Adriana, Family, Food, Home School, Italian Roots

Making Homemade Pasta with Kids!

Time to make the pasta!

This Christmas, my wonderful husband surprised me with a pasta machine! I was truly surprised because even though it was something I’ve thought of purchasing over the years, I had never mentioned it. I know what you’re thinking, how could someone really be that excited about doing more work to get a simple meal like pasta on the table? Doesn’t she know that a box of pasta only costs less than $2.00? Call me crazy, but there’s something about making pasta from scratch that makes me feel as if I’ve stepped back in time into my great-grandmother’s kitchen in Italy and am taking part in a very sacred tradition.

It’s truly amazing how emotions and memories can be triggered by traditions. I used to love going down into my Nonna’s basement kitchen around the holidays and crank the dough through the pasta machine to make fresh pasta and Italian Christmas cookies. My grandmother and her sister would put on their weathered aprons and enormous dollar store magnifying eye-glasses. Nonna would always pull her hair back in a handkerchief and Zia Rossa would have on a winter cap. For the pasta dough, Nonna never needed a recipe; It was engrained in her heart from her own childhood. The Christmas cookies were another story. She would pull out the smallest, crumpled piece of scrap paper with her recipe jotted down in Italian. She would always have a hard time reading her handwriting and ask me what I thought it said, I don’t speak Italian well, and am no better at reading it! Zia Rossa would soon chime in about how she used orange zest not orange juice and before you knew it, they were on the phone with a cousin in Italy to solve the dispute. Oh yes, a simple thing like a pasta machine can bring back so many memories.

Somehow I subconsciously must have been channeling my Zia Rossa as I too, wore my winter cap to make pasta!

My excitement must have been contagious because everyone in our house wanted in on the pasta making fun. Fortunately, our dough came together beautifully. No real chemistry there, just a simple recipe of flour, egg, oil and a touch of salt. Yet, us rocket scientists had a hold up as we encountered a bit of trouble getting things rolling through the machine. If you’ve ever seen a pasta machine, the simple ones with the crank handle, there’s not much to them to figure out. We were pros at sending our rolled out dough through the first round of the machine flattening it out to the desired thickness. But, as we all anxiously awaited the final step that actually makes the fettuccini; Lily cranked the machine, Leo had his hands ready to grab the pasta as it came out… and nothing. Like a carousel ride, our pasta just kept going round and round the machine. Mike suggested I make the dough less sticky, so I patted it all down with a little flour and we tried again. Nope, the pasta kept going round and nothing came out. I took out the directions, yes, now I took out the directions, but there was no information in the ten different languages written that instructed you on how to put the machine together. Hmm, what were those little metal bars and plastic inserts for that were sitting on the counter? I just assumed they were to clean the machine. Good thing Mike is a contractor, because yes, a contractor is always good to have around especially when you are making pasta and need help figuring out where the missing parts fit into the machine!

The kids loved making pasta. I think they were truly amazed that they could make yet another thing on their own that we usually buy from the store – and that it could taste so good! The fettuccini was such a hit that a couple nights later we made homemade spinach ravioli and Leo made us all spaghetti!

If you’re feeling inspired, I encourage you to get that pasta machine, put on your apron and if you’re really feeling it, your winter cap and give pasta making a try! The memories you will be creating for your family are priceless.

Pasta Dough Recipe (makes about 1 pound of pasta)

Ingredients:

  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 1/2 Cups “OO” Flour
  • 1 Cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • A pinch of salt

Instructions:

  • Add all ingredients to your food processor and pulse for about 10 seconds or until the mixture is crumbly in texture
  • Remove the dough and form into a ball with your hands. Then knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for a couple minutes until it is smooth and elastic. The dough should be pretty dry, but if is seems too wet, just add more flour a tablespoon at a time.
  • Form the dough into a ball and wrap it in parchment paper or plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
  • When dough is ready, roll it out into small rectangular shapes and run through your pasta machine to desired thickness for the pasta you are making (this is indicated in the pamphlet that comes with the machine). Then send the dough through the machine to be cut into your pasta shape!

*Fresh pasta will cook quicker than dried pasta – usually between 1-5 minutes depending on the thickness of your pasta.

*Our pasta machine is an Atlas 150 and now that I know how to use it – I really do love it!

“Tutti a tavola a mangiare”

(Everyone to the table to eat)

Below is a video (I found on Youtube) of my dad’s village in Italy preparing for the September festival to celebrate the Saint of their town. It is a tradition that dates back for centuries and is truly an honor to experience. People come from all the neighboring towns to celebrate and some, like mine, travel every year from the United States back to their village to visit family and friends and celebrate together. One of my favorite pasta making memories is visiting this village and making pasta with family and friends as we prepared for the festival. The first image in the video is of the remains of a church built in 1590 and the second stone building is the grain mill where my Nonna and her family would grind their grain into flour. Although this video is in Italian, you can still appreciate the work that goes into the festival and the joy of the people who make the village what it is! Wait until you see how much pasta they make!

And here’s a video I found to give a peek into the festival! After the church service, everyone processes through the town singing and circles back to the church to feast on all the amazing food and enjoy the music and festivities. If you visit Italy in the summer and early fall, you too could visit these historic villages in the mountains and enjoy a different festival almost every weekend!

Adriana, Food, Home School

Homemade Gingerbread for an Old-Fashioned Christmas

Nothing says Holiday Baking quite like some Old-Fashioned soft gingerbread! During a normal holiday season one of our favorite things to do is visit Old Sturbridge Village’s Christmas by Candlelight in Massachusetts. It is an amazing living history museum and their old-fashioned holiday celebration is truly a treasure of an experience. One of our favorite soft gingerbread recipes is adapted from a very old recipe found in The Good Housekeeper by Sarah Josepha Hale, 1841. I got this recipe at our last visit to Sturbridge Village and it has been one that we love to make during the holiday season.

Six teacups of flour, three cups of molasses, three cups of cream, two of butter, one tablespoon of pearls and the same of ginger. Bake in a quick oven about half an hour.

The Good Housekeeper by Sarah Josepha Hale, 1841

The Modern day method of making this soft gingerbread:

  • 4 1/2 Cups Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Ginger
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Baking soda
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Cream of Tartar
  • 2 1/4 Cup Cream
  • 2 1/4 Cup Molases
  • 1 1/2 Cup Butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, sift together flour and ginger. Dissolve baking soda and cream of tartar in the cream. Cut butter into dry ingredients and blend thoroughly. Stir in cream mixture and molasses into dry ingredients. Pour into two greased 9-inch pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Dust with Confectioners sugar and serve warm, but it’s also tasty after being chilled in the fridge!

If you’re looking for a fun craft to do and book to read while enjoying your gingerbread, you can’t go wrong with The Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett. An easy beginner sewing project to do with your children is to sew a felt or fabric gingerbread baby. Leo sewed this handsome gingerbread baby when he was 5 years old. He drew the pattern of the gingerbread baby with chalk onto some felt, we folded the fabric in half so that we would have two pieces the same size and cut it out with fabric scissors. He drew on a mouth and nose with fabric marker and we sewed on the button eyes together. Then, Leo sewed it together with a large needle and embroidery floss and stuffed it with batting – you could use old clothes or stuffing from an old pillow. It’s a lot of fun and a great beginner project to hand sewing!

Have Fun & Enjoy!

Adriana, Food, Home School

Homemade Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry’s are really quite an amazing plant with numerous health benefits. I have been using the syrup for years to help boost our family’s immune system during the fall and winter seasons. Elderberries are known to fight and protect your immune system against bacterial and viral infections along with reducing the symptoms and duration of the common cold and flu. They are anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and are high in vitamin A, which is great for healthy skin. Purchasing organic Elderberry syrup can get expensive, so I’ve tried making it at home and the product was easy to make and tastes delicious!

If you’d like to give it a try here’s what you’ll need.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup dried organic elderberries
  • 4 Cups water
  • 1 Cup Raw Honey
  • 1/4 Cup lemon juice
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger (dried ginger can be substituted)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (optional)

Directions:

  1. Add 1 Cup dried elderberries, ginger, cinnamon stick and 4 Cups water to a medium sized sauce pan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour.
  2. After elderberries have simmered for 45 minutes to an hour, pour the liquid through a mesh colander into a bowl and mash elderberries over bowl in the strainer to be sure to get out all the juice from the berries. Remove cinnamon stick if used.
  3. Add 1 Cup raw honey, 1/4 cup lemon juice and dash of cayenne pepper and mix together
  4. Pour liquid into a clean mason jar and keep in the refrigerator for 1-2 months. Adults take 1 Tbsp. daily and children 2 and up take 1 tsp daily. Children under 1 year should not consume raw honey, so if making for younger children add honey that isn’t raw. If you have a cold or feel one coming on, take 1 Tbsp/Tsp every two hours until cold subsides (up to 4 Tbsp/tsp a day). *Raw honey has many nutritional benefits that add to the syrup, cayenne, lemon juice and ginger add some heat, which helps the syrup activate when consumed. The cinnamon stick is for flavor.

Wishing you all a Safe and Healthy Winter Season!

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, Home School

Once I Had A Pumpkin…

Pumpkin bread rolls, Pumpkin butter, Pumpkin pie, Pumpkin Soup and Pumpkin Carving- Oh My!

A Happy Pumpkin by Leo

“Once I had a pumpkin, a pumpkin, a pumpkin…” This tune is a favorite of Vivi’s, my 22 month old, right now as she dances around the house singing “pa-kin, pa-kin” and encourages us all to join in. She too is getting into the fall spirit! Fall is here! – and our household is busily making the shift from summer into fall. We are pulling our fleece apparel out of the closet and searching for our fall bin of decorations. I always have a hard time saying goodbye to summer, but living in New England over the years, has helped me fall in love with Fall! Getting outdoors in the cool, crisp air, hiking the mountain range taking in the warm autumn colors, picking apples and pumpkins and eating them! It is now a season that I truly look forward to and especially love sharing its beauty with my children!

As we prepare for the Fall Equinox on Tuesday September 22nd, the kids and I have been putting together our fall nature table, doing some fall decorating and nature crafts and putting together idea’s for our fall festive feast with local ingredients for Tuesday. As you may have guessed, the menu includes lot’s of pumpkin recipes! Fortunately, Leo’s pumpkin patch has been very rewarding this year. We have already carved and roasted 12 pumpkins! With more still to be picked! My little pumpkin farmer has carried his pumpkin interests into the kitchen and we’ve been busy making some of our pumpkin favorites.

Beyond its delicious taste, pumpkin is nutritious and linked to many health benefits. It is good for your heart health, your immune system, and contains a variety of nutrients that can improve your overall health. There are so many ways you can use pumpkin purée. I add it to our oatmeal, to our tomato sauce and put it in our smoothies. The kids love fresh pumpkin butter on a slice of bread. We’ve also enjoyed pumpkin soup, pumpkin ginger quick bread, and of course, giant pumpkin pies! Surprisingly, no matter how big we make them, we never seem to have leftovers!

One of our family favorite pumpkin recipes are Pumpkin Rolls from The Artful Year by Jean Van’t Hul. These rolls are easy to make and taste fantastic. They don’t last long in our house!

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 1/4 Cup Water
  • 1/3 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 2 Eggs
  • 4 Teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
  • 2 1/2 Cups White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 2 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 Cup (1 Stick) Butter
  • 1 Cup Pumpkin Puree

Instructions

  1. Whisk milk, water, brown sugar, salt, and pumpkin pie spice together in a saucepan. Heat the mixture over low heat until warm (not hot).
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and mix in the eggs and yeast.
  3. Mix the flours together in a large bowl. make a well in the center and pour in the milk-egg mixture (but don’t stir). Cover the bowl with a lid or plate and set aside for 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small pan. Remove from the heat. Add the pumpkin puree and stir until blended.
  5. When the 30 minutes are up, add the pumpkin-butter mixture to the bowl of flour and stir to combine the ingredients.
  6. Place the dough on a clean counter and shape it into a ball. Cover the dough with the inverted bowl and let it rise for 20 minutes.
  7. Knead the dough lightly on a floured surface, then shape it into small rolls. The dough is sticky, but try not to add too much flour.
  8. Place the rolls on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Let them rise for another 20 minutes.
  9. During this last rise, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  10. Bake the rolls for 15 minutes. They are delicious warm or at room temperature.

Enjoy!

Wishing you all a Festive Fall Equinox Celebration! Enjoy the Autumn Sunshine, Go on a nature hike, Make some fall themed nature crafts, have a fall harvest feast, watch the leaves turn, make a bonfire and roast some marshmallowsReflect upon your gratitude for nature and the earth!

I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Adriana, Food, Garden

What’s on Your Nightstand: A Good Read for those Seeking Inspiration in Human Resilience, Living off the land and Being a little more Self-Sufficient

Animal, Vegetable Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver is always on my nightstand. I read and fell in love with this book years ago when I planted my first vegetable garden in my city-living courtyard! A part of me still dreams of running a homestead as Kingsolver has accomplished in this book – someday maybe. I was truly inspired by Kingsolver and her family. She captures the true joys and hardships of being a family, working together and the simple joys of life. Kingsolver, her husband and two daughters leave the comforts of their Tuscon, Arizona home and travel across the country to settle in a rural town in Virginia determined to live off their land for one year – they only buy food raised in their own neighborhood or grow it themselves. Their story is one of human resilience, rediscovering your roots, the rewards of self-sufficiency and the love of food! It is an empowering read that is extremely informative about the politics of food and how we can all benefit by taking our food into our own hands.

This book couldn’t be more relevant than at a time when we are dealing with a global pandemic that has encouraged many across the globe to become more self-sufficient, connect with a slower pace and care more about the earth that sustains us all.

The beautiful stories woven throughout this book are of the joys of growing food, the hardships and rewards and what you can do in your own simple ways no matter how big or small to nourish your own mind, body and soul – and by doing it, make this world a little better. I hope this inspiring story finds its way into your heart and home and maybe even finds a place on your nightstand!

Tell Me What You Eat and I Will Tell You What You Are.

 Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
A photo from the Kingsolver Kitchen

To Read more about Kingsolver and take a Virtual Tour of the Farm check out her Animal, Vegetable, Miracle site at http://animalvegetablemiracle.org/farm-tour.htm

Wishing you All a little time to Enjoy the Precious Miracles of Life!

Adriana, Food, Home School

Making Homemade Butter with Kids

Still baking bread? Why not try making homemade butter too – it’s super easy and tastes great!

Making our own butter has always been a favorite science experiment at our house. The kids never seize to be amazed at how shaking cream in a jar with a marble can turn into a delicious treat we spread on our bread! Making butter from scratch is super easy and so much fun for kids of all ages. All you need is some heavy cream, a mason jar with a lid, a marble (optional) and a little patience!

Ingredients and Materials:

  • Mason Jar & lid
  • Heavy Cream
  • pinch of salt
  • clean marble

Directions:

  • Fill your mason jar half-full with Heavy Cream
  • Add a pinch of salt and a clean marble (the marble is just a fun idea that helps churn the cream into butter and add some extra fun when the kids shake it up)!
  • Put on the lid and shake it up. The marble will click around and when you don’t hear it anymore or it starts to thud, your butter should be done! The whole process should take about 10 minutes depending on how vigorously you shake the jar and how much cream you have put in.
  • You’re butter is done once you see a clump of butter has separated from the buttermilk! Carefully pour out the buttermilk and save for later use (great for baking).
  • Put the butter in a bowl and rinse with cold water, carefully squeeze it to get the remaining buttermilk out.
  • Spread your butter on some fresh bread or muffins and Enjoy! (The butter will last in the fridge for about 5-7 days, but it will probably be eaten up before then)!

The Science Behind Homemade Butter

When whole milk is left uncovered in the refrigerator tiny fat molecules float to the top, forming a layer of heavy cream. This cream can be separated from the milk and used to make butter. When you shake heavy cream in the mason jar, the agitation causes the fat molecules in the cream to clump together. During this process, the water molecules separate from the solid mass and create buttermilk. The cream goes through a physical change when it is churned into butter.

Some Great Informational Books for younger kids on Dairy Farming:

Here’s a great educational demonstration about making butter in the early 18th century by the Townsends.

Have Fun In The Kitchen Making an Edible Science 18th Century Treat!

Adriana, Food

Ways to Boost Your Immune System for the Upcoming Fall and Winter Season

*Image of Fermented Foods from Real Pickles

Fermented Foods:

Long ago in a time before modern conveniences like refrigerators and freezers, fermented foods were in everyones diet. Heck – most of our grandparent’s probably had more fermented foods in their diet than we do today! Fermented foods contribute to a strong gut flora which in turn contributes to a strong immune system. For all of us, our immune health starts with what we eat and what is in our gut. Even if you aren’t fermenting your own foods, there are plenty of ways to get some good old-fashioned fermented fun into your diet. Pickled Beets, Sauerkraut, Gingered carrots, pickles and Kimchi are all fermented vegetables that can be purchased at most food stores and if you’re really lucky, you may live in an area where you can buy fermented goods from your local farmers! Eating a tablespoon size amount of fermented foods 1-3 times a day can aid in building a strong deep immune health.

