Friday, December 29, 2017

Happy New Year - Superstitions and Traditions

Congratulations, we have almost made it to another passing in the right of time, New Year's Eve.  Off with the old and on with the new.  Let's go over some of the superstitions that I've been exposed to over the years.
See a Penny, Pick it up and all the day you'll have good luck.

As we celebrate there are some old wives tales that have to be brought into action.  The first is geared at wealth and riches.

For wealth and riches put pennies on the window sill at New Years

It was the custom of putting pennies on a window sill so that the new year brought wealth with it.

A new broom sweeps clean -- off with the old so to speak

Another was the buying of a new broom.  This was to sweep out the old misfortunes to leave room for new and exciting experiences.

It's good luck to have a man enter a house first on New Years

Let's talk about New Year's Eve and the passing of the midnight hour.  It was the custom to make sure that the first person to enter a household was a man.  It was considered good luck to have a man be the first to enter the house.

There are several food traditions linked to New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
from Oakmont Bakery, Oakmont, Pennsylvania

The New Year's Pretzel is supposed to bring good luck to everyone who shares it and is to be eaten New Year's Eve or New Year's Day before breakfast.  This stories behind this tradition are varied.  Some believe that the shape stems from the monks who folded their arms across their chests and again some attribute it to the winter solstice shape of a circle with a dot in the middle and the central cross was added later to represent the four seasons.

Pork and Sauerkraut to luck on New Year's Day

Last but not least, is our tradition of eating pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day.  This tradition stems from the belief that whatever you do on New Year's Eve you do the rest of the coming year. If you eat pork you will enjoy the blessings of the year and have bounties of food to feast upon instead of peck in the dirt to find your food if you were to eat chicken.

Whatever you believe, whatever your traditions, the true meaning of the holiday is to look to the future with open arms for family and friends.  If you have any of your own, comment here so that we can appreciate your traditions.  Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Raised Doughnuts Made With Yeast

Let's tempt our taste buds with one of my favorite doughnuts, a raised donut made with yeast.  They can be made in any shape or size but I prefer these doughnuts to the cake doughnuts.



While most recipes for this doughnut call for a dollop of honey, I can't make these because my daughter is allergic to honey.  In place of the honey, I use maple syrup.  It doesn't alter the taste that much but does give you the sweetness that comes from the honey.



To make these doughnuts, you combine 2 cups of warm water, a package of dry yeast and 1 teaspoon of maple syrup in a large mixing bowl.  Cover with a linen towel and let raise until bubbly.



Add 2 eggs, beaten, 3/4 cups sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon lemon extract and 1 stick melted butter to the yeast mixture.  Add flour until the mixture is no longer sticky.  Cover with your linen towel and let raise.  Punch down.



Roll out the dough and cut with doughnut cutter.  Place doughnuts on cookie sheet, cover and let raise.  Fry in your deep fryer placing the raised side down first.  Turn over when the doughnut raises to the surface.  Place doughnuts on brown papered surface and coat with sugar or glaze.

This is the same dough that you would use to make the Polish version of doughnuts, Paczki for Shrove Tuesday.

These doughnuts can be frozen and eaten at a later time if you make too many.


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Funnel Cake and Doughnut Sundaes

Let's talk about some treats that are normally saved for summer fun at the carnivals or one that comes back to me from my childhood.

I'm taking a walk down memory lane.  I remember Sweet William, a restaurant in downtown Pittsburgh, that served a hot fudge sundae but not just any sundae.  You could get other syrup flavors but in my world there is only Hot Fudge.  This sundae started with a cake doughnut on the bottom.

Cake Doughnut Sundae

On top of the cake doughnut was a scoop of vanilla ice cream with a sauce poured over it.  My favorite sauce is Hot Fudge.  It was topped with whipped cream and a cherry on top.  If you wanted you could get peanuts sprinkled over the sundae.  These were always served on a dessert plate and not in a bowl.

Sweet William was located on the corner of what is now Heinz Hall but is no longer in business.  Swee William and that sundae lives on in my memory bank of favorite foods.  It's actually one that you can easily make at home to give your grandchildren a memory to carry into their senior years.  Instead of Sweet William, they will say, "My Grandma, Nana, Nunny or (my favorite) Mema made this for me!"

Next, let's travel to the local carnival where they serve cotton candy, hot dogs and  funnel cakes.  

Funnel Cake

You can smell those cake doughnut variation cooking as soon as you walk up to the stand and who can resist buying a paper plate or paper towel serving of this great tasting treat.

Funnel Cake Frying in Oil


You can try your hand at making funnel cakes in your deep fryer.

Funnel Cake Sundae


After you make your funnel cake, let's get fancy and make it into a funnel cake sundae using either strawberries or cherry pie filling, topped with whipped cream and a cherry.

All I can say is these recipes are making my mouth water and I may need to go find the ingredients to make these for my Sundae (pun intended) dessert.


Friday, December 22, 2017

Christmas Eve - Feast of the Seven Fishes

In the traditional Italian household, Christmas Eve is the night of the seven fishes or in our house the night we place thirteen different foods on the table.  None of the foods can be meat.

www.delallo.com

The table may be set up for a sit down dinner such as the one above



Or set out as a buffet.  The above buffet boasts mostly fancy dishes but in our house the buffet was made up of Anchovy Pasta, Breaded Fried Smelts, Bacala Stew, Tuna Fish Casserole, Shrimp Cocktail, and Crab Cakes.  Much plainer dishes but always enough to serve both family and any guests who might come to the door.  It is a night to feast and rekindle family ties and friendships.

www.jumpei-mitsui.com


It was always a challenge to bread the smelts and fry them.  More recently, I found the smelts already breaded in the frozen section of Labriola's Italian Store.  Even if you don't live in Pittsburgh, you can find this store online for easy purchasing.

Anchovy Pasta


The Anchovy Pasta, was never a favorite of my children but my father-in-law loved it and until he moved to North Carolina, I continued to make it just the way Nunny showed me the first Christmas that it was my turn to host Christmas Eve.  I later replaced the Anchovy Pasta with pieces of fried fish.

Speaking of Nunny she told many tales of making eel for the feast as well as other delicacies from the sea.

www.godfish.no
www.holisticfamilia.wordpress.com
Bacala Stew startd with a piece of cod that has to be soaked in water to get the salt removed and tenderize the fish. We first tasted this dish when it was brought to the house by my son's grandmother-in-law as a donation for the Christmas Eve Feast.

My husband's family set out thirteen dishes on the table, seven of which were fish, to signify the Lord and Disciples at the Last Supper.  We have changed what we serve over the years since my husband passed but we still celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve and don't eat meat.







Thursday, December 21, 2017

Parmesan Allergy: White Garlic Sauce Made Without Parmesan

Garlic Sauce Pasta
When I was younger, I often wondered why I would become nauseated when I would go into an Italian home when they were making sauces.  A good Italian sauce gives a home an ambiance of a welcoming home and fills the house with an aroma all it's own.  In my case though, I found that I was allergic to Parmesan and that is what caused my discomfort.  Here is a white sauce recipe for those you you who share my allergy.

Melt Butter


This recipe calls for melting a half cup of butter over a medium heat.

Add Cream Cheese & Garlic Powder


Add one 8 oz. package of cream cheese and 2 teaspoons of garlic powder and stir with a whisk until smooth.

Add milk


Slowly add 2 cups of milk and whisk to prevent forming lumps.

Add a dash of pepper to the mix and then remove from the heat to thicken.  The sauce will thicken quickly and if it becomes too thick you can add a drop or two more milk to thin it down.

Tortellini and Broccoli with Garlic Sauce

It is now ready to toss with your favorite pasta recipe.  I prefer tortellini and broccoli with my mock Alfredo Sauce.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

What's for Dessert?

I have to admit, I've been pretty lazy when it has come to baking.  My sweet tooth is smarting something fierce and the store-bought goodies just are not cutting it even though the lemon meringue pie from Eat 'N Park came really close in the tart versus sweetness test.

I guess I have to pull out some of my recipes and see what I can come up with to ease the hunger pangs.


Let's start out with a cake that my mother-in-law made almost every time there was an occasion to need one.  She called it the Yum Yum Cake and it was chocked full of so many goodies that it was hard to not to like it.



Even though I'm lactose intolerant, I'm a big fan of whipped cream and had a favorite bakery that made Whipped Cream Puffs every Wednesday.  I was so fond of them, I would buy two and eat those for lunch instead of having anything else.  What's even nicer is that these don't take a lot of ingredients.  The hardest thing about them is making sure that all of the moisture beads have baked off giving you that great crusty shell to be filled.


Of course, if you are making cream puffs, you just need to add chocolate icing to the top to make it an Eclair.  You can use custard filling or any whipped filling to give it some variety.

Apple cake ready to pour the caramel glaze

If you have more time and energy, my very favorite cake is apple cake with caramel drizzle poured over it.  This cake is even more decadent than Death by Chocolate.

Now that I have made myself totally hungry, I need to decide which it's going to be for tonight.  How about a vote from the audience.  Which would you make today?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Apples Fresh or Baked in Your Favorite Recipe

There are so many delicious apple varieties.  My Mom preferred Macintosh.  I like Northern Spy and Gala.  I find the apples with the best taste are the ones that are white spotted reds.  Just cut up and eaten by themselves is the healthiest way to enjoy an apple.

Apple juice is okay but I never acquired a taste for it and apple cider is way too pungent for my taste.  A glass of apple juice is also healthy.

Waldorf Salad is a fresh fruit salad that uses chunks of fresh cut apples. My Mom always kept apples in the house and loved this salad.   She would make this salad any time she had extra apples that were starting to go soft.



Jarred Apple Slices

When apples are plentiful, I would buy three bushels and then put up my own apples for the winter season so that I could make my favorite recipes.  Yes, the supermarkets now stock all your favorite brands of apples year round but I preferred to just make my own when they were falling off the trees.




Baked Apple
My Mom made baked apples but not the traditional way wrapped in pie crust like apple dumplings.  She would take the whole apple and core it.  Then she would place the apple on a pie pan and drizzle a mixture of sugar and cinnamon into the cored out space.  The house smelled so wonderful as she baked these in the oven. 




Apple Dumpling
Over the years, I have come to like the apple dumpling style that you can buy in most bake shops or at fine restaurants.  These apples are cored, wrapped in a pie shell dough and then baked.  These are served with a dollop of whipped cream or in a bowl with cream poured over them.  Again , being a plain Jane, I like these served by themselves so that I can enjoy the pie crust flavor and the apple.


Apple Fritters
My mom also made apple fritters,  These delightful little crisps were so delicious after a beef stew dinner or as a breakfast treat.






Glazed Apple Turnover
From my childhood, I remember the Duquesne Bakery Truck that would come around once a week.  apple turnovers.  These delightful apple pastries were also filled with a whipped cream to give it that extra flavor.  The quick recipe for these that I use from time to time is to make them using frozen puff pastry dough from the supermarket.
My favorite from their baked goods was

Making Apple Strudel
At Christmas time, I would pull out a jar of my apples I had preserved and make an apple strudel using either my sweet bread dough or puff pastry dough from the supermarket.  Admittedly, the puff pastry dough made a much better tasting strudel that had vanilla glaze drizzled over it.



There are so many different ways to use apples and so many different tastes.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Pork For Dinner (The Other White Meat)

From the time I was a small child, I have had an aversion to beef and chicken.  My favorite dinner was roast pork.  When I was working in the strip district Nevros Restaurant served a fresh ham dinner every Wednesday and I ate lunch there ritualistically.  Fresh ham is the whitest and sweetest meat on the pig as far as I'm concerned.
Fresh Ham and Stuffing Dinner
I was never partial to stuffed pork chops but Nevros always served stuffing with their Wednesday lunch special.  If you like them stuffed pork chops are a great way to serve pork.
Stuffed Pork Chop
You can stuff the pork chops individually as your entree for the day or you can buy them at the butcher counter in your supermarket.  For economy you can buy a large package of chops and put two together in the oven with stuffing in between.  Hold them together with skewers.

Baked Pork Chops
Another way to serve pork chops is to bake them in the oven to be served with mashed potatoes and a vegetable.

Breaded Pork Chops
Some prefer to bread their pork chop before baking it in the oven.

Pork Roast in Crock Pot
My newest way to make pork is to cook it in the slow cooker.  I buy a shoulder roast and put it in the crock pot with a mixture of onions, mushrooms, a package of mushroom and onion gravy mixed in enough water to just let the top of the roast peak out at the top.  I let this cook for several hours before serving with a side of applesauce and stuffing.

Pulled Pork with Slaw on a Bun

You can also take the meat done in the crock pot and when it's done you can pull it for pulled pork sandwiches that are served on buns with cole slaw on the sandwich.

Again, pork is my favorite meat and I love it served in any way.  So as Nunny used to say, "try it -- you'll like it."



Monday, December 11, 2017

Making Biscotti

My father-in-law was a dunker.  He loved dunking his cookies in his coffee to eat them.  Biscotti is one of the cookies that can get hard if you aren't careful.  They can also be spongy and easy to eat.  This is one of the easiest cookies to make and one that is good no matter what time of year.  I know my father-in-law loved these and the honey cookies that also get hard if not stored in an airtight container with a slice of apple.

Continuing on with my Cookie stories, I spent a lot of time in the grocery store last year deciding whether to make Orange or Almond Biscotti for Christmas.

Orange Biscotti made right
I was torn between the flavors and since I don't have another orange cookie on the list, I decided to make the Biscotti orange. 

If you remember, I made Peppermint Biscotti a few years ago but I wasn't happy with the end product.  I think the color turned me off since it came out pink from the ground up peppermint sticks.


Peppermint Biscotti
Everything started out fine as I followed the steps in the recipe.  I used the spatula attachment to mix the margarine, sugar, eggs and orange extract.  Once I was ready for my dry ingredients, I switched over to the dough hook and proceeded to mix in the dry ingredients a little at a time in my Kitchen Aid mixer.  The dry pour attachment is a big help in keeping the dry ingredients from flying out of the mixer.



Another use for having the right tools to do the job.  After using the dough hook it was time to roll out the dough into logs.


Next the logs were put into the oven for 35 minutes.  Following the directions, the logs were then cooled before cutting into slices and putting back into the oven for an additional 15 minutes.

The results was that I misjudged the size of my logs and my Biscotti are the size of what they are named for biscuits.  Next time I need to keep the dough a little wider and not so round.  That's the lesson for today.  Time and trial are the best cooks or bakers.  Even though they taste wonderful, the next time they should turn out more like small cake slices instead of round.


Almond with chocolate

Biscotti with chocolate drizzles
For weddings though you need to be more creative and garnish you biscotti with nuts or even chocolate drizzles.  Almond slivers in an almond biscotti is a favorite for weddings.






Almond Pistachio
Chocolate with Nuts

Almond pistachio is another taste that I like since I'm partial to any baking done with pistachios.  My personal favorite is a chocolate biscotti with nuts.  Today is my birthday and chocolate with nuts would be a great selection for toasting my special day.


That's my baking story for today.  Happy baking.