Open House Antipasto Salad


antipasto

antipasto (Photo credit: freakgirl)

Whenever it is time for a holiday gathering, especially for those open house parties that are held at the end of the year, we like to serve up a variety of salads.  One of our favorites is this Italian style antipasto salads of which you can mix and match the vegetables and meats to suit your own tastes.  This one features traditional Italian cold cuts that can be obtained at your supermarket deli counter or in Italian food specialty shops.  Sometimes, I switch the ingredients around, using julienned turkey or reduced salt ham and cheeses for the saltier Italian cold cuts and replace the plain iceberg lettuce base with varied leafy greens to line the platter as a base.  It’s you choice whether to make the traditional Italian style salad or whether you would rather have the reduced-salt, lower calorie version.  As long as the vegetables are the marinated version, the taste should remain close to the original.  I often use leafy greens like iceberg,  romaine, red leaf and Bibb lettuce as well as the mixed greens like Mesclun, spinach and Italian blend that come in large bags at warehouse stores.

The amounts of ingredients in this salad can be increased so the measurements are not exacting.  Change the ingredient amounts to suit your taste.  We use less cold cuts and more vegetables to make a colorful display.  Serve up with a fancy spoon and fork set and a colorful platter. (We sometimes use a turkey platter).  The recipe is as follows:

INGREDIENTS:

Lettuce (of your choice)
Large jar marinated mushrooms
Black olives (Sicilian, Greek, black pitted, or green olives)
2 large jars artichoke hearts – drained and cut in half
2 jars roasted peppers, slice in strips
one jar anchovies, drained (amount used to your taste)
1 small onion – peeled and cut into rings
1 pound Genoa salami – sliced into strips or matchsticks
1 pound prosciutto – sliced into strips or matchsticks
1/2  pound capiccola – sliced into strips or matchsticks
1 pound Provolone cheese
(your may also use turkey, any cheese desired, ham, or other deli meat as desired)

Line a large platter with layers of lettuce or greens making salad as large as you like.  Place in order on top of greens – peppers, artichokes, olives, mushrooms, onion,  peppers, and anchovies.  Decoratively top with sliced cold cuts.

I use a homemade Italian dressing to top this, but some like just a bit of olive oil and vinegar with the addition of a bit of oregano.
You may use any dressing that suits you or serve with a variety of dressings presented with holiday spoons and bowls.

I hope your holiday parties are fun and festive.  Happy Holidays from my house to yours!!!

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

Chafing Dish Meatballs


Meat Balls - Lion Hotel

Meat Balls(Photo credit: avlxyz)

Here is a good little recipes that will leave your guests raving.  It tastes great and can be kept warm either in a chafing dish or just use your crockpot to keep it warm.  These come out best when done on the stove top and really aren’t too difficult.  We’ve used them a lot for Christmas Eve buffets and they go over just as big on New Years Eve. These can be made ahead and refrigerated of frozen with the meatballs held in one container and the sauce in a different one.  Thaw sauce and meatballs and put the dish together at the last-minute.

INGREDIENTS:

3 lbs. lean ground beef
1 1/2 cups cracker crumbs
1 cup onion chopped
1 cup canola oil
12 ounces evaporated milk
2 teaspoons salt
3 medium green peppers – diced
1 cup chicken bouillon granules
8 chucks canned pineapple – juice drained
4 Tablespoons soy sauce
4 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 1/2 cups pineapple juice
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon seasoned salt (such as accent)
pepper

Mix the ground beef, cracker crumbs, evaporated milk, onion and salt together until thoroughly blended.  Shape mixture into tiny meatballs.  Brown in frying pan in canola oil.  Remove from heat.  Drain oil from skillet reserving about 2 tablespoons of the oil.  Add bouillon, green peppers and pineapple.  Cover and cook over medium heat for approximately 10 minutes until softened.  In the meantime, mix cornstarch, soy sauce, seasoned salt (accent) vinegar, pineapple juice, sugar, salt and pepper.  Add the mixture to the pineapple, bouillon, and green peppers in skillet and simmer, stirring constantly until mixture thickens.  Return meatball to sauce.  Serve in chafing dish or keep warm in crockpot.  Use cocktail picks to serve.  These go good with cocktail bread or tiny croissants.