One of my favorite small businesses to buy good organic fermented food from is Real Pickles. If you’re feeling adventurous, next step will be to start fermenting your own foods right at home. I’d recommend starting with homemade pickles, sauerkraut or gingered carrots. Fermented foods definitely aren’t for those with sensitive taste buds, but once you give it a try, the rewards far outweigh the taste and you may even grow to like it!

Some beef bones from our local dairy

Bone Broth:

It sounds a bit intimidating, but really all you have to do is make your own chicken/beef/turkey stock using the bones. The important thing about this is that you are buying good quality meat, preferred organic, free range and/or grass-fed and not treated with antibiotics or other hormones. Bone Broth is Wonderful for strengthening your deep immune system. Easiest way to make it is to use a slow cooker and add your meat bones and any other veggie scraps you have saved up; onions, garlic and the skins, herbs, carrot tops, stems from greens, ginger – anything that will add to the flavor and nutrients, add 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar and enough water to almost fill the pot, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 24-72 hours. Let the broth cool, strain it, add salt and pepper to taste. It can be refrigerated for up to a week and you can freeze it for up to 6 months. You can drink the broth as you would a cup of tea or use it to cook rice, pasta and as a base for your soup. Getting one cup of bone broth into your body every day is extremely nourishing for your immune health.

Brands we use and really like

Elderberry Syrup:

Elderberry Syrup is a great addition to your diet especially when you feel run down or are starting to fight off a cold. During the Fall and Winter I give my family Elderberry Syrup Daily. This one is definitely easy to add to your diet because it has a great taste.

Egyptian Black Seed Oil: The Miracle Black Cumin Plant “Nigella Sativa

This is a new immune booster that Mike and I have recently discovered and researched. To me, it’s like a miracle drug because it is a go to for numerous ailments, especially used for strengthening your overall immune health and well-being. Black seed oil comes from the Black cumin plant’s seeds. The historic evidence shows Black Cumin, or Nigella Sativa, was grown from the rich soil of the Nile River Delta in Egypt and has been used for over three thousand years to aid in digestion and overall well-being. I add a tablespoon to my oatmeal or smoothies and sometimes to my tea or a glass of switchel. You can also use the oil on dry, irritated skin. The oil has many health benefits. For further reading you can explore this text by Doctors Schleicher, and Saleh:

“Black Cumin: The Magical Egyptian Herb for Allergies, Asthma, and Immune Disorders” by Peter Schleicher M.D., Mohamed Saleh M.D. Start reading it for free: https://a.co/7mQcOuY
Download Kindle for Android, iOS, PC, Mac and more
http://amzn.to/1r0LubW

Exercise:

The benefits of getting outdoors and moving your body are immeasurable. It isn’t always easy to do, but a little bit of exercise every day goes a long way for your mental, physical and especially your immune health. Ride a bike, take a walk, go on a jog or hike, kayak, swim, play a game of catch or kick ball in the yard with your kids. Take a walk with your kids or partner when you can – it is a therapeutic experience for you all to share together.

Mindfullness Exercises:

Finding time for yourself and moments of quiet are extremely important for recharging and resetting your mind and body. We all need moments of quiet and calm in our day to reflect on what we’re doing and what we’re feeling inside. Research shows that relaxation exercises minimize chronic pain, lower blood pressure, sharpen concentration and even improve the function of the immune system. Let go of the stress and appreciate the beauty of the present. It is nourishment that only you can make time for, but is so important to your health.

Sleep:

After having four children, I don’t feel that I’ve slept much in the past 11 years, but whenever I can get rest – I do! Sleep is so essential to your health. It is your brains way of recharging and preparing for the busyness of the day ahead. Sleep is also essential to your immune health. All things are handled better after a good nights rest – encourage it for yourself and your children. When one of us in our household doesn’t get a good nights sleep, we all pay for it – so work together and all your immune systems will benefit!

Wising you all Good Health!

If you’re interested in doing any more reading on ways to fight viruses – Herbal Antivirals: Natural Remedies for Emerging & Resistant Viral Infections by Stephen Harrod Buhner is a great resource.

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!