Friday, October 31, 2014

“Frittata di pasta” Recipe & A “Black Widow” Cocktail For Halloween!

Happy Halloween everyone! The cooler temperatures are finally upon us. The leaves are falling and the colors are spectacular. (Or I should say “spook-tacular“) There is so much to see and do at this time of the year; such as apple picking, attending costume parties, visiting haunted houses, watching horror films, trick-or-treating, carving jack-o‘-lanterns and many more fun activities, too numerous to mention.
What is Halloween anyway? The history of Halloween is known variously as Summer’s End, All Hollow’s Eve, Witches Night, and Snap-Apple night. Halloween is among the world’s oldest holidays. Rooted in ancient pagan and Christian festivals that celebrated the link between seasonal and life cycles. Halloween has transcended its cultural roots and is currently celebrated in various forms all over the modern world. Halloween as it exists today delights both children and adults. A day full of magic and mystery, Halloween has not only survived, but it has thrived during cultural, religious, and economic changes throughout its long history.

My son, Paul with Mouse costume I made
The basics of Halloween, such as wearing costumes, trick-or-treating, lighting bonfires, telling ghost stories, and attending community parties can be traced back 2,000 years ago to an ancient Celtic festival, called “summer’s end.” The Celts (which included people from northern France, Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales) believed that on October 31st the Lord of Death, would call together all the souls that had died the previous year to travel to afterlife during a vigil. Ancestral ghosts and demons emerged and were free to roam the earth, harm crops, and cause trouble. The living would often disguise themselves in ghoulish costumes so the spirits of the dead would think they were one of their own and pass by without incident.

In Italy, the popularity of Halloween has grown immensely over the years. While Halloween falls on October 31, All Saint’s Eve is becoming a popular day for costume parties and events. On All Saint’s Day (November 1st) Catholics attend church services in honor of the saints and the martyrs who have died for the Catholic faith. On All Souls Day, (which is the following day November 2nd) Catholics attend mass and they remember those family members that have died. Candles are lit and prayers are said to honor their memory.  

Halloween in Italy is primarily celebrated as the festival of adults, rather than the children. Trick or Treating, which is the customary celebration for children on Halloween, is not followed in Italy. It is the adults that put on masks during the celebration. However, recently more Halloween costume parties are being organized for children. In many Italian cities “All Saints Eve” are used to visit medieval towers, crypts, dungeons, or castles. Some of these cities hold children’s walks during the afternoon as well. Italy has several chilling displays of mummies and bones in catacombs, churches and crypts. These mummies have been naturally preserved and the displays can be a macabre sight, not recommended for the very young. Most every household in Italy, make plans to prepare a special cookie called the “Ossa dei Morti,” or “Bones of the Dead,” which is in the shape of a bone. These cookies are hard and brittle to resemble bones. This ritual stands for their belief that the living and the departed souls of the near and dear ones, come together to participate in the Feast.

Back in the states, did you know that since 1995, trick or treating in the town of Sandusky, Ohio, has been against the law for anyone older than 14? Did you know that it is very rare for a full moon to occur at the same time as Halloween? It has only occurred in-1925, 1944, 1955, and 1974. The next time it is said to occur is October 31, 2020. 

Fun Facts About . . . “Halloween”

The first Jack O’ Lanterns were actually made from turnips. 50% of kids prefer to receive chocolate candy for Halloween. The owl is a popular Halloween image. In Medieval Europe, owls were thought to be witches, and to hear an owl's call meant someone was about to die. Black and orange are typically associated with Halloween. Orange is a symbol of strength and black is typically a symbol of death and darkness and acts as a reminder that Halloween once was a festival that marked the boundaries between life and death. Black Cats are also known as “familiars" or "animal guides" and were supernatural entities believed to assist witches in their practice of magic. Harry Houdini (1874-1926) was one of the most famous and mysterious magicians who ever lived. Strangely enough, he died in 1926 on Halloween night as a result of appendicitis brought on by three stomach punches. Both Salem, Massachusetts, and Anoka, Minnesota, are the self-proclaimed Halloween capitals of the world. The Village Halloween parade in New York City is the largest Halloween parade in the United States. The parade includes 50,000 participants and draws over 2 million spectators. Scottish girls believed that according to ancient superstitions, if you stare into a mirror at midnight on “All-Hallows Eve” or “Halloween” you’ll see your future spouse.

