Let’s Get Saucy!

So Sunday night my roommates and I were exhausted after a very long and fun weekend, so we wanted to something quick and delicious for dinner!  My sister Gina had been in town all weekend for her first dress fitting (I can’t believe the wedding is in 70 days!!!) and we went to the beach Saturday, so overall it was a non-stop kind of weekend.  Did I mention that in 70 days I have to give probably the most important speech in my life? And it will be in front of around oh…500 people?  Ya. 70 days are going to fly by…

Even though I was exhausted I still wanted to make dinner and I wanted it to be good, so I went to my most reliable recipe  that I keep in my back pocket – my quick sauce.  I have combined a few family recipes to create my own and I think it is oh so delectable.

Quick Tomato Sauce

1 can of Hunt’s tomato sauce

1/4 onion

1 clove garlic

1 bouillon cube

Skim milk

Pepper

Finely dice the onion (I chop and then add into the mixer to make extra thin) and then saute in olive oil until translucent. Add the garlic and some pepper and let simmer.  Add the can of sauce, bouillon cube, and skim milk (fill up tomato can about 1/4 of the way) and add more pepper.  Boil your water and then add the pasta.  Let the sauce come to a very slow boil and then simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes while your pasta is cooking.  Add more pepper if necessary.  Serve and enjoy!!

This time I got a little more creative than normal and decided to dice up some cherry tomatoes and add them into my sauce.  I added them to the onions and garlic while they were cooking and sautéed them as well. The sauce turned out really good, which is surprising considering how tired I was from the weekend!  I highly recommend trying out this recipe, even if you aren’t looking for something quick!  And I definitely recommend Hunt’s – it’s the only tomato sauce I’ll use!

So I am back home again in Indy this weekend for lots of wedding stuff!  We have a couples shower on Friday and Sunday my two aunts and I are hosting a shower!  The shower is going to be so pretty and I can’t wait to share pictures!  I spent a lot of time planning and picking out everything for the big day with m Aunts – so hopefully everything is just perfect!  Have a wonderful weekend!

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Holy Rosary Italian Street Festival

With much regret, I have to say that with all of the excitement, work, and fun going on during the Italian festival, I got really distracted and forgot to take pictures of the most important part…the food!  Friday was a pretty hectic day, considering it took me forever to try to get out of Chicago.  The Hawks had just won the Stanley Cup and the city was going crazy.  There were millions of people outside my office building all day and all the streets around me were closed off.  I made it to the bus stop with about 3 minutes to spare – only to encounter problems with a bus driver who did not want to let me on the bus!  Good thing I know how to get my way…he finally let me on so I could make it home in time for the festival!

A few of my cousins and my sister during the festival!

I know I can’t share with you what the food at the festival looked like, but I can tell you all about what I ate and everything the festival had to offer.  Friday night, I must admit, I was too busy enjoying many Peronis to eat anything, but I did try a bite of a breadstick (amazing as always) and some fettuccine.  I try the fettuccine every year (I’ve never not tried it for as long as I can remember), and it is always, without fail, satisfying.  I was very proud of myself though for not tasting any of the desserts (when you are looking at them all night, it’s hard to resist the urge to take a few bites of heavenly chocolate or my all time favorite, cheesecake).

A few desserts served at the festival – Lemon Cake and Chocolate Mousse

Saturday night was a different story. I gave in to all of my urges and just went for it.  I had tortellini in a red sauce, tried some vegetable lasagna, fried ravioli, pizza, breadsticks, and a new addition to the food line up, not sure what they are called, but they were fried balls stuffed with mushrooms, spinach and artichokes.  They were ok – but my favorite of the entire night was the vegetable lasagna and for dessert a Cannoli (if you have never had one of these before, I suggest you find one at an Italian bakery and indulge!!).  Before you start judging me and the amount of food I consumed, realize that I only took a few bites of all of these things.  With my large family holed up in a tent all night, there is a plethora of food around!  I only ate a small bowl of the tortellini on my own – that I was not willing to share!

My Dad, Grandpa, Brother and Cousins – All enjoying the storm under the tent!

Overall, the festival was a great time.  The rain did try to put a damper on the weekend, but Italians never let anyone or anything rain on their parade!  Saturday night, when the rain started to come down around 9:00PM, most of the people left or headed for shelter inside the church.  The parking lot was almost empty, except for one tent. The Pastry stand. As I headed down the street to help cleanup, I saw my Grandfather, standing inside the tent, surrounded by a mass of people, selling as many pastries as he could.  Now that is dedication.  It was thundering and lightening outside, but my Grandpa wasn’t going to stop until he did everything he could to make money for the Church. There are very few people in this world who have as much heart, dedication, and a sense of hard work as my Grandpa.  He is a true role model, a wonderful man, Grandfather, Dad, and an even better Italian.  Although we didn’t make as much money as last year, due to the weather, the Festival was, as usual, a great time and made a lot of money for the Church.

Me and my Grandpa – serving Cannoli’s at 11PM in the rain!

Rain or shine, the Italian Street Festival will always be one of my favorite weekends of the year.  It is so much more than a festival, to me and to many other people who volunteer away their weekend, who get to spend quality time with loved ones, and who are able to make great friends.  Sometimes we can view it as a burden, but when it is all said and done, and you look back on the weekend, it has to put a little smile on your face.

I apologize for the lack of food, but this is a major part of my Big Fat Italian Life, so I hope you enjoyed a glimpse of life as an Italian!

Baking Binge

So, unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to cook on Sunday.  It started off as a really pretty day and I had every intention of baking a lasagna, but I went to brunch with my friends and ended up sitting in a cute French restaurant, drinking Mimosas, and watching it pouring rain outside.  It turned out to be a wonderful Sunday, but the time to cook got away from me.

I must have really needed a good “cook” because last night I came home from work and decided to bake something.  Well, I decided to make shortbread, but when I put that in the oven, I still wasn’t satisfied, so I decided to make Peanut Butter cookies too! I was a little nervous about the Shortbread cookies because I had never made them and had no idea what they were supposed to look or feel like.  It seemed way too simple…and I assumed I did it wrong.  Basically, you mix the butter, salt, sugar and flour in a bowl until it forms a dough.  But the dough doesn’t really feel like dough because it isn’t sticky and it kind of falls apart. It’s very crumbly.  Then you just spread it in a pan, poke it with a fork a few times, and put it in the oven for about 45 minutes at 300°.

The Shortbread right out of the oven with sugar sprinkled on it!

The Shortbread cookies turned out really good!  As soon as they come out of the oven,  sprinkle them with sugar and let sit for about 5 minutes.  Then, slice into pieces (I did triangles, but you can do whatever you want) and serve!  Nikki’s mom, who is a professional baker, apparently cut them into hearts for Valentines Day and spread different preserves on them! I am beyond happy to report that they were a success and everyone got to enjoy some.  Nikki added some Blackberry preserve to hers and it was the perfect combination!

The Finished Product!

Shortbread with Blackberry Preserve!

While the Shortbread cookies were baking, I started on the Peanut Butter cookies.  I didn’t have all of the necessary ingredients (oats & crunchy peanut butter), but I decided I could create my own version of the recipe and use regular peanut butter and chocolate chips instead of oats.  I think that is more fun anyway!  I also did not have a sifter for my flour, sugar, and salt. I knew from baking with my mom that sifting really does make a difference when baking and you shouldn’t just dump the ingredients into your mixture.  I got creative in the kitchen and put the ingredients into a pasta strainer and shook it over a mixing bowl, then added the ingredients to my batter.  It worked perfectly!

Perfect Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies!

I baked the cookies for about 15-20 minutes at 350° and let them cool for about 10 minutes before serving.  They were yummy.  I love peanut butter.  I love chocolate.  And I loved these cookies.  It is probably not a good thing that I now know how to bake my favorite combination of sweets!  I am glad I was feeling restless last night and decided to be productive.  It’s always a good feeling when you come home from work and get so much accomplished!  I even went and looked at a few apartments after work because I am moving in August!

This weekend I am heading back to Indianapolis (yes, I do go home every other weekend and it will continue this way until after my sister’s wedding apparently), to go to the annual Holy Rosary Italian Street Festival.  The festival started the year I was born, and I have been in attendance ever since.  Both sides of my family run the dessert booths and have so much fun spending the weekend together.  Over the years I have had to train myself to not try all the desserts…but when you love sweets and Italian food…this place is not safe for your waist line!  Keep your fingers crossed it doesn’t get rained out and if you are in the area check it out!

Ladies and Gentleman Start Your…Cooking!

Back home again in Indiana.  That song brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it.  Maybe it’s because I’m proud of where I come from, or maybe it is because I am laughing so hard at the thought of my dear friend crying at the race a few years ago after spending a semester in Paris.  She was so happy to be home and so proud of being a Hoosier – the song (or maybe the beer?) literally brought her to tears.  Anyway, when I think of the Indianapolis 500, I think of that song and the roaring sound of engines revving to go.  My favorite part of the race is the noise.  I opt out of ear plugs because that loud noise makes my heart skip a beat.  I guess I really am a Hoosier.

The Indianapolis 500 – Turn 1

Jordan – Enjoying the In Field (it was over 100°)

The weekend was not only filled with tears, Hoosier pride, and loud noises – it was filled with a lot of food, a ton of laughs, and great people.  Monday my family celebrated Memorial Day and the graduation of my brother, Jack, from high school.  The very thought of that brought tears to my mothers eyes – not a song.  I woke up bright and early to a kitchen filled with food, tables, drinks, and a to-do list that made my head spin.  My Dad had gotten up around 5 to carve out a watermelon “basket” and fill it with fruit, make a caprese salad, and set up all the tables before he headed out for a round of golf.

You see, we were not preparing for your typical family barbeque.  We were preparing for an Italian family barbeque, and those are two very different things.  The first would require minimal effort, not supplies from a rental company (good thing we have one in the family).  The first would also not require the amount of food that was stocked in my house or the amount of food that would be brought over later in the afternoon.  It would not require 7 different kinds of desserts, 4 dips, 2 cheese balls, and about 5 different meal options.  OH…and it definitely would not include the need to make some plain pasta because a cousin refuses to eat anything but pasta with butter and cheese.

Cheese Ball

Ingredients:

1 bottle of English Cheese

1 Package of Cream Cheese

Minced Onions

Crushed walnuts

Mix the english cheese and cream chese with some minced onion (not too much) until the 2 cheeses have blended.  If you mix too long the ball will not form so be careful.  Form into a ball and cover in crushed walnuts.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

Trifle

Ingredients:

Raspberries

Blackberries

Strawberries

**You can add any fruit you would like

Pound Cake

2 tubs of Cool Whip

1-2 packages of Vanilla Pudding

Line the bowl with cut up strawberries and layer the bottom of the bowl with sliced pound cake.  Add cool whip and vanilla pudding generously.  Make sure to add enough so the pound cake does not dry out.  Top with cut fruit.  Repeat each step until bowl is full.   Top with cut fruit and refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

When you combined two very large Italian families for a party, what you get is something a little short of a mad house.  There are 20 cooks in the kitchen, 10 people trying to clean, 15 children weaving in and out of the kitchen at all times, and that doesn’t include the other 50 people who are roaming around, eating, playing cards, swimming, and anything else you can imagine.  I always wonder what the “outsiders” are thinking when they are brave enough to venture into our world.  It is always amusing watching their heads dart back and forth trying to pick up on at least one loud conversation going on, but I’m sure they pick up a few pieces of each story and have no clue where to begin trying to put the pieces together.

Annabelle Playing by the Pool

A Meeting of the Minds

There was enough food that day to feed an entire army, and it did.  The appetizers were delicious and my trifle was a success, even though we forgot about it in the basement refrigerator until the very end of the night when there were only about 10 of us left.  Good thing everyone had a little bit so it didn’t go to waste.  Overall it was a great day.  It’s always nice to come home to family, especially mine!!

**More pictures to come!!