Happy Birthday to you!

Today My Big Fat Italian Life turns 1! I can’t believe a year ago today, as I sat at my intern desk thinking about my “passions,” and how I could start to pursue them, I decided to write my first blog post. I had been toying with the idea of starting a blog for a few months since entering the PR world, but never had the courage, or so-called “passion” (or so I thought) to write about anything.

I was so inspired after hearing a speaker at my internship talk about pursuing your passion that I jumped in head first. As I sat thinking about what I was passionate about (and getting anxiety thinking I may not have any…) it hit me. I am not usually good at sticking to things or routines, but one thing I have always loved to do is cook. It’s something I have grown up doing with my family and it has brought my family and friends together my entire life. I knew this was something I could definitely stick to, and be passionate about! I also thought it would be a great way to be able to enjoy a meal with my friends more often. Coming from a large Italian family, I definitely missed Sunday dinners at my Grandparents after moving to Chicago and found myself feeling rather lonely Sunday nights when I knew all of my family was sitting around a table over pasta and meatballs without me. So not only did I start blogging, I started making Sunday dinner for my roommates and occasional guests. I am proud to say  that I have stayed committed to my blog and have worked hard at continuing to make it better. I may not get to make something I blog about every week, but I have continued to make new food and to even try some new food!

It took a while for me to find my legs with this blog, but as I continued to experiment in the kitchen and learn new recipes, I realized how much I enjoy making recipes my own by adding/tweaking ingredients, working with a tight budget, and learning new tips along the way! There are so many 20 something’s out there who might enjoy cooking, but don’t necessarily have a ton of money to spend or who are too nervous to try anything new. Hopefully I can be a motivator to get in the kitchen and have an adventure – teach yourself new tricks and try new recipes.

After a full year, I am glad I am still here and still passionate about learning everything there is to know about cooking and experimenting with new recipes. So here’s to your first birthday My Big Fat Italian Life and hopefully, many more to come!

And in tribute to this blog’s first birthday I thought I would share my most recent Kitchen Disaster. Lesson learned – don’t attempt a kitchen adventure after a long night out drinking and no sleep. Also, if you make waffles be sure to spray the waffle tray with a lot of Pam(cl) first 😉

Lucia

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A True Sunday Dinner

I have been heading home the past few weekends for events, weddings, and IU Homecoming, so I thought I would pay tribute to the biggest kitchen adventure of all, Sunday Dinner with the entire family. My Grandparents make dinner, without fail every Sunday for their kids, their 16 Grandchildren, and now 4 great-grandchildren, along with in-laws, great aunts and uncles who stop by and friends who like to drop in every now and again or even every Sunday. My Grandparents motto is “the more the merrier!”

The menu normally consists of pasta, meatballs, sausage, salad and multiple desserts. Lately my Aunt Annette has been baking bread for us to enjoy with some olive oil and cheese as appetizers and she even baked a homemade apple pie two weeks ago! This past Sunday we celebrated multiple birthdays and anniversaries! My Grandparents were married on October 2, my twin cousins turned 26 the same day and my adorable brother Jack turned 19. October 2nd is a pretty eventful day for our family apparently.

Sauce and Meatballs cooking

The homemade Meatballs and Sausage!

My Grandpa usually likes to add in a little surprise dish to the menu. Normally it’s breadsticks because my cousin David refuses to eat most things, but he will eat about 12 breadsticks for dinner…but a few weeks ago he made Italian meatloaf stuffed Cannelloni. At first I wasn’t sure what it was. As I was eating I knew it tasted good…but there was something about it that wasn’t familiar. Later I inquired and my Grandma informed that it was another one of his experiments and that it was meatloaf (well Italian meatloaf…)

The Meatloaf stuffed Cannelloni

My Aunt’s homemade bread

And her Apple pie!

Dinner is usually an eventful time. Everyone lines up at the stove, piles up their plates, and heads to their selected area for eating. Our family has grown so much over the years that we all don’t fit in one room. My Grandparents even had to add-on a porch the entire length of the house just to accommodate all of their grandkids (there are three tables on the porch to choose from)!

Sunday Buffet Line

My Grandpa finishing up dinner!

(Out of order…but you get the point)

The newest addition to the Page clan – baby Lucas!

It’s been so great being able to spend time at home the past few Sunday’s. I love being around my family and seeing all of my friends, but I am very excited to get everything back to normal and settle down here in Chicago again. I have also not been able to keep up with my own Kitchen Adventures, so I am excited to be able to start cooking again! With all the traveling I have been doing the past few months (or this last year, to be honest) I never even have food in my apartment!

