The Chocolate Moon

Ask any grandparent and they will tell you that becoming a grandparent makes even a curmudgeon giddy with joy. I am the proud nana of two beautiful boys (eleven and four years old), and they are the highlight of my day and life.

The joys of nana-life include: rocking it out, playing Fortnite, mini-stick hockey, holding dance parties in the living-room, helping out with homework, and writing stories.

Introducing the newest author in the family; four-year-old, Henri, his debut novel is called: THE CHOCOLATE MOON.

He wrote this book (dictated to me and I typed it, and also served as his editor) in December and I had it printed it up, and gave it to family members.

I am sharing his book with you, and because the subject (chocolate) is so dear to my heart, I am including a scrumptious chocolate sauce recipe at the end of this post—you can even pour it on the moon. 🙂

Chapter One
The Dinosaur and the LadyBug

THERE ONCE WAS a dinosaur named Henrisaurus who lived in a big, purple rock.

Henrisaurus lived in the purple rock with a Ladybug named Star.

Star liked to eat oranges and crunchy carrots.

Henrisaurus loved to eat people, but not Nana’s.

Star told Henrisaurus that eating people was not a nice thing to do, so Henrisaurus stopped eating people.

From that day on, Henrisaurus ate chocolate, Italian cookies, chips, and jujubes.

Henrisaurus loved those so much that he did not miss eating people.

Chapter Two
The Gorilla

One day, Henrisaurus and Star went to the Dinosaur Store and they bought a big moon.

They put the moon in a box to carry it home.

On the way home from the Dinosaur Store they ran into a gorilla who was carrying a big bag.

“What is your name, big gorilla?” said Henrisaurus.

The Gorilla pounded his chest and growled loud. “My name is Skeleton, and I am strong.”

Henri said, “I think you need clothes.”

Skeleton growled again and said, “You should be scared of me.”

Henri shook his head. “I’m not.”

The Gorilla growled again and jumped up and down, pounding his chest.

“Star,” said Henrisaurus. “I think Skeleton would look good in a chocolate suit and shoes. Let’s take him home and dip him in chocolate.”

“That’s a good idea,” Star said.

The Gorilla ran away fast because he was scared of Henrisaurus.

The Gorilla dropped his bag and lots of oranges and carrots fell out.

Henrisaurus picked up two oranges, and three carrots, and gave them to Star.

Then they went home with their new goodies and the moon.

Chapter Three
Home for Lunch

At home, Henrisaurus and Star played with their friends, Microwave, Plant, Red, Isabelle, Pear and Apple.

Then it was time for lunch, so Henrisaurus took the moon he bought at the Dinosaur Store and dipped it in a big pot of melted chocolate.

Henrisaurus shared the chocolate moon with Star and all his friends.

It was yummy.

“What should we buy tomorrow, Henrisaurus?” said Star.

Henrisaurus said, “Let’s buy the sun. It will be good dipped in chocolate.”

They all laughed and clapped their hands.

After eating the yummy chocolate moon, and playing, they were tired, so they sat on a purple couch, and Nanasaurus put the TV on so they could watch Christmas movies and rest.

They talked about tomorrow and how they were going to go back to the Dinosaur store, and then play all together again

-The End –



MEET THE AUTHOR




Simple Homemade Chocolate Sauce

This easy to make (you can get the kids to help you out as well) chocolate sauce can be poured over; fruit, cake, cookies, ice-cream, yogurt, and even the moon, because when it comes to chocolate, the possibilities are endless.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (250 ml) water
½ cup milk (for extra richness and decadence you can use cream)
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-processed)
8 ounces of high-quality chocolate for the best flavor and texture–bittersweet or semisweet– finely chopped

Directions:

Turn stove top to medium heat.

In a saucepan, whisk together: water, milk, sugar, and cocoa powder.

Keep whisking until the mixture comes to a boil.

Remove from heat and add chopped chocolate, stirring until chocolate is all melted.

Put aside for 1 ½ to 2 hours, this will allow the sauce to thicken.

To serve warm, heat on low for a few minutes, or can be served at room temperature, just stir before drizzling.

Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 10 days in a tightly covered container, and rewarmed before serving.

Enjoy!

Comfort Food: Italian Style

Winter is the time for fleece-wear, a roaring fire, page -turning books, and delicious aromas swirling around the kitchen as your comfort food is simmering or baking.

We all have favourite dishes that feel like a hug as we relish each bite; and for me, it’s Italian food.

One of my favourite meals to whip up for a self-care dinner is a simple dish with humble ingredients: Pasta Aglio e Olio (pasta with garlic and oil).

I had some polpette e sugo (meatballs in sauce) leftover from Christmas in the freezer. When I make meatballs, I make a huge batch and freeze them for those days when I need a hug from an Italian staple.

Here’s the recipe for you to try so you too can get your own comfort-food-hug Italian style:

Pasta Aglio e Olio with Polpette

I use homemade pasta, however, you can use whatever type of pasta you have on hand (packaged or homemade), and the same with your sauce–use whatever tomato sauce you normally would use, or no sauce at all, it’s a flexible recipe.

This recipe will serve four. Cut the ingredients in half if making for two.

Ingredients:

1 head of garlic, roasted. You can use raw garlic, if you do, thinly slice 6 cloves
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Kalamata Olive oil (or any other type of Extra Virgin olive oil)
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, or less if you don’t like spicy, or eliminate
1 cup finely grated, Romano cheese (this is my preference, but you can use Parmigiano or a combination of both)
1 pound uncooked pasta (your choice)
Salt to taste

Directions:

1. Roast the garlic, remove and squeeze out the garlic.

2. Warm up a large pasta bowl.

3. Cook your pasta, according to package directions in a large pot of salted water, al dente. If using fresh pasta, cook only for a few minutes until it’s firm to the bite.

4. Drain and transfer pasta to the warmed pasta bowl.

5. Warm the oil on medium heat in a skillet. Once oil is hot, add the garlic and lower heat to low, stirring the garlic in the oil for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat.

6. Add pasta to the skillet, and toss so that the pasta is coated with the garlic-oil, and sprinkle with salt (to taste).

7. Put pasta back in the bowl, and add pepper flakes, and the grated cheese, and stir well until cheese is combined.

8. Serve with additional grated cheese.

If you’d like to serve the pasta with meatballs, you can find my meatball recipe on my blog. Please click here.

Be a star breadwinner.

When my home is filled with the scent of bread baking in the oven it always brings back nostalgic memories of my childhood.

On Friday’s when I’d come home from school, and before even reaching the front door, the aroma of fresh baked bread filled the air as Friday’s was my mom’s baking day—breads, buns, pies and cookies—she made enough for the week ahead to feed a family of seven.

A slice of delicious love with creamy butter, and homemade jam awaited me for an after school snack.

When I had a day off from school, I would help, and it is at our kitchen table that I learned how to put love into baking and cooking. I made a lot of mistakes when trying it on my own, but my mother taught me that making mistakes is how one learns to make great meals.

As I watched her knead the dough for the breads, I saw how much love she put into each loaf, and how happy it made her when they came out of the oven, all risen and deliciously golden.

She would always make the sign of the cross, and say a silent prayer after she finished kneading the dough.

I followed this routine, as I knew she was giving thanks for the flour, yeast and all the food she was able to prepare.

I told her once that it was such a nice tradition to give thanks while baking.

She told me that it was one of the reasons she prayed while baking, the other reason was that she prayed the dough would rise. 🙂

ITALIAN BREAD RECIPE

Following is my recipe for making bread and buns. I did learn to knead the dough by hand, but thanks to modern technology, a stand mixer does a great job as well, and saves time.

I’m also sharing a tip on how to make your crust golden and crisp and the inside of the bread soft and chewy for a scrumptious slice of carb heaven.

Ingredients:

  • 1 and ¼ c warm water (between 100F & 110F)
  • 2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 4 cups flour (You can use any of these flours: 00 or bread flour or all purpose flour)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • spray bottle with water
  • A tray of ice cubes or a oven-proof bowl of water

    Directions:
  • In a small bowl, add: yeast, sugar & water, and stir lighty. Cover with a cloth and let it sit for 10 minutes, or until yeast doubles.
  • Add the yeast into your stand mixer bowl (if not using a stand mixer, add into a large bowl), then slowly add 3 cups of flour and the salt.
  • Using a dough hook on the mixer, mix everything at low speed. Use a spatula to scrape the sides.
  • When all ingredients are incorporated well, mix on medium-low speed for 2 minutes. (If not using a stand mixer, mix with a large wooden spoon for 8 to 10 minutes).
  • Cover bowl with a dish towel and allow dough to rest for 1/2 hour.
  • After 1/2 hour, turn mixer to low, and add 1 cup of flour, 1/4 cup at a time, mixing on low until all the flour is incorporated. (If not using a mixer, use your hand to mix the dough well).
  • If the dough is wet and shaggy, add a bit more flour (about 1/4 cup or less) until you get a smooth consistency and it does not stick to the sides of the bowl.
  • Set mixer at medium speed, and mix for 8 minutes. (If you are not using a mixer, then knead the dough by hand for 25 minutes).
  • Once you’ve finished the kneading process, add some olive oil to a bowl, then put the ball of dough into the bowl and ensure dough is all coated with oil.
  • Cover bowl with a tea towel (or you can use plastic wrap) and let the dough rise in a warm (draft-free) area for one hour (should be doubled in size)
  • Preheat your oven to 400F (doing this at this point will ensure your oven is hot enough to bake the bread)
  • Put an oven proof bowl of water at the back of your oven
  • You can either use loaf pans or a baking sheet to bake the bread, whichever you use, line with parchment paper, and after the dough has risen, sprinkle flour on a surface and use this surface with floured hands to shape your bread into an oblong loaf.
  • Put your dough either on the baking sheet or in a loaf pan.
  • Using your spray bottle with water, spritz the dough, cover and let it rise for 40 minutes.
  • After 40 minutes, score the loaf with a sharp knife, with criss cross slashes or diagonal slashes
  • Put the dough in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
  • While bread is baking, spritz the loaf fully with your spray bottle every 10 minutes
  • To check if bread is done after 30 minutes of baking, you can use an instant read thermometer (190F means it’s done), or tap the bottom and it should sound hollow.
  • Once baked, allow the bread to cool on a cooling rack for 15 to 20 minutes.

HOME MADE FRESH BUNS

You can use the same recipe and technique to bake buns.

Bake buns for 15 minutes.

The bread or buns would be great with a steaming bowl of Italian Barley Soup. Click here for recipe.

This blog post is dedicated to my mamma. A beautiful, witty, loving, strong woman who lives in my heart and memories every day of my life.

I’m sure she’s baking a lot of goodness in Heaven.

I love you, my Angel.

Italianizing a classic soup #recipe

Autumn means nesting, reading by the fire, baking and stirring a pot of love into scrumptious homemade soup.

I’m sharing my recipe for Beef Barley Soup which I have Italianized–something I tend to do with most classics. It’s easy to make, and deliciously warm and satiating.

Get your glow on with
BEEF BARLEY SOUP—ITALIAN STYLE

Ingredients:

2 pounds of Italian meatballs (your favourite recipe) roll them into ½ inch balls, brown in the oven and set aside

You can also substitute for 2 lbs. of cubed beef, or 2 lbs. ground turkey, whichever meat you choose to use, season with salt and brown in a skillet, then set aside

3 celery ribs, sliced

3 carrots, sliced

6 cipollini onions, sliced and roasted

4 garlic cloves, roasted and mashed

2 fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped

2 slices Parmesan rind

2 sprigs fresh Rosemary

1 can (28 ounces) tomatoes, if whole, chop them up

1/2 cup uncooked pearl barley

6 cups beef broth

1 TBSP olive oil

Fresh basil, chopped finely, optional

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • In a Dutch oven (you can use a large pot as well), warm up the olive oil on medium-high heat, then add carrots and celery, stir until the vegetables sweat (about 5 minutes).
  • Add cipollini onions, garlic, fresh tomatoes, stirring, cook for 5 minutes
  • Add broth, canned tomatoes (along with the tomato juice) and bring to a boil.
  • Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer, and add: rosemary, parmesan rinds, pearl barley, and the meat
  • Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until barley is tender.
  • During the cooking process, taste to adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  • At end of cooking cycle, you can remove the remainder of the parmesan rinds and chop them up to add to the soup bowls, and – optional to top with freshly chopped basil

Cadbury eggs move over—it’s ZEPPOLE time

It’s that time of the year again, where everyone is hunting down Cadbury Easter Eggs, chocolate bunnies, or marshmallow eggs, so why not raise your sweet tooth bar a little higher and bake up a batch of these heavenly balls of dough—ZEPPOLE.

 

z-2

 

Zeppoles are deep-fried dough balls, topped with powdered sugar.

However, as is with most things of my people, every household has their own recipe. Some recipes including filling the dough with pastry cream, custard or butter and honey.

I am sharing my family’s recipe for Zeppole.

Get your Italian on and fry up a batch.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sugar, plus 3 tablespoons
2 TBSP cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
zest of a small lemon
1 stick butter (or 1/2 cup)
1 cup water
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup flour
4 eggs
Olive oil (for frying, and use the light olive oil, not the extra-virgin kind)
powered sugar (in Canada we call this icing sugar, in USA it is called confectioner sugar)

Directions:

In a bowl mix together: 1/2 cup of sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and lemon zest. Set aside.

Turn your stove on to medium heat, and using a saucepan, combine the following in the saucepan: butter, 3 TBSP sugar and the water.

Stirring constantly, bring this to a boil.

Once it has boiled, remove from the stove and stir in the flour.

Return the saucepan to the stove, and keep stirring until the mixture forms a ball. Continue stirring for 5 minutes.

Take mixture from saucepan and add to the sugar/cinnamon/vanilla/lemon bowl you had set aside (or if you prefer to use a food processor you can put it in there).

Using a hand mixer (or food processor), add your eggs one at a time, so that each egg is mixed in well with the dough.

Continue beating until mixture is smooth.

At this point you are going to fry the dough, but if you want to do it later, you can. Simply cover the bowl with saran wrap and refrigerate and fry them later.

TO FRY THEM:

Add enough oil into a large frying pan (about 2 inches). Heat oil over medium heat.

Fry them in batches so they are not crowding each other.

When oil is hot, using a melon baller, or small ice cream scooper or a tablespoon and drop the dough into the hot oil. Turn the zeppole a few times so that all sides get a nice golden color.

Once they are all puffed up and golden on all sides (takes about 5 minutes) place each one on paper towels.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar, and if you like, you can sprinkle with cinnamon as well.

Best eaten right after they are made.

Let me know if you have any questions about this recipe if you give it a try.

Feel free to post your favorite traditional recipe as well.

Zepoli

Cold Weather Comfort Soup

1

 

Show your crock-pot and family some love and whip up a batch of hearty, healthy,  soup, guaranteed to warm you up for lunch or dinner.

 

Yellow Split-Pea Soup

 

SOUP

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups yellow split peas (uncooked)
  • 8 cups broth (your choice, vegetable or chicken broth)
  • 2 cubes bouillon (vegetable or chicken)
  • 2 sweet potatoes (chopped in cubes)
  • 2 ribs celery (chopped)
  • 2 carrots (sliced)
  • 1 small Vidalia onion (diced)
  • 1 leek (sliced thinly)
  • 2 cloves garlic (roasted or you can throw it in raw, minced)
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. sage
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • 3 bay leaves
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Directions:

Rinse the peas in cold water, until the water is clear, then add them into your crock-pot, and add the bouillon cube, broth, and stir it, breaking up the bouillon cube.

Add; potato, celery, carrots, onion, leek, and garlic, and stir.

Sprinkle in; cumin, mustard, thyme, sage, and stir everything together, then add the bay leaves.

Cover and cook on low for 4 – 4 1/2 hours (until the yellow peas are soft)

Once it is finished cooking, remove the bay leaves, then sprinkle in salt and black pepper to taste, and stir well, adjusting seasoning to your liking.

Serve with crusty bread.

Alternative Serving Suggestions:

Using an emulsifier or food processor whiz the soup it so it is more of a creamy consistency and top with croutons.
2