Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween “Horror” Night & “A Vampire Kiss” Adult Drink!

When I was a young teen I would tell my younger brother Chris, spooky stories! I took him to see his first scary movie called, “The Night Of The Living Dead”! I would thrive on watching horror movies, seeing blood, and terror on TV. Then I would run into the living room, or the kitchen where ever my parents were and be so glad that I was not home alone, as these shows really scared me to death! I bet you never knew that I really enjoyed these movies, but I scared myself at the same time! As I grew up these movies scared me so I never watch them again until …..I married my husband. Then things turned around totally! 
Top photo is Gas Station,
Middle photo, Cemetery,
Bottom photo, the original house.

My husband is a huge horror fan! I mean BIG! He enjoys many types of movies, and music, but his ultimate favorite is the “Horror Genre”. Before we married his apartment was filled with memorabilia of these movies. There were posters, photos, props, action figures, and oh I forgot, a replica of “Chucky”. The posters were in frames on the walls, some were from the USA and others were foreign from Germany, Italy, and I think even a Danish one. Many had authentic signatures of the cast on them. As I began to understand him more, he started showing me his horror DVD collection of movies. They were really scary! I still do not know how I watched these movies. After we got married there were many times that we went to horror conventions. We traveled to Ohio, New York City, and Pennsylvania for some of them. Then one day my husband received an email from a fellow horror fan and was told that his favorite movie of all time was having a reunion in Texas, and we had to go. His favorite of all times is “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (the original:1974)  Are you getting the picture now….yes, we went to Texas to see the cast reunion. Now we just didn’t go to the convention, and meet the cast, we had to follow the path of how they made the movie! We flew in to Austin, Texas, and rented a car. I was the navigator with a map, and we started to follow the path of this movie. The next part of this story was written by Rick, my husband as we got to meet most of the cast of “The Chainsaw Massacre.“ or as he calls it for short TCM. (Those of you that have seen this movie will know who we are talking about, sorry if you do not know the cast of the movie, now you have to watch it) This is how my nightmare begins!
Bottom photo is myself,
 Gunner Hansen, and Rick

September 22, 2000...Austin, Texas...Our first stop is the famous cemetery where the opening shots of TCM were filmed. It's pretty impressive to see in person. The huge column where the hitch-hiker poses the corpse in front of the tombstone is awesome! Dottie took all the photos and also a video of the whole time in Texas. She was a real trooper. Next we went to see Allen Danziger. (He played Jerry, the van driver) He seemed amazed that TCM has developed such a following over the years! He happily signed ALL of my TCM memorabilia (I have tons), even though he was extremely busy. All I can say is he's really a great guy! He also acquired some fantastic pieces from TCM that were framed and hanging in his office. Now it was time to head to Houston for the reunion. It's a good 3 hour drive, and we still had to find our hotel room before the show. On the way there we found the famous gas station-BBQ from the movie. Now that was really IMPRESSIVE!! It still looks like it did in TCM except a couple small sheds were added next to it. Dottie (my wife) got all nervous as we approached it! HA!! The people that owned it now were very nice and even took me to the back room where all the action took place between Sally and the Cook. Anyone who visits Texas must go see that place! Finally made it to Houston and arrived at the Fear Factory about 7:15 p.m. There were lots of people young and old, mingling around waiting for the cast to appear. There was a radio station set up outside on the street (which was blocked off), and they were announcing to come down and meet the cast! 
Bottom photo is the 4 cast
members with Rick on the left.

Finally, my excitement peaked as the four members of the greatest horror movie ever, arrived!! There was a tent set-up with tables, and they had many photos for sale. Everyone had to stand in line, and they'd let about 5 or 6 people at a time in to greet the cast. They are all such cool people! I'm proud to say Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface) remembered us from our meeting last year! And Marilyn Burns also knew who I was from corresponding with her! Jim Siedow (the Cook) was very friendly, and he was amazed at all the foreign posters I have that he's never seen. He told me to keep in touch with him and believe me, I will!! Ed Neal (the Hitch-hiker) was impressed that I had all ORIGINAL memorabilia and no reprints. We also discussed the possibity of purchasing some props from him from the TCM movie! He gave me his agent’s card to keep in touch. He's a real character, many times doing his best hitch-hiker impressions from the movie. Marilyn (the girl that was screaming in the movie) was a sweetheart, and she was also in awe of all the TCM things I had that she had never seen before. And of course Leatherface himself, Gunnar Hansen, was so nice, so friendly and witty! Before we left he GAVE me a sketch of himself signed by the artist. It was also a limited edition and inscribed it with, "To Rick Balin, one of the biggest Chainsaw fans in the world and one of the best!!.” I now have that framed and hanging on my wall! It was a memory I will never forget!

Thank you for stopping by on this spooky day! I hope you all have a fun, safe, and a Happy Halloween!! My recipe this week is an adult drink as you enjoy your spooky movie! 

"Vampire Kiss"
Serves: 1

2 parts passion fruit-flavored rum
1 part tonic water
Splash of cranberry juice
Black cherry, for garnish

Shake all ingredients with ice. 
Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a black cherry

Please drink responsibly and be safe on this fun night!

Till Next Time…………..

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

Friday, October 25, 2013

"Zesty Shrimp Pasta" For "World Pasta Day" As We End The Month Of October

As October is coming to an end, for another year, I want to end the month with a pasta recipe. If you remember October is Pasta Month and today is “World Pasta Day.” One of my blogger friends Louise, from "Months of Edible Celebrations" is having a Pasta Party today! I am sure she won’t mind some extra guests coming to see the delicious dishes that she is presenting at her Pasta Party. Don’t get too stuffed, when you return to me, I also have that mouth watering pasta recipe I promised, called “Zesty Shrimp Pasta”. 

I have another blogger friend, Catherine, from "Living The Gourmet" that I need to say a big “Thank you”! She had a give away on one of her posts, and I won the give away! A beautiful book called, “Bless This Food”. Sharing food is the most universal cultural experience connecting people to one another. Expressing thanks for food was the world's first act of worship and is common to every known society. Saying grace before meals is a wonderful family tradition to observe as it acknowledges bounty and our daily food as gifts from the divine. Bless This Food gathers 160 timeless mealtime blessings. This book will come in handy for my family, as the holidays are approaching. 

I know you are waiting for that recipe I promised, but I just wanted to touch on a topic that I thought may be a very important part of your kitchen, and that would be your pantry or the Italian pantry! A well-stocked pantry makes whipping up a delicious well-balanced Italian meal a snap. Countless dishes can be made from ingredients on hand, the options are limitless. Most major grocery stores carry many items imported from Italy; other sources for those main ingredients would be Italian specialty stores in your area. If your grocery store does not carry your item, you can ask a manager if they might be able to order your ingredient for you. By stocking your kitchens with a few basic ingredients, you will be ready to prepare many Italian recipes. Premium ingredients are crucial to Italian cooking. The better your tomatoes, olive oils, and cheeses are the better your dishes will be. The Italian table is the heart of the family, a celebration that comes from making and eating a delicious meal. If you use the freshest ingredients and what is in season, you will find that you can create the most flavorful dishes. 

In my family as in most Italian kitchens, you will find a large amount if not all of the following items in the pantry. These ingredients are essential to creating a traditional Italian meal. Check, if your pantry is stocked with any of these items, if not it is time to go shopping….

Cans of tomatoes-whole & crushed, tomato paste, beans-dried or canned, olives, mushrooms, and anchovies. Flour, quick rise yeast, rice-Arborio, sea salt, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Canola oil, cornmeal, breadcrumbs, broths/stocks, sun dried tomatoes, nuts, figs, granulated and confectioner’s sugar.

Jars of dried Italian spices, black pepper, red pepper, Vinegar-red, white and balsamic, red & white wine for cooking, (always buy a wine that you would drink) dried pastas, Capers, Espresso coffee, pure extract, raisins, and honey.

Refrigerator items would include; sausages & salamies, pepperoni, pancetta, Proscuitto, parmesan & mozzarella cheese, grated Pecorino Romano Cheese, eggplants, escarole, broccoli rabe, spinach, and Swiss chard.  

Fresh items should include; garlic, parsley, basil, mint leaves, onions, peppers,  Zucchini, tomatoes, lemons, breads, fruits of all kinds: pomegranates, oranges, etc. 

Remember there are so many additional pantry items that you can stock, the list is endless, but with this starter list you will be able to begin cooking the Italian way. All you have to do is add some of these ingredients, and you will be all set to prepare an authentic Italian meal that will impress your family. My recipe for this week is called “Zesty Shrimp Pasta” which is incredible. The combination of all of these Italian ingredients not only makes this dish very tasty, but the aromas fill your home with love. So try this delicious pasta recipe for your family, especially that your pantry is filled with these mouth watering ingredients. Happy Cooking! 

Zesty Shrimp Pasta
1/2 lb. Linguine, uncooked 
3/4 cup prepared Good Seasons Zesty Italian Dressing Mix (divided) 
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms 
1 large Onion, thinly sliced 
1 green pepper sliced
1 red pepper sliced
1 lb. uncooked cleaned large shrimp 
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley 
1/4 cup Grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Cook pasta as directed on the package meanwhile, heat 1/2 cup dressing in a large skillet on medium heat. Stir in mushrooms, onions, red and green pepper, and cook 3 min or until onions are crisp-tender, stirring occasionally. Add the shrimp, and parsley, then stir. Cook 2 min or until shrimp is pink, and vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Now drain the pasta; return to pot. Add shrimp mixture and remaining dressing; toss lightly. Sprinkle with cheese. Total time 25 min Prep 10 minutes. Servings is for 6. 

Till Next Time…………….

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

Friday, October 18, 2013

“Spice-Roasted Butternut Squash With Red Onions”--A Witches Garden--"Double, Double, Toil, And Trouble"

A dark Cave. In the middle, a Caldron boiling. Thunder! Enter Witches. 

Three witches speak: --------'tis time! 'tis time! Round about the caldron go; “Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble.” 

If that sounds familiar to all of my readers, it’s because it is a sentence from “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare. As Halloween is right around the corner, I thought it would be fun to talk about what is called a “Witches Garden”. Right now you must be thinking that I am a little “witchy”, but everyone has used the items that are grown in a “Witches Garden” at one time or another. 

A Witches Garden is a herb garden specifically designed and used for the cultivation of medicinal herbs and herbs used in everyday cooking. For centuries the “Wise Women” and healers understood the “magic” that herbs did for healing. During the medieval period monks, and nuns acquired this medical knowledge, and grew the necessary herbs to heal people. In fear of losing their power the nobility called the Wise Women and healers, “Witches”. They were said to be evil for using these practices to help heal the common people. They were eventually burned.

In today’s world, a “Witches Garden” is the center of her creations. The medicinal qualities from many plants and flowers growing within her scared space are simple in design. They contain a wealth of magical materials that can be used for healing. They were essences, lotions, cures, and some were ground up or dried. Some typical plants and herbs that are found in a Witches Garden are Rosemary, Sage, Parsley, Mint, Catnip, Marjoram, Chives, Thyme, Angelica root. They also had Bay leaves, Oregano, Dill, Basil, Mugwort, and wildflowers of all sorts.

Then there is the “Kitchen Witch.” Her garden is also her home as well as her kitchen. She works with the cycles of the seasons and the moon as she nurtures her garden sanctuary and growing sacred trees, wildflowers, plus harvesting culinary organic fruits and vegetables. The Kitchen Witch will spend time in her garden connecting with Mother Earth, and enjoying nature’s beauty. She meditates in a quiet spot perhaps on a calming chamomile lawn or under a shady tree. The Kitchen Witch shares her harvest with birds and wildlife. She recycles, composts, and tends to her plants with tender loving care. The Kitchen Witch recognizes that food is sacred, life-giving, and is part of the balance of nature. She uses the freshest ingredients with intent and purpose. She adds a little “magic” as she puts together a nourishing healthy meal using her herbs with her expert cookery skills. Her kitchen usually contains a comfy chair, she has utensils that are blessed and carved with scared symbols or sprinkled with a little “magic oil”. Don’t forget to look in your kitchen, you may see a special witch’s apron hanging on a hook, if you look hard enough!   