I am making my first ever crock pot meal this week and I am looking forward to this effortless cooking (so they say!).

Italian Adventures around Chicago

The Italian Expo was in Chicago this past weekend, so my Grandparents, parents, and my Aunt all came into town to check it out! They took a bus down with the Indianapolis Italian Heritage Society and stayed at a hotel downtown. I was beyond excited they were coming, not only because I missed them, but because they would get the chance to see where I am living and a glimpse into my life here in Chicago! They aren’t exactly thrilled that I live away from home, so it was nice for them to see how great it is here and how close it really is….just a bus ride away!

I met them downtown on Saturday morning and we all walked over to Navy Pier for the expo. It was a pretty nasty morning out and it was a little rainy, but we still decided to walk and enjoy the city. We weren’t exactly sure what to expect, but it definitely was not what I had imagined. There were no decorations, everything was plain and there were no activities. You just walked in a big square from table to table. The only good part about it was the food sampling, but I wasn’t exactly hungry for Pasta at 11:30 AM. OK, that’s a lie, I am always hungry for pasta, but I felt guilty indulging mid-day. My phone was still broken at this point in the day, so I didn’t snap any photos, but there really wasn’t anything to show you, so no worries!

That night we enjoyed a nice dinner at Phil Stefani’s steak house, 437 Rush. After dinner we went to the Signature Lounge in the John Hancock building, on the 96th floor. I had never been there and was really excited to do something “touristy” in the city! My cousin Nick is like a walking Chicago information handout, so he knew all about it, including the most random facts all about Chicago, and I mean ALL about it. There would be a random building on the side of a road and he would know what the history was.

Sunday morning my family and I went on an adventure around Chicago in search of all things Italian! Our first stop was at D’amato’s bakery and Bari, an Italian grocery. They were both old Italian establishments here in Chicago and were very cool. I love being able to walk into a grocery and see all of the amazing foods I was able to enjoy in Italy right HERE in Chicago!

After traveling to D’amatos and enjoying some filled cookies we ventured on over to Taylor Street, which is where Little Italy is located. It was so unfortunate to see how much it has changed. It definitely does not resemble a little Italy, but we did get to enjoy lunch together at the original Rosebuds! It was a little chilly out, but it was a gorgeous Fall day so  we decided to sit outside. My Grandpa, per usual, ordered the calamari for an appetizer. I used to be such a picky eater (I still have my issues, but am a lot better!), but my Grandpa convinced me to try calamari one random night and I realized how much I LOVE IT!! Fried deliciousness. I can even eat the kind with tentacles.

Speaking of tentacles, my Dad and I enjoyed staring at the baby octopus on our final Italian adventure around Chicago when we traveled to Caputos in Elm Wood Park. I didn’t get a picture with my phone, but I think my Dad did. Unfortunately I do not have it -so I will spare you the visual. Anyway, he told me how his Grandmother, who was from the Calabria region in Italy, used to make stuffed octopus for dinner. I’m not talking about little tiny octopus. This thing was huge. The thought of it made me extremely happy that he did not acquire a taste for that cuisine growing up!

I love the grocery store and could have spent an entire afternoon at Caputo’s. I must get that from my Grandpa because I think going to Caputo’s was what he was most excited about the entire weekend! Hopefully I can go back soon and pick up supplies for my next kitchen adventure. They had an ENTIRE aisle dedicated just to pasta. Literally, my heaven. I was proud to say that I only walked out with one item and that was only to come home and provide Laura with a good laugh. I came across this chocolate roll that I had completely forgotten about eating while we were in Italy. I am sure it has an equivalent here in America, but since we ate anything and everything while in Italy, this chocolate/sweet roll was among our favorites. I must have blocked it out of my memory, because I completely forgot about ever eating anything like this. Anyway, I had to buy it for her. Good thing it has been over 2 weeks and it isn’t gone yet….we are making progress in self-control!

This past weekend I did not have any kitchen adventures, but I did have a pretty big adventure in my life! I decided to run a 5k this past Saturday for The Race for the Cure! I was so proud that not only did I finish the race, I ran the entire 3.1 miles without stopping (3.1 miles in 32 minutes isn’t too shabby since I can’t remember the last time I ran more than 2!). It was so much fun that I have already signed up for two more marathons! As my sister said, it’s time to grow up, so last weekend I chose BOOBS over BOOZE and spent my Saturday morning feeling great, energized and running (instead of in bed!).

A Big Fat Italian Wedding

So my sister got married last weekend and now I find myself bored. My mom is enjoying her time to herself, but for some reason I can’t sit still and am anxious to get back to being so busy, I can’t think straight. I have truly enjoyed and loved every single minute of helping to plan her wedding, from the engagement parties, the showers, the bachelorette parties, the bridesmaid bags, every last detail. I am so happy she had the most perfect and beautiful wedding day. It really was a dream wedding.

I don’t even know where to begin to describe the chaos and all of the thrilling events that took place on her wedding weekend. The guest list had topped 500 people (more than 300 were family members who I personally know by name…), but luckily with the holiday weekend there were only around 450 in attendance on Saturday. My only important part on that beautiful Saturday (it truly was the most beautiful, perfect day of the year!) was to make a toast to Gina and Grant. Most maid of honor speeches are all about the bride and her relationship with the MOH. A lot of toasts don’t touch on the love between the married couple or the groom himself. I didn’t want my speech to be like that, so I took the path of not only depicting my love for my sister, but doing my best to describe to everyone in the room, the love between Gina and Grant. Everyone could feel  it in the room that night and didn’t need me to explain it in order for them to realize the tremendous amount of love and respect they have for one another, but I am glad I had the opportunity (and I kind of liked the spot light).

My family and Grandparent’s

The church was beautiful and it was a special experience for my sister to get married in the Italian Church where my Grandmothers, Aunts, Uncles, and parents were married. It is in the old Italian neighborhood in Indianapolis and is where my entire family comes together throughout the year to celebrate life in general. Holy Rosary is such a beautiful Church that it does not require any flowers or decorations. We provided handkerchief’s for “tears of joy” and mine was definitely useful, as my mother and I cried all day!

Holy Rosary Catholic Church

Gina and Grant lighting the Unity Candle


My brother, sister, and I

I can’t believe my sister is old to enough to be married…I don’t remember the picture below, but I swear it was just yesterday that we were in my aunt’s and uncle’s wedding’s as the miniature bride and flower girls! For example, here is a picture of Gina and Tommy in my Aunt’s wedding, oh so many years ago. How did time go by so quickly that now Gina and Tom are able to reenact this picture at Gina’s wedding?

Gina & Tom

The food was amazing and the Indiana Roof Ballroom out did themselves! My aunt Antonia and my Dad did an incredible job and the bridal entrance was one of the coolest parts of the night!  My aunt Antonia surprised my sister and Grant with a Saxophone and thunderstorm entrance into the ballroom. I am pretty sure it took everyone by surprise and was one of the most memorable parts of the night, besides my speech (!)….

Caprese Salad

Dinner! (wish I wouldn’t have been so nervous about my speech that I didn’t get to eat this deliciousness!!)

Dessert – Tiramisu and Baked Alaskan! Gina wanted dessert instead of a cake, but my mom surprised her with one anyway!


There was a delicious Lasagna as the appetizer, but I thought that since I had JUST made my first lasagna and it was so good, I would have a separate post of the lasagna we had as an appetizer. It was slightly different and from what I heard, one of the best things people had that night (I wouldn’t know considering my nerves did not allow me to enjoy any food that night, and I somehow missed the late night cheeseburgers and fries, which is not typical behavior from me!)

My mom and sister spent months with David, the wedding planner/designer on the tables. Each table had its own unique charm and special memory attached. There were 10 square tables and on each square table there was an antique tray with candles, pearls, a vintage golden box, framed pictures of family weddings in black and white, as well as sugared fruit (which to my surprise was real and SO delicious!!) Also included on the tables were notes Grant had written to my sister throughout their relationship. Each note was different and expressed his love for her. That is typical of Grant. He is a true romantic and loves my sister more than anything.

The room looked stunning and was lit by lights wrapped around the balcony. (the picture above isn’t the best, but it’s the only one I could find for now!) I am sad that is all over, and it is weird to say that my sister has a husband and she is a wife!  I called Grant her “husband” yesterday and it was the weirdest thing! It really does feel like yesterday we were little kids running around my Grandma’s house!

From L to R: Antonia, Gina, Concetta, Tommy, Nick and Me (the baby) – 6 cute little Italian kids in the 80’s

It’s hard to describe and show just how big and crazy my Italian family is, but I hope you enjoyed another glimpse into “My Big Fat Italian Life!” Coming soon…Lasagna from the Indiana Roof Ballroom, Blueberry Steak (I promised this a long time ago and it’s finally coming) aka Fileno al Mirtilio, and Colts Kickoff (GO HORSE!!!)

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!!