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.

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.

Scrappy Pie


Newfoundland Blue Ensign.

Newfoundland Blue Ensign. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remembrance Day falls this year in Canada on November 11th.  Some provinces and territories celebrate it, also, on November 12th.  My Dad hails from Newfoundland, and at times he made what he called scrappy pie to celebrate it.  It is on Remembrance Day there that Canadians  remember  all of the fallen soldiers from past wars.

My great-uncle Charles was killed in Belgium in the first World War and is buried  where he was killed defending his fallen comrades.  His name is called out and his memory is saluted by a contingent of military members at Parliament every year on this day.  For this I simply give you my father’s Americanized version of Scrappy Pie (or Newfoundland Seafood Pie):

Potato topping ingredients:   1 cup all purpose flour,  1/2 cup fresh mashed potato, 4 ounces butter, 1 tablespoon milk, 2  Tablespoons dried breadcrumbs.

Filling:  16 ounces whitefish (cod, haddock, whiting or your choice), large cooked shrimp (8 ounces), 1 small onion- chopped fine, 1 cup frozen peas, 2 tablespoons fresh parsley – chopped fine, zest of a lemon – grated, 1/4 cup cornstarch, 2 cups milk.

Sift flour into a large bowl.  Using a pastry blender or fork, mix this with the mashed potato until thoroughly blended.  Blend in the  butter,  then draw into a dough, adding a bit of water until dough sticks together.  Wrap dough in pastic and chill in the refrigerator for 1/2 hour.

Prepare filling by cutting fish into chucks and putting them into a 10 inch pie pan or baking dish.   Mix in the seafood, onions, peas, parsley and zest.  Blend the cornstarch with a bit of milk in a bowl.  Heat the remaining milk almost to boiling and stir it into the cornstarch mixture.  Return mixture to pan and stir until the mixture thickens.  Add seasoning and pour over fish filling.  Cool for 20 minutes.  Bring oven to 400F (200C).

Roll out the dough between sheets of wax paper to overlap to of pie plate.  Remove the top of the waxed paper and use the bottom sheet to help position dough on top of seafood mixture.

Press dough around edges of pan and clean up the edges.  Slash center of pie with small knife to vent steam.  Brush the crust with milk and sprinkle liberally with plain breadcrumbs.

Put pie on a baking sheet  Bake for 10 minutes – then drop temperature to 350F (180C).   Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

My father cooked this for us when we were very young and it’s the closest I can come to the original recipe.  I sought out Scrappy Pie recipes everywhere to no avail, so if someone could forward me more from the great nation of Canada, I would greatly appreciate it.

May you stay safe and sound on Remembrance Day.  And to my remaining Newfoundland cousins, may the sea treat you right and the cod keep running.