Friday, December 19, 2014

"Struffoli" & “Italian White Wedding Cookies” For Your Holiday Table

             "Winter is the time for comfort - it is the time for home." - Edith Sitwell

Advent is almost over and we have less than a week before Christmas Day. Are you all ready with your gifts, menu, and your desserts? Don’t panic, I still have lots to do as well, so you are not alone. One of my favorite things about this time of year is holiday baking and making wonderful homemade gifts. The aromas of the house surrounding each and every room. The sweet smell of cinnamon, raisins, nuts, brown sugar, and gingerbread. The oven in the kitchen going non-stop, plus seeing the flour, sugar, and the cookie cutters bring back so many memories of my family baking together for Christmas.

I love and enjoy cooking but baking is my favorite. I guess in my Italian family, I must have inherited the “baking gene.” I have learned so much from watching my mother and grandmothers when I was growing up. We had this wooden board, which was my great-grandmother’s. When the board was placed on the table, I felt like I was transported back in time, and I could see my great-grandmother Sofia rolling out the dough on her board. I have since inherited “the board” which I use to create my own traditions. I never had the pleasure of meeting her, she died when I was too little to remember, but I know that my sweet great-grandmother is right next to me and watching.
Great -Grandmother Sofia

"Struffoli," is one of the most popular Italian sweets found on a dessert table for Christmas Eve. I remember the towers of Struffoli in my Mother’s kitchen! I can just see my mom, my grandmother Julia, and my aunt Sophie making these sweet honey balls in the kitchen in our house in Flushing, NY. I am so grateful that I was there to learn and help make these fried goodies. These are reminiscent of mini éclair puffs drenched in honey! I hope that you try this recipe and make your own memories of this very sweet and traditional dessert.

"Struffoli"

Ingredients:
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour (plus a little extra to work with)
3 Eggs
1/4 tsp of salt
2 cups of vegetable oil
2 cups of honey
1/2 cup of sugar


Directions:
Place the flour in a large mixing bowl add the eggs and salt. Mix well then put on floured board and knead until smooth. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Roll the dough into 1/2 inch strips, and then cut the strips into tiny pieces 1/2 inch long. Shape these tiny pieces into balls by rolling them in your hand. Heat oil to 350°F. Drop the balls into the oil carefully a few at a time. Cook until lightly golden, turning them constantly with a wooden spoon, or a spider wand. Remove balls and drain them on a paper towel or use a clean brown paper bag.

Combine the honey and sugar in a saucepan and boil the mixture over low heat about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Now, add fried balls, 1 cup at a time, and coat in the honey syrup, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Remove the balls with a spider or slotted spoon and place on a flat plate to cool. Now you can shape you coated Struffoli into a tree or piled up high like a mountain. (A trick if you want to mold the coated honey balls into a wreath or tree shape, wet your hand slightly and that will help you mold the Struffoli easier. Your hands will not stick to the honey.) Then add confetti or sprinkles. They keep up to 2 weeks, if they last that long…

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I have a second cookie to share today which is one that everyone loves to eat. This little, round, sweet, cookie is called by many different names, but in my family we call them “Italian White Wedding Cookies.” These are extremely simple and don’t take long to create. I hope that you enjoy these cookies with your family!


“Italian White Wedding Cookies”

Ingredients:
1 cup of unsalted COLD butter (2 sticks)
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of Vanilla extract
2 cups of all purpose unbleached flour; plus more for dusting hands
1 cup of chopped pecans or walnuts
Powdered sugar to coat balls 


Directions:
Preheat oven to 300°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar at low speed until it is smooth. Beat in the vanilla. At low speed gradually add the flour. Mix in the nuts with a spatula. With floured hands, take about 1 tablespoon of dough and shape into a ball. Continue to dust hands with flour as you make more cookies. Place onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 20-30 minutes. When cool enough to handle but still warm, roll in confectioners sugar. Cool on wire racks.  Yield: depending on the size of the balls you make. This recipe makes about 2 dozen.  Enjoy!   

Till Next Time………………………………............

