Avoidance of the Unwanted

Greetings all,

As I continue to walk down the road of life, I stop and gaze at my surroundings and find that, where once I saw beauty and innocence and smelled the fresh air of happiness I now find myself seeing decay, strife, and anger.  Thus have I chosen to walk a different path away from the hostility of social media…in other words, I have deleted my Facebook account.

Why, do you ask?  I had over 200 friends and family on Facebook and, to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t impressed at all.  The rampant narcissism of social media, especially where “sharenting” is concerned (that is, the constant sharing of your children’s pictures and life events over social media in order to garner the most likes) left a bitter chill in my soul.

A second source of my displeasure came from commenting on articles shared over various news sources on Facebook.  When offered a chance to comment, sometimes I would strike a positive chord and many people would like what I wrote.  Oftentimes, however, the response was less than savory, and the dregs of the social media barrel would crawl to the top and rear their ugly heads in an attempt to barrage me with unintelligent insults and disagreements bereft of any evidence.  As Bill Murray once supposedly said, “It is difficult to win an argument with a smart person, but damn near impossible to win one with a stupid person.”

Hence have I removed myself from this arena of foolishness and chosen instead to surround myself with the people I love – those who are near and dear to me and who I can look at face to face.  No more do I have to deal with the Johnny-Come-Latelies who post candles and memes in a desperate attempt to find some common ground with people affected by tragedy – there is nothing wrong with feeling sorry for someone or praying with them, but it would look better if you used your own words and not someone else’s digital artwork.  No more do I have to deal with the rampant politicization of Facebook in such a turbulent political year as this -not  only have we dealt with the death of public figures we loved over the years, but we also have to deal with public figures who many of us despise.  I’m not picking sides here, mind you – I liken the choices to the red pill or the blue pill…one contains arsenic, the other cyanide.  I am disgusted with how many memes created with less-than-flattering photographs filled with information lacking any credibility are out there.  Most of them are vulgar and can be described using words ending with “ist” (fascist, racist, sexist, etc.).

I have been removed from this “social” media for 3 weeks and I can tell you for sure that it has been an uplifting experience.  I feel free and more well-informed than I have been in a very long time.  I don’t miss it at all, although I continually think of my colleagues, high school and college friends, teachers, and family and hope they are all doing well.

Will I return?  Maybe.  After 9 years on Facebook, I thought it was time for a removal – absence does truly make the heart grow fonder.  When I do return, however, I will ensure that I befriend people who truly matter to me and not just collect people like Magic: The Gathering cards.  I’d rather have fewer friends that I care more about to whom I can genuinely respond than lots of “friends” who provide me with endless piles of digital luncheon meat spread all over my profile.

We shall see…

3 years gone

Hello everyone.

It has been nearly 3 years since my last post on this blog. During that time, I have been soul searching quite a bit in my life. I found that the very food that I have been enjoying all of my life is slowly killing me. I am now pre-diabetic with a fatty liver and high cholesterol. Sadly, I will have to find new and exciting ways to eat healthy and avoid the foods that could make me worse. The good news is that I have lost 14 pounds since June 17, 2016 and will hopefully lose more as time goes on. I have made a lot of different choices and I would love to share them with you.

KETCHUP
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vs.

SALSA
Salsa 918

I found that Ketchup has a heck of a lot more sugar and salt in it than Salsa. Not to mention the carbohydrate level is much higher. Salsa is lighter, offers many more available flavors, and spicier salsa also helps with digestion.

OMELETS ARE YOUR FRIEND
omelet

Such a versatile dish that is nutritious and delicious, an omelet doesn’t even need a lot of lubrication in the pan – a little spray of olive oil (NOT PAM) or a tiny pat of butter is all you need. Dilute your eggs with a little bit of water to spread them out, always salt and pepper them, and add whatever sautéed vegetables or meats you want. This morning I ate a sautéed spinach and turkey omelet. I just omit the carbs and go full on protein in the morning.

THAT’S A WRAP

Low carb or whole wheat wraps are fantastic for lunch. A slice of bread is heavy and holds too much, whereas a wrap is finite in its content and you can’t bulk it up. That limits your calorie intake but allows you to be very creative.

these are just a few of my healthy ideas. More will follow, and I promise I won’t let my blog lapse so long in the future.

Breaking Down Barriers

Hello all.

There is turmoil throughout the world.  Private battles between regimes still rage in Africa.  Terrorism is on the rise in the Middle East.  The dirty secret of chemical weapons has come to life once again.  America struggles to maintain relationships with allies, relationships that are strained more and more each day.  At the same time, I have watched numerous shows about travel, and I notice one commonality among the varied cultures and traditions that I learn about:

Food.

“Love is through the stomach,” one of my friends told me today.  I agree wholeheartedly.  Our discussion on a fansite chatboard turned to food  very quickly, and being a varied group of people, I thought I would share some highlights of our conversation.

One of my friends couldn’t decide between these two choices:

                Pizza                                                                                 Greek

                    or                   

I suggested: Greek Pizza!                      

 He almost went for it, but then he said that the Italian restaurant he would be going to had Sicilian owners.  Well, as much as I love Greek food, I have to stay true to my half-Sicilian heritage.  Therefore, I suggested the Italian place.  He agreed. 

Oh yes.  I forgot.  This particular person is from Australia. 🙂

Another of my friends on this chat is a Greek Cypriot who says she loves a good Gyro (pictured above) as well as a heaping plate of souvlaki. 

Mouth watering yet?

A third friend from Great Britain had an assignment for her class.  She had to develop a menu of main courses and desserts for four hypothetical children, including for one child who is vegetarian and has celiac disease (an intolerance to gluten).  All of us in the chatbox were coming up with ideas for her menu, especially me because I know a lot of about celiac disease.  My mother has been dealing with celiac disease for 15 years, and being the great cook she is, she came up with so many recipes, including some traditional Sicilian recipes that she made gluten free.

I recommended potato and spinach lasagna.  It is layered potatoes covered with ricotta and spinach.  You can even eliminate the ricotta and substitute mashed tofu, spinach, and spices to make it vegan.  I also mentioned potato gnocchi with tomato sauce.

The point of this all is that we transcended our international barriers and came together as a family in food.  We showed love to each other and made each other hungry all at the same time.  Thankfully I have a pot of sauce boiling on the stove right now. 

Manicotti anyone?

A Taste of my Past

Hello friends.

I have a recipe to share with you that is near and dear to my heart. It is a piece of my history – a food that I gorged myself on many-a-day in the downstairs apartment of my Nana during my childhood in Ridgefield, New Jersey.  I still remember the savory smells emanating from the kitchen and the aroma of hot oil as these delicacies were cooked.  I remember sneaking into the dining room and seeing them placed under tablecloths to keep warm, sliding my hand underneath the cloth, and sneaking one out into the TV room to enjoy behind everyone’s back.  In America, we call them “rice balls.”  In Sicilian, we call them:

Arancini

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According to Wikipedia, arancini (which means “little orange,” a name derived from the shape and color of the delicacy) originated as a hand-held meal in 10th Century Sicily.  10 Centuries later, in 1980s New Jersey, they found their way into my house.  My personal record is eating six in one day, and these things are the size of a baseball!

Biting into the arancini, you will feel a nice crispy crunch through the breading, followed by the creamy cheesy rice that has the salty, nutty tang of pecorino romano cheese.  In the middle, a saucy mixture of ground beef and peas that will tingle your taste buds.

Arancini are a labor of love – they take quite a while to make and require constant attention.  We will now work together to make arancini for yourself.  Here’s what you need:

1 pound of uncooked white rice

1 1/2 cups of finely grated pecorino romano cheese

1 pound of ground beef (preferably 80/20 chuck)

salt and pepper for taste

2 tsp garlic powder

1 cup of good olive oil

2 cups of smooth tomato sauce (pre-cooked to your personal specifications)

1 pound of frozen petit pois (baby peas)

1 large onion, chopped finely

4 cloves of garlic, smashed

4 cups of bread crumbs

5 eggs

FOR THE RICE:

Cover the rice with water in a large saucepan until completely submerged.  No need to rinse the rice.  Cook the rice until starchy and creamy.  Stir often to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Once the rice has finished cooking, mix in the pecorino romano cheese thoroughly to create a glutenous mixture.  Allow to cool to room temperature before handling.

FOR THE MEAT:

Heat 1/2 cup olive oil in a wide skillet.  Add ground beef, seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Cook thoroughly.  Add 1 cup of cooked tomato sauce and mix through.  Remove from heat and set aside.

FOR THE PEAS:

Heat 1/2 cup of olive oil in a second skillet.  Cook chopped onion and smashed garlic in oil until onion is soft and translucent.  Add peas and 1 cup of tomato sauce.  Heat until bubbling and then simmer for 5-7 minutes until peas are cooked through.

ASSEMBLY:

Take a handful of cheesy rice, mold and press down in the middle to create a cup-like shape.  Add 1 tsp of ground beef and 1 tsp of pea mixture.  Add some additional rice to cover the savory mixture and mold into a sphere about the size of a baseball.  Beat 5 eggs with some water to make an egg wash.  Dredge the rice ball in the egg wash, then dredge in bread crumbs.

COOKING THE RICEBALL

In a medium sauce pan heat approximately five cups of vegetable oil to medium heat.  Partially submerge the breaded rice ball into the oil.  Allow to cook for 3 minutes.  Use a slotted spoon or two forks to turn the rice ball over so that the other side can cook.  Cook a further 3 minutes.  Remove the rice ball from the oil and place on paper towels to dry off.

STORAGE:

Arancini can be stored at room temperature for a little while.  Best to keep them covered so that they remain warm while you cook the rest of them.  Once cooked, uneaten rice balls (if there are any) should be stored in the refrigerator.

And there you have it.  The traditional Sicilian rice ball.  Now that I’ve shown you how to cook the best, I have to show you the biggest.

Behold: the jumbo rice ball!

This behemoth can be found at Ciao Baby! in Long Island.  It is 3 pounds in weight (that’s right, 48 ounces!!) and topped with melted mozzarella and ricotta over a bed of tomato sauce.  note the size of the steak knife plunged into the depths of this beast! 

I have yet to try this delicious version of my favorite food, but Long Island isn’t too far away from where I live!  Perhaps a trip is in order!

Mangia!!!!!

2 recipes I concocted this week.

Hello everyone.

I thought I would share with you two recipes that I created this week that went over very well with my family.  Here they are.

(1) SCALLOP-STUFFED FLOUNDER

4 3-oz fillets of flounder

3 tbsp olive oil

1/4 lb. bay scallops (the small ones), rinsed and dried.

1/3 cup bread crumbs

1/3 cup peccorino romano cheese

2 tsp Herbs de Provence

3 tsp garlic powder

salt and pepper

1 egg

Coat the bottom of a baking dish with olive oil and lay flounder fillets out.  Combine scallops, bread crumbs, cheese, herbs, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and egg into a mixing bowl. Mix ingredients together well to form a stuffing.  Equally distribute stuffing between flounder fillets and fold the fillets over, packing tightly but gently.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes.

 

(2) SALMON CAKES

1 lb. fresh salmon fillets

1/8 cup olive oil

1/3 cup bread crumbs

1/4 cup peccorino romano cheese

3 tsp Italian herb mix

3 tsp garlic powder

3 tsp onion powder

salt and pepper to taste

1 egg

4 tbsp white wine

Coat the bottom of a baking pan with olive oil.  Bake the salmon at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and transfer cooked salmon to a mixing bowl.  Flake the salmon into very small pieces.  Combine remaining ingredients (except olive oil) and combine into a firm stuffing-like mixture.  Make approximately 9 4-inch patties.  Place remaining olive oil into a shallow frying pan and bring to low-medium heat.  Cook salmon patties in oil at low-medium heat for 3- minutes on either side.  Transfer to paper towels and remove excess oil.  Serve with mashed potatoes or rice and vegetables.

I sincerely hope you try them out and feel free to let me know how they come out.

Lakeridge Winery, 5 August 2013

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On a mild day in Florida, my family and I embarked on a little journey to the largest winery in the region: Lakeridge Winery.  Located in Clermont, Lake County, Florida, this winery has been open for 25 years and offers a startling array of vintages to suit all palates.

Our journey began through the doors of the winery proper built in the style of a Tuscan villa replete with stuccoed walls, archways, and wooden rafters lined with grapevines. I was immediately taken by the quaint design of this place: unassuming and yet dedicated to making a first-class beverage.

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Our tour began in the wine shop where rack upon rack of hundreds of wine bottles awaited the shoppers.  On the south side of the shop there sat numerous accoutrements to wine tasting, storage, display, and fashion chic.  In the center of the room sat the bar, a long U-shaped counter behind which sat a plethora of select wines waiting to reach eager lips.  But first, we had to take the tour, and luckily we were the first ones in line.

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Before us sat 327 acres of luscious muscadine grapes awaiting the harvest, which would come in the next two weeks.  The graps would then make their way into the crushers, siphoning out vegetative debris before turning the grapes into a paste. After settling and filtering, the liquor would be ready for the vats.

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Above us was this handy little fact, which blew my mind:

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Following the tasting, which was of course delicious, enlightening, and somewhat inebriating, my wife took to the shelves to purchase our selected wines whilst I sat on a little bench with my daughter in front of a television watching classic Looney Tunes cartoons.  The wines we selected were all based on their light flavor, their simple and unpretentious texture, and their fruity bouquet.  Being a sweet wine lover, I was taken with the whites and blushes immediately – the Sunblush, the Southern White, and the Chablis – although their Southern Red caught my taste buds by surprise as well and found its way into our suitcase for the flight home several days later.

So there you have it – an adventure for the senses.  Now for some lush food to go with them!