Adriana, Food, Home School, Italian Roots

Cheese Making With Kids!

Ava and I in the kitchen getting ready to make some goat cheese!

Ok, so you’ve joined the slow food movement – you have a garden, you’re baking bread and you’re making meals from scratch – what else is there to do, but venture into the crazy world of making your own homemade cheese! I know, it may sound crazy, maybe even impossible, but trust me, once you give it a try, you’ll appreciate the simplicity of making something that seems so ordinary, yet connects you to age-old artisan traditions. I am a cheese fan; always have been, always will be. I cannot put into words, my true love for not just cheese, but fresh cheese, especially goat cheese! One of my fondest memories of a trip to Italy is of a summer stay in the mountain village in which my father grew up and discovering our neighbor, the goat farmer, and his cheese making business. Barley twenty years old this young farmer was already running his own cheese business and raising goats on the family farm. It was a simple, yet impressive operation that left not only an imprint on my tastebuds, but on my heart. It was a glimpse into the old-fashioned, slower paced living that Mike and I craved and left us amazed at how during modern day times, here was a young entrepreneur, in a remote mountain village, raising goats and making delicious cheese in the cellar of his family’s home.

When we returned to New England, Mike and I both were on a hunt for goat cheese that reminded us of Italy. Fortunately, we live in an area where local farmers never seize to amaze me and to my great delight we discovered that some of the best goat cheese in the US is made right around the corner! And I do mean this literally because my fabulous goat farming neighbor makes some unbelievable chèvre!

If you haven’t ever given cheese making a try you’d be surprised at how easy it is to make a simple farm cheese for the family to enjoy! We use raw goat’s milk from our neighbor’s farm, but you can substitute raw cow milk or pasteurized cow milk for cheese making.

This simple goat cheese recipe is from Lisa Schwartz’s “Over the Rainbeau” book.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Quart Raw Goats Milk or Pasteurized Goat Milk (Don’t used Ultra-pastuerized milk) *Cow Milk can be substituted
  • Food Thermometer
  • Cheese cloth (made of cotton, not synthetic materials)
  • Medium sized cooking pan
  • Wooden spoon and ladle
  • Juice of two lemons (4 tablespoons)
  • Salt

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat milk until it reaches 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Let stand until set, about 15 seconds. If milk does not set, add a little more lemon juice.
  2. Line a colander with several layers of cheesecloth. Ladle set milk into colander. Tie the four corners of cheesecloth together; hang on the handle of a wooden spoon set over a deep bowl and let drain until it is the consistency of slightly dry cottage cheese, 1 to 2 hours. Transfer to a bowl and store in an airtight container, refrigerated, up to 1 week.

Once you’ve separated the curds from the whey, save the whey to add to other recipes. Whey has several nutritional benefits. It is full of protein, calcium and potassium. We use it as a substitute for buttermilk when making pancakes and it is a great substitute for water when making pizza dough.

If you’re interested in purchasing a cheese making kit or getting some more information about cheese making, the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company has a fantastic website with great information, recipes, kits, cultures and supplies. Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll is also a great resource.

Wishing you all some time to enjoy the slower pace of life, to experiment in the kitchen cultivating memories and bringing the process of food making back to the center of family life! We all care a little more about the product, when we are involved in the process – true for food and for life.

Adriana, Food, Garden, Italian Roots

What to do with all that Zucchini!

I love summer squash and zucchini. To my great fortune, this year my garden is plentiful of it! Thankfully, both of these vegetables can be cooked and eaten so many different ways. I love to sauté some zucchini on the stove top with olive oil, chopped garlic and a little salt and pepper. I also love roasting it in the oven tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper and some parmesan cheese. Currently, my kids two favorite summer squash and zucchini recipes are squash fritters and zucchini bread- no surprise there! We’ve added our personal touch to some pretty basic recipes that we thought we’d share with our fellow gardeners who are also trying to figure out what to do with all that squash! Enjoy!

I have found these freeze up nice once shredded and stored in a freezer bag. Quick and Easy!

Summer Squash Fritters (We use the yellow squash for these)

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups Yellow Summer Squash or Zucchini shredded
  • 8 Tablespoons Flour
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Pepper
  • Chopped fresh Basil leaves
  • Half an Onion shredded
  • 2 Tablespoons Parmesean cheese
  • Vegetable oil and 2 Tablespoons Butter for frying pan

Directions:

  • Mix all ingredients in one bowl
  • Heat oil and butter in large frying pan (enough oil to cover the fritters half-way)
  • Scoop a small pancake size dollop of batter into the pan once oil is heated
  • Cook on one side about 2-3 minutes until browned then flip and do the same on opposite side
  • Once done, move fritter to a plate with paper towel to absorb extra oil

My kids love these served hot with ketchup and fresh sliced tomatoes!

Lemon Zucchini Cake

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups Zucchini shredded
  • 2 Cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
  • 1 Teaspoon Ginger
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • Zest and Juice of 1 Lemon
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Coconut Oil – or Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter for Pan

Directions:

  • Mix all dry ingredients and wet ingredients separate then Combine
  • Butter a 13 x 9 inch pan
  • Pour batter into pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes

Icing:

Mix juice of one lemon with enough confectioners sugar to make an icing consistency to pour over cake when cool

Enjoy!

This Zucchini Cake Recipe is adapted form a Wonderful Italian Cook that the kids and I like watching on Youtube. She reminds me very much of my own Nonna and has some authentic Italian dishes you might enjoy checking out.

Adriana, Family, Food, Garden, Home School, Italian Roots

Victory Garden 2020 August Update: Be Careful What You Wish For!

About six months ago after our first family adventure in our camper and gaining a new appreciation for living in a simpler way, I wished for a slower pace to life. Fast forward a couple months and I got it! Never could I have imagined that it would be forced upon us! And never would I have wished for a global pandemic to bring this slower pace. But, with a slower pace and more time on our hands we were able to pursue another wish of mine, a big garden with lots and lots of tomatoes! Thankfully to a very hearty compost delivered by our local dairy farm and to the hard working hands of my husband, kids and myself, the tomato dream has come to us in bucket loads!

We planted numerous varieties of tomatoes this year; Brandywine heirlooms, Early girls, Sun Gold cherries, Fourth of July, Big Boy Brandywines, Plum tomatoes and lots of cherry tomatoes. Little did we know how prolific the plants would be and how good a growing season we would have. The kids and I are out there every day inspecting the tomatoes and gambling on which ones are ok to leave for tomorrow hoping the slugs and other small hungry visitors won’t eat them before we get to them. It’s a risk we’re not always willing to take, but Our tomato storage capabilities are reaching their max. I feel more and more like my Italian Nonna everyday as I care for my tomatoes with the tenderness I do my children and trays fill my house with upside down tomatoes spaced apart and covered with linens in order to prolong their lifespan. Like us, the tomatoes are also better off social distancing to insure their health and longevity.

I Have been making sauce, canning, jarring, freezing, sun drying and roasting tomatoes daily. We’re eating many tomato sandwiches with fresh pesto and mayo. There is nothing quite like the amazing taste of a vine ripened tomato. It’s a simple thing that can bring so much joy. The tomatoes seem never ending and the garden is beginning to feel a bit like Big Anthony’s garden from the Strega Nonna storybook! For those not familiar, his garden is a bit out of control, but the unwieldy magic of a garden continues to be truly delightful and exciting! We keep finding new surprise plants that have sprung from our dirt and are now bearing fruit. We have butternut squash trellising across our fence, an unknown squash growing in the pumpkin patch and compost bin, cucumbers growing in our pot of Canna’s and a giant gourd plant taking over a flower bed!

Every meal seems to be a new creative adventure. We have roasted some of Leo’s giant pumpkins and made lasagna size pumpkin pies! With plenty pumpkin purée leftover to fill our freezer for later use. We can’t get enough squash fritters, zucchini bread, fresh garden salsa and cucumber salads! We’ve even gotten pretty creative with our pesto recipes and made beet green, kale and basil pesto with almonds and walnuts. We’ve gone Greek and made home made Tzatziki along with feta, tomato, cucumber wraps. The magic of the garden keeps on giving and continues to renew and recharge our mind, body and soul!

Some Arugula seedlings springing up in the garden

We have harvested all the carrots, beets and lettuce and have started new plantings for an early fall harvest. There are so many great vegetables you can plant in August for most planting zones that will allow for a crop before winter. We have put in bush bean plants, arugula, spinach, mesclun salad mix, kale and broccoli rabe (a bitter green similar to broccoli). Some other vegetables that you can plant now are radishes, carrots, beets (for beet greens and small beets), Swiss chard, and garlic.

The kids are drying out seeds from the tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, banana peppers and pumpkins to save for next year.

To Plant a Garden is to Believe in tomorrow.

Audrey Hepburn

There is something so therapeutic about working the earth, growing your own food and cooking and eating together. It is a tradition I hold dear to my heart that I am grateful to pass down to my children. Sunday dinners at my Nonna’s house packed into her tiny kitchen with my Aunts, Uncles, Great Aunts and Great Uncles, cousins and friends eating a home cooked meal from the garden while listening to them debate over who found the cheapest grapes and broccoli rabe – are some of my dearest childhood memories. As a young girl I didn’t quite understand why my grandparents worked so hard when you could buy everything at the food store? Yet, there was something special about what they did that struck me even at an early age. Both my grandparents have since passed, but I feel their presence shining over me each time I set foot in my garden and get lost in the rows of tomato plants. They were two very hardworking people who lived very simple and always shared the fruits of their labor with those they loved. They were the original ‘Farm to Table’ farmers. The way they have shaped my life to appreciate the simple things, to know where my food comes from and to respect the earth that feeds me, is profound. They have gifted me with the secrets to the true riches in life, good food, family and friends- and for that I am ever grateful.

If I am so lucky to be granted a third wish, It would be that – All who have tasted the pleasures of the earth work together to preserve it. Be that in the garden and in life.

Buon Apetito Tutti!

Italian Roots

My Kids Call Him Nonno

This post is the opening of a series explaining our roots and our connection to parents and grandparents. I will try to describe the great teachers and loved ones that helped us learn, influenced our lives and how we teach and bring up our children as well.

This tale is regarding Mike Barbaro. I will try to show you a taste of his background, the family, his village in Italy, and the experiences that Mike has brought forth.

Adriana’s father, Michele Barbaro, has been a bright light for us.

For Adriana- of course- it is because he is her father, and for me, too- because he is my father-in-law. But he is so much more–his wife Kathy will tell you this (as she accompanies these stories on the same path with him, after-all). But then, Mike B is a bright light for everyone.

Mike’s life starts in a little village in Campagna, Italy: San Mango, and even smaller settlement there-in: Castagnetta. From there Mike and his parents: Nonna and Nonna, his uncles: Bill, Jerry, Frank, Tony and aunts: Rosa, Maria, Ava, Lina, Carmela, his best friend, Uncle Eddie, and so many relations, have unfolded into America, traced their roots, and welcomed us to share in their traditions, love and heritage, even their village home, itself. One year before we had children, Adriana and I visited the village, and slept in the same room Mike did when he was a child. The walls of field stone hugged us close and divided us snugly from the neighbor next door who we ate cheese with the next day in the little piazza.

We returned to the place in NJ where home had now continued to bloom all these years for Mike Barbaro and his family, and this video is a slice of that life -our life. This is the root still alive from a cutting made in the field where the cow used to graze under the fig tree in the little village.

One late Summer day the making of the wine was ceremoniously acted out together in a real sharing of tradition across the generations. The footage shows Fiori Nonno, and his wife Angelina Nonna, doing what they did every year (or at least someone from the family did every year): make wine. Adriana captured the spirit of the vino as Mike Barbaro- son of Fiori the Patriarch- reached out with his beloved parents to do again together what they did since he and Uncle Eddie were small boys in San Mango. And I, Mike from Massachusetts, got to tag along. I was working with Mike B at this time apprentice to building houses, setting tile, and learning carpentry. I also learned the wine.