Copyright © 2014 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

“Gingerbread Men Cookies” For Christmas & “Coconut Macaroons” For Chanukah

 

“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty founder was a child Himself.” by Charles Dickens 


My mom and myself
At this time of the year, the aromas that float throughout the house are so delightful. Especially when the kitchen is filled with cookies and baked goodies. It is a whimsical scent that reminds me of my childhood. As I reminisce back to when I was a young girl, I can remember my mom’s kitchen all prepared and ready to bake. I think of the sweet molasses, cinnamon, and all the ingredients we would need to bake, our cookies and cakes. My mom had an aluminum pan that was in the shape of a gingerbread man, and we would bake a gingerbread cake in it every year. Then after the cake was cooled she would take out the tubes of icing and we would begin to decorate the gingerbread man. I remember putting the eyes and mouth on with white icing and making a bow tie with the red icing. We always used raisins for the buttons and made sure that we made cuffs for the shoes and hands. Then as I grew up we would make gingerbread men with cookie cutters. We still used the icing in the tubes and would proceed to decorate them as well. I still can see the cheerful faces on the gingerbread cookies that we made in years past as well as my mom‘s face when she would watch me put the smile on the my gingerbread cookie.
 
Gingerbread dates back to the 15th century, and biscuit making was practiced in the 16th centuries. The first documented instance of figure-shaped gingerbread biscuits appearing was in the court of Elizabeth I of England. She had gingerbread figures made and presented them in the likeness of some of her important guests. Recently in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, they had a potential record-setting gingerbread man put on display. It was unveiled the world’s largest gingerbread man. It stood 26 feet and 2 inches tall, although its weight is unknown. 


My recipe is “Gingerbread Men Cookies,” if you didn’t guess already. I have been making this recipe for many years and it was found on the Domino Sugar box. So, I hope that you can create your own memories in making these wonderful, fragrant, and fun Gingerbread Men cookies. 



Gingerbread Men Cookies


Ingredients:
3/4 cup firmly packed Light or Dark Brown Sugar
1/2 cup un-salted butter, softened
2-eggs
1/4 cup-molasses
3 1/4 cups-all purpose flour
2 teaspoons-ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons-baking soda
1/2 teaspoon-each; allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, & salt
Sugar icing (Recipe Below) 

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease cookie sheets. Beat sugar and butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs and molasses. Stir together remaining ingredients in medium bowl. Gradually add to sugar mixture until well blended. Refrigerate dough 1 hour or until easy to handle. On well-floured surface, roll out half of dough at a time to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes. Place on prepared cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes. Cool on rack. Decorate with sugar icing as desired.



Yield: about 24 (5 inch) cookies.

Sugar Icing:
Combine 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, and food coloring if desired.

Quick Tip:
To make Cookie Ornaments, bake cookies as directed. Just after the cookies are baked, use a small straw to create a hole at the top of the cookie. Leave 1/2 inch space from the top of the cookie. It is important to cut out holes while the cookies are still warm. Decorate as desired. Once dry, thread a thin ribbon through the hole to hang as an ornament.

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I would like to wish a “Happy Chanukah” to all of my Jewish readers and friends. Tomorrow is the first day of Chanukah. During this Jewish holiday many families invite friends and relatives over to light the Menorah, sing songs, play games with a Dreidel (like a top), exchange gifts, and share traditional food. 

“Chanukah” or the “Festival of Lights” is celebrated for eight days around the end of December. The name came from a Hebrew word which means “to dedicate.” During Chanukah, the Jewish people honor the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem and the “Miracle of The Oil.” The Talmud, which is a book of the Jewish faith, says that after the Temple had been won over, only a day’s worth of consecrated olive oil was left to fuel the eternal flame. Miraculously, it remained burning for eight days, which was just enough time to make more of the oil.

Because of the role that the oil played in the Chanukah miracle, it is customary to serve foods fried in oil. Some traditional Chanukah foods are Latkes, fried potato pancakes, and different varieties of deep-fried donuts. It is also customary to eat dairy foods on Chanukah, in commemoration of the bravery of Yehudit, who used cheese to defeat the Greek general Holofernes.



To share in this tradition, I have a recipe called “Coconut Macaroons.” A macaroon is a type of light, baked confection, described as either small cakes or meringue-like cookies depending on their consistency.  The original macaroon was a sweet cake consisting largely of ground almonds similar to the Italian Amaretti cookie. These cookies are scrumptious!

