Awareness, Diverticulitis, Diverticulosis, Eating Clean, Eating Heathly, Food, Lessons Learned, Life, Relationships, Thoughts

Food Relationships

“Prayer leads us to catch a glimpse of the-best-version-of-ourselves and it helps us to develop the virtue necessary to celebrate our best selves.” ~ Matthew Kelly

Every Sunday morning, I look forward to reading Maria Shriva’s words because I just love the way she writes and how she keeps everything real. Last night, after getting hit with another flare up from diverticulitis, this morning, on so many levels, her words just hit home…”I used to think that I could eat whatever I wanted, for however long I wanted. I was wrong. Bad choices catch up to you. Before you know it, you could be that one that cancer decides to knockout. You could be the person that Alzheimer’s decides to take hold of. Make your health (especially your brain health) a priority. And, while you are at it, get to the bottom of your relationship with food. Cookies are not a substitute for real love. They don’t love you back. Trust me. Candy, cake and Swedish fish don’t either. Rest is critical to your mental and physical well-being, so make time for it. No one else is going to give it to you.”

For me, it has been a six month learning experience with getting to the bottom of the things that aggravate my relationship with food and for a person who has a love relationship with cooking great and delicious food, this has been a challenge. But this I know for sure, I can no longer eat whatever I want and we are given one life and one body…so why abuse it? And there’s no reason why healthy food choices can’t taste delicious, savory and decadent. Trust me, you just have to be consistent, a little adventurous and very creative with making and finding the right food choices.

As my food research and experimenting journey continues and while I am savoring over a liquid diet for the next few days (not!), I share with you just some of the foods that don’t irritate or aggravate my digestive system. I have learned that finding the right foods is not a one size fits all. It’s individualize and your body dictates what your own right choices should be. The real challenge will be in rethinking and adjusting my Christmas Eve menu. Well, at least my own Christmas Eve food choices…that is. In the meantime, it’s back to eating clean and eating healthy and with no exceptions…making my health a priority. That’s what I am thinking about on this rainy, yet beautiful Sunday morning. ❤️

Stuffed Peppers with Turkey, Rice and Black Beans

Organic Cottage Cheese with Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Grilled Organic Chicken and Eggplant on Whole Grain Bread

Grilled Organic Chicken Tenders with Lemon and Cilantro with Grilled Eggplant and Broccolini

Sautéed Organic Tofu with Garlic, Lime, Cilantro and Green Beans

Organic Greek Yogurt Egg Salad Baguette with Arugula and Baby Cucumbers

Panko Crusted Baked Organic Chicken Tenders Wrap

Broiled Citrus and Garlic Wild-Caught Salmon over Organic Baby Spinach

Spicy Shrimp and Avocado Lettuce Wraps

Mediterranean Farro Salad

Quinoa with Grilled Organic Chicken, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Eggplant

Egg White Omelet with Garden Tomatoes and Hot Peppers

Roasted Organic Acorn Squash stuffed with Organic Turkey Chili

Creamy Bacon Mushroom Organic Chicken Thighs with Thyme

Organic Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins Cod Fish Tacos with Crema, Guacamole, Spicy Red Cabbage Slaw and Pickled Red Onions

Family, Food, Foodporn, Italian Traditions, Life, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Nana’s Sunday Pot of Love

Simply Deborah

Since I was a little girl, Sunday’s have always had a special meaning. When you’re fortunate enough to grow up in a multi-cultural family, like myself, you are born into a world of some magnificent foods, and family traditions that stay with you for a lifetime. My only wish has always been to pass on those childhood memories, traditions, recipes, and for them to be replicated for generations to come. Today, I am going to take you on a journey on how I got to a place that I call…”Nana’s Sunday Pot of Love.”

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My dad was born, and raised in Puerto Rico, and he came to New York at the age of 16. My mother was born in Harlem, and her parents, (my grandparents) were Italian immigrants from Naples, Italy, who eventually settled in Mt. Vernon, New York. Me, an American, born, and raised into a family of Puerto Rican…

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Believe, Dreams, Food, Foodporn, Italian Traditions, Life, Uncategorized

What Am I Really Suppose To Be Doing With My Life?

I don’t believe there isn’t a one of us that hasn’t dreamt of life being anything less than a smooth ride, and I am no exception. For the past year, I have found myself pondering more, and more about finding my true life purpose, how it would be possible for me to fulfill, and live my life passion, and share it with the world, along with making a difference. There were many days over the last year or more, where my life appeared completely uncertain, confusing, in a disarray, and I just couldn’t sort through the chatter in my head to make any sense of it all. The chatter consumed me, and more often than not it made me completely immobilized. I was scared, alone, and I couldn’t see through the darkness.

To add to my angst, six months ago, I lost my job, and today, I am amongst the millions of other Americans, who are unemployed. During these past months, I have applied to nearly 300 jobs in corporate America, with the hopes of being gainfully employed by year end. I posted my resume, and joined every job seeker website out there. After about a month or so, I was approach by a reputable site, who convinced me to have my resume revamped by a professional resume writer, who would gear it towards my dream job. Every day I spent hours at my desk, searching every employment site imaginable looking for a job. It’s a good thing that over the years, I have developed very strong shoulders because with the continuous flow of rejection letters…they just don’t seem to sting as much as they use too.

Knowing my reputation proceeded me in my former industry, I reached out to every resource available, including former colleagues with pleas for help with any type of introduction, guidance, support, and recommendations. Their quick responses, along with their call to action, and their encouragement were all overwhelming. I felt fortunate, and blessed to have crossed paths with such an amazing group of individuals, who continue to check in on me, and offer additional advise, and suggestions. Unfortunately, to date, any referrals have not panned out but I remained hopeful.

As the days passed, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands, and as humans when this happens a lot of thinking transpires. Some not so healthy, and other times some turned into inspirational thinking. All I wanted was to see clearly, and being such a structured person with very little patience…I needed direction, and answers, today, not tomorrow or next week or next month, but today. I found myself reading more, and more, learning things about myself, and really digging deep with trying to figure out if my life passion could anyway possible come to fusion.

Some of the most disconcerting times, and utter disappointment was the lack of support from a good portion of those close to me. I found myself getting more encouragement from friends, and colleagues on how to make things happen, and how important it was for me to believe in myself, and my abilities. I’m sure most of you are aware of Kid President and his mission to make the world a better place. While reading an article, today, they listed just a few of his thoughts that people should be saying every day. I thought how simplistic, and why is it that I wasn’t hearing these things from those that I dearly wanted to support my dreams, and vision.

  • “Everything is going to be okay.”
  • “You are awesome.”
  • “You can do it.”
  • “Hello…here’s a high-five.”
  • “I forgive you.”
  • “Thank you.”

Then I realized it wasn’t about anybody else, it was about me, and me believing in my passion, and my dream. I thought about what I learned, “What you think, and what you believe is what will come true in your life.” Our thoughts create our life…it’s purely that simple, and when we overcome the self-doubt, release the enormous barriers in our life, and make conscious choices that we understand, and accept them, things start to evolve. You begin to create your very own road map of your vision, step by step, and your instincts come into play. Either it feels right or it doesn’t, and when it feels right, you begin to understand this is your life, you start to take full responsibility, and start to believe you deserve the best life, and you begin to express the gratitude for all the good in your life.

I have been following Deepak Chopra for some time now, and when I listen to him there is such a sense of calmness that overcomes me, and he has helped me develop this sense of awareness about myself that seems freeing. Some might laugh but I truly don’t care…remember, it’s about me, and if it feels good, and stirs enthusiasm in my life…how could it ever be wrong. One thing I know for sure, I want to be excited about what I do every day, and I want to share my gifts, along with my passion with the world because I truly believe that’s how we achieve joy, and abundance in our lives.

Chopra teaches that we all have a calling in life that is as unique as our fingerprint, and it’s that calling that will lead us to our passion. When we find something that we are truly passionate about it feels like our breathing is so natural, and effortless. I discovered, a long time ago, what ignites my passion, and lights me up, and I found a way to share it with others. Cooking has always been a love, and passion of mine. I throw my heart, and soul into it, and it all comes through in the taste, and presentation of all my food.

After a long year of contemplating a business venture, I am finally listening to my intuitive inner voice, and I am pursuing my life passion, and dream. I believe my vast business knowledge, wisdom, along with my level of confidence, and comfort in the kitchen, and my creative ideas are all possessions I am eagerly willing to share. I am a firm believer that taste, along with presentation are the fundamentals with awakening an eclectic palate. I hosted this past Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day, and the responses to my food, and presentation just solidified for me…this is what I am suppose to be doing with my life.

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As I enter, 2014, I believe that honoring my life’s true purpose, and passion will lead me on a path of pure happiness, and success. I look forward to sharing my passion with many of you.

Happy New Year and may 2014 be filled with good health, hope, love, abundance, gratitude and promise.

Baking, Food, Uncategorized

Baking and Life 101

With the holidays quickly approaching, and being currently unemployed, there are days I feel a great sense of freedom, and at the same time a lot of fear, and tremendous anxiety. Recently, I have been spending a lot of time meditating with the hopes of learning how to let go of my fears, and how to stay more in the moment, each, and every day. I am making every effort to focus on what I do want to flourish in my life, and to believe now is my time to fulfill my life’s passion, along with my heart’s deepest desires.

I am taking the time to learn, to really understand, and believe that every day brings me a gift to start over, and to truly learn who I am, and what do I want in this life. If we all could only find the time to stop, take a step back, and center ourselves, and connect with our true self, we can begin to appreciate the joy, and abundance in our lives. Once we pay attention to the joy, and abundance that surrounds us, they both begin to come effortlessly into our lives. I try every day to believe that with every life challenge I have been presented, they have been gifts (yes, at times, it’s hard to believe this), and understanding that with each challenge new doors will open, and lead me to my greatest destiny.

For me cooking is one of my life’s passions, and I find it to be a place where I am the most relaxed, creative, completely focused, and at peace. For the last two weeks, I put on my mad scientist baking hat, I turned my kitchen into a testing kitchen, and I must say, with great pride, the delicacies coming out of my kitchen have been getting rave reviews from my top critics, my grandchildren. Oh, and trust me, if they don’t enjoy something, there is no hesitation in telling their Nana the brutal honest truth (I think they learned that from me). I have said this many times before baking is pure science, and deviating from a recipe is a risk, and I have been known to be a risk taker many times over. While I follow most recipes to the letter of the law, I am compelled to put my own signature twist on most, if not, all recipes, and then, and only then, is it called mine. I have also dabbled in making my own well thought out creations, and my top critics have yet to be completely disappointed.

I have been testing some dessert recipes, in preparation of the upcoming holidays, and with hosting Thanksgiving, this year, I was looking to incorporate a new dessert onto the menu. But by popular demand, the standards (apple pie, pumpkin pie, chocolate cream pie…boring!), which are good old American Thanksgiving staples, will remain on Nana’s menu. However, it’s a given there will always be a surprise…a decadent new, and different delicacy on my table. With my testing complete, I share with you some new creations, with Nana’s spin on them, and each of them have been added to my recipe file.

Naturally, with it being Thanksgiving something had to be made with pumpkin. First up, the Pumpkin Snickerdoodles drizzled with Dulce de Leche. They were by far one of the easiest cookies I have made, with the exception of the Dulce de Leche sauce, which took nearly 3 ½ hours to make. While there are very few ingredients involved in the recipe (whole milk, sugar, vanilla, baking soda, and my own twists), patience, and a lot of love went into making this decadent sauce, and it had everyone humming with each bite of a cookie. Ironically, with all of the effort, and time, you end up with just about a cup of the Dulce de Leche, which is pure lusciousness. A small helpful hint, I would suggest the last 30 minutes or so be spent carefully watching the cooking process. The last thing you want to do is waste hours of your time, and love, and end up with a lumpy sauce or a burnt one, no less, versus a silky, shiny cup of creamy delicious sweetness.

These cookies received rave reviews from my grandchildren…one granddaughter asked me where I bought them (utmost compliment), and my grandson licked the Dulce de Leche off each cookie before he ate them. My oldest granddaughter begged me to take them out of her house, and my daughter wanted to hurt me for bringing the entire batch over. And the method to my madness…if I didn’t, Nana might of ate them all, and anyone that really knows me, knows I prefer food over dessert but these were just too hard to resist…even for me!

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Next up, French macarons, not macaroons, but macarons. I must admit, these were a challenge, time consuming, and a very detailed, delicate cookie that must be made with such precision, and handled with extreme care…yup, that’s why the French are masters at baking. Seriously, the passion, love, and precision that goes into making these treasures is the reason I have a new found respect for pastry chefs, who have mastered the art of macarons. With all of that said, my first attempt, while it turned out very few, they were incredibly light, airy, and decadent. The Eggnog Macarons were laced with a cinnamon, and nutmeg spiced buttercream. I must admit, out of a dozen, I ended up with four macarons. They are extremely delicate, and must be handled so gently when you add the buttercream…they shatter very easily. This was also my first attempt at buttercream, and after following the recipe to a tee, the first batch went straight into the trash. In making the second batch, it required me to put on my mad scientist hat, I got creative, and ended up with the most delicious buttercream that included a warm subtle hint of nutmeg, and cinnamon. My granddaughter told me they reminded her of a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte.

The second batch, Chocolate Macarons filled with Chocolate Ganache were much more successful. However, I learned very quickly that over mixing the meringue produces a flatter, and larger cookie. Chocolate ganache is pretty much a staple in my house, and while I have the recipe down to a science, you still need to be very careful with the chocolate, and that it is tempered correctly. Again, these were just as time consuming, as you must wait for each process to be completely cooled before proceeding with the next steps. In the end, they turned out magnificent, and along with the Eggnog Macarons, they were removed from my home very quickly.

Lessons learned with macarons…do not over mix the dry ingredients into the meringue, sifting of all dry ingredients is a must (especially the finely ground almonds), completely cooling the macarons before filling is essential, and eating the finished cookie the next day (as recommended) proved them to be a more decadent cookie. Lastly, the most helpful hint that I learned…they all must be the same size, and for the novice baker to ensure they are, making a template of precise circles, drawing them on parchment paper, and placing it on its reverse side on a cookie sheet, and then piping the meringue inside each circle…brilliant!

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Lastly, there are the Chocolate Truffle Cups, which I proudly claim as a pure creation of my very own, and one of the most decadent, irresistible little morsels I have ever made. The cups are made with wonton wrappers, and are filled with this incredible chocolate truffle that has a slight creamy texture, along with a note of bitter chocolate, and yet, they will satisfy any sweet tooth. They were topped or dusted with a mixture of cocoa powder, and cinnamon, along with a sprinkle of mini chocolate chips, or a cookie and cream crumble or my favorite, chopped pistachios, and sea salt. Again, rave reviews, and after posting a picture of these on my Facebook page, one comment stated, “Moving in. I won’t bring much. Just some elastic-waist pants.” Another said, “They look delicious!!” and another, “I want one of each!” Well, that “one of each” got the surprise of a lifetime, and the next day, I personally delivered a container filled with more than just “one of each” to a person I hadn’t seen in over 40 years. The element of surprise, along with someone’s flattering reaction to your food is by far one of the greatest compliments you can ever receive.

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Returning to where I began, I recently heard these words through my meditation exercises, “It is our birthright as human beings to receive infinite gifts from the universe. We are all here to fulfill our life purpose in this world…a life lived with passion, intention, and fulfillment.” Maybe it’s time for me to be in the present moment, and aware, and in doing so, maybe it’s time for different choices. Maybe my purpose is to bring the world joy, and abundance through my food. There is always a lot of maybe’s but what I do know for sure is my passion for cooking, and sharing my delicious food is a burning desire in my soul, and I strongly believe my dreams are not out of my reach. They say, “When we do what we love, and give freely of ourselves, what we offer comes back to us in ways far beyond our imagination.”

In giving what I love, if you are interested in trying one of my creations, please feel free to contact me, directly, at divinedelectables@aol.com, and I will be more than happy to share any recipe that you choose…freely.

Namaste

Family, Food, Italian Traditions

Nana’s Sunday Pot of Love

Since I was a little girl, Sunday’s have always had a special meaning. When you’re fortunate enough to grow up in a multi-cultural family, like myself, you are born into a world of some magnificent foods, and family traditions that stay with you for a lifetime. My only wish has always been to pass on those childhood memories, traditions, recipes, and for them to be replicated for generations to come. Today, I am going to take you on a journey on how I got to a place that I call…”Nana’s Sunday Pot of Love.”

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My dad was born, and raised in Puerto Rico, and he came to New York at the age of 16. My mother was born in Harlem, and her parents, (my grandparents) were Italian immigrants from Naples, Italy, who eventually settled in Mt. Vernon, New York. Me, an American, born, and raised into a family of Puerto Rican, and Napolitano descent…I call it, “the best of both worlds.” I feel cheated in a sense that I wasn’t fortunate enough to grow up with grandparents. My maternal grandparents died when I was very young, and I only have small bits, and pieces of a memory of my grandmother, who died when I was 6 years old. My paternal grandparents lived in Puerto Rico, and my grandfather would never get on a plane to come to New York, to visit or anywhere else, for that matter…his famous words were, “If God meant for me to fly, he would have made me a bird.” I did have the opportunity to visit them, twice in their lifetime, but that’s a story for another day.

While Puerto Rican, and Italian food cultures are completely different, family bonds, and family meals were extremely important, and strong in both cultures. Interestingly enough, my father was a better cook than my mother, however, we would never tell her this…she would have been crushed. My dad was probably the first influence in my life, where I learned to be completely passionate about food, and the art of cooking. His belief with cooking…”cooking took time, and you just couldn’t rush it.”

First, let me start with my Puerto Rican heritage. I have memories of waking up, on Saturday mornings, to my dad just coming back from somewhere in the Bronx (I always regretted not asking where, exactly), with this fabulous Spanish bread, Pan de Agua (Puerto Rican Water Bread), which was always still warm, and the butter would just melt right into it. Heavenly!

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Then there was always that little white box that contained Budin (Puerto Rican Bread Pudding). It was so delicious, and it’s nearly impossible for me to describe its flavor, and taste but I can tell you this, I have never found a replication of it that can come even close to it. I have searched, and searched, and that flavor, smell, and taste are burned into my childhood memory, and I am still hopeful that one day we will meet again.

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Some Puerto Rican dishes that were pretty much a staple in our house…pernil (Puerto Rican slow roasted pork), rice with gandules (pigeon peas), arroz con pollo (chicken and rice), tostones (fried plantains), and flan that delicious vanilla custard, with just a touch of a caramel flavor.

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However, there are three dishes that hold the fondest memories for me, from my childhood until today. Paella was a special treat, and my dad would take us to a restaurant in City Island (again, regrettably, I don’t remember the name) but the length of time it took to make this one pot meal, which includes chicken, chorizo, mussels, clams, shrimp, pork, and some other great ingredients, and flavors, was well worth the wait.

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Then there were pasteles, which is a cherished culinary recipe, and they are typically made only around the holidays (most often, Christmas). I wouldn’t even attempt to recite what the ingredients are…I don’t have the knowledge or the experience with making them to give them the justice they so rightfully deserve. What I do know, is they are extremely labor intensive, and are made in batches of a hundred or more, and when you receive these culinary treasures, as a gift, sharing is something you really think about, and most often, you don’t want to part with them.

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Lastly, I think the meal cooked by my father that we still talk about till this day, my children, sister’s, and nephew included, is Bistec Encebollado, which is fondly known as Poppy’s Steak & Onions. It is strips of shoulder beef medallions (pounded thinly), and sliced onions, which were marinated together for hours in garlic, oregano, olive oil, vinegar, and Poppy’s secret sofrito, and adobo (well, he thought it was a secret). He would sauté everything, and stew all of it for hours, and then it was served with white rice, and beans. While it may not sound like much…trust me, after the bread dipping into the juices, and the fighting for the last piece of succulent steak, everyone left that meal extremely satisfied. This was just one of many dishes that I wished I paid closer attention too. Even though we all know the ingredients or we think we do, no one has perfected it nor has anyone come close to replicating Poppy’s Steak and Onions.

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Typically, they say your mother’s heritage, and traditions dominate your upbringing. For me, while my father had a great influence in my life, he had very little family in New York, and with my mother being one of eight children (4 sisters, 4 brothers), it was her Italian side that dominated my upbringing. Since our home was fairly small (a 2nd floor apartment), most Sunday dinners were spent with one of my relatives on my mother’s side but that’s not to say there weren’t meals at my mother’s table. She always found room, and there was always enough.

Growing up in a large Italian family, (4 generations of 90 or more, and growing), there is such a wealth of knowledge around cooking. I learned from many, if not, from all of my aunts, who I consider to be some of the best home cooks, how to perfect my cooking skills, and the precision, along with the finesse in presenting food. They truly cooked with love, a lot of passion, and for each one of them, it was always about pleasing those sitting at their table, and the gratification they received from your enjoyment of their food.

I grew up watching, and standing, side by side with many of my aunts, at their stoves, mentally absorbing their skills, and techniques. With the exception of baking, which is pure science, they were cooks who measured nothing, and they could never really recite a recipe without saying, a pinch, a handful or palm full measurement. Everything was measured visually, and by taste. It’s a talent that’s hard to learn unless you really enjoy cooking or more importantly, paid attention.

I grew up on Italian favorites such as, pasta fagioli (macaroni and beans), bistecca alla pizzaiola (steak, marinara, garlic, oregano, mushrooms, onions, and stewed in one pot), and pasta e piselli con carne macinata – sauté onions, and garlic with ground beef, add peas, penne, small elbow macaroni or ditalini, and meld everything together. Serve with grated cheese, and crushed red pepper flakes…ahhh, a feast!

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One of my lasting memories is of my aunt’s famous, patate e uova frittata (potato and egg omelet), which included five pounds of potatoes, and at least a dozen or more eggs. She cooked the potatoes in this old cast iron pan, which she still has today, and when the potatoes were nearly cooked, she added the beaten eggs. Once the frittata was done, it was about 3 inches high, and the potatoes always had a crisp to them. Visually, it is an absolute work of art, and since the pan is so heavy, my uncle is in charge of turning it over so that it can continue to cook, and once done, onto a serving dish, and he would carefully place that masterpiece on the table.

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Sunday’s were always about family visits, eating, and playing with your cousins, who lived near, or far. It could be any one of your relatives house that you would visit…traveling to the Bronx or to Flushing or to Brooklyn or to somewhere in between. Whoever’s house it was, it was almost a guarantee the smell of frying meatballs would immediately hit your senses once you walked through the front door, and that Sunday pot of gravy (yes, we call it gravy, not sauce) would be simmering on the stove. The Sunday meal was considered a feast, and that pot of gravy included meatballs, pork, braciole, and pelle di maiale (pig skin), which while today it is considered so unhealthy (I agree)…back then it was so delicious, and it just melted in your mouth after being cooked for hours in the gravy.

Before we ventured out to visit family, my dad always took a ride, after Sunday mass, of course…to the Italian deli, Zuccarelli’s, on Gramatan Ave, and to Dante’s Italian Bakery on 241st Street in the Bronx. It was a given, you never visited family without bringing pastries. I can remember walking into that deli, and even as a child, you were immediately intoxicated by the aroma of the delicacies on display. The Italian cold cuts, specialties, and breads that were purchased were either for the weeks lunches or if you were still hungry when you arrived home from the Sunday family dinner, which usually started at 1pm (on Sunday’s, lunch was dinner), you had an early evening sandwich. And as for the Italian pastries, who could resist a cannoli or a chocolate éclair or a sfogliatelle or a pasticiotto…just to name a few.

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All of these influences have added to my current day traditional Italian Sunday dinners, and holiday’s with my family. Sadly, my parents are no longer with us but the traditions they instilled in me live on. When my children were growing up, my son would smell those Sunday morning meatballs in his sleep, and he would immediately wake up to eat a few of them, just fried, before they went into the pot of gravy. As he got older, and those teenage years rolled around, he didn’t get up as easily but Mom always made sure there was a small bowl of fried meatballs left on the kitchen counter for him.

Before becoming a Nana, my dream had always been for my grandchildren to wake up on a Sunday morning, and say, “I want to go to Nana’s to eat her meatballs.” Today, with the busy lives that many people lead, and with both parents in the workplace, along with keeping up with children’s sports activities, school work, social events, just to name a few…Sunday dinners, as I grew up knowing them to be, has changed. Maybe it’s too much work or maybe people have become very health conscious (everything in moderation is my motto) or maybe families just decided to change, and start making their own new Sunday traditions. However, for me, a Sunday dinner, any holiday or any meal, for that matter, will never be anything less than it was for me growing up…not for this Nana.

Today, my sisters, and I have grown our immediate family into 16, which now includes our own children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews to great nieces and nephews. Last year, when I moved into my new home, my first priority purchase was my dream dining room table…one that seats 12, and then there is always that folding table for 4, which is fondly known as the kids table. Most Sunday’s, Nana’s table is filled with family, and whoever shows up, shows up. It’s a given that there is always enough, there is always room, and an invite is not necessary.

Over the years, the biggest self-gratification, and compliments I could ever receive have been endless. My 11 year old grandson is truly convinced that his Nana once had a cooking show on Food Network, and my 4 year old nephew says, “Aunt Deb’s meatballs are the best.” With every Christmas Eve, in the past, that was hosted at another family members house, it was a given that I would receive a frantic call from my son or nephew confirming I was still doing the cooking, and lastly, my cooking being referred to as “gourmet” is the ultimate compliment I could ever receive.

I always tell my daughter, and now I include my daughter-in-law, and granddaughter’s…“pay attention because I am not going to be around forever” (reality) but for as long as I am here, and I am physically able, Nana’s stove will always have a Sunday Pot of Love simmering on it, and it will always be filled with my famous meatballs, sausage, and succulent pork that falls off the bone.

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The meal will always begin with antipasti, which typically includes fresh mozzarella, fried sweet and hot peppers, an assortment of Italian olives, and soppressata.

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There will always be fresh Italian bread or a homemade focaccia, along with one of Nana’s famous dessert creations. Dessert can be anything from a puffed pastry apple tart served warm with vanilla ice cream to chocolate lava cake to zeppoles with apricot dipping sauce.

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Cooking together as a family builds strong family bonds, memories, and it brings everyone together for laughter, sharing old and new stories, learning, and teaching old family traditions. So surround yourself with family, pour a cup of coffee or espresso or a glass of wine…break out the flour, and dust off that mixer, chop some garlic, and take out the hidden cast iron or frying pan. Get yourself some extra virgin olive oil, and some great Italian cheese, olives, bread, and put on your mad scientist hat!

When you’re passionate about food, the possibilities are endless. In the end there will always be a tasteful surprise, and more importantly, it’s a feast with the people you love, family! The family this Nana loves, will always have a place at her stove, and her table, and unconditionally, they will always hold a special place in her heart, and in her life, along with “Nana’s Sunday Pot of Love.”

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La famiglia e mangiare!

Food, Uncategorized

‘Tis The Season of Fall

You clearly know the season of Fall is upon us when there’s a little nip in the air, you break out the sweaters, the trees burst with magnificent, brilliant colors, you hear the sound of rustling leaves beneath your feet, and the aroma, along with the wonderful taste of the first soups of the season strike your senses. There is just something about soup that envelopes you, makes you feel all warm inside, embraces your heart, palate, and for whatever reason just feels like home.

Fall Folliage

Growing up, in an era where we were considered to be middle class, and honestly, reflecting back, I think we probably would have been considered poor by today’s standards. However, we were rich in family, and a long history of traditions. Being raised by an Italian mother, who grew up during the depression era, most dishes were referred to as “peasant food” but they were always delicious, and stretched to feed a family, small or large, and there was always enough, and room for the unexpected company. To many our meals weren’t elaborate but to me they were rich with an Italian heritage, along with flavors, tastes, and smells that fill my head, and heart with many special memories. The meal was a time where the family gathered around a table, and reunited from a day of school, play or work. Soups were made from anything, and everything. From the cheapest cut of beef to vegetables to beans to poultry. Everything in one pot, and it simmered for hours on the stove. Add a loaf of Italian bread, a little or a lot of grated cheese, rice, ditalini or friselle (Italian pepper biscuits), and ahhhh, a meal that was a feast.

Friselle

Today, as a mother, and a Nana, I have taken my Italian family traditions, and the teachings from some of the best home cooks that I admire, and grew up with, and added my own twist on some old, and new favorite soups. Sometimes, we make life so complicated but there is no need to make soup complicated…keep it simple, make it with love, enjoy it with those you love, and add some great conversation. Family is about building strong bonds, making loving memories, and you can build, and make both around any meal.

La famiglia, and buon appetito!

Deborah's Italian Wedding Soup

Butternut Squash Soup