Friday, July 31, 2015

“Egg & Spinach Salad with Lemon/Pepper Dressing” & “Raspberry and Peach Crisp” & “Grand Marnier Raspberry Peach Mojito” All For “National Culinary Arts” Month

The month of July is over and today is the last day. Wow, July just flew by, but we have one more event to talk about. July is “National Culinary Arts” Month. “National Culinary Arts” promotes awareness of professional cooks, chefs and their contributions to the culinary world of excellence. Culinary artists are responsible for skillfully preparing meals that are as pleasing to the palate as to the eye. The world of Culinary Arts not only consists of creating delicious dishes, but also the use of kitchen utensils, tools, and equipment that must be associated with preparation of the recipes.  

My “Foodie” experiences started when I was a young girl……I would always watch my mom prepare and cook dinner. My job was always to set the table, quite boring. As I got older I would help my mom prepare the food by prepping
 vegetables or fixing the salad, but that would not due either. I desperately wanted to be taught how to create such mouth watering dishes. So, then I became more curious about cooking and wanted to learn more. That is when my mom started to teach me about how to cook certain recipes. My mother and grandmothers' taught me the basic instructions of cooking and baking. They said that baking was a science and you had to follow the recipe as written. When you cook you can be more creative by adding a little of this or that. Buying the correct tools and equipment are extremely important to create wonderful and tasty recipes.

I received my first cookbook from my mom in 1974. It was the same cookbook that we used at home when I was a young girl. She wrote in it and it said, “Enjoy! Be happy in your kitchen as I am in mine, Love Mom.” For those of you wondering what cookbook it was, “Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook” revised edition 1971. Her copy was from 1948 which was the first printing of the cookbook.  As the years went by and I became a wife and mother I learned how to improve my skills by still watching my mom, plus cooking shows, and reading recipes in cookbooks. This month is the perfect time to try your hand at cooking! Here are some helpful tips for beginning your own Chef’s kitchen and the tools that you need.

Buy basic equipment invest in a good set of sharp knives, my friend Rossella Rago from “Cooking With Nonna” has a fabulous set of knives that I have personally have purchased and use all the time. They are extremely sharp and are a good price. If you are interested click on this link,Cooking With Nonna Knives” and you will not be disappointed. Then there are sturdy pots, pans, and a set of glass baking dishes that will have to add to your kitchen equipment. You will also need measuring cups and a set of measuring spoons. A food processor and an electric mixer will come in handy as you learn the ins and outs of food preparation. You will also need some wooden spoons, a wire whisk, a few spatulas, a vegetable peeler, a pastry brush, a grater, a cutting board, and a strainer just to name a few. The inventory of tools and equipment are countless, but as you learn to advance in your cooking techniques you can always add to your collection. 

Familiarize yourself with cooking terms such as poaching, braising, roasting, grilling, and par boiling. Again these are just some examples that you will need to learn. You can use cookbooks for research and also an online cooking dictionary. “You Tube” is also a good way to learn the correct terms to use for your preparation of special dishes, especially if there are tutorials. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of cooking classes being given in your neighborhood such as in schools or libraries. Look at cookbooks and read them; sometimes they supply you with “Cooking 101” information that would be extremely helpful for you.

But most of all make your cooking and baking experience fun! If you make a mistake, just try again. Every inspiring cook or baker needs assistance, so ask help from your family, friends, and even your children. Chopping, cutting, and dicing are how they learn. So put on your apron and get out your knife and start chopping to create your next flavorful meal as the master chef of your own kitchen.