“Coconut Macaroons”

Ingredients:
14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon good pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Chocolate to drizzle on top (optional)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 325 °F. Combine the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until they make medium-firm peaks. Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture. Drop the batter onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper using either a 1 3/4 inch diameter ice cream scoop, or two teaspoons. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool and serve. If you choose you can also drizzle some chocolate over the top of the Macaroons. (Optional)  Yield: 20-22 cookies.

Recipe is courtesy of Ina Garten’s “Barefoot Contessa Family Style”

****FYI: This post is part of Patience Brewster’s online holiday cookie exchange. She is an artist of handmade gifts and holiday ornaments! Please check out her site and share your cookie recipes with us.

                                                           
Till Next Time……..

Copyright © 2014 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Friday, December 12, 2014

"Sicilian Rice Balls" To Celebrate The Feast Of St.Lucy

In many Catholic Italian families, tradition tells us that this Saturday, December 13th is the Feast of Saint Lucy. (Santa Lucia) Saint Lucy was born in the year 283 of nobility and wealth in Syracuse, (Sicily) Italy. She was a young girl who vowed to live a chaste life because of her love and devotion to Christ. Her mother arranged a marriage for her to a pagan suitor. Lucy’s suitor, had other plans, and revealed Lucy as a Christian. The authorities went to arrest her and planned on forcing her into prostitution. Because she did not surrender she was further tortured by having her eyes torn out. As the authorities tried burning her by fire, the flames would just diminish, and was killed by being stabbed in the throat with a dagger in the year 304. The legend concludes that God restored her eyes. 


Cuccia
St. Lucy is the patron saint of those with eye problems and blindness, plus is often depicted carrying her eyes (often on a plate). Her name, “Lucia,” means “Light,” and light plays a role in the customs of her feast day. In Italy, torchlight processions and bonfires mark her day. This tradition came about because in 1582 during a famine in Syracuse, Italy, the people prayed to St. Lucy to send them a ship that was filled with grain. Many Sicilians pay tribute to this miracle performed by St. Lucy and in her honor they do not eat anything made with wheat flour, which means giving up pasta and bread. Instead, they eat this popular dish called Cuccia which is made with boiled whole wheat berries, ricotta, sugar, nuts or raisins. In Venice, the people celebrate the feast by enjoying fried cheese. Some Italians eat small cakes or Biscotti shaped like eyes. In Lombardy and Veneto, another tradition is that a goose is eaten on this day. 

The Swedish have special traditions for the feast of St. Lucy as well.  The oldest daughter of a family will wake up before dawn on St. Lucy’s Day and dress in a white gown for purity, often with a red sash as a sign of St. Lucy’s death. On her head, she wears a crown of evergreens with four to nine candles that are lit. She is often accompanied by “star children,” her small brothers or sisters are dressed in white with cone-shaped hats that are decorated with gold stars, and carrying star-tipped wands. “St Lucy” and her “star children” will wake up the rest of her family. She then serves them coffee, and a traditional pastry called Lussekatter. (saffron buns or as they are sometimes called Lucy Cats, made in the “S” shape, like a cat with raisins or currants that are made to look like eyes) 

Lussekatter
When I was a young girl, I do not remember really celebrating the traditions of St. Lucy. I do know that my parents told us that St. Lucy was the patron saint of the eyes and to say a prayer to her for our good fortune to have eyesight.  My grandmother Nanni, (my father’s mother) was from Sicily and she would stay true to the traditions of not eating any bread or pasta on that day. She would make these tasteful little balls made of rice called "Arancini di Siciliani" or Rice Balls. My Nanni never wrote any of her recipes down, and that is sad for me, but she would always add a little of this or that. I do remember eating her Arancini and they were heavenly. One of my favorite Italian cooks is Mary Ann Esposito, of “Ciao Italia.” Her recipe is the closest to my Nanni’s recipe that I can find. So I hope that you try this mouthwatering dish and enjoy on St. Lucy’s Day. 

"Sicilian Rice Balls"


Ingredients:
One cup of Arborio rice
3 Large eggs
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup of diced mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup diced Prosciutto (about 2 oz.)
3 tablespoons of finely minced fresh parsley
2 cups of fresh bread crumbs
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1/4 cup of homemade tomato sauce
Peanut or vegetable oil for deep frying


Directions:
In a saucepan, bring 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil. Add the rice and cook for 15 minutes. The rice should be quite firm. Drain and transfer to a bowl.

Lightly beat one of the eggs and add to the rice, along with the grated cheese, parsley, and salt and pepper. Mix well. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in another bowl, mix the mozzarella cheese and the Prosciutto.


With floured hands, divide the mixture into 8 to 10 portions and roll each portion into a ball the size of a small orange. Poke a hole into the center of each ball with your finger and inset about 1 tablespoon of the mozzarella mixture. Reshape and smooth the balls to enclose the filling.

In a shallow dish beat the remaining 2 eggs. Spread the bread crumbs and the flour on separate plates. Dip the rice balls in the flour, egg, and the breadcrumbs to coat them evenly. Then refrigerate them for about 30 minutes.   

In a deep fryer or a deep heavy pan, heat the oil to 375 °F. Fry the rice balls until they are golden brown on all sides. Drain them on brown paper or paper towels and serve immediately, with fresh tomato sauce. As you eat them, you can see the mozzarella strings stretch out like telephone wires. So delicious and yummy.

Till Next Time…………..

Copyright © 2014 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A “Cream Puff" Recipe As We Celebrate “National Pastry Day”


Welcome….The Italian people are very serious about celebrating any type of family gathering. But what is even more serious to them is indulging in delicious foods which are prepared for these occasions. Foods that were passed down from generation to generation, are simple recipes made with the freshest ingredients, and you can feel the love that went into every special dish. So, come with me around my family table as I share with you one of my families recipes for the holidays! 


Today just happens to be “National Pastry Day!” This day was created as a fun day to encourage you to make and eat your favorite pastries. Make savory pastries or sweet either one is delicious. It is possible this holiday may have been created by the greeting card industry because I found reference to it on greeting card sites as I was doing my research. This holiday is still referred to as a "National,” day as all food and drink holidays are. Pastries are popular all throughout the year, especially during the holiday season. Did you know that "Pastries go back to the ancient Mediterranean paper-thin multi-layered baklava and filo?"

The definition of “Pastry” per Wikipedia says that, "Pastry is the name given to various kinds of baked goods made from ingredients such as flour, butter, shortening, baking powder, and eggs. Common pastry dishes include pies, tarts, quiches, doughnuts, cream puffs, etc. Pastry is distinguished from bread by having a higher fat content, which contributes to a flaky or crumbly texture. A good pastry is light and airy but firm enough to support the weight of a filling. Over mixing results in a tough pastry.


Choux pastry, or pâte à choux is a light pastry dough used to make profiteroles, (cream puffs) éclairs, French crullers, beignets and many more luscious desserts. This dough only contains butter, water, flour, and eggs. Choux pastry is usually baked but for beignets it is fried. They are sometimes filled with cream or dusted with powdered sugar and used to make cream puffs or éclairs.


My recipe this week is a simply light and heavenly pastry called “Cream Puffs.” What a way to celebrate “National Pastry Day” than by eating one of these luscious cream filled pastries, especially drizzled with chocolate. They will look beautiful on your holiday table.

“Cream Puffs”

Ingredients:
1 cup of water
1/2 cup unsalted butter (no substitutes)
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
4 eggs
1 teaspoon of sugar
3 cups whipped cream (homemade is the best)
Melted Chocolate or powdered sugar

Directions:
Place butter in a medium saucepan. Add water and salt. Bring to boiling, stirring till butter melts. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook and stir till mixture forms a ball that doesn’t separate. Remove from heat; cool 10 minutes. Once cooled add eggs, one at a time, to flour mixture, beating with a wooden spoon after each addition for about 1 minute, or till smooth. Scoop up some dough with a tablespoon. Use another spoon to push off the dough in a mound onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Leave 3 inches between the puffs for expansion. Bake in a pre-heated 400° F. oven for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove puffs from pan, and cool on a rack. Slice off the tops (or cut in half). With a fork, gently scrape out any soft, moist dough if there is any. Work carefully so that you don’t puncture the crust. After they are cooled, fill with the homemade whip cream. You can drizzle melted chocolate on top of the cream puffs, if you choose or sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Yield: about 15 or more servings, depending how big you make them.


