A New Season


After a long sabbatical, I plan to post new snippets with some holiday recipes from around the world. May your upcoming holiday preparations be interesting and fun. Stay happy and healthy until I write again.

Mushroom Holiday Appetizers


Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I thought I would share this recipe that we’ve used at holiday parties and at Christmas Eve and New Years Eve buffets.  These are nice either served cold or warm and can be kept hot in a chafing dish.  I prefer them cold.  Put them on a nice platter that is lined with a colored foil and some sprigs of herbs such as thyme or rosemary for a nice presentation.  They’re a little work, but well worth it.  Puff pastry in different brands can be found in the frozen section of your supermarket.  It usually comes four large rectangular sheets to the box.

INGREDIENTS:

2 packages frozen puff pastry
1 pound mushrooms, finely chopped
1/4 cup of butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion (white or Vidalia)
1/4 cup white wine
1 large egg, beaten together with 4 Tablespoon heavy cream
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
celery seeds (in jar in spice section of market)
1 garlic clove or two teaspoons jarred chopped garlic

Defrost the puff pastry according to package directions.  Saute the mushrooms and garlic in butter; add the parley and onion.  Season the softened mushroom mixture with salt, thyme and pepper.  Saute further until the liquid evaporates.  Add the wine and cook the mixture until it becomes dry.  Let cool.  On a floured rolling surface, roll out 1 pastry sheet to 1/8 inch thickness.  Cut out 24 circles with 2 inch round cookie cutter (if you do not have one, use a glass with a 2 inch rim dipped in flour).  Place teaspoon of mushroom mixture on each piece of pastry dough leaving a 1/4 inch edge.  Using a second piece of pastry, roll out and cut 24 more circular 2″ pieces.  Use these for covering the first batch of filled rounds.  Press down the edges and use a table fork to seal the edges.  Put pastries on large ungreased baking sheets and brush with beaten egg, cream mixture. Cut a slit on top of each pastry to vent the steam.  Repeat the process using the second package of pastry.

Bake in a 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for 14 minutes or until mushroom appetizers are puffed up and golden.

When lightly browned, remove to wire baking rack to cool.  Serve warm or cold, but not do not refrigerate unless you are planning on serving them a few hours later.  You may also freeze these in between sheets of waxed paper after they have cooled and reheat in a conventional oven.  They do not microwave well.

I hope these are a big hit at your next holiday gathering.

Gingerbread Cookies


Gingerbread house with path.

Gingerbread house with path. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve used this gingerbread cookie recipe for a long time to make gingerbread men and women, and also to put together gingerbread houses for the Christmas season.  If done right, it makes up into a dough that cooks up crisply and that will hold up to the rigors of being frosting glued into a holiday gingerbread house.  I’m not wonderful using pastry bags to frost too finely, so I resort to using those plastic tubes of frosting that can be found in the baking section of a supermarket.  They come in all colors and some even have changeable tips to make different decorating effects for the finished cookies.  Use whatever shape of cookie cutters move you, but I still prefer the gingerbread men and Santa’s to make gingerbread shapes that can be punched with a hole and hung as decorations, too.  The recipe is as follows:

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 lb. pound unsalted butter (not margarine)
1 cup molasses
1 cup brown sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg well beaten
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons dried ginger powder
1/4 cup boiling water

Cream butter and sugar until blended and light.  Add the egg and molasses.  Mix well.  Dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water.  Sift the flour with the salt and ginger powder and add the hot water to the first mixture and then stir this into the dry ingredients.   Chill this for at least one hour.  Roll the dough very thin and cut with a cookie cutter of your choosing which has been dipped in flour.  Bake in 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for approximately 15 minutes being careful to watch closely as these can burn quickly.  Cookies should be firm but not overly browned.

Cookies can be used as walls and roof for a gingerbread house with either a pre-bought kit or cut freehand from your own pattern.

Serving amount dependent on size of your cookie cutters.  I use a 2 inch cutter.  You  can also make ornament shaped ones using a 2 inch glass rim dipped in flour and then decorated with sugar frosting and sprinkles.

“The snow had begun n the gloaming.
And busily all the night
Had been heaping field and highway
With a silence deep and white.
-LOWELL

Holiday Fruit Cake


An American version of a fruitcake which conta...

An American version of a fruitcake which contains both fruit and nuts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve decided to broach the subject of the dreaded Christmas fruitcake which I know is not all as popular as it was years ago.  I’ll start by giving a brief history of the lowly fruitcake’s origins.

Fruit cake originated, it is believed, in ancient Rome in a much simpler form.  It started to be called ‘fruitcake’ in the Middle Ages when spice, honey and preserved fruits were added to it.  With the discovery of America and the sugars that were produced in the colonies and the abundance of fruits and nuts, the fruitcake began to come into it’s own.  It was now possible to obtain inexpensive sweeteners and many different types of ingredients to add to the cakes.  In the 1700’s nuts were often added to the fruitcake to celebrate good fortune and the abundant harvests.  A great many different types of fruitcakes were produced, varying from light to dark, according to what type of fruits, flours, and nuts were used.  Traditional fruitcake are soaked in liquor to flavor and preserve the cakes,  with brandy and rum being most often used for soaking.  Many fruitcake recipes have been handed down through generations of a family.

The following fruitcake recipe is at least seventy years old.  It is up to you whether you want to further soak the cake with brandy by drizzling it slowly over the top until it is moistened:

1/2 lb. dates, chopped
1/2 lb. dried apricots- chopped
1/2 lb. red and green candied cherries- chopped
1/2 lb. red and green candied pineapple- chopped
1/2 lb. dark raisins
1/2 lb. walnuts – toasted and chopped
1/2 lb. pecans- chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup softened butter
1 orange, juice and grated rind
1 lemon, juice and grated rind
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons brandy
2 Tablespoons Curacao
2 Tablespoons dark rum

Measure out ingredients in advance for easier preparation.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Thoroughly grease two 8″ x 5″ x 3″ loaf pans.  Dredge the fruit and nuts with flour and set aside.  Cream the butter and sugar.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.  Sift the remaining flour with spices, baking soda and salt.  Add to the creamed butter and sugar mixture alternating with adding the liquor, spices, and vanilla.  Fold the floured fruit and nuts into the batter.  Pour into prepared loaf pans – put the loaf pans into a large pan of hot water and bake for about 2-2  1/2 hours or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool ten minutes and gently remove cakes to a wire baking rack to further cool.

When cool, fruitcake can be further soaked in brandy or rum by drizzling liquor onto cake and letting it seep in to moisten.
Wrap cakes thoroughly in plastic wrap.  They can be aged for several weeks for flavors to meld.  Good served with cream cheese or butter.

HAPPY BAKING AND HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON.

Hanukkah (with recipe)


The last night of Chanukah; Menorah with all 8...

Photo credit: Wilkpedia

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah (Chanukah) takes place this year from the evening of December 8th through to the evening of December 16th, 2012.

Hanukkah is a happily celebrated holiday that starts on the 25th day of Kivlis (according to the Georgian calendar and is dated based upon the cycles of moon.  Hanukkah is also referred to as the Festival of Lights and is usually celebrated on a date falling somewhere around November into December.  It takes place for eight days and nights.  The festival is in celebration of the rededication of the ‘Temple of Jerusalem’ – or Temple of Menorah in 165 B.C by Judas McCabe.  The word Hanukkah in translation means ‘dedication’ in Jewish.

During the Hanukkah celebration in the eight successive nights, the menorah is lit.  The special menorah that is used by celebrants is called the ‘hannukkiyah’.  The special ninth candle that is used is called the ‘shamish and it takes a central space on the menorah.  It is the ‘servant’ candle used to light the other candles.  On night one, the first candle is lit and they are lit successively until all are completely lit on the eighth night.  The candles are usually lit from left to right.  A blessing thanking God is usually said before and after a candle lighting.  A Jewish hymn is sung during the lightings.  The menorah is often placed in a front window of the celebrants home.

Gift giving has become the norm and gifts are now given on each of the days of Hanukkah.  This is a more recent tradition  Games are played during Hanukkah including ‘sivivon’ and ‘dreidel’.  Foods fried in oil such as latkes and donuts filled with jams are very often served.  Of the many foods served during the celebration, honey spice cookies are popular among children and following is a recipe that I used for a bake sale held at a local temple some years ago.   I share it below:

HONEY-SPICE COOKIES —

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup margarine (60% oil), softened
1/2 cup honey
1 large egg
2  1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1  1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1  1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoons ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt

FROSTING:

2 beaten egg whites
2  1/2 cups confectioners sugar
Tablespoon of lemon juice

In mixing bowl, cream margarine and brown sugar with electric mixer.  Beat in the honey and egg until thoroughly combined.  In a small bowl, mix the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, cloves and salt.  Add honey mixture and mix on low speed until well blended.  Cover up the dough and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  Can be refrigerated for up to two days.

When ready to bake, grease 2 large cookie sheets and set aside.  Working rapidly, quarter the dough, and one piece at a time roll out on a surface dusted with flour to a 1/4 inch thickness.  Using shaped cookie cutters (star, dreidel and menorah) cut into desired number of cookies depending on size of cutters.  These can also be cut by hand with sharp knife.  Reshape scraps and cut more cookies from it.  Place on shapes on greased baking sheets and bake in a 350 degree oven for 7-8 minutes or until golden.  Quantity of cookies may vary due to size of cookie cutters.  Transfer cookies to wire baking racks to cool.

To frost cookies – In large mixing bowl, combine egg whites, confectioners sugar, salt and lemon juice.  Beat this on high until mixture forms peaks.  A bit of water can be added if too stiff or add more sugar if too runny.  Using pasty bag with fitted tube, decorate with icing.

Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame
Blessed is the flame that burns in the secret fastness of the heart
by Hannah Senesh

Italian Ricotta Pie


Ricotta cheese.

Ricotta cheese. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Usually during this time of year, holiday tables are full of dessert pies made of a variety of fruit fillings.  On our table for Thanksgiving Day is a variety of ethnic dishes including one for this Italian basic ricotta pie.  It’s very rich, but it can be made with part-skim ricotta to cut down a bit on calories.  This is a quick and easy pie to make and should add a very distinct flavor to your holiday meal.

Crust:

 

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick margarine
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 egg yolks (from large or extra large eggs)

Filling:

2 pounds Ricotta cheese (or part-skim_
1  1/2 cups confectioners sugar
2 egg whites (from large or extra large eggs)
2 teaspoons lemon and rind
1  1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (not imitation)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit

 

 

For the crust, place 2 cups flour in large mixing bowl with baking powder, stir dry ingredients to blend.  With fork, cut in margarine until small balls form.  Add vanilla and slowly put milk in while blending with fork until ball forms.  Add egg yolks and continue stirring until a large ball forms.  If it is too dry to roll, add just a small amount of milk until of rolling consistency.  Roll out dough onto waxed paper – one for top and one for bottom.  Put half of dough into bottom of 10 inch pie plate.  Reserve other half for top of ricotta pie.

For the filling, in mixer bowl place ricotta cheese, egg whites,  lemon and rind, mix.  Then add the confectioners sugar and vanilla extract.  Blend for approximately 7 minutes of medium speed or until smooth.  Pour into pie crust.  Place reserved pie crust on top of filling and crimp the edges as desired.  Brush top crust lightly with egg white and place four small cuts to vent steam.  Cover edges with aluminum foil to protect rim of pie.

Bake at 425 degrees for 40 minutes or until lightly browned.

 

Over the River…….


English: Lydia Maria Child (February 11, 1802 ...

English: Lydia Maria Child (February 11, 1802 – July 7, 1880) was an American abolitionist, women’s rights activist, opponent of American expansionism, Indian rights activist, novelist, and journalist. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For this post I don’t have to go far from home to remind me of the holiday season, of  Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I’m reminded of one day in the 1980’s when I toured the home of Lydia Maria Childs’ grandparents who had owned an old Georgian Colonial on the other side of the Mystic River in Medford, Massachusetts in the U.S.A.  I had saved up enough money for a down payment on a house and Lydia Maria Childs’ grandparents old home was for sale.  I toured the house with my husband and I was extremely excited by the prospect of owning such a wonderful piece of American history. I said yes to the real estate agents offer of a purchase price of only $42,000.  Unfortunately, after adding up the costs of owning and maintaining such a large structure, we decided against the purchase and moved on to other options.  At a later date, Tufts University bought the home for a huge sum and the house remains on the U.S. Trust for Historic Preservations’ registered historic homes list.

Lydia Maria Child was a author, abolitionist and activist who was born into a prominent New England family in Medford, Massachusetts.  She was schooled in her early years in Medford Schools.  She would often visit her grandparents at their home and wrote this song as an adult.  Sometimes when the snow is deep and the air is chill, you can almost see the her sleigh coming across the old Craddock Bridge in Medford Square.

Over the River and Through the Woods to Grandfather’s House We Go

By Lydia Maria Child

Over the river, and through the wood,
to Grandfather’s house we go:
the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river, and through the wood,to Grandfather’s house away!
We would not stop for doll or top,
for ’tis Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river, and through the wood
oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes and bites the nose,
as over the ground we go.

Over the river, and through the wood,
and straight trough the barnyard gate,
We seem to go extremely slow,
it is so hard to wait!

Over the river, and through the wood,
when Grandmother sees us come,
She will say, ‘o, dear, the children are here,
bring a pie for every one.’

Over the river, and through the wood,
now Grandmothers cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

May your holidays be as filled with joy as the young Lydia Maria Childs’ was on that long ago Thanksgiving Day.