Friday, April 30, 2010

Life's simple pleasures

One thing about being a Mamma Italiana is that your whole life revolves around the bambini....all you mothers out there know what I'm talking about. After all, motherhood is one of the most selfless jobs there is.

Now, I'm not taking anything away from the job of a father, because that, too, is very selfless (or should be, anyway). The men go to work and support the family and deal with all that stress and then are expected to come home and erase it all from their mind in order to begin their other job - being Dad.

That's a lot of mental exhaustion. I think of my poor husband and the agony he deals with in his less-than-enjoyable, not-worth-the-hours career. It's almost like - is there ever a way out? Will it ever end? I know there's retirement but I can't even see that far down the road at this point. It's almost out of reach right now.

And then I think to myself, WHY am I looking forward to that time in our lives? Aren't the golden years really right NOW, when the kids are so innocent, and still young and cute.....when my husband and I are still young and cute (kinda).

I mean, when we get older, the kids are leaving us, so that's a negative right there. I guess the positive is that I will be quite READY for them to leave by that point, I'm sure. But still - how am I going to handle that? Then we will be old...we won't be able to do all the fun things we enjoy now (but can't do cuz of the kiddos)...our bodies will be a wreck (just thinking of what runs through our Italian blood brings on the feeling of heart failure). My husband and I have already planned our weekend outings - scooting around in our matching 'Rascalls' through Walmart.

Yep, those are the golden years...

Honestly, it's a LOT of work right now trying to find the balance in life. We have four kids. We love them...we would even have more if we could! But boy, do they keep us on our toes!

Sure, things are busy between school and bottles and little league, but I LOVE that kind of busy.

Sure, there's not a lot of time for writing and I would really like to focus on getting a portfolio together...starting my own freelance side job, maybe even write a cookbook one day....

Sure, my husband would rather start his own business instead of work for somebody...he'd like to make his own hours and actually make it on time to the little league games that HE is supposed to be coaching (thank God for the other understanding fathers that fill in).

These things can wait. They will work themselves out.

For now, we have learned to accept (very happily, of course) that things are just a bit busier at this stage. We can't just pick up and go out to dinner without tying three kids' shoes and loading up the diaper bag (of course, we'd also have to win the lottery simply to afford the dinner for six - just another thing on our to-do list)....

We can't start the car and go when we're late for something, cuz we still have to buckle four kids (after the potty breaks, of course). Needless to say, we're late for a lot of things.

But - thank God for good babysitters, because every once in a blue moon, it's nice to get away without the baggage ---literally.

I mean it, not having to lug a diaper bag around on a night out is quite exciting for me! Last weekend my husband and I were lucky enough to go out for our son's school auction dinner. It was so much fun just to get a night out with my hubby. As you might have guessed, I carried the smallest, most lightweight purse I had! What was in it? lipstick! That's it! No diapers, no bottles, no wipes, no neosporin or band-aids - just lipstick!

Thank God for the simple pleasures in life :)
This photo is of me and my husband out on the town! And even without the kids in tow, we were still late! I guess one of the things about getting older is learning that you cannot blame anyone else for your faults...even the kids (darn)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What's new in my life...

"La poverta e la madre di tutte le arti."

Necessity is the mother of invention.

I'm sure this Italian proverb is true for so many people in today's economy, but I figured it was the perfect chance to relate what it means for the Una Mamma Italiana. Everyone could use a little extra denaro right now, and this mamma is too busy to get any of that from a conventional job. Chasing after my four bambini is already like working a double shift! Now, I could go to work overnight or something, but we ALL know I'm too lazy for that! This mamma needs her sleep...

So out of necessity, some friends and I created our own "invention" of a business. We named it "Tre Amici," which is, of course, Italian for "Three Friends." We put our crafty sides to work to make hand painted wood signs. Sound spretty basic, but let me tell you - it's a lot of work! We've been doing craft fairs and shows almost every weekend. And filling special orders has taken up a bunch of our free time, but we're not complaining!

Since I'm in charge of keeping up our blog, I figured it was about time to share it with all of you. Here's a sign we recently finished that would work wonders in my kitchen...

For the past few months, my amici and I have had a lot of laughs pretending to have "company luncheons." We also thoroughly enjoy hanging up on people because we are "in a meeting." It's been a blast to say the least! So if you are interested in our latest endeavor, check out our blog:

We're in the process of painting up some Italian signs saying:

"Sempre Famiglia"
"Fede Speranza Amore"

We would LOVE any input on some sign ideas. What quotes would Italians really like to see up in their homes? Post a comment here or on our "business" blog if you would like to help! Grazie!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The humble beginnings of POLPETTE!

Growing up, my family moved all over the United States - and even Canada. Every new move brought an important mission - to find a decent Italian restaurant in the area. Seems like an easy task, right? Don't be deceived my friends....good home-cooked Italian meals are not easy to find when dining out - ESPECIALLY when we lived on the West coast.

I am still facing that problem today, living in Spokane, Washington (still waiting on tips for the good local Italian eateries here, people). But over the years I have come to not really expect much. No restaurant's sauce was like my mother's, and definitely NO restaurant could make a good meatball.

