip, a cruise, or just staying at home. Email me or comment below and I will post them all on next week’s blog.

This recipe that I have for you this week is one of my all time favorites. My Mom taught me how to make this recipe. “Ice Box Pudding Cake“, is so simple and easy but it is the best on a hot summers night, just enough to cool you off. This recipe is made using Chocolate and Vanilla pudding (cook and serve). You make this with graham cracker layers and whipped cream to top it with. You can also make this in a larger dish and it can be served as a dessert for BBQ’s and for picnics. It truly is a great comfort food that people of all ages love.

Ice Box Pudding Cake

2 boxes (5.9 oz size) Cook & Serve Chocolate Pudding (NOT INSTANT)
2 boxes (5.9 oz size) Cook & Serve Vanilla Pudding (NOT INSTANT)
8 cups of whole milk
1 box (15 oz size) plain graham crackers
1 16 oz Cool Whip or whipped cream of your choice
1-11 x 7 inch glass baking dish


Prepare the pudding according to the directions on the box for each flavor. Layer the glass-baking dish with graham crackers. (break the crackers, if necessary to fit the pan) Spread a layer of warm pudding on the top of graham crackers (use the chocolate for the first layer) Put another layer of graham crackers on top of chocolate. Then spread a layer of warm vanilla pudding on the top of graham crackers. Now cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours. The last thing to do is crush some graham crackers and sprinkle over the top of last layer (vanilla) after the pudding is set. When you are ready to serve it, cut the icebox cake into small squares. Then scoop the sections into individual serving bowls or plates and top generously with whipped cream.


***Sugar free pudding or 1% milk would be fine to substitute for either of these ingredients. Just be sure to use the cooked sugar free pudding mix.

Till Next Time………………………………..

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

Friday, June 14, 2013

“Sausage, Peppers, With Onions” Happy Father's Day!

This Sunday is Father's Day when we remember and give thanks for our fathers, both living and deceased. Father’s Day is a celebration honoring fathers, paternal relationships, and the impact of fathers in our society. Many countries celebrate this special day on the third Sunday of June, but it is also celebrated widely on other days.  Mostly Roman Catholic households in Italy celebrate Father’s Day on March 19, which is St. Joseph’s Feast Day. This day is celebrated to honor Saint Joseph, the foster father of Jesus Christ, a symbol of love, compassion, kindness, generosity, and acceptance. This is a day when families show their gratitude to their fathers with favors, gifts, and family gatherings.

The question is therefore, what does Father's Day mean to you? Father’s Day in my family is a day to say thank you to my dad for all his hard work and love that he has given to us through the years. As I grew up in Queens, New York in the 60’s and 70’s there was nothing more important to my dad than his family. But, there is something that came to a close second and that is sports of all kinds. His favorite was baseball and bowling which is still today important in his life. I can remember many a days when the radio or TV had a game playing. Every once in a while you would hear a scream coming from the living room and you knew that his favorite team the Mets just got a home run!

1982 Play at St. Kevin's Church
Now I don’t follow any sports but my brothers did and when my son came along my dad began teaching him all about sports. When my dad worked in New York City, he belonged to a bowling team with his brother. Every year he received a trophy which we would add to the many on the shelf. When my son was little my father helped coach the baseball team that my son had joined. One of his loves is singing. When my dad was young he and his brother sang in the chorus of the Metropolitan Opera. (better known as the Met) At our church he used to join all the plays and I have to say did a great job, just like Broadway.
Paul my son and my dad

My dad has a lot of compassion, love, and strength. He is sensitive and will do anything he can for you. 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 with 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.

My recipe I would love to share with you is a wonderful dish called “Sausage, Peppers, with Onions“. This recipe is one of my dad’s favorite meals. This can be eaten as a dinner meal, for lunch, and even to take on picnics as the summer is approaching. This dish is very simple and easy. All the flavors blend together and the onions as they caramelize give the peppers a sweet taste. Wine would be a good beverage to have along side your dish. You can also pair a Red or White wine which will work very well with pork. You should try to aim for lighter reds like Pinot Noir, Beaujolais or Chianti, or softer reds like a Merlot. Chardonnay is a good choice for a "porky" white. So, with that being said, let us toast to my dad, “Happy Father’s Day” or in Italian we say,”Festa del Papa" Love your daughter, Dottie xxxx

Sausage, Peppers, With Onions

2 large green peppers, cored, seeded and cut into 1 inch strips or chunks
2 large yellow peppers, cored, seeded and cut into 1 inch strips or chunks
1 large red pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1 inch strips or chunks
2 large yellow onions, cut into 1 inch wedges
1 /4 cup of olive oil or as needed
2 tablespoons of Oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 to 2 lbs of Italian style pork sausage-with or without fennel seeds
(the amount of sausage depends on how many people that are eating)

Preheat the oven to 375° (or you can grill the sausage and peppers outside on your BBQ grill) Spread the vegetables in a shallow roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and oregano. Make sure vegetables are in a single layer so they will all cook and brown evenly. Now pierce or stick each link of sausage two or three times with a fork, so they will cook through. Place sausage in between the peppers and onions. Bake till sausage and vegetables are cooked and browned. Bake uncovered about 45 minutes depending upon your oven. Your vegetables should be still firm, and no traces of pink should remain in the sausage. Serve hot, with bread or a tossed salad.

