Remember To Make Memories At The Table

Remember To Make Memories At The Table

Nonna used To Say...

Got Agita? It's Not What You Eat; It's What Eats You

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Of Food, Family & Faith (Butterscotch coffee cake)

It was a ho-hum day at the rectory where I work. Very routine. Maria DiBlasi sent her husband to our office and changed all that with this scrumptious cake. She hosted a birthday party the day before and baked this delight. Being the thoughtful woman she is, she sent slices to the "church ladies" to enjoy.
It really suites the adult taste. The texture is amazing and the most moist cake I've had since my sister, Joan's, famous Rum Walnut Cake. The ho-hum day become a day filled with oohs and sighs as we enjoyed this dessert with a cup of  freshly brewed coffee.
A few weeks later my youngest sister, Paula, invited us to a Farewell Party for her oldest son, Michael. He was leaving to train down south  for the I.C.E. unit (Immigration Customs Enforcement) and then a tour of 3 years in California. We are so proud of him....and confident that God will protect him as Mike protects our nation. He's the second of my nephews to join this unit. Joe has been making the family proud for several years as a member of  I.C.E. in Florida. He started his law enforcement career at the White House, a Secret Service Agent in his early twenties. He was there the day terrorists changed our lives...September 11, 2001.
It was only a week or so before the attack that Joe told me how routine his job was. He sounded a bit bored...the plight of a young man impatient to do great things. He was glad to be protecting President George W. Bush who remembered all his Secret Service agent's names and who inquired about their families. Joe shared that the president was considerate, calm and they could count on him and the First Lady retiring around 10 PM giving the agents an early sigh of relief. No partying, no surprises, no fights. It made it much easier  for an agent to concentrate on protecting him, the conduct all Leaders should demonstrate.
I heard from Joe after the attack when the White House was secured and communications allowed. We'd all been holding our breath as the events unfolded. Living close to NY City, I knew several victims of that horrific tragedy. Working for a local church...we had the honor and sorrow of arranging funeral Masses for citizen heroes as well as police and firefighters who sacrificed their lives that day. I cried when I heard Joe's voice. Our conversation was short....on his end, a quick assurance that he was okay, on mine- that I loved him, was praying for all involved, and my parting statement, "Joseph, I'll slap you silly if you ever tell me you want more excitement in your life."  He laughed and stated that he had enough excitement to handle. Little did I know a second nephew would follow in his footsteps.
The theme for the Farewell Party was an Oktoberfest. There was Kielbasa, Bratwurst and Sauerkraut, homemade Pierogi filled with either potato or sauerkraut that were grilled on the barbecue, Chili by Tracy, of course Italian food was included--Eggplant Parmigiana, Baked Ziti, Sausage with Onions and Peppers, Green Salad and fragrant Rolls. The dessert table was fabulous with Lorri's homemade Biscotti, a chocolate Trifle from Kristen, Strawberries dipped in chocolate by Sara, Cannoli, and my Butterscotch Coffee Cake. Beer and wine washed down the food and the house vibrated with laughter, chatter, and shouts of the men rooting for the sports team they were watching on TV.
I was able to postpone the tearful good-bye because my sister, Kaz, had surprised us with a spontaneous visit from Florida and it became a "girls" sleep over. We sisters stayed up gabbing and reminiscing until 3 in the morning, then woke to the scent of eggs and kielbasa. I got a chance to speak privately with Mike and we discussed his chosen profession...the excitement and anticipation he felt...the concern for his safety that the adults were experiencing. Yet, his final words were all that mattered, "I've been dreaming about this for years, and it's actually happening...I can't wait to start this part of my life." I forced back tears as we hugged and promised to stay in touch.
My mother raised her 6 daughters to be women of faith and to keep busy in the kitchen in good times and in bad. These are the times we are most grateful for our devotion to God as well as our passion to cook. Every member of our family needs prayer for a specific reason or no reason at all.  And everyone needs to eat! But the fact that four of our children are in police work makes intercessory prayer important. My niece, Jenna, is a police officer in Florida. This darling goddaughter, who as a child was afraid of spiders and the dark, now chases criminals. Who would have thunk it? And Geej, just a bit younger than Mike, is deciding between a local police department and the border patrol! How a family of mainly educators groomed a brood of law enforcers, I'll never know.
The life of those in law enforcement is honorable and unpredictable. Their lives are on the line, willingly, each and every day. It says in Holy Scriptures that 'Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for another.' I will not argue with this. As I will never chase a bank robber, protect our borders, or bust a drug ring, I promise to keep a welcoming light burning for the brave heroes I cherish and a cake warm from the oven when they arrive home. 

Butterscotch Coffee Cake

1 box yellow cake mix
1 small box instant vanilla pudding
1 box instant butterscotch pudding
4 eggs
1 cup water
1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup finely chopped nuts
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13X9 inch baking pan

Combine all ingredients for topping and set aside

Combine all batter ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat on medium speed for 4 minutes.
Pour 1/2 the batter into the prepared pan and spread to cover (batter will be thick)
Sprinkle with 1/2 the topping
Cover with remaining batter
Sprinkle with remaining topping

Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 and bake 35-40 minutes longer or until toothpick inserted in the center of cake comes out clean.  Makes 15 servings.
Pin It

Thank you Maria DiBlasi for this delicious recipe. And Heartfelt thanks to all who protect our great nation!
Remember To Make Memories At The Table

Sunday, October 17, 2010

MeatLoaf Made In America

Francis Reubens Bello...Grandpa Frank to me. He came to America from Italy at 17 to attend a 17! He worked with numbers and figures, very precise and deliberate, but with a winning smile and ready laugh. Tall and lanky, Grandpa Frank was on the "delicate" side. In the winter, beneath his white, starched collared shirt, he'd neatly layer sheets of newspaper to keep the chill away. Except for an occasional striped cotton shirt, worn when mowing his patch of lawn...he always wore a white dress shirt and a suit and never left home without his fedora. Grandpa will always be remembered as a kind, gentle, learned Italian who was exceedingly proud to be an American citizen. He worked hard and never expected a hand-out. When the Great Depression hit, he refused to go on the relief program, but sold lamps door-to-door while Grandma worked in a sewing factory.
Macy's July 4th by Alex Andrei
In my family, any occasion was reason for a celebration. And the 4th of July....America's Birthday was no exception. Much had to do with the gratefulness my grandparents felt for the opportunities America afforded them. They lived in the most prosperous nation in the world with God in our Pledge, National Anthem, founding documents and their home. Grandpa Frank was a proud husband, a proud father and grandfather and proud of the day he placed his hand over his heart and betrothed himself to Old Glory.
On Independence Day, Roman candles brightened the evening sky as the children twirled sparklers on the sidewalks. Nonna and neighbors gathered on their front porches and waved small American flags reminders of the democracy, equality and freedom they cherished. Italy's flag was no where to be seen....only the Stars & Stripes. To fit in, my ancestors learned English as quickly as they could. In broken English they sang the Star-Spangled Banner and God Bless America and I wondered what it would have sounded like sung in Italian. Among themselves, the adult spoke their mother tongue. It was a familiar sound when the men played pinochle or the women cooked side by side in the kitchen but it was never spoken to the children either by the family elders or my parents.  Years later, I found out why, though I regret that we weren't taught that beautiful musical language.
At the outbreak of WWII, Italian was considered the language of the enemy! 1942 America-- over 1,500 Italian immigrants were arrested by the FBI, many for curfew violations, and some interned in military camps for up to two years. Over 600,000 Italian Americans would be branded "enemy aliens"-- possible fascists, loyal to Benito Mussolini. The result of this prejudice was devastating, so many in this generation did not teach their children Italian. It wasn't passed down to me or my siblings. What a shame. Una Storia Segreta (a secret story)
 But on those 4th of Julys celebrated in the Bronx (NY), I was unaware of the "secret story", I was only aware that when the last firecracker exploded in the streets it was time to gather with loved ones in my Nonni's basement kitchen. The long table groaned under the weight of sesame seed studded heros filled with salami, mortadella, ham, provolone & roasted red peppers. Beside dark pans of lasagna were bowls of fried meatballs, platters of eggplant parmigiana, huge green salad dressed with the finest olive oil, balsamic vinegar, kalamata olives and chunks of Gorgonzola, stuffed artichokes and steamed broccoli. There was always meat- maybe a beef or pork roast, roasted chicken or braciole (stuffed & rolled flank steak).
Not only did my ancestors try to simulate into American society by learning the customs and language, but the recipes, too. As familiar as pasta and chicken cacciatore were to us, Nonna & Momma enjoyed putting an "American Meal" on the table. Which proves that a good cook can cook anything! Breaded pork chops and creamy mashed potatoes, pot roast with hearty vegetables, classic mac & cheese, even tuna casserole might be on our weekly menu. I much loved the fact that my mom would make Italian meatloaf one week and an American meatloaf another week. Italian was stuffed with mozzarella cheese, slices of hard boiled egg and thinly sliced salami. Ah, but the American meatloaf was stuffed with bacon and cheddar cheese...yum! and topped with more bacon and slathered with ketchup mixed with ...well, I'll stop here. Read my recipe and see what makes my family's American Meatloaf so very special...just like the country it's named after and loved by my wonderful Italian ancestors.

American Meatloaf

1 1/4-1 1/2 lb ground beef/pork combo
2 teaspoons dry onion soup mix
1 egg
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
6 slices of bacon, cooked but not crisp
2 Tablespoons ketchup
1 Tablespoon brown sugar (scant)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
 splash of milk

Pre-heat oven 350 degrees.
In a bowl mix ground meat with egg, onion soup mix, parsley and milk. Mix until blended, but don't handle meat too much or it will get tough. In a separate small bowl mix together ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar. Mix until smooth. Put meat on a sheet of wax paper and flatten it out. Put cheese in center of flattened meat and top with 3 slices of bacon. Bring sides up and to the center, then bring both ends up and to the center until filling is covered. Shape into a loaf. Place in baking pan. Make an indentation down the middle of the loaf. Pour most of the ketchup mixture into well and spread over meatloaf including the sides. Place bacon on top and drizzle the remaining "sauce" over the top. Bake for 45 minutes. Cool just a bit and slice.
Pin It
Remember To Make Memories At The Table!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Stinking Rose Festival 2010

Steve and I were invited by his high school chums to the 2010 Hudson Valley Garlic Festival in Saugerties, NY.  I jumped at the invite, but wondered how Steve would survive. Vampires have nothing over Steve when it comes to garlic.  He believes it should only be sprinkled on pizza and tomato-based Italian food. Little does he know that when I cook, I put it on pretty much everything. Yes, even on American roast beef.  If you don't tell him, I won't either.  Oh, BTW: The irrational fear of garlic is alliumphobia.
Garlic dates back 6,000 years  and is also known as the Stinking Rose. The edible bulb is made up of sections called cloves that are encased in a parchment like membrane. Three major varieties are available in the US supermarkets: the white-skinned strongly flavored American garlic; Mexican and Italian garlic, which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the white-skinned, mild flavored elephant garlic, which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek. Green garlic, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves; resembling a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb. Garlic's essential oils remain in the body long after consumption, affecting breath and even skin odor. Despite the odor, garlic is rich in antioxidants, which help destroy free radicals. Research shows promise for garlic in the areas of cancer protection and heart-related risk factors for patients. (
Over 60 varieties of garlic grown by farmers in the Northeast were displayed at this festival, a variety for every taste. I bought German Red that has a classic strong, spicy flavor, an Italian Purple great for baking and roasting & a full-bodied Spanish Roja. Many had interesting names which I wouldn't associate with garlic like the Pink Music, Georgian Crystal, Rosewood and the Temptress.  Garlic was hung in braids, was intertwined with dried flowers and herbs, carved into hand-hewed benches, decorated tee shirts, caps and baskets.
And then there was the food! I was determined to try Garlic Ice Cream and Garlic Chocolate Chip Cookies. The Ice Cream was on the mild side...even Steve took a lick and didn't faint. I did a Garlic Shot and got a "I Did It!" sticker. The "shooter" experience is followed by an immediate feeling of rejuvenation called the "shooter rush" . There was Pizza loaded with garlic, Shrimp & Clams in a Garlic White Wine sauce, A whole Pig roasting on a spit at Hickory BBQ, Garlic Knots, Sausage & Peppers, Steak Sandwiches, Kielbasa & Perogies to mention just a few. If I wanted, I could eat myself into a stupor!
Johnny Appleseed of Garlic
Vendors chatted with visitors who perused rows of condiments such as Kitchen Kick'n Seasonings...Maple Garlic, Dragon Kick, Citrus Garlic. There were country decorated jars of garlic jelly, horseradish jam-great on cream cheese or Brie or as a side dip for pork or lamb- and every berry jam under the sun sold by From My Father's Kitchen. Vinegars, olive oils, BBQ sauces, local honey, jerky, pickles, cheeses, pesto, as well as sweet-scented soaps & lotions filled booth after booth.
Chef Kevin Archer encouraged people to incorporate a plant-based diet into their lives and prepared some of his culinary specialties as Ted Maczka, the “Johnny Appleseed of Garlic” gave away free garlic seeds.
One whole section of the festival grounds was dedicated to Arts & Crafts. The finest artists and craftsmen from around the country were there with a wide variety of  hand made sweat shirts, aprons, ceramics, jewelry, paintings, pottery, woodworks and mixed media -- something for everyone! You could find cookbooks, garlic presses and clay garlic keepers, too.
This festival was a sensory delight...not only was the aroma of food enough to lift my feet off the ground, but containers of different peppers and beautiful pots of flowers graced tables sheltered under large tents.  It was truly a unique experience. I ended my feeding frenzy with a huge, hot-out-of-the-fryer Zeppoli dusted heavily with powdered sugar.
I can't think of a more fun outing then a day at a Garlic Festival. I wasn't quite sure what I'd find, but it far exceeded my expectations.  I can't thank Rich & Judy enough for inviting us along. We made memories that day with them and Victor, Nancy...their daughter Jenna and my dear in-laws...Rich and Donna.
If you’ve never been to a Garlic Festival, you’ve got to try it. Fifty thousand people can't be wrong and you are in the company of fellow garlic lovers sampling dozens of foods made with the Stinking Rose, so therefore you are completely "breath anonymous"

2001 DelRay Beach
Garlic Festival Poster

 1 clove garlic per person
1 - 2 slices lemon
Chop garlic and scoop into a cup. Squeeze lemon juice into the garlic. Add 1 - 2 tablespoons of water.
Swirl cup to achieve a circling motion and drink in one gulp. Enjoy! (International Garlic Festival Cookbook)

Garlic Ice Cream
2 cups whole milk
1 clove freshly minced garlic
1 vanilla bean, split in half
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
8 egg yolks

Put milk, garlic, and vanilla in a saucepan. Bring to boil and remove from heat. In a mixing bowl, blend cream, sugar, and egg yolks. Strain the scalded milk into the egg and sugar mixture, stirring constantly. Return the combined mixture to the pan and stir continuously over moderate heat until it coats the back of a spoon. About 10 - 12 minutes. Cool in an ice bath and freeze until firm.
Makes 1 Quart.   (Gilroy Garlic Ice Cream at

Garlic Shrimp & White Wine Sauce

1 lb peeled and deveined Shrimp (Raw)
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup white wine
4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
4 tablespoons finely chopped basil
6 cloves finely chopped garlic
A sprinkle of red pepper flakes
Pasta: 1 lb. of Angel Hair Pasta
Begin boiling the water for pasta as you prepare the sauce, so it is cooked on time.
In a pan add:
- olive oil
- red pepper flakes
- Garlic
- Dash of Salt
- Generous sprinkling of pepper
Layer the shrimp in the pan so they are flat.
Note: Depending on the pan size, you may have to cook the shrimp in two or three batches.
Bring the heat up so the oil simmers. As soon as the shrimp turn opaque with a touch of pink, flip them. When the shrimp are done (both sides are opaque with a touch of pink - about 5 minutes on medium low heat), take them out of the pan and put them aside in a bowl. 
Add the 1/2 cup butter and the 1 cup of wine to the pan. Simmer for 6-10 minutes. Add more salt, pepper and garlic if desired. Do not boil.
When the liquid sauce is reduced to half of what it was, add the shrimp, parsley and basil. Stir so everything is coated and warmed up (about 2 minutes).
Drain the pasta. Put the pasta in a bowl and toss with the shrimp and half of the sauce. Put the remaining sauce in another bowl for serving.
Serve with a tomato/basil salad and a green vegetable. (

Garlic Chocolate Chip Cookies
This cookie sneaks up on you. Most people are unable to identify the “unique” ingredient until after they have eaten the whole cookie.  People are never ambivalent about this cookie. They either love it or hate it
10 - 12 cloves of garlic
Boiling water
¼ cup maple syrup
1 cup butter, softened
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. real vanilla extract
2 ½ cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1tsp. salt
2 cup (or one bag) chocolate chips
To prepare garlic:
Drop garlic cloves in boiling water for 5 minutes or until tender. Peel and chop. Soak in maple syrup for 30 minutes.
In mixing bowl, cream butter sugars, eggs and vanilla, until light and fluffy. Combine flour, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture. Stir into chocolate chips. Stir in garlic and syrup.
Drop batter by tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake in 375 degree oven for 8 – 10 minutes or until lightly browned but still slightly soft. Remove from oven and cool on racks.  (Garlic Lovers Cookbook)
Pin It
Remember To Make Memories At The Table