One of my recipes this week starts out with a very easy and light dish especially on these dog days of summer. “Egg & Spinach Salad with Lemon/Pepper Dressing” But it is not just for summer, you can enjoy this salad with its light lemony flavor all year round.  Then we have a “Raspberry and Peach Crisp” It can be served for breakfast, brunch and for a decadent dessert. I obtained this recipe from, “The Taste of Home” which you can find online. You can substitute any small fruit if you are not fond of peaches and raspberries. This is a perfect Summer time treat and you can create this in 35 minutes. I also have added a recipe for a refreshing cool drink which is a “Grand Marnier Raspberry Peach Mojito.” This will be a lovely cocktail that you can add to your meal. I hope that you enjoy your new recipes and I’m sure that your taste buds will be dancing as you taste each dish.

Egg & Spinach Salad with Lemon/Pepper Dressing”

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Serves: Makes 10 (1-cup) servings

1/2 cup of Olive Oil
2 tablespoons of Vinegar
1 tablespoon of sugar
2 teaspoons of Lemon pepper seasonings
1 cup of sliced mushrooms
2-3 slices crumbed cooked bacon
2-3 chopped hard-cooked eggs
1small red onion sliced thin
2 packages (5-6 oz each) of Spinach leaves
1cup of croutons (optional)

Mix olive oil, vinegar, sugar, and lemon/pepper seasoning in small bowl with wire whisk until well blended. Toss spinach, mushrooms, crumbled cooked bacon, chopped hard cooked eggs, red onions sliced, and croutons in large bowl. Serve with dressing.

Raspberry and Peach Crisp

Prep time: 25 minutes
Bake time: 35 minutes
Serves: 6 people

5 medium ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
1 cup of fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon of cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/3 cup thawed apple juice concentrate

1/3 cup of all purpose flour
1/3 cup of quick cooking oats
1/3 cup of packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon,
1/4 cup of cold butter
Vanilla ice cream (optional)

Combine peaches and raspberries in a greased 2 qt baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch, cinnamon, ginger and apple juice concentrate until smooth, drizzle over fruit. In a bowl, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar and cinnamon. Cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over fruit. Bake, uncovered at 375 ° for 30-35 minutes or until topping is golden brown and filling is bubbly. You can serve this warm and top with vanilla ice cream or serve cold. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator, but I guarantee there may not be any leftovers with this exquisite summer treat!! 

Grand Marnier Raspberry Peach combines European raspberries and red peaches from Ardèche in the South of France, which are blended with Grand Marnier’s signature orange essence and premium-quality cognacs sourced from the Cognac region and aged in French oak barrels.

Grand Marnier Raspberry Peach Mojito

2oz Grand Marnier Raspberry Peach
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
3/4 oz simple syrup (1:1 water to sugar)
Handful of mint leaves
5 fresh raspberries
Club soda

Muddle mint and raspberries in shaker. Add ingredients except for the club soda and shake. Pour into a Collins glass and top with club soda. Garnish with a sprig of mint. Makes: 1 cocktail

(Please Drink Responsibly!)

Till next time……..

Copyright © 2015 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

“Mama’s Lasagna” Recipe, For "National Lasagna Day" Plus Exciting News From Michéal Castaldo

Beneventi a tutti…Welcome everyone…. I know that this is not my usual day to post, but I have had technical problems with my computer and did not post anything last Friday. Thanks to my computer man, George…I am back posting more stories and more delicious recipes. So with that being said, I have to wish everyone, a “Happy National Lasagna Day!” Yes, an entire day dedicated to “Lasagna,” who knew! 

National Lasagna Day” is celebrated in the United States every July 29th. Originally from the Emilia Romagna region which is the center of northern Italy and includes a tradition of fresh rich foods. Each region in Italy has their own way of creating Lasagna. In the southern regions the sauce is likely to be a simple Tomato or Ragu, where in other areas like the northern part of  Italy a Béchamel sauce (white and creamy) is used. In Italy and the United States the fillings may vary as well. You can create a vegetarian filling such as spinach or eggplant, onions and garlic, tasty tuna or seafood, sausages and a wide selection of sharp cheeses. Lasagna has become a familiar dish in many other places of the world, from Europe to America. Who doesn’t love Italian food?  Through the years Italian mothers and grandmothers have prepared and created many fabulous recipes for their families.

The origins of Lasagna dates back to the 1st century B.C. where a common meal consisting of fine sheets of fried dough were called “lagana.” In the 2nd century a Greek scholar provided a recipe for lagana that was made with sheets of wheat flour and the juice of crushed lettuce, then flavored with spices and deep fried in oil. An early 5th century cookbook describes a dish of lagana that consisted of layers of dough with meat stuffing which sounds like our modern day Lasagna. When Italians immigrated to the United States they brought with them many cooking recipes and traditions. Lasagna is made with either rippled or flat noodles. Rippled noodles are common in southern Italy but rarely used in northern Italy. Rippled noodles are most popular in the United States.

Lasagna is made by towering layers of lasagna noodles packed with a creamy filling and made with a homemade meat sauce. The combination of spices, ricotta, mozzarella, and Pecorino Romano grated cheeses, are what I would call the most perfect Italian dish. It consists of your whole meal in one Lasagna pan. From your preparation, to taking it out of the oven and seeing it bubble with cheese on the top, plus the aroma floating around your kitchen is simply heavenly. Throughout the years, Lasagna still and always will be a favorite among my family and guests around my kitchen table.
My recommendation for pairing wine with Lasagna is Red Zinfandel. The color of a Zinfandel wine is deep red, bordering on black. Zinfandel is a spicy, peppery wine, with a hint of fruity flavors that include berries or dark cherries. The rule of wines is that you want to drink from light to dark. Therefore, Champagne tends to go very well with appetizers. White wine is usually a match for salads and lighter dishes, while red wine works perfectly with steaks and heavier meat sauces. Port wine is often the perfect end to a meal, especially with a chocolate dessert.

To celebrate "National Lasagna Day," I want to share my mother’s recipe with all of you. Enjoy your Lasagna or in Italian (Godetevi il vostro lasagna) and make it a tradition at your family table. 

                                                      “Mama’s Lasagna

1 lb Lasagna noodles (your choice)
16 oz Ricotta cheese
1 lb of Mozzarella cheese (sliced or cubed)
3 /4 cup Grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 Egg
Salt and Black pepper to taste
Favorite Tomato Sauce w/meat or without (click on link and it will bring you to my Grandmother's sauce recipe.)

Boil water with a little salt and a little drizzled oil in a large pot. (The oil helps the Lasagna noodles not to stick) Add your Lasagna noodles to the water and let it cook for about 7 minutes. Drain the water and rinse the noodles with cold water so they do not stick, while you are preparing the filling. You want the noodles to be a little firm as you will be cooking them again in the oven. Mix together in a large bowl, ricotta cheese, egg, mozzarella, salt and pepper.

Preheat your oven to 375° F degrees. Take a 9x13 inch baking dish and spoon some tomato sauce on bottom of baking dish so the lasagna will not stick. Now layer your ingredients starting with the noodles. Next, assemble a layer of the ricotta cheese mixture over your noodles. Now, spread some tomato sauce over the cheese. Duplicate this process with all the layers and finish off with some mozzarella and a small amount of grated cheese on top. Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour until the top is slightly browned and the cheese is bubbling. Let the Lasagna rest for 15 minutes so it is easier to serve. Garlic bread and a wonderful Italian green salad is a delightful addition to this dish. Mangia!

You can also add cooked chopped meat to the tomato sauce or even sliced or ground sausage without the casing. You can also use the no boil Lasagna noodles.


                 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Exciting News from Michéal Castaldo!

My readers and followers know my personal friend, Michéal Castaldo. He is an Award-winning songwriter, producer, recording artist, and entrepreneur. He is announcing the Fifth Anniversary release of his very popular album called “Aceto.” What makes this very special is the fact that it is a high-resolution digital release. With the growing popularity of online streaming sites, high-resolution audio for music is able to deliver sound that is exceptionally better than standard CDs and MP3s. Every sound created in the recording studio will be clearly delivered to the listening audience in celebration of this beautifully inspirational album. It will be available on iTunes, Pono, Tidal, Amazon Music, and Spotify on August 18, 2015.

