Friday, February 7, 2014

Sicily's Almond Blossom Festival & "Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Almonds, & Cheese"

Here on Long Island once again we are in the deep freeze. (what else is new?) We had more snow this past week, and I see from the Weather Channel that we are in store for more this coming weekend. It just doesn’t seem to end! This winter has been crazy for many states across the country. Now, my readers know that I love snow, but even this is a bit much for me. I think we are all longing to see spring! The glorious colors of the flowers, the warmth of the sun, and especially to be able to go outside not dressed like Nanook of the North. But our so-called friend Punxsutawney Phil says, we still have about 5-6 more weeks of winter. Yuk…….

If you are looking for warmer weather, I think you may have to travel to Italy. Spring in Italy comes early to the cities and towns from Rome and further south. As early as February you can see the almond blossoms on the tress in bloom in the island of Sicily, as the first sign of spring; once the pretty pink/white blossoms begin to appear, we know that winter is over. Spring in Italy is a fantastic time to visit. You can beat the crowds and the heat of the summer season. 

The Almond Blossom Festival, or better known as the “Sagra del Mandorio in Fiore." The festival was started in the 1930’s. This event was celebrated to promote many Sicilian products. Tourists from all over, come together to Sicily to see the gathering of the almonds. Agrigento, is a town in the heart of the Valley of the Temples, where many Roman ruins are visible. Every year, between the first and the second Sunday of February, Agrigento comes alive with this festival. Myths and folk traditions come together in a grand symbolic event where representatives from all over the world unite in the name of peace and to celebrate the early arrival of spring. The Valley of the Temples is home to five ancient temples: Concordia, Juno, Jupiter, Hercules, Castor, and Pollux. These World Heritage landmarks are beautiful and provide a magnificent backdrop for the Almond Blossom Festival.

Agrigento is located along the southern coastline of Sicily and is a popular tourist site even when the almond blossoms are not in bloom because of the area's exceptional archaeological heritage. Guests who arrive in Agrigento for the Almond Blossom Festival typically enjoy a traditional walk along the Valley of the Temples. This route takes them past some of the town's archaeological wonders. Highlights during the 10 day festival include concerts and dances featuring traditional music and regional folk costumes. Some of the other events at the festival include a fireworks show and a children’s procession where the participants wear colorful and ornate costumes.

How many of you have gone to weddings and have received a remembrance gift bag filled with candy coated almonds or better known as Confetti? These almonds are grown in Agrigento and are also called Jordan almonds. These candies represent the bittersweet life of a married couple. The sugar coating is added to the bitter almonds in the hope that the newlyweds will have more sweet times than bitter during their lifetime together. When confetti comes in boxes or bags they are called Bomboniere and serve as place settings or favors.

My dad and myself 1960?

February 9th is my fathers Birthday and we are having a family dinner to celebrate. He will be 87, but you would never know it. He is as active as ever. He and my mom are always out either visiting friends or family. My dad has a lot of compassion, love, and strength. He is sensitive and will do anything he can for you. Commitment has always and still will be very important in his life. If he commits to anything, come hell or high water he will be there which is a great tribute to his character. I always admired his dedication to his family and his faith in God. He can be funny, warm, honest, fair, organized, and shares his wisdom to others. One of his commitments is to St. Thomas More Church where he is a member of the choir and is also the president of “The Young At Heart Senior Club.” My dad has a passion for puzzles, music, sports, reading, food, and most of all spending time with his family.

My dad and I are the only ones in my family that love Brussel Sprouts. So being that it is my dad’s Birthday, I am honoring him with one of his favorite dishes.
This one is for you pop….Happy Birthday!! Enjoy!

Brussel Sprouts are members of the cabbage family and they are not the most popular vegetable to choose. I think it is because many people do not know how to cook them and they get intimidated. Roasting and grilling them, brings out the sweetness of the vegetable, and this recipe is just the one you want to try. I guarantee that once you try them you will see how versatile they can be.

                             “Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Almonds, and Cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound Brussel sprouts washed and cut in half lengthwise
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/3 cup sliced almonds

Heat oven to 350° F. Pour the olive oil into a medium size baking dish. Toss the Brussels sprouts in the oil and add salt/pepper. Bake them uncovered for about 20-30 minutes, turning them occasionally as they brown. They are cooked when a knife is easily inserted into the middle. Lastly sprinkle with cheese and sliced almonds then toss. Serve hot. If you choose you can also add some lemon juice which is optional. Serves: 4

Till Next Time………………………………........

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  1. Hi Dottie!!!

    I hear it is not only snowy down there but downright freezing too! Same thing up here. Soon Spring will welcome us with all her promises of Summer. I can't wait!!!

    I never knew about the Almond Blossom Festival in Italy. But then, I've never been to Italy either. Oh how I would love to visit Sicily. It sounds so beautiful as the way you describe it. Thank you for that:)

    I haven't been to a wedding in oh so many years but I sure do remember those little nets of Jordan Almonds. I think when I was younger I didn't like them and as I grew older I did, lol...

    You Dad sounds like such a wonderful human being. I think it is amazing that he sings in the choir. And that picture of you and him is simply priceless:)

    I'm sure he will enjoy these Brussels Sprouts with Almonds. That touch of cheese is just perfect:) Thank you so much for sharing, Dottie and please wish your Dad a very Happy Birthday, May he celebrate many, many, many more. God Bless...

    1. Dear Louise, You heard correct, it is freezing here..Possibly more snow on Sunday..Yuk...I think all of us would love to visit Italy. Alida said in her post to me that she remembers going when she was young. It must be beautiful. Besides what a sight to see the almonds actually growing on the trees! In doing the research I have learned so much, and you know what that is like. When i was young I never liked them either the Jordan almonds. They are ok to eat now, but not my favorite. Even though I love almonds. they looked so pretty in the fancy little favor bags at the weddings. You don't see them much anymore. I guess things change in the years. Thanks so much about my dad, he is a terrific person, very loving. Yes, my dad has been singing with that choir for over 18 years, and then when he lived in Queens he also sang in St Kevins church choir for many years too. I just recently found that photo, and thought it was perfect. How different the world looked back in the 50's. Thanks you for your wishes for my dad...He is going to be so happy when I tell him that so many people have sent him special wishes on his birthday! Everyone is so wonderful...How is Marion doing? Hope she is doing well....Have a blessed weekend Louise, Dottie :)

  2. Good Morning Dottie ,
    Love the post , my husband aunt says it is a beautiful and wonderful place to be , she also calls it 'Sagra del Mandorio in Fiore the Almond Blossom Festive ( hope one day to visit) Italy has old world beauty and charm , one visit and you never forget . Your post is always a good read with a lot of information .
    Your dad sounds like a wonderful man , it's proof that you stay young if you stay active .Like your dad , my kids love Brussels sprouts ... go figure ;-D , here's wishing your 'Dad' a happy birthday and many more .
    Stay warm and be safe and have a great weekend , thanks for sharing :)

    1. Dear Nee, Thanks for stopping by..Glad that you enjoyed the post. Your husbands aunt has gone to the festival. What a wonderful time she must have had. I know what you mean, someday I want to go too! I can totally understand that you never forget, as the research I did I will never forget. I had no idea about some of the things they said, like the trees with the almonds, and also the temples. You are correct, I always tell my parents the more active you are the more years you live. Your children love brussel sprouts, that is wonderful! Usually children wouldn't touch it. But that is a good thing. Thanks for your wishes for my dad, he will be thrilled that so many people have sent him wishes for his special day. I will try to stay warm, tonight it really is cold. Have a blessed weekend, Dottie :)

  3. Dottie .. I think I was so in a hurry that I wasn't signed in ... I am still watching over you , that's what my 'Angel' says .... blessing dear :)

    1. Everything is ok Nee I got your post, and thanks for you watching over me. You are one of the best. Nee while I have you can you help me with something? Louise sent me a message the other day and said that you are the best person to ask how to fix this problem I am having..I am sending you the part of the email.

      (if you can figure out how to change the noreply in your email that would be great too. Off the top of my head I can't remember how to do it but I'm sure Nee does. I would have answered you through email but when I hit reply in email it says noreply and does not bring up your email address. I can check how to do it if you want, but I know Nee has "mastered" it)

      So that is what Louise said, I have no idea what she is talking about can you help me figure this out, not a rush. I will be out all day tomorrow, but Sunday I will be personal email is Thank you...

    2. Hi Dottie , I'm not sure what you mean ... I will send you an email and see what you mean ... have a nice night . Blessing Nee:)

  4. Oh when you talk about almonds and Sicily I feel very nostalgic. My parents used to take me in Sicily for holidays and we used to stay with a really friendly Sicilian family. I do remember spring and the almonds flowers. Everything was just so magic and beautiful. And all those lemon trees!
    Hope your dad will have a fabulous birthday and I am sure you will do a beautiful party for him!
    All the best! XX

    1. Dear Alida, Thanks for stopping by.Yes, I thought of you when I was writing this and wondering if you ever went to Sicily at this time of the year. I knew you did, that is great that you saw this beautiful area. I never knew about the almonds on the trees. What interesting research I did, I learned so much. I will tell my dad that you sent your wishes for him. Hope that he enjoys his day. The next big day is March when my mom turns 85. Thanks Have a blessed weekend...Dottie :)

  5. Dear Dottie, I know more snow on the way!!! Well, I think our arms will be in good shape for short sleeves this summer!
    I do love almond and the festival sounds so nice. Sicily must be beautiful.
    I always loved getting the candy at weddings when I was a little girl. I think this tradition has gone by the wayside. I have not seen it at weddings in the past few years and I do miss it.
    Wishing your dad a very happy, happy birthday.
    I know you will cook him up the best, festive meal with all his favorite trimmings and a big birthday cake.
    The brussel sprouts are wonderful.
    Blessings dear. Catherine xo

    1. Dear Catherine, Thanks for stopping by..Can you believe it, more snow...this is crazy..but I heard on the Wheather Channel that next week we are going to get into the high 30's to 45 degrees. I have to see this before I believe it!
      Yes, almonds and walnuts are my favorites. Someday I would love to travel there to Italy and see this sight. I learned so much by doing the research. It is so true, I was just talking to someone the other day about these almond candies and we also said that the last few weddings we had not see these. I agree they may be not the popular thing anymore. My niece works in an Italian bakery, and she said that at the holidays they put some of them inbetween the cookies.
      Thank you for the well wishes to my dad for his birthday. He is going to be thrilled that everyone is sending him wishes for his special day. He doesn't use the computer, even though I got one for them and have set it all up, but he and my mom will not go near it. He will be happy if he has his brussel sprouts. Have a blessed weekend Catherine, :) Dottie

  6. Happy Birthday to your dad, Dottie!!! I just discovered recently how much I LOVE brussel sprouts! They were like my worst nightmare as kid but now I can't get enough of them.

    Let me tell you, I cannot wait for Spring. I was like so into winter during the holidays. Now that the holidays are over, I am so over this cold weather. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this snow storm they're predicting pans out like the 24 inches we were supposed to get over the weekend. Stay safe and stay warm!!!


    1. Hi Tammy,
      Thank you for your wishes about my dad, he did have a wonderful Birthday and was thrilled that so many people he didn't even know wished him well. Yes, Brussel Sprout are a mis-understood veggie.I think you either hate them or love them... I am like you I think we need Spring to come through soon... I love the snow and the cold but even for me this is enough. On Saturday the weather said it was going to be in the 40's on Thursday and Friday, and now look what is predicted! I guess you can't believe the weather men all the time...Thanks for stopping by, love to hear from you anytime..Stay safe and warm too, Blessings Dottie :)

  7. What a fabulous post!! I never heard of this festival, but have only been to Sicily once, so I'm not surprised. It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited, and I have been longing to return for many years. Happy birthday to your dad-how wonderful that you made the brussel sprout recipe in his honor! :) Good for you, Dottie!!

    1. Hi Christina, Great to hear from you, thanks for stoping by. So glad that you enjoyed my post on the Almond Festival. I have never been even though my dad's side of the family is from Sicily. Would love to go someday. You must have had a lovely time and I am sure it is beautiful! I never knew about this festival either until I did the research about it. Thank you for your wishes to my dad for his birthday. He was in heaven with the brussel sprouts. Thanks again, blessings, Dottie :)