Today’s recipes are my tribute to Halloween and to all Italian food lovers. The first one is a favorite of mine and a great way to appreciate leftover pasta if you have it on hand. My mom would make this and I loved it, especially the spaghetti, it gets crunchy and for this spooky night it looks like worms! Enjoy!!!

Frittata di pasta

4 eggs
1/2 cup milk
a sprig of fresh parsley
1 cup of grated Pecorino Romano
4 cups of spaghetti cooked al dente
4 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste 

Cook the pasta in plenty of lightly salted boiling water. (or if you have left over spaghetti, that will work) Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a bowl with the salt, pepper, chopped parsley and grated cheese, then add to the eggs, mix well together and add the milk. Drain the pasta and transfer it into a pan in which you have poured the oil. Sauté the pasta on high heat and when it is crisp and lightly browned, add the egg mixture. Distribute it well and cook the omelet pasta over low heat with the lid. Turn it and do the same on the other side. Serve immediately and enjoy!


The second recipe is a little more “spooky” for this hair-raising night! Dare to try this creepy, crawly, concoction. Let your family or guests pick their poison with a “Black Widow”cocktail. You can turn up the “Fright Factor” by placing some plastic spiders around your drinks.

“Black Widow”

Ingredients: makes 2 glasses
1 ounce of Anisette
1 ounce of Blackberry Brandy
1 1/2 ounces of Vodka
1 splash of Crème De Cassis-(sweet, dark red liqueur made from blackcurrants)

Mix all of the above together. Add black sugar sprinkles around the rim of the glass. Add a few black licorice strips slung over the sides of each glass to create “Spider Legs“ to really creep out your guests. Have a safe Halloween, remember drink responsibly.

*** Don’t forget to change your clocks back this weekend. We all gain an extra hour of sleep!  


Till Next Time…….

Copyright  ©  2014 “Family Plus Food Equals Love”  All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

“Harvest Pear Crisp” & A “Hot Pear Cocktail” To Warm You On A Cold Day

Welcome to “Wordless Tuesday!” Today I have a mouthwatering recipe and a warm drink to take the chill out on a cold fall day.…….. Enjoy! 

A good pear-crisp is simple to make, and hard to beat. Cinnamon-ginger spiced pears bake under a crunchy streusel
topping in this easy pear crisp. Assemble the dessert ahead of time, and put it in the oven when guests arrive. You can also bake it earlier in the day and serve it at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.


                                                        "Harvest Pear Crisp

6 cups Anjou or Bartlett pears, peeled, cored, & cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick slices (about 3 lbs)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/3 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup regular oats (not instant)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, or what ever nuts your family likes

Preheat oven to 375° F  Combine pears and lemon juice in a 2-quart baking dish; toss gently to coat. Combine granulated sugar, cornstarch, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon; stir with a whisk. Add cornstarch mixture to pear mixture; toss well to coat. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Place flour, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, brown sugar, and salt in a food processor; pulse 2 times or until combined. Add chilled butter; pulse 6 times or until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add oats and walnuts; pulse 2 times. Sprinkle flour mixture evenly over pear mixture. Bake at 375°F for 40 minutes or until pears are tender and topping is golden brown. Cool 20 minutes on a wire rack: serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 8 servings


Hot Pear Cocktail

Pear cider, brandy, cinnamon, lemon and honey combine to create this warm and quintessentially English cold-weather cocktail.

3 1/2 cups of pear cider
2/3 cup of brandy
1 apple-sliced
about 8-10 cloves
1 vanilla bean
1 large piece of lemon zest
1 cinnamon stick
2 Tablespoons of pure honey

Cut half a crisp apple into slices, and stud each slice with a couple of cloves. Place the slices in a large pan, add 3 1/2 cups of pear cider, 1 vanilla bean, 1 large piece of pared lemon zest, 2/3 cup of brandy, 1 cinnamon stick, 2 tablespoons of honey and bring to a boil. Simmer gently for 10 mins, strain & then serve. 