Yields:  Approximately 25 servings

May your holiday season be a joyous one.  I hope you like these as much as we do.

Mocha Coffee Punch


Punch Bowl

(Photo credit: Josh Self)

For a different punch while you, your family and friends put up the Christmas decorations, I’ve opted for a cold punch instead of a hot one.  This punch serves 40 punch cup servings (or less in 6-8 ounce glass).  Even though the punch can be used for the summer, it has a heavy-bodied feel that is nice in the winter, too.

1 gallon strong coffee – chilled
3/4 cups sugar
1 gallon chocolate ice cream
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 pint whipping cream (heavy cream) whipped
and sweetened
grated nutmeg

Combine the sugar, coffee and vanilla.  Stir to dissolve.  Refrigerate mixture.  To serve, scoop ice cream into the punch bowl.  Add refrigerated coffee mixture and then gently fold in the whipped cream.  Sprinkle the top with grated nutmeg to taste.

Servings:  40 punch cups full

I serve this up in an antique milk glass bowl, but it also looks great in a cranberry glass bowl and ladled up with a silver ladle.

Some appetizer recipes are to follow.

Happy decorating.  It’s time to bring tree, ornaments, and lights from the storage room!!!

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.

Mexican Christmas Eve Salad


English: fresh fruit salad

English: fresh fruit salad (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fresh fruit and vegetable of Mexico in Mexico ...

In this salad I use the original beets as it lends a festive air to this Mexican style salad.  If you want to use this for a dessert instead, leave the beets out.  Fresh beets are best, but for ease of preparation canned beets may be used if thoroughly drained.  Fresh fruit is preferred.  Sugar is the only sweet added or it may also be served with a thinned mayonnaise.  I like the following combination, but you can substitute a fruit ingredient for some other that you prefer.

INGREDIENTS:

1  3/4 cups orange sections or mandarin orange sections
1 cup apples, unpeeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 3/4 cups pineapple chunks
1 cup sliced bananas
3/4 cups roughly chopped unsalted peanuts
seeds from 1 medium pomegranate
1 cups cooked sliced or diced beets
1/4 cup finely chopped peanuts

Mix all fruit pieces together.  Top with pomegranate seeds and chopped nuts

Sprinkle with superfine sugar (or granulated) or serve with thinned mayonnaise.

This makes a wonderful dessert or dinner starter served before a holiday meal.  It is usually served as part of the Christmas Eve meal in some parts of the world.

Aunt Julies’ Roast Turkey Stuffing


A stuffed turkey

A stuffed turkey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As promised, here is Aunt Julie Martins’ turkey stuffing recipe that was handed down for generations.  It is a very simple stuffing and one that does not present too much of a challenge for the everyday cook.  You can vary some of the add-in ingredients to suit your taste and mix them up for different flavor combinations.

YOU’LL NEED:

1  1/2 long loaves of white bread (Giant loaf or sandwich bread, fresh)
1 large onion
2 sticks melted butter or margarine
1 to 2  cups chicken or turkey broth ( or enough to moisten stuffing; homemade stock can be used)
Tablespoon dried sage
1 Tablespoon dried rosemary leaves
2 Tablespoon dried parsley
1  Tablespoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
1  1/2 cup raisins (or dried cranberries, light or dark raisins, snipped dried apricot)
1  1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Put washed, dried and dressed turkey on rack in roasting pan.  To prepare stuffing, tear bread into bite size, irregular shaped pieces and place in a stock pot, very large metal bowl or another roasting pan.  Add the large finely chopped onion.  Season stuffing with sage, rosemary, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper.  Add salt and pepper and mix together well.  Put in your choice of cranberries, raisins or dried apricot.  Add chopped nuts.  To this add just enough butter or margarine to moisten.  Add a small amount of broth to this to moisten it just slightly more. Remember that the liquid from the turkey will permeate the dressing, giving it more volume.  Stuff turkey with dressing.  If you have extra mixture, stuff neck cavity by loosening skin to form a pocket.
Cook as directed in previous post for Real Roast Turkey.  After cooling turkey, remove stuffing immediately.  Do not store finished turkey with stuffing inside.  The internal temperature of stuffing should read 165 degrees on a meat thermometer.

I hope you enjoy this turkey stuffing.  We’ve been making it this way in my family for over 100 years.  It’s very simple and straightforward.  This is very good to use in turkey sandwiches after the holiday is over.

A Real New England Roast Turkey


English: Thanksgiving Dinner, Falmouth, Maine,...

English: Thanksgiving Dinner, Falmouth, Maine, USA 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Having been raised in the land of the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving feast here in New England, I know firsthand that we take our selection of a Thanksgiving turkey very seriously.  It is that time of year again when the markets and supermarkets stock turkeys of all brands and varieties making selection a daunting task.  I don’t have room in a small post to list everything there is to know about selecting, thawing and preparing a turkey dinner, but I’ll try to break down the process into several smaller writings.

To those unfamiliar with the process of selecting and handling poultry, especially large American bred turkeys that can weigh over 24 pounds, I will simply give you this link to the United States Department of Agricultures’  fact sheets on the safe handling of turkey and poultry products:

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Lets_Talk_Turkey/index.asp

Here’s my familys recipe for roast turkey which is the way it was done by my great-aunt Julie.

ROAST TURKEY

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahreheit.

15 – 16 lb. thawed turkey
Aunt Julies’ stuffing (or of your choice to fill cavity of turkey)
1  1/2 sticks margarine or butter
1 1/2 Tablespoons sage (dried is fine)
1 Tablespoon thyme (dried o.k.)
1 Tablespoon rosemary (dried o.k.)
2 teaspoons pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 can chicken broth (16 ounces)
1 1/2 cups water

Remove giblet packet and neck from inside of cavity of turkey.  Sometimes the neck is loose inside the neck cavity.  Thoroughly wash turkey with cold water and place on counter on a platter and dry it completely with clean cloth or paper towels.  Do not let the raw turkey touch surfaces of counter.  Wash up behind yourself and periodically wash your hands with hot soapy water.

Stuff the turkey with stuffing mixture and  place on raised roasting rack in a deep sided large roasting pan.  Baste the turkey with melted butter or margarine, then sprinkle liberally with dried herbs, salt and pepper.  Pour broth and water into the bottom of the pan and cover with heavy duty aluminum foil, tenting slightly in the middle away from the top of turkey.    Place the stuffed turkey in the oven on the lowest oven rack and roast for 5 1/2 – 6 hours.  About 40 minute before roasting is complete, uncover the turkey so that it may brown.  Cook for additional 40 minutes until turkey is golden. Remove turkey from oven and check internal temperature with meat thermometer.  The thermometer should read 165 degrees when place in the thickest part of the thigh and, also, it should measure 165 degrees when placed in the thickest part of the breast.  Stuffing, likewise should be thoroughly done at 165 degrees.  Juices at leg joint should run clear.  Let stand for 30 minutes. Carve and serve.

Serves 12 with leftovers

My hopes are that you have a very happy Thanksgiving season.
Aunt Julie’s Stuffing recipe follows in my next post.

Thank you for following my blog.

Chocolate Liqueur


English: Roasted cocoa (cacao) beans

English: Roasted cocoa (cacao) beans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s a quick recipe for a liqueur that can be used for any special occasion.  I’ve found it an easy recipe to make and it is can be enjoyed after things have settled down after your holiday meal.

CHOCOLATE LIQUEUR

1 CUP LIGHT CORN SYRUP
3/4 CUP SUGAR
2 CUPS VODKA
3 TABLESPOONS CHOCOLATE EXTRACT
2 TEASPOONS PURE VANILLA EXTRACT

In a saucepan, mix together the sugar and corn syrup, stirring occasionally.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, being careful not to burn it.  Remove from heat and let stand for 30 minutes.  Mix in the vodka; stir in the

vanilla extract

vanilla extract (Photo credit: craftapalooza)

vanilla and chocolate extracts.  Pour finished liqueur into glass bottles with corks or into other fancy glass containers.  Cover and let stand for 2 or more days for the flavor to develop.

YIELD: 1 QUART

This is good served with a shortbread cookie or Biscotti’s.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!


Deutsch: Halloween-Deko, Concord, MA, USA

stiff egg whites
stiff egg whites (Photo credit: She Paused 4 Thought).

Today brings a normalization of the weather here in New England after the monster hurriane, Sandy, hit our shores.  We give thanks to God that we were spared, in my hometown, the devastation that struck the coast farther south of here, especially in the states of New York and New Jersey.  Our prayers go out to those whose lives were disastrously affected by the hurricane everywhere along the eastern seaboard.

Today, for everyone who is able to celebrate this Halloween holiday with some resemblance of normalcy, I simply give you an recipe from an old church bulletin.  I’m unsure where it originated from, but it was being used and copied somewhere around the 1960’s and has been made in my family to celebrate different holidays since that time. It is very good to use at children’s costume parties.

RASPBERRY KISSES

3 egg whites

3  1/2 Tablespoons raspberry gelatin

3/4 cups sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon white vinegar

1 cup mini chocolate chips

Line and grease large baking sheet with parchment or brown paper and preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Beat egg whites and salt on high speed with electric mixer until light and foamy.  Gradually add gelatin and sugar and continue beating to stiff peaks.  Mix until sugar is totally dissolved or kisses will be sticky.  Add the vinegar.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Drop by teaspoon onto lined, greased baking sheet.  Bake kisses at 250 degrees for 25 minutes and then turn off the oven, leaving them in oven for additional 20 minutes.  Remove baking sheet from oven and remove immediately to wire baking rack to cool.

Makes 6 dozen.

I hope you find these simple to make, and please have a safe, happy Halloween night.

Thanksgiving Will Soon Be Here (with diabetic recipe)


English: "The First Thanksgiving at Plymo...

English: “The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth” (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The holiday of American Thanksgiving soon approaches, this year falling on Thursday, November 22nd.  This is the time to start thinking about buying your turkey.  The turkey sales at your local supermarket will be coming up soon and, if that is your choice of a entree this year, it would be a good time to consider what type it will be, whether it be a frozen, fresh, Kosher or pre-basted.  The choices in many markets are endless.  I’ll bring you more information on choosing and preparing a turkey at a later date.  In the meantime, here is a little quote and a recipe which can be used interchangeably for a variety of holidays,  be it Halloween, Thanksgiving, Rosh Hashannah, Christmas or New Year or any other special occasion.  Feel free to give the sugar-free, diabetic recipe a try.  I like it a lot and use it on a weekday basis.

Ah! On Thanksgiving day, when from East and from West,

From North and from South come the pilgrim and guest,

When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board

The old broken links of affection restored,

When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,

And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before,

What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye?

What calls back the past, like the rich pumpkin pie?

_________________________________________________________________________________________

CRANBERRY NUT CRUNCH BRITTLE

1 cup dry sugar substitute (cup for cup measure)

3/4 cup salted nuts (such as peanuts, cashews, almonds, or macadamia), chopped coursely

1/2 dried cranberries

1/2 cup sugar-free maple syrup

1 teaspoon margarine or butter

1 teaspoon baking soda

teaspoon vanilla extract (not imitation)

Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray or butter it.  Taking a very large, heat-proof glass measuring bowl, mix the maple syrup and the dry sugar substitute and microwave on High Power for 4 1/2 minutes.  Add the margarine or butter and the vanilla extract, mixing well to combine.  Continue to microwave for 1  1/2 minutes.  Mix in the baking soda.  Stir thoroughly until the mixture becomes light and airy.  It should foam a bit.  Pour the hot mixture onto the baking sheet.  Place the baking sheet on a heat-proof kitchen surface such as a wire baking rack.  Cool for 1 hour.  Break into pieces and store in tins or other sealed container.  Makes 8 servings.

140 calories

7 grams Fat

5 grams Carbohydrate

170 grams Sodium

3 grams Protein

8 mg. Calcium

1 gram Fiber

Happy Holidays to all!

HALLOWEEN AND THE DRUIDS (with recipe)


The March 1909 edition of The Druid, the magaz...

The March 1909 edition of The Druid, the magazine published by the Ancient Order of Druids. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Halloween Costumes

About 2000 years ago in what is now the green lands of Ireland, the nation of France, and the United Kingdom, the new year was celebrated on November 1st.  It was the beginning of the cold, dark weather in those lands.  The winter season was synonymous with death.  The Celts lived in those lands and they held the belief that on October 31st, the night of Samhain, that the ghosts of all the dead came back to life.  n that night, the spirits played pranks and tricks, causing problems by damaging the harvest and reeking havoc in many other ways.  Celtic priests believed that these spirits had come back to earth to ease the Druids’ attempts to predict the future.

To solve this, the Druids built large bonfires to burn sacrifices.  The populace observed this day of the dead by wearing costumes in the form of animal skins or animal heads.  Fortune telling was also done on this night.  When the celebration was done the hearths were relit from the bonfires to usher in a mild winter season.

When the Romans conquer most of the territory in the year 43 A.D., they held rule for over 400 years.  During this time two holidays were merged into one creating the Celtic celebration called Samhain.  One holiday was Feratia, held in late October and the other was name after the goddess Pomona, goddess of trees and fruit.  It is believed that apple bobbing originated with this goddess because she was symbolized by the apple.  Today, children at Halloween parties held throughout the world bob for apples.  The custom more than likely originated in those ancient times.

By the seventeenth century, Christianity had spread to Celt lands.  Pope Benedict IV, in the 1600’s, deemed November 1st as All Saints Day, trying to replace the practice of the pagan festival of  the dead with a Christian replacement.  This day of All Saints was also known as All-hallowmas or, alternately, All-hallows.  The night before it, which once was known as Samhein began to be know as All Hallows Eve. and, as the years went by the night became known as Halloween.

To this day bonfire are lit, in some places, on Halloween night.  Children and adults alike dress in devilish costumes as ghosts, goblins, favorite characters and all manner of ghoulish, frightening dress.  The populace in many nations delight in door to door trick-or-treating and festive, spooky parties.  Little know the true meaning of Halloween night, but all delight in the ghastly activities.

Below is my recipe for Druid Stew.  No one knows from whence this stew came from, but it could have come from the burning hearths somewhere in the land of the Celts.

DRUID STEW

2 pounds stewing beef, cut in cubes

5 potatoes, skin on, chopped into one inch cubes

1  1/2 cups cut up celery, slice diagonally

5 Tbsp. quick cooking tapioca

6 carrots, cut diagonally

1/2 cup beans (northern, pea bean, kidney) – canned

1 package onion soup mix

1 Tablespoon sugar

2 cups tomato juice

4 cups water

two bay leafs

teaspoon parsley

1 teaspoon salt

pepper to taste

In layers with beef at bottom, place all ingredients except tapioca , juice and water, one on top of another (in layers) into a deep oven-proof pot with lid.  Pour liquid on top of dry ingredients and then sprinkle with tapioca.  Put lid on tightly or use tin foil.

Bake at 350 degree for 4 hours.  Do not open the oven door or take lid off pot.  Do not stir the stew – leave the lid on.

Serve with puff pastry pumpkins, witches and ghosts made from Halloween cookie cutters and frozen puff pastry sheets, or with your favorite ghostly bread. (Puff pastry can be found in your supermarkets’ frozen department).

Auntie Annie’s Halloween Chocolate Turtle Candy


English: A Pearson's Bun Bar shown whole. One ...

English: A Pearson’s Bun Bar shown whole. One of three flavors (caramel specifically) but all of the Bun Bars have the same outward appearance. Candy was provided from the Pearson’s Candy Company to Evan-Amos for the direct purpose of adding pictures to the Wikipedia articles. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My Auntie Annie’s busiest times of the year were most major holidays.  Not only was she busy during American holidays, but during most of the major international ones, as well.  You see, she was a worker at one of the larger U.S. candy factories that made famous brand novelty and boxed fancy assortments.  She had been working at the factory as a line worker and then a fancy chocolates dipper since the turn of the 20th century.  She would trek off to the chocolate factory every morning for over fifty years, having started her job, in those very emancipated days, at a young and tender age.   Her salary was well received by her struggling family, who also enjoyed the fruits of her labors – having access to chocolate bars, candy wafers, turtle clusters, caramel, and a full product line of tooth decaying, fattening goodies.

During the holidays , before Halloween, Auntie Annie would have us for a visit and when she was making candy gifts for Halloween, Thanksgiving, New Years, Hanukkah and Christmas, she would often teach me how to make one of the famous candies that she worked to turn out on a daily basis at the factory.  She would have huge pans of bubbling, boiling caramel.  Chocolate would be melting at the front of the stove.  Her idea of a double boiler was a spaghetti cooking pan with a very large bowl sitting on top.  There were several of these crowding her old fashioned stove.  She taught me how to make her famous Chocolate turtle clusters when I was about fifteen years old.  During that visit, she also tried to teach me how to put the swirls on those fancy chocolates with creme centers, but I was a dismal failure and my attempts looked more like puckery little blobs.  Those were fun and unique Autumn days and we, as little children (and all of our young friends, too),  looked forward to our holiday boxes and tins of these delicious, sinful, ultimately perfect treats. I hope you like them as much as my family does.

ANNIE’S CHOCOLATE TURTLE CANDY

Equipment needed – large baking sheets, metal spoons, wooden spoons, measuring spoons, waxed paper, large metal bowls, double boiler, candy tins and boxes.

Cover baking sheets with waxed paper and grease lightly grease waxed paper with margarine.

INGREDIENTS

42 candy caramel squares

3 Tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons shortening

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups dry roasted peanuts, unsalted (may use toasted walnuts, unsalted almonds, macadamia nuts or hazelnuts)

1 cup milk chocolate morsels or chopped milk chocolate bars

Arrange several nuts, in cluster, on baking sheet.  You may use the amount you would like.  Place nuts one inch apart or more from each other.  Put caramel squares in the double boiler with butter and put over boiling water until completely melted, stirring constantly.  When caramels are melted, remove from stove and stir in vanilla.  Drop melted caramel in spoonfuls onto nuts until they are thoroughly covered.   Let nut clusters cool to a firm, cool stage.  Melt the chocolate and butter in double boiler over low heat, stirring constantly, until smooth.  Pour melted chocolate over nut clusters and cool them on the tray until they are firm.  Do not chill in refrigerator as this may discolor the candy clusters.  Put in metal tins between squares of wax paper and store in a cool, dry place.

We always loved making these with my Aunt Annie and no holiday was complete without them.  I plan to get started on mine in a few days for future gift giving.  I wonder if my aunt haunts the old site of the candy factory these days, wandering the halls, checking on equipment, chocolate mixtures, and trekking into the factory to check on the efficiency of present day laborers.

If they hear the sound of her shoes tapping around the chocolate vats, then they know that she’s on the lookout  this Halloween season.

Happy Halloween.