My mother’s side of the family is Italian, and raised me with an affinity towards baked goods, especially those from DiCamillo Bakery from my hometown of Niagara. Whenever I visit the region, I always buy a loaf or two of their crusty Italian bread to take home and put in the freezer. A toasted slice with a bit of Nutella spread on top takes me back to 30 years in one bite.
I also have use DiCamillo’s mail order site for gifts, and their Cuore di Pane (Heart of Bread) is sure to melt any mother’s heart. The bread itself is delicious — made of candied orange, raisins, dried cherries with a light almond frosting. It goes great with a cup of a coffee. Packaged in gorgeous keepsake box, it’s sure to make any Sunday special. $26 at DiCamillo.com
Hello friends! Sorry for the light posting this past week. As you can imagine, we’ve been busy cooking, wrapping, playing and making merry. The kitchen has seen a lot of action — thank God we installed that dishwasher this year! Here’s a round up of some of the recipes that have graced our table.
1. Popovers. Always a favorite. Though they’re great for breakfast, served warm with butter, honey and your favorite jams, on Christmas, I serve them with the main course. They go great with a roast beast of any kind, especially if there is gravy in picture.
2. Slow cooked pomegranate short ribs. I took this recipe from Everyday food and adapted it for my slow cooker. Here’s how. First brown the meat in a skillet. Then place it in a slow cooker with onion, garlic gloves, thyme, red wine and pomegranate juice and cook on slow for five or six hours. Once the meat is falling-apart tender, remove and plate. Make a roux with butter and cornstarch in a sauce pan on the stove, and strain some of the fragrant juice from the slow cooker in, stirring until it turns into a gravy. Pour over the meat and sprinkle it with pomegranate seeds. It was insanely delicious.
3. Braised broccoli rabe. I took another page from Everyday Food and had broccoli rabe as a side dish. This is another favorite in our house. Usually I just saute in it garlic, but this time I cooked it for about ten minutes in a chicken broth and garlic bath. The results were tender and sweet.
4. Parmesan polenta. The other side dish I whipped up was Ina Garten’s parmesan polenta. This is another example of a simple recipe made stunning by using the best ingredients. Into basic polenta you add creme fraiche and freshly grated parmesan. So rich and heavenly, I could eat a whole bowlful.
5. Tiramisu. Since the menu inadvertently evolved into one with Italian flavors, I thought a traditional Tiramisu would be nice way to end the evening. I used a basic recipe from Giada De Laurentiis. Every time I make this I am amazed at how easy it is. As long as you have a stand mixer, and can easily whip up those egg yolks until they are nice and frothy, restaurant-style Tiramisu is a breeze. After a hearty meal, it is light and sweet and has just enough of a coffee flavor to perk things up. Amazing.
What did you serve over the holidays? I’d love the hear about it! – Angela M.
The other day my resourceful husband, who’s also an extremely hands-on dad, saw a link on our local Baristanet site that gave instructions on how to make noodle ornaments — cute little angels made from different kinds of noodles to hang on your tree or give as gifts. Apparently it’s a Swedish tradition, but in our house, noodles are always on the menu du jour. We had most of what we needed already in our cabinets: Glue, a Sharpie, paint brushes, string, farfalle, elbows, rigatoni. A trip to Michael’s and we got the rest of the supplies — wooden beads, white gloss paint, metallic scrapbook paper.
This project took several days to complete and is a little tricky, even for nimble fingers. You have to be patient and wait for the glue to dry before adding the next element. Also, the dry pasta is extremely fragile; we crushed a couple just picking them up too carelessly. Still, it was fun to see our little choir singers come to live. This week we’re giving them out as gifts to all those we want to say a special thanks to.
Here is the step-by-step for Noodle Angel Ornaments:
What You Need:
Macaroni elbow pasta (note: make sure they are not the curly kind)
Wooden craft beads 3/4″
Craft/wood glue or hot glue gun (we used both and the glue fun works better)
White gloss- spray paint — be warned: it’s stinky!
Metallic scrapbook paper
A fine black sharpie
1. Glue the noodles together to form angels. Make the head and body separately. We started with rigatoni body and the farfalle wings.
2. Next, glue on the tubettini to the wooden balls. Spread the glue over one side of the wooden ball and place the pasta around its crown and back of head. Leave the hole on top empty for your string. We went back and filled in blank spaces with extra “hair.”
3. While the heads are drying, add the elbow arms to the body.
5. Spray paint the angels white — in the basement or somewhere where you won’t fill house with fumes. Let dry overnight.
6. Glue gun folded pieces of paper — about 3/4″ x 1/2″ — to the arms.
7. Draw on the angels’ faces with the sharpie to draw on your angel’s face.
8. Glue a loop of string in the hole at the top of the head.
7. Let dry and hang on your tree.
Do you have a favorite holiday craft? I’d love to hear about it!
This year’s holiday celebrations are filled with a wave of sadness — not only due to the tragic headlines that have been taking over our conversations and dreams, but also because this is the first Christmas without my grandmother or her sister, my Great Aunt Jean. They both lived long, full lives, and were spunky old Italian ladies right until the very end. Though my grandparents always hosted the holiday dinner for our family, it was Aunt Jean who supplied the cookies. Every year she would make hundreds of delicious pizzelle waffle cookies and distribute them among us. Each one would be perfectly crisp, slightly golden and has just a hint of anise flavor to it.
Luckily, I pried the recipe from her a few a years ago. It’s pretty standard, but why mess with perfection? Today I’m going to dust off my pizzelle waffle iron and whip up a batch to bring home to my cousins in Niagara. It may not fill the void created by losing these two great matriarchs of our family, but it will satisfy our mutual craving.
(I usually doubled this recipe, fyi)
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp of baking powder
3 large eggs
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tbs anise extract (or vanilla, if you prefer)
First mix the sugar and eggs until stiff, then add butter and anise. Slowly add in dry ingredients until well mixed. Drop by the spoonful on the waffle machine, and cook until slightly brown. Allow them to cool completely before storing.
Last year we swooned over a mod gingerbread house that we saw on Uncrate, but it seems like that chic kit is no longer available. We’ll just have to roll up our sleeves and roll out the dough and make our own! Luckily, SusieCakes, a California based bakery, has share its how-to on how to make this modern California Christmas Gingerbread House. If you don’t have the time (or patience) to make your own, you can order them from SusieCakes site for $65. Here’s how you make your own holiday beach bungalow — sand not included.
California Christmas Gingerbread House Recipe
Yield: approximately two houses
What You Need
2 cups shortening
3 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 1/4 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup molasses
10 whole eggs
14 cups all purpose flour (AP and cake combined or 7 of each)
1 tbl salt
2 tbls baking soda
3 tbls cinnamon
3 tbls ground ginger
Directions: Make the dough
1. Using a mixer on low speed, cream together shortening, granulated sugar, brown sugar and molasses for 3 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, sift together salt, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and flour in a large bowl. Set aside.
3. On low speed, slowly add eggs to creamed shortening. Beat until thoroughly incorporated.
4. On low speed, add flour mixture to creamed mixture base in three parts, scraping down the sides between each addition.
5. Blend until incorporated.
6. Wrap the ball of dough completely in plastic wrap (not in the bowl) refrigerate overnight before use.
1. Preheat oven to 300° F.
2. Roll out dough between pieces of parchment paper to be 1/8 inch thick and cut out house-shaped pieces.
3. Store pieces on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Chill for 30 minutes before baking.
4. Bake approximately 25 to 30 minutes at 300° F.
5. Remove from oven and cool on sheet pan.
Directions: Make the Royal Icing
What You Need:
3 oz. pasteurized-egg whites
1 teaspoon water
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1. Combine egg whites with water.
2. Put in mixing bowl and gradually add in the powdered sugar.
3. Mix on low until glossy. Then mix on high until stiff peaks form (5 to 7 minutes).
4. Use immediately or store in airtight container.
Directions: Ready for the California Christmas Gingerbread House Assembly?!
1. Once you have your gingