Friday, June 29, 2012

“Wrap”- This Around Your July 4th Celebration!

Wishing you, my readers a Happy 4th of July! We're so grateful to live in this great Country and to celebrate the birth of our Nation. Most of us celebrate our Nation’s birth filled with family gatherings, picnics, barbecues, parades, and showing a great emphasis on the American tradition of Freedom. Many people display the American flag outside their homes or buildings. The most common symbol of Independence Day is the American flag, but other symbols include the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and in New York harbor where you can see the Macy’s fireworks display. I have to mention our thanks 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!

As July is upon us, the summer is really heating up. We are in the middle of our second heat wave here on Long Island. I’m sure you, like most people are preparing your menus for this July 4th for family cookouts. That means grilling hamburgers, hot dogs, ribs, steaks, chicken, and veggies. Wraps are a great addition to your BBQ grills. I’m not talking about the wraps that you eat, (even though I will be sharing a wrap recipe later in my post) but wrapping food in something to give it a unique flavor and aroma. Some foods that you may cook on the grill may be small and may drop between the grates which would spoil your meal. So, what comes to mind, is foil. 
Aluminum foil is a great way to steam and cook vegetables as well as fish. Wrapping your foods with foil will keep all your spices in and it is an easy clean up as well. Besides using foil, there are many other ways to wrap your foods in. Here are some tips that can help you on using wraps for your July 4th cookout. If you plan on grilling corn on the cob, save some of the husks for wrapping your vegetables. A corn husk can give a slight sweetness to whatever is wrapped in the husk. Swiss Chard, Kale leaves and Collard greens brushed with some olive oil can also be used to house your recipe, just make sure it is closed tightly. Collard greens have thicker leaves than Swiss chard so that is a good green to use on your grill.

Don’t overstuff, less is more and don’t overcrowd the grill either. You want to cook everything evenly and you want the heat to circulate around your packets. Corn husks, fresh or dried have to be soaked at least an hour before grilling to reduce chance of burning. One more tip is, instead of using bamboo skewers for vegetables, use rosemary branches instead. Make sure you pull the leaves off and use your bare branch for your skewer; it will flavor your veggies or fish delightfully.

Now, to the wraps you can eat. The “wrap” sandwiches are variations of traditional sandwiches, but the bread is different. They are basically made of a flat type of bread and is spread with a hot or cold filling and rolled up. Wraps are a great way to use up leftovers, but your imagination is endless. To create a wrap, it is best to prepare all of your ingredients before you start. To assemble, either spread ingredients over the entire roll, leaving a 1-inch border all around, or spoon filling in a row down the center of the roll. Once it is filled, fold one end of the roll over the filling about 1-inch (this will keep filling from falling out the end). Then fold the other side of the roll over filling and now roll into a bundle. Next, wrap your wrap in clear plastic wrap and refrigerate. This will help keep the rolls shape. Then you can cut your wrap diagonally or in round rolls and enjoy.

My recipe this week is a wrap that I created for a lunch with my sewing group. I call it my “Chicken Surprise Wraps.” Everyone loves these flavorful wraps. This recipe is a very easy and refreshing. It’s an enjoyable way to have a cool July 4th celebration. Enjoy!

 Chicken Surprise Wraps

2 Flour Tortilla 12-inch Fajita size (8 count)
2 boxes Perdue Shortcuts Chicken strips (9 oz)
1 package of pre-washed spinach leaves (6 oz)
1 box Oscar Mayer Bacon fully cooked (12 count)
1 bag of Diamond Sliced Almonds (2.25 ounces)
1 bottle of your favorite Ranch dressing mix
2 jars of Roasted Peppers (olive oil & garlic) (12 oz)

Spread 2 tablespoons of Ranch dressing in center of each tortilla. Layer with the spinach leaves, a couple of strips of chicken, 2 slices of bacon, piece of roasted peppers, and then sprinkle with a hand full of sliced almonds. Roll up tightly and cut in half. Keep in refrigerator till ready to serve. Serves: 8-12 according to how much you put in them.

Till Next Time……..

Copyright © 2012 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Everything Is Coming Up Onions! Plus A Tuscan “Onion Soup” Recipe

Everything is coming up Onions! All types, sizes and colors are all around us. They are sold in grocery stores and farmers markets all across the United States. Some onions are highlighted at sporting events, have been featured in movies, and written about in books. They add flavor to recipes for everything from breakfast to gourmet dinners. Onions can be eaten with your fingers, dipped in sauces, and covered with spices. You can eat them raw, grilled, cooked in soups, and caramelized or sautéed. So, come on with me and let’s see what onions are really all about.

The onion is believed to have originated in Asia, but it is likely that they may have been growing wild on every continent. Dating back to 3500 BC, onions were one of the foods that did not spoil during the winter months. The ancient Egyptians worshipped the onion, believing that its spherical shape and concentric rings symbolized eternity. In the Middle Ages, onions were used to pay rent and were given as gifts. Native American Indians used wild onions by eating them raw and cooking them. Onions not only provide flavor; but they also provided health benefits as well.
Italian Cippolini Onions

Did you know that Onions are high in energy and water content? They are low in calories, and have abundant amounts of B6, B1, and Folic acid. Chemical compounds in onions are believed to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Raw onions have also been helpful in reducing swelling from bee stings. In the USA products that contain onion extract are used in the treatment of topical scars. According to an American chemist the chemicals in onions also have the potential to alleviate or prevent sore throats. While members of the onion family appear to have medicinal properties for humans, they can be deadly for dogs, cats, and guinea pigs.

Onions come in an assortment of sizes, colors, and shapes. Yellow, red, and white are the three colors of onions. Yellow onions are full-flavored and are mostly used in cooking. These onions turn a rich, dark brown color when cooked. The red onion, with its wonderful color, is a good choice for eating raw, or in grilling. While the white onions are traditional for cooking. They have a golden color and sweet flavor when sautéed. The Cippolini onion is specific to Italian cooking and is smaller in size. This onion can vary in colors, but the most common is the yellow Cippolini in a flatter shape. They are bittersweet bulbs that come from the grape hyacinth. Cippolini onions are delicious for pickling, and boiling, but are perfect for skewers, grilling, and roasting.
I know that when I am peeling onions or even cutting them, my eyes water and tear up. Here are some tips on avoiding teary eyes. To make onions milder, soak them in milk or pour boiling water over the slices and let stand. Rinse with cold water. Eye irritation can be avoided by cutting onions under running water. Another way to reduce irritation is by chilling, or by not cutting the root of the onion as that is the part that has the highest concentration of enzymes which activates the gas, so our eyes water. If you use a sharp blade to chop the onions, this will help with the tearing of your eyes.

How about some onion trivia? 1. What should you eat to get rid of onion breath? (Parsley) See if you get this one correct? 2. New York City is known as the Big Apple. Before having that nickname, it was known by a different nickname. What was that name? (New York City was called the “Big Onion” because it was a place from which you could peel off layer after layer without ever reaching the core.)

My recipe this week is my version of Mary Ann Esposito’s, “Onion Soup From Tuscany” or “Zuppa di Cippolle di Toscana” taken from “Ciao Italia”. Hope that you enjoy and try different types of onions in your next meal.

Onion Soup From Tuscany

6 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 pound of pancetta or bacon, diced
5 large yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
5 1/2 cups of HOT beef or vegetable broth, low sodium (canned)
1/2 cups of dry red wine of your choice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 slices of coarse bread cut in 1/2 -inch thick
1 cup of grated Pecorino Romano cheese & Swiss cheese combined

In a large soup pot heat 4 tablespoons of the oil over medium high heat, add the pancetta or bacon and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the onions, cover the pot and cook slowly for about 15 minutes, stirring often. When the onions are soft and limp pour in the broth and wine. Stir the mixture. Cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Keep the soup warm while you brown the bread. Preheat the broiler. Heat the remaining olive oil in a sauté pan and brown the bread on both sides. Drain the slices on paper towels, then place a slice in the bottom of each individual bowl. Pour the soup over the bread and sprinkle the cheese over the top. Broil until the cheese melts. Serve immediately.

Till Next Time………………….

Copyright © 2012 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sizzling and Grilling for Father’s Day & A Beef Shish-Kebab Recipe

‘Tis the season---for sizzling and grilling. The first official day of summer is next week and this weekend we celebrate “Father’s Day.” This special day, is a celebration to complement fatherhood and male parenting. Father’s Day is celebrated in many countries, but the date varies. As our celebrations continue with our family gatherings, cooking on the grill or BBQ’s are a big part of Father’s Day. The weather is sunny and warm which is a perfect way to start the merriment of the day. So let’s go outside and get grilling!

Men, for years have been somewhat in charge of the “Grill or BBQ”. It is said that, “women cook” and “men grill.” It is a big thing to get prepared for the “Grill Master” or “King of the Grill”. There are special tools that are needed and we can’t forget the “grilling apron.” Grilling or BBQ’s are exciting and fun for men, due to the fact that there is fire, meat, and beer involved. Now, I am not saying that women can’t grill or BBQ, which they can, but most of the time they choose to leave this job to the guys.

Before we start grilling, eating, and celebrating, let me share with you some interesting facts about the way we cook our food with this method. Typically to “grill” is to cook quickly, while “barbecue” is a much slower method using less heat than grilling over an extended period of several hours. Whether you use gas, charcoal, or flavored wood chips/boards, all of these methods add flavor and tenderness to your meats, veggies, and yes, sometimes fruits for desserts. You can use a wide variety of marinades but look for something with an acidic base, like a vinegar or citrus juice with enough flavor, but not over power it.

Grilling is often presented as a healthy alternative to cooking with oil, although the fat and juices lost by grilling can contribute to drier food if you don’t watch your grill. Shish Kebabs are best grilled over a high heat. Kebabs are small pieces of meat on a stick. Or veggies, if you are a Vegan, even though the term shish kebab (şiş kebap in Turkish) translates to “grilled meat on skewers.” Orginally this was a Turkish dish of marinated lamb that was skewered and grilled over a charcoal fire. But today, we skewer and grill everything from eggplant to chicken, and fruits to marshmallows with chocolate. It is often recommened to choose food that will cook at the same rate and same size, when putting them on the skewer together.

My dad the "Grill Master"
My dad is our Grill Master. He either grills with charcoal or uses the gas BBQ. He would even go outside in the rain with an umbrella or in the winter when it was snowing and get the BBQ ready for our dinner. He still to this day goes out in his apron with his tools and cooks for the family, his famous steak, ribs, or shish kebab recipe. I would love to dedicate this recipe to my dad and wish him a very “Happy Father’s Day” from his favorite daughter (his only daughter). “Festa del Papa!” And a “Happy Father’s Day” to all of my readers as well.

Beef Shish Kabobs

Ingredients: (depending on how many people you are serving)
beef sirloin, top sirloin, or filet
yellow or white onions
green peppers
large white button mushrooms
red peppers

Meat Marinade (jar or mix)

If you are using bamboo skewers, start by submerging them in water. Let them soak for 30 minutes. If you use double skewers it makes it easier to turn without having the ingredients spin on the skewer. You can use two bamboo skewers.

Make the marinade. (follow recipe on marinade) In a stainless or glass bowl large enough to hold the meat. Cut the steak into 1 inch to 1 1/2 inch cubes. Add the cubes to the marinade bowl. Let it rest for 2 hours in the fridge. Then remove it from the refrigerator and let it come back to room temperature.

Cut the onion in half and then cut each half into quarters. Cut the green pepper open and clean out the seeds. Cut the pepper into 1 inch squares. You can leave the mushrooms whole, but for larger mushrooms, you cut them in half. You can alternate between onions, peppers, and mushrooms, with the meat on the skewers. After assembling the kabobs, brush some oil on the BBQ grill with a paper towel dunked in oil so they will not stick.

Place the kabobs on the hot grill directly over the flame or coals. Keep the lid open since we are cooking on direct heat. Grill for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating 90 degrees every 4 minutes, until the meat is cooked to desired level of doneness. Remove the kabobs from the grill and let them rest for 3 or 4 minutes before serving.

You can serve over rice with a crisp tossed salad and a glass of Redwood Creek Rich Red Blend wine, which has the luscious flavors of dark cherry and brown spice. Enjoy!

Till Next Time……….

Copyright © 2012 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Breakfast For Dinner: With A "Double-Coated Baked Chicken" Recipe

Decisions, decisions! How do you choose what cereal to have for breakfast? Should you have Corn Flakes, Special K or maybe a bowl of Rice Krispies? Well, maybe it’s a morning for oatmeal, Maypo, or my favorite which is Maltex, by Ralston. This is usually a difficult choice for most people, especially upon rising from a nights sleep. Your mood plays a part in deciding which you should choose. Hot, cold, Granola or Sugar Pops? I know it’s a rough one to figure out.

Did you know that cereal; the way we know it today was not a regular breakfast food until the early 1900’s? Before the 1900’s breakfast often included pork chops or rolled beef, as well as bread and biscuits. Porridge was the most common cereal throughout Northern Europe and Russia at least three centuries ago. Barley was the most common of grains used and was soaked to soften them to make it more of a pleasant taste. As the years went on the idea of boiling the barley was preferred, because it created a warm dish for cold mornings. Porridge was considered a poor man’s meal, but it took some time before it was socially customary among the richer society. Porridge was filling and nourishing but not very flavorful, so many people added brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup as sweeteners. 

Have you decided what cereal to choose for breakfast yet? I guess you want some more information ok; here is something to wet your whistle. Battle Creek, Michigan is the hometown of your favorite breakfast cereals. June 8-9th is the Battle Creek Cereal Festival. This event celebrates the city of Battle Creek and has the World’s Longest Breakfast Table. You can visit Kellogg’s Cereal City USA, museums, concerts, parades, movies, games, and everyone has the opportunity to eat breakfast cereal at the longest table in the US. You can even become a “Famous Flake!” Have your photo placed on an 18 oz box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, plus everyone also receives an individual size box of cereal.

Dr. J. H. Kellogg 1913
Are you getting hungry yet? But there is more, so get out your bowl, milk, a spoon, and some fruit, and decide what cereal you are going to eat and I will tell you more. This is where it gets interesting. In 1894, John Kellogg and his brother, Will, accidentally left a pot of boiled wheat grains overnight. When they found the pot in the morning, the softened wheat materialized as a large, thin flake. As they dried, these flakes became a tasty cereal. But they found that it worked even better with corn and by 1906, the brother’s had founded the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flakes Company. Wait! Don’t forget the bananas, that adds to your nutritional breakfast. There is irony to this story. John Harvey Kellogg was a Doctor at the Battle Creek Sanitarium and had a patient named Charles William Post, who was intrigued by the “Corn Flakes” he was served. (Isn’t that name familiar?) He in time started his own operation and created what we know today as “Grape-Nuts”. He also originated his own brand of corn flakes called Post Toasties. Dr. John H. Kellogg and C.W Post both emerged from this one sanitarium in Battle Creek and became food giants. General Mills did not get into the cereal business until 1941, with its famous “Cheerios“.

Well, I am glad you enjoyed your breakfast and finally made your decision, but did you know that you can use cereal for not only breakfast, but have these tasty morsels for dinner as well? If you go online to you can find many recipes that use corn flakes for adding flavor and crunch to any meal. My recipe this week is called Double-Coated Baked Chicken. Let your imagination go wild and use your breakfast cereal not only for breakfast but for creating new and exciting recipes too.

Double-Coated Baked Chicken

Serves: 8
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes

7 cups Kellogg’s Corn Flakes® cereal crushed with your hands
1 egg
1 cup of fat-free milk
1 cup of all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 pounds of chicken pieces, (without or with skin) rinsed and dried
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Place Kellogg’s Corn Flakes® cereal in shallow dish or pan. Set aside. In medium mixing bowl, beat egg and milk slightly. Add flour, salt, and pepper. Mix until smooth. Dip chicken in batter, coat with cereal. Place in single layer, in shallow baking pan coated with cooking spray, parchment or foil lined. Drizzle with butter.
Bake at 350°F about 1 hr or until chicken is tender, no longer pink and juices run clear. For food safety, internal temperature of the chicken should reach at least 165°F. Do not cover pan or turn chicken while baking. Serve hot.

****Important announcement!!! I was selected to be "Chef of the Week" from 6/8/2012 - 6/14/2012 on . This is truly an honor and I thank you Raquel, from for this award. Please when you have a chance go to and you can see some of my recipes that will be posted.  
Till Next Time……………………

Copyright © 2012 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved