#ThrowbackThursday: Inherited Recipes

By Sara Tantillo, AAFCS Associate Director, Events & Outreach

A few years ago, I wrote a blog for Family & Consumer Sciences (FCS) Day on my history with cooking and eating with my family. I included one of my favorite family recipes, for chicken soup, and mentioned a few other hand-me-downs from my dad’s family.  When I was thinking about what to write about this year, our social media theme day gave me some inspiration!fullsizerender

A few years ago, my father’s extended family, the L’Episcopos, had a family reunion.  Everyone was asked to contribute a favorite recipe—some were handed down for generations, and some were just ones they’d created at home! I pulled that family cookbook out this week, and took a look through to see if any were just perfect for FCS Day. Many were favorites that were created in the ‘50s—a lot of canned soup ingredients and shortcuts—and others were intricate and detailed Italian specialties! It was really interesting to see how recipes had been modified by family members—there are even two versions of one nonna’s recipe, submitted by sisters! After looking through the cookbook, I found a few recipes to tuck away for further use—one that was four pages long for a traditional lasagna—but nothing that really spoke to me for FCS Day! I was stumped.

When I went home for Thanksgiving, it hit me—my grandma’s stuffing! Her stuffing is a favorite of our family’s—though, since she passed away, it is generally only served in our home. Extended family holiday gatherings have involved trying new options—but for us, her recipe is the only stuffing worth eating. Since we are rarely home for the holiday, we’ve resorted to making stuffing at Christmas or with a roast chicken for special occasions—which is my plan for FCS Day! Check out AAFCS social media this Saturday for pictures and tales of my success or failure, as I’ve never made the recipe on my own before! This recipe is one that my dad prepares, as it comes from his mother, and the origin is murky—likely it was passed down from my grandmother’s mother, but we’re not sure. It involves sausage, celery, and of course bread—but I’ve been ordered not to share the details. Some recipes must be kept to the family!

At Thanksgiving, I mentioned this blog to my parents—and they suggested that I also talk about recipes passed in the other direction!  Last year, I was looking for the perfect recipe for a sausage, kale and bean soup—but I just couldn’t find one that seemed quite right. So, I took a look at several recipes we pinned to our FCS Day Pinterest board for ideas, and started experimenting. What I came up with ended up being pretty delicious! I’ve made it many times since then–including this past Monday–and have tweaked a few things, and I’m quite happy with it. At some point last year, my mom asked if I had any suggestions for what to do with kale, as she’d picked some up at the farmers’ market—and I sent along my recipe!  They’ve made it multiple times since then, and it’s been passed along to my sister as well! Hopefully this will become a recipe handed down to future generations of Tantillos—or perhaps through your family, as I’ve included the recipe below!


Of course, I also share my favorite cookbooks with my family—recently, my dad bought “Vij’s at Home” on my recommendation, a book that I received as a gift from my best friend! Cooking is never a solo experience—even if you’re cooking alone in your kitchen, your recipe selection or techniques have been influenced by your family, or friends, or the Food Network–or, of course, your FCS teacher! Even if you’re far from friends and family, cooking can still be a community experience—share your favorite recipes and techniques and chefs on social media and when visiting with family and friends and grow that community!

Let us know in the comments or on social media what you’ll be making for #FCSDay, and its origin! Did you find the recipe on our Pinterest board, or is it a staple in your kitchen? Is it passed down for generations, or did you pick it out of a cookbook you bought? We want to hear from you!

And remember: commit to “Dine In” on #FCSDay and you may win a prize! We’ll be giving away prizes all week leading up to December 3rd, and the day of! On the 3rd, make sure to tag your #FCSDay pictures on Facebook (public posts or on the AAFCS page), Twitter, and Instagram with #healthyfamselfie and #FCSDay to get in the running! Learn more about FCS Day at www.aafcs.org/fcsday.

Sara’s Sausage, Kale, and Bean Soup

1 medium onion, diced
4-5 cloves of garlic,  minced
3 sweet Italian sausages*
2 cups of kale, cut into ribbons.
1 can great Northern beans or cannellini beans
1 28-oz can of diced tomatoes
32 oz chicken broth (approximately–add water as necessary)
1 cup orecchiette or small shell pasta
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes (depending on your preference)

Saute the onions in a big soup pot in a tablespoon or so of olive oil. When they soften, add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until the garlic is soft.  Add the broth, beans, tomatoes, and herbs and let simmer.

Take the casings off the sausage and cook them in a separate pan, breaking them apart with a spoon.  Once they’re cooked, drain and add to the soup.

Simmer for 15 minutes after adding the sausage. Add kale and simmer for 10 minutes. If the soup seems thick, add 1 c. water or chicken broth. Once it has returned to a boil,  add pasta and cook til al dente. Serve with Italian or sourdough bread.

*You can also use hot Italian sausages–if you decide to do so, adjust the red pepper flakes accordingly.


Plans to Celebrate FCS Day in Toledo, Washington, are Underway!

By Rene’ Ketchum, AAFCS Washington Affiliate President-Elect & Family & Consumer Sciences Secondary Educator


Rachel Aszklar, Donna Graham, Rene’ Ketchum of the Washington Affiliate of AAFCS pledge to “Dine In” on December 3rd.

Family & Consumer Sciences (FCS) Day, “Dining In” for Healthy Families, in Toledo, Washington, is going to be a community event.

At a recent City Council Meeting, our amazing Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) members from the middle and high School presented our request for a proclamation to celebrate FCS Day on December 3rd.  The proclamation was received and approved!

Tomorrow, December 1st, Toledo FCCLA and our district Superintendent, are hosting a “Dining In” event at the high school.  FCCLA delivered invitations to the city council, local business owners, police and fire departments, and the senior center. Also invited are all district staff, students, and families.

Special VIP invites were sent to the governor, legislative representatives, and the FCS state supervisor and staff.

FCSfit, the newest AAFCS Signature Initiative, will be introduced by having FCCLA members learn the “Boot-Scootin’ Boogie” line dance to demonstrate the importance of health and wellness. Music is being provided by local musicians who are donating their time to this event.

Family and community will come together to visit our school, be served a free dinner, and be introduced to VIPs who support our city. We have other student groups collaborating to help us with our efforts: FFA, Skills USA, and the Toledo Honor Society. Watch for Twitter and Instagram posts!

Overcoming the Barriers to Family Mealtime

fiese-300-32_smallBy Barbara H. Fiese, PhD, Professor and Director, Family Resiliency Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Do your mealtimes feel like a pressure cooker? Running around to grab last-minute ingredients, making sure that everyone is home on time, remembering to take frozen entrées out of the freezer the night before? For many families, dining at home has become just “one more thing” they feel like they have to do and would rather avoid. How did we get here?

For many people, dining in with their family is viewed as both a blessing and a curse. Focus groups of parents of young children and adolescents have identified common barriers to sharing meals at home. Dealing with picky eating, siblings fighting at the table, getting help from a partner, coming up with new meal plans, balancing work/life stress, and budgeting are a few of the typical comments made by families today. In today’s hectic and frenetic fast-paced world, how can families be encouraged to slow down and dine at home given these barriers?

First, it might help to take a reality check. Dining-in need not be an elaborate affair. Family meals typically last about 18-20 minutes. These are not long drawn-out events that require all the world’s problems be solved in one sitting. Rather, they are brief interludes for checking in, catching up, and conversing. Indeed, it is the opportunity to share the news of the day that parents find the most rewarding aspects of sharing meals (and the part that teens often find the most embarrassing).

Second, there are health benefits to sharing meals at home. Meals served at home tend to be lower in fat, contain more vegetables, and contain fewer calories per serving than those eaten away from home. In addition, families that share meals three or more times per week tend to have children who are of healthier weight, eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, and reduce the odds of being obese or developing eating disorders. Of course, we cannot say that sharing meals at home causes these positive health benefits, but the association remains strong across multiple studies.

Third, eating together provides an opportunity to instill traditions that can be carried onto the next generation. Although my son often rolled his eyes when asked to be home for dinner as a teenager, he soon came to look forward to sharing meals as a family ritual. He is now the cook in his family and is creating his own traditions.

The Family Resiliency Center at the University of Illinois has created a series of public service announcements to help families deal with some of the common mealtime barriers, such as picky eating, and to promote healthy mealtime practices, such as cooking together as a family. These videos are publicly available through the Mealtime Minutes initiative, http://familyresiliency.illinois.edu/MealtimeMinutes.htm. Each announcement includes the statement “Don’t do it just for them—do it for you too.” Celebrate Family & Consumer Sciences Day by “Dining In” on December 3rd and perhaps a new tradition will extend throughout the year as you find new ways to benefit from this healthy practice.

Fond Memories from the Tantillo Kitchen

By Sara Tantillo, AAFCS Professional Development Manager

Tantillo Chicken Soup

Tantillo Chicken Soup

When I was a kid, I was always in the kitchen helping my mom prepare dinner—or at least asking her endless questions about it! I think she taught me to cook just so that I’d stop talking for a few minutes. Both of my parents worked until 5 or 5:30pm each night, and had a commute home, but most nights we ate together, and most weekends. Over my childhood, their jobs and commutes varied—so sometimes my dad was home first, and sometimes my mom was. Once I hit 13 or 14, I was the one home first, and would get dinner started on days when they’d be home a bit later—I’d make the pasta, or heat up the chicken soup we’d prepared and frozen, or put the potatoes on to bake. As I got older, I’d do more—or everything, when I wanted to try out the recipes from my 9th grade cooking class!

Three meals that I used to cook with my parents stick out in my mind: chicken soup, meatballs, and lasagna. While I have the “sick day” connection to Campbell’s Chicken Soup that so many of us have, nothing makes me feel better like my mom’s chicken soup, which I make giant pots of and freeze for the days when I’m just too sick to cook to this day. It’s full of barley, rice, noodles, and of course tons of chicken and vegetables, and is pretty easy—just a lot of chopping and throwing into a pot! Plus I always loved pulling apart the whole chicken after we brought it out of the pot, and sneaking a piece here and there. It’s a soup that stands up to freezing well, and is very hearty and healthy!

My dad’s family is Italian, so we have lots of passed-down recipes with measurements like “a coffee cup full of breadcrumbs.” My mom has always made my grandma’s meatballs—and shaping them to be baked was one of the things she had me doing from when I was very little. Spaghetti and meatballs and meatball subs were always a treat! My dad takes over when it comes to lasagna—and heaven forbid you interrupt him while he’s working! It’s quite a process—he refuses to use the no-boil noodles, so we end up with counters covered with carefully laid out cooked noodles on paper towels. I always loved watching as he made a batch of sauce, mixed up the ricotta, and layered everything in the pan—and LOVED the result. I’ve followed his example and make lasagna every few months—though I will admit that I cheat and use the no-boil noodles. In my defense, I live in an apartment and don’t have nearly the necessary counter space! Plus, the last time I made a batch I used ricotta and mozzarella that I’d made myself, so I think that makes up for the noodle cheat.

Cooking and eating together was always a great experience for my family—it gave us a chance to talk about our days at work and school, and to connect and learn from each other. Helping my parents from a young age taught me the fundamentals of cooking and nutrition, and about how rewarding making a meal can be–and those lessons have stuck with me to this day—whether I’m cooking on my own, hosting a “make your own pizza” party, or helping prepare holiday meals at my parents’ home. They’ll be cooking on Family & Consumer Sciences Day, December 3rd, as will I and many of my friends—I hope you’ll join us!

Tantillo Chicken Soup Recipe


5 ribs celery, chopped

3 carrots, chopped

2 onions, chopped

(1) 3-lb whole chicken

1 c. brown rice

½ c. barley

4 bay leaves

½ lb egg noodles

Fill a large pot about ¾ full of water, and put in all ingredients other than egg noodles. You may put the chicken in the pot first while you chop other ingredients.  Cook for approximately one hour, then remove chicken. Skim fat off of the surface of the soup if preferred. Let chicken cool, then pull chicken apart and return to the pot.  You may reserve one chicken breast for sandwiches or another meal if you like, or put all chicken into the soup. Once chicken has been returned to the pot, add egg noodles and cook for 20 minutes.

This soup is great with dumplings or a hearty bread, and with a bit of Romano cheese grated on top. It freezes well, though you may want to add a bit  of water or chicken broth when reheating.

Let’s Get Cooking with Kids on Food Day!

By Lilia Smelkova, Food Day Campaign Manager, Center for Science in the Public Interest

Slide-LetsGetCookingFood Day is a nationwide celebration of healthy, affordable, and sustainably produced food, and a grassroots campaign for better food policies. It builds all year long and culminates on October 24.

Food Day aims to help people Eat Real. That means cutting back on sugar drinks and overly salted packaged foods in favor of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and sustainably raised protein.

In 2013, Food Day has a special focus on activities aimed at teaching kids to cook. We’ll never be able to match the resources of America’s junk-food manufacturers that discourage cooking. But all over the country, activities are underway to ensure that kids are as familiar with vegetable peelers, cutting boards, and mixing bowls as they are with iPads, iPhones, and video games. Thousands of kids will discover a new vegetable, chop their first salad, or make their first soup on October 24.

Here are a few suggestions for how you can celebrate Food Day with your students or family:

  • Join us on Food Day to teach kids to cook around the country, at school or at home, and register your cooking class on the national map of Food Day events with the title “Let’s Get Cooking with Kids.” Check out the recipes from a new cookbook, 20 Recipes to Get Kids Cooking! 
  • Use Food Day School Curriculum for the nutrition and food education lessons in the classroom.
  • Spread the word about Food Day with this social media post:

Add your voice to support eating real! Join our October 24 #FoodDay2013 #ThunderClap on Twitter: http://thndr.it/19q8OAb_

You can also find an event in your hometown or get in touch with Food Day organizers in your area. For more information, visit www.foodday.org.