Tuesday, December 22, 2015

"Christmas Around The World" Days--10 & 11-Recipe --“Italian Struffoli"”

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” By Norman Vincent Peale

Welcome to the 10th & 11th day of “Christmas Around The World!” For my readers who are new, everyday I have been posting a story of a country of the world and a Santa that goes according to the countries customs and traditions. Besides the World Santa’s, I have shared a favorite recipe that I think goes with that country, all leading up to “Christmas.” I have decided to write two days together as I will not be able to post on Christmas Eve. Have a family member in a hospital and I realize that I can not split myself into two places. This has been an incredible year! I have met many people, learned many new things, but most of all, I want to say thank you to my readers, as we prepare for the most joyous time of the year!

So again, I will be posting to this blog days 10 & 11 today and then I will taking some time after Christmas to take care of this family situation. My next blog post will be on January 12, 2016 a Tuesday and that means “Soupy Tuesday.” So please enjoy this blog post and be sure to mark it on your calendars to come back for January 12th, 2016. Merry Christmas and a Happy Healthy New Year to all!

Day 10 & 11, my countries are Italy and USA, America! “Buon Natale & Merry Christmas “
I decided to group these two countries together because I am an American and Italian. Christmas is a very important holiday for me and my family. We are very religious and this day is not only for gifts, Santa Claus, parties, and food, but it is the day that the Baby Jesus was born, which is the reason for the season.

One of the most important ways of celebrating Christmas in the USA and in Italy is the Nativity crib scene. Using a crib to help tell the Christmas story was made very popular by St. Francis of Assisi in the year 1223. The previous year he had visited Bethlehem and saw where the stable, where it was thought that Jesus was born. A lot of Italian-American families have a Nativity crib in their homes. The city of Naples in Italy is world famous for its cribs and crib making. 

These are known as 'Presepe Napoletano' (meaning Neapolitan Cribs). The first crib scene in Naples is thought to go back to 1025 and was in the Church of S. Maria del presepe (Saint Mary of the Crib), this was even before St. Francis of Assisi had made cribs very popular! Having cribs in your own home became popular in the 16th century and it's still popular today (before that only churches and monasteries had cribs). Cribs are traditionally put out on the 8th December. But the figure of the baby Jesus isn't put into the crib until the evening/night of December 24th! Naples is also the home to the largest crib scene in the world, which has over 600 objects on it!

In Italy an old Italian custom is that children go out Carol singing and playing songs on shepherds pipes, wearing shepherds sandals and hats. We in the USA do something similar and go Caroling from house to house, singing Christmas songs.

For many Italian-American families a big Christmas Eve meal of different fish dishes is now a very popular tradition! It's known as, “The Feast of the Seven Fishes.” ('Esta dei Sette Pesci' in Italian) The feast seems to have its root in southern Italy (Sicily) and was bought over to the USA by Italian immigrants in the 1800s. It now seems more popular in American than it is in Italy!

Common types of fish eaten in the feast include Baccala (salted Cod), Clams, Calamari, Sardines, Shrimp, Filet, and Eel. There are different theories as to why there are seven fish dishes eaten. Some think that seven represents the seven days of creation in the Bible, other say it represents the seven holy sacraments of the Catholic Church. But some families have more that seven dishes! You might have nine (to represent the Christian trinity times three), 13 (to represent Jesus and his 12 disciples) or 11 (for the 11 disciples without Jesus or Judas!)

Some families have a 'Creppo' or Yule Log which is burnt through the Christmas season. In Italian Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Buon Natale', in Sicilian it's 'Bon Natali' and in Ladin (spoken in some parts of the northern Italian region of South Tyrol) it's 'Bon/Bun Nadèl'. Epiphany is also important in Italy. On Epiphany night, children believe that an old lady called 'Befana' brings presents for them. The story about Befana bringing presents is very similar to the story of Babushka. Children put stockings up by the fireplace for Befana to fill. In parts of northern Italy, the Three Kings might bring you present rather than Befana. On Christmas day 'Babbo Natale' (Santa Claus) might bring them some small gifts, but the main day for present giving is on Epiphany.

Santa Claus is called “Babbo Natale” in Italy. Some people say that Santa lives at the North Pole. In Finland, they say that he lives in the north part of their country called Lapland. But everyone agrees that he travels through the sky on a sledge that is pulled by reindeer, that he comes into houses down the chimney at night and places presents for the children in socks or bags by their beds, in front of the family Christmas tree, or by the fire place. In the early USA his name was 'Kris Kringle'. Later, Dutch settlers in the USA took the old stories of St. Nicholas with them and Kris Kringle became 'Sinterklaas' or as we now say 'Santa Claus'!

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.

Babbo Natale

"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. 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.


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

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. Enjoy !

Till Next Time………………………….

Copyright © 2015 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved


  1. Very good and interesting! Thank you Dottie!

    1. Dear Klara,
      Thank you dear friend, glad that you enjoyed reading this post. Blessing for a wonderful Christmas! :) <3 Dottie

  2. Love reading your post. All these traditions... I love them all and those struffoli I have never actually tried them! Most Neapolitans make them for Christmas, they must be delicious. I wish you a wonderful Christmas time, hope your mum is feeling better. All the best, ciao cara!

    1. Dear Alida,
      Thanks for your comment dear friend...So glad that you enjoyed reading all of the posts..it was fun writing them. These little balls are like popcorn, you have to keep eating them.. can never get enough .Enjoy your Christmas with your family and Happy New Year as well. My mom is doing the best she can, still in pain but hopefully tomorrow things will be better. Thanks for your thoughts...Ciao, Bella!
      Hugs Dottie xx <3

  3. Totally fun -- and delish! -- read. Thanks. Happy Holidays, and see you next year!

    1. Hi John, Thank you for your comment, Lots of fun info, I agree...Happy Holidays to you and the family... Yes, that is correct see you next year...
      Dottie :)

  4. Happy Holidays to you dear Dottie and your dear family ... enjoyed all the posts and the different traditions . Thanks ... tanking yome time off and will be back next year .
    Do so hope your mom is feeling better ...Nee :)

    1. Dear Nee,
      Thank you dear friend, the same back to you and yours Merry Christmas and Happy New Year...So glad that you liked all of the posts..I think a lot of us bloggers are taking some time and will start up again in the new year.. Thanks for asking, My mom is doing the best she can, and it is a long process. Will be there with the family for Christmas Eve and then for Christmas Day!
      Enjoy your holidays with your family...see you next year! Ciao!
      Hugs Dottie :) xx

  5. Very interesting with the Christmas traditions, Dottie! And it looks like you have definitely inherited the baking gene! Your Struffoli looks absolutely delicious, I've never had it, but would love to taste it. Hope all is going well at the hospital. Take care, and Merry Christmas to you and your family!

    1. Dear Pam,
      Merry Christmas..hope that you had a glorious day! Yes, I think you are correct dear friend, that baking gene is in my DNA for sure! It is like they say you can't just have one! They are like popcorn, you just want more..
      Thanks things are about the same at the rehab/hospital..my mom is holding her own as they say! All we can do at this time is say prayers and just be there for her. Which is what I am doing! Everyday...Thanks for your comment..hope that you have a very Happy New Year and this year 2016 will be a better year for all of us!
      Hugs Dottie :)

  6. Hi Dottie,
    Sorry to hear there is a loved one in the hospital. Thinking about you and will keep you and your family in our prayers.

    I haven't had Struffoli in years Dottie. Oh what memories they spark. Thank you so much for sharing, Dottie.

    May You and Yours have a Blessed and Joyous Christmas and a Happy, Healthy, and Safe New Year. Louise

    1. Dear Louise,
      Merry Christmas..Hope that you had a glorious day and enjoyed... Thanks for your thoughts and prayers for my mom. She is the one in the hospital/rehab...That is all we can do for now is just say prayers...
      I love Struffoli and like you, they really do bring back many memories of family making them when I was young...Those were the good times...
      Hope that you also dear friend have a very happy New Year..2016 has to be better than this year...
      Hugs xx Dottie :) <3

    2. Dear Dottie,
      I hope your Mom is doing better and will be home to ring in the New Year. We'll be thinking about you and yours and praying all is well in your corner of the world. Happy New Year, dear Dottie. Here's to a Safe and Healthy one filled with wonderment. Hugs, Louise

    3. Dear Louise,
      Thank you so much for your good wishes...My mom is still at the rehab and will be there for at least another 2-3 weeks. We had a meeting with the manager of her health care and that is what they told her and us. She is coming along but it takes a long while to get better and come home..we have to think of getting her a hospital bed etc. My dad is the one I worry about more, we know that my mom is being taken care of but my dad is really having a tough time and he is so tired. He and I go everyday to the rehab center.
      Dear friend you don't know how much I appreciate all your thoughts and prayers.My wish for you is to have a blessed, happy, and healthy New Year "2016." We all have had a bad year and hope that this year is so much better all around...Be safe and say hello to Marion as well..Thanks again..Enjoy!!
      Hugs and love Dottie xx :)

    4. Hi Dottie,
      Thank you so much for dropping by my blog while you were visiting your Mom. I was thinking about you and your Mom all day. It sounds like her progress is going to be slow. I That's what happened with Marion. She has Rheumatoid Arthritis through-out her body. I thought for sure she wasn't going to be able to do much but, I must say, keep the faith Dottie. Marion is doing extremely well, all 95 years of her bones. She is on pain medication but I have to believe watching her diet and keeping her spirits up have also helped. I did a lot of research and learned that arthritis flare ups can be caused by certain foods but also, certain foods can ease it too. She's actually back to crocheting again!

      Please take care of you and your Dad, Dottie. Your Mom has people to care for her. I worry about you two:)

      Keeping you and your family in our prayers...

    5. Dear Louise,
      I am so sorry that I have not been able to write back to you...I have been a little crazy here. Yes, her progress is very slow but doing a little better. God Bless Marion...she is a force to reckon with for sure..You are right they told my mom that she will be on pain meds the rest of her life, just like me...I agree with the foods that we eat, also effects us and me as well. Which Lupus and MS I have to watch what I eat at times. I am so happy for Marion that she is back at crocheting, I just started picking up my hook as well. It really is a stress reducer.
      I know Louise, I feel the same way, they are taking care of my mom, but my dad is another story...
      You are so kind and I am so grateful that you are a dear good friend. Thank you for keeping us in your prayers and for worrying about us. Please take care and tell Marion that I sent my regards...
      Hugs and Love Dottie :) <3

  7. Dear Dottie, I am sorry that you have a loved one in the hospital. I will keep you in my prayers.
    Merry Christmas. xo Catherine

    1. Dear Catherine,
      Merry Christmas! Hope that you had a glorious day! Thanks for your thoughts and prayers..yes, my mom is in the hospital/rehab since Dec 6th...Riddled with arthritis and back problems..she is in such pain. I have been there everyday for my mom and my dad...
      Hope that you have a wonderful and a very Happy New Year..2016 hope will be a better year for all of us! Thanks again dear friend!
      Hugs, Dottie :)

  8. Happy New Year to you dear Dottie. xoxo Catherine

    1. Dear Catherine,
      Thank you and the same to you and your family...felice anno nuovo!! Happy New Year!!
      Hugs xx & love..Dottie :)

  9. Hi Dottie, looks like you are a wonderful baker and keeper of holiday traditions, love your blog. Happy New Years!!

    1. Dear Cheri,
      Thank you for visiting and welcome...I am so happy that you have enjoyed reading my blog. Yes, I love to cook, but my forte is baking. I have nieces and nephews and I think it is so important to pass on the traditions of my Italian family..from my great grandmother to my mom. Thank you and due come back at anytime...Happy New Year's to you and your family...
      Dottie :)

  10. Just stopping by to wish you Happy New Year! :-)

    1. Dear John,
      Sorry that I have not respond sooner...My mom is in the hospital/rehab and have been going everyday...haven't had time to read your post yet, but I will. You are so sweet to send your wishes for Happy New Year to me. Thank you and I wish the same to you as well... Talk to you soon...
      Dottie :)