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!!!

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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.