It was basically a lost cause. Trying to find a good meatball at a restaurant was like trying to find a Chevy in Rome - it just aint happening. So that was our family's cardinal rule - do NOT order a meatball when out at a restaurant. Even if the order of spaghetti came with meatballs onthe side - taste with caution was our mentality. After all, "sometimes spaghetti just likes to be alone!" (The whole concept of spaghetti and meatballs is totally med-e-gone, by the way.... but I'll save that for a different post!)

So needless to say we stick to making our own meatballs at home these days. And with the wonderful festa of Liberazione coming up, you have the perfect occasion to try this special family recipe. I'm going to do my best to come up with measurements - you know how Nonna's recipes never have tablespoons or cups involved!

But before I give you this precious recipe - I thought I might educate you on the humble origin of the meatball:

Food history tells us that meat was often for the rich. It was precious - so no part was wasted. The butcher's scraps were therefore saved so that people might get yet another meal out of their pricey meat. Meatballs were a way of using these scraps.

Before the invention of the meat grinder in the 1800's, leftover meat would have to be pounded or ground by hand or with sharp tools. Meatballs were a way of using these scraps.

A real antique meat grinder from back in the day!

Finally by 1845, a meat grinder with a rotating metal blade made ground meat available to the public. What a long way we've come!

Now, this is what I'm talking about! When my family owned an Italian deli,
this is what we used to grind our own pork for homemade sausage!

And now - we can grind pretty much any kind of meat we like. For my meatballs, I love the combination of beef, pork (substitute turkey if you're trying to be healthy), and veal. Nothing beats that combo. See for yourself -


My kids love the mini meatballs, but you could
simply roll regular size balls with this same recipe.

  • 1 lb ground sirloin

  • 1lb ground turkey

  • 1lb ground veal

  • 2 1/4 cups bread crumbs

  • 4 heaping TB grated romano cheese

  • 3 pieces white bread (crust removed) soaked in milk until mushy

  • 3 eggs, beaten

  • salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste ( I like substituing a few teaspoons of fresh minced garlic to taste)

  • vegi oil for frying

Mix all the ingredients together (BY HAND, please), roll them up to about the size of a quarter, and shallow fry them.

Then, let them finish cooking in some of your favorite marinara sauce


Friday, April 16, 2010

Feature Presentation - Mamma's last minute meal

If last night in Una Mamma's house was a movie, the opening credits would read something like this -
"Starring Una Mamma Italiana and four screaming, hungry children."

Then the scene would open to a kitchen (dreary and dirty, to say the least) with a sink full of unwashed dishes, and muddy footprints across the floor. And to make matters worse, all this would be going on well after dinner hour. The kids had been playing outside all afternoon and thus the mamma (gratefully accepting ANY chance at some free time) became seriously distracted with the great, grand google.

But back to the feature film - Dinner was approaching fast, and Una Mamma Italiana found herself unprepared yet again. She raided the freezer earlier that afternoon hoping to defrost something worth eating. But to keep things interesting (darn those screenplay writers), the star character (yours truly) would attempt to begin dinner only to realize the chicken breasts she was thawing........ did not actually thaw at all!

So here's the basic trailer:

"Distracted wife/mother freaks out as she faces dinner hour completely unprepared. In effort to save her loved ones' stomachs from the evil enemy (hunger), she puts on her Superwoman cape (or apron, whatever) and fixes the usual:) "

Thanks to my unlucky circumstance of frozen chicken, you benefit via a very lucky recipe experiment that was actually quite good, if I do say so myself.

Allow me to elaborate:
Knowing full well that half defrosted chicken does not cook up to be tasty in the least, I had to be creative with my cooking method. I didn't want to dry out the chicken, and I had LIMITED ingredients on hand.

(This is, of course, why I simply did not opt to create a different meal upon discovering the half-thawed chicken - I had NOTHING else in the freezer!)

Anyway, after searching the fridge I emerged with some grated cheese and heavy whipping cream. "Where is she going with this?" you might on, ye of little faith...

I took out my Nonna's glass casserole dish and seasoned up the (half frozen) chicken. I covered it with the heavy whipping cream until it was completely immersed. I figured this would keep the heat in and cook the chicken kind of like a slow cooker would, but without the chewy, boiled chicken effect.

DISCLAIMER: Yes, this all came out of my very own head. No, I am not a professional chef with an intricate (and unnecessary) knowledge of the science of cooking like SOME PEOPLE (Ahem.....Food Network's Alton Brown) So do not think I know even one ounce of what I'm talking about when I say this stuff.

I topped the cream covered chicken with more seasoning (dried basil, sea salt, cracked pepper, and tons of grated cheese) and put it in the oven. The chicken cooked at 375 degrees for about 30-45 minutes and it was surprisingly tender. The creamy sauce had thickened a bit because of the cheese, and it was a very tasty dip for our side of pasta all'olio! The brown bubbly cheese on top was my favorite.

And so, in the end, Una Mamma Italiana was able to rescue the stomachs of her four little bambini from dire hunger after all. She saved the day yet again.

The End.

.....Still wondering why I'm not getting paid to be Supermom.....

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My protege - a little "Mammarella"

If your nonna was anything like my Nonnina Lucia, she never left the house without a hankerchief on her head! Well, it must be in the blood because my youngest bambina is following right in her footsteps.

You know that smile babies give when they just know they're cute? It's kinda mischevious.....

Well if you can't quite picture what I'm talking about, here's a prime example -

My litte Mammarella! I'm not sure my Nonnina looked quite as cute in a diaper, though....

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Just for laughs

Any Italian Knows that the movie Life is Beautiful was legendary in more than just Italy. In this clip from the David Letterman show, Roberto Benigni makes himself equally as legendary! What a riot he is! I just had to post this for the laughs....I LOVE when the other guy says he's trying to "translate" for him.....listen carefully (2:31)!

Friday, April 9, 2010

L'Italiano vero - a real Italian

I guess Italy had their share of 80's hits! I stumbled across this song and found it to be sort of relative. Those who know me know I never stop talking about the demoralization of society...yep, that's me, Miss positive attitude:)

Actually I find the meaning behind these lyrics to be fairly meaningful. Obviously, the artist had strong sentiments about the changes taking place in Italy. I can relate! And I live in an entirely different country!

So to get the real meaning of this catchy 80"s Italian hit, click here, where the lyrics are broken down for us med-e-gones!

The song is called "Lasciatemi cantare" by Toto Cutugno.

Please comment - we could use some (dare I say *controversial*) conversation on this blog :)

Thursday, April 8, 2010


"Ho fame" - or in English, I'm hungry!!!! Actually, starving........

for an authentic Italian local restaurant. One advantage to living in Vegas was the fancy restaurants on the Strip. Those were okay, I guess.

But the greatest advantage was the fact that I lived there for over 14 years, so we really got to know the owners of the restaurants we frequented.

Oh how I wish I had some of those places to eat around the corner from our new home in Washington state.

I know I will find my way around here. I just haven't had time yet. All I want, really, is a good Italian restaurant.

So I am calling all readers to a challenge - it's a small world, right? So, please, ask your family, your friends, your coworkers -

"Do you know of any good Italian restaurants in Spokane, Washington????"

That's the million dollar question. I'm just putting it out there. Please help me satisfy my cravings!

P.S. - I DID come across a local vendor of Italian Sausage at the Arts, Crafts, and Food Fair this February. Cosenza Sausage was pretty darn good, and it had NO FENNEL! I personally do not like fennel in my sausage - that's just me. So I was thrilled to say the least. The best news in - the super nice JOHN ships this fabulous sausage so give him a call (509) 217 - 5266.

I really hope you guys can come through for me on this one! Please comment with the million dollar answer.............SUBITO!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Taking One for the Team

So I'm pretty sure this goes for ALL mothers, but the Italian Mamma might have it a little bit harder than any other mother. I say this because of the RICH heritage they have to live up to.

I'm talking about our role in the family. I've written on this a few times before, but I was reminded of it YET AGAIN this Easter. We have to live up to the precedents that our mothers and grandmothers before us have set. We have to stay loving in times of anger and compassionate in times of serious frustration - you know, times like EASTER was for me this year.

This year, I took one for the team.

After taking four little ones to Easter Midnight Mass, my husband and I were tired to say the least. The LAST thing we wanted to do was cook up an entire Easter meal.

Yet what did I do?
  • I gave up on sleeping.
  • I cooked, cooked, and cooked some more.
  • I slaved over a sauce that ended up being too thin (Note to self: A special occasion is NOT a good time to try a new brand of canned tomatoes)
  • I burned one whole batch of braciole. (...had to make another one WITHOUT ham, as I had used it all on the first *burned* batch)
  • I slaved over two homemade Easter pies (pizza gaina) only to serve them to guests and find that the dough was severely undercooked. aaaaaahhhhh

Sound pretty much like a disaster, huh? For our first Easter away from family, (we moved out of state last August) it was kind of a nightmare! Good thing my family missed it!

So after all my efforts, I pretty much finished at a miserable loss. But I can look at this one of two ways:

1.) I failed miserably, Easter was a disaster, I ruined any chance of Family Tradition, and no one ate good (bad food=bad moods).


2.) I learned valuable lessons (like sticking to brands I know, and NOT using store bought pie crust for the legendary family recipe of Easter Pie. That is like blasphemy to our family traditions. Wow, am I really posting it here? This is surely for the benefit of the readers, right?)

Also, my kids are young enough (and my husband is patient enough) that this won't really affect their memory of Easter dinner at this point. I.e., I still have time to make up for it in future years.

It's all about how you look at it. I've got to stay positive, right? It takes a real woman to admit such shortcomings...I just keep telling myself that.

So really the disaster of a meal that was Easter means nothing in the grand scheme of things. After all, we are all happy and healthy, and rejoicing in the true spirit of the season.

And hey - Lent is over so who can really complain? Time for a Buona Festa!!!!!
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