Friday, October 30, 2015

“Chocolate Crescent Witch Hats” & a "Boo-zey" Cocktail…To Celebrate Halloween!

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 quote from “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare. As Halloween is tomorrow, 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 an 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, plus Angelica root. They also had Bay leaves, Oregano, Dill, Basil, Mugwort, and wildflowers of all sorts.

"Witches Garden"
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. She does this by 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. Enjoy and remember if you pass an herb garden, know that a “Witch” is not far away…...

My recipe this week is a delicious fun way to celebrate Halloween. If you have little ones or older ones, this recipe can be a fun one for all ages. It’s a fast recipe for you to enjoy as I know you have spooky places to visit this Halloween night. 

Chocolate Crescent Witch Hats

Kids will love these chocolate witch hat-shaped crescent snacks. Easy to make with only 3 ingredients!

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 8

1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
1/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips or Nutella Chocolate Spread
2 teaspoons powdered sugar or unsweetened baking cocoa- optional

Heat oven to 375°F. Separate dough into 8 triangles. Sprinkle a heaping teaspoon of chocolate chips/ or Nutella Spread on wide end of crescent triangle, and roll over once to form brim of hat. Form the rest of the crescent triangle into hat shape. Repeat for remaining crescent triangles. Place on un-greased cookie sheet. Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Using fine mesh strainer, sprinkle crescent hats with powdered sugar, cocoa, or chocolate sprinkles; serve warm. 


Pumpkin Spice Halloween Punch

Pumpkin pie spice and apple cider lend autumnal flavor to this Halloween take on classic sangria. Serve in a hollowed-out pumpkin for a dramatic presentation.

2 honey crisp apples
2 pears
1 orange
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar, or more to taste
1 cup bourbon
3 cups apple cider
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 bottles Pinot Grigio, chilled
1 pumpkin, for serving (optional)

Thinly slice apples, pears, and oranges lengthwise, then place in a large bowl. Coat with lemon juice to prevent browning. Add honey, brown sugar, bourbon, apple cider, and pumpkin pie spice, stirring gently to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 2-4 hours, or overnight. Top with chilled pinot grigio and serve.

For Serving:
Serve in a pitcher or punch bowl, or give the punch extra Halloween flavor by serving inside a Jack O' Lantern. Cut a circle in the top of a large pumpkin, then completely remove seeds and pulp. Fill with fruit and punch, then enjoy!

Tip: Decorate the exterior of pumpkin using a silver paint marker. Here, the cocktail name lets guests know what's inside.
Source: HGTV                       (Please Drink Responsibly)


Daylight Saving Time 2015 ends on Sunday, November 1 at 2 A.M. Before you go to bed on Saturday night, remember to “fall back” by setting your clocks back one hour. We get that extra hour to sleep. (The exceptions to DST are Arizona, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa.)

Till Next Time………………

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

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Celebrate "National Seafood Month" With A “Zesty Shrimp Pasta” Recipe & “Luscious Lemon Squares”

****Starting on November 3rd, I will be changing “Wordless Tuesday” to “Soupy Tuesday,” for the next few months. This means that I plan on sharing with you a soup recipe for that day. As the days get cooler and eventually colder, everyone enjoys a hot bowl of soup. If you would like to see a special recipe for soup or have one that you want to share and everyone would love to prepare, just email me ( or post something in the comments below. I will be happy to give you a shout out and/or you can guest post for that day. Hope this keeps you warm and cozy for the next few months…Now back to the recipe of "National Seafood Month"….. 

October is “National Seafood Month,” a time to raise awareness for fisheries and celebrate the benefits of seafood in one’s diet. My first 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 easy delicious pasta recipe for your family. Happy Cooking!  

                                                “Zesty Shrimp Pasta

Total time: 25 min / Prep: 10 min / Servings: 6

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 package meanwhile, heat 1/2 cup dressing in 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 shrimp and parsley then stir. Cook 2 min or until shrimp are 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. You can serve this with a crisp salad and a slice of Italian bread.


                                             “Luscious Lemon Squares

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 60 minutes

1 cup un-bleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup un-salted butter, softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel, if desired
2 tablespoons real lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
Powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350ºF. Mix flour, butter and powdered sugar. Press in un-greased square pan, 8x8x2 or 9x9x2 inches, building up 1/2-inch edges. Bake crust 20 minutes. Beat granulated sugar, lemon peel, lemon juice, baking powder, salt and eggs with electric mixer on high speed about 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Pour over hot crust. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until no indentation remains when touched lightly in center. Cool; dust with powdered sugar. Cut into about 1 1/2-inch squares.

Grate only the yellow portion of the lemon; the white portion, or pith, is very bitter.
One medium lemon should give you just enough peel and juice to make these refreshing bar cookies. Make Lemon-Coconut Squares: Stir 1/2 cup flaked coconut into egg mixture in step 2.


A crisp white wine will due very nicely with this dish…Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and dry sparkling wines are also especially good.

                                (Please Drink Responsibly)

Till Next Time…………….

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

Friday, October 23, 2015

“Grilled Vegetable Sandwich” & “Apple-Cranberry Crisp” To Celebrate "Vegetarian Awareness Month"

October is “Vegetarian Awareness Month.” It is a celebration established by the North American Vegetarian Society in 1977, used to promote the joy, compassion, and life-enhancing possibilities of Vegetarianism. Mostly Vegetarians, but even those who are not vegetarians who want to be healthy or just love fruits and veggies will be serving meatless meals. Official Vegetarian website:  It brings awareness to the ethical, environmental, health, and humanitarian, benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle. 

It is important to note that all vegetarian diets are not alike. There are many categories to vegetarian diets, but theses are the major ones used which include:

  • Ovo-vegetarian: eats eggs; but no meat
  • Lacto-ovo vegetarians: eats dairy and egg products; but no meat
  • Lacto-vegetarian: eats dairy products; no eggs or meat
  • Vegan: eats only foods from plant sources
  • Semi-vegetarians: who have eliminated red meat, but may eat poultry or fish 
 There are many cultures and religions that require you to eat vegetarian. People that are practicing vegetarians tend to have lower body mass index, (BMI) lower levels of cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and less incidence of heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, as well as renal disease. This also includes dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other disorders. Non-lean red meat, in particular, has been found to be directly associated with increase risk of cancers of the esophagus, liver, colon, and the lungs. 

Here is a small list of many notable people who have been reported to have been on a vegetarian diet at some point during their life; Alyssa Milano, Bob Barker, Sir Paul McCartney, Russell Simmons, Carrie Underwood, Lea Michele, Kristen Wilg, Forrest Whitaker, Russell Brand, and Bill Clinton. 

So make a difference this October by informing others about the benefits of Vegetarianism. You will be helping to make a better world because vegetarian diets have proven health benefits, save animals’ lives, and help preserve the earth.

This week I have a few recipes to share. They are not only nutritious, but very tasty and it fits within the guidelines of a vegetarian diet. “Grilled Vegetable Sandwich”… Sweet, delicious, and very fulfilling. You can’t go wrong with this dish. Enjoy and don’t forget what you mother always told you to do which was, “to eat all of your fruits and veggies!” Also I have some recommendations for some tasty wines, and then finally a dessert “Apple-Cranberry Crisp,” that you will not believe how delicious and nutritious it is!

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

The ideal meal when cooking vegetarian. Balsamic vinegar brings out the natural sweetness in grilled vegetables, while also imparting a mouth watering tang. Served on whole grain rolls, these sandwiches are completely guiltless, and sure to satisfy even the most committed meat eater in your family.

prep time: 35 min
cook time: 30 min
ready in: 1 hr 5 min

Yields: servings 4

8 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp canola oil
3/4 tsp dried oregano
3 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp canola oil
2 red bell peppers, halved, seeded
4 eggplant slices, 1/2 inch thick
1 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into 4 slices
4 large fresh Portabella mushroom caps
4 slices red onion
4 large whole grain rolls, halved, toasted
1 tomato, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place garlic in an oven proof small bowl; drizzle with 1 tsp oil. Cover with foil; bake until garlic is tender, about 35 minutes. Cool and mash garlic. Use your grill outside or grill pan inside. In a large bowl, combine the oregano, basil, vinegar, and 1 Tbsp oil. Add the bell peppers, eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, and onion and stir to coat. Grill the vegetables in batches, turning once until lightly browned and tender, 10 to 15 minutes per batch. Spread rolls with mashed garlic, dividing equally. Top each roll with tomato slices then roasted red pepper, eggplant, zucchini, mushroom cap, and onion. Serve with a potato salad or whatever you like as a side dish…..Enjoy!


                         What wine do you pair with a vegan & vegetarian meals?

Just because wine is made out of grapes, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s vegetarian or vegan. Some wine makers use fining agents that are derived from milk or animal protein during the wine-making process. So double check the labels before you drink your wines. If you don’t care what wines have these products in them, you may want to check into these wines as they are great with this meal.

A nice “Grenache” wine…..
Body and Tannins: soft tannins, body depends on the blend
Pairs Well With These Foods: grilled veggies, risotto, light Italian dishes, eggplant, Fontina Cheese.

Another nice one would be a “Syrah” wine…..
Body and Tannins: full-bodied
Pairs Well With These Foods: olives, barbecue, grilled or roasted vegetables with bold sauces, parmesan cheese.

A “Cabernet Sauvignon” wine…..
Body and Tannins: strong tannins, full-bodied
Pairs Well With These Foods: grilled or roasted veggies, barbecue sauce, Chimichurri, garlic and onion, aged cheddar.

                               (Please Drink Responsibly) 


Apple-Cranberry Crisp

This delicious dessert not only tastes great, but is chock full of nutrient-rich fruit and whole grains as well. It's equally good warm or cold, and low-fat vanilla ice cream makes a nice topping.

3 cups cubed Granny Smith apple (about 1 pound)
2 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
Cooking spray
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup regular oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 350°F Combine the first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl; spoon into an 8 x 8-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Lightly spoon the flour into a dry measuring cup, and level with a knife. Combine flour, oats, sugar, and oil, stirring with a fork until crumbly. Sprinkle over the apple mixture. Bake at 350°F for 40 minutes or until bubbly.

Till Next Time……………….

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

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

“Mushroom Chicken Balsamico” & “Zucchini Cake With Maple-Cream Cheese Frosting” For "Wordless Tuesday"

Welcome to “Wordless Tuesday!” Today I am sharing two mouthwatering recipes, which I know you will absolutely love….. Enjoy! 
This elegant skillet supper features sautéed chicken, zucchini, onion, mushrooms, and garlic in a Marinara Pasta Sauce seasoned with a touch of balsamic vinegar. I know you will love this dish, so flavorful and so very simple. When I make this recipe I serve mine on a bed of white rice.

Mushroom Chicken Balsamico

Serves: 4      Takes: 30 minutes to cook

3 teaspoons olive oil or vegetable oil
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast half (about 4 breast halves)
12 oz (about 3 cups) assorted mushrooms (Portobello, Shiitake, Oyster, Crimini, or Button) sliced
1 medium zucchini, sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 medium onion, cut into wedges
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups Marinara Italian Sauce (homemade or your choice)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 10 min or until it's well browned on both sides. Remove the chicken from the skillet. Heat the remaining oil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, zucchini, onion, and cook until they're tender. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir the sauce and vinegar in the skillet and heat to a boil. Return the chicken to the skillet. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Serve with black pepper.

Make some white rice (your favorite brand) according to package directions…then add the “Mushroom Chicken Balsamico” on top of rice. So delicious, you will want to make this over and over…again. 


Zucchini Cake With Maple-Cream Cheese Frosting

There is something about this easy cake that is flavored with zucchini and sweetened with pure maple syrup with a warm touch of cinnamon that makes me smile. It will make you smile as well especially when you are reaching for a second piece.

1 box Deluxe butter recipe golden cake mix
3 Eggs
1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups grated Zucchini
1/2 cup chopped walnuts 

Preheat oven to 375°F Grease a 9×13 pan. Combine cake mix, eggs, butter, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Beat at low speed until moistened. Beat at medium speed for 4 minutes. Stir in zucchini. Pour into pan; sprinkle with walnuts. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until tested done. Dust with powdered sugar or use frosting below….

“Maple-Cream Cheese Frosting

4 ounces softened cream cheese
3 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 cups confectioners' sugar

In a small bowl, beat cream cheese, butter, maple syrup, cinnamon, and cardamom until smooth and creamy. Add confectioners' sugar and mix well. Frost cake with icing once completely cool.

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

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

Friday, October 16, 2015

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 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 your pasta I have a few tips for 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, Angel hair or Capellini, and Linguine. 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:   Yields: about 24
8 Eggs
2 Cups of All Purpose Flour
1 Teaspoon of salt
1 cup of water
Small amount of Butter or oil for pan                                 

Put eggs in a blender or food processor, and then add water and salt. Now 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:
Mix ricotta, cheese, parsley, and salt. Taste. Adjust seasoning according to taste and then stir in one egg. Slice mozzarella into small bite size pieces. Then add to the mixture of ricotta etc. Mix all together. Lay crepe on flat surface or in your hand. Place about 1 tablespoon of ricotta (more if larger crepe) into the center of 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. 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. Bake at 350° F for 25-30 minutes and sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted.

Wine suggestion:
You can add a bottle of Red Wines to your pasta dinner. My suggestion would be a Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Sauvignon is the name of both the grape and the wine it produces. ...Italian Chianti which is a strong, bold red wine that is perfectly suited for flavorful, well-seasoned sauces...A Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, or even a Pinot Grigio would all work very well and be very tasty.

                               (Please Drink Responsibly)

Till Next Time…….

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

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

“Quick and Healthy Turkey Chili” To Celebrate "National Chili Month"

Welcome to “Wordless Tuesday!” Well I have a warm and cozy recipe for you!

Did you know that October is “National Chili Month?” Not to be confused with National Chili Day which is February 25th. Chili, Chili, Chili! It doesn't matter if it's hot and spicy chili, turkey chili, beef chili, bean chili, bean less chili, white chili, red chili, green chili, vegetarian chili, meatless chili or 15 bean chili, chili is warming to the soul and a true favorite meal during cold months. There are many Chili recipes and not one recipe is the same.

It seems when the weather turns from warm, to cool, to cold.…that's when the chili pots are dusted off and pulled out of the back of our kitchen cabinets. Not many of us will shy away from a good chili dog- but you can bet that when winter hits, we make up for not eating chili in the summer by eating it several times during the winter. It's a true favorite! When we see the leaves falling, the wind blowing, and snow start to fall, the chili pot starts to simmer. 

Fire-fighters and Chili: Interesting enough, firefighters and chili just seem to go together.  Each and every year you hear of more and more Firehouse Cook-offs that are competing over the best Firehouse Chili between fire-stations. Most all of these cook-offs are put on to build funds for the fire station or for a local cause that they are supporting for the year. Support your local firemen and be a part of these great cook-off contests. There a lot of fun and you will eat some of the best chili you have ever put in your mouth!

Look below to my recipe this week and you will be thrilled and happy that in just 30 minutes, you'll have a mouthwatering pot of healthy, nourishing chili that tastes like it's been simmering for hours. Top with cheese, avocado, and cilantro for heaven in a bowl. Enjoy!

Quick and Healthy Turkey Chili

Ingredients:      Serves:4

2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 (about 1 cup) green bell pepper, chopped
1 (about 1 cup) small onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 lb of ground turkey**
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp of cinnamon
1/4 tsp of smoked paprika
Couple dashes cayenne pepper for spicy lovers (optional)
1 can (15oz) low sodium Red Kidney Beans, drained
1 can (15oz) low sodium Black Beans, drained
2 cans (8oz each) tomato sauce (or 16 oz. homemade)
1/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 avocado, chopped in bite size pieces
Coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oil in medium pot over medium heat. Stir in peppers, onions and garlic; cook until tender, 5-7 minutes. Add turkey, and spices. Cook, breaking up turkey with spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in beans, tomato sauce, and 1 cup water. Bring liquid to boil. Reduce heat. Simmer until chili thickens and flavors come together, about 15 minutes. Top with cheese, avocado, and cilantro. Serve with a grilled cheese sandwich if you like, thick bread sticks, corn bread or Nachos.

**Looking for something quick to use some leftover turkey. You can also substitute shredded turkey breast or shredded chicken instead of ground. 

Recipe adapted from Goya Foods

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

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

Friday, October 9, 2015

“Stuffed Artichokes” To Celebrate “Columbus Day” & “Italian-American Heritage Month,” with Adriana Trigiani….

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" (this Monday) and to recognize the many achievements, contributions, culture, history, and food, of the Americans with Italian decent. There were over 5.4 million Italians that immigrated to the United States between 1820 and 1992. Today there are over 26 million or more, 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 insist that it is not fair to celebrate a “discovery” that already had inhabitants, which were the Native Americans. 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, or the Cannoli’s? 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. 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” (Carcioffola in Italian)

6 medium artichokes
1 1/4 cups bread crumbs (plain)
1/2 cup of grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
1/2 cup of fresh chopped parsley
2 tsp 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 stem and 1/4 off the top of 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 deep bowl. Fill large pot with water and boil. Place the artichokes in pot carefully and lower heat to medium for about 7 minutes. Fork test bottom of artichoke for tenderness. If 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 bottom of pan about 1/4 inch deep. Bake for about 25-30 minutes at 350° F. The top should be browned and crispy, when they are ready to eat.    


Ciao a tutti, As October is “Italian-American Heritage Month,” what better time than to share one of my all time favorite Italian authors with you. I know that my readers have heard of my very good friend Adriana Trigiani. Adriana is beloved by millions of readers around the world. She has written fifteen bestsellers, including the blockbuster epic, “The Shoemaker's Wife,” the “Big Stone Gap” series; “Lucia, Lucia;” the “Valentine” series; the bestselling memoir “Don't Sing at the Table,” and a few more. She is the award-winning filmmaker of the documentary “Queen of the Big Time.”

Adriana wrote the screen version and also directed the major motion picture called, “Big Stone Gap, based on her debut novel and filmed entirely on location in her Virginia hometown, to be released nationwide today, October 9th. “Big Stone Gap” stars Ashley Judd, Patrick Wilson, Whoopi Goldberg, John Benjamin Hickey, Jane Krakowski, Anthony LaPaglia, and Jenna Elfman, just to mention a few well known famous stars. 

I have read the Big Stone Gap series and have fallen in love with the small town of Big Stone Gap, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. This is a story about a self-proclaimed spinster, Ave Maria Mulligan. In the enchanting movie, Ave Maria reaches her thirty-fifth year and resigns herself to the single life, filling her days with hard work, fun friends, and good books. Then, one fateful day, Ave Maria’s past opens wide with the revelation of a long-buried secret that will alter the course of her life. Before she knows it, Ave Maria is fielding marriage proposals, trying to claim her rightful inheritance, and planning the trip of a lifetime to Italy—one that will change her view of the world and her own place in it forever. Full of wit and wonder, hilarity and heart, family, and love. “Big Stone Gap” is a treasure. What fun it will be to see this movie this weekend with your family and friends…

                                    But wait there is more…….

Adriana returns, on October 13, 2015 with her biggest and boldest novel yet, called, All The Stars In The Heavens. I received an advanced copy of this book and I can't put it down.. A mesmerizing tale based on a true story and filled with her signature elements: family, artistry, romance, and adventure. Born in the golden age of Hollywood, this new novel captures the luster, drama, power, and secrets that could only thrive in the studio system, viewed through the lives of an unforgettable cast of players creating magic on the screen and behind the scenes.

In this spectacular saga as radiant, thrilling, and beguiling as Hollywood itself, Adriana Trigiani takes us back to Tinsel Town's golden age. The movie business is booming in 1935 when twenty-one-year-old Loretta Young meets thirty-four-year-old Clark Gable on the set of “The Call of the Wild.” Though he's already married, Gable falls for the stunning and vivacious young actress instantly. Anchored by Adriana’s masterful storytelling that takes you on a worldwide ride of adventure from Hollywood to the shores of southern Italy. This mesmerizing epic is, at its heart, a luminous tale of the most cherished ties that bind. Brimming with larger-than life characters both real and fictional, including stars Spencer Tracy, Myrna Loy, David Niven, Hattie McDaniel, and more. It is the unforgettable story of one of cinema's greatest love affairs during the golden age of American movie making.

You can also connect with "Reading With Robin" where Robin shares her love of books and authors on her radio show. Her audience has become an enthusiastic and engaged reading community both on and off air. Stop by often as there will be lots going on from exclusive author interviews and giveaways to book club contests and author events. If you are a book lover you don’t want to miss out on any of the fun. Like a great book, please share this site with your friends.  Tune into Reading With Robin radio Fridays 4-5 pm Eastern on AM 790 and on I Heart Radio.

Now you have a movie and a book to keep you busy while you are off on this Columbus Day weekend. You can pre-order Adriana’s book on She lives in Greenwich Village, New York with her husband and her daughter. 

Till Next Time…….

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