Till Next Time………………..

Copyright © 2014 “Family Plus Food Equals Love”  All Rights Reserved

Friday, December 5, 2014

“Escarole Soup” Recipe For Advent & The Feast Of Saint Nicholas


As I began to write this post, my eyes glanced at the calendar, and as I looked closer, I see that it is December 6th on Saturday! As I get older, I learn that each year, the days, and months get shorter. With that being said, the beginning of December means that Advent is upon us. Advent is a countdown to Christmas. It seems to be a magical time as I start to decorate my house for this joyous season. Every day another room gets transformed into what my family calls “Dottie’s Christmas Village.” I have many candles and lots of beautiful angels plus you cannot forget the tree, with jolly old St. Nick under its branches. My Nativity takes a special place on my mantle surrounded by golden angels and branches of pines trees that fills the room with the scent of outdoors.

My Tree
As I unpack all of the decorations and ornaments for the tree, I seem to travel back in time. I am reminded of all my treasured keepsakes and who gave them to me throughout the years. One of the first items I always take out first is my Advent calendar, and place it in a spot that all could see. During the Advent season, Christians all over the world start to prepare for the birth of Jesus. In celebration of His birth, there are many preparations, such as decorating your house, your tree, wrapping gifts, cards to write, meals to plan cook and plan, plus baking cookies, gingerbread houses, and lastly who will be attending Midnight Mass.


Advent is a tradition in my home, when my son was young. My grandmother (Nanni) started giving him an advent calendar every year, so he could understand how many days were left till Christmas Day. Every day my son looked forward to opening another door and see what was behind it. Sometimes a short poem, a Christmas word, a chocolate kiss, or something that pertained to the birth of Jesus. After my Nanni passed on, I continued the tradition for my son as well as my nieces and nephews.


Vintage Advent Calendar
Advent wreaths are different, they have a liturgical meaning. They are usually an evergreen wreath with four candles and often, a fifth, white candle in the center. Beginning with the First Sunday of Advent, the lighting of a candle can be accompanied by a Bible reading, devotional time, and prayers. An additional candle is lit during each week until, by the last Sunday before Christmas, all four candles are lit. Many Advent wreaths include a fifth, Christ candle which is lit at Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The custom is observed both in family settings and at public church services. The circle of the wreath means, God’s eternity, no beginning or end. The green of the wreath means the hope that we have in God. The candles symbolize the light of God coming into the world through His birth. (Peace, Love, Hope, and Joy)


Advent Wreath
The beginning of December is not only for Advent but also on December 6th, tomorrow we celebrate the feast of Saint Nicholas! Whether you call him, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, Santa Claus, St. Nick, or any other names that are used for him, Santa is still the hero of millions of children in the whole world. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving. Legend states that one of the old Christian traditions surrounding St. Nicholas’ feast day is for kids to leave their shoes out overnight in front of the fireplace, on the windowsill, or outside their bedroom door so that St. Nicholas can fill their shoes with special fruits, candies, and other small gifts and treats. 
Saint Nicholas

Another cute part of this tradition is for children to leave carrots or hay in their shoes for St. Nicholas’ donkey to eat. St. Nicholas takes the hay and carrots for his donkey and replaces them with small gifts and treats for the children. That is how he became the model for our modern day Santa Claus, which also comes from the Dutch name called Sinterklaas. St. Nicholas (San Nicola) is the patron saint of Bari, in Italy, where his relics are buried in the Basilica di San Nicola (Basilica of St. Nicholas). Therefore, I hope that your shoes have many goodies from St. Nicholas!

Filled Shoes with Goodies
My recipe this week is “Escarole Soup.” This recipe is a traditional dish that my mom made to celebrate Saint Nicholas Day, on December 6th. Its origin is Italian and you can add white kidney beans and/or Tortellini to the soup. I also posted this recipe on “Cooking With Nonna.” If you log on to “Cooking With Nonna,” Rossella Rago who hosts the site has this recipe listed under Soups and shares my recipe with all of her readers and followers. Thank you Rossella.. (click on “Cooking With Nonna” it will bring you to the recipe)

“Escarole Soup

Ingredients:


"Escarole Soup"
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pound of escarole, chopped and washed
A pinch of salt
4 cups low-salt chicken broth
Freshly ground pepper
Grated Pecorino-Romano cheese

Directions:


Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add the escarole and sauté until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add a pinch of salt. Add the chicken broth, cover and simmer about 5 minutes. You can add a can of white kidney beans (washed and rinsed to get the salt off) plus/or cooked Tortellini. Serve with crusty Italian bread and top with grated Pecorino-Romano cheese.

Till Next Time……

Copyright © 2014 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

“Lemon Ginger Cut Out Cookies" For "National Cookie Cutter Week"

Welcome, I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend filled with family, friends, food, and fun.  Now that Thanksgiving is behind us for another year, it is time for to prepare for my favorite time of the year, which is Christmas! Have you decorated and put up your glowing tree yet? Were you one of the many people that went Christmas shopping on Black Friday? Did you get all of your gifts on your list? Have you even thought of what to serve for Christmas Eve or Christmas day dinner for your family? I know, here we are and it is December 1st already and it is overwhelming. So many things to do, places to go and not enough time to really enjoy the season. Well, I have one solution for you!

It is time to bring out the cookie cutters! December 1-7th is "National Cookie Cutter Week," just in time for your holiday baking. This may be one thing that you can cross off your “Holiday To Do List.” Do you know what other day is celebrated on December 4th? It is National Cookie Day. So what better way to honor one of the most loved desserts in the world? By making cookies with cookie cutters. “National Cookie Cutter Week” was started in the mid 1990’s by Paula Mullins from KY. She designed a cutter for each year for the “Cookie Cutter Collector’s Club.” Lyn Linder took over in 2007 when Mullins decided she no longer wanted to be involved. What a delightful way to bring in the holiday season!


The holiday season means lots of goodies, especially cookies. In the next few weeks many people will be searching their kitchens, pantry, and drawers for the cookie cutters, which may have been passed down through their family generations. Cookie cutters come in many shapes and sizes. At this time of the year, you see Christmas Trees, Santa, Snowmen, Bells, Stars, Snowflakes, and Gingerbread people to name just a few. Choose simply shaped cookie cutters that are open in the back. If you have cookie cutters that are closed in the back, it is more difficult to work with as the dough warms up, they stick sometimes. Before you make your shape the dough with your cookie cutter, dip the cutter in a small amount of flour. This prevents the cookie cutter from sticking on the dough. Any dough that you use cookie cutters with should be chilled before baking. Cookies can be classified into 3 categories. Dropped cookies, rolled, and pressed cookies. They can have nuts, cranberries, raisins, chocolate chips, and be decorated with sugar icing.  

There is nothing more fun and relaxing than making home made cookies with my cookie cutters that have been passed down from my mom to me. It is a wonderful way to bake with your family and make memories that will last a lifetime. Let this be the day that you buy a new cookie cutter and start your own tradition. Enjoy your home made cookies with a tall glass of cold milk or hot chocolate. Remember Tis’ the season to be merry!


My recipe this week is called “Lemon Ginger Cut Outs.” This recipe I found in the “Taste of Home” magazine a while ago. What drew me to this recipe were the flavor  of lemon, cinnamon, and the ginger all wrapped into one bite. I bet you can’t just have one of these delicious cookies! I sometimes skip the frosting step and sprinkle the colored sugar directly on the cookies before they go in the oven. The end result is just as festive and still yummy.

“Lemon Ginger Cut Outs”

Yield: 96   Prep: 1-1/2 hours & chilling   Bake: 10 min./batch & cooling


Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
4-1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Frosting:
1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons water
Colored sugar, optional



Directions:
In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add corn syrup, honey and lemon peel. Combine the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and ginger; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or until easy to handle. Divide dough into fourths. On a lightly floured surface, roll one portion to 1/8-in. thickness. Cut into desired shapes with floured 2-in. cookie cutters. Place 2 in. apart on greased baking sheets. Bake at 350°F for 8-10 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool. Repeat with remaining dough. For frosting, in a small bowl, combine confectioners' sugar and enough water to achieve desired consistency. Spread over cookies. Sprinkle with colored sugar if desired.

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As I end this post, I have one last event that I must share with you my readers. Today happens to be my parents “63rd” Wedding Anniversary. As I reflect on many memories, this poem says it all. "Happy Anniversary," Mom and Dad, Thank you, and I love you both. 


(mom & dad Wedding December 2, 1951)
One by one each year flew by. Since you both said “I do”
63 years of memories, Shared by the two of you.
From big events and holidays, To simple daily pleasures,
Some tearful times along life’s way, Some joys that can’t be measured
One by one each year now gone, But still they’re yours forever,
Each and every memory. Of “63” Years together!


Till Next Time………………

Copyright © 2014 “Family Plus Food Equals Love”  All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

“Rice Stuffing: Rice, Sausage, & Onions” Plus “Ricotta, Pancakes with Honey, & Raisin Sauce”


My wish for you, my readers is a festive and Thanksgiving holiday, filled with family, friends, and all the fixings. I, among everyone else, have many things to be thankful for, especially to you my readers from coast to coast and across the seas. May your day be filled with past blessings and prayers for a bright future! Thanks for coming back and enjoying my stories and my favorite family Italian recipes.

FYI: I will not be posting a recipe for the Friday after Thanksgiving…So the next time I will post is on December 2, 2014.  Thank you!

Italians love any holiday that brings together family, friends, and food. Every Italian family has traditions and recipes that are unique and make their Thanksgiving special. As well as turkey and the trimmings. Italian Americans will often add to their traditional Thanksgiving dinner with an antipasto, a pasta or soup course, and then after the turkey, the desserts come. The desserts are not only your typical pumpkin pie, but sweets, and pastries that Italians have been baking for years. I have two recipes this week to share with you my readers. The first one is called “Rice Stuffing: Rice, Sausage, & Onions.” The second is a scrumptious dessert, “Ricotta, Pancakes with Honey, and Raisin Sauce.” 



The first recipe is one that my mom has cooked for Thanksgiving every year. It is so delicious that we ask her to cook this dish even if it is not a holiday. This recipe has been passed down from my great-grandmother Sofia. It is called “Rice Stuffing: Rice, Sausage, & Onions.” My family loves this stuffing as it is made in a baking dish and not stuffed inside the turkey. The flavor is sweet from the onions and the sausage has that savory taste with the added grated cheese. It is a perfect marriage to have along side of your turkey dinner.
great grandmother Sofia


“Rice Stuffing: Rice, Sausage & Onions”
  
Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs of sweet sausage bulk (out of casing)
2 cups of rice (uncooked) Uncle Ben's
3 large eggs
2 large onions (sliced thin)
3/4 cup of Pecorino Romano grated cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Sauté sausage in pan with a little oil. Before sausage is totally cooked add onions and finish cooking. While sausage is cooking cook rice. Drain rice and put in a large bowl. Next beat eggs in a small bowl. Then mix together cooked rice, raw beaten eggs, grated cheese, and cooked sausage with onions. Put in a baking dish. Bake in a 350° for about 40-45 minutes until mixture sets. Yummy!  

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The second recipe is called “Ricotta, Pancakes with Honey, and Raisin Sauce.” What a light, fresh, and sweet dessert for after your Thanksgiving meal. A delightful accompaniment with a cup of tea, coffee, or an after dinner drink.

Ricotta, Pancakes with Honey, and Raisin Sauce”

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 2-3 minutes
Serves: 4 people

Sauce:
4 tablespoons of clear honey
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon of raisins
1 tablespoon of Pine Nuts

Filling:
8 ounces of whole milk Ricotta Cheese
Grated rind of 1/ 2 lemon
2 tablespoons raisins
1 tablespoon of Pine Nuts

Yield: 8 small, (8 to 10 inch) pancakes. The pancakes should be sweeter and thinner than a pancake but thicker than a crepe.

To assemble:
To make the sauce, put all the ingredients into a small pan and warm through gently. For the filling, beat the cheese and lemon rind until soft; mix in raisins and pine nuts. Divide the filling among the hot pancakes and either roll them up or fold into triangles. Arrange the pancakes on a warm plate spoon the sauce over the top and decorate with twists of lemon. Serve immediately warm or hot.

So, as we say in Italian, “Abbondanza!!” (Plentiful & Abundance)  “Happy Thanksgiving” to everyone…..    


