Friday, January 31, 2014

Happy Chinese New Year--The Year of the Horse & "Chinese Chop Suey Candy"

新年好 Xīnnián hǎo

Chinese New Year is the longest and most important celebration in the Chinese calendar. The Chinese year 4712 begins on Jan. 31, 2014 and this year it is, “The Year of the Horse.“

Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later. The 15th day of the new year is called the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated at night with lantern displays and children carrying lanterns in a parade.

New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are celebrated as a family affair, a time of reunion and thanksgiving. The celebration was traditionally highlighted with a religious ceremony given in honor of Heaven and Earth, the gods of the household and the family ancestors. The sacrifice to the ancestors, the most vital of all the rituals, united the living members with those who had passed away. Departed relatives are remembered with great respect because they were responsible for laying the foundations for the fortune and glory of the family. The presence of the ancestors is acknowledged on New Year's Eve with a dinner arranged for them at the family banquet table. The communal feast called "surrounding the stove" or weilu. It symbolizes family unity and honors the past and present generations.

Probably more food is consumed during the New Year celebrations than any other time of the year. On New Year's Day, the Chinese family will eat a vegetarian dish called jai. Although the various ingredients in jai are root vegetables or fibrous vegetables. Other foods include a whole fish, to represent togetherness and abundance, and a chicken for prosperity. The chicken must be presented with a head, tail and feet to symbolize completeness. Noodles should be uncut, as they represent long life. The tremendous amount of food prepared at this time was meant to symbolize abundance and wealth for the household.

Prior to New Year's Day, Chinese families decorate their living rooms with vases of pretty blossoms, platters of oranges and tangerines and a candy tray with eight varieties of dried sweet fruit. On walls and doors are profound pictures and happy wishes written on red paper. These messages sound better than the typical fortune cookie messages. For instance, "May you enjoy continuous good health" and "May the Star of Happiness, the Star of Wealth and the Star of Longevity shine on you" are especially positive sentiments.

Every traditional Chinese household should also have live blooming plants to symbolize rebirth and new growth. Flowers are believed to be symbolic of wealth and high positions in one's career. Luck follows a home with a plant that blooms on New Year's Day, for that foretells a year of prosperity. The plum blossom also signifies reliability and perseverance. The bamboo is known for its compatibility, its utility, and the evergreen pine evokes longevity. Other highly prized flowers are the pussy willow, azalea, peony, and the water lily. The Chinese firmly believe that without flowers, there would be no fruits of any kind. Therefore, it is very important to have flowers, and floral decorations surround the home. 

When visiting family or friends anytime during the two-week long Chinese New Year celebration, etiquette dictates that you must bring a bag of oranges, and tangerines with leaves intact to assure that one's relationship with the other remains secure. Oranges and tangerines are symbols for abundant happiness.

A candy tray arranged in either a circle or octagon is called "The Tray of Togetherness," and has a dazzling array of candy to start the New Year sweetly. After taking several pieces of candy from the tray, adults place a red envelope (lai see) on the center compartment of the tray. Each item represents some kind of good fortune. Candied melon - growth and good health. Red melon seeds - dyed red to symbolize joy, happiness, truth, and sincerity. Lychee nut - strong family relationships. Cumquat - prosperity (gold). Coconut - togetherness. Peanuts - long life. Lotus seeds - many children.

Me, at 2yrs old with a
Chinese Outfit my 
uncle Vincent 
bought for me

The entire house should be cleaned before New Year's Day. On New Year's Eve, all brooms, brushes, dusters, dust pans, and other cleaning equipment are put away. Sweeping or dusting should not be done on New Year's Day for fear that good fortune will be swept away. After New Year's Day, the floors may be swept. Beginning at the door, the dust and rubbish are swept to the middle of the parlor, then placed in the corners and not taken or thrown out until the fifth day. At no time should the rubbish in the corners be trampled upon. In sweeping, there is a superstition that if you sweep the dirt out over the threshold, you will sweep one of the family away. Also, to sweep the dust and dirt out of your house by the front entrance is to sweep away the good fortune of the family; it must always be swept inwards and then carried out, then no harm will follow. All dirt and rubbish must be taken out the back door.

In doing the research for this post, I noticed that there are a lot of similarities from food to house cleaning that are like our New Years celebration. Learning about new traditions and celebrations from different cultures make us become aware of the countries that make the United States a real melting pot.

My recipe for today is one that is fun but yet traditional for Chinese New Year. It is called by many names but mostly known by “Chinese Chop Suey Candy.” 

"Chinese Chop Suey Candy"

1 cup sugar
1 cup white corn syrup
1/2 cup evaporated milk
5 cup of corn flakes
1 cup of chopped peanuts
1 cup of flaked coconut

Cook the syrup, sugar and evaporated milk to the soft ball stage. Then, add the corn flakes, nuts, and coconut. Stirring regularly Continue cooking to 240° with a Candy Thermometer. Working quickly, drop by spoonfuls on the prepared baking sheet and set aside to cool. Yield will depend on how large you make the clusters. Can also press out on a buttered 9 x 13 inch baking pan and cut into squares. Once dried and fully set, place into cupcake liners, bag individually, or break into pieces.

Tip: Spray two spoons with non-stick spray and use one to scoop and one to push off.

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

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

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Super Bowl Goodies: “Pizza Pull Apart Bread” And A “Black Velvet Cocktail“

Welcome to “Wordless Tuesday.” For my readers that are new, I have implemented a new idea called “Wordless Tuesday!” This means that every Tuesday I will be just posting a delicious recipe, no stories, just a recipe that you will not be able to resist. I still will be posting on my usual day which is Friday, my stories of family, traditions, and special holidays, plus a scrumptious recipe.

So, no more words, just a mouth watering recipe which I know you have been waiting for…..

Super Bowl Pizza Pull Apart Bread


1 unsliced round loaf sourdough bread
12-16 ounces Mozzarella or Provolone cheese, thinly sliced
1 (3.5 ounce) package pepperoni, halved
3 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasonings
2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese
Marinara or Pizza sauce for dipping


Preheat oven to 350°F degrees. Using a sharp bread knife, cut bread going both directions without cutting all the way through the crust. Be careful as the bread is very forgiving. (As seen in the photo)

Place bread on a foil-lined baking sheet and insert cheese slices and pepperoni between cuts. Combine butter, garlic powder, and Italian seasonings. Drizzle or brush over bread with a pastry brush. Sprinkle bread with Parmesan cheese.

Wrap bread completely in foil and bake 15 minutes. Unwrap the bread and bake 10 more minutes, or until cheese is melted and pepperoni is a little crispy. There is nothing more mouthwatering than sourdough bread glazed with Parmesan and garlic butter, oozing with melted cheese, and pepperoni. Serve with warm pizza sauce for dipping! Yum! 

Black Velvet Cocktail


6 oz chilled stout
6 oz chilled champagne (or sparkling white wine)


Just pour the stout slowly into a tall glass, and simply add the champagne! You need to make sure that the two drinks remain separate, so that the different densities form one layer on top of the other.

First, pour in your champagne or sparkling white wine. Fill it to the middle. Next, pour in your stout very slowly over the back of a spoon. This will help the stout to settle gently on top of the champagne, and should, in theory, keep the two layers separate. Serve in a chilled pint glass, or a champagne flute. You can also add ice and that works well.

Till Next Time………………………………......

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

Friday, January 24, 2014

"National Hot Tea Month" With "Scones" & “Hot Apple Cider Tea” Made With Wine

It is freezing here on Long Island and I am enjoying a big cup of hot steaming tea as I am writing this post. Drinking tea is my very favorite beverage especially in the winter. It always feels like a warm blanket comforting me. With each sip I can feel all cozy inside. January just happens to be, “National Hot Tea Month.” A perfect month to celebrate hot tea! 

Did you know that there's credible evidence that tea reduces the risk of heart disease, and possibly even helps prevent cancer and Alzheimer's disease? Indeed, tea is considered a super food; whether it's black, green, white, or oolong tea. All those tea types come from the same tea plant. The leaves are simply processed differently. Green tea leaves are not fermented; they are withered and steamed. Black tea and oolong tea leaves undergo crushing and fermenting processes. All teas from the Camellia plant are rich in polyphenols, antioxidants that detoxify cell-damaging free radicals in the body. Tea has about eight to 10 times the polyphenols found in fruits and vegetables. Research suggests that regular tea drinkers, people who drink two cups or more a day, (that is me) have less heart disease, stroke, and lowers LDL cholesterol.

Tea also helps soothe stress and keep us relaxed. One British study found that people who drank black tea were able to de-stress faster. The secret ingredient in tea is Catechins, a type of disease fighting flavonoid and antioxidant. Here's a tip which I did not know, that the longer you steep the tea, the more flavonoids you'll get in your brew. To get the best tea benefit, some studies suggest drinking three cups each day to cut heart disease risk. Since iced tea is diluted, it's a lighter source of flavonoids, but it still counts! So make sure you drink tea whenever you can, especially as a substitute for soft drinks.  

Many tea drinkers find the beverage soothing, a remedy for sore throats, and upset stomachs. Tea is the world’s second most popular beverage consumed, second only to water. It is easy to make, affordable, and offers a variety of flavors. In Italy, coffee or espresso is the drink of choice, only after a meal, but rarely tea is consumed.

My Tea Set. All ready for a snack

The traditional method of making a cup of tea is to place “loose tea leaves” in a tea infuser or a teacup and pour hot water over the leaves. After a couple of minutes of steeping time, remove the leaves and strain while serving a perfect cup of tea. The “tea bag” was invented by an American tea merchant Thomas Sullivan in 1907. He began distributing samples if his tea in small bags of Chinese silk with a drawstring. Many people noticed that they could simply leave the tea in the bag and reuse it with fresh tea leaves. Another form of a tea bag was introduced by Lipton in 1996, which has a unique design. It is called the “pyramid tea bag,” or “sachet bag,” because of its three-dimensional shape which allows more room for tea leaves to expand while steeping.

“Afternoon Tea” or “High Tea” is still practiced all over the world. Afternoon Tea involves manners, lace, and finger foods that include, crust-less cucumber sandwiches, baked scones served with jam, biscuits, and an assortment of loose teas. Afternoon Tea was considered to be a ladies’ social event. High Tea on the other hand was a working class meal served shortly after five P.M.  It was a heavy meal of meat, fish, vegetables, baked goods, and other foods. Today, the tradition of the “afternoon tea” continues as many people love to celebrate a birthday, holiday time or other special events with a “Tea Party”. 

My "50th" Birthday 
When I turned “50,”(10 years ago) my best friend Mary Ann gave me an afternoon tea party to celebrate my Birthday. She prepared crust less tea sandwiches, scones with jam, and an array of flavored teas. She made me a beautiful hat cake, surrounded by petals of roses and a silk ribbon around the brim of the cake, just like a Victorian hat. Thanks to Mary Ann, it will be a birthday that I will never forget.

I have two recipes this week for you; the first is called “Favorite Scones.”(Courtesy from and the second is a “Hot Apple Cider Tea” from Bigelow ®Tea Bags. These recipes are a perfect choice for “National Hot Tea Month.” The scones are rich and golden brown, while the Hot Apple Cider Tea is flavorful and warm. Exquisite for a brunch or an afternoon snack.   

Favorite Scones

1/3 cup of unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
3 tablespoons of granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup of raisins or currants
4 to 6 tablespoons half & half or milk
1 egg, beaten for brushing on scones

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut butter into flour, sugar, baking powder and salt until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in 1 egg, raisins and enough half & half so dough leaves the sides of the bowl. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead 10 times. Roll 1/2 inch thick; cut with round or heart shaped cutters. Place on un-greased cookie sheet; brush with beaten egg. Bake until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove immediately. Split scones and serve with butter, jams, and jellies. Serves: 15     Enjoy!

“Hot Apple Cider Tea

Yield: Serves: 4 Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 5 minutes.

1 1/3 cups of water
8 Bigelow® Apple Cider Herbal Tea Bags
1 1/3 cups cranberry juice
1 cup burgundy wine
Cinnamon sticks as a garnish

In a medium saucepan, bring water to boil, add tea, cover and let steep for 5 minutes. Remove teabags. Stir in cranberry juice and wine. Return to medium heat. Heat thoroughly. Serve in a large pottery mug. Garnish each cup with a cinnamon stick.

Till Next Time………

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

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

“Spinach-Mushroom Stuffed Chicken” For "Wordless Tuesday"

Welcome to my first “Wordless Tuesday.” For my readers that are new, I have implemented a new idea called “Wordless Tuesday!” Time to celebrate! This means that every Tuesday I will be just posting a delicious recipe, no stories, no special days of the month, just a recipe that you will not be able to resist. I still will be posting on my usual day which is Friday, my stories of family, traditions, and special holidays, plus a scrumptious recipe.

So, no more words, just a mouth watering recipe which I know you have been waiting for….. 

                           Spinach-Mushroom Stuffed Chicken

Total Time: Prep: 35 min. Bake: 50 min.
Makes: 8 servings


1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons butter
1 package (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed & squeezed dry
1/4 cup Julienne sweet red pepper (2-in. pieces)
1/2 cup finely shredded Swiss cheese
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
8 bone-in chicken breast halves with skin
2 cups white wine or chicken broth
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard


In a large skillet, sauté the mushrooms, onion and garlic in butter until tender. Stir in the spinach and red pepper; cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in the Swiss cheese, bread crumbs, lemon peel, salt and pepper.

Carefully loosen chicken skin on one side of each chicken breast half to form a pocket; stuff with spinach mixture. Place in a greased 15 in. x 10 in. x 1 in. baking pan. Bake, uncovered, at 350°F for 50-60 minutes or until juices run clear.

In a small saucepan, bring wine or broth to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer until reduced to 1 cup. Slowly whisk in cream and mustard. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for 2 minutes. Spoon over chicken. A bunch of asparagus and a baked potato would be a delicious addition to your stuffed chicken.  Yield: 8 servings.

Hope that you enjoyed this week’s recipe. Make sure you come back for my Friday's post… Thank you…. Ciao!

****Originally published as Spinach-Mushroom Stuffed Chicken in Taste of Home's Holiday & Celebrations Cookbook Annual 2004, p45

Till Next Time………………………………......

Copyright © 2014 “Family Plus Food Equals Love”

Saturday, January 18, 2014


“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing things, because we’re curious, and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths” by Walt Disney
Today is a special day for me….can you guess why? I’m celebrating “3” years of blogging. It’s my Blogiversary! I am amazed and blessed everyday at the amount of my readers that have visited. I have 150 countries and over 56,000 people who come back to visit and read my story as well as my recipes each week. My heart overflows with thanks for reading, subscribing, commenting, and liking what I write. I had no idea how this blog would impact so many people, including myself. Since I have started this blog every one of you has made me feel that I have something important to say and share. My passion for writing, my family traditions, recipes, and new experiences have given me confidence, and motivation. Blogging has given me the opportunity to share my personal stories, create friendships, and give me support. I am looking forward to new experiences, with new recipes to share. I hope that you will continue to come back as my journey of, year “3” continues! There is so much more to be accomplished! So let’s celebrate!

It is time to move forward, and I promise I will be giving my best whenever possible. I have come up with a few new ideas for this year, and the first thing I can think of is what I like to call “Wordless Tuesday.” I know some of you might be familiar with Wordless Wednesday, but I love to change things, and being my regular post is on Friday, to break up the week I thought it would be fun to post this on Tuesday. Hence forth “Wordless Tuesday” would be once a week, but contain no stories or information, just a delicious recipe! 

 Another plan I would like to implement is to have “Interviews.” An interview of a special person once a month. This person could be a blogger, an activist, an entrepreneur, or an expert on some specific topic. The members of my blogging community will get preference, so get prepared to be interviewed. These interviews will be based more on the personal life of the person, their recipes, and the traditions their family had when they were young, plus some fun question, ex: What type of Vegetable would you be? So let me give you the breakdown…Every Friday I will post my story, information, and my recipe, then every Tuesday will be known as “Wordless Tuesday” with just a delicious recipe, and finally once a month (have no date yet) will be a “Blog Interview Day.” If you would like to see something different or have an idea, please comment below and let me know what I can do to make your stay more enjoyable. 

Some people could eat a pie morning, noon, and night: meat pies, sweet pies, or savory pies. Any dish with a melt-in-the-mouth crust, and a satisfying filling is my kind of pie! I have been making pies for many years, and I guess you can say that I am passionate about pies. If I had to name my favorite pie, it would be almost impossible. National Pie Day is January 23rd. Remember, you don’t have to wait for January 23rd to make a pie…any day is a good day for a pie!

This week the weather people are predicting a Polar Vortex again, which means very cold temperatures will be across the country. That sounds like a day for comfort food. Comfort food is what we all need once in a while to bring back those warm days of being home with family. The kitchen was and still is the heart of our home. Our family did everything in the kitchen. It was a small room compared to the kitchens of today, but that made it even better as it was our gathering place. We would talk at the kitchen table; we did our homework there, and many other family projects. It always seemed that as my mother was cooking or baking we gravitated to that room. Maybe because it was a happy place to be with everyone while we were waiting for dinner. Sometimes my mom and dad would take out a deck of cards and play Kings Corners with us, remember at that time there weren't any of the electronic games or computers that we have today. Not even cell phones. We had one phone in the house with an extension that would go into my parent’s room. But the main phone was in the kitchen. So cards and board games were always at hand. I remember the kitchen windows would be foggy with steam from the warmth of the kitchen, as we tried to look out to see when my dad would be coming home from work.

As we had our dinner we would talk about the days events, and God forbid that the phone would ring and it was one of our friends, that was a no-no. Dinner time was for family and nothing could come between that. Now dinner was always a hearty and comforting meal, especially on cold days. Meat loaf, stews, hearty soups, and pot pies were the menu for those days. Pot pies were always fun and good to eat. You had the top crust which smelled and tasted like a pie, plus the warm cut up pieces of chicken and vegetables in delicious gravy. Once you opened the little individual pies, the gravy would float over the crust and all of the insides would flow out. Memories are so much fun to think about. Especially when they were always good times with my family in the kitchen.

My recipe this week is one that just makes you melt, releases all your tensions and comforts you as each fork full you take goes into your stomach. A life of pie, celebrate the ultimate one pot dish….Mangia! Enjoy!

Chicken Pot Pie

1 (15 ounce) package refrigerated pie crust
1 (10.5 ounce) can Campbell's Chicken Gravy
3 cups cooked cut-up vegetables (sliced carrots, peas, cubed potatoes, corn, and mushrooms)   
2 (4.5 ounce) cans Premium Chunk Chicken Breast in Water, drained or fresh cooked cut up chicken breast

Let the pie crusts stand at room temperature for 15 minutes or until they're easy to handle. Place 1 pie crust into a 9-inch pie plate. Stir the gravy, vegetables and chicken in a medium bowl. Spoon the chicken mixture into the pie plate. Place the remaining pie crust over the filling. Press the edges to seal. Cut several slits in the top crust. Bake at 400°F for 45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

Till Next Time………………………

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

Friday, January 10, 2014

"Baby, It's Cold Outside" & "Ricotta Balls Soup" For "National Soup Month"

"Baby, It's Cold Outside" is a song with words and music by Frank Loesser. It is a romantic winter song that premiered as a duet in 1944 with his wife, Lynn Garland. 

What made me think of this song is, here on Long Island this past week temperatures have been below freezing, in the single digits, and even into the minuses. It seems that all across the country, there is what the meteorologists call a “Polar Vortex.” Snow and ice has covered the country from, north, south, east, and the west. I know we are in the month of January, but these temperatures have not been that low since 20 years. How are you keeping warm and cozy? Are you near a fireplace, or under your blankets? I have been in the kitchen making the best recipe for keeping warm and comfy. That would be by cooking a warm bowl of delicious soup.

Did you know that January is “National Soup Month?” Soup can be dated back to about 6,000 B.C. Did you know that soup is the #1 choice for comfort foods? I can't think of anything better than a nice hot bowl of soup or stew to make a person feel comforted when their feeling down. There's just something about having a hot steaming bowl under your nose, with a nice wedge of homemade bread and all your worries go away for the moment.

"Soup is not just for eating." There are many things that a person will cling to for comfort. Many people will not want to eat at all when they are worried about something, but if you offer them a bowl of soup, 9 out of 10 times they will accept it and eat it. Soup even gives us a nice warm feeling inside when we watch someone eating it too. It's a good idea to always have some soup available for those unexpected rainy days, because the truth is; soup is healing, inside and out. Have you ever noticed when a loved one is sick, the first thing they ask for is soup? Soup feels real nice to a sore throat. Its smoothness and soft veggies slide down the throat without scratching and with very little effort. This is another reason why soup is a great meal to give a sick person. It can be eaten quickly with little effort at all, and they feel comforted. 

Soups are quick, easy, and practically no fail. You don't have to be an expert cook to make a great bowl of soup and make those comforting memories for your family. Soup also freeze easily too. You can make up a big pot and freeze part of it for a rainy day. In doing research for this post, I found that “Soup Month” is gaining momentum in other countries as well. Why? Because everybody loves soups and every country is famous for their own soups.

Food in general has always had a way of sticking in our minds. How many times have you walked in a room and you smelt a familiar aroma that sent fond memories of your mom and grandmother’s cooking, rushing to your taste buds? We all have those memories and we would be lost without them. That’s why it’s so important for us to make fond memories of meals around a dinner table that our children can carry with them to their adult life. 

Christmas NY City Late 1970's
From left: Aunt Sophie, my mom, 
Paul my son, myself, & my brother Christopher

Memories of enjoying a warm bowl or cup of soup were like a big hug for me, from my mom! In my Italian family my mom would always make some form of soup or stew for our dinner. Whether it was homemade chicken soup when we were sick or a cup of soup after we were out in the snow, building snowmen. There is nothing like that warm aroma of steaming soup to melt all your troubles away. One of my favorite soups that my mother made when I was young and still does today is called “Ricotta Balls Soup.” When any of my family members hear that she is making this, our mouths water, and it brings back memories of when I was a child. It is really a feeling of family and love. So I would love to share this recipe with you, my readers. Once you have had this soup, you will be hooked and want to make this creamy, yummy, Ricotta Balls recipe over and over again. Make sure you have a bowl of soup before January melts away into a memory. Enjoy!!

"Ricotta Balls Soup"

2 lbs Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
4 cloves of peeled whole garlic
Fresh cut parsley/a handful
1 cup of bread crumbs (unflavored)
3/4 cup fresh Pecorino Romano grated cheese
2 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup of vegetable oil 
3 to 4 quarts of water

Put water in a wide but not deep pot. (Dutch Oven) After water is boiled put in 4 cloves of peeled garlic. Add about 1/4 cup of oil to water. Then add fresh parsley and about 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Lower water to a simmer; meanwhile prepare the Ricotta Balls mixture.

Mix together in a large bowl, ricotta, eggs, grated cheese, salt, pepper, and the bread crumbs. After combined, roll the mixture into small balls, (like meatball shape) make sure they are small, they will expand when cooked. (Like golf ball size) Once they are shaped into balls, place carefully in simmering water to cook. Cook them for about 20-30 minutes. Turn them very carefully in the pot as they will break apart. They tend to puff so do not overcrowd them. The water which becomes the soup, turns a little creamy from the cheese of the ricotta balls, and has the flavor as well.  This recipe makes about 30-35 balls depending on how big you make them.

Till Next Time…………

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

Friday, January 3, 2014

"The Feast of the Epiphany" & A "Pork and Pepper Soup" Recipe

I hope everyone had an enjoyable New Year’s with lots of partying and celebrations. However the fun is not over yet. The feast of the Epiphany is this weekend, which is celebrated all over the world. The Epiphany is the twelfth day of Christmas and on this day the Three Wise Men came to pay homage to the Christ Child. 

In the Catholic religion the teaching of the word “epiphany” means manifestation. This is the day when the Magi (Three Kings) reached the Christ child and He became known to the world as Jesus. In some regions the Feast of the Epiphany is also called the Feast of the Holy Kings or The Gifts of The Magi. The Kings names were Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. They followed the bright five pointed star in the heavens which brought them to Bethlehem, and the stable where Mary, the Mother of Jesus, had just given birth. The Three Kings presented their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to honor the baby, Jesus.

There are various customs and traditions on how to celebrate The Feast of the Epiphany all over the world. Throughout Italy, especially Sicily, they celebrate on the eve of January 5th. There is the legend of La Befana. In keeping with the tale she is a witch with her clothing worn to rags. She flies through the Italian skies on her broomstick during the night, and fills children’s stockings with toys, and sweets for the children who were good, and coal for the ones that were naughty. According to the legend, the night before the Three Wise Men arrived at the manger, they stopped at the shack of an old woman to ask directions. They invited her to come along but she replied she was busy cleaning her house with her broomstick. Later that night, she saw a great light in the sky and decided to join the Three Wise Men, bearing gifts that had belonged to her child who had died. She held her broomstick up to the star and the magic of the night gave her broomstick the ability to fly. As the legend continues in gratitude for the woman’s generosity the Holy Child gave the woman the most wonderful blessing, and gift of all. His blessing to the woman was that for one night, the eve if the Epiphany for all eternity the woman would have all the children of the world as her own. His gift was that her name be called “La Befana” the “Giver of Gifts.”

The blessing of the home is also a popular Epiphany custom, using blessed white chalk. Many households mark their entrance door with the year and the inscription CMB, the initials of the Three Wise Men. This inscription also stands for “Christus Mansionem Benedicat” which means “Christ, Bless This Home.”

There are many traditional foods that the Italians prepare for the Epiphany. The Magi came from the Orient, so many of the foods served on this day are spicy. Spice cake is often prepared to adorn your festive table for dessert.  Sweet breads made with dried figs, anise seeds, and candied fruits are always a favorite. These breads or cakes are made in the shape of a circle or crown, to honor the Three Wise Men. Everyone drinks the local wine and eats a special fig and raisin bread baked in a wood-burning oven. The flavors of oranges, and tangerines, are included in many dishes, which represent sunlight. (Epiphany is also known as the holiday of light) Meats such as lamb and pork are rubbed with good olive oil, rosemary, and garlic, which add a festive fragrance to your table.

When I was growing up my parents would leave the Christmas tree up until the Epiphany. As a child and even now, I really never wanted Christmas to be over. So, as I try to keep the spirit of Christmas going all year, I would love to share with you my recipe this week which is a delicious Italian soup called “Pork and Pepper Soup.” The winter is upon us, with very cold temperatures and snow. We need to cook something hearty, but warm. I know that if La Befana comes to your door looking for the Christ Child she will be hungry. I’m sure when you invite her in she would just love a big bowl of this flavorful and mouthwatering dish.

"Pork and Pepper Soup"

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
Serves: 4

1-1/2 pounds thick cut boneless pork chops, cut into 1 inch cubes
4 medium onions, peeled & chopped in quarters
2 green peppers, cored, seeded, and chopped
4 tomatoes skinned and quartered
4 tablespoons of tomato puree
1 pint of beef or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon of oil
1 lb of potatoes peeled & cut into cubes
1 tablespoon of flour
Salt and pepper to taste


Heat the oil in pan. When hot add the pork cubes in batches so not to overcrowd and sauté over high heat until browned on all sides. Remove and set aside. Add the butter, onions, and green peppers, and fry until onion is lightly browned. Stir in the flour and then remove from heat. Add the stock, return to the heat and boil, stirring continuously. Add the tomato, tomato puree, and salt/pepper to taste. Reduce the heat, return the pork, cover and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more stock or water if necessary. Add the potatoes and cook gently for a further 20 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through. Serve with a chunk of Italian bread and a glass of Red Wine like a Pinot Noir or Chianti.  A dish fit for a King! Enjoy, Mangia! 
Till Next Time…………………

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