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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Chicken Salad Obsession

So I was pretty bummed about not being able to have a kitchen adventure on Sunday, so I thought I would throw one in during the week!  The other night I realized I had put chicken in the refrigerator to thaw, and since I am leaving for the weekend, it needed to be cooked.  I am obsessed, and I mean this whole heartedly, with the Chicken Salad at Whole Foods.  You can ask my roommates and they will attest to this and explain to you my sick obsession with it.  Since Whole Foods is not in my budget on the regular…I thought I would try to make my own version!

Ingredients:

3 Boneless Chicken Breasts

Light Mayonnaise

Pepper

Craisins

Sliced Almonds

Red Grapes

Clean the chicken breasts and boil for 10 minutes.  Simmer for another 10 or until cooked through.  Do not over boil the chicken or it will dry out.  Once the chicken is cooked, shred in a bowl.  Add about 5 tablespoons of the mayonnaise or until there is enough covering the chicken (do not add too much or it will be soggy).  Add pepper to taste (if you can’t see the pepper, there isn’t enough).  Add the craisins, almonds, and grapes (sliced), mix together and let sit in the refrigerator until cooled.

This is kind of  a big deal for me, considering I tried chicken salad for the first time last August!  I really am starting to branch out when it comes to food…finally (thanks to my family and Ryan’s constant nagging).  I looked up a few recipes, but decided to jump ship and just come up with my own based on ingredients around the kitchen.  I boiled three chicken breasts and then shredded the chicken. Shredded is always the way to go in my opinion. I added light mayonnaise, pepper, craisins, red grapes, and sliced almonds (they are supposed to go in salads and were pre-packaged) and mixed together.  I let sit in the fridge over night, ready for me to take to work the next day!

It was so delicious!!   Alyssa and Jess were my tasters and they approved.  I will definitely be making this again and probably often!

Uninspired or Nervous?

I am heading home this weekend and am really looking forward to everything I have planned.  I am a very family oriented person, so it is hard for me to believe I have not seen my grandparents since CHRISTMAS!!! I am really excited to be going home for a 90th birthday party on Sunday because I will get to see my entire family, which is always fun!  On Saturday I get to spend the day with my lovely sister.  She is getting married in September so we are going to spend the day planning, registering, and hanging out.  Later that night I have a big dinner planned with my cousins!  I love when we have “family game nights” so when I suggested this fun activity for my visit home, my cousin Antonia suggested I make them dinner for my blog.

I am so excited to make dinner for everyone, but I have run into a sort of “cookers block.”  I CANNOT for the life of me decide on what to make.  I started out with the idea of a “Blood Orange Upside-down Cake” because blood oranges are my favorite, but they are not really in season right now.  Then I wanted to make an edamame risotto, but couldn’t think of anything to make with it.

I am becoming slightly frustrated seeing as how dinner is in two days… I do have an exciting Appetizer/Salad I am going to be attempting.  I came across a recipe for Wonton Caprese Salads.  Seeing as how I love caprese salads, but they are fairly simple to make and I make them all the time, I decided this would be my challenge.  I have never fried ANYTHING in my life.

Stay tuned for all the details on my “Family Affair” Adventures in the kitchen and wish me luck on finding some more inspiration…my nerves are beginning to get the best of me!