Spaghetti Cecca: Molto Buona Ricetta Italiana

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I can’t believe I’m giving this one up.  This is my favorite easy recipe to feed a crowd.  I have made it for company more times than I can count.  It is definitely a family favorite around our house and it couldn’t be any easier.  I pretend it’s a well guarded secret recipe, but anyone who has eaten it could easily replicate it exactly.  That’s the only reason I have the recipe myself.

One summer I had the privilege of traveling to Italy with my brothers.  It was my first time in Europe and our only trip together as adults, just the three of us.  I can’t express what a valuable experience this was, so I won’t even try.  Anyway, this is a recipe post.  While we were in Italy, we ordered Spaghetti Cecca and it was my favorite dish the entire trip.  I came home and replicated it to the best of my memory and for 7 years it has stayed in our regular meal line up.

It’s almost embarrassing how easy this recipe is to make.

Ingredients:

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1 16 oz. package spaghetti

2 pints ripe red grape tomatoes, halved (or 5-7 medium tomatoes, diced)

1 11.1 oz. jar Kalamata olives (whole or halved)

10 large leaves of fresh basil

1 tsp. salt

1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

The longest part of this process is boiling the pasta, so start your water first.  Follow the directions on your pasta package.  While your water/pasta is boiling, give the basil a rough chop and drain the olives.  Combine the olives, tomatoes, and basil in a medium mixing bowl.

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As soon as the pasta is cooked al dente, add it to the mixture.  You want it to be as hot as possible.  No need to rinse, the oil will keep it from sticking together.  Add the oil and salt and toss it all together well.  That’s it.  The tomatoes and olives sometimes fall to the bottom of your bowl, so you might need to scoop around the bottom with your spoon when you are serving it up.

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*Although, traditionally cecca recipes are made with uncooked tomatoes, sometimes I like to warm them slightly if they have been refrigerated.  If they are room temperature, I leave them as they are.  To warm them, I just pop them in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds.  It should not be long enough to make them mushy, but just long enough to knock the cold off.

DIY Family Beach Portraits…..FAIL!!!

I know this is not a food related issue, but nonetheless, it’s a story that must be told.  I will soon post all about our food trials and tribulations from our beach week, which sounds bleak, but it was actually quite successful.  For now, I have a very different issue to address.

I see you Facebook friends who frolic out onto the beach and casually shoot beautiful family photos and capture images of your children splashing in the surf in their beautiful portrait attire.  I am faced with these images from mid-May through August and I know I should be able to do this too.

Our family of five came in a little early on our last evening at the beach to have dinner and get ready to go out for photos.  I see no reason to do things like this before the last possible evening.  After all, what could go wrong?  Have you seen these portraits?  You stand in the surf or sit behind a dune and snap a photo.  Easy peasy.

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Unfortunately, Olivia was pretty tuckered out after a week of sun and waves, so she climbed into her baby brother’s exersaucer while we were making dinner and fell asleep.  Yeah, she’s a weird kid.  Anyhoooooo…no pro-blem-o.  We’ll just get everyone else ready and take her dress out with us.  That way we can carry her out and she will wake up nice and refreshed from her nap, ready to smile for the camera.  Ok, now it’s starting to sound a little dicey, even with all of the positivity I spent all day mustering.

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Look at these suckers!  They paid professional photographers to come out here and do what anyone with a dSLR camera should be able to do on their own.  Boy are they going to be kicking themselves later after they see us getting the same shots free of charge.

Our first major sign of trouble was that Olivia did not wake up refreshed.  Not even close.  She was a grumpy two year old with as much determination not to be in the pictures as I had to take them.  We decided to give it a try without changing her into her white dress.  We ended up with these gems…

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Well, that’s just fine.  We’ll just take some with the other kiddos.  Here we go.

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Elena is holding Wyatt.  She’s such a big girl.  Let’s see if she can manage both babies.

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WooHoo!!!  You’re doing it Elena.  Hold them still.  Don’t let go!!!

Sorry Buddy.

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Ok, with all of these distractions, maybe Olivia will forget about her sour mood and smile for a few quick photos…

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I thought for sure that would work.  I’m not giving up yet though.  Wait…where’s Elena?

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Of course.  She found a “stage”.  Not exactly what I had in mind.  No matter what Justin says, this next sequence is good stuff.  He sure does love his boys!

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Ok, where were we?  So maybe the sitting in the dunes photos didn’t work out, but we still have splashing in the surf.  Those will definitely work.  Olivia will forget all about her mood as soon as she gets to the water.  I’m sure of it.

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Ok, girls.  Go splash around a little.  Have fun!!!  Be free!!!

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Whoa, come back!!!  Not that free.  I don’t have the big lens.  Stay closer!  Wait, where’s Wyatt?

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Oh well.  Girls, just splash at the edge of the water.

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Ooooh, twirling!  Good idea.  That has potential!!!

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Who knows where this is going?

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Time to try the family shot at the water’s edge.  For some reason we decided to hunch down into where we imagined the frame of the photo would be.  Also, an unexplainable gust of wind seems to have puffed into Justin’s shirt.  Not quite the money shot we were hoping for.

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I guess we’ll just let the girls stomp and splash in the shallow water.  I’m sure we’ll get some cute shots.

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Pretty cute…Elena, your turn…

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Ummmmm………too far.

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…and we’re done.

Since this was supposed to be so easy, we didn’t think we would need any back up provisions, such as a change of clothes.  The only thing we had for Elena to wear back was my hooter hider, which ironically looked like this on her…

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Well, that was fun.

I’m sure there are a multitude of lessons to be learned from this experience, but I can’t really think of what they are.  All I can say is, if I don’t “like” your perfect family beach photos on Facebook for a while, know that it’s not because of you.  It’s just too soon.  Seeing them is like rubbing salt water in the wound.

July 4th Treats: Top 8 Allergen Free

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Here is what we will be bringing to our 4th of July celebration this year.  These are free of the top 8 allergens and are also oh so yummy.  With just a few tweaks on the classic recipe, these are the perfect allergy friendly patriotic treat.

Ingredients:

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10 cups Rice Krispies Cereal or Gluten Free Rice Krispies Cereal, depending on your needs

6 tbsp. Soy Free Earth Balance Spread

8 cups miniature marshmallows

Mix ins:

1 cup dried blueberries

1 cup dried cranberries

2 cups miniature marshmallows

That’s it!  These are so easy.  All you do is melt the Earth Balance and 8 cups of mini mallows on medium heat in a large pot.  I mix everything in the same pot, so I use a really big one.  When it looks nice and smooth, remove the pot from the heat and mix in the cereal.  I have found that a giant spoon-ula works best.

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When you feel like the cereal is well coated, just throw in your mix ins and give it another stir.  It gets a bit stiff, so you can count this as your daily workout.  I do.

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Spoon it all onto a big jelly roll pan.  You can grease your pan with Earth Balance, or just line it with parchment paper like I did.  If the “stuff” sticks to your spoon-ula, just give it a little spritz with safe cooking spray.   I like to put another sheet of parchment paper on top and just press it down with my hands until it’s all flat and smooth.  Then let it cool for as long as your will power allows and cut it into squares.

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The pot can be a nightmare to clean, so it helps if you have a few little kitchen dwellers who are willing to remove the stuck on bits for you.  Mine are always willing.

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The blueberries don’t look super blue, but they have blue in the name, so it totally counts.  Hey, it’s better than eating neon blue food dye, right?

Have a safe and happy 4th!

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