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Welcome To My Blog!

Hi, and thanks for stopping by. My name is Nancy Caivano, and this is my tale of how I had my dream job, lost it because of illness and how I have survived being disabled at 29.

Well. I finally did it. I started a blog.

Sorry, this first post is a little long. I’m getting the basics in, will expand on them in future posts.

Hi, and thanks for stopping by. My name is Nancy Caivano, and this is my tale of how I had my dream job, lost it because of illness and how I have survived being disabled at 29.

I’m 48 now, and it’s been a long 19 years. I’d been a sick kid most of my life, I had asthma before everyone had asthma. There were no rescue inhalers until I was in HS. I never let it stop me from doing what I wanted, and had a full, fun life. I bounced around in offices, doing various secretarial work, until I finally decided to go to cooking school. My dad had passed when I was 18, so Mom and I went and got some financial aid so I could go. I went to NY Restaurant School, which was an amazing place. They had classes literally around the clock, so you could work full time and still go. My asthma was pretty well controlled around this time, so I took the weekend classes, which were from 8 to 6, worked a full time office job, and then worked weekends after school at a bowling alley snack bar. Exhausting and fulfilling.

I worked my first real job at Mulino’s of Westchester while I was still going to school. They were really great to me there, I got to see and experience all the hard work that went into being a cook. It’s not all flaming pans and beautiful dishes, it’s hours of prepping, packing, washing and sweeping. It could get tedious at times, but it was a great education for me. Then I got what I thought would be my dream job. I got a job on the line at Tavern on the Green. In the PASTA station no less! For an Italian-American girl from the Bronx, this was IT!

I started working there in 1992. I loved it. I loved the long hours, the aching feet, the burned hands, the shouting and the awful heat. I just knew I was in the right place. I made some great friends. I was literally on the cusp of moving out into my own place, when we had a kosher party. Because we weren’t a kosher restaurant, they had to cover the surfaces with plastic wrap, and clean the ovens. Whatever cleaner they used, sent me into a severe asthma attack, and I had to go to the hospital, where I stayed for a few days. I figured it to be a one time thing, but I kept having attacks that would force me off the line. I had to leave in an ambulance countless times, and sometimes, I went back and finished my shift. Eventually, my body couldn’t take it any longer, and I went on disability. Goodbye dream job!! I was always somewhat overweight, but after being put on daily prednisone, I became enormous. So I had to start a roller coaster weight loss journey. More on that another time.

So what next? As my younger brother liked to say, I became a professional Aunt. I helped raise 3 nephews and a niece at various times, and everyone seemed to call me Aunt Nancy, or Aunt Nance.  It was so hard to be away from food. I still dream that I’m at work on the line and wake up very disappointed.

I do have happiness. My mom and brother, my rocks; my niece and nephews; my best friend, who happens to be my cousin, and her 2 friends that became mine, my Bracioles. (I’ll explain that in another post.) Food TV and magazines sustain me and when I’m feeling well, I cook in my kitchen. In the last 5 years I’ve had 6 surgeries for various things, plus had both knees replaced in 2013. There are times I sound like the Tin Man before Dorothy found the oil can.

I’m hoping that this blog will be informative and fun, heartbreaking and silly. I’ll be posting lots of recipes, crazy family stories, and a lot of venting. I promise not to let it turn into whining.

Please let me know if you like it or if you don’t. What I need to do or stop doing. I’d love to hear from you!!

Mom and I on her birthday a couple years ago. Aren’t we happy?

Easter and the Art of Traditional-ish Cooking

I am sort of surprised to find myself at Easter time already. It feels like time is simultaneously flying and crawling. Weird, I know. It’s like Easter was just suddenly HERE. I guess I missed Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and the first day of spring. I must not have been paying attention. Weird.

Easter is an easy holiday. There isn’t gift giving (Well, except for Max, my youngest nephew. He still rates an Easter basket) or decorating really, it’s just the dinner. We’re going to be only 11 this year, as my cousin and her family will be with her husband’s family for the first big holiday after he lost his mom. My oldest nephew Nick, will be splitting his Easter between his fiancee’s family and his other Aunts family, as it is the first big holiday after losing his mom, my beloved sister in law Kelly, in February. It was an especially tough loss, stupid, evil cancer, and we are all feeling it. I’d known her since I was 8 years old, and she became my counselor at summer camp. Nick and his Aunt, Kelly’s sister Traci and her fiancee are making a special trip to see me and Mom on Saturday. We’re going to go out and try and laugh our pain away with silly stories and good natured teasing.

I usually make Roasted Pork Loin for Easter, as my mother is a lamb-o-phobe. This year, with us being a smaller number, and having purchased a pork loin, big enough to feed the NY Yankees starting lineup, I decided to go Glazed Ham and Chicken. A bit of a departure but still traditional-ish.  There are 3 very traditional, (at least in my Italian-American family), things that we make every Easter. The Torta Pasqualina (or Easter pie, or sausage pie), the Easter bread (sort of a cross between brioche and soda bread) and the Easter cookies (called Taralle in Italian). I decided to skip the bread this year. I don’t make a pasta course any more. I know, I know, the heavens will open and the patron saint of Italian food will strike me with lightning and biscotti, but we just don’t need it. Seriously. It’s not the kind of bread you would eat with your meal, it’s more on the sweet side, so you would have it after dinner or, even better, for breakfast, toasted with butter, so we really don’t need it. It will still be traditional-ish, so it counts.

I am going to give you the benefit of my vast experience in cooking for family and friends. The biggest thing, tip, suggestion, that I can urge you to do is…….

DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF!!!

Did your gravy turn out lumpy? Did you Easter Recipesover bake the rolls….again? Forget to vacuum?Toilet overflow? You know what? Too bad. You tried. Your guests are here to see YOU and celebrate your holiday. So what if it isn’t perfect? It took me a LONG time to get here, but I’m solidly here. I am alive, I am home and I am happy to be here. All of my experiences have taught me to really not sweat it. Do your best and RELAX, which will make all of your guests relax, which is the most important thing of all. Everyone being relaxed, having fun, telling stories and enjoying each other’s company. That is the important thing. I spent one Easter in the hospital about 8 years ago, which sucked and about 2 years ago we had chinese food because my oven died. We still laugh about that one. These things cemented my belief in not sweating the small stuff.

That being said…..if there is any help I can give you cooking-wise, please don’t hesitate to ask!

Here is what we are having. I think my menu is a good mix of traditional and un-traditional foods:

  • Torta Pasqualina
  • Spinach Artichoke Dip
  • Veggies and Chips
  • Glazed Ham
  • Chicken with Spring Vegetables
  • Roasted Potatoes
  • Mashed Sweet Potatoes
  • Sauteed Peas, Onions and Mushrooms
  • Another veggie I haven’t on decided yet
  • Dinner Rolls
  • My Easter cookies and assorted other desserts that family brings

I will supply pictures and recipes after I cook. I’m either going to add a link to the recipes or do a supplemental post because I couldn’t figure out how to do it. Lame, but true.

My nephew Max is the youngest, and the last one I got to do arts and crafts with. The pics here and on the main page are some of our past Easter projects. So much fun! He does the Easter eggs every year and brings them proudly. He’s turning into a pretty good cook, between his father and I. I’m working on getting him hooked on Food TV as well. He loves “The Pioneer Woman”, “Unwrapped”, “Food: Fact or Fiction” and anything Guy Fieri does. It’s a start.

Let me finish this by saying that Easter isn’t just eggs and cookies and glazed ham. It’s the celebration of one of the holiest days of my Catholic faith. It’s a time of renewal and I think, of happiness. Especially since I know spring planting isn’t far away! Yay!

Enjoy your holiday, whatever it may be. And don’t sweat the small stuff!!!

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Max’s silly eggs….and my coffee cup!

Easter Recipes (This has the Easter pie, bread and cookies. The rest will be coming, I promise!!)