Friday, September 27, 2013

“Dottie’s Apple Pie” Recipe As Fall Begins….

Can it be….I feel a chill in the air! The leaves are starting to fall, and the kiddies are back in school. This means only one thing, that Fall has turned the corner. The first day of autumn was last Sunday, the Autumnal Equinox. It is so hard to believe that the summer went by so fast and here we are in the fall season. I think as the years go by, time gets shorter, especially when we are getting older.

When it gets cooler, I love to open the windows and just be able to breathe the crisp air that comes at this time of year. To me this is a magical season. Pumpkins, Apples, Indian corn, and Gourds are all around us. The colors of the leaves, with its gold, red, and green hues that are so brilliant it is like a kaleidoscope of colors. The hustle and bustle of the approaching holidays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and my favorite of all, Christmas. The chill in the air means sweaters, jackets, and rosy cheeks on children’s faces from playing outside in the leaves. As you look inside the windows of the houses, you can see families cooking, fireplaces lit, and you get the feeling of a warm cozy home. Cooking hearty meals, such as stews, soups, baked bread, and apple pies are all aromas that enhance your senses that fall is here. As you take a brisk walk in the nippy air you can see pumpkins, wreaths, and scarecrows decorating the houses on the blocks. To me fall is also a time to be thankful for your family and your friends. So, now that you know what autumn means to me, come along and let us explore the “Apple.”

Apples are one of the few fruits you can find fresh any time of the year, especially September through November. However, to me the apple is the one fruit that I associate with fall more than any other. Apples are America’s favorite fruit. The state of Washington grows the most apples followed by New York, and then Michigan. This is a perfect time of the year to head on out to an apple orchard and pick your own apples for a pie, Applesauce, or even baked apples. But to me the best way is to pick one off of the tree and try it. There is nothing like the crisp, cool, crunch you hear as you take a bite of this juicy, sweet piece of fruit. Today we have numerous varieties of apples to choose from. Some are best to eat while others are best for cooking and baking. You must have heard the old saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” This saying comes from an old English adage, “To eat an apple before going to bed, will make the doctor beg for his bread.” 
My son Paul, when he was young
at Maskers Orchard
I remember when I was about 11 or so, my parents would take the family and drive to Maskers Apple Orchard in upstate New York, for a fun afternoon of apple picking. We would run and find a spot so we could pick the apples from the trees and put them in a big bushel.  My mom would make us lunch, and we were allowed to picnic on the grounds in-between the apple trees. It was wonderful, especially on a crisp day. The orchard had a Country Store that we would visit at the end of the day. As we entered the store the aromas that would encircle our heads were like a bit of heaven. The shelves held home made jams, jellies, honey, and candy apples. They also sold baked goods, like home made breads, cakes, and pies. Driving back home with the car filled with apples and goodies, I always thought that this was one of my favorite memories with my family. When I had my son, many years later, I continued the tradition of going apple picking at Maskers Orchards and now my son will have memories like I did.  

So, in honor of the beginning of Fall, I am sharing with you my “Apple Pie” recipe. This pie is a favorite among my family and friends. After years of making this scrumptious pie, I have perfected its fruity richness,, and I’m sure it will be very pleasing to your taste buds. Enjoy and make memories!

"Dottie’s Apple Pie"

8-10 apples (Macintosh and 2 Granny Smith)
1 cup of granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 1/2 tablespoons of flour
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 recipe of Pillsbury™ Pie Crust (just unroll)
(You can make your own crust, but this is a time saver) 
Secret ingredient is a dash of fresh Nutmeg 

"Dottie's Apple Pie"
Pare and slice apples very, very thin. Sift dry ingredients together and mix with apples. Line pie pan (9 inch glass or aluminum pie tin) with the pastry crust. Fill with apple mixture, dot with butter before putting on top crust. Then put top crust on the pie. Crimp edges, cut three slits in top of pie or use a pie stencil. Brush pie with milk, cream, or egg wash. Then sprinkle the pie top with some granulated sugar before baking. Bake in a very HOT oven 450 ° for the first 15 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 350 ° for the next 45 minutes or longer till golden brown. Put pie on lined cookie pan, (foil or parchment paper) so if any drippings come out from the pie, it will be easier for clean up.      

