Our Valley Cooks Food Expo Pt. 3

Our Valley Cooks

From the moment my friend Nancy called and asked me if I wanted to volunteer for the Our Valley Cooks food expo I knew I was in for a treat. Like I said yesterday, I didn’t know my real role or function until days before the event and I was fine not knowing any details at the time but later was a different story. When I arrived, I checked in and was given a white t-shirt and burnt orange apron. I changed and was ready to go. I finally got to meet Laura Boomhower, who was my main contact via email for the event, and who happens to be the sister of Larry Moliterno, the CEO of  Meridian Community Care. Our Valley Cooks is absolutely a family affair. Additionally I met Larry’s wife, Kathleen, Laura’s daughter, Lindsay, Larry’s brother and a lot of other terrific people. Ellie, who works at Meridian, was coordinating with Kathleen all the staging and who was going on next, that kind of thing. Ellie was the person who said to me  “Oh are you the blogger we heard about?” . She totally made my day. I felt like a part of  this likable and generous group immediately. I hope they don’t mind if I join in their fun next year.

As soon as I met Laura she practically shoved a meatball in my face! Really! Danny Catullo from Catullo Prime Meats, yes another Italian, along with his son cooked them in a food demo and the leftovers were brought back into the volunteer area for us to eat. So I ate one. Oh. My. Gosh. They were simply stupendous! Their taste was enjoyable to my hungry palate. I knew I had to visit their booth when I had the time. I found out that Phil beat me to it and told me all about their choice beef jerky and well-seasoned beef sticks. I told him about the delectable meatballs. The most surprising part about the meatballs is they are made with turkey, not beef! I was amazed because I could not detect the difference myself. Catullo Prime Meats is a local eastern Ohio butcher shop and more which offers a variety of products. I’m considering taking a drive to pick up a large order soon. They also have a catchy title for their blog, Straight From The Block, where you can find recipes, videos and other fun stories.

Danny was kind enough to give me the recipe for the turkey meatballs.

Turkey, Asiago and Spinach Meatballs

1 pound Ground Turkey
8 oz Asiago cheese, grated
8 oz Spinach, (I’m guessing cooked until wilted, he didn’t specify)
4 oz Bread crumbs
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper
1 tsp Granulated Garlic (I think 1-2 cloves crushed would work)

Combine everything in a large bowl, and mix together with hands. Roll to whatever size ball you wish.  Place on cooking tray and bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes. These were served with diced tomatoes on top but I had one of them just plain. They are very tasty.

After I had my lunch I finally was put to work helping with the pizza competition. Ohio state Senators Joe Shiavoni and Capri Cafaro competed against one another by baking a different type of pizza, then the audience got to sample the pizzas and vote on the winning one. The sponsoring pizzeria was Belleria Pizzeria .

Belleria Pizzeria, pizza, Italian foodThey were going to put the winning pizza on their menu and donate the proceeds to Meridian Community Care. Well it turned out to be a tie, surprise, and both pizzas are on their menu with all proceeds going to Meridian. Joe’s pizza featured sausage, spinach and hot peppers while Capri’s pizza had olive oil instead of marinara sauce along with chicken and mushrooms.  Bill and his wife Mary Jane from the Boardman location of Belleria Pizzeria are undoubtedly generous people as well as all their staff who came to help with the pizzas.This was Bill’s first time at the food expo and he learned as much as I did. We talked a bit about how these things worked. I’m pretty sure he is Italian too. Belleria has a full service restaurant with a wide variety of menu choices besides their fantastic pizzas. I also encouraged him to add Pizza Margherita to the  menu because I don’t believe people in the Ohio area know what it is or how delicious it tastes.

My job was very simple: plate up 16 1/2 sheet pizzas with Nancy and another helper then get them to the helpers to pass out to the audience. Getting from the backstage area to the audience was tricky and involved a few sets of steps. I was sure I was going to drop a tray of pizza slices at any time.  We set up our trays on the table located to the left of where  Bill was helping Joe and Capri make their demo pizzas. Things started getting busy and we had to separate the areas of plating and I was sent to center stage to work on a counter with another person. Of course my backside was to the audience! Then out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the close-up cameraman was filming us and we were being projected to the big screens for the audience to see better. Talk about nerve-wracking. I really enjoyed myself doing my job but I don’t have any pictures since Phil didn’t realize I was onstage and was elsewhere. I would have gladly done much more but there were plenty of volunteers at that point in the day.

I would love to be part of the planning committee for next year’s food expo if they will have me. I learned valuable information, networked with the nicest people and learned about an outstanding community organization which is worth the time and effort I can give for this event. I hope I remembered all the names correctly of those I met and talked with. And I hope you all enjoyed reading about my fun and exciting day.

Finally I need to thank my most stupendous and supportive husband, Phil, who drove the 3 hour round-trip drive to Boardman, Ohio.

He walked and waited patiently for me all day long when he could have been elsewhere doing other things more interesting. I know he had a great time as well because of all the food samples but our day began at 10 AM when we dropped the boys off with their guy group to hike and ended at 9:30 PM when we finally pulled in the driveway after dinner. I love that man!