Herbs are an important addition in Italian cooking and can be grown easily in pots or in the garden. They should be stored in the freezer or hung up to dry in a cool place away from the heat. Once dry, they should be placed in air tight containers. The list of spices and herbs that Italian’s mostly use with their recipes are too many to mention, so I am going to give you a few of the important ones that my family uses. Basil, Garlic, Oregano, Bay Leaves, Mint, Flat Leaf Parsley, Black Pepper, Red Pepper Flakes, and Fennel. 

My recipe this week is a delicious way to use your herbs and spices. This easy, savory, sweet, and scrumptious side dish is full of flavor. A perfect recipe for this time of year called “Spice-Roasted Butternut Squash With Red Onions.” Enjoy and remember if you pass a herb garden, know that a “Witch” is not far away…...

Spice-Roasted Butternut Squash With Red Onions.” 

1 Tbsp light brown sugar
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp freshly grated or ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt to taste
2 small butternut squash (about 2 lbs each)
Peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
2 small red onions cut into 1/2 inch thick wedges
10 sprigs fresh thyme
4 Tbsp Olive Oil

Heat oven to 425° F. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cumin, coriander, nutmeg, cayenne, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Divide the squash, onion, and thyme between 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Toss the vegetables on each sheet with 2 Tbsp Olive Oil, then half of the spice mixture. Arrange in a single layer and roast, turning once, until golden brown and tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Serves: 4    

Till Next Time………………

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

Friday, October 11, 2013

“Stuffed Artichokes” For “Columbus Day” & “Italian-American Heritage Month”

Every year the United States President signs an executive order declaring October as “Italian-American Heritage Month.” This is a perfect time to enjoy the festivities surrounding "Columbus Day", and to recognize the many achievements, contributions, culture, history, and food, of the Americans with Italian descent. There were over 5.4 million Italians that immigrated to the United States between 1820 and 1992. Today there are over 26 million Italian Americans living in the United States. This makes them the fifth largest ethnic group. The New World was named “America” for Amerigo Vespucci (1451-1512), the Florentine explorer and geographer who was a friend to Columbus. 

The first recorded celebration of Columbus Day in the United States took place in New York City on October 12, 1792 when a group known as the Columbian Order held a parade to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the landing of Columbus. In 1866, following the start of Italian immigration to the U.S., another parade was held in New York City, this time by the Italians celebrating their link with American history. In 1937 President Franklin Roosevelt proclaims October 12th as Columbus Day. Then in 1968 President Lyndon B. Johnson declares Columbus Day a federal public holiday, to be celebrated on the second Monday in October, rather than on October 12th. The new "Uniform Monday Holiday Act" goes into effect in 1971.

On August 3, 1492, Christopher Columbus, a sailor from Genoa, Italy and the 88 members of his crew, plus their families attended Mass in the Church of St. George the Martyr. They prayed for a safe voyage. Leaving the church they boarded their three ships the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria which was Columbus’ flagship and began their voyage to the East Indies. Columbus Day is also celebrated in Spain, the country which sent Columbus on his famous voyage and whose Queen, Isabella of Castile provided the financing (money came from the Queen’s personal funds not the national treasury) for his expedition. In Spain the holiday is known as Hispanic Day, and it is celebrated with a huge parade in Madrid. In New York City, they celebrate with an annual parade which is also broadcasted internationally to Italy. While it is a nationally recognized holiday, not everyone is quick to participate in the festivities. Many people are insisting that it is not fair to celebrate a “discovery” that already had inhabitants, the Native Americans and therefore some states celebrate the holiday by a different name.

The arrival of Europeans in the Americas was without a doubt one of the most important events in modern history, including food history. Many foods that were native to the Americas were brought to Europe and even more European products were brought back to America. Many Americans, especially Italian-Americans, celebrate Columbus Day with food. In honor of the meal that Christopher Columbus must have eaten on the sail to the Americas, people cook a typical seaman’s dinner. That meal consisted of fish, potatoes, beef, cheese, and a variety of other foods such as rice, dried fruits, and legumes. 

Even though it must have been a good meal for them on the sea, it just doesn’t sound Italian enough for me. Where was the lasagna, meatballs, pasta, and we can’t forget Italian cookies, and desserts? Well, I am not at sea, but I do have a wonderful recipe of the week for you and it 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, and 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, have fun, celebrate, and eat something Italian!  
“Buon Appetito!”  

"Stuffed Italian Artichokes"

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 (fresh or jar)
3/4 Tsp of salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup of olive oil or vegetable oil

Cut off the stem and 1/4 off the top of an 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 a deep bowl. Fill a large pot with water and boil. Place the artichokes in the pot carefully and lower heat to medium for about 7 minutes. Fork test bottom of an artichoke for tenderness. If a 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 the bottom of a 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.    

Till Next Time…….

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

Friday, October 4, 2013

Celebrate the Pasta-bilities, With “Mama’s Homemade Manicotti”

Beneventi! Welcome everyone, to my table, and let’s eat pasta, pasta, and more pasta! Did you know that October is “National Pasta Month?” Thirty-one days devoted to enjoying America's favorite food! It is estimated that pasta lovers eat their favorite food seven times a month - nearly twice a week! It shouldn't surprise anyone that when asked what food they could not live without 60% of those surveyed chose pasta, even instead of chocolate! Bringing American families exactly what they are looking for. Pasta is a versatile dish which can easily fit into a healthy lifestyle. It boosts energy, satisfies hunger, tastes great and can be prepared in a numerous ways. Pasta is a global food, which is consumed in all five continents. 

The first American pasta factory was opened in Brooklyn in 1848. I bet you thought it was an Italian that started the industry, you would be wrong! It was a Frenchman named Antoine Zerega. 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 the pasta is combined with vegetables, legumes, cheeses, olive oils, and fish, it is an added health advantage. To celebrate National Pasta Month, 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. It's hard to pick a favorite. In 2011, Americans named spaghetti as their favorite shape. So, celebrate pasta and gather with family and friends to take advantage of a delicious meal. 

As you prepare pasta 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 my parents would invite the whole family over and “macaroni” as we called it, was on the menu for the day. The question everyone wanted to know was what type of pasta would my mom cook for our Sunday dinner? My personal favorites are Shells and Angel hair, or Capellini. The Shells always held the sauce in the little pockets and was fun to eat. The Angel hair, is much thinner than Spaghetti, it also cooks very fast. My recipe this week is one that my mother taught me how to make, which are like pillows of soft cheese in your mouth. “Mama’s Homemade Manicotti” is so delectable that you won’t mind some extra time in the kitchen creating these scrumptious crepes. Buon Gusto!! (Enjoy)

Mama’s Homemade Manicotti 

To make the shells (crepes):

Ingredients:   Makes about 24
8 eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of water
Small amount of butter for pan                                   

Put eggs in a blender, and then add water and salt. Then add flour a little at a time as you are blending together. Brush melted butter or a bit of oil in your sauté pan and pour batter into the pan, (I use a shot glass to measure out the amount of batter) tilting to coat the bottom of the pan (you want a very thin crepe). Cook only until the underside is lightly browned and is just set, then turn and cook the other side. Invert onto plate; continue until you have about 24 depending on the size of the crepe. *** You can freeze these crepes till you are ready to use. Make sure you use a piece of wax paper in between them before you freeze, so it is easier to take apart without breaking the crepes.

The Filling for the crepes:

3 lb container of part skim or whole milk Ricotta 
1 lb part skim or whole milk Mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese  
Fresh Parsley flakes chopped
1 large egg
Salt and pepper to taste
Marinara or Meat Sauce 

Directions for filling: 
1. Mix ricotta, cheese, parsley, and salt. Taste. Adjust seasoning according to taste and then stir in one egg. 
2. Slice mozzarella into small bite size pieces. Then add to the mixture of ricotta etc. Mix all together. 
3. Lay crepe on a flat surface or in your hand. Place about 1 tablespoonful of ricotta (more if the crepe is larger) into the center of the crepe and spread out to edges. Fold one edge halfway over and then fold the other side to form a packet. They should be sort of flat.
4. Spread a layer of sauce onto a baking pan. Lay manicotti side by side and arrange them until the pan is filled. Add another layer of sauce on top and sprinkle with grated cheese. 
5. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes and the sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted.

Till Next Time…….

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