Till Next Time………..

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

Friday, September 20, 2013

“Gatto di Patate” or “Neapolitan Potato Pie” Recipe For "National Potato Month"

“You like potato, and I like potahto - You like tomato and I like tomato-Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto. Let's call the whole thing off” This fun song “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off” was written by Ira and George Gershwin, and sang by many different artists. No matter how you say it, the “Potato” is a very important root vegetable. It contains, vitamins, minerals, and fiber that is vital for your daily nutritional requirements. This little tuber is rich in Vitamin C and potassium.  Potatoes are one of the vegetables in the nightshade family, which includes eggplant, tomatoes, and bell peppers. 

The potato is the world’s most widely grown, and the fourth largest food crop of fresh produce, after rice, wheat, and corn. The month of September is scheduled as “National Potato Month.” It is thought that the potato was first brought to the United States in the early 18th century by the Irish immigrants who settled in New England. In Europe, the Carmelite Sisters, introduced the potato in Genoa, Italy in the year 1584. They were also known as the “Bread of the Poor.” 

The potatoes appearance is small, lumpy, and clumsy. Its color can be yellowish, purple, red, orange, or white. They are easy to cultivate, maintain, and are highly prized in kitchens around the world. The ways to prepare this valuable tuber are almost unlimited. Potatoes can be served hot or cold, with or without the peel, whole or in pieces, mashed, fried, seasoned or plain. They can be eaten alone, or with other ingredients, they are an empty canvas for your own masterpieces. The potatoes are a favorite food for many people across the world and consider them a comfort food. 

The potato is most accommodating, but did you know that it can be used to brew alcoholic beverages such as Vodka? Potatoes are used as well to feed domestic animals. The starch of the potato is used in the food industry for thickeners and binders of soups and sauces. In India, potato skins along with honey are a folk remedy for burns. Mainly Russet potatoes are commonly used in plant research. I bet you didn’t know that in the textile industry they use the potatoes as adhesives for manufacturing of papers and boards? 

The potato is so versatile that it can be eaten many different ways. Potato gnocchi is particularly popular in Italy. These little pillows of pasta are made with potatoes, and tomato sauce is added on top with grated cheese. Another popular dish is a gratin which is made with mashed potatoes, cheese, and baked so all the cheese is gooey. An Italian version of a gratin is what we call a “Gatto” or a Potato Pie. My recipe this week is my updated version of Mary Ann/Ciao Italia’s “Gatto di Patate” or a Neapolitan Potato Pie. This savory potato pie can be used as a side dish, but also can be eaten as a main dish, due to all the ingredients that are added. It can be made with fresh or leftover mashed potatoes. Bits of cheese and cured meats that you may have on hand can be a delicious addition. There is no right or wrong to this recipe, whatever you like can be an extra treat to your recipe. Hope that you try this recipe and enjoy! Delizioso!!

Gatto di Patate” or “Neapolitan Potato Pie

Serves: 6-8 people

4 large baking potatoes, baked. peeled, and mashed
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup of milk
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 pound of diced ham
1/4 pound of Italian salami, diced
3 tablespoons fresh minced parsley
1/2 pound of mozzarella cheese, cubed
Some breadcrumbs for top of Gatto 

Butter a 4.8 quart or a 15 x 10 x 2 inch baking dish and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 ° F. Mash your potatoes in a large bowl until smooth. Stir in 1/2 stick of butter, 2 eggs, milk, and both grated cheeses. Now stir in the ham, salami, mozzarella, and fresh parsley. Spread the mixture in the buttered baking pan. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the potato mixture. Heat the rest of the butter and drizzle over the breadcrumbs. This will make the top crispy. Bake the Gatto for about 20-30 minutes or until the top is nicely browned. Serve hot so the cheese is gooey, and all the ingredients are blended beautifully. Enjoy!

Till Next Time……………………………

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

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Story From The Past...Plus A "Baked Chicken with Onions and Potatoes" Recipe

Before chickens came packaged in plastic wrap and became available in our chain grocery stores, there were live poultry markets in many cities. I remember a story that my mother told me about this very subject. 

Picture it, about the middle 1930’s my mom would go with her mother……They lived in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn and would go to a live poultry market to pick a chicken for dinner. As my mom walked to the market with her mother, she would see many pushcarts and vendors of street food. When she finally got to the poultry market she would see the two windows on each side of the door. In those windows were live ducks and live rabbits. As she entered the front door to the market there were many size crates with live chickens lined up on shelves. They had about 15 chickens in each crate. My grandmother would then go to the crates and feel a chicken’s breast for fullness. She would then call the owner of the market who wore a white lab type coat. He took the chicken my grandmother had chosen and went to the back of the store. My mother being very young and curious peeked in the back door and watched what happened next. I am not going to get as graphic as my mom did when she told me this story, but let us just say that the chicken was killed, cleaned, and the feathers were taken off.  The man would then place the chicken in a paper bag, and now it was ready to be prepared for dinner that night. There were no freezers at that time, so all the food had to be bought daily. There are still today some cities that have live poultry markets, but I still prefer to go to my local Stop and Shop and get my chicken there. As they say, “we have come a long way baby,” since the 1930’s. 
1943 grandma Julia, my mom,
and grandpa Louis

September is “National Chicken Month,” so come with me and let’s see what all this cackling is about! The domesticated chicken has a genealogy that is very complicated. It stretches back 7,000 to 10,000 years. Europeans arriving in North America found a continent filled with turkeys, and ducks for eating. Some archaeologists believe that chickens were first introduced to the New World by Polynesians who reached the Pacific coast of South America a century or so before the voyages of Columbus. Well into the 20th century, chickens are valued, and they produce eggs, which plays a role in the American diet and economy. 

By the way, has anybody figured out if it is the chicken or the egg, what came first?

Poultry is the term for domesticated birds that are meaty enough to eat. Poultry tends to be lower in saturated fat than other meats, so it's a good choice if you're worried about your health or weight. You can lower the fat still more by removing the skin and by using light meat from the breast. Younger birds are more tender than older ones, so they're best for grilling, roasting, and frying. Older, tougher birds do better if they're cooked in stews or soups. Because of its relatively low cost, chicken is one of the most used meats in the world. Nearly all parts of the bird can be used for food, and the meat can be cooked in many different ways. Popular chicken dishes include roasted chicken, fried chicken, chicken soup, and Buffalo wings just to name a few. 
Chicken cut up: legs, thighs, breasts, & wings

Chicken Equivalents: One pound boneless chicken = 3 cups cubed meat. Chicken is a relatively lean and inexpensive meat, so it's a culinary workhorse. Broiler-fryers = fryers = broilers are between 2 1/2 and 5 pounds, and can be broiled, roasted, or fried. Capons-are castrated male chickens that are large (between 5 and 10 pounds) and tender, and have relatively more white meat. They're great for roasting. Free-range chickens are tastier and more humanely raised, but tougher and more expensive. Cut-up chickens are broiler-fryers that are cut up and packaged with two breast halves, two thighs, two drumsticks, and two wings. 

My recipe this week is called “Baked Chicken With Onions and Potatoes”. This dish is one that my mom taught me, and it is very scrumptious. The flavors of all the ingredients melt in your mouth as you take that first bite. The aromas fill the kitchen with a feeling of contentment and love. Delizioso! 

"Baked Chicken with Onions and Potatoes"

3 1/2 to 4 pounds whole chicken or cut up pieces
2-3 yellow onion, chopped into 1 inch wedges
4-6 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks (white or sweet)
1/4 cup vegetable oil (enough to just coat the chicken)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of oregano

Preheat oven to 350° F. Rinse chicken and pat dry. Arrange chicken, onion and potatoes in a baking dish and drizzle with oil. Season with salt, pepper, and oregano. Add a small amount of water to the bottom of the pan so the chicken doesn’t stick. Bake, stirring the vegetables once, until chicken is cooked through, about 1 1/2 hours. Let rest 10 minutes before serving. Serves 4-5 

Till Next Time…………………………….

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

Friday, September 6, 2013

"Italian Stuffed Mushrooms" On The Menu For September

Join with me and let’s celebrate “National Mushroom Month.” which is observed every September. Since I can remember, growing up in my Italian American family, my mom would always use mushrooms in her recipes. There are many varieties of mushrooms, such as the white button, crimini, portabella, shiitake and oyster to name a few. The button mushroom is the most widely used. My mom would use a number of varieties for different dishes, but she preferred to use the white button mushrooms more than the others. 

To have a better understanding about where mushrooms originated from and some interesting facts, we have to travel back to ancient folklore. Egyptians believed that mushrooms were the plant of immortality. The flavors captivated the Pharaohs so much that mushrooms were decreed food for the royalty. Common people were not allowed to even touch them. According to some people Louis XIV was one of the first growers of mushrooms in France. Mushrooms were grown in caves. France showed England how simple a crop of mushrooms were to cultivate, so England began to produce them as well. The first American to cultivate mushrooms here in the United States was Louis F. Lambert from Minnesota. Many people found that mushrooms were easy to grow and cheap to buy. Pennsylvania is the lead in mushroom production. Speaking of Pennsylvania, if you are a fan of all things mushroom or just want to enjoy a fun (gi) time, go to Kennett Square in PA and join in the Mushroom Capital of the World for the annual Mushroom Festival. 

Edible mushrooms are known as “the meat” of the vegetable world. Most mushrooms are sold in supermarkets which have been grown in mushroom farms and are used in cooking many different cuisines of the world. Here are some tips as to selecting and cleaning mushrooms.

1. Purchase mushrooms that are firm with a fresh, smooth appearance
2. Surfaces should be dry, but not dried out and appear plump
3. Some mushrooms may keep for up to one week in the refrigerator
4. Fresh mushrooms should never be frozen, but frozen sautéed mushrooms will keep for up to one month 
1. Brush off any dirt with your fingers or a damp paper towel, or rinse the mushrooms briefly under running water and pat dry with a paper towel
2. Do not soak mushrooms in water as they easily absorb moisture

Dried mushrooms are often excellent substitutes for fresh. You can reconstitute dried mushrooms by soaking or simmering them. Don’t throw away the soaking liquid, as it can add flavor to your sauce. They're low in calories and sodium, so they add flavor to meals without adding too much of the things you don't want. They contain no fat or cholesterol and are full of Vitamin D.

My Mom
Now that you know all about mushrooms, you can try my mom’s recipe called “Italian Stuffed Mushrooms.” This dish has been in my family for years, and everyone loves it. My mom used to make this flavorful recipe mainly for holidays, until it was requested by family members for her to prepare this dish for a nonholiday as well. You can use this as a side dish or even as an appetizer. As you place a mushroom into your mouth, you have to close your eyes and taste the savory flavor of the spices, and cheese in the breadcrumb stuffing mix. All of these ingredients enhance the richness of the mushroom. Absolutely “yummy” and I’m sure it will be a favorite in your family as well as in mine.

Italian Stuffed Mushrooms” 

48 oz large white button mushrooms
2 cups of plain dried bread crumbs
1/3 cup of Pecorino Romano grated cheese
3 teaspoons of minced garlic fresh or jar
2 tablespoons of fresh chopped Italian parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup of olive or vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 F. Clean mushrooms and take the stem off. Mix the bread crumbs with the parsley, garlic, Pecorino Romano, salt and peeper in a small bowl. Now add some oil (about 2 tablespoons) and mix with hands. If you need more oil put in small amount each time until you are mixing the right consistency. When it feels like a sandy consistency then you are ready to stuff the mushroom caps and place on a large cookie pan/sheet. Now, drizzle a small amount of the remaining oil over the top of each mushroom. (This is so they do not dry out, but do not soak) Bake until mushrooms are browned and tender about 25-30 minutes. 

Till Next Time……
Copyright © 2013 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

***This Wednesday is the 12th Anniversary of 9/11, a day most Americans and the world will never forget. An attack on America took place that day in 2001, and thousands of people lost their lives. The entire country was impacted by this tragic day’s events. I would like to say that my heart and prayers go out to the families that have lost loved ones in the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Plus, my prayers also go to the First Responders, because of their bravery; many have also lost their lives. May our country and the world be safe and God Bless America.***