Sunday, December 18, 2016

Merry Christmas to All!




Every year I bake an assortment of cookies to share and enjoy during Christmas and well into the New Year.  I've blogged about a few of my favorite cookie recipes in the past--the Fig, Date and Nut cookies, regular Gingerbread Men, and Rainbow (Neapolitan) Cookies recipes can be viewed on this post.  Over the years I've begin making the King Arthur Flour gluten free Gingerbread men recipe as my daughter-in-law and one of my grandsons is sensitive to wheat.  The cookies are delicious, and we all enjoy them, so I don't bake the regular any longer.   This year I made a batch of Gluten Free Rainbow Cookies, in addition to my regular Rainbow cookies, and they are also almost indistinguishable in taste so they will become a regular addition to my cookie making routine. I found that my Spritz cookie press was not working well this year, so that will be one of my first after Christmas presents to myself.  Only one disc worked well and even that did not make very sharp designs and it was a bit of a struggle to work with when it should have been the easiest cookie to make.


My oldest grandson celebrated his 8th birthday last week! This darling boy was first seen on my blog in 2008, when he was born. How life has changed for us since then!  It has been a joy to live closer to him and to watch him grow.  Like all grandparents, we believe that every one of our grandchildren is the smartest and best looking child there is!


This week I'll be very busy shopping for, and preparing, our traditional Italian style "Feast of the Seven Fishes."  It is a meal we, and our guests, look forward to all year long!   As an appetizer I make my Italian Mixed Seafood Salad. It is one of my most pinned recipes, and truly delicious. Another recipe I make on Christmas Eve, that is truly Italian and my husband's favorite, is Baccala Florentine.  It is made with salted cod that has been reconstituted in water, but you can also substitute regular cod fish filet. We also have stuffed calamari, fried shrimp, mussels and clams, stuffed lobster tails, salmon, and an assortment of vegetables. 





One thing for sure, is that we will have a white Christmas!  We had about 8 inches of snow this past weekend on the Front Range of Colorado, and it has been unusually cold so the snow is not melting as quickly as it usually does in the warm Colorado sun.  I love snow and it made me happy to see this quiet beauty all around our neighborhood.





A Christmas Day visitor last year!
Will he come back this year?





Love Came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Stars and angels gave the sign.
~ Christina G.Rossetti


May you and your family have a very Merry and blessed Christmas! 

 I will see you in the new year!


I'm linking this post to the following blog events:


Bookmark and Share

Monday, December 12, 2016

Nonna's Savory Calabrian Zeppole




The Christmas season is such a busy time of the year, but it is also a time for recreating wonderful traditions and adding on new ones. One tradition my husband and I have reinstated, after moving to Colorado from New York City four years ago, is making savory, fried potato dough taste treats called Zeppole. They are Calabrian style, and not to be confused with the sweet doughnut type that are also served warm and covered with powdered sugar, which is more Roman or Neapolitan style, and often sold at Italian street festivals. My husband's mother and oldest sister made zeppole the afternoon of every Christmas Eve, and often on other occasions where a crowd of people would gather, such as family birthdays.



Making zeppole was truly a family affair, often with friends, siblings and their spouses, children, and grandchildren all gathered in the kitchen to help. They would take pieces of dough and twist it to drop in the frying pans filled with hot oil, helping to turn them as they fried, and then greedily gobbling them up after they were cooked.  Some zeppole were made with plain dough, but many that followed, and our favorites, were made by twisting the dough around a nice big anchovy.  The combination of the salty anchovy and fried potato dough was quite addictive!  We could eat many of them, while also enjoying a glass, or two, of red wine.


My husband immigrated to the United States as a child, with his parents and siblings from a small hill top town in Southern Italy near the Ionian Sea, from the Provinces of Reggio Calabria. This is a post card view of his town. Each region in Italy, and even each town, has their own variations for making many traditional Italian foods, all of them delicious, but some with quite different ingredients, according to what was available in each town.   The following is the recipe my mother-in-law used, and what my oldest sister-in-law always makes. They would make large quantities of zeppole, as they were always made for festive occasions and served to a lot of people, but my husband and I cut the recipe in half, which was a more reasonable portion for us to enjoy with our family here in Colorado.


Nonna's Savory Calabrian Zeppole

Ingredients:

2.5 pounds of potatoes
6 cubes of active wet yeast (found in refrigerated section of the grocery, often near the eggs or dairy)
1.5 tablespoon of salt
2.5 pounds of flour 
1 pound semolina flour
Anchovies preserved in olive oil

Method:


Boil potatoes whole, with scrubbed cleaned skins, in water until fork tender. Drain, cool, peel and use potato ricer or food mill to mash onto a pile on a lighted floured board or clean counter top.  Make a well in the middle of the riced potatoes.


Mix the semolina flour and the white flour in a bowl. Add half the flour mix and the salt to the middle of the potato mixture.


Dissolve the active yeast cakes in one cup of warm water.  Add slowly to the potato and flour mixture a little at a time, while also adding the rest of the flour semolina mixture. Keep hands moist to help with mixing--we keep a bowl of warm water nearby to do this.  

When the potato/flour/semolina dough is all incorporated into a sticky elastic dough, knead on a lightly floured surface until it forms a smooth ball. Place the dough ball in an oiled pot, turn once to cover dough with oil, cover pan with a towel, and place in a warm place, without drafts, until it is doubled in size.


When dough is doubled in size, heat oil in a skillet deep enough for the zeppole to float as it cooks. You can use olive oil if desired, but we use a canola oil/olive oil blend as it can heat at a higher temperature without smoking.  Heat the oil until it is almost boiling. You can drop a small piece of dough into the skillet to test if oil is ready--the piece of dough will begin to sizzle and rise to the top of the oil.


With wet hands take a piece of dough  and pull and roll into a four inch rope shape. Add the dry anchovy in the middle (if desired) and twist dough around it.  Gently place in hot oil and fry, turning the dough as needed with forks or tongs, until it is golden in color and crisp.  


Place on paper towels to drain.  


Eat warm and enjoy! 

Uneaten zeppole can be refrigerated and warmed in low oven to re-serve.  

This Christmas season we also made time for a new tradition.  We had fun making a gingerbread house with our oldest granddaughter. She thoroughly enjoyed the process and was quite proud of the finished results!  I had to convince her that we would have to wait until Christmas to eat some of the house, and that in the meantime it would be a nice decoration. 



Our tree is up--a Noble Fir from a tree farm in Oregon, and we've had some light snowfalls and chilly nights where we could enjoy a cozy fire. This is truly the most wonderful time of the year! Enjoy the season, and please tell me what your favorite tradition is this time of the year.





I'm linking this post to the following blog events:

Thank you to all the blog hosts!



Bookmark and Share

Monday, December 5, 2016

Oh What Fun!


I'm late sharing photos of our Thanksgiving celebration, and my daughter's birthday that happened to fall on the same day this year. My son and family were celebrating at his in-laws, so our celebration was smaller this year, with just my daughter and family and a neighbor friend.  I know it will look like a large amount of food for only five people and a grandchild, but everyone takes home a large tray of leftovers, and my husband and I then enjoy what is left for a few days. Nothing goes to waste!


In fact, one of our favorite Thanksgiving traditions is to make turkey stock from the carcass of the turkey the next day.  I place the carcass in a large pot with a large onion, 3 large cloves of garlic, peeled carrots, stalks of celery, and any washed and frozen vegetable pieces and peelings that I've saved from preparing for our Thanksgiving meal the days before. I add the stalks of fresh parsley I've saved from using the leaves, and a large sprig of rosemary and a bunch of sage leaves from my herb garden.  It is brought to a boil and then lowered to a simmer for hours--I really cook it all down to a rich broth.  Then, when cooled, I strain the juice into a large bowl and discard the bones and cooked vegetables.   I refrigerate the large bowl of broth overnight and then scrape off all the fat that has risen to the top the next day.  Now I have a wonderful turkey stock that can be used to make soup! When making soup add salt and pepper and other seasonings like thyme, parsley, etc.   Add freshly copped vegetables of choice to simmer until cooked in the stock, or frozen cooked vegetables.  Add chopped turkey meat leftover from the holiday meal and cooked rice, egg noodles, pasta or barley.  I add leftover mashed potatoes, if I have any, to thicken.  It really is a delicious way to enjoy your Thanksgiving turkey all over again!


The day after Thanksgiving our town of Littleton holds a delightful celebration called the "Candlelight Walk." Main Street shops remain open for shopping and carolers stroll the street singing Christmas Carols. There is hot cider for sale and one can buy candles to hold in the procession. Around 6:30 PM a parade begins with a few floats passing by and then Santa Claus and his sleigh comes down Main Street. A he passes by he magically illuminates more than a million lights in the trees as he passes each block. When he reaches the end of the street he throws a switch on the big Christmas Tree in the plaza.  We brought our oldest granddaughter this year and she really enjoyed the festivities while sitting on her Pop Pop's shoulders!


Our community has a large ranch house community center that is decorated beautifully for Christmas, and every year Santa Claus makes an appearance for the members. We took our two granddaughters/cousins to see him, dressed up in their matching dresses.  Only the oldest granddaughter was brave enough to go up to tell him her Christmas wish list--the little granddaughter thought he was too scary.  She did enjoy the ladies playing bells and the hot chocolate and cookies that were part of the celebration, however, as we all did.  My daughter and son-in-law and oldest granddaughter later went on a hay ride through the community park grounds, along with other members, and sang Christmas carols along the way as the sun set. It was wonderful fun!


Another fun beginning to this Christmas season was that both of our children and their families gathered with us for a Denver tradition--an outing at Casa Bonita!  Casa Bonita is a restaurant and a family entertainment spot that has been delighting visitors for over 40 years. It is cavernous in size with many different dining areas that can seat 1,000 people. Made to resemble a Mexican Village and local environment, it has at its center a 30 foot waterfall leading to a 14 foot deep pool. Daring cliff diver shows take place all evening from the cliff. The faux palm trees were lit up for the Christmas season and there were other holiday decorations all about. In addition, there are strolling musicians, and "haunted cave walk" arcades, a puppet show, and ride on figures for young children.  The food is simple Mexican, and although far from gourmet, the food portions are generous. All in all it is a fun and kitschy experience that children really enjoy.



This evening my husband and I went with a few friends to a concert at the Lakewood Cultural Center in Lakewood, Colorado, to attend the 19th annual Timothy P Irvin and the Rocky Mountain Stocking Stuffers Concert.  All the musicians and singers were very talented as they sang a combination of Western country and blue grass Christmas songs.  One very remarkable rendition of Silent Night was sung by Jon Chandler.  He told us that when he was growing up his grandparents and great grandmother lived with his family.  His great grandmother told him as a child that that her great grandfather was Franz Gruber, the composer who wrote the guitar music to the song Silent Night.  He then went on to perform the song so beautifully!  I found the video above, on YouTube, of him telling the story and singing the song at a different venue. Click here to go to YouTube if you can not see the video.  There are so many beautiful renditions of Silent Night, but I think you will also enjoy hearing Jon sing it in English and native German.
For all the fun and novelty of the Christmas season that we all enjoy--the lights, the tree, the culinary treats and presents--it is good to honor the very best of all is the reason for the season, the birth of Jesus! 


I'm linking this post to the following blog events:

Thank you to all the blog hosts!

Bookmark and Share