Two Roads & A Recipe with Yakisoba

IMG_1402This week while sifting through more of my son’s things I found two memory cards in a camera hard case. As I dusted some fine golden sand out of the case I remembered sending him the cards in a care package while he was stationed in Afghanistan.DSCN0487

Seeing more than a hundred photos up on the screen it reminded me of the adventurous boy whose travels took him far and wide to some places I did not recognize. The photos of him and the places he had left a footprint on tugged at my heart, but only a smile emerged. His story may have been short, but his journey so full. I am thankful for that. Yes, I have travelled a long way, too. So, I continue to share.DSCN0459

In light of recent events in Orlando the only advice I have for parents who have lost their loved ones is to hold tight to each other. You will travel the grief road as individuals, but you will need the support of each other to keep you on the path to peace. Honor your loved one, have Courage and make a Commitment to love and kindness always. Share it.DSCN0367

Time to share some good food. Two roads and a recipe is always a fun challenge especially when fusion of foreign cuisines is involved. It’s a wonderful creative distraction that I get to share with all of you in this blogger’s challenge contest. It makes me smile. I hope you like what I prepared with Fortune Brand Yakisoba Noodles. Coming in a variety of flavors check the refrigerated section of your grocery store (Von’s, Pavilions and Safeway in Pennsylvania) for this easy to prepare product that inspired so many other recipes that I had to share at least two of these new family favorites. Today, it’s Asian gone Italian in two tasty noodle dishes. First up is a mandarin orange stir-fry twist on chicken picatta. Enjoy the harmony.

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Citrus Chicken Picatta & Noodle Stir-Fry

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 Package Fortune Brand Yakisoba Noodles with Mandarin Orange Flavor Packet

2 cups diced boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon all purpose flour

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

¼ cup dry white wine or chicken broth*

½ cup chicken broth

1-tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1-tablespoon small capers, rinsed

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Garnish: fresh lemon and oranges slices and fresh herbs, optional

Puncture inner bag of noodles a few times with the tip of a sharp knife to allow steam to escape. Microwave noodles on HIGH for 1 minute; set aside. Season chicken with salt and pepper and toss with flour to coat. Heat olive oil over medium-high. Add chicken; stir-fry 3 to 4 minutes or until no longer pink. Add garlic, shallots and pepper flakes; stir-fry for 1 minute. Add wine; cook for 2 minutes or until reduced by half stirring to loosen browned bits from bottom of skillet. Add loosened noodles, Mandarin Orange flavor packet, chicken broth, lemon juice and capers; stirring for 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh parsley. Garnish with lemon and orange slices and fresh herbs, if desired.

*Note: If you prefer not to use wine use additional chicken broth as a substitute

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caprese noodle burger

 

My second recipe includes a classic summer Italian salad topping your favorite burger on a most surprising noodle bun. The bun is a play on an omelet my mom used to make with leftover spaghetti. They not only make a great burger bun, but also delicious as the base for an opened-faced sandwich, too. The noodle buns can even be made ahead and re-warmed on the grill, stove-top or in the microwave.

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Caprese Noodle Burger

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 package Fortune Brand Yokisoba Stir Fry Noodle Mandarin Orange

¼ cup water

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

8 leaves shredded fresh basil

½ cup diced vine ripened tomatoes

2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1-teaspoon balsamic syrup

2 hamburger patties

4 slices fresh mozzarella

Place the noodles, water and half the sauce base in a microwave safe dish. Cover and microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes. Mix well and spread out on a plate to cool. When noodles are cool mix with eggs, parmesan and 2 leaves of shredded basil. Divide noodles into 4 portions and shape each portion into a 4-inch “bun” on plastic wrap lined plates. Bring plastic wrap up and over the buns to cover. Weight down with another plate and chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, combine tomatoes, basil, 2 teaspoons olive oil and balsamic syrup in a bowl; mix well. Sprinkle hamburger patties evenly with remaining sauce mix; grill or pan-fry to desired doneness topping with mozzarella during last few minutes of cooking time. In a large skillet, heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Unwrap noodle buns and add to skillet. Cook, 2 to 3 minutes per side or until golden brown and cooked through. Arrange a noodle bun on each plate. Top with a burger and some tomato-basil salad. Cover with remaining noodle buns.

For more delicious yakisoba noodle ideas check out JSL Foods on Twitter and Facebook

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My son’s favorite poem inspired “Two Roads and a Recipe”

Nesting & Easter Bread

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Nesting. It’s that time of year. Looking out from my kitchen window that is exactly what is going on in my back yard. While the woodpeckers, flickers and crows dodge snow flakes and nosh at the suet feeder it is the blue birds in all their rosy breasted, blue winged beauty that catch my attention.

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Diligently guarding the wooden box nailed to the fence post is the male bird. From the weathered rooftop he easily fends off other birds with a peck and flash of his gorgeous azure feathers. Like a good father he’s fierce, protective and never tires.

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He allows his less colorful partner to fly back and forth with bits of twigs and hay. She is carefully building the nest inside.

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The photographer, Sherb Naulty,  is a high school friend. Click on the link to see his awesome fox photos and do a little shopping.

Building a nest. That is what mother’s do in anticipation of their newborn babies. Not just a crib and rocking chair, but a home that is warm and safe and filled with hopes and love. Every baby is a miracle. I felt that every time I delivered one back in the 80’s at Ft. Bragg army hospital and so looked forward to building my own nest when the time was right. Having one pregnancy end in a miscarriage I have always considered my Caitlin and William my miracles.IMG_9702

So when I came across Rachelle Spencer’s web site I was completely taken in by the simplicity and beauty of her jewelry. Her designs are inspiring and can only come from a mother’s heart. When I asked Rachelle if she would be willing to share her story here she so kindly obliged.

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“My story is so very different from yours and yet I believe we share the same heart … a mother heart that wants the world to remember our children.

I lost 4 babies to early miscarriage during the course of a year. I desperately wanted a child to hold, and every loss was devastating to me. What made it worse was that no one knew about my little ones. I was a mother, but no one wished me a happy Mother’s Day and no one called my angels by name. I did name them. They are Adam, Michael and the twins are Louisa and Lauren.

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from E.E. Cummings’ poem

Rachelle-isms started after I had my rainbows, William and Anna. I made a few nests as Christmas presents in 2013, but I wanted one for myself. Typically nest necklaces are made for moms with beads that represent each child. But what about my children? Should I make a 2 bead nest or a 6 bead nest? Prompted by the anniversary of my twins due date, I offered a giveaway to mothers of loss. I offered any mother who had lost a child the gift of a nest with turquoise beads for living children and white pearls for children no longer living. The giveaway was huge and I had to end it early! And that is really how it all got started. I posted a few necklaces in my shop and my business naturally grew.
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Today I spend most of my time creating custom pieces for my customers. Many of them write to me telling me their stories. They are hard to hear, but between the lines I think so many people are just wanting someone to listen to and understand them. One of my favorite things is receiving the special requests for my designs with a twist added. I am never bored when I make these necklaces and I am always incredibly honored by the stories shared. My aim is always to encourage women to share their stories and heal.
I heard a quote once that I love so much … and I think you will agree: “When a baby is born, a mother’s instinct is to protect the baby. When a baby (or child) dies, a mother’s instinct is to protect its memory.”
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I guess that is what I am doing every day. I make nests for women all around the world honoring their children. I just want the world to know that my little ones lived, that I loved them and that they mattered. Thank you for letting me share my story with your followers, Lisa!”
Rachelle does an annual giveaway starting April 1st. Her twins would have been 4 years old this April. :)….and my William would have been 28. Check out her web site here.

 

Thank you to both Sherb and Rachelle for sharing their talents. I find both their creativity and artistry incredibly inspiring. This recipe is for them and for you. It’s my twisted Italian version of a most traditional sweet bread. I think you get the connection.

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Here is what you need. It all goes into the mixer.

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Let the dough rest and then roll and stretch and loosely twist together into a ring. Let it rest again.IMG_9655

Make a nest by inserting the eggs. Brush with egg yolk and bake.

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Italian Easter Bread

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup sugar

1 packet active dry yeast

1-teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon anise seed, toasted, ground

½ cup milk

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ teaspoon fiori di sicilia or 1 teaspoon vanilla

grated zest of 1 lemon

2 eggs

1 egg, separated

½ cup chopped dried fruit

¼ cup chopped toasted almonds

6 eggs, (dye 5 of them blue)

¼ cup powdered sugar

1 to 2 teaspoons lemon juice

sprinkles

In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle, combine 1-cup flour, sugar, yeast, salt and ground anise. In 1-cup microwave safe measure, combine milk, honey and butter; microwave on HIGH for 45 seconds. Stir well. Mixture should be very warm (125-130F). Stir fiori di sicilia or vanilla into milk. Add milk mixture and lemon zest to dry ingredients; beat for 2 minutes or until mixture is well blended scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add 2 eggs plus 1 egg white; blend well. Change paddle to dough hook. Add remaining flour; beat on medium-low for 6 minutes. Add dried fruit and almonds; mix 2 minutes more. Scrape dough into an oiled bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover and let rest for 90 minutes. On floured surface divide dough in half. Roll each half into a 24-inch rope. On a baking sheet lined with parchment. Twist ropes loosely together and form them into a circle or nest. Cover with plastic wrap; let rest for 1 hour. Heat oven 350F. Insert raw dyed eggs into spaces in twisted dough. Place the white egg in the center. Mix remaining egg yolk with 1 teaspoon of water; brush over dough. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until golden and internal temperature is 200F on an instant read thermometer. Cool. Mix powdered sugar and lemon juice; drizzle over bread. Top with sprinkles.

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The eggs bake to hard-boiled and make terrific egg salad-bonus!

 

 

 

Truth or Dare Macarons

IMG_8941It’s been 1,750 days since I lost my son. Nice round number. You would think in all that time that someone or some book would have set me straight on this grief experience. Many said it would get better with time. Others said maybe around year 3 you will start to feel some peace. And still others said you will feel joy and happiness again. Yet, not a one dared speak the additional real truth. Honesty around this subject is difficult. Who wants to be the barer of more bad news?

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Before I reveal my truth there is clearly something about it I don’t understand and so I continue to write this blog hoping to reach some clarity. You see there have been many deaths in my lifetime attending funerals since I am a little girl. In Italian families, back in the old days, all the kids went to the funerals to show “respect”. We were close knit. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, a nephew, friends and my parents. Kneeling and praying over open caskets. Tearful. I loved them all dearly, but the grief associated with their loss dissipated quickly and rarely visits me now. When it does it is usually in the form of a fond or funny memory and gone again in a split second. Why is it so painfully different for me with my son?

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Maybe that is the answer. He is my son. Is there something different about a mother and her son vs a daughter and her dad or her mother? Is it because he is gone too soon or was it because it was a preventable accident? I don’t know, but with William I carry a different kind of grief. It grips me when I close my eyes at night and even tighter when I open them in the morning all these days. No one told me it would be like this. The truth is it will always be this way. The truth is I have the strength to carry it. The truth is I will follow in his light. Harness your Will.

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Did you notice the black and white photo disaster above? My attempt at making the very temperamental French confection known as macarons was quite the disaster. What a waste of some expensive ingredients. Goodness has its price. I had to get my “William on” and double dog dare myself to try it again and then one more time for good measure.

IMG_9052This first recipe is inspired by a bottle of citrus vanilla flavoring called Fiori di Sicilia that I purchased on a visit to the King Arthur Flour baking school in Vermont. It just seemed right to add some vanilla bean powder in both the shells and the filling and then team it with a citrus curd. With an adjustment of oven temperature and baking time my second attempt at these shells came out pretty good, but not perfect. I think I under-mixed the batter. Folding the ingredients together until the batter is a bit runny is needed so the shells do a little spreading. As you can see my shells did not fill the circles. I also recommend weighing the ingredients, but if you don’t own a scale I did provide some equivalent standard measures.IMG_8959

Vanilla-Citrus Macarons

65 grams (3/4 cup) almond flour

115 grams (1/2 cup) confectionary, powdered or icing sugar

65 grams (2 large) egg whites

32 grams/2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/8 teaspoon vanilla bean powder

1/8 teaspoon fiori di Sicilia flavoring

In small bowl, sift almond flour and powdered sugar; set aside. Beat egg whites and half the granulated sugar to soft peak. Add remaining sugar, salt, vanilla bean powder and flavoring; whisk to stiff peaks. Add almond flour mixture to meringue; gently fold until the mixture is smooth, shiny and slightly runny. Pour the mixture into a piping bag and pipe out ¾-inch mounds on either parchment paper or a silicone mat. Tap the pan a few times to remove air bubbles. Let them rest for 30 minutes or until they appear dry on top. Heat oven to 400F. Turn oven down to 300F and place macarons in oven. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until puffed and appear dry but not brown. Let cool on pan for 15 minutes before transferring to cooling rack. Pipe or spoon cooled citrus curd on flat side of half the shells. Gently place second shell on top.

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Vanilla-Citrus Curd

2 egg yolks

1/3-cup sugar

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

¼ teaspoon vanilla bean powder

pinch sea salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Whisk egg yolks, sugar, zest, vanilla bean powder and salt in a heat-proof bowl or double boiler. Place bowl over simmering water (do not let bottom of bowl touch the water) and continue whisking until thick like pudding. This will take 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter. Cover surface of curd with plastic wrap; chill.

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Runny batter fills the spaces

So with Valentine’s Day on the horizon I thought I might try a hubby favorite combo of chocolate and peanut butter with my third attempt at macarons. To make the chocolate shells all I did was use the same recipe above except to sift in 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder with the almond flour and eliminate the fiori di sicilia. Here is the recipe for the filling.IMG_9021

Peanut Butter Filling

1/2 cup well-stirred creamy natural peanut butter or salted caramel peanut butter spread

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

3 teaspoons buttermilk

Beat all the ingredients together until smooth and creamy.

The truth is it is best to have courage and not be destoyed by life’s injustice. Find your strength and carry on. Oh, and by the way, I found Doreen…….