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

Monday, December 21, 2015

"Christmas Around The World" Day--9 Recipes --“Herb-Crusted Pork Tenderloin” & “Greek Spinach Pie”

Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly Merry Christmas. - Peg Bracken

Welcome to the 9th day of “Christmas Around The World!” For my readers who are new, everyday for the next 3 days, till Christmas Eve, I will post 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 will also share a holiday treat, a homemade gift idea, or just a favorite recipe that I think goes with that country, all leading up to “Christmas Eve.” 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!

Day # 9, My country today is Greece!

On Christmas Eve, children, especially boys, often go out singing “kalanda” (carols) in the streets. They play drums and triangles as they sing. Sometimes the will also carry model boats decorated with nuts which are painted gold. Carrying a boat is a very old custom in the Greek Islands. If the children sing well, they might be given money, as well things to eat like nuts, sweets and dried figs.

Christmas Trees are popular in Greece. But an older and more traditional decoration is a shallow wooden bowl with a piece of wire is suspended across the rim. A sprig of basil wrapped around a wooden cross hangs from the wire. Some water is kept in the bowl to keep the basil alive and fresh. Once a day someone, usually the mother of the family, dips the cross and basil into some holy water and uses it to sprinkle water in each room of the house. This is believed to keep the “Killantzaroi” (bad spirits) away. The Killantzaroi are meant to appear only during the 12-day period from Christmas to Epiphany. (January 6th) They are supposed to come from the middle of the earth and get into people's house through the chimney! The Killantzaroi do things like putting out fires and making milk go off. Having a fire burning through the twelve days of Christmas is also meant to keep the Killantzaroi away.

Every December, in Aristotelous Square in the city of Thessaloniki (which is the second biggest city Greece) a huge Christmas Tree and three masted sailing ship are put up. It's a popular tourist attraction. Going to a Midnight Mass Service is very important for most Greeks. After the service people can go home and end their Advent fast.

The main Christmas meal is often Lamb or Pork, roasted in an oven or over an open spit. It's often served with a spinach and cheese pie and various salads and vegetables. Other Christmas and New Year foods include “Baklava” (a sweet pastry made of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey), Kataifi (a pastry made from a special form of shredded filo dough and flavored with nuts and cinnamon), Theeples (a kind of fried pastry). The pastries are either eaten for breakfast or as starters. Another popular Christmas dessert are melomakarono, egg or oblong shaped biscuit/cakes made from flour, olive oil, and honey and rolled in chopped walnuts.
A traditional table decoration are loaves of “Christopsomo” (Christ's Bread or Christmas bread). It's a round sweet bread which is flavored with cinnamon, orange and cloves. The top is decorated with a cross. The bread is made on Christmas Eve ready to be eaten on Christmas Day.

“Christopsomo" Bread
In Greek Happy/Merry Christmas is “Kala Christougenna.” In Greece, presents are often brought to children by Aghios Vassilis (Saint Basil) on January 1st.

People in Greece also celebrate Epiphany on the 6th January. In the Greek Orthodox Church, Epiphany celebrates Jesus baptism when he was a man. It's also known as “The Blessing of the Waters.” There are many events throughout the country where young men dive into really cold lakes, rivers and the sea to try to be first to get a cross which has been blessed by a priest and thrown into the water. Whoever gets the cross first is meant to have good luck during the coming year. Epiphany festivals also include blessings of boats & ships, music, dancing, and lots of food.

"The Blessing Of The Waters"

My recipe for today is a Greek tradition, which is eating pork. So I have a fabulous dish called, “Herb-Crusted Pork Tenderloin.” I think that you will love this very simple and outstanding roast. This meal is ideal for a dinner party, Christmas, or any holiday, as tenderloins are quick to roast and easy to serve.

Herb-Crusted Pork Tenderloin

Serves: 6
Total time: 1 hour and 5 minutes

2 pork tenderloins (about 3/4 lb each)
1 cup soft bread crumbs (about 1 1/2 slices bread)
1/ 4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil1
2 teaspoon salt
1/ 2  teaspoon fennel seed
1/ 4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Heat oven to 450°F. Spray shallow roasting pan and rack with cooking spray. Place pork tenderloins on rack in pan. In small bowl, mix remaining ingredients. Spoon herb mixture evenly over pork. Insert ovenproof meat thermometer so tip is in the thickest part of pork. Cover pork loosely with foil. Bake 20 minutes; remove foil. Bake uncovered 10 to 15 minutes longer or until thermometer reads 155°F. Cover pork loosely with foil and let stand 10 to 15 minutes or until thermometer reads 160°F. (Temperature will continue to rise about 5 degrees and pork will be easier to carve)      

Greek Santa

My next recipe for this country is called a “Greek Spinach Pie.” I love a good spinach pie. I always order this dish when I eat at a Greek restaurant. I love the flaky crust and the rich, warm, spinach filled inside. I hope that you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!

Greek Spinach Pie

Serves: 8

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion
1 clove garlic
1 cup cottage cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tsp ground nutmeg 

1/2 Tsp salt
10-15 cranks fresh cracked pepper
2 large eggs
16 oz. frozen cut spinach
1 sheet (8 oz.) puff pastry
2 Tbsp flour for dusting
1 large egg (for glaze, optional)

Preheat the oven to 375°F degrees. Dice the onion into small pieces and mince the garlic. Cook both in a small skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat until soft and transparent (about five minutes). While the onions and garlic are cooking, prepare the rest of the filling. In a bowl combine the cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Mix well. Before adding the spinach, strain it in a colander and press out as much moisture as possible (squeezing handfuls in a fist works well too). Once the onions have softened, add them to the cheese/egg mixture along with the squeeze dried spinach. Stir until well combined. Dust a clean work surface with flour and unfold a sheet of puff pastry onto it. Using a rolling pin, roll the puff pastry into a 12 inch by 12 inch square. Drape the rolled dough over a standard 9 inch pie dish. Spread the spinach filling evenly inside the pastry lined pie dish. Fold the corners of the pastry back over top of the filling. It’s okay if they do not fully reach to meet each other. If desired, brush a whisked egg over the top (this will give the surface a glossy appearance after cooking). Bake the pie for 45 minutes in a preheated 375°F degree oven. Allow the pie to rest for about 5 minutes before cutting to allow the filling to set.

****Notes :Allow both the puff pastry and frozen spinach to thaw in the refrigerator over night.

Recipe from: http://www.budgetbytes.com/2012/09/spinach-pie/

See you on Day # 10...

Till Next Time………………………….

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

Sunday, December 20, 2015

"Christmas Around The World" Day--8 Recipe -- “Maple Shortbread Cookie”

"I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month." by Harlan Miller (Better Homes and Gardens)

Welcome to the 8th day of “Christmas Around The World!” For my readers who are new, everyday for the next 12 days, till Christmas Eve, I will post 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 will also share a holiday treat, a homemade gift idea, or just a favorite recipe that I think goes with that country, all leading up to “Christmas Eve.” 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!

Day # 8, My country today is Canada!

Canada is a very large country and people of many different cultural backgrounds live there. Because of these different cultures there are lots of different Christmas traditions in Canada. Many of the traditions and celebrations come from French, English, Irish, Scottish, Italian, and German influences.

The Eastern Canadian province of Nova Scotia is known all over the world for its fir and pine Christmas Trees, so most families in Canada have a fir or pine Christmas Tree. One Canadian tradition is to send the biggest, best fir tree (grown in Nova Scotia) to Boston, USA because of the assistance given during the disaster, known worldwide, as the Halifax Explosion. This tradition has carried on for many years. Bostonian's always love and appreciate the Nova Scotia Christmas tree. They place this tree in the city and then light it during a ceremony to begin the Christmas season.

Nova Scotia Tree

Mummering is a tradition which mainly takes place in the province of Newfoundland, more commonly in small towns and villages rather than large towns and cities. It's also sometimes called 'Jannying'. People dress up in costumes and knock on someone's door and say in a disguised voice, "Are there any Mummers in the night?" or "Any mummers 'loud in?'", meaning 'are mummers allowed in the house?' Then they sing and dance and have Christmas cake and a cup of something nice before moving on to the next house. In some places, if the host does not guess who the Mummers are, the host must join the Mummers in their merry-making. Going Mummering is a fun Christmas season activity for adults. Mummers usually come out between December 26th and January 6 th. However, some come out only before Christmas Day. In some places Mummering is now banned because people used it as an excuse for begging.

On the south shore of Nova Scotia, over Christmas, there's the tradition of Belsnickeling where people dress up in funny Santa costumes and go from house to house until the home owners guess who you were. It was especially popular in West & East Green Harbor. The Belsnicklers often brought musical instruments and sang. They were served Christmas cake or cookies. This tradition was brought to Nova Scotia by the 1751 Germans immigrants who settled Lunenburg and South shore.

People in Canada send Christmas Cards to their friends and family. In northern Canada, some people plan a Taffy Pull. This is held in honor of Saint Catherine, the patron saint of single women. This party provides an opportunity for single women to meet eligible single men!

Many Canadians open their gifts on Christmas Eve. Some only open their stocking on Christmas Eve. Others choose one gift to open, then save the rest until Christmas Day. Canadian children also believe in Santa Claus. Canadians are especially proud to say that their country is the home of Santa Claus. The Santa Claus Parade in Toronto is one of the oldest and largest Santa parades in the world! It started in 1913 when Santa was pulled through the streets of Toronto. Children along the route followed Santa and marched along with him. It's been taking place for over 100 years and now is a huge event with over 25 animated floats and 2000 people taking part! It's broadcast on TV around the world.

“Sinck Tuck" is a festival started by the Inuit that is celebrated in some provinces of Canada. This celebration consists of dancing and gift exchanging. Labrador City in Newfoundland holds a Christmas Light-up Contest each year. People dress the outside of their houses up with lights and often have big ice sculptures in their front gardens! They have no trouble finding enough snow or ice, because Labrador City has about 12-14 Feet of snow every year! Oh My!

Many Canadian families have cookie-baking parties. They bring a recipe for Christmas cookies, bake them and then exchange them with the members of their family. At the end of the party, each family goes home with a variety of different cookies to enjoy over the Christmas season.

Many families of French descent have a huge feast/party on Christmas Eve called a “Réveillon” that lasts well into the early hours of Christmas morning after taking part in Christmas Eve Mass. When people are at Midnight Mass, they hope that “Père Noel” (Santa) will visit their house and leave gifts for children under the tree. The traditional Christmas meal for people in Quebec, is a stew called “ragoût aux pattes de cochons” which is made from pigs feet! However, many people now have a “Tortière,” a meat pie made from venison (or pork or beef).

At the end of the Christmas season, January 6th, people in the province of Quebec have a celebration called "La Fete du Roi" They bake a cake and place a bean in the middle. Whoever is the lucky discoverer of the bean, gets to be the king or queen, according to tradition. Reminds me of New Orleans, La in the USA. 

In Southwestern Nova Scotia, many families eat lobster, a shellfish caught off the shores of Nova Scotia in the North Atlantic Ocean, on Christmas Eve. At Christmas Canadians eat sweets called Barley Candy and Chicken Bones! They are really sweets made by local candy companies. Barley Candy is usually on a stick and is shaped like Santa, reindeer, snowmen, a tree and other symbols of Christmas. Chicken Bones are pink candy that tastes like cinnamon. You melt them in your mouth and once melted, they reveal a creamy milk chocolate center. Sounds yummy to me! 

My recipe for today is a “Maple Shortbread Cookie” Canada, meet your new favorite cookie. We've done our country's iconic flavor justice by adding maple to the flaky cookie dough, then topping them off with a syrupy glaze. Yummy!

Maple Shortbread Cookie

Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 2 hours and 45 minutes
Portion size about: 50 cookies

1/2 cup un-salted butter, softened
1/3 cup icing sugar (powdered sugar)
1/4 tsp maple extract
1 cup all-purpose flour

Maple Glaze:
1/2 cup icing sugar or powdered sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp maple extract

In stand mixer with paddle attachment, or in bowl using wooden spoon, beat together butter, icing sugar and maple extract until fluffy; stir in flour just until combined.

Divide dough in half; shape into discs. Wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate until firm but not hard, about 45 minutes.

Working with 1 disc at a time, roll out dough between waxed paper to 1/4-inch thickness. Using 2-inch maple leaf–shaped cookie cutter, cut out shapes, re-rolling scraps as necessary. Arrange, 1 inch apart, on parchment paper– lined rimless baking sheets. Refrigerate until firm, about 20 minutes.

Bake, 1 sheet at a time, in 325°F oven until edges are light golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool on pans for 1 minute; transfer directly to racks to cool completely. (Make- ahead: Store in airtight container for up to 3 days.)

Maple Glaze: In bowl, whisk together icing sugar, maple syrup, and maple extract; gradually whisk in up to 2 tsp water to make thin but spread able glaze. Spread over tops of cookies; let stand until dry, about 20 minutes. (Make-ahead: Layer between waxed paper in airtight container; store for up to 5 days.) Enjoy!

See you on Day # 9...

Till Next Time………………………….

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

Saturday, December 19, 2015

"Christmas Around The World" Day--7 Recipe --“Glühwein” & “Linzer Tarts”

           "Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone" - Charles Schulz 

Welcome to the 7th day of “Christmas Around The World!” For my readers who are new, everyday for the next 12 days, till Christmas Eve, I will post 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 will also share a holiday treat, a homemade gift idea, or just a favorite recipe that I think goes with that country, all leading up to “Christmas Eve.” 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!

Day # 7, My country today is Germany!

A big part of the Christmas celebrations in Germany is Advent. Several different types of Advent calendars are used in German homes. As well as the traditional ones that are used in many countries with a little present in it. Another type is called a “Advent Kranz” and is a ring of fir branches that has four candles on it. This is like the Advent candles that are used in churches for religious services.

Christmas Trees are very important in Germany. They were first used in Germany during the Middle Ages. If there are young children in the house, the trees are usually secretly decorated by the mother of the family. The Christmas tree was traditionally brought into the house on Christmas eve. In some parts of Germany, during the evening the family would read the Bible and sing Christmas songs such as O Tannenbaum, Ihr Kinderlein Kommet and Stille Nacht (Slient Night). Christmas Eve is the main day when Germans exchange presents with their families. In German Happy/Merry Christmas is “Frohe Weihnachten.”

Germany is well known for its Christmas Markets where all sorts of Christmas foods and decorations are sold. Perhaps the most famous German decorations are glass ornaments. The glass ornaments were originally hand blown glass and were imported in the USA in 1880s by the Woolworth stores. The legend of the glass “Christmas Pickle” is famous in the USA, but it's that, a legend. Most people in Germany have never heard of the Christmas Pickle! German tradition and that the pickle was the last ornament hung on the Christmas tree and then the first child to find the pickle got an extra present. The American city of Berrien Springs, MI (also known as the Christmas Pickle Capital of the World) has an annual pickle festival held during the early part of December. 

In some parts of Germany, mainly the south east of the country, children write to the “Christkind/Christkindl” (The Christ Child in English) asking for presents. The letters to the Christkind are decorated with sugar glued to the envelope to make them sparkly and attractive to look at. Children leave the letters on the windowsill at the beginning of or during Advent. The Christkind is often described as a young girl with “Christ like” qualities. In Nürnberg a young girl is chosen every year to participate in a parade as the Christkind. She wears a long white and gold dress, has long blond curly hair and wears a gold crown and sometimes wings like an angel. This is similar to St Lucia is Sweden.

Santa Claus or Father Christmas (der Weihnachtsmann) brings the presents on December 24th. You might also write a letter to Weihnachtsmann in other parts of Germany. December 6th is St. Nicholas' Day and "der Nikolaus" brings some small gifts, such as sweets and chocolate, to the children. He comes in the night between the 5th and the 6th and puts the presents into the shoes of the children, who usually place them by their doors on the previous evening.

Another tradition is the Sternsinger (or star singers) who go from house to house, sing a song and collect money for charity (this is a predominantly Catholic tradition). They are four children, three who dress up like the Wise men and one carries a star on a stick as a symbol for the Star of Bethlehem. When they're finished singing, they write a signature with chalk over the door of the house. The sign is written in a special way, so Christmas 2015 would be: 20*C*M*B*16. It is considered to be bad luck to wash the sign away - it has to fade by itself. It has usually faded by the 6th of January (Epiphany). The Sternsingers visit houses between December 27th and January 6th. 

Lastly, one of the most anticipated rituals of the holiday season is the festive Christmas dinner. The traditional German holiday meal consists of duck, goose, rabbit, a roast, and carp. Accompanied by German delicacies such as apple and sausage stuffing, red cabbage, and potato dumplings. Even the American fruitcake was adapted from one of the most famous German delicacies, Stollen. Since 1329, this unique “fruitcake” has been considered one of the most precious Christmas pastries in the world.

Glühwein (mulled wine) is an alcohol-containing hot drink enjoyed during Advent time and the cold Winter months in Germany. It is also a traditional beverage served at Christmas Markets. Red or white wine can be used depending on your preference. Red wine is most commonly used in Germany.  However, in southern parts of Germany and in Austria, white wine is very popular.  In Hessen, apple wine is also used.  The wine should be medium-dry to dry.  As a rule-of-thumb, choose a good quality wine.  For a white Glühwein, try a good Riesling.  For a red Glühwein, try a good Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir). Classic Christmas spices are used in the Glühwein: cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, allspice, etc. Lemon and/or orange zest is added to refine the flavors. For an extra "kick," a shot of rum or Amaretto can be added, but this is not part of the original Glühwein recipe (Be warned! This goes right to the head!) 

My recipes that I am going to share with you are both from Germany. The first one is a German mulled wine that is a very famous drink especially in the winter months. It is called “Glühwein.” Down the hatch…this should keep you nice and warm. 



3/4 cup water ( or orange juice)

3/4 cup white sugar 

1 cinnamon stick

1 orange

10 whole cloves

1 bottle red wine/ white wine

In a saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer. Cut the orange in half, and squeeze the juice into the simmering water. Push the cloves into the outside of the orange peel, and place peel in the simmering water. Continue simmering for 30 minutes, until thick and syrupy.
Pour in the wine, and heat until steaming but not simmering. Remove the clove-studded orange halves. Serve hot in mugs or glasses that have been preheated in warm water (cold glasses will break.) Serves: 6

*I know that this is the holiday, but please drink responsibly.*
My next recipe is one that I have been making in my family for many years now. They are simple but oh so delicious. They are “Linzer Tarts”…

“Linzer Tarts
Ingredients:3/4 lb unsalted butter/room temp
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup good raspberry preserves
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Directions:Preheat the oven to 350°F In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the butter and sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes. Roll the dough 1/4-inch thick and cut 2 3/4-inch rounds with a plain or fluted cutter. With 1/2 of the rounds, cut a hole from the middle of each round with a heart or a round shaped cutter. Place all the un-cooked cookies on an un-greased baking sheet and chill for 15 minutes. Bake the cookies for 15 to 20 minutes, until the edges begin to turn a light brown. Allow to cool to room temperature. Spread raspberry preserves on the flat side of each solid cookie. Dust the top of the cut-out cookies with confectioners' sugar and press the flat sides together, with the raspberry preserves in the middle and the confectioners' sugar on the top.

Yields:  36 cookies (depending on the size you make)

See you on Day # 8..Another country!.
Till Next Time………………………….

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

Friday, December 18, 2015

"Christmas Around The World" Day--6 Recipe --“Irish Coffee Cocktail” & Homemade Gumdrop Trees

It comes every year and will go on forever. And along with Christmas belong the keepsakes and the customs. Those humble, everyday things a mother clings to, and ponders, like Mary in the secret spaces of her heart. - Marjorie Holmes

Welcome to the 6th day of “Christmas Around The World!” For my readers who are new, everyday for the next 12 days, till Christmas Eve, I will post 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 will also share a holiday treat, a homemade gift idea, or just a favorite recipe that I think goes with that country, all leading up to “Christmas Eve.” 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!

Day # 6, my country today is “Ireland” Top of the morning to you!

In Ireland, people celebrate Christmas in much the same way as people in the UK and in the USA, but they also have many of their own Christmas traditions and customs. Christmas for Irish people, who are Catholics, lasts from Christmas Eve to the feast of Epiphany on January 6th, which some Irish people call “Little Christmas.” There is an old tradition that in some Irish houses (although now not many), people put a tall, thick candle on the sill of the largest window after sunset on Christmas Eve. The candle is left to burn all night and represents a welcoming light for Mary and Joseph. It can also represent the love of a family member who cannot be home at Christmas.

Churches in Ireland are packed full of people at the 12am Christmas Mass. For many of these Irish folks Midnight Mass is a social event as much it is a religious. Old friends will re-acquainted themselves with a few prayers, a good old chat and an uplifting sing-song of Christmas Carols. 

In Irish, (or Gaelic) Christmas is “Nollaig,” Santa Claus is known as “San Nioclás” (Saint Nicholas) or “Daidí na Nollag” (Father Christmas) Children hope that Santa will visit on Christmas Eve and leave presents for them. The day after Christmas Day, St. Stephen's Day (known as Boxing Day in the UK and some other countries), is also very important in Ireland. Like in the UK, football matches and horse racing meetings are traditionally held on St. Stephen's Day.

Another custom is that every Christmas morning in Ireland, thousands of people take part in an unusual and fairly recent tradition; a quick swim in the freezing coastal waters. Similar practices take place in other countries around Europe, and the Irish are as happy as any to jump right in. Not too cold until you get out and the icy wind sends shivers down your spine.  Still, many Irish people are more than willing to take part in the chilly tradition, often raising money for charity along the way.

One very old tradition is the Wren Boys Procession that takes place on St. Stephen's Day. This goes back to ancient times when a real wren was killed and carried around in a holly bush. Some processions still take place, but no wren is hunted or used. Young men and women dress up in home made costumes and go from house to house carrying a long pole with a holly bush tied to its top and singing a rhyme about a wren bird. Sometimes they are accompanied of violins, accordions, harmonicas and horns. The rhyme that is often used is: “The wren, the wren, the king of all birds On St. Stephen's day was caught in the furze.” People also ask for money “for the starving wren!” 

The wren is one of the smallest birds in the UK and Ireland, but has a very loud song and is sometimes called the “king of all birds.” This is because of the legend of a little wren who rode on the top of an eagle's head and boasted he had “flown higher than an eagle.” Wren's were hunted for many years throughout Europe in medieval times. The Wren Boys Procession mostly died out in the early 20th century, although it still takes place in some towns including Dingle, in Country Kerry in the South West of Ireland. 
Traditional, historic, Christmas food in Ireland include a round cake, full of caraway seeds. One is traditionally made for each person in the house. Now it's more common to have a Christmas Cake like those in the UK, a rich fruit cake covered with marzipan and decorated with icing. And an addition to turkey for Christmas dinner, sometimes spiced beef (spiced over several days, cooked, and then pressed) is eaten. This can be served hot or cold. Dessert is commonly a “Christmas Pudding.”

On Day #6 I am sharing with you a cocktail called

“Irish Coffee Cocktail

Makes: 2 cocktails

4 oz Baileys Coffee Irish Cream
2 oz Stoli Vanil
2 oz Kahlua
Whipped cream
Red sparkling sugar

Pour all the liquor into a shaker filled with ice, shake well and serve. Top the cocktail off with the whipped cream and decorate it with the sugar. For something that we threw together, this cocktail is delicious and simple.