Till Next Time………………………………...................

Copyright © 2014 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 24, 2014

“Mushroom Pasta Carbonara” As We Celebrate "World Pasta Day"

Benvenuti! Welcome everyone, to my table, and let’s eat pasta, pasta, and more pasta! Why, you ask? Because October 25th is “World Pasta Day.” The objective of World Pasta Day, now in its 19th year, is to draw the attention of the media and the consumers to pasta. The fact is that pasta is a global food, which is consumed in all five continents. Another purpose of World Pasta Day is to encourage the nutritional and culinary advantages of pasta. The World Pasta Congress held a meeting in Rome, Italy, on October 25, 1995. Delegations from various countries discussed together the theme of pasta consumption, exchanging their ideas and experiences. After two years, in 1997, World Pasta Day was created, to recall and enhance the first event that took place with the international pasta community.  

The International Pasta Organization (IPO) invites families, chefs and restaurants around the world to gather friends and loved ones and cook up their favorite pasta dish for health, taste, and convenience. Pasta is enriched with vitamin-B which is necessary for cell formation, mental alertness, and energy conservation, plus it is very helpful in boosting the immune system. When pasta is combined with vegetables, legumes, cheeses, olive oils, meats, and fish, it is an added health advantage plus it tastes fabulous. 

To celebrate World Pasta Day, it is suggested that you try a new pasta. There are 600 shapes and flavors produced worldwide, including many whole grain options, as well as gluten free. But, watch your portions. Americans tend to overload their plates. A healthy portion of pasta is one to two cups cooked (1 cup of cooked pasta is about 200 calories). When eaten in the proper portions and in combination with healthy foods, pasta does not cause weight gain. Another way to enjoy pasta is to go meatless, try a hearty vegetable and bean soup or pasta with seasonal vegetables like cauliflower, or even pumpkin for a perfect fall meal. World Pasta Day is a great incentive to prepare a healthy pasta meal by getting creative in your kitchen. So, celebrate pasta and gather with family and friends to take advantage of a delicious meal. 

As you prepare pasta for your World Pasta Day, I would love to share a few tips with you:  
1. Use lots of water when cooking pasta. Do not add oil. Stir occasionally to keep the pasta from sticking together.
2. Pasta is ready when it’s “al dente.” It should be cooked completely through, yet firm enough to offer some resistance to your bite.
3. Many pasta shapes come in different sizes. The Italian suffix “ini” means smaller
(Example: spaghettini is a thin version of spaghetti), while “oni” means larger.

Being an Italian-American, pasta is a big part of our family gatherings. I remember on Sundays we would have the whole family over and “macaroni” as we called it, was on the menu for the day. We would wonder what type of pasta my mom would cook for that particular Sunday dinner. My personal favorites are Shells and Angel Hair, or Capellini. The shells always held the sauce in the little pocket and were fun to eat. The angel hair, is much thinner than spaghetti, it also cooks very fast. 

My choice of pasta today is called Mostaccioli. Pronunciation: muss-tah-chee-OH-lee  Notes: In Italian they mean "little mustaches." They are smooth tubes of Italian pasta cut on the diagonal. You can substitute Penne or Ziti, but my suggestion is to try a new kind of pasta. My recipe this week is “Mushroom Pasta Carbonara.” There are many theories for the origin of the name. The name is derived from carbonaro (the Italian word for charcoal burner), some believe the dish was first made as a hearty meal for Italian charcoal workers. In parts of the United States the etymology gave rise to the term "coal miner's spaghetti." It has even been suggested that it was created as a tribute to the Carbonari ("charcoalmen"), a secret society prominent in the early, repressed stages of Italian unification. It seems more likely that it is an urban dish from Rome. I absolutely love this creamy and cheesy recipe. I serve it with a big green salad and a glass of delicious white wine to make a complete meal. 

Here are some wine choices:
Pinot Grigio - its a crisp, clean, immensely food-friendly white.
Gavi di Gavi - another very popular Italian white for those who like a fuller, slightly smoother white.
Soave - same reasoning, smooth, dry, brilliantly food-friendly.
Picpoul de Pinet - a crisp white from the Languedoc coast that would work really well too.
Chablis - also works well with creamy sauces, and with ham.
Teroldego - a light Italian red that would rub along well if you wanted a red.

                                             “Mushroom Pasta Carbonara

Servings: 4
Prep/Total Time: 30 minutes

2-1/2 cups uncooked Mostaccioli
8 bacon strips, diced
1 jar (4-1/2 oz) whole mushrooms, drained
3/4 cup half-and-half cream
1/3 cup unsalted butter, cubed
1 tsp dried parsley flakes
1 tsp minced garlic
6 to 8 drops hot pepper sauce (optional)
Salt & pepper to taste
1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup sliced green onions

Cook Mostaccioli according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove to paper towels to drain. Brown mushrooms in drippings; remove to paper towels. Drain drippings from pan. Add the cream, butter, parsley, garlic, pepper sauce and salt if desired to the skillet; cook and stir over medium heat until butter is melted. Drain Mostaccioli; add to cream mixture. Stir in the bacon, mushrooms, and cheese; heat through. Remove from the heat. Sprinkle with green onions. Buon Gusto!! (Enjoy)

Till Next Time…….

Copyright © 2014 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” 

All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

“Crunchy Autumn Chicken Salad” & A Glass Of Wine For "Wordless Tuesday"

Welcome to “Wordless Tuesday!” Today I have a mouthwatering recipe which I know you will love, perfect for the season, also some info on how to pair chicken with wine.…….. Enjoy!

Salad is a refreshing, vitamin-rich option used all year round, but the cooler months give us an excuse to top our lettuce with seasonal produce like apples and oranges, as well as ingredients like cheese, nuts, and meat. This satisfying recipe brings out the fruit, chicken, and vegetable fan in all of us. This dish is both tender and crunchy, which is very fulfilling.

                                          "Crunchy Autumn Chicken Salad

Recipe Serves: 4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 20-30 minutes

(Photo Courtesy of Knorr)

1 package Knorr French Onion recipe mix
1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 lb)
1/3 cup Mayonnaise
2 medium zucchini, sliced
8 cups mixed salad greens
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 large Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Raspberry & Walnut Vinaigrette

Preheat oven to 425°F  Combine Knorr French Onion recipe mix with bread crumbs in a shallow bowl and set aside. Coat chicken with Mayonnaise, then with bread crumb mixture. Arrange chicken on a baking sheet, and then arrange zucchini around chicken. Bake, turning zucchini once, until chicken is cooked, about 20-30 minutes. Cool chicken slightly, and then slice. Arrange salad greens on serving platter. Top with chicken and zucchini, then remaining ingredients. Drizzle with a Raspberry & Walnut Vinaigrette. It has the flavors of nuts, fruits, and a perfect choice for this dish. 

"Don’t be chicken to pair wine with your chicken." Chicken lends itself to many different types of sauces and spices, which means that many different types of wines pair well depending on the sauce or spice. Generally speaking, chicken pairs better with white wine because whites don’t overpower the taste of the chicken. But keep the sauce in mind, and be ready to break the rules. If you are making say Chicken Parmesan with a bold tomato sauce, the sauce won’t match with the delicate flavors of a white. You need a hearty red, like a Merlot. Fruity reds go great with spicy sauces and barbecue chicken. If you are making a delicate chicken dish or a chicken Kiev, a nice white would pair nicely. 

Here are a few pairings:

Chardonnay, due to its buttery flavor works best with creamy chicken dishes.
Sauvignon Blanc works well with dishes using green spices like rosemary and thyme or citrus dishes.
Pinot Noir would be great with chicken dishes that are salty.
Riesling and Gewurztraminer, because if there sweetness, work well with spicy chicken dishes.
Merlot is a wine to drink with heavy tomato sauce recipes.

When it comes to pairing wine and chicken it's a bit of a blank slate. Chicken can be paired with any number of wines. Which ones work best really depend upon how the chicken is being prepared. See, there’s no reason to be chicken about wine pairing with chicken. Cin,-Cin!, Cheers, or Salute!

Till Next Time………………………………...................

Copyright © 2014 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 17, 2014

“Pumpkin Butter Thumbprint Cookies” For October's "National Cookie Month"

Years ago when I was a young girl, my grandmother lived with us. She had an apartment on the first floor and we lived upstairs. This was my mom’s mother Julia. I used to go down to visit her every day. She taught me many things and we always had fun. She had a cookie jar on top of her refrigerator that I absolutely loved. The funny thing about this cookie jar is that she never put cookies in it. She used to use it to keep her coupons and some change in the jar. I didn’t care, I just loved it. Many years later when my grandmother passed away, I asked my mom to please hold the cookie jar for me, which was all I wanted to remember her by. Well, can you guess the rest? My mom had a garage sale and accidentally sold it. I was totally crushed. This cookie jar was nothing special, at the time it was more of a remembrance of my grandmother. Many years later I realized that the cookie jar was a pottery called "Shawnee" which was made in Ohio. This one was called “Dutch Girl” Cookie Jar (1945?). Every yard and garage sale I went to I would look for this type of jar, but to no avail I never found it, until one day…….
Grandma Julia

Salamanca is a small town located in the Southern Tier of NY state. I lived there when I re-married. One day my husband, Rick said, “Let’s take a ride, there is this big antique shop, and we can look around.” We were not interested in purchasing anything, but just liked to get ideas. The ride was lovely as the leaves were changing colors on the trees, and the mountain side looked like a kaleidoscope. This antique place was huge and had 7 levels to it. It looked like it was an old barn that they converted into this store. As I entered it was tremendous and so many things to look at. You could really spend a day there. I saw many vintage things that I had remembered seeing in my mom and grandmother’s house. I never even thought about the cookie jar. As we were climbing the stairs we ended up on the 6th level and I said to Rick, “I am tired, you go up to the top and I will wait here.” He went up to the top and seemed to be up there for a while. Now rested a bit I climbed up the last flight of steps and turned to the right…wait for it…

"Dutch Girl" Shawnee Pottery
YES, the cookie jar was staring right at me!!! I couldn’t believe it, it was like a miracle! I started calling out, “Rick, look it is the cookie jar.” Now I know that there are many out there of the same "Dutch Girl" by Shawnee, but this one I really believe was my grandmother’s. It had a little tiny chip in the back and she used to put a rubber band on the top of the jar just to keep it from rattling. This one had the chip and it even had the rubber band around the top. Well, you can imagine how amazed I was and so happy that I finally had that cookie jar to remember my grandmother, Julia. A cookie jar brings a smile to everyone's face, whether young or old. Many are taken back to their mom or grandma's kitchen with the smell of cinnamon wafting in the air and the selection of that one "perfect" cookie taken carefully from her cookie jar. It's those childhood memories that we kept in our hearts. 

This story about my cookie jar brings me to the topic of this post which happens to be, that October is “National Cookie Month.” I know you must be saying Cookie Month that should be in December for the holidays? Let me tell you that no matter what month cookies are celebrated in, everyone loves them, with milk, a cup of tea, or just as a special treat. Nothing says family and home than the aroma of cookies baking in the oven when you went home after school. Before doing your homework, reaching in that cookie jar and taking out some homemade cookies with a tall glass of milk, was really a comfort. There are so many varieties of cookies, either gooey, chewy, or crunchy. Coated with sugar, or cinnamon, filled with nuts, raisins or chocolate chips, no one can resist a cookie…   
Here is a little info on “National Cookie Month.” In the United States and Canada, a cookie is a small, flat baked dessert. In most English-speaking countries outside North America, the most common word for this is biscuit; in many regions both terms are used, while in others the two words have different meanings a cookie is a plain bun in Scotland, while in the United States a biscuit is a kind of quick bread not unlike a scone. Its name derives from the Dutch word koekje or (informal)  koekie which means little cake, and arrived in the English language through the Dutch in North America. It spread from American English to British English where biscuit is still the more general term. Don’t forget the first week in December is Cookie Cutter Week and December 4th is National Cookie Day. (resource: Wikipedia)

This recipe is a spectacular cookie called “Pumpkin Butter Thumbprint Cookies.” If you don’t want to use pecans, you can use any type of nuts you like, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds or even a combination. The flavor makes you think of the time of the season, yummy! Don’t forget to put the rest of the cookies in your cookie jar. (If you have any left!) Enjoy!

Pumpkin Butter Thumbprint Cookies”

1 Cup &  2 Tbsp whole pecans
1 Cup of all purpose flour
1 stick of unsalted butter
3 Tbsp sugar
1/4 Tsp salt
1 Tsp of good vanilla extract
Powdered sugar
Pumpkin butter (Can be found at Trader Joe's or homemade))
Or your favorite jam--Apricot is a good one to use

Preheat the oven to 350°F  In a food processor process the nuts until they resemble coarse cornmeal. Do not over-process otherwise you'll end up with pecan butter. Then add the sugar, salt, and flour to the nuts and pulse a few more times until there are no distinguishable pieces of nuts. Cream the butter with a hand or stand mixer then add the extract and mix. Add the processed pecans and flour and mix until the dough comes together. Scoop about 1 1/2 teaspoons balls of dough. I use a 1-tablespoon cookie dough scooper and break up the dough in half for 1 1/2 teaspoons. Roll the dough into a ball and press an indentation in the center of the cookie with your finger or the back of your measuring spoons. Space the cookies about 2 inches apart. Bake for 15 - 18 minutes, they will be lightly colored but not too brown. Wait until the cookies are completely cool then dust them lightly with powdered sugar. Then fill the centers with pumpkin butter or jam. You may need to warm the pumpkin butter or jam so you can fill the cookies. The filling will set as it cools.

Till Next Time……………………………….....

Copyright © 2014 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

“Stuffed Italian Artichokes” & “Fried Artichoke Hearts” To Celebrate The Italian Heritage

Beneventi! Welcome, Family and friends, it’s “Wordless Tuesday” today…But today I may have a few more words to say, so I hope you don’t mind that I share….I hope that everyone had a wonderful and restful long “Columbus Day” weekend. Today I want to share two fabulous dishes...I have been on an artichoke kick lately so I thought why not share my recipes.

The first one is called “Stuffed Italian Artichokes.” I know, you must be saying, I don’t like them, you are wrong! Till you have tried my mom’s recipe made with spices, cheese, and bread crumbs all tucked together inside the leaves of this wonderful little green vegetable. Then baked with a crispy top, you really haven’t tasted anything like this before! Now, that’s Italian! So in honor of my Italian-American Heritage and Columbus Day (yesterday) celebrate, and eat something Italian. “Buon Appetito!” 

Stuffed Italian Artichokes” (Carcioffola in Italian)

6 medium artichokes
1 1/4 cups of bread crumbs (plain)
1/2 cup of grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
1/2 cup of fresh chopped parsley
2 teaspoons of minced garlic (jar or fresh)
3/4 teaspoon of salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup of olive oil or vegetable oil

Cut off stem and 1/4 off the top of artichoke. Then remove some of the outer leaves at the bottom. Use scissors to clip off top of side leaves. (That removes the sticky point on each leaf) Then wash in deep bowl. Fill large pot with water and boil. Place the artichokes in pot carefully and lower heat to medium for about 7 minutes. Fork test bottom of artichoke for tenderness. If fork goes in and out easily, they are done. Next drain and run cold water on artichokes let them sit and cool off. While they are cooling down, mix the bread crumbs, parsley, minced garlic, grated cheese and a sprinkle of salt with pepper. Mix in a little oil with hands. When it feels like a sandy consistency then you are ready to fill. Gently spread the leaves a little apart and sprinkle some of the bread crumb mixture between each of the leaves. Place the now stuffed artichokes in a glass Pyrex baking dish. (7x11x1.5) Drizzle a small amount of oil on top of each artichoke. Put a small amount of water in bottom of pan about 1/4 inch deep. Bake for about 25-30 minutes at 350° F The top should be a little browned and crispy, when they are ready to eat.   


My second recipe is one that my family just loves, “Fried Artichoke Hearts.” We make these mostly at the holiday time, but I can’t wait till then…They are so tasty, crispy, and a great side dish to your meal. You can even use these as an appetizer. But how ever you make them, they will go so fast right before your eyes…

“Fried Artichoke Hearts”

2 Packages of frozen artichoke hearts (thawed)
1 1/2 cups of plain or seasoned breadcrumbs
3 Tablespoons of all purpose flour (mixed in with breadcrumbs)
2 eggs, beaten (use more if needed)
Vegetable oil for frying 

Rinse & paper towel dry the artichokes. In a shallow dish, combine the seasoned or plain breadcrumbs mixed with some flour and mix well to combine. Set aside. In another shallow dish, beat the eggs and set aside. Place a rack in a sheet pan and set aside. Start preheating the oven to 200°F  Dip a few artichoke hearts in the eggs and allow some of the egg to drip off. Coat in the breadcrumb mixture. Place the breaded artichoke hearts on a sheet pan. Repeat this process with the remaining artichoke hearts. Now fry them in 1/2 inch of oil. When the oil is hot, fry until golden brown, which should only take a few minutes or so. Transfer to the sheet pan and place the pan in the oven to keep warm while you fry the remaining artichoke hearts.


Ciao a tutti, I know that my readers have heard of my close personal friend Micheal Castaldo. I have written about Micheal before on my blog posts. He is an Award-winning song writer/producer, recording artist, composer, Italian Cultural Ambassador, and entrepreneur. Casa Belvedere & Majestic Castle Music Productions Presents Micheal Castaldo’s 2nd annual “Italian Christmas Concert - From Bethlehem to Belvedere” When: Sunday, November 30th at 2:00pm Where: Notre Dame Academy in Staten Island, New York (Fundraiser for Casa Belvedere) Please take a moment and read through the official flyer. Don’t delay to purchase tickets to this awesome event! Tickets go fast! A BIG thanks to all of his fans from Micheal, Ciao!!

Italian Christmas Concert - From Bethlehem to Belvedere
at Notre Dame Academy Auditorium (Fundraiser for Casa Belvedere)

Featuring: Micheal Castaldo, Rebecca Newman, NDA Children's Choir and the Richmond County Orchestra Strings. Micheal will be singing Authentic Classic Italian Christmas Carols From his #1 CD "Extravergine"

Date: Sunday November 30th
Time: 2:00PM
Doors Open at: 1:30PM
Duration: 90 minutes
Address: 78-134 Howard Ave, Staten Island, NY 10301
Admission: $25 Admission, VIP Reception: $75
Tickets: Brown Paper Tickets

Toll Free Box Office: 1-800-838-3006
Secure Parking On Site

Till Next Time…….

Copyright © 2014 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Yummy “Pumpkin Gingerbread” To Celebrate "I Love Yarn Day!"

Julia Roberts does it, so does Vanna White, Sarah Jessica Parker, Julianna Margulies and many others. Are you wondering what it is that they do? They all knit or crochet, which is one of their favorite hobbies, but these crafts aren’t just for celebrities or your grandmothers. Some 20-30 year olds are turning on to crocheting and knitting, joining the 38 million consumers who enjoy doing these crafts. Did you know that knitting and crocheting can improve your mood, mind, and body? Well it can so let’s celebrate as today happens to be, “I Love Yarn Day!” This day is always the second Friday in October, The idea behind this day to share your enthusiasm for yarn with those around you.

Many of my followers know that I cook and bake, which is what my blog is all about. But something many of you don’t know is that I also knit and crochet. It is my creative outlet, my passion, (besides food) my stress reliever, and my comfort. My favorite patterns to crochet are doilies, but I will crochet anything. I love all kinds of yarn and colors. 

As the weather gets deeper into the fall, and the days get colder, there is nothing like snuggling on the sofa, a chair, or your bed with one of your crochet protects. There is a special feeling when you finish a pattern for a throw (small blanket) or a scarf that you can wear and know that you made this yourself. When I am not writing my blog, or my novel, or even cooking/baking, a way to keep my hands busy and unwind is to know that my crochet and knitting needles are not far away. I get so much satisfaction when my projects are completed. Most of my house is filled with my throws, Afghans, doilies, and fun objects that are used for practical purposes which I have made in the past. 

Before I go any further I have to tell you about how I began to crochet and knit. My love for crocheting became apparent when I was taught by my grandmother (Nanni) at a young age. She never used a pattern to crochet but she would look at an item and create the exact same thing. That is how she taught me; I never learned how to read a pattern book till much later in my life. My Nanni was a Milliner/ Interior Designer by profession. A milliner is one that makes, trims, designs or sells women’s hats. Some of her many talents included crocheting, playing the piano by ear, designing clothes for herself, and being very creative. She owned her own business and called it “Roberta Originals.” I have many memories of going to her store in Astoria, Queens and helping her for the day. She would take me on the bus and we would go into New York City in the garment district so she could get her supplies for her hats. It was always an experience to be with her as she would teach me about many ways to be creative. My Nanni, you could say was very flamboyant in her ways. She always dressed to the nines. Her hats were so beautiful and always different. All I had to do is have a hat on, (at that time they used hats when I was a young girl) she would take a chiffon scarf out of her closet and drape it on the hat, add an ornament of some kind and a new hat would be born for me to wear. 

Nanni (grandmother)
Now let me get back to yarn and knitting/crocheting. I hadn’t picked up a crochet needle for many years. When I lived upstate NY, I was reading the local paper that they were having classes at the school. So I went one night to the class and that is when my life changed and took a different direction. I met a woman there who was going to be in my life, her name is Mary Ann. We became friends and kept going to the class, even though she was extremely experienced and knew how to knit and crochet (she taught herself) like a professional. We began having our own crochet circle with some other ladies at each others houses and she taught me how to read a pattern from a book. 
A whole new world opened up to me because I was able to create so many patterns from clothing to beautiful doilies. It’s not important whether she is miles apart from you, as a true friend will always have you in her heart forever. That is my Mary Ann! She is the person that told me about Ravelry, which is a free social networking website. It functions as an organizational tool for a variety of fiber arts including knitting, crocheting, spinning, and weaving. Members share projects, ideas, and their collection of yarn, fiber, and tools. You can see my projects that I have made if you click on this link Ravelry. 
I am listed as angellite13 on Ravelry.
Since then, I have knitted hats for the soldiers, so their heads will not get cold under the helmets. I have entered two of my projects into the county fair upstate and won, 1st prize, (Blue Ribbon) for crocheting Baby Booties using the thin thread yarn, and 2nd prize, (Red Ribbon) for a crocheted afghan called “Kittens in a Row,” plus many afghans for friends and family. I also share my talents for charity by making Afghans; making toys and fun items for the holidays is also fun to create.. 
When I moved back to Long Island, I was invited by another friend, Carolyn to join her group of woman who crochet and knit also. I was thrilled as I met a wonderful group of ladies and we also took turns at each others houses every Wednesday for what we call “Sewing.” As far as the yarn goes, my love for yarn has been a love for many years. I have bins filled with my stash of yarn, all types and colors. From thin doily yarns to thick yarns. A favorite of mine is Red Heart, as it is easy to work with. I also love the new fun yarns especially the yarn that is used for those new curly scarves called, “Red Heart Sashay.” So I continue to crochet and knit in-between my food blogs. I do hope that I have inspired some of you that have crocheted and knitted before to pick up your yarn and needles again, and those that have not, try to find a class at your local school or library. You will not be sorry you did. 

Now you can’t crochet or knit without a cup of tea and a sweet dessert. My recipe for today is called, “Pumpkin Gingerbread.” When you are making your projects you don’t want to have a gooey or messy dessert, so a bread, a plain cake, or even cookies will do. This recipe is not only outstanding for this time of the year, but the aroma in your house is amazing. It really gets you in the fall mood. Enjoy!                                

                                                    “Pumpkin Gingerbread

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Ready: 45 minutes to 1 hour

Servings: 24 (makes (2) 9x5 inch loaf pans)

A delicious bread that will fill your kitchen with spicy scents.

3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2/3 cup water
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease two 9x5 inch loaf pans. In a large mixing, combine sugar, oil and eggs; beat until smooth. Add water and beat until well blended. Stir in pumpkin, ginger, allspice cinnamon, and clove. In medium bowl, combine flour, soda, salt, and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture and blend just until all ingredients are mixed. Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake in preheated oven until toothpick comes out clean, about 1 hour.

Till Next Time………………………………............................

Copyright  © 2014 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved