Eat Pray Love

The reason for the title of this post is four fold.
1. I loved the book and movie
2. My blog is all about me eating (cooking!)
3. I always say a few prayers while I cook (and this time I needed more than a few!!)
4. My food is always filled with love…AND love is in the air this week (my sister is getting married!!!)

So there you have it!

I had planned on spending Sunday making lasagna and tiramisu and had bought (so I thought) all of the necessary ingredients on Thursday.  I really thought I was ahead of the game and dinner would be beyond simple. I thought wrong.

On Saturday I was beyond tired, and so after enjoying brunch with my friend Gina at Nookies, I came back to my apartment to watch a movie and take a nap. While laying on the couch, I decided to look over the lasagna recipe, just in case I had missed anything, when I suddenly realized the lasagna needed to be baked half way and then sit in the refrigerator over night in order for it to set. There went my relaxing Saturday…good thing I don’t have the ability to nap anymore and enjoyed spending the day cooking!

Right away I realized I  needed to make a run to the local grocery store (it is only a block away!) and grab some Italian sausage and ricotta cheese. I also needed more pasta and a red bull for a good afternoon kick. I made three trips back to the store that day….

I made a huge pot of tomato sauce and let it cool off in the fridge while I started on the lasagna filling.

My new kitchen!

I cooked the sausage and the ground beef and seasoned (first mistake). I thought I would get creative and use my Grandpa’s seasoning on the meat. I always use it on meat and it is delicious, so I figured this would be a brilliant idea. Once again, I was wrong. It made lasagna way too salty. Don’t get me wrong, it was still good, but salty.

The cheese filling was fairly easy to make, but I didn’t have a large enough mixing bowl and the cheese was getting all over the counter. I must say that making the lasagna was the messiest kitchen adventure I have had thus far, but it was well worth it. I didn’t have time to make homemade noodles for the lasagna unfortunately, but I am pretty sure if I would have attempted that I would have gotten in a little over my head. The Barilla (cl) lasagna sheets worked out just fine and I am sure my dinner guests were happier I went with that route anyway!

I was extremely nervous about the lasagna because I had used my Grandpa’s seasoning, not realizing how salty the cheese already was, and the mixture was way too salty. I had cooked it half way through and it still tasted extremely salty. I was so disappointed and warned the birthday girl that we may need to order pizza, but luckily, once the lasagna was cooked all the way through, it was edible and actually was good!

Uncle Michael’s Lasagna

Uncle Michael’s Lasagna

*Makes 2 pans

Ingredients:

2 lbs ground beef

1 lb Italian sausage

1 lg onion (chopped)

Salt & Pepper to taste

1 lb grated Romano cheese

5 lbs ricotta cheese

10 eggs, beaten

2 lbs whole milk mozzarella cheese (shredded)

4 tsp Parsley

1 large pot of spaghetti sauce (my quick sauce will be perfect!)

2 lbs dried lasagna sheets

2 baking pans (11.5 X 9.5 X 2.5)

1. Brown the beef, onion and sausage together and drain well. Set aside and let cool. Once cool, mix salt, pepper, and 2 cups of the Romano cheese into the meat mixture.

2. Mix together ricotta cheese (drain well before mixing), eggs, mozzarella, salt, pepper, parsley and 2 cups of Romano cheese. Mix until smooth.

3. Cook lasagna noodles half way through and drain.

4. Layer ingredients in pan in this order: sauce, pasta sheet, cheese mixture, meat mixture, sprinkle of Romano cheese, sauce. Repeat to fill the pan and end with a pasta sheet. Cover the top layer with plenty of tomato sauce and sprinkle with more Romano cheese.

5. Cover pans with Aluminum foil. Bake at 325° for 30 minutes. Let cool in the refrigerator overnight to allow the lasagna to set. This will make it easier to slice and serve!

6. To reheat, add more sauce and recover. Cook for 45-50 minutes at 350°

Here are a few tips/things I learned from my lasagna kitchen adventure:

  • Don’t bake saran wrap in the oven, even if the directions call for it. I was using my Uncle Michael’s recipe, but he used industrial plastic wrap, not the type you have in your kitchen. So beware! Good thing I had my mom walk me through the steps before I actually did any damage.
  • Cooking lasagna half way through and then allowing it to sit in the refrigerator overnight helps it to set and will cute easier
  • Lasagna does not need any extra seasoning, except for salt and pepper
  • Always make extra sauce (Even if you think you have enough!)

The lasagna was ready and I wanted to make sure I had all of the ingredients for the tiramisu. I had run out of time and needed to start getting ready for Laura’s birthday dinner, so I made my third and final trip to the grocery down the street. The woman who works in the store probably thinks I’m nuts. The next morning I woke up bright and early, feeling pretty tired, but started making the Tiramisu. The ingredients are below. I don’t know if it was because I was so “tired” or if tiramisu is really that hard to make, but I was afraid to try the first bite. I usually am all about tasting my food as I go along, but I did not taste one thing until later that night at dinner. It did not look like tiramisu, the lady fingers freaked me out and soaked up the coffee so quickly they were falling apart, and the chocolate wouldn’t chop in my processor so they were more crunchy in the dessert. I didn’t have a double boiler, but sitting one pot on top of another seemed to work just fine. After the tiramisu was finished and in the refrigerator to set, I threw on some shorts and headed to my first ever Sox and Yankee’s game!  It was an eventful weekend, to say the least, and I was exhausted!

Tiramisu Ingredients

My “double boiler”

 

Everyone had a pretty rough weekend, so dinner ended up being just me, Laura, and Maegan! Everyone enjoyed the lasagna, and to my surprise, the Tiramisu not only tasted like tiramisu, but it was really good!! I made Laura and Maegan have the first bite before I would try it and believe it was actually edible. Sorry this post is long, but it’s been over a month since my last kitchen adventure, and this one was a doozie!! I will post the recipes when I am back home next week and everything has settled down. The wedding is in 2 days (!!!!) and I am back home in Indianapolis preparing. If anyone has ever seen “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” this is going to be that multiplied by 2. My next post: The Big Fat Italian Wedding.

PS – Check out the new website we launched at work for Fuel Up to Play 60 (CL) http://www.fueluptoplay60.com

Tiramisu

Ingredients:

3 lg eggs

1/3 c. sugar

1/4 c. milk

16 oz. mascarpone

1/4 c. amaretto

1 tsp. vanilla extract

30 Lady Fingers

1 1/2 c. cooled espresso or coffee

1/2 c. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 c. almonds, chopped and toasted

Sliced strawberries for garnish

Cocoa powder for dusting

Mix the egg yolks and sugar until mixture is a pale yellow. Add the milk and stir until combined. Transfer to a double boiler over simmering water. Cook, stirring constantly until mixture is thick enough to coat the spoon. Do not boil. Transfer immediately to a clear, cold bowl to cool. Once mixture has cooled, whisk in the mascarpone, amaretto, and vanilla. Dip 10 lady fingers lightly in espresso and arrange in two rows in a 2-quart glass dish that has been lightly buttered and sugared. Spread 1/2 of the mascarpone mixture over the lady fingers. Sprinkle 1/3 of the chocolate and the almonds. Repeat the layering two more times. Dust with cocoa powder. Let sit the refrigerator over night. Garnish with strawberries and serve.

Happy 25th Birthday, Laura!!!

 

 

 

 

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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!