**I know that this is the holiday, but please drink responsibly. 


Today I am giving my oven a rest and my recipe is “Gumdrop Trees.” This is a super easy project for kids as well as adults. This is a creative yet inexpensive Christmas centerpiece for the holidays. Using gumdrops for trees, and wreaths is easier than you think! Gumdrop trees make great gifts, just wrap them in cellophane with a beautiful ribbon and what a fun gift that will be.

To make these trees you need to go to your local craft store and purchase a Styrofoam cone or a wreath. You should try to find the green colored ones as the white ones will show through, in-between the gumdrops. Then you need several bags of gumdrops depending on the size of your cones. You need some ribbon, and a box of toothpicks with a point on the end. (the round ones, not the flat ones) Cut your toothpicks in half. Do not use toothpicks that splinter. (What I use is a small wire cutter and that cuts then perfectly in half) Now stick half of the toothpick in the bottom of the gumdrop and push it in the cone or wreath. Work from the bottom up, all around the cone going up the shape. Place the gumdrops as close together as possible. You can use all one color or mix the colors. You may need a full toothpick to attach the final gumdrop on top of the tree. Then attach a bow with another toothpick and place on the very top of your newly created Gumdrop Tree which you can add to your holiday decorations. Creating is fun for everyone!

****Make sure you return tomorrow for another country (Day 7) and another fabulous recipe…

Till Next Time………………………….

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

Thursday, December 17, 2015

"Christmas Around The World" Day-#-5 Recipe -- “Easy Gingerbread Cookies"

      Perhaps the best Yuletide decoration is being wreathed in smiles.-- Author Uknown

Welcome to the 5th day of “Christmas Around The World!” For my readers who are new, everyday for the next 12 days, till Christmas Eve, I will post 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 will also share a holiday treat, a homemade gift idea, or just a favorite recipe that I think goes with that country, all leading up to “Christmas Eve.” 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!

Day # 5, My country today is Russia! "Schastlivogo Rozhdestva!," which is Russian for "Merry Christmas".

In Russia, Ukraine, and Lithuania, a traditional meatless 12-dishes Christmas Eve Supper is served on Christmas Eve before opening gifts. This is known as the "Holy Meal." The table is spread with a white cloth symbolic of the swaddling clothes the Child Jesus was wrapped in, and a large white candle stands in the center of the table symbolizing “Christ the Light of the World.” Next to it is a round loaf of bread symbolizing “Christ Bread of Life.” Hay is often displayed either on the table or as a decoration in the room, reminiscent of the manger in Bethlehem. The twelve dishes (which differ by nationality or region) symbolize the Twelve Apostles.

The main attributes of Holy Meal in Ukraine are kutia, a poppy seed, honey and wheat dish, and uzvar, a drink made from reconstituted dried fruits. Other typical dishes are borscht, Varenyky, and dishes made of fish, and cabbage. Russians mostly eat lots of food on Christmas eve. They have a HUGE feast.

Vodka is still the national drink, normally served chilled and drunk neat in one gulp. Highly popular are flavored vodkas. Beer is increasingly threatening vodka's domination of the market. Russians drink beer in the morning to alleviate a hangover, or merely as a thirst quencher, and in recent years the country has begun to understand the term "lager lout." Wine, comes mostly from the vineyards of Moldavia, Georgia, and Crimea. Georgian dry and semi-sweet wines can be excellent, but Moldavian dry wine is more consistently reliable. The Crimea produces mainly fortified wines. Tea is traditionally brewed and stewed for hours, and topped up with boiling water from a samovar (cafes have discovered the convenience of teabags). Russians drink tea without milk. Coffee is readily available and often of excellent quality. Smaller cafes often offer Turkish coffee - served strong and black. Tea and coffee often have sugar already added unless you specifically ask for them without.

In the days of the Soviet Union, Christmas was not celebrated very much. New Year was the important time. Now Christmas is normally celebrated on January 7th (only a few Catholics might celebrate it on the 25th December). The date is different because the Russian Orthodox church uses the old 'Julian' calendar for religious celebration days. The official Christmas and New holidays in Russia last from December 31st to January 10th.

Some people fast (don't eat anything) on Christmas Eve, until the first star has appeared in the sky. People then eat 'sochivo' or 'kutia' a porridge made from wheat or rice served with honey, poppy seeds, fruit (especially berries and dried fruit like raisins), chopped walnuts or sometimes even fruit jellies! Kutia is sometimes eaten from one common bowl, this symbolizes unity. In the past, some families like to throw a spoonful of sochivo up on the ceiling. If it stuck to the ceiling, some people thought it meant they would have good luck and would have a good harvest!

Other popular Christmas Eve foods include beetroot soup (borsch) or vegan potluck (solyanka) served with individual vegetable pies (often made with cabbage, potato, or mushroom); salads often made from vegetables like gherkins, mushrooms or tomatoes, and also potato or other root vegetable salads. Sauerkraut is main dish in the Christmas Eve meal. It can be served with cranberries, cumin, shredded carrot and onion rings. It might be followed by more pies or porridge dishes such as buckwheat with fried onions and fried mushrooms. Dessert is often things like fruit pies, gingerbread, and honey bread cookies as well as fresh/dried fruit and more nuts. “Vzvar” (meaning 'boil-up') is often served at the end of the meal. It's a sweet drink made from dried fruit and honey boiled in water. Vzvar is traditionally at the birth of a child, so at Christmas it symbolizes the birth of the baby Jesus. Following the meal, prayers might be said and people then go to the midnight Church services. They often don't wash the dishes until they get home from Church, sometimes not until 4.00am or 5.00am!

The New Year celebrations are still very important to Russians (sometimes more than Christmas). This is when “Grandfather Frost” (known in Russian as “Ded Moroz,” brings presents to children. He is always dressed in a blue robe, and always is dressed in blue. He is always accompanied by his Grandaughter (Snegurochka). On New Year's eve children hold hands, make a circle around the Christmas tree and call for Snegurochka or Ded Moroz. When they appear the star and other lights on the Christmas tree light up! Ded Moroz carries a big magic staff. The traditional greeting for Happy New Year is “S Novym Godom.”

One of the most famous things about Christmas in Russia, to people in western Europe, and the USA, is the story of Babushka. Babushka means Grand Mother in Russian. It tells the story of an old women who met the Wise men on their way to see Jesus. However, most people in Russia have never heard of the story. It is thought that it was probably created by an American poet and writer called Edith Matilda Thomas in 1907. It seems to me to be very similar to the Italian tale of the “La Befana.”

My recipe today is one that the Russian people love to have for Christmas as a dessert! It is called “Easy Gingerbread Cookies” These little men (you can make girls as well) are so flavorful and tasty. You will want to eat a few of them.

Easy Gingerbread Cookies

Yield: Makes about 24 cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

To make the dough: In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves until well blended. In a large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, brown sugar, and egg on medium speed until well blended. Add molasses and vanilla. With your mixer on low speed, gradually stir in dry ingredients until blended and smooth. Gather dough with your hands into a ball and divide dough in half. Shape each half into a round disk and wrap each half in plastic. Refrigerate up to 4 days. Let dough come to room temperature before using.

To roll and bake:                                                                                                          
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375°F degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll each portion of dough 1/4-inch thick between two sheets of waxed paper. Cut out shapes with cookie cutter. Remove excess dough from around the cookies (as best you can), and transfer wax paper sheet to the freezer. Freeze for 10 minutes, then remove shapes to your lined baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. This makes transferring the cookies while keeping their shape SO much easier! Bake 1 sheet at a time for 7-9 minutes. Let cookies rest on baking sheet for 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack. Once cookies are completely cool, decorate as desired.

To decorate with royal icing:
Make royal icing by combining 1 Tablespoon meringue powder with 2 cups powdered sugar and 3-5 Tablespoons water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat icing until smooth and matte, about 5 minutes. Add more water to thin, if necessary. Separate icing into batches and tint with food coloring. Using piping bags or squeeze bottles with fine tips, pipe icing onto cooled cookies.
Store in an airtight container up to 1 week if you still have any left…Enjoy!


Till Next Time………………………….

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