Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Mama’s Lentils with Pasta" for “Buon Anno!” or “Happy New Year!”

As the clock strikes twelve midnight, on December 31st, people all over the world will wish each other a “Happy New Year.” For many people, this symbolizes the beginning of a better year than the previous one. Many people celebrate, by going to parties, drinking champagne, eating, dancing, fireworks, and especially by being with their loved ones.

Begin an Italian-American, the chance to celebrate New Years Eve with family, friends and the kids were welcomed at my parents’ home. I remember when I was very young my mother would tell us to take a nap in the daytime so we would be able to stay up till midnight. As I tried to nap, I could hear all the hustle and bustle in the kitchen preparing the food for that nights festivities. I could hear the clicking of the wine and champagne bottles that were to be on the table that night. As I drifted off to sleep for my nap, I could smell the aroma of fried vegetables cooking and the sweet smell of onions with sausage and peppers being prepared for our party. The smell of food cooking was a delightful aroma that meant love and family to me. As the guests began to enter our decorated house from Christmas, you could see all the dishes of goodies that were being placed on the tables. As the party continued, it was almost that time, when the New Year was approaching. Everyone put on their hats, crowns, had noise makers and we would count down the time, 10, 9, 8, all the way to Happy New Years. This to me was my favorite part of New Years Eve. My mom would give us kids, spoons and the covers to her pots, and we were allowed to go out in the street, and bang on them, and we would yell, Happy New Year. As kids, this was the best part of the evening and will be remembered for a life time.

Celebrating New Year’s Eve in Italy is called Capuano (the “head of the year”) or Notte di San Silvestro (the night of St. Silvestro). St. Sylvester I, was the 33rd Pope. In Italy there are rituals or traditions that are really not followed anymore in today’s world. Some of these rituals include throwing old possessions out the window, in the hopes of forgetting past misfortunes and clearing the way for good luck in the New Year. Firing up the Yule Log on the last day of the year, is an invitation to the Virgin Mary, who can warm the baby Jesus and then the ashes would protect the house from damage. The dinner menu consists of pork sausage and a lentil stew. The lenticchie (lentils) represent coins, being round in shape and is eaten at midnight, one spoonful per bell. This is supposed to bring good fortune. The eating of pork is said to represent the fat, or riches, of the land. Pomegranates are also eaten as symbols of prosperity and faithfulness. Fireworks and lots of noise also “scare” away the bad spirits. (Now I know why my mom would let us bang pots on New Years Eve)

 So, as I close this post, I want to wish everyone across the world who reads my blog a very “Happy New Year”. I also have a recipe to share, which is called “Mama’s Lentils with Pasta”. I hope that you enjoy this hearty recipe, and make it your tradition for New Years as well.
Mama’s Lentils with Pasta
3 tablespoons of olive oil (just enough to coat frying pan)
8 ounces of dry brown Lentils (1/2 package)
4-5 carrots (chunks)
2 celery stalks (cleaned and in chunks)
2 onions (sliced)
2 cloves of garlic (cut up)
4-5 cups of water or beef stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:  (Cooking time 1 1/4 hours)
Clean thoroughly through the lentils, so no stones or pebbles can be found. Then rinse the lentils in cold water. Put 4 cups of water or beef stock in pot and boil. After water boils, now add the lentils and lower heat to a simmer about 1/2 hour. While the lentils are cooking, put oil in large frying pan and heat up. Now add the sliced onions and celery cut up in chunks. Cover frying pan and sauté 5-6 minutes or until all ingredients are soft. Now add the cut up garlic at the end so the garlic will not burn. Once these ingredients are cooked till soft add them to the lentils in pot. If lentils are looking dry add another cup of water or stock. Meanwhile, clean and cut up carrots in chunks and add to the lentils in pot. Let simmer for about 3/4 hour so carrots can cook. Add salt and pepper to taste. While the lentils are simmering cook your favorite pasta to add to your lentils. My family uses, elbow pasta, Ditalini pasta or even broken up spaghetti. (Which is what my great-grandmother would use, my family also likes it very thick) Servings: 4 Enjoy!!!!

Till Next Time………….

Copyright © 2011-2012 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

"Merry Christmas and Happy New Year" From Me to You, My Readers

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

“Wishing you a Merry Christmas and
a Happy New Year,
to all my readers from
all over the world..
May your home be filled with the
Joy of family
and friends this Holiday season”


Dottie *  

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

Copyright © 2011 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved


Saturday, December 24, 2011

"12 Days of Christmas" Day 12, "Buon Natale! Christmas Eve Italian Style"

And the angel said unto them, “Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, Which shall be to all people. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David, A Savior, which is Christ the Lord. – St. Luke

Italian food is one of the most popular and satisfying of all foods. (maybe because I am Italian) Whether you are Italian or not, food is love, and simple dishes of the freshest ingredients make a warm and loving holiday gift to share with anyone. As the Italians say, Buon Natale!

On Christmas Eve, many Italian American families will be preparing and feasting on what Italians revere as “The Feast of the Seven Fishes” or “La Vigilia Di Natale.” This has been a tradition for many generations and dates back to ancient times in mostly southern Italy. As the Italian people immigrated to the United States in the early 1900’s, they carried on their traditions with them.

The essence of the celebration is that seven different kinds of fish are served at Christmas Eve dinner and definitely no meat is eaten. The refraining of eating meat or milk products on Fridays and specific holy days is a tradition and was observed by eating fish, usually fried in oil. Some Italian American families have been known to celebrate with 9, 12, or 13 different seafood dishes. (depending upon what region in Italy your family came from) This is to commemorate the wait, for the midnight birth of the infant Jesus.

There are many speculations for what the number “7” represents. Seven is the most repeated number in the Bible and appears over 700 times. One popular theory is the number represents completion. For example, “By the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” However, there are many other popular theories. Many people say that the number represents the seven Sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church.

And while the ancient tradition seems to be dying out with the older generation, many families are trying to keep the feast going strong. They may not do all seven of the fish’s, but they do prepare fish that the family will enjoy to eat. In my family, when I was young, we did the “7” fishes years ago, when my grandmother and aunts were still with us. But sadly to say that we try to do at least a few, to give the young children a sense of what tradition was many years ago. Who knows. Maybe when they grow up and have their own families they will continue the tradition of “The Feast of the Seven Fishes.” Some of the fish dishes that are traditional and popular are, Baccala, baked or deep fried Cod, Shrimp, Scallops, Fried Smelts, Insalata di mare,--(seafood salad) Linguine with Anchovy, Clams, Lobster, Marinated Eel, Octopus salad, Oysters, Scungilli, Fried Calamari, Lobsters, and Whiting.

Day 12, of “The 12 Days of Christmas” is finally here. You have made it through all 12 days! I hope that you enjoyed your journey and learned some delicious new recipes. So, as my last recipe for "Christmas Eve Italian Style", I would love to share a very festive dish called “Italian Baked Stuffed Clams.” May your Christmas be Merry and your food be heavenly.

Italian Baked Stuffed Clams Recipe

24 cherrystone clams
Salt & pepper to taste
4 sprigs of parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons scallions, finely chopped
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup of butter
Juice of 1 lemon

Scrub and open clams, leaving clam on one half of the shell. Chop garlic, parsley, and scallions together. Add bread crumbs mixed with grated cheese, butter, and salt & pepper, to taste. Blend until smooth. Spread equal amounts of mixture over each clam. Pour a little lemon juice over each. Bake in 475° F oven for 10 minutes, until golden brown. Yield: serves 4 (recipe from: All Fish Seafood

Till Next Time……….

Copyright © 2011 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Friday, December 23, 2011

"12 Days of Christmas" Day 11, Easy Recipes For Christmas Morning Breakfast

“Christmas Eve was a night of song that wrapped itself about you like a shawl. But it warmed more than your body. It warmed your heart…filled it, too, with a melody that would last forever.”
by Bess Streeter Aldrich

Two Days left till Christmas morning! I’m sure just like many people, you will be tired from your Christmas Eve festivities and you want to have a healthy, quick breakfast on Christmas morning before you tear open the presents under the tree, or go to Christmas Day Mass. In my Italian family Christmas Eve, is a big night. Between the foods, the kids, and the presents, bedtime is always very late. Especially if we are planning on attending Midnight Mass. So on Christmas Day the last thing I am thinking about is cooking more food. So these three recipes I would love to share with you are a blessing and very easy so you can still have some family time with this simple Christmas morning breakfast. Treat your family to some delightful light Country Scones, a delicious Omelet, and a juicy Fresh Winter Fruit Salad. Planning for breakfast on Christmas morning may be easier than you think, by using these easy, make-ahead recipes. Please don’t forget to come back tomorrow for Day 12, the last day before Christmas Day.

Day 11--Country Scones
3/4 cup dried currants or raisins
2 cups all purpose unbleached flour
3 tablespoons of sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
5 tablespoons cold butter
1 cup ( 8 oz) sour cream
2 egg yolks

1 egg white
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Place currants in a bowl. Cover with hot water and let stand for 5 minutes. Drain well and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Combine sour cream and egg yokes, add to crumb mixture. Stir in currants just until blended. Turn onto a floured surface, knead gently 8-10 times. Divide into four portions. On un-greased baking sheets, pat dough into 4 inch circles. Cut each into four wedges, but do not separate. Beat egg white; brush over dough. Combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over tops. Bake at 425° F. for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.
Yield: 16 scones

Omelet for Breakfast

10-12 eggs
1 cup of milk
1 cup of sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup of chopped green onions
2 cups of grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 cup of cubed ham
1 jar of mushrooms
8 slices of cooked bacon, chopped

Preheat oven to 350° F. Beat the eggs, milk, sour cream, and salt in a bowl. Add in green onions, cheese, ham, bacon, and mushrooms. Stir together and pour into a greased 9 X 13 pan. Bake until set, about 45 minutes. Cool for at least 5 minutes. Cut into squares and serve hot. Can be made the night before, and put into the oven the next morning for a perfect Christmas breakfast.

Fresh Winter Fruit Salad
In a large bowl cut in chunks and combine:
Apples (any kind you like)
Grapes (red or green seedless)
Strawberries (if in season)
Blueberries (if in season)
Plus whatever you wish to add that your family likes, and is in season.

Toss with a least 1/ 2 cup of sugar or less to taste. Place in the fridge until chilled.
Spoon in glass compote dishes and add a sprig of mint on the side as a beautiful presentation.

Till Next Time…………..

Copyright © 2011 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Thursday, December 22, 2011

"12 Days of Christmas" Day 10, Yuletide Drinks & Winter Solstice

“In the bleak midwinter, Frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone; Snow had fallen, snow on snow, Snow on snow, In the bleak midwinter, Long Ago.” ~ Christina Rossetti, A Christmas Carol

Before there were clocks or calendars, man observed the sun and moon, to mark the day with the shortest amount of sunlit hours. This day came to be called Yule, also known as the Winter Solstice. (December 21st) Gathering around the hearth (fireplace) or bonfires was a common ritual. That was the beginning of the Yule Log known today. The Yule Log dates back to the 12th century in Europe, France and Italy as well. The wood for the Yule Log is supposed to be harvested off the owner’s own land, or received as a gift, never purchased. Holly sprigs are thrown in the fire by the guests and family members to carry away troubles from the past year. Some customs believe that the longer the log burned, the more bountiful the coming year would be. Some thick logs would be soaked in water, cider, ale or wine, and allowed to dry. This served as a blessing before lighting and contributed to the log burning more slowly over a prolonged period of time.

Christmas and the Winter Solstice is a great time to have a drink, relax and enjoy the Yule Log burning with family and friends. It’s that time of year when you are most likely to be hosting a party. No party is complete without a festive holiday drink. Holiday themed drinks that range from classics like Egg Nog to Christmas inspired punches, to warm hot chocolate covered with marshmallows are a festive way to celebrate this time of the year. Always have one non-alcoholic punch at your party for your guests who do not drink and for your non-adult children.

As we are entering Day 10, of my “12 Days of Christmas,” I would love to share with you a few recipes for your holiday themed drinks. These classic refreshments can be chilled with ice in a festive glass or warmed in a mug with a cinnamon stick as an added decoration.

Remember that the holiday season should be a time for merriment, so please drink responsibly.

Day 10--Homemade Hot Chocolate (non-alcoholic)
A steamy mug of Hot Chocolate is a welcome treat. The real secret to this drink’s success is a large amount of fluffy whipped cream floating on the top or marshmallows.
Rich and Creamy Hot Chocolate
1- 1/2 cups of milk
1 cup of half & half
2 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cups of semisweet chocolate chips
Whipped Cream

Place the milk, half and half, sugar, and chocolate in a double boiler. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook the mixture until the chocolate is completely melted; continue to heat for another minute, then remove from heat. Add vanilla and blend. For an extra frothy hot chocolate, use a stick blender to whip the mixture, or blend on whip in an electric blender. Yield: 2 servings

Day 10--Two Fun Alcoholic Drinks

Chocolate Snow Bear
Combine 1 oz of Amaretto, 1 oz of Crème de Cacao, 5 oz French vanilla ice cream, 1/4 of an oz of chocolate syrup, and 2 dashes of vanilla extract in a blender on low speed for about 2 minutes and pour into a chilled champagne flute.

Christmas White Russian
You want to fill an 8 oz glass with ice then add 1- 1/2oz of Vodka and 1- 1/2 oz of Kahlua, add 4 oz of chilled Egg Nog, stir it all together and enjoy!

Day 10- Non -Alcoholic Punch

Mrs. Claus’ Holiday Punch
1 gallon fresh apple cider
1/2 gallon of orange juice
20 Whole Cloves
20 Whole Allspice
4 Cinnamon Sticks, broken in half
Orange slices

Combine cider, orange juice, cloves, allspice, and cinnamon sticks in an 8-quart pot.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. To serve, strain punch and float orange slices. Makes 22-24 cups (Created by McCormick, Inc.)
Day 10- A Wassail Hot Punch- (Wine & Sherry)
This beverage is a hot, mulled punch often associated with Yuletide. Historically, the drink was a mulled cider made with sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Apples or oranges where often added to the mix. Wassailing is an ancient English custom. The master of the household drank to the health of those present saying , “Wass hael,” which means “be whole” or “be well.”
Wassail Recipe
From The Williamsburg Cookbook

1 cup of sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
3 lemon slices
2 cups of pineapple juice
2 cups of orange juice
6 cups dry red wine
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 cup of dry sherry
2 lemons, sliced

Boil the sugar, cinnamon sticks, and 3 lemon slices in 1/2 cup of water for 5 minutes and strain. Discard the cinnamon sticks and lemon slices. Heat but do not boil the remaining ingredients. Combine with the syrup, garnish with the lemon slices, and serve hot. Yield: 20 servings

 Till Next Time…………………..

Copyright © 2011 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"12 Days of Christmas", Day 9- Chanukah & Coconut Recipes

May the lights of Chanukah usher in a better world for all humankind. ~ Author Unknown

As my “12 Days of Christmas” continue, I would be remised, if I did not mention “Happy Chanukah” to all of my Jewish readers and friends. During the Jewish Holiday of Chanukah, 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. The name came from a Hebrew word which means “to dedicate,” and 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 doughnuts. 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.

So, my recipe for Day 9, of “The 12 Days of Christmas” is “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 small sweet cake consisting largely of ground almonds similar to the Italian Amaretti cookie.

Day 9, Coconut Macaroons
Recipe is courtesy of Ina Garten
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

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. Yield: 20-22 cookies.

Before I close this post, I would like to share with you another coconut recipe. This is a very simple cake recipe and it looks beautiful on a holiday plate. It can be used for Christmas, Chanukah, or even for your New Years celebration. I call it my “Easy Holiday Wreath Cake.”

Easy Holiday Wreath Cake

1 pkg. (2--layer size) cake mix. White cake is best but can use yellow cake mix.
1 can of Cream Cheese Frosting
1 package of sweetened shredded or flaked coconut
1 big red bow

Follow directions on cake box, then pour into greased, floured bundt pan. I usually use a 10 inch tube pan. You want it to be round to resemble a wreath with a hole in the center. Bake according to directions on the cake box. Cool for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool for another 15 to 20 minutes on a rack. After cooled then put on a plate and frost with the cream cheese frosting. It is ok if frosting is not perfect. Now you take the shredded coconut in your hand and carefully pat on some of the coconut. Go around the cake and the top as well as the hole in the middle. Cover cake completely with the coconut. Now that the cake is coated, attach your red bow on one side of the cake and now you have an “Easy Holiday Wreath Cake.” It is so moist and sweet due to the coconut. Plus, it is pretty placed on a plate that your guests will be amazed and think you worked on this cake for hours. See attached photo. Enjoy!!!

Thanks to my good friend Lois, for her information about Chanukah.

Till Next Time…………
Copyright © 2011 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"12 Days of Christmas" Day 8, Gingerbread Man Cookies

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 

 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 of childhood. As I remince 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 alumium 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 century. 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.  

As we come to Day 8, of “The 12 Days of Christmas,” my recipe is “Gingerbread Man Cookies.” 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 Man cookies.

DAY 8, “Gingerbread Man Cookies” 

3/4 cup-firmly packed Light or Dark Brown Sugar
1/2 cup-un-salted butter, softened
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 and salt
Sugar icing (Recipe Below) 

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.  Makes 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 Ornamnets, 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.


Till Next Time…….. 
Copyright © 2011 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Monday, December 19, 2011

"12 Days of Christmas" Day 7, Parties & Appetizers

Christmas is a season for kindling the fire for hospitality in the hall, the warm flame of charity in the heart. by Washington Irving

A Holiday party! What a splendid way to celebrate the season! Whether it be a Christmas, Chanukah, or even a New Years party, the food is number one on your list. Do you stress about what appetizers to make for your holiday parties? Or- Something that you can make a head of time, so you can enjoy your guests? Well I have the answer. I would love to share with you two tasty appetizers for your holiday gathering, that your guests will be amazed at how enjoyable they will be, plus you will be able to join in the festivities of your party. My recipe for DAY 7, of the “12 Days of Christmas,” is “Ham, Turkey, and Roast Beef Roll Ups” and a “Christmas Cheese Ball”.

Whether you call them, appetizers, starters, finger food, or hors d’oeuvres, these little delicacies are always the hit of your party. They are usually served before the main course of a meal, for an extended period as your guests arrive to your party. This “cocktail hour” as it is sometimes called, can sustain your guests during the wait, just like aperitifs are served as a drink before the meal. Some hors d’oeuvres are passed around, and some are placed on a decorative stationary table. They can be either hot or cold. Many people love this type of finger food, better than the main course. Some examples of appetizers or hors d’oeuvres are canapés, caviar, crudités, tapas, nachos, shrimp, sushi, and multitudes of different types of cheeses.
In many Italian households, they celebrate their holiday parties by serving an Antipasto platter. Antipasti means “before the meal” and is the traditional first course of a Italian meal. A traditional antipasto platter includes such items as cured meats, olives, roasted peppers, marinated anchovies, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, bruschetta, and various cheeses such as provolone and mozzarella. Then all of these delectable foods are topped off with a sprinkle of good olive oil. Oh, I was forgetting a very important part of the antipasto appetizer, which is a loaf or two of a soft Italian bread, so you can have something to dunk the olive oil with. There is no wrong way to create an antipasto plate, just add what your family loves to eat.
A little trivia : The term “antipasti” has appeared on U.S. restaurant menus since at least 1911.

Day 7- Appetizer: Ham, Turkey and Roast Beef Roll Ups
Cream cheese and a variety of herbs and vegetables make even deli cold cuts a fancy and filling appetizer. Bite sized pieces look so pretty set on a platter in a circle. But the arrangement never stays complete for very long once this appetizer is served.

Ingredients for Roast Beef Roll Ups:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/ 4 cup minced fresh parsley
2 to 3 tablespoon minced peppers (green, red or yellow)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/ 2 pound thinly sliced cooked roast beef

Directions for Roast Beef:
In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, parsley, peppers and garlic. Spread about 2 tablespoons on each slice of beef. Roll up tightly and wrap in plastic wrap.
Refrigerate overnight. Slice the roll ups unto 1 1/ 2 inch pieces.

Ingredients for Ham and Turkey Roll Ups:
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/ 2 cups shredded carrot
1/ 2 cups shredded zucchini
4 teaspoons dill weed
1/ 2 pound thinly sliced fully cooked ham
1/ 2 pound thinly sliced cooked turkey

Directions for Ham and Turkey:
In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, carrot, zucchini and dill. Spread about 2 tablespoons on each slice of ham and turkey. Roll up tightly, wrap in plastic wrap.
Refrigerate overnight. Slice the roll ups into 1 1/ 2 inch pieces. Yields: 24-28 servings

Christmas Cheese Ball
For every holiday or celebration, there is always someone who asks me to make or bring a cheese ball. This creamy and rich spread looks so festive with flecks of red pimiento and green onion dotting with cheddar cheese. It is definitely a crowd pleaser at any celebration.

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
2 cups (8 oz) shredded cheddar cheese
2 green onions, chopped
1 jar (2 oz) diced pimientos, drained
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Assorted crackers

In a bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in cheddar cheese, onions, pimientos, butter and Worcestershire sauce. Press into a small bowl; round and smooth top then refrigerate. Remove from the refrigerator 15 minutes before un-molding. Serve with crackers.
Yield: 1 cheese ball (2-1/2cups)

Till Next Time……..
Copyright © 2011 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Sunday, December 18, 2011

“12 Days of Christmas” Day 6, “Italian Knot Cookies”

She lit another match, and then she found herself sitting under a beautiful Christmas-tree. It was larger and more beautifully decorated than the one which she had seen through the shop windows. Thousands of tapers were burning upon the green branches, and colored ornaments twinkled so bright. The little maiden stretched out her hands towards them when--the match went out. The lights of the Christmas tee rose higher and higher, she saw them now as stars in heaven.
“The Little Match Girl” by Hans Christian Andersen


“The 12 Days of Christmas” are just rolling along and today is Day 6, as we continue to countdown to Christmas Day. My recipe for you is "Italian Knot Cookies," which are easy and scrumptious.  There is nothing like a genuine homemade Italian cookie. It is like a little taste of love all wrapped in one small bite. Italian mothers and grandmothers have used their recipes and have passed them down from generation to generation. They use the finest and freshest ingredients available so that you can taste a real quality cookie. There are many names and variations of these cookies, depending on the region that they originated from. In the end, the result is the same no matter where they came from, a soft, moist and crumbly cookie with a citrus flavor that gives them a delicate fresh balance. Once you place them on a beautiful Christmas plate your holiday table will be complete. They are definitely an Italian tradition in my house, so I hope that you will make them a tradition in your home this Christmas!

Italian Knot Cookies


3 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cups of sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons orange zest (you can use lemon zest)
2 tablespoons orange juice (you can use lemon juice)
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
4 to 5 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
Colored sprinkles or confetti


Preheat the oven to 350 ° F. Lightly grease 2 cookie sheets.
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the orange zest and juice. Then beat in the dry ingredients gradually, and beat well to mix. The dough will be soft; wrap it in waxed paper and refrigerate it for 1 hour to make it easier to handle.

Place the dough on a well-floured surface. Pinch off small egg-sized pieces of dough and roll each piece into a rope about 7 inches long and the width of your middle finger. Tie into a loose knot and place 1 inch apart on the greased cookie sheets. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool slightly. Frost when still slightly warm.

To make the frosting/glaze in a bowl, combine the sugar and 1/4 cup of the milk and beat until smooth. Add more milk if necessary to make a thin frosting or glaze. Beat in the almond extract.

Dip the top of each cookie into the frosting, shaking off the excess. Place them on racks and sprinkle with colored sprinkles or confetti. Let the frosting dry before storing. These will keep in an airtight container for up to a week; or freeze them for up to 3 months. (If there are any left)

Yield : 3-3 1/2 Dozen   Enjoy!  Ciao!  

Till Next Time………
Copyright © 2011 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Saturday, December 17, 2011

“12 Days of Christmas” Day 5, It's All About "Candy Canes”

T’was the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. by Clement Clarke Moore

We are at Day 5, as we continue with the “12 Days of Christmas.” Today is all about one of my favorites, Candy Canes. I have 3 fun easy recipes for your holiday gatherings. Candy Cane Cookies, Peppermint Bark, and a delicious holiday Candy Cane Cocktail. You can’t possibly go wrong with that trio of goodies.

Some Fun Facts about Candy Canes:
1. For 200 years, the candy cane came in only one color-white.
2. National Candy Cane Day is celebrated December 26th in the United States.
3. The world’s largest Candy Cane was created by Paul Ghinelli and measured 58 feet and 2 1/4 inches.
4. Each year 1.76 billion Candy Canes are made-enough to stretch from Santa Clause, IN to N. Pole, AK and back 32 times.
5. Candy Canes on the Christmas tree symbolize the Shepherds in the fields on that first Christmas night.
6. Peppermint is recommend to enhance memory. It improves blood flow to the brain and is believed to increase your concentration power.
Day 5: Candy Cane
Put a twist on your holiday cookies that are shaped like “Candy Canes.” These impressive Christmas cookies, flavored with peppermint, make a tasty treat. With a little food coloring and a small twist you can turn simple cookie dough into an edible treat!

Candy Cane Cookies
Recipe courtesy Sandra Lee

1 box sugar cookie mix
1/2 stick of butter, melted
1 egg
1/3 cup of softened cream cheese
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional for surface
Red or Green food coloring
1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract (you can also use vanilla instead of peppermint)

Preheat oven to 325° F. In bowl, combine sugar cookie mix, melted butter, egg, cream cheese, and flour; mix together to form dough. Separate dough into 2 equal portions and place in 2 different bowls. Add red/green food coloring gradually to one bowl of dough, kneading together until desired shade is created. (small drops at a time) To second bowl of uncooked dough, add peppermint or vanilla extract and knead together. On a floured work surface, shape each dough into balls and then roll each ball into 1/4 inch wide ropes, each about 6 inches long. For each cookie, carefully twist some of the red /green and white ropes of dough together and shape into a Candy Cane. Spread Candy Canes out on cookies sheets and bake on top shelf of the oven for about 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool before serving. Yield: Serves 25 cookies depending on your candy cane size.
Peppermint Bark is a classic Christmas treat. Can you resist chocolate with crisp cool bits of Candy Canes mixed together? I know I can’t. This delicious, easy “Peppermint Bark” makes a wonderful holiday gift, wrapped in a pretty box with a big red ribbon. Anything with chocolate, screams Christmas heaven!

“Peppermint Bark

Crushed Candy Canes, to yield 1 cup
2 pounds white chocolate
Peppermint flavorings, optional

Place Candy Canes in a plastic bag and hammer into 1/4- inch chunks or smaller. (I would suggest covering the plastic bag with a towel, so if the bag breaks, the candy doesn’t go all over the place. I know from experience)
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Combine candy chunks with chocolate (add peppermint flavoring at this point if desired.) Pour mixture onto a cookie sheet layered with parchment or waxed paper and place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes or until firm. Remove from cookie sheet and break into pieces (like peanut brittle.) You will need to refrigerate the bark if there are any leftovers.
There are some occasions that call for an elegant cocktail, and this smooth drink can fit any celebration. This “Candy Cane Cocktail” is fitting for any winter festivity, whether you are celebrating Christmas, Chanukah, or New Years. Option: Garnish with a small candy cane or create a candy cane rim with either colored sugar or crushed candy canes.

Candy Cane Cocktail
Recipe courtesy Sandra Lee

1 shot of vanilla rum
1 shot white chocolate liqueur (recommended: Godiva)
1 shot of peppermint schnapps
1 Candy Cane to garnish

Add all liquid ingredients to cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into martini glass. Garnish with Candy Cane. Yield: Serves 1 person

Till Next Time………

Copyright © 2011 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved