Jeanne Luminiello makes Italian Rice Pie

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Jeanne Luminiello started reading food labels when her family developed allergies.


Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Italian Rice Pie


Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

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Jeanne Luminiello makes Italian Rice Pie

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print story Published: 5/20/2009 12:01 AM | Updated: 5/20/2009 8:39 AM

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Don't call Jeanne Luminiello a purist.

She's just a stickler for buying high quality ingredients to feed her family.

"Good food makes us happy, so try to get the best you can," says Jeanne, a philosophy she hews to, within reason.

The Tower Lakes woman buys organic foods as much as possible, grows vegetables in her garden and supplements her bounty with trips to area farmers markets.

"I don't can my own tomatoes," she says, but with her half-Italian roots she has tested numerous brands of the canned variety and likes San Marzano best.

She buys hormone-free milk, avoids high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated fat and processed foods, but embraces natural fats from whole milk, butter and olive oil.

"I think fat is good in your diet, but you have to use moderation in everything," she says.

Jeanne's attitudes about food evolved throughout her life, starting at home where she watched her mother and grandmother cook and listened to their views on how to eat.

From them she learned that quality ingredients just taste better.

"Make something with good ingredients, or don't make it at all," she says.

Later in life she became conscientious about reading labels after two of her three children and her husband, Joe, developed severe food allergies.

When a couple of friends decided to go organic, Jeanne researched the benefits in "Nourishing Traditions," by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, a cookbook and textbook that, in part, challenges contemporary notions that animals fats and cholesterol are all bad.

"It got me to questioning some of the things I had learned," she says. "I didn't buy into everything, but enough to try it."

Jeanne is old-school about cooking for her family nearly every night, but she keeps most meals simple. Her penne pasta with vodka cream sauce goes together in less than half an hour, and her chicken, sausage and potato casserole takes minutes to assemble and bakes in about an hour.

For balance she usually prepares a salad and vegetable and adds some fresh bread.

If she wants to dress up the table on a leftovers night she might build a more complex salad with hard-boiled eggs, homemade croutons and grated carrots, or whip up some sour cream biscuits.

For weekday breakfasts she sometimes prepares banana bread with chocolate chips and oats, or baked oatmeal with eggs, milk and berries.

"I really want people to enjoy the food," says Jeanne, who shares several Italian-inspired recipes with us this week.

She uses bone-in, skin-on chicken for best flavor in Easy Chicken Cacciatore and Chicken and Sausage. The Italian Rice Pie is an Italian-style cheesecake made with ricotta that she learned from her mother and grandmother.

It's traditionally served at Easter, but we can start practicing now.

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