Tortellini alla Panna

Way back in the 80s when I went to college in Rome (Italy), rather than having class in a traditional classroom, we studied on site at famous places like the Colosseum or the Imperial Forum. Then we’d break for lunch to eat a local trattoria.

My husband – who was then my fiancé – would often choose this rich dish, made with cheese tortellini, pancetta, and peas. I’ve Americanized this version, but it retains much of the authentic Italian flavor. Buon appetito!

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Tortellini alla Panna

  • 1 20-ounce package cheese tortellini
  • 1 12-ounce package thick-sliced bacon
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen peas, thawed
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • a little milk, if necessary
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil, add tortellini, and boil until tender (they will float to the surface). Drain and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, cut the bacon into 2-inch-long strips and fry in a Dutch oven. When cooked through, remove and drain.

Wipe the bacon fat out of the Dutch oven and add the butter. When melted, stir in the flour and then slowly add the cream. Stir to thicken the sauce, being careful not to let the cream burn on the bottom of the pan.

When sauce is warm, add in tortellini, bacon strips, peas, and parmesan cheese. Stir to blend. Add a little milk if sauce is too thick. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Transfer to bowls, top with additional parmesan cheese, and serve hot.

 

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Blood Orange Scones with Blood Orange Glaze

I didn’t know anything about scones until I was an adult and started cooking regularly. For those of you who don’t know, scones are a British version of American biscuits. They’re just as easy to make, but they’re generally not cut with a biscuit cutter. In this version, the dough is formed into a wheel and scored with a knife.

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Blood Orange Scones with Blood Orange Glaze

For the Scones:

  • Zest from 1 blood orange
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea sat
  • 1 stick very cold butter, in small pieces
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup blood orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream

For the Glaze:

  • Zest from ½ blood orange
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp blood orange juice

To make the Scones:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine orange zest and sugar and rub together until blended. Add flour, baking powder, and salt and mix well. Cut in butter using a fork or pastry blender.

In a small bowl, combine egg, vanilla, and blood orange juice. Add juice mixture to flour mixture and mix until just combined. Gather together into a loose ball.

Place loose ball of dough onto lightly floured surface and form into a 8-inch flat disc. Carefully place disc on baking sheet. Lightly score into 6 or 8 wedges.

Bake for 20-22 minutes. Cool on rack.

For the Glaze:

Combine all ingredients. Dribble glaze over slightly cooled scones.

 

 

 

 

Blood Orange Banana Bread with Blood Orange Glaze

This might be the best banana bread I’ve ever made. I had both super-ripe bananas and a plethora of blood oranges to use up, so I concocted this little gem. Quick, easy, and ridiculously full of bright fresh flavor.


Blood Orange Banana Bread with Blood Orange Glaze

For the banana bread:

½ c. butter, softened

1 c. white sugar

1-½ c. flour

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp sea salt

2 eggs

Zest of 1 blood orange

¼ c. fresh blood orange juice

3 mashed bananas

For the glaze:

Zest from 1 blood orange

1 c. powdered sugar

Approximately 2 Tbsp blood orange juice (adding more if necessary)

For the banana bread:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Generously butter one loaf pan. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt.

Add the eggs, one at a time, to the butter mixture, mixing well after each addition. Add the orange zest and juice. Mix well. Add in the bananas and stir until combined.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, stirring until just combined. Pour batter into greased loaf pan and bake for 60-70 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool on rack.

For the glaze:

Combine all ingredients and mix until smooth. When bread has cooled a little, spread glaze on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Saffron Rice with Pine Nuts & Currants

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Sometimes a little jazzed-up rice goes better with a meal than plain white rice – especially if there’s no fancy sauce with the entree.

Here’s a tasty rice side dish with Arabic flavors that pairs nicely with baked chicken or fish. It has an elegant presentation, so it’s perfect for serving when you’ve got guests.

Saffron Rice with Pine Nuts & Currants

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted in olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Half a yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 c. uncooked white rice
  • 1 tsp saffron, soaked 15 minutes in hot water
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 c. currants or golden raisins
  • 3.5 c. water or chicken broth
  • zest from 1 orange

In a medium-sized saucepan, sauté the pine nuts in a dash of olive oil until lightly browned. Set aside.

Add the butter and oil to the saucepan. When the butter is melted but not browned, add the chopped onions. Sauté until translucent but not browned. Add in the rice, saffron, garam masala, and salt, and sauté briefly to activate seasonings. Mix in currants. When throughly blended, add water and bring to a boil; cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

When rice is tender and cooked, add in orange zest and adjust salt if necessary. Serve warm.

Treating the Flu with Homemade Chicken Soup

With schools canceling classes and off-the-chart hospital admissions all across the nation, Winter 2018 has been tough on families because of the flu. Sometimes bed rest and a good pot of soup are what the body needs most.

Here’s a recipe for flavorful chicken soup to help warm you up.

Chicken Soup


Homemade Chicken Soup

For the broth:

  • 1 whole chicken, rinsed
  • 2 carrots, peeled
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered
  • 3 stalks of celery
  • 1 jalapeno or serrano pepper
  • 4 sprigs of fresh parsley (optional)

For the soup:

  • Shredded chicken
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 small bag frozen peas or 1 can of peas, drained
  • 2 cups uncooked rice or one bag egg noodles
  • salt and pepper, to taste

To make the broth:

A soup is only as good as its broth.

Place carrots, onion, celery, pepper, and parsley in the bottom of a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables and then cover the chicken with cold water. Bring to a boil, and then simmer covered for one hour. When the chicken is cooked through and tender, remove it to a large mixing bowl. When cool enough to handle, shred the chicken by hand into bite-size pieces.

To make the soup:

When the broth has cooled somewhat, using a strainer, transfer the broth to a large saucepan or Dutch oven, straining out the vegetables and small pieces of fat and meat. Bring the broth to a boil, and then add the carrots and shredded chicken and return to a boil. Add the peas and return to a boil. Slowly add rice or noodles, returning toboil. Turn down heat and simmer about 20 minutes, or until the rice or noodles are cooked through. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

 

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Forgiveness Is Freedom

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Forgiveness is freedom. It’s the greatest gift you can give yourself. You will be free of resentment, bitterness, and anger and free to live and love fully again.

Forgiveness is simply accepting what happened in the past and not letting it destroy your present. It’s a beautiful thing.

Some people struggle with forgiveness. They want to cling to past hurts — which in reality hurts only them, as the offender may have moved on and isn’t even troubled by the situation any more.

People lose huge chunks of their lives being angry and holding on to grudges, when all they need to do is forgive, or as Disney’s Princess Elsa sings, “Let It Go,” and as Taylor Swift sings, “Shake It Off.”

Steps to Forgiveness

If you’re having trouble knowing how to forgive, here are some tips on how to begin the process of forgiveness:

  • Commit to forgive.
    • Make the decision and do it.
    • Forgiveness is for you, not for anyone else.
  • Don’t replay grievances and hurts over and over in your head.
    • Clear your mind of the negativity.
  • Accept that you cannot change the past and you cannot change the person.
  • Know that forgiveness does not mean you have to say anything to the offender.
    • You don’t have to apologize to him or her.
  • Understand that forgiveness does not mean reconciliation.
    • You two may never get along.
    • But with forgiveness, you are no longer resentful, bitter or angry; you let it go.
  • Avoid taking things personally.
    • Most people are clueless in how they hurt others and often have little idea of the impact they have had.
    • Don’t give them that space in your head.
  • Focus on the present and what’s good and positive in your life.
    • Write those things down and check the list regularly.
  • Recognize the stages in the forgiveness process:
    • Begin with anger
    • Move to sadness
    • Progress to resignation
    • End with peace
  • Feel compassion for the offender and wish happiness for him or her.
    • You know you are at the stage of full forgiveness when you can do this.

For more on this topic and similar ones, please see Living WELL Aware E-Learning Course by Patricia Sulak, MD.

Funerals Are for the Living

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Though my 83-year-old neighbor was a gregarious man, his funeral was sparsely attended. Maybe several dozen people were there – and many of those were family.

They sat in the first three rows. The next 10 or so rows were empty. I sat in the back, along with some of my neighbor’s elderly friends. I was one of only two nonfamily members there under the age of 70.

Young people don’t go to funerals. Middle-aged people rarely go either. I’m thinking that even old people don’t go any more.

And that’s wrong. Funerals aren’t for the dead. They’re for the living.

 

For the Family of the Deceased

Some people say they don’t go to funerals because the dead don’t know we’re there, or death is uncomfortable, or everybody handles grief in his or her own way.

They may be right. But that’s not the point. A funeral is a long-held human ritual that not only memorializes the dead but also brings comfort to the living.

Our presence at a funeral is a sign of support and consolation for the family. Here we as an extended human family grieve together. We confirm that the deceased family member mattered, made a difference, was valued and loved.

Like it or not, an empty church or a partially filled funeral home sends a bleak message about how little the deceased meant to us or how little the friendship of the family matters to us.

Attending a funeral – even if we do nothing but sit there –

  • Validates a mourning family’s sorrow
  • Acknowledges the value of the life of the deceased
  • Confirms that the friendship is important enough to us that we’ll take an hour of our day to grieve with friends or family
  • Conveys the metaphysical message that we’re willing to shoulder the burden of grief – that we are united as a human family and share in the sorrow of the passing of one of our own

 

For Ourselves

Going to funerals is beneficial for our own souls, too.

When a friend or family member dies, we’re faced not only with his or her absence, but also with the awareness of our own mortality.

At a funeral service, we can literally stare death in the face when we view a body in a coffin. Any way you look at it, we face the reality of death.

For most of us, that’s difficult. Dealing with death and dying are indeed uncomfortable. They bring about emotions we don’t want surfacing. But funerals are the right place to deal with these emotions.

The crying, the heartache, the overwhelming grief that come with acknowledging the temporariness of human existence are necessary emotions to experience on occasion. They’re cathartic. They help us avoid the detachment from one another that accompanies 21st-century life and instead serve to unite us and help us relate to each other in a shared bond of bereavement.

Funerals also offer us the opportunity to reflect on our own lives and the imprint we’ve made in this world ~

  • What will be said at our own funerals?
  • Have our own lives had meaning and purpose?
  • Are we creating good memories for our families, friends, and co-workers?
  • Are we reconciled with family, friends, and co-workers?
  • Have we left a legacy of good?

Funerals remind us to effect the change in our own lives that we need to make while we still can.

 

For Our Families

When mentors, teachers, or other adults who’ve invested their time in the lives of my children have died, I’ve taken my children to their funerals. Almost always, my kids are the only nonfamily children at the memorial services.

I’ve received a lot of criticism for taking my kids to funerals. People think it’s weird. Or inappropriate – “Funerals aren’t the place for children.”

Dead wrong.

The visitation, the hearse, the eulogies, the pallbearers, the burial service – all of these can be points of departure for necessary discussions with elderly parents, teens, or kids regarding the meaning of life ~

  • What is the purpose of life?
  • Why are we here?
  • What does it mean to live?
  • What does it mean to die?
  • Why do we die?
  • Is death forever?

If we haven’t thought about these things, we should. When we reflect and meditate, examine and discuss questions about life and death, we may find answers that enrich and enhance our lives and the lives of our families.

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Next time you hear of the passing of a family member, friend, or co-worker, don’t pass up the opportunity to go the funeral. It can make a difference in a life.