17 Benefits of the Cicadas Invasion

Olive Oil

I am sure you’re wondering what a post about the “once every 17 years Cicadas invasion” is doing on a site devoted to Italian/Mediterranean Living.  Truth is, I just finished mowing the lawn and with that about 1 million Cicada shells.  I couldn’t help but thinks of some useful benefit to all these caucuses piling up under trees and sticking to just about everything.  So since we see these critters every 17 years, here’s my top 17 benefits to their invasion.

1. Cicada shells make excellent kindling- Hey, you got an outdoor fire pit and need kindling to get the fire going?  Cicada shell in numbers can do the job.  They also add a nice crinkle to the fire.

2. Add to the compost – Not sure if this works but they gotta break down eventually.  Stick a layer in there and next year you can add the rich compost to your “once every 17 years prized tomato plants.”  Hey, looking for the Mediterranean connection here.

3. Cicada shells to control weeds – Pile a shovel full under pants in your garden or flower beds to control weeds.  Think about it, they’re free, plentiful and most likely already laying there.

4. Great intro in the Birds and Bees conversation you been putting off – Cicadas make an appearance every 17 years, why?  To mate and then die.  Could be a nice lead into that conversation you need to have with your middle school child.  Just saying!

5. They are tasty – Don’t get me wrong, I have yet and don’t plan on eating any of these critters, but have read that they taste like corn.  With all the bad news filtering around micro wave popcorn, we could be on to a alternative.

6. Dogs love them – My dog can’t seem to get enough of them.  Maybe it’s that corn popping taste.

7. Birds love them – You can save money on bird feed this spring.  Have you noticed how happy and healthy the birds seem these days.  I had a bird chase one right into the windshield of my car.  Yes, they are messy.

8. Great conversation starter – At a party with nothing new to talk about.  Just say “Cicada” and everyone will want to get into the conversation.

9. Great punishment for unruly children – I find that just the treat of having my kids clean up Cicada caucus is enough to keep them on the straight and narrow.

10. Make cicada pesto –   Found this one on the web, but think I’ll pass and stick with pine nuts in my pesto.  Cicada chef Jenna Jadin recommends trying the newly hatched cicadas, called tenerals, which are the most delicate and flavorful.

11.Great business for the struggling earplugs industry – Most active during the daytime, especially early morning, their chirps can reach the decibel levels of a jackhammer.

12. Bait for fly fisherman – Not sure if trout like Cicadas, but there is certainly plenty of free bait to find out.

13. Possible senior prank – Hey seniors you didn’t hear this one from me, OK.  I did find a comment on the net that said the following, “Seniors in my HS collected hundreds of thousands of them and released them in the halls.

14. Marvel of Nature – Scientist don’t even know what to make of this 17 year mating cycle and are fascinated by them.  Science teachers in elementary and middle schools have a class topic right outside their windows.

15. Cicada Ice Cream – Nothing says summer like a Cicada Ice Cream.  I’m serious, here’s the site: Cicada Ice Cream.

16. Good lead in to “Safe Sex” conversation – Cicadas live underground for 17 years, show up, mate and die.  Have sex and die, humm bounce that off your 16 year old.

17. Kids love them – They don’t bite, they fly, are very cool looking with those big eyes and little kids just think they are the coolest thing since fire flies.  Very non-threatening.

Hey, don’t take my word for all this useful information, check out this blog post -http://site.cleanairgardening.com/info/are-cicadas-good-for-anything.html.

Enjoy the invasion!


How to Make a Great Orzo Salad


Want to know the secret behind making a great Orzo Salad?  I bet you do.  The perfect summer party food and really easy to prepare.  It also fits in perfect with the Mediterranean Diet. The next time you are invited over the neighbors or to a family cook out, make it happen with Gracie’s Secret to a great Orzo Salad.


  • 4 cups chicken broth (Gracie’s secret step)
  • 1 pound orzo
  • 1 can (15 ounce) garbanzo beans or kidney beans
  • 1 1/2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes cut in half
  • 3/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 3/4 cup fresh mint leaves chopped (can substitute fresh basil)Vinaigrette
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • juice of two lemons


Pour the chicken broth in a large pan and bring the broth to a boil.  Stir in the orzo.  Orzo is a small pasta the shape of a grain of rice.  Gracie used it often in soup and of course in this salad.  Partially cover the pot and cook the orzo until firm or slightly al dente.  Remember to keep stirring so the orzo doesn’t stick.  Drain and transfer to a large bowl, tossing the orzo so it cools and again does not stick.

Once the orzo has cooled completely, add the beans, tomatoes, onion, mint (basil) and enough balsamic to coat the entire dish. season with salt and pepper to taste and add the juice of two lemons, mixing everything completely.

Gracie’s Balsamic Vinaigrette:

  • 2 parts Balsamic Vinegar.
  • 1 part olive oil
  • juice of a lemon
  • two cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • pinch of salt

Be sure to make enough to completely cover your salad.  Make in advance and set aside in fridge for an hour or two.

If you live in the Nyack, NY area and plan on attending the “Men’s Cooking Event” at the Nyack Center on June 9, 2013, I will be featuring this Orzo Salad at my booth.  Be sure to stop bye for a taste!

For more Healthy Italian/Mediterranean recipes like this, pick up a copy of my latest eBook:

  “The Mediterranean Diet Recipe Book – Gracie’s Guide to Healthy Meals”


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6 Foods You Need to Avoid

Gourmet food & Gift baskets


We talk a lot here about the health benefits of eating foods associated with the Mediterranean type diet, but today we will shift our focus to foods we need to avoid.  Below is my list of the top 6 and a suggested substitute.

1. Vegetable Oil – Many people believe that its is the sugar that makes baked goods unhealthy, but the truth of the matter is that vegetable oil is the real culprit.  Today’s highly refined vegetable oils are very high in Omega 6 and throw the ratio between Omega 3, the good stuff, way out of balance.  The good news is that there are many healthy oil substitutes like olive, grape seed and coconut.

2. Margarine – Look at the first ingredient on the back of a tub of margarine and it’s vegetable oil.  Why don’t we like vegetable oil?  Please see item #1.  In addition, margarine also consist of a whole lot of artificial stuff that just can’t be good for you.  If you must, stick with butter over margarine, better yet use olive oil.

3. Deli Meats – I used to own a deli and we sold every kind of deli meat and cheese imaginable.  We had a decent lunch trade and moved the stuff out fairly well.  Deli meats however are loaded with a bunch of artificial flavors and preservatives. They are also loaded with fat and the bad cholesterol.  Look for fresh turkey or chicken and if you crave meat, find a deli that makes a fresh roast beef.

4. Artificial Sweeteners – There is so much bad press in regards to artificial sweeteners that I may never drink another diet soft drink.  There has always been a concern with artificial sweeteners causing bladder cancer, but it is a know fact that these sweeteners are not digested properly by the body and form amino acids that can cause health consequences such as headaches, mental confusion, dizziness and seizures.  Drink water!

5. Table Salt – This from the Global Healing Center.  “Because salt is a natural antibiotic, it kills good bacteria in the body. As a substance that draws water, it interferes with the normal absorption of water which possibly leads to constipation and the accumulations of toxins in the intestinal tract.”  Substitute a natural salt sea salt or Himalayan salt.  Better yet, try other herbs or spices to spark up a meal and skip the salt.

6. Microwave Popcorn – I’m guilty on this one.  I enjoy popcorn and so does my son and we shared a bag almost nightly.  Problem is not the popcorn but the packaging. A report from the FDA indicates that a chemical coating used in microwave popcorn bags breaks down when heated into a substance called perfluorooctanoic (PFOA). The Environmental Protection Agency has identified PFOA as a “likely carcinogen.” Another study has found an acid that can be extracted from the chemical causes cancer in animals and is “likely to cause cancer in humans.”  Enough said, and I didn’t even touch on the second danger.  Hey, ditch the microwave stuff, buy fresh or better yet, eat nuts.

Want to find out more about healthy eating along with great recipes both you and family will love.  Download my latest eBook, “The Mediterranean Diet Recipe Book – Gracie’s Guide to Healthy Meals.”  Remember you don’t need a Kindle to enjoy Kindle books, here’s the FREE LINK from Amazon.


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Video Explains the Health Benefits of the Mediterranian Diet



While scanning the web I came across a great video describing the health benefits associated with the Mediterranean Diet.  What I like most about this video is the importance given to adding a glass or two of red wine to your daily meal.

Take a few minutes and look over the video.  Leave a comment below.  I would love to hear your thoughts.


Want to discover really cool ways to incorporate the Mediterranean Diet into you daily meal plans?  Pick up a copy of my latest eBook, “The Mediterranean Diet Recipe Book – Gracie’s Guide to Healthy Meals.”



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Why You Need to Add Quinoa To Your Diet


In my latest eBook, “The Mediterranean Diet – Gracie’s Guide to Healthy Meals,”  I shared a few recipes using Quinoa, a food source you need to add to your diet.  Quinoa is considered a super food and helps increase your energy level.  Quinoa dates back nearly 3,000 years to the Incas who first realized this grain was  a suitable food source.

Here are a few reasons to add Quinoa to your diet:

1. Protein Source – With the Mediterranean Diet you should not be eating a lot of meat, so you need to find protein from other sources.  Quinoa is a complete protein

2. High in Fiber – You would need to look real hard to find another grain that contains more fiber.  Fiber helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure, making it heart healthy.

3. Quinoa is high in Riboflavin (B2) – B2 is know to create energy production in cells and helps improve metabolism.

4. Quinoa contains high levels of Iron, Magnesium and Lysine – All three of these help with blood flow, tissue growth, energy production, healthy teeth and bones among many other attributes.

5. Quinoa has a high content of manganese. Manganese is an antioxidant, which helps to prevent damage of mitochondria during energy production. It also protects red blood cells and from injury by free radicals.

Here is a piece, which includes a recipe, from my Mediterranean Diet Recipe Book:


Grilled Vegetable and Quinoa Salad

I am new to the Quinoa thing, but quickly seeing the benefits and how it fits in perfectly with the Mediterranean Diet.  This salad is all you need for lunch or dinner.  I like grilling the Veggies outside which adds to their flavor.

I can hear Gracie “Mike, what’s this Quinoa stuff?”

 Grilled Vegetables:

 ·         1 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise

·         1 medium yellow squash, cut lengthwise

·         3 Roma or plum tomatoes, cut lengthwise

·         1/4 cup marinade for veggies (see recipe below)

·         1 Tbsp. garlic cloves, roasted (tie in foil and roast on the grill)

·         1 Tbsp. shallots, roasted (ditto)


 ·         1/4 cup olive oil

·         1/8 tsp. dried basil

·         1/8 tsp. dried oregano

·         1/8 tsp. fresh thyme

·         1/8 tsp. fresh chopped rosemary

·         1 tsp. chopped garlic


 ·         1 cup quinoa (protein rich whole grain)

·         2 cups vegetable stock

·         1 cup grilled vegetables (see above)

·         1 Tbsp. grated Parmesan

·         salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the marinade ingredients in a large bowl.  Cut the vegetables and add to the marinade and coat thoroughly.  Roast the garlic, let cool and chop coarsely.  Remove the vegetables from the marinade and grill or broil.  When cool cut into 1 inch pieces and add the garlic.

Rinse the Quinoa in cold water and combine with the stock in a pot.  Simmer over medium heat until liquid is absorbed and the grain begins to split.  Remove to a bowl and let cool.

Combine everything in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper and serve.

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Pappadella With Chicken & Mushroom Sauce – Our Contest Winner

When putting together our latest eBook, we ran a sweepstakes for recipe suggestions, here’s our winner.  

Pappadella With Chicken – Mushroom Sauce

I’m not playing any favorites here but this recipe hits on two things I enjoy using when cooking Italian.  They are Pappadella and mushrooms.  Pappadella is a wide, long cut of pasta and holds up real well with this sauce.

Thanks to Betty Fiore from Lodi, New Jersey for this great dish!

Sauce Ingredients:

 ·        4 pieces of chicken breast – boneless and skinless

·         3/4 cup olive oil

·         1 chopped onion

·         small can of tomato paste

·         3 cups of water

·         one large can of plum tomatoes

·         1 clove of garlic

·         1 tsp. chopped fresh basil

·         1 tsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley

·         1/2 lb. sliced mushrooms

·         salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet heat 1/2 cup of olive oil and brown the chicken breast.  Remove chicken from the skillet and when cooled shred.  Set aside.

Heat the remaining olive oil and add onion, and cook until yellowed.  Add tomato paste and warm water, stir until dissolved.  Add the plum tomatoes, chicken breast, garlic, basil, salt and pepper.  Raise heat and bring to a boil.

Lower flame and simmer covered for 30 to 45 minutes.  Add the sliced mushrooms and continue to simmer uncovered for 15 additional minutes.

In the meantime cook the Pappadella until al dente.  Drain and place in a serving dish.  Top with the chicken-mushroom sauce and mix.  Serve immediately.


This dish hit on all cylinders when it comes to the Mediterranean Diet.  Make it even healthier by using a whole wheat cut of Pappadella.

For more recipes like this, pick up my latest eBook –

The Mediterranean Diet – Gracie’s Guide

to Healthy Meals.”


The Mediterranean Diet Recipe Book

I am very excited and happy to announce that my latest




“The Mediterranean Diet Recipe Book – Gracie’s Guide to

Healthy Meals”



is now available at Amazon Kindle.

(Click the Cover)

Filled with over 50 healthy, easy to prepare and delicious recipes, this new eBook is more of a lifestyle choice than a recipe book.  I know you will enjoy preparing these meals and if you buy into the system will begin to feel good, see the weight slip away and really begin to enjoy your new approach to food and living

I am so excited about this new release that for 5 Days I am reducing the price from $6.49 to $2.99.  In addition my first two eBooks




7 Days of Italian Cooking – Gracie’s Guide to Everyday Meals




(Click the Cover)





Gracie’s Christmas Eve Recipe Book – Night of the 7 Fishes




(Click the Cover)

Will both be offered for FREE for the next 5 Days.

I know you will enjoy all the great recipes offered in these eBooks and for $2.99 you are getting a boatload of great cooking ideas.  I do hope and ask that if you enjoy these recipes and the stories that are told within the pages you will return to Amazon Kindle and write a favorable review.

Remember you don’t need to own a Kindle to download these eBooks.  Amazon provides a free Kindle Reading App that allows access to any device, be it a smartphone, IPad, ITouch, PC or Laptop.  Here is the link for the free app:



Promotion Begins Wednesday, May 15th and Ends on Sunday May 19th.




5 Quality Italian Wines Under $30.00


I have officially closed down www.GraciesItalianWineReview.com and will focus on putting wine reviews up here on this site.  I wanted to share with you the first post I did on the old site.  In fact since I wrote that piece I have repurchased each and every one of these wines.  The Chianti Classsico as recently as last night.  These wines are all still drinking well, but you may notice a slight increase in price since this post was first written.



I could not think of a better way to start this blog than focus on 5 great wines from Italy for under $30.00.  With so many great wines to choose from this turned our to be a bit of a challenge. I decided the easiest way to narrow down the search was to focus on the five wines that I enjoyed the most in the past 5 months.  Five wines that can be enjoyed year round, with most foods and will not break the bank in the process.  Try these and let me know what you think.  I would love to hear from you.

#1 Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva 2008 

Wine Spectator rated the Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico 2008 Riserva #31 of their top 100 wines of 2011.  A full bodied sangiovese from Tuscany and a very typical version of Chianti Classico wines, with its ruby red color and rich fruit flavors to stand up to most any meal. Alcohol by volume in the Castello di Monsanto is 14.0%, not unusual for a Chianti Classico.

Chianti Classico are very special wines for me personally, as they were a family favorite and often served on special ocassions.  A great holiday or party wine, when your hosting a big group and you don’t want to take out a loan to pay for the wine.  Wine.com currently has this wine discounted and can be picked up for under $20.00. 

Winemaker’s notes:
#31 Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2011

This Chianti Classico Riserva is ruby red tending towards garnet. The bouquet is rich, intense and complex with notes of black cherry and spice. On the palate, it is full-bodied with rich red berry fruit flavors complimenting a backbone of tannin.

Find This Wine Now!


#2 Pietradolce Archineri Etna Rosso 2009

On a recent trip to Sicily I became a big fan of Sicilian wines, especially those from the Mount Etna region.  Still finding their way in this country, Etna wines are growing in popularity however, as enthusiast discover how these wines explode with flavor, earthiness and spice.  Most do well with a few years in the bottle, but I found the ’09 Pietradolce to be very drinkable now.  James Suckling scores this wine a 95 and Wine.com has it listed for $29.99.  Buy now and save for a special Sicilian meal.

Winemaker’s notes:
Perfumes explode from the glass – cherries and caramel char, cinnamon and cranberry – once the bottle is opened. The flavors are at once lush and precise, as every sip gives you the incredible, delectable sensation of biting through the skin and flesh of the ripest summer fruit. Plums, raspberries, orange rinds blend with rose petals, pomegranate jam, even hints of red apples. Nerello captures the harmony of fine Burgundy with the stately grace of Barolo, yet given its volcanic heart, is definitely its own experience.

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#3 Elena Fucci Titolo Aglianico Del Vulture 2007

I love this wine and believe me you will too.  Not many people are familiar with Aglianico’s, but this southern Italian grape rarely disappoints.  Like most Aglianicos the 2007 Elena Fucci Titolo Del Vulture from the Basilicata region can stand the test of time with a mature date between now and 2022.

I like to let these wines age, but they are so good I rarely have the will power to do so.  Dense and full bodies they pair well with meats, heavy pasta dishes and grilled foods.  Wine.com once again offers this wine at a bargain price of $24.99.

Winemaker’s notes:
The 2007 Titolo displays totally awesome potential, inky blue/purple, the explosive nose of raspberry, cherry and blackberry fruit complicated by violets, leather, tobacco, lava rock and tar, the palate is fully dense, with sumptuous flavors, powerful velvety tannins grip the mouth, but beneath the tannins lay an exceptional wine which is long, complex and deeply concentrated, and yet it never comes across as being heavy. This is a fresh, vibrant and powerful wine with decades of glorious life ahead of it.

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#4 Zenato Valpolicella Superior Ripassa 2009

I chose the 2009 Zenato Ripassa mainly because it fits nicely within our price point, but I could have easily suggested 2003,06,07 or 08.  Zenato Superior Ripassa are just great wines from the Vento region of northern Italy.  Often called baby Amarone, the Ripassa style uses the same three grapes used in the more expensive Amarone.  Wine.com sells this Ripassa for $29.99.

One thing that always sets these wines off is the aromas they create and the anticipation one gets before taking the first sip.  My first experience with Zenato was a number of years ago on the suggestion of a friend who knew a thing or two about wine.  This sleeper of a producer has quickly become one of my favorites.

Winemaker’s notes:
The deep ruby red color of the Ripassa, and the intense yet fine aromas come from the mixture of grapes. It is full bodied, harmonic, and velvety on the palate. Recommended with grilled meat dishes, Ripassa is excellent with rabbit casserole. This blockbuster wine is one of Winebow’s all-time favorites.

alcohol by volume: 14.0%

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#5 La Spinetta Barbera d’Asti Ca Di Pian 2008

I could not do a grouping of 5 Italian Reds without including a wine from Piemonte.  The 2008 La Spinetta Barbera d’Asti Ca Di Pian  is a perfect candidate to fill that roll.

I love a wine that gives me an aroma of cherry and follows through on the palate. This Barbera does just that.  What I like most about this wine however, is that it works at any season and on any occasion.  Barbera’s are truly verstile, drink them now or put them down for a spell and they will not disappoint.

Available at a real bargain, wine.com is giving this wine away now for a sale price of $19.99. La Spinetta is also one of my favorite modern day producers out of the Piedmont region

Winemaker’s notes:
Ruby red with purple reflections. The bouquet has beautiful and complex aromas of cassis, dried cherry and Indian tea. This is a complex, vibrant, focused wine with refreshing acidity and ripe fruit. Will age well for 10 to 15 years. A great pairing for all kinds of appetizers and soft cheeses.

alcohol by volume: 14.0%

Critical acclaim:
“Black currant and bilberry fruit signals this fresh, vivid Barbera. It has light tannins, but overall shows balance and harmony. Lingering finish. Drink now through 2015.”  90 Points – Wine Spectator

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Why You Should Add Grape Seed Oil to Your Cooking

English: A bottle of Trader Joe's brand grape ...

English: A bottle of Trader Joe’s brand grape seed oil. Photo taken in the United States, with an E5200 digital camera. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



Grapes have been harvested by man since the beginning of time, yet the use of Grape Seed Oil did come about till the 20th Century.  Grape Seed Oil is a wise choice in cooking and meal preparation and many top chefs prefer it over other oils.  Here’s why: Continue reading

6 Foods You Should Be Eating With the Mediterranean Diet

Olive Oil
The health benefits associate with maintaining a Mediterranean Diet are well documented, but what key foods should you be eating? Start with the six below and you will never be far from a perfect, healthy Mediterranean meal.  Number 6 may surprise you with just how healthy a food source it is!

1. Green Leafy Vegetables:  I was never a big vegetable fan as a kid and yeah, my mom would always threatened me with “You’re not leaving this table till you eat your vegetables.”  Mom knew what she was talking about and tops on the list of favorites is spinach, broccoli, broccoli rabe (yeah, with lots of garlic) kale, cabbage and turnip greens.  Greens are the number one food you can add to your diet to improve your health. Continue reading