Another Big Fat Italian Wedding, an Autumn Chopped Salad and Family Fun

I started this blog over a year ago when I heard a speaker at work talk about passions. She said to figure out what your are passionate about and live it. I was in a rut at the time and this task gave me a sense of empowerment and brought a jolt of life back in me. I had a hard time figuring out what I was most passionate about at first , but really, it was pretty simple. I’m passionate about my family, our culture, our family history and cooking family recipes. So I started this blog to talk about my love of Italian food with sprinkles of my love of my big fat Italian family.

Recently, I was told to cut gluten out of my diet, in hopes that it would make me feel better. I did so for a little over a month (hence the lack of posts lately!) and while I felt better, it didn’t really work. I think I felt better because I pretty much cut out carbs from my diet, so I was just eating better overall. I was sad thinking about the prospect of all the cooking restraints I would face and not being able to share my family recipes here anymore, but looked at the positive in that I could creatively try to make all my family recipes gluten-free and started day dreaming about a Big Fat Gluten-Free (Italian) Life!

Luckily, gluten wasn’t the problem! I am excited to finally allow myself to actually look at delicious recipes I come across and dream of new foods to try (I recently tried Oysters, thank to my cousin Michael, and a Beet, thanks to my Grandma!). Not that gluten-free food isn’t good (check out a photo below!), but it had definitely killed my spirits for the past few months.

One of my gluten-free meals (shot with my new camera!!)

While we are on the subject of my family, one of my cousins recently got married and it was nothing short of a big fat Italian wedding! It started at 2:00 p.m. and went until well past 1 a.m. My uncle was still ordering shots at the hotel bar once it was closed and we may or may not have had several noise complaints from the hotel that night. My cousin, in true Italian fashion, did not want any cousin to be left out so he opted to have thirteen groomsmen so everyone could have a role. There were 26 people in their bridal party, not including the ring bearer and miniature bride, which might be an Italian tradition because most people look at me like I’m crazy when I mention a miniature bride.

The Groomsmen! 

My cousins (minus Zach!) Luke, Julian, Michael, Paul,
Jack (brother), Jack and Andrew

Nick and Chelsea Mascari

While I was on my gluten-free kick (which I don’t think I was very good at) I came across a recipe for an Autumn Chopped Salad from the blog Espresso and Cream, and it was the first time I was excited about making something for my blog that was Gluten-Free! I added some balsamic glazed chicken and ate it for every meal until it was gone – it was that yummy!

Autumn Chopped Salad
*I switched up a few ingredients and omitted a few too!

Ingredients
2 boneless chicken breasts
Balsamic Glaze
6 to 8 cups chopped romaine lettuce
2 medium pears, chopped
1 cup dried craisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
4 to 6 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
Poppy seed Salad Dressing
Balsamic Vinaigrette

In a medium-sized skillet, add olive oil and chicken. Drizzle the balsamic glaze on the chicken and cook over medium heat until done.

In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, pears, craisins, walnuts and Goat cheese. Drizzle generously with poppy-seed dressing, followed by some of the balsamic vinaigrette. (I would estimate that I used about a cup of dressing: 70 percent poppy-seed dressing and 30 percent balsamic vinaigrette) If you prefer your salad to have more dressing, feel free to experiment with the combination.

Next Up…Italian Neapolitan Cake and my return to Gluten-FILLED Sunday dinners!

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Page Family Meat Pie

While I was home for Easter I got to spend that Saturday with my mom and my cousin Concetta cooking, laughing and just having a fun girls day. When I woke up Saturday morning, it was to my favorite smell in the world, my mom’s spaghetti sauce! I told her that I hope heaven smells like her sauce and she laughed at me. She might have been laughing at the fat girl who is inside of me, or maybe she was just flattered. I will choose to go with the latter. Her sauce not only smells delicious, but it reminds me of home. It reminds me of my childhood, of my Grandparents house for Sunday dinners and our Thursday night pasta dinners we had growing up. It reminds me of family and is always equated with good memories and most of all, love. I may just love to eat pasta, but honestly, there is more to it. There is a history that I enjoy “coming home to” every now and then.

While the sauce was cooking, I decided to make something of my own. I had come across a recipe in a family cookbook for a meat pie that was my Grandpa’s family recipe and thought it would be the perfect addition to my family recipe collection. It turned out great (I did a little altering though!) and I got the seal of approval from my Grandpa and his sister, my Aunt Marie, who happens to be the “Meat Pie Queen.” It was actually her recipe I used, so thank you for sharing Aunt Marie!

Page Family Meat Pie

Ingredients (makes 2 pies)

3 lbs ground beef

1 large onion, chopping finely

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp ground sage (taste before using all the sage)

5 potatoes

2 pie shells

1/2 cup milk

1/2 stick of butter

Peel potatoes and finely chop onion. Add the potatoes to a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil. In a large skillet, heat oil and add beef and onion. Season with sage, salt and pepper. Once the beef is cooked, set aside to cool. Then, once the potatoes are fully cooked, remove and put into a mixing bowl. Add the milk and butter and mash. Be sure to leave some chunks in the potatoes. Mix with the beef and add to the pie shell.

Once the mixture is in the pie shell, spread some melted butter to the top of the pie in order to make the pie shelly crispy and to get a golden brown color.

Preheat the oven to 350° and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Slice and enjoy!

I had dinner plans that night to go to my Uncle Hank’s Italian restaurant in Indy, Amici’s, so I wasn’t able to enjoy the pie for dinner, but luckily my Uncle Phil stopped by for a visit and had dinner with my parents.

It’s been a pretty busy spring and I have been really bad about posting, and just as bad about cooking. It’s sad, but it really is hard to find the time to get to the grocery store and make the time to actually cook something! I was at a wedding last weekend though, and had some of the BEST food I’ve ever had. I ate so much my dress barely fit by the end of the night!

It was such a fun weekend! We had a great girl’s getaway and spent the weekend gambling, eating, laughing and dancing the night away to celebrate Leah and Rob’s wedding!

An Italian Thanksgiving

Growing up in an Italian-American family, I often found myself saying and doing things that I thought to be 100% normal. A lot of the time, it turned out that my friends had no idea what I was saying, referring to, or even doing. I thought everyone knew what “mangia” and “andiamo” meant. It wasn’t until I was in about the third grade that I realized I was speaking a different language every once in a while.

I also thought that everyone had a family that screamed, shouted, gambled,  swore and ate Italian food during the holidays. Also untrue. American’s don’t have homemade ravioli for Thanksgiving and Christmas. They don’t have huge bowls of pasta, meatballs and sausage on the Thanksgiving table. At least not any other family I am aware of.

I was invited to a pre-Thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s house and as I sat and ate, I realized that I do not eat many of the things my friends call their “holiday favorites.”  My roommate, Laura, thought I was crazy when I said I had never had pecan pie or green bean casserole. I usually go straight for the turkey and pasta at Thanksgiving. Dont’ get me wrong, we do have the typical staples such as mashed potatoes, turkey, ham and sweet potatoes, but we include our Italian staples in the mix and usually add a little Italian flair to the typical American dishes. I don’t recall ever even having stuffing on Thanksgiving and I don’t think I saw any gravy on the table this year. I just use my Grandma’s sauce for the turkey and pasta. There is this oyster dressing/stuffing on the table, but it never appealed to me so I’m not sure if that is “normal” either.

My dad’s family thinks of Thanksgiving as their “ravioli holiday” and not “turkey day.” They spend hours making the filling, and the dough. A fight usually occurs about who gets to take their own personal box home to store in the freezer. We make enough to last us through Thanksgiving and then for Christmas Dinner. They are delicious and something I definitely look forward to having twice a year.  This year my Aunt Theresa got creative and made red pepper dough and stuffed them with cheese. They might be a new favorite, but it’s nice to keep a variety. If you really want to see an untraditional Thanksgiving just spend the evening with my Dad’s family. I saw a turkey and mashed potatoes somewhere, but there wasn’t a lot of either and I don’t think any one even noticed. Everyone was too concerned with the ravioli and stuffed shells.

Here are some  photos from my Italian Thanksgiving Weekend!

I started the week off baking apple pies, apple turnovers, berry turnovers, and sweet potato casserole with my mom. I wanted to make the dough homemade, but she didn’t feel like all the fuss, so here is a shot of the apples, the pie and the turnovers! My cousin Andy also stopped by to give my dad an apple pie he had made him. Andy is a great cook and made some really tasty treats for Thanksgiving. I think he should guest blog and share some of his recipes soon!

Apple seasoned with cinnamon, vanilla extract, sugar, and lemon juice

Apple Turnovers

My Dad and Andy – Andy knows how my Dad loves all things sweet!

Sweet Potatoes

My Mom’s family has Thanksgiving lunch, not dinner so I spent all afternoon taking pictures at my mom’s parents house. Once I got to my Dad’s Thanksgiving I forgot to document dinner , but here is a glimpse into my first top on my Italian Thanksgiving!

Kristen with Matthew and Lucas – I think Lucas was afraid of my camera! I am not sure about Matthew though…

The Appetizer table

Grandpa Carving the Turkey

The Thanksgiving Feast!

All the kids eating lunch

The leftovers

So I didn’t end up making ravioli before thanksgiving due to a very fun weekend and the lack of energy to actually cook, but it’s still something I want to tackle on my own. I have become slightly ADD when it comes to my kitchen adventures and  I need to get back on track. I still have yet to make homemade pizza as well. Hopefully now that winter is officially here (we just had the first snow of the season!) I will be more inclined to stay in every once in a while instead of trying to fill my week with as many plans as possible. Until the next kitchen adventure!

Lucia