“Aceto,” honors Michéal’s late father Pasquale. The “Aceto” album includes 22 classic and original Italian songs whose themes evoke feelings of grace, healing, and remembrance. Michéal has said, “The “Aceto” recordings offer elegant harmonic structures and flowing melodic lines, I chose them because they helped me heal and hope that they will put listeners in an introspective mood.”

Some of the songs on the “Aceto” album are ones that have been heard before, but most were never performed in Italian before Michéal sang them. Unlike his peers who simply translate songs, Michéal Castaldo takes a different approach to his music. For “Aceto,” he carefully chose 22 classic songs that have withstood the test of time across many cultures and put his own creative spin on them to produce old songs with a fresh, new sound. The high resolution audio simply takes Michéal’s music to another level of listening pleasure. Please support Michéal and his music by visiting iTunes, Pono, Tidal, Amazon Music, and Spotify on August 18, 2015. Michéal Castaldo sends you his sincere thanks. For more information about Michéal Castaldo, his music, or his concert tour, please visit

Till Next Time…..

Copyright © 2015 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Friday, July 17, 2015

“California Chicken Salad with Craisins®” & A Cocktail Called “Wrapped In Rubies”

July is, on average, the warmest month in most of the Northern hemisphere, where it is the second month of summer. It is the seventh month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian Calendars and one of seven months with the length of 31 days. It was named by the Roman Senate in honor of the Roman general, Julius Caesar it being the month of his birth. Prior to that, it was called Quintilis.

The color for July is "RED" so it's not uncommon for red theme parties to take place in the month of July. Red party foods could be apples, red Jell-O, tomato dishes (tomato sauce), tomato soup, lasagna, strawberries, cherries, pomegranates, blood red oranges, ruby red grapefruit, watermelon, pizza topped with red bell peppers, red velvet cake, red beans, chili, beet salad & we can't leave out salsa! 

The "Ruby" is the birthstone for the month of July.  A birthstone is a precious material that symbolizes the month of birth (in the Gregorian Calendar). There have been many different sets of birthstones used throughout history and in different cultures. In 1912, efforts to standardize them started. The birthstone seems to originate from Biblical times. Rubies are considered the king of gems and represent love, health, and wisdom. It was believed wearing a fine red Ruby bestowed good fortune on its owner. The blood-red stone is said to symbolize strength, vitality, confidence, leadership, and courage. The red ruby is also associated with passion and love. A Ruby is one of the most valuable gemstones and its value increases based on its color and quality. The July Birthstone, the Ruby is considered one of the four precious stones, along with Emerald, Diamond and Sapphire. 

The Ruby is believed to have many healing properties. The stone is associated with the Sun, and was believed by the ancients to preserve physical and mental health of an individual. In the Middle Ages, the stone was thought to have prophetic powers, darkening when danger was imminent. Ivan the Terrible, a Russian tyrant, believed that the ruby was good for the heart, brain, and memory. Sources reveal a thirteenth century prescription to cure liver problems with powered rubies. Rubies were believed to purge the body of toxins, restore youth, and vitality when rubbed on the skin. Physically, rubies are believed to energize and bring balance to the body, stimulate the heart Chakra and spur a passion for life. Emotionally, the stone is believed to motivate the wearer to achieve goals, acquire leadership skills, and accrue wealth.

Birthstones are also assigned to the days of the week according to the recipient's birth. They are as follows: Monday: Pearl, Tuesday: Garnet, Wednesday: Cat's Eye, Thursday: Emerald, Friday: Topaz, Saturday: Sapphire, Sunday: Ruby.

July’s flowers are called Larkspur, or the Water Lily. Water Lilies are plants that live in freshwater areas in temperate and tropical climates around the world. There are about 70 species of water lilies around the world. With its simple form, feelings of open heart and devoted attachment are attributed to these flowers.

I have two recipes for this week, one is called “California Chicken Salad with Craisins®” A light and easy chicken salad made with the ruby red cranberries. A perfect sandwich for a hot and lazy afternoon lunch or evening meal. The second one is a cocktail that will make your mouth water with a refreshing drink called “Wrapped In Rubies” using flavored vodka. Delicious and red for the month of July…

“California Chicken Salad with Craisins®

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 4 sandwiches


3 cups shredded cooked chicken
1/2 cup Ocean Spray® Craisins® Original Dried Cranberries
1/4 cup chopped red, yellow, or orange bell peppers
1/4 cup sliced green onions
2 tablespoons sliced black olives
1/2 cup Ranch dressing (regular or light)

8 slices whole grain bread
4 large Romaine lettuce leaves
1 large avocado, peeled, cut into thin slices

In a large bowl, stir together all chicken salad ingredients; set aside. To assemble sandwiches: Place 1 large lettuce leaf on top of 1 slice bread. Top with about 1/ 4 of the avocado slices. Place about 1 cup salad on sandwich; top with 1 piece of bread. Secure sandwich with wooden picks. Refrigerate leftovers.

(Recipe taken from:


“Wrapped In Rubies”

Smirnoff® Ruby Red Grapefruit Vodka is intensely citrus and fresh – rich ruby red grapefruit flavor with a slight hint of sweetness.

(Serves: 4)
6 oz. Smirnoff® Ruby Red Grapefruit Vodka
6 oz. ruby red cranberry juice

Build in a glass over ice. Garnish with a half-wheel of orange or grapefruit.

(Please Drink Responsibly!)

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

Copyright © 2015 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved 

Friday, July 10, 2015

“Watermelon & Pomegranate Tossed Salad” & “Marinated Grilled Chicken Breast with Watermelon-Jalapeno Salsa”

Welcome, come on in….I know it has been a long time since I last posted a story or recipe. I have been unwell and was not able to post anything…I want to say thank you to all of you that have sent me well wishes and prayers…but never fear I am back with more recipes and fun posts. At this point I will only be posting on Friday’s for the next few weeks…..due to the fact that I have to go slow…So "Wordless Tuesday" will have to wait for a while.
So with that being said…Guess what July is known for? Yes, you got it right…It is “National Watermelon Month!” Now this month should not be confused with “National Watermelon Day,” which is celebrated every August 3rd. “National Watermelon Month” is to honor and enjoy the great flavor of a juicy ice cold watermelon, especially when the weather has been so hot lately. Watermelon is one of my favorite fruits in the summer. You can eat them sliced, cut in chunks or just from the rind. Some people like to put a sprinkle of salt on top and enjoy it, while others like to blend it up and make slushies. 

There's something fun and sociable about eating a tasty watermelon outside with your family and friends. Children gather around the designated watermelon slicer just to be able to hear that nice ripe pop when it's cracked open. Everyone gets a nice fat wedge and begins to eat the sweet juicy red melon.... and the best part is, we don't even mind the juice running down our chin! Watermelon seems to be the standard for picnics and outdoor socials. Then there are the black seeds, (unless you have a seedless melon) which I remember when I was young, we had contests to see who could spit the black seeds the furthest. 

The origins of watermelon have been traced back to the deserts of southern Africa, where it still grows wild today. The first recorded watermelon harvest occurred about 5,000 years ago in Egypt and is depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphics on walls of their ancient buildings. Watermelons were often placed in the burial tombs of kings to nourish them in the afterlife. From there, watermelons were brought to countries along the Mediterranean Sea by way of merchant ships. By the 10th century, watermelon found its way to China, which is now the world's top producer of watermelons. The 13th century found watermelons spreading through the rest of Europe via the Moors.

More than 300 varieties of watermelon are cultivated in the United States and South America, where complementary growing seasons provide a year-round supply of watermelon in an array of shapes, colors and sizes. Because there are so many varieties, they are often grouped according to characteristics, like fruit shape, rind color, pattern, and size. The most common watermelon options are:

Seeded: The classic watermelon comes in a wide range of sizes. (15-45 lb, round, long, oblong)

Seedless: Due to high demand, the majority of watermelon cultivars grown today are seedless – and they are getting redder and crisper thanks to seed breeding advancements. They are not the result of genetic engineering, but rather hybridization – the crossing of two different types of watermelons. (10-25 lb, round to oblong)

Mini: Petite “personal watermelons” are easy to handle and their thinner rinds can mean more flesh per pound. Hollow them out for a serving bowl. (1-7 lb, round)

Yellow & Orange: Generally sweeter than red-fleshed watermelon, yellow and orange varieties add a surprising element to the plate or glass. (10-30 lb, round)

There are health benefits to eating watermelon. A great health fact to know about watermelons is that it's an excellent source of lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant that is only found in a few red plant foods. It has been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers. It also qualifies for a great heart- healthy food too! Watermelon is 92% water! The body needs a lot of water to function so this is a good thing. It's nutritious and good for us! Watermelon has no fat or cholesterol which makes it a parent’s favorite snack to give to their children. Watermelon is an excellent source of vitamin A, B6, C, potassium and fiber which we all struggle to get more of. These vitamins are vital to good health and disease prevention.

Do you know how to pick a watermelon? It's as easy as 1, 2, 3. Look the watermelon over. You are looking for a firm, symmetrical watermelon that is free from bruises, cuts or dents. Lift it up. The watermelon should be heavy for its size, due to the fact of its water content. Turn it over. The underside of the watermelon should have a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun. So go get yourself a few and chill them up. So have fun with it and celebrate it!

Today, I am sharing with you two recipes that I know you will enjoy, using watermelon. “Watermelon & Pomegranate Tossed Salad”and “Marinated Grilled Chicken Breast with Watermelon-Jalapeno Salsa”….Yummy!

“Watermelon & Pomegranate Tossed Salad

Ingredients for dressing for salad:
1 cup pomegranate juice
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (Pomegranate vinegar is the best)
1 1/2 tablespoons orange zest
1 small minced shallot
1/8 teaspoon stone-ground mustard
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Dash of salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients for the salad:
8 cups baby spinach (one 6-oz bag)
3/4 cup diced red onion 

1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)
2 cups diced seedless watermelon (placed on paper towel to drain excess fluid)
Some fresh raspberries (6oz.)
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

Place juice in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and simmer until reduced to about 3 tablespoons and liquid is a thick syrup. Set aside. When cool, add remaining dressing ingredients, from vinegar to salt and pepper. Whip. Set aside for flavors to blend. Place spinach in a large serving bowl. Top with onion, watermelon, feta cheese, raspberries, and pomegranate seeds. Divide onto 4 salad places and drizzle with dressing.

Yield: Makes 4 servings and 3/4 cup of dressing.

Sweet watermelon perfectly complements the earthy spices, such as oregano, chili powder, and cumin as you marinate your chicken breasts.

Marinated Grilled Chicken Breast with Watermelon-Jalapeno Salsa

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 chicken breast half and 1 cup salsa)

Ingredients for marinate:
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

Watermelon-Jalapeno Salsa Ingredients:
Cooking spray
2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed seeded watermelon
1 cup (1/2-inch) cubed peeled ripe mango
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons finely chopped seeded Jalapeño pepper (about 1 small)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine first 6 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add chicken to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator up to 4 hours, turning bag occasionally. Next prepare grill. Place chicken on a grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill on each side or until chicken is done. Combine watermelon and remaining ingredients. Serve watermelon mixture with chicken. Delicious!

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

Copyright © 2015 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved