Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"Buon Anno!” or “Happy New Year!” Time To Celebrate With “Cheesy Bacon Bites”

As the clock strikes twelve midnight, on December 31st, people all over the world will wish each other a “Happy New Year.” For many people, this symbolizes the beginning of a better year than the previous one. New Year’s is thought of as a time for hope, new goals, and new opportunities. Many people celebrate, by going to parties, drinking champagne, eating, dancing, fireworks, and especially by being with their loved ones.

"First Foot Day" or "First Footer"

“First Foot Day” or “First Footer” marks the beginning of the New Year and is said to bring good luck. It is said that the first male person who enters your home on New Year’s Day, will bring good fortune for the coming year. The First-Foot usually brings several gifts, including coins, bread, salt, coal, or a drink usually Whiskey. This represents financial prosperity, food, flavor, warmth, and good cheer. This tradition started in Scotland and England. So watch who steps into your house first! It is also believed that the more you eat on New Year’s Eve the more money you will have for the year.

St. Silvestro
Celebrating New Year’s Eve in Italy is called Capuano (the “head of the year”) or Notte di San Silvestro (the night of St. Silvestro). St. Sylvester I was the 33rd Pope. In Italy, there are rituals or traditions that are really not followed anymore in today’s world. Some of these rituals include throwing old possessions out the window, in the hopes of forgetting past misfortunes and clearing the way for good luck in the New Year. Many people make Struffoli which are round little dough balls held together with honey. These are to symbolize the year coming full circle. Firing up the Yule Log on the last day of the year, is an invitation to the Virgin Mary, who can warm the baby Jesus and then the ashes would protect the house from damage.

Some of the lucky foods that are eaten are round fruits such as oranges and pomegranates which symbolize coins and bring a prosperous New Year. The dinner menu consists of pork sausage and lentils. The lenticchie (lentils) represent coins, being round in shape and is eaten at midnight, one spoonful per bell. This is supposed to bring good fortune. The eating of pork is said to represent the fat, or riches, of the land. Cooked collard, spinach, cabbage, and kale are all to symbolize paper money. Black Eyed Peas and Cornbread is a traditional Southern dish in the US. Fireworks and lots of noise also “scare” away the bad spirits. (Now I know why my mom would let us bang pots on New Years Eve)

Did you know that if you eat 12 grapes one at a time as each chime strikes at midnight on the clock, it is supposed to guarantee sweetness and fortune in the coming year? Each grapes follows a month, (first grape is January etc.) so if you happen to get a sour grape along the way, it is said to predict that month will be a challenging one in 2015. Fish is also a lucky food choice as since most fish swim forward and the scales are believed to symbolize silver. Do not eat lobster or crab as they walk sideways and backward. You want to go forward in the New Year!

Begin an Italian-American, the chance to celebrate New Years Eve with family, friends and the kids were welcomed at my parents’ home. I remember when I was very young my mother would tell us to take a nap in the daytime so we would be able to stay up till midnight. As I tried to nap, I could hear all the hustle and bustle in the kitchen preparing the food for those evenings’ festivities. I could hear the clicking of the wine and champagne bottles that were to be on the table that night. As I drifted off to sleep for my nap, I could smell the aroma of fried vegetables cooking and the sweet smell of onions with sausage with peppers being prepared for our party. The smell of food cooking was a delightful aroma that meant love and family to me. 

As the guests began to enter our decorated house from Christmas, you could see all the dishes of goodies that were being placed on the tables. As the party continued, it was almost that time, when the New Year was approaching. Everyone put on their hats, crowns, had noise makers and we would count down the time, 10, 9, 8, all the way to Happy New Years. This to me was my favorite part of New Years Eve. My mom would give us kids, spoons and the covers to her pots, and we were allowed to go out in the street, and bang on them and we would yell, Happy New Year. As kids, this was the best part of the evening and will be remembered for a lifetime.

So, as I close this post, on the last days of “2014,” I want to wish everyone across the world a very “Happy New Year.” Thank you all for a fabulous year and for reading all my stories and recipes. The fact that you actually read what I write is such a gift and such a privilege, thank you for making me part of your world. May “2015” bring happiness, health, blessings, prosperity, and most of all “love” to you and your families.

I also have a recipe to share, which is called “Cheesy Bacon Bites.” I hope that you enjoy this easy, yummy, appetizer and make it your tradition for New Years as well. I made these for Christmas Eve...

                                                     “Cheesy Bacon Bites” 

2 tubs (8 oz.) Philadelphia Chive and Onion Cream Cheese Spread
2 packages of cream cheese, softened
1-2 tbsp chopped onion
3/4 cup cooked bacon, chopped
A few dashes of cracked black pepper
2 rolls of Pillsbury Crescents

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Spray jelly roll pan with cooking spray. Mix cream cheese and the next 3 ingredients until well combined. Remove crescents from package. Unroll so it’s flat and seal up any cracks. Spread cream cheese mixture over dough and roll up lengthwise. Slice and bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Till Next Time………….

Copyright © 2011-2015 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

“Wishing My Readers A Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year"

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, 
and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful." 
By Norman Vincent Peale 


“Wishing you a Merry Christmas 
And a Happy New Year,
 to all my readers from
 all over the world.. 
May your home be filled with
 The Joy of family and friends
 this Holiday season.”

FYI: My next post will be on December 30, just in time for New Years. Thank you .....

                                                                                  *   Dottie  *

 Till Next Time………..

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

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

"Candy Cane Cookies,” “Peppermint Bark,” & A “Candy Cane Cocktail”

"T’was the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse." By Clement Clarke Moore

Today’s post is all about one of my favorites Candy Canes. I have “3” fun easy recipes for your holiday gatherings. “Candy Cane Cookies,” “Peppermint Bark,” and a delicious holiday “Candy Cane Cocktail.” You can’t possibly go wrong with that trio of goodies.

The Christmas Candy Cane originated in Germany about 250 years ago. They started as straight white sugar sticks. A story says that a choirmaster, in 1670, was worried about the children sitting quietly all through the long Christmas nativity service. So he gave them something to eat to keep them quiet! As he wanted to remind them of Christmas, he made them into a 'J' shape like a shepherd’s crook, to remind them of the shepherds that visited the baby Jesus at the first Christmas. Sometime around 1900 the red stripes were added and they were flavored with peppermint or wintergreen. Sometimes other Christian meanings are giving to the parts of the canes. The 'J' can also mean Jesus. The white of the cane can represent the purity of Jesus Christ and the red stripes are for the blood he shed when he died on the cross. The peppermint flavor can represent the hyssop plant that was used for purifying in the Bible.

"Did you know?"

1.  National Candy Cane Day is celebrated December 26th in the United States.
2.  The world’s largest Candy Cane was created by Paul Ghinelli & measured 58 feet & 2 1/4 inches.
3.  Each year 1.76 billion Candy Canes are made enough to stretch from Santa Clause, Indiana to the North Pole, Alaska and back again 32 times.
4.  Candy Canes on the Christmas tree symbolize the Shepherds in the fields on that first Christmas night.
 5.  Peppermint is recommended to enhance memory. It improves blood flow to the brain and is believed to increase your concentration power.

(Grandma Julia & Grandpa Louis with me when I was very young)
Put a twist on your holiday cookies that are shaped like “Candy Canes.” These impressive Christmas cookies, flavored with peppermint, make a tasty treat. With a little food coloring and a small twist you can turn simple cookie dough into an edible treat!

“Candy Cane Cookies”
Recipe courtesy Sandra Lee

1 box sugar cookie mix
1/2 stick of butter, melted
1 egg
1/3 cup of softened cream cheese
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional for surface
Red or Green food coloring
1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract (you can also use vanilla instead of peppermint) 

Preheat oven to 325° F. In bowl, combine sugar cookie mix, melted butter, egg, cream cheese, and flour; mix together to form dough. Separate dough into 2 equal portions and place in 2 different bowls. Add red/green food coloring gradually to one bowl of dough, kneading together until desired shade is created. (Small drops at a time) To second bowl of uncooked dough, add peppermint or vanilla extract and knead together.  On a floured work surface, shape each dough into balls and then roll each ball into 1/4 inch wide ropes, each about 6 inches long. For each cookie, carefully twist some of the red /green and white ropes of dough together and shape into a Candy Cane.  Spread Candy Canes out on cookies sheets and bake on top shelf of the oven for about 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool before serving.   Yield: Serves 25 cookies depending on your candy cane size.


"Peppermint Bark" is a classic Christmas treat. Can you resist chocolate with crisp cool bits of Candy Canes mixed together? I know I can’t. This delicious, easy “Peppermint Bark” makes a wonderful holiday gift, wrapped in a pretty box with a big red ribbon. Anything with chocolate, screams, “Christmas heaven!” 

"Peppermint Bark

Crushed Candy Canes, to yield 1 cup
2 pounds white chocolate
Peppermint flavorings, optional

Place Candy Canes in a plastic bag and hammer into 1/4-inch chunks or smaller. (I would suggest covering the plastic bag with a towel, so if the bag breaks, the candy doesn’t go all over the place. I know from experience) Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Combine candy chunks with chocolate (add peppermint flavoring at this point if desired.) Pour mixture onto a cookie sheet layered with parchment or waxed paper and place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes or until firm.  Remove from cookie sheet and break into pieces (like peanut brittle.) You will need to refrigerate the bark if there are any leftovers.


There are some occasions that call for an elegant cocktail, and this smooth drink can fit any celebration. This “Candy Cane Cocktail” is fitting for any winter festivity, whether you are celebrating Christmas, Chanukah, or New Years. Option: Garnish with a small candy cane or create a candy cane rim with either colored sugar or crushed candy canes. 

“Candy Cane Cocktail”
Recipe courtesy Sandra Lee

1 shot of vanilla rum
1 shot white chocolate liqueur (recommended: Godiva)
1 shot of peppermint schnapps
1 Candy Cane to garnish

Add all liquid ingredients to cocktail shaker filled with ice.  Shake well and strain into martini glass. Garnish with Candy Cane.  Yield: Serves 1 person

            ****I know it is a time for merriment, but please Drink Responsibly!*******

Till Next Time………

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

Friday, December 19, 2014

"Struffoli" & “Italian White Wedding Cookies” For Your Holiday Table

             "Winter is the time for comfort - it is the time for home." - Edith Sitwell

Advent is almost over and we have less than a week before Christmas Day. Are you all ready with your gifts, menu, and your desserts? Don’t panic, I still have lots to do as well, so you are not alone. One of my favorite things about this time of year is holiday baking and making wonderful homemade gifts. The aromas of the house surrounding each and every room. The sweet smell of cinnamon, raisins, nuts, brown sugar, and gingerbread. The oven in the kitchen going non-stop, plus seeing the flour, sugar, and the cookie cutters bring back so many memories of my family baking together for Christmas.

I love and enjoy cooking but baking is my favorite. I guess in my Italian family, I must have inherited the “baking gene.” I have learned so much from watching my mother and grandmothers when I was growing up. We had this wooden board, which was my great-grandmother’s. When the board was placed on the table, I felt like I was transported back in time, and I could see my great-grandmother Sofia rolling out the dough on her board. I have since inherited “the board” which I use to create my own traditions. I never had the pleasure of meeting her, she died when I was too little to remember, but I know that my sweet great-grandmother is right next to me and watching.
Great -Grandmother Sofia

"Struffoli," is one of the most popular Italian sweets found on a dessert table for Christmas Eve. I remember the towers of Struffoli in my Mother’s kitchen! I can just see my mom, my grandmother Julia, and my aunt Sophie making these sweet honey balls in the kitchen in our house in Flushing, NY. I am so grateful that I was there to learn and help make these fried goodies. These are reminiscent of mini éclair puffs drenched in honey! I hope that you try this recipe and make your own memories of this very sweet and traditional dessert.


2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour (plus a little extra to work with)
3 Eggs
1/4 tsp of salt
2 cups of vegetable oil
2 cups of honey
1/2 cup of sugar

Place the flour in a large mixing bowl add the eggs and salt. Mix well then put on floured board and knead until smooth. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Roll the dough into 1/2 inch strips, and then cut the strips into tiny pieces 1/2 inch long. Shape these tiny pieces into balls by rolling them in your hand. Heat oil to 350°F. Drop the balls into the oil carefully a few at a time. Cook until lightly golden, turning them constantly with a wooden spoon, or a spider wand. Remove balls and drain them on a paper towel or use a clean brown paper bag.

Combine the honey and sugar in a saucepan and boil the mixture over low heat about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Now, add fried balls, 1 cup at a time, and coat in the honey syrup, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Remove the balls with a spider or slotted spoon and place on a flat plate to cool. Now you can shape you coated Struffoli into a tree or piled up high like a mountain. (A trick if you want to mold the coated honey balls into a wreath or tree shape, wet your hand slightly and that will help you mold the Struffoli easier. Your hands will not stick to the honey.) Then add confetti or sprinkles. They keep up to 2 weeks, if they last that long…


I have a second cookie to share today which is one that everyone loves to eat. This little, round, sweet, cookie is called by many different names, but in my family we call them “Italian White Wedding Cookies.” These are extremely simple and don’t take long to create. I hope that you enjoy these cookies with your family!

“Italian White Wedding Cookies”

1 cup of unsalted COLD butter (2 sticks)
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of Vanilla extract
2 cups of all purpose unbleached flour; plus more for dusting hands
1 cup of chopped pecans or walnuts
Powdered sugar to coat balls 

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar at low speed until it is smooth. Beat in the vanilla. At low speed gradually add the flour. Mix in the nuts with a spatula. With floured hands, take about 1 tablespoon of dough and shape into a ball. Continue to dust hands with flour as you make more cookies. Place onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 20-30 minutes. When cool enough to handle but still warm, roll in confectioners sugar. Cool on wire racks.  Yield: depending on the size of the balls you make. This recipe makes about 2 dozen.  Enjoy!   

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

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

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

“Gingerbread Men Cookies” For Christmas & “Coconut Macaroons” For Chanukah


“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty founder was a child Himself.” by Charles Dickens 

My mom and myself
At this time of the year, the aromas that float throughout the house are so delightful. Especially when the kitchen is filled with cookies and baked goodies. It is a whimsical scent that reminds me of my childhood. As I reminisce back to when I was a young girl, I can remember my mom’s kitchen all prepared and ready to bake. I think of the sweet molasses, cinnamon, and all the ingredients we would need to bake, our cookies and cakes. My mom had an aluminum pan that was in the shape of a gingerbread man, and we would bake a gingerbread cake in it every year. Then after the cake was cooled she would take out the tubes of icing and we would begin to decorate the gingerbread man. I remember putting the eyes and mouth on with white icing and making a bow tie with the red icing. We always used raisins for the buttons and made sure that we made cuffs for the shoes and hands. Then as I grew up we would make gingerbread men with cookie cutters. We still used the icing in the tubes and would proceed to decorate them as well. I still can see the cheerful faces on the gingerbread cookies that we made in years past as well as my mom‘s face when she would watch me put the smile on the my gingerbread cookie.
Gingerbread dates back to the 15th century, and biscuit making was practiced in the 16th centuries. The first documented instance of figure-shaped gingerbread biscuits appearing was in the court of Elizabeth I of England. She had gingerbread figures made and presented them in the likeness of some of her important guests. Recently in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, they had a potential record-setting gingerbread man put on display. It was unveiled the world’s largest gingerbread man. It stood 26 feet and 2 inches tall, although its weight is unknown. 

My recipe is “Gingerbread Men Cookies,” if you didn’t guess already. I have been making this recipe for many years and it was found on the Domino Sugar box. So, I hope that you can create your own memories in making these wonderful, fragrant, and fun Gingerbread Men cookies. 

Gingerbread Men Cookies

3/4 cup firmly packed Light or Dark Brown Sugar
1/2 cup un-salted butter, softened
1/4 cup-molasses
3 1/4 cups-all purpose flour
2 teaspoons-ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons-baking soda
1/2 teaspoon-each; allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, & salt
Sugar icing (Recipe Below) 

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease cookie sheets. Beat sugar and butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs and molasses. Stir together remaining ingredients in medium bowl. Gradually add to sugar mixture until well blended. Refrigerate dough 1 hour or until easy to handle. On well-floured surface, roll out half of dough at a time to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes. Place on prepared cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes. Cool on rack. Decorate with sugar icing as desired.

Yield: about 24 (5 inch) cookies.

Sugar Icing:
Combine 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, and food coloring if desired.

Quick Tip:
To make Cookie Ornaments, bake cookies as directed. Just after the cookies are baked, use a small straw to create a hole at the top of the cookie. Leave 1/2 inch space from the top of the cookie. It is important to cut out holes while the cookies are still warm. Decorate as desired. Once dry, thread a thin ribbon through the hole to hang as an ornament.


I would like to wish a “Happy Chanukah” to all of my Jewish readers and friends. Tomorrow is the first day of Chanukah. During this Jewish holiday many families invite friends and relatives over to light the Menorah, sing songs, play games with a Dreidel (like a top), exchange gifts, and share traditional food. 

“Chanukah” or the “Festival of Lights” is celebrated for eight days around the end of December. The name came from a Hebrew word which means “to dedicate.” During Chanukah, the Jewish people honor the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem and the “Miracle of The Oil.” The Talmud, which is a book of the Jewish faith, says that after the Temple had been won over, only a day’s worth of consecrated olive oil was left to fuel the eternal flame. Miraculously, it remained burning for eight days, which was just enough time to make more of the oil.

Because of the role that the oil played in the Chanukah miracle, it is customary to serve foods fried in oil. Some traditional Chanukah foods are Latkes, fried potato pancakes, and different varieties of deep-fried donuts. It is also customary to eat dairy foods on Chanukah, in commemoration of the bravery of Yehudit, who used cheese to defeat the Greek general Holofernes.

To share in this tradition, I have a recipe called “Coconut Macaroons.” A macaroon is a type of light, baked confection, described as either small cakes or meringue-like cookies depending on their consistency.  The original macaroon was a sweet cake consisting largely of ground almonds similar to the Italian Amaretti cookie. These cookies are scrumptious!

“Coconut Macaroons”

14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon good pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Chocolate to drizzle on top (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 °F. Combine the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until they make medium-firm peaks. Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture. Drop the batter onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper using either a 1 3/4 inch diameter ice cream scoop, or two teaspoons. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool and serve. If you choose you can also drizzle some chocolate over the top of the Macaroons. (Optional)  Yield: 20-22 cookies.

Recipe is courtesy of Ina Garten’s “Barefoot Contessa Family Style”

****FYI: This post is part of Patience Brewster’s online holiday cookie exchange. She is an artist of handmade gifts and holiday ornaments! Please check out her site and share your cookie recipes with us.

Till Next Time……..

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

Friday, December 12, 2014

"Sicilian Rice Balls" To Celebrate The Feast Of St.Lucy

In many Catholic Italian families, tradition tells us that this Saturday, December 13th is the Feast of Saint Lucy. (Santa Lucia) Saint Lucy was born in the year 283 of nobility and wealth in Syracuse, (Sicily) Italy. She was a young girl who vowed to live a chaste life because of her love and devotion to Christ. Her mother arranged a marriage for her to a pagan suitor. Lucy’s suitor, had other plans, and revealed Lucy as a Christian. The authorities went to arrest her and planned on forcing her into prostitution. Because she did not surrender she was further tortured by having her eyes torn out. As the authorities tried burning her by fire, the flames would just diminish, and was killed by being stabbed in the throat with a dagger in the year 304. The legend concludes that God restored her eyes. 

St. Lucy is the patron saint of those with eye problems and blindness, plus is often depicted carrying her eyes (often on a plate). Her name, “Lucia,” means “Light,” and light plays a role in the customs of her feast day. In Italy, torchlight processions and bonfires mark her day. This tradition came about because in 1582 during a famine in Syracuse, Italy, the people prayed to St. Lucy to send them a ship that was filled with grain. Many Sicilians pay tribute to this miracle performed by St. Lucy and in her honor they do not eat anything made with wheat flour, which means giving up pasta and bread. Instead, they eat this popular dish called Cuccia which is made with boiled whole wheat berries, ricotta, sugar, nuts or raisins. In Venice, the people celebrate the feast by enjoying fried cheese. Some Italians eat small cakes or Biscotti shaped like eyes. In Lombardy and Veneto, another tradition is that a goose is eaten on this day. 

The Swedish have special traditions for the feast of St. Lucy as well.  The oldest daughter of a family will wake up before dawn on St. Lucy’s Day and dress in a white gown for purity, often with a red sash as a sign of St. Lucy’s death. On her head, she wears a crown of evergreens with four to nine candles that are lit. She is often accompanied by “star children,” her small brothers or sisters are dressed in white with cone-shaped hats that are decorated with gold stars, and carrying star-tipped wands. “St Lucy” and her “star children” will wake up the rest of her family. She then serves them coffee, and a traditional pastry called Lussekatter. (saffron buns or as they are sometimes called Lucy Cats, made in the “S” shape, like a cat with raisins or currants that are made to look like eyes) 

When I was a young girl, I do not remember really celebrating the traditions of St. Lucy. I do know that my parents told us that St. Lucy was the patron saint of the eyes and to say a prayer to her for our good fortune to have eyesight.  My grandmother Nanni, (my father’s mother) was from Sicily and she would stay true to the traditions of not eating any bread or pasta on that day. She would make these tasteful little balls made of rice called "Arancini di Siciliani" or Rice Balls. My Nanni never wrote any of her recipes down, and that is sad for me, but she would always add a little of this or that. I do remember eating her Arancini and they were heavenly. One of my favorite Italian cooks is Mary Ann Esposito, of “Ciao Italia.” Her recipe is the closest to my Nanni’s recipe that I can find. So I hope that you try this mouthwatering dish and enjoy on St. Lucy’s Day. 

"Sicilian Rice Balls"

One cup of Arborio rice
3 Large eggs
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup of diced mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup diced Prosciutto (about 2 oz.)
3 tablespoons of finely minced fresh parsley
2 cups of fresh bread crumbs
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1/4 cup of homemade tomato sauce
Peanut or vegetable oil for deep frying

In a saucepan, bring 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil. Add the rice and cook for 15 minutes. The rice should be quite firm. Drain and transfer to a bowl.

Lightly beat one of the eggs and add to the rice, along with the grated cheese, parsley, and salt and pepper. Mix well. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in another bowl, mix the mozzarella cheese and the Prosciutto.

With floured hands, divide the mixture into 8 to 10 portions and roll each portion into a ball the size of a small orange. Poke a hole into the center of each ball with your finger and inset about 1 tablespoon of the mozzarella mixture. Reshape and smooth the balls to enclose the filling.

In a shallow dish beat the remaining 2 eggs. Spread the bread crumbs and the flour on separate plates. Dip the rice balls in the flour, egg, and the breadcrumbs to coat them evenly. Then refrigerate them for about 30 minutes.   

In a deep fryer or a deep heavy pan, heat the oil to 375 °F. Fry the rice balls until they are golden brown on all sides. Drain them on brown paper or paper towels and serve immediately, with fresh tomato sauce. As you eat them, you can see the mozzarella strings stretch out like telephone wires. So delicious and yummy.

Till Next Time…………..

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

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A “Cream Puff" Recipe As We Celebrate “National Pastry Day”

Welcome….The Italian people are very serious about celebrating any type of family gathering. But what is even more serious to them is indulging in delicious foods which are prepared for these occasions. Foods that were passed down from generation to generation, are simple recipes made with the freshest ingredients, and you can feel the love that went into every special dish. So, come with me around my family table as I share with you one of my families recipes for the holidays! 

Today just happens to be “National Pastry Day!” This day was created as a fun day to encourage you to make and eat your favorite pastries. Make savory pastries or sweet either one is delicious. It is possible this holiday may have been created by the greeting card industry because I found reference to it on greeting card sites as I was doing my research. This holiday is still referred to as a "National,” day as all food and drink holidays are. Pastries are popular all throughout the year, especially during the holiday season. Did you know that "Pastries go back to the ancient Mediterranean paper-thin multi-layered baklava and filo?"

The definition of “Pastry” per Wikipedia says that, "Pastry is the name given to various kinds of baked goods made from ingredients such as flour, butter, shortening, baking powder, and eggs. Common pastry dishes include pies, tarts, quiches, doughnuts, cream puffs, etc. Pastry is distinguished from bread by having a higher fat content, which contributes to a flaky or crumbly texture. A good pastry is light and airy but firm enough to support the weight of a filling. Over mixing results in a tough pastry.

Choux pastry, or pâte à choux is a light pastry dough used to make profiteroles, (cream puffs) éclairs, French crullers, beignets and many more luscious desserts. This dough only contains butter, water, flour, and eggs. Choux pastry is usually baked but for beignets it is fried. They are sometimes filled with cream or dusted with powdered sugar and used to make cream puffs or éclairs.

My recipe this week is a simply light and heavenly pastry called “Cream Puffs.” What a way to celebrate “National Pastry Day” than by eating one of these luscious cream filled pastries, especially drizzled with chocolate. They will look beautiful on your holiday table.

“Cream Puffs”

1 cup of water
1/2 cup unsalted butter (no substitutes)
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
4 eggs
1 teaspoon of sugar
3 cups whipped cream (homemade is the best)
Melted Chocolate or powdered sugar

Place butter in a medium saucepan. Add water and salt. Bring to boiling, stirring till butter melts. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook and stir till mixture forms a ball that doesn’t separate. Remove from heat; cool 10 minutes. Once cooled add eggs, one at a time, to flour mixture, beating with a wooden spoon after each addition for about 1 minute, or till smooth. Scoop up some dough with a tablespoon. Use another spoon to push off the dough in a mound onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Leave 3 inches between the puffs for expansion. Bake in a pre-heated 400° F. oven for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove puffs from pan, and cool on a rack. Slice off the tops (or cut in half). With a fork, gently scrape out any soft, moist dough if there is any. Work carefully so that you don’t puncture the crust. After they are cooled, fill with the homemade whip cream. You can drizzle melted chocolate on top of the cream puffs, if you choose or sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Yield: about 15 or more servings, depending how big you make them.

Till Next Time………………..

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

Friday, December 5, 2014

“Escarole Soup” Recipe For Advent & The Feast Of Saint Nicholas

As I began to write this post, my eyes glanced at the calendar, and as I looked closer, I see that it is December 6th on Saturday! As I get older, I learn that each year, the days, and months get shorter. With that being said, the beginning of December means that Advent is upon us. Advent is a countdown to Christmas. It seems to be a magical time as I start to decorate my house for this joyous season. Every day another room gets transformed into what my family calls “Dottie’s Christmas Village.” I have many candles and lots of beautiful angels plus you cannot forget the tree, with jolly old St. Nick under its branches. My Nativity takes a special place on my mantle surrounded by golden angels and branches of pines trees that fills the room with the scent of outdoors.

My Tree
As I unpack all of the decorations and ornaments for the tree, I seem to travel back in time. I am reminded of all my treasured keepsakes and who gave them to me throughout the years. One of the first items I always take out first is my Advent calendar, and place it in a spot that all could see. During the Advent season, Christians all over the world start to prepare for the birth of Jesus. In celebration of His birth, there are many preparations, such as decorating your house, your tree, wrapping gifts, cards to write, meals to plan cook and plan, plus baking cookies, gingerbread houses, and lastly who will be attending Midnight Mass.

Advent is a tradition in my home, when my son was young. My grandmother (Nanni) started giving him an advent calendar every year, so he could understand how many days were left till Christmas Day. Every day my son looked forward to opening another door and see what was behind it. Sometimes a short poem, a Christmas word, a chocolate kiss, or something that pertained to the birth of Jesus. After my Nanni passed on, I continued the tradition for my son as well as my nieces and nephews.

Vintage Advent Calendar
Advent wreaths are different, they have a liturgical meaning. They are usually an evergreen wreath with four candles and often, a fifth, white candle in the center. Beginning with the First Sunday of Advent, the lighting of a candle can be accompanied by a Bible reading, devotional time, and prayers. An additional candle is lit during each week until, by the last Sunday before Christmas, all four candles are lit. Many Advent wreaths include a fifth, Christ candle which is lit at Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The custom is observed both in family settings and at public church services. The circle of the wreath means, God’s eternity, no beginning or end. The green of the wreath means the hope that we have in God. The candles symbolize the light of God coming into the world through His birth. (Peace, Love, Hope, and Joy)

Advent Wreath
The beginning of December is not only for Advent but also on December 6th, tomorrow we celebrate the feast of Saint Nicholas! Whether you call him, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, Santa Claus, St. Nick, or any other names that are used for him, Santa is still the hero of millions of children in the whole world. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving. Legend states that one of the old Christian traditions surrounding St. Nicholas’ feast day is for kids to leave their shoes out overnight in front of the fireplace, on the windowsill, or outside their bedroom door so that St. Nicholas can fill their shoes with special fruits, candies, and other small gifts and treats. 
Saint Nicholas

Another cute part of this tradition is for children to leave carrots or hay in their shoes for St. Nicholas’ donkey to eat. St. Nicholas takes the hay and carrots for his donkey and replaces them with small gifts and treats for the children. That is how he became the model for our modern day Santa Claus, which also comes from the Dutch name called Sinterklaas. St. Nicholas (San Nicola) is the patron saint of Bari, in Italy, where his relics are buried in the Basilica di San Nicola (Basilica of St. Nicholas). Therefore, I hope that your shoes have many goodies from St. Nicholas!

Filled Shoes with Goodies
My recipe this week is “Escarole Soup.” This recipe is a traditional dish that my mom made to celebrate Saint Nicholas Day, on December 6th. Its origin is Italian and you can add white kidney beans and/or Tortellini to the soup. I also posted this recipe on “Cooking With Nonna.” If you log on to “Cooking With Nonna,” Rossella Rago who hosts the site has this recipe listed under Soups and shares my recipe with all of her readers and followers. Thank you Rossella.. (click on “Cooking With Nonna” it will bring you to the recipe)

“Escarole Soup


"Escarole Soup"
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pound of escarole, chopped and washed
A pinch of salt
4 cups low-salt chicken broth
Freshly ground pepper
Grated Pecorino-Romano cheese


Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add the escarole and sauté until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add a pinch of salt. Add the chicken broth, cover and simmer about 5 minutes. You can add a can of white kidney beans (washed and rinsed to get the salt off) plus/or cooked Tortellini. Serve with crusty Italian bread and top with grated Pecorino-Romano cheese.

Till Next Time……

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

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

“Lemon Ginger Cut Out Cookies" For "National Cookie Cutter Week"

Welcome, I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend filled with family, friends, food, and fun.  Now that Thanksgiving is behind us for another year, it is time for to prepare for my favorite time of the year, which is Christmas! Have you decorated and put up your glowing tree yet? Were you one of the many people that went Christmas shopping on Black Friday? Did you get all of your gifts on your list? Have you even thought of what to serve for Christmas Eve or Christmas day dinner for your family? I know, here we are and it is December 1st already and it is overwhelming. So many things to do, places to go and not enough time to really enjoy the season. Well, I have one solution for you!

It is time to bring out the cookie cutters! December 1-7th is "National Cookie Cutter Week," just in time for your holiday baking. This may be one thing that you can cross off your “Holiday To Do List.” Do you know what other day is celebrated on December 4th? It is National Cookie Day. So what better way to honor one of the most loved desserts in the world? By making cookies with cookie cutters. “National Cookie Cutter Week” was started in the mid 1990’s by Paula Mullins from KY. She designed a cutter for each year for the “Cookie Cutter Collector’s Club.” Lyn Linder took over in 2007 when Mullins decided she no longer wanted to be involved. What a delightful way to bring in the holiday season!

The holiday season means lots of goodies, especially cookies. In the next few weeks many people will be searching their kitchens, pantry, and drawers for the cookie cutters, which may have been passed down through their family generations. Cookie cutters come in many shapes and sizes. At this time of the year, you see Christmas Trees, Santa, Snowmen, Bells, Stars, Snowflakes, and Gingerbread people to name just a few. Choose simply shaped cookie cutters that are open in the back. If you have cookie cutters that are closed in the back, it is more difficult to work with as the dough warms up, they stick sometimes. Before you make your shape the dough with your cookie cutter, dip the cutter in a small amount of flour. This prevents the cookie cutter from sticking on the dough. Any dough that you use cookie cutters with should be chilled before baking. Cookies can be classified into 3 categories. Dropped cookies, rolled, and pressed cookies. They can have nuts, cranberries, raisins, chocolate chips, and be decorated with sugar icing.  

There is nothing more fun and relaxing than making home made cookies with my cookie cutters that have been passed down from my mom to me. It is a wonderful way to bake with your family and make memories that will last a lifetime. Let this be the day that you buy a new cookie cutter and start your own tradition. Enjoy your home made cookies with a tall glass of cold milk or hot chocolate. Remember Tis’ the season to be merry!

My recipe this week is called “Lemon Ginger Cut Outs.” This recipe I found in the “Taste of Home” magazine a while ago. What drew me to this recipe were the flavor  of lemon, cinnamon, and the ginger all wrapped into one bite. I bet you can’t just have one of these delicious cookies! I sometimes skip the frosting step and sprinkle the colored sugar directly on the cookies before they go in the oven. The end result is just as festive and still yummy.

“Lemon Ginger Cut Outs”

Yield: 96   Prep: 1-1/2 hours & chilling   Bake: 10 min./batch & cooling

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
4-1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons water
Colored sugar, optional

In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add corn syrup, honey and lemon peel. Combine the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and ginger; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or until easy to handle. Divide dough into fourths. On a lightly floured surface, roll one portion to 1/8-in. thickness. Cut into desired shapes with floured 2-in. cookie cutters. Place 2 in. apart on greased baking sheets. Bake at 350°F for 8-10 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool. Repeat with remaining dough. For frosting, in a small bowl, combine confectioners' sugar and enough water to achieve desired consistency. Spread over cookies. Sprinkle with colored sugar if desired.


As I end this post, I have one last event that I must share with you my readers. Today happens to be my parents “63rd” Wedding Anniversary. As I reflect on many memories, this poem says it all. "Happy Anniversary," Mom and Dad, Thank you, and I love you both. 

(mom & dad Wedding December 2, 1951)
One by one each year flew by. Since you both said “I do”
63 years of memories, Shared by the two of you.
From big events and holidays, To simple daily pleasures,
Some tearful times along life’s way, Some joys that can’t be measured
One by one each year now gone, But still they’re yours forever,
Each and every memory. Of “63” Years together!

Till Next Time………………

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