Till Next Time…………..

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

Friday, June 7, 2013

"Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie" And A "Strawberry-Coconut Daiquiri Cocktail"

When I visit the farmers market, the first place I look is where the fresh fruits and vegetables are located. I love to see so many beautiful varieties, especially when they are radiant with the sunlight over them for the world to see. As I am picking some berries to come home with me for a luscious pie, I am reminded of summer time. Picnics, BBQ‘s, the beach, or just a lazy warm afternoon at home in the back yard enjoying the summer weather. There is nothing like smelling the aromas of a sweet fruit pie cooling on the kitchen counter. Pies are one of my favorite desserts. I adore all kinds of pies savory or sweet. I think that everyone loves pies especially my family, they enjoy fruit pies the most. One of their favorites that I bake is a Strawberry-Rhubarb pie. It is a perfect time to share this pie recipe with you because June 9th is “National Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Day“. 

Strawberry-Rhubarb pie is a type of tart/sweet pie made with a strawberry and rhubarb filling containing tapioca which helps to make the filling thicker and not soupy. It is mostly prepared with a bottom crust and a top crust but sometimes a bottom with a crumb topping. Rhubarb is a vegetable that originated from Western China, Tibet, Mongolia, and Siberia. The rhubarb plant has deep roots, stemming as far back as “2700” BC in China where it was cultivated for medicinal purposes.  Records show rhubarb was planted in 1608 in Italy and by 1778 it was planted throughout Europe. Ben Franklin is credited with bringing rhubarb seeds to America. The only edible parts of the rhubarb plant are the stalk. The leaves and roots are poisonous as they contain oxalic acid. Rhubarb used in a pie is rinsed, trimmed, and can also be peeled. When looking for rhubarb find only the thin, crisp, bright stalks. The brighter the pink is the sweeter it is. To prepare the plant trim off the ends and rinse well. Peel the rhubarb if desired. Cook in a non-aluminum pan. Rhubarb is usually available for only a few months out of the year.

I would love to share two recipes this week with you; one is a “Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie”. With the tartness of the rhubarb and the sweetness of the ripe strawberry, a pairing made in heaven! This is the time of the year when the strawberries are the sweetest and the most plentiful. So as you are eating a slice of this delicious pie, you need a cocktail to make you feel that this summer, you are on a tropical island getaway relaxing with a refreshing “Strawberry-Coconut Daiquiri”. Enjoy, and as they say in Italian, Mangia!!

"Strawberry Rhubarb Pie" 

1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie
1 teaspoon orange zest
3 cups diced rhubarb
4 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1-1/2 cups white sugar
6 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon white sugar for decoration

Crumb Topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour (optional)
1 cup white sugar (optional)
1 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 cup butter (optional)

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a pie pan with bottom crust. Mix together rhubarb, strawberries, orange zest, 1 1/2 cups sugar, and tapioca. Spoon into crust. Roll out second crust, and place over the filling. Seal the edges. Brush with milk, and sprinkle extra sugar on top. Bake at 400° F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° F, and bake for an additional 45 minutes.

For a crumb topping, omit top pie crust. Combine flour, 1 cup sugar, and salt. Cut in butter or margarine until mixture is crumbly. Spoon over filling, and bake as directed above.


"Strawberry-Coconut Daiquiri Cocktail"

To keep it cool in warmer weather, freeze fresh berries for 30 minutes before blending. Variation: for a non-alcoholic version, omit the Rum and add 1/2 cup additional strawberries.

Yield: 6 servings about 3/4 cup each
Total Time: 10 minutes

2 1/2 cups (about 12 ounces) chopped fresh or frozen (not thawed) strawberries
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
3 cups of ice cubes
3/4 cups coconut-flavored Rum, such as Malibu

Combine strawberries, sugar, and lime juice together in a blender. Blend until smooth. Add ice cubes and Rum, now blend until frothy. Transfer mixture to a pitcher and serve. Add strawberry to top of glass for presentation. Enjoy! 

Please drink responsibly!

Till Next Time………………………………

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