Till Next Time…………………………

Copyright  © 2014 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Friday, November 21, 2014

Festive Table Setting & My “Grandma Julia’s Giblet Gravy” For Thanksgiving


As we plan for our Thanksgiving feast, I thought it might be a wonderful idea to talk about some guidelines that may help you dress your table. I would love to share some ideas about the meal courses that you will be serving and eventually becoming your holiday traditions. 

Sitting at your home table is the place where your family and friends gather together for two important things in life, to eat and talk. You can’t go wrong when you use the traditional warm amber hues for Thanksgiving, the blues, whites, and silver of Hanukkah, and the classic red, green, white, and gold’s of Christmas. Traditional colors and table settings communicate love to anyone that shares a meal with you in your home. 

To choose a tablecloth really depends on your dinnerware. You could use a patterned cloth or a solid color. A nice touch is adding place cards to your table, and be sure to allow enough room for seating. I know that in my family, when we have a holiday or special meal, we sit at the table for most of the day, even after eating. So you want to be comfortable.

Worried about what fork to use? Don’t worry, I am going to give you some guidelines. The basic place setting for your holiday meal will consist of an appetizer, salad or soup, and a main course. In a traditional Italian menu, a dish of pasta is eaten prior to the main course. Following the main course will be dessert and coffee or tea. At this point of the meal, my mom would also put out fruit, chocolates, nuts, and mints. By this time everyone is stuffed and has been at the dinner table for over 5 hours or more. Another Holiday Dinner was a success!


One rule I always follow, is that the utensils are arranged in the order of which a person will use them. In our Western culture, this means that the forks, bread plates, and napkins are to the left, while the knives, spoons, glassware, cups, and saucers are to the right. In many other countries the left-right order is reversed. Often, in less formal settings, the napkin and /or cutlery may be held together in a single bundle by a napkin ring. Napkins rings are very rare in the United Kingdom, Spain, Mexico, and Italy. In informal dinners you can even place the napkin on the plate.

Some final table details, don’t forget the salt and pepper shakers. If you find some room on your table, a floral centerpiece and unscented candles would be a beautiful warm finishing touch to your holiday table. One last item I would love to share is a little hostess gift that I give to my guests as they leave my home. It can be something small, even a cookie cutter with a lovely ribbon on it, which is a thoughtful thank you for coming to my dinner party. 


I think back when I was still living at home, my mother would always have the family over for the holidays. The smells in the kitchen would always give me that warm and toasty feeling, especially the aroma’s that would float all the way up to my room, which was on the second floor. Food is a big part of my Italian family and it always centered around the kitchen. My mom’s dinner table was simple, but beautiful, especially with the proper placement of forks, spoons, and knives. We always had to have a centerpiece with candles on each end of the table. Everything sparkled, from the good china to the sterling silverware. As my family would be seated around the table, I could see how proud my mother was as she would hear her guests, admire her elegant table. My memories of how my mom prepared for her holiday dinner parties will last me my lifetime.    
My mom's Table at Thanksgiving

Everyone has a favorite recipe they look forward to enjoy at a family holiday meal. The smell and taste of a special dish can evoke memories from the past or create new ones for the next generation. My recipe this week is “Grandma Julia’s Giblet Gravy.” This is delicious gravy to add to your turkey especially on Thanksgiving..  



“Grandma Julia’s Giblet Gravy”


Ingredients:
Chopped cooked giblets
1/4 cup of vegetable oil
1/4 cup of flour
2 1/2 cups of water (saved from boiling giblets)
3 chicken bullion cubes
Salt and Pepper to taste
Gravy Master

My grandma Julia
Directions:
The giblet bag in the turkey you purchase usually includes the heart, liver, gizzard and the neck. (Exclude the liver) Boil giblets in water for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and strain water. (Don’t forget to save some water for making gravy later) Pick meat from neck and finely chop all the giblets, so you can add to the gravy. (This was always my job when I was young)

Heat oil and add flour, brown lightly. Stir in water, bullion cubes, and seasonings. Cook, and continue stirring until thickened. Then add the giblets and reheat gently. Gravy Master may be added for coloring, a drop at a time.

Yield: This recipe makes 3 cups of gravy.



Till Next Time……..


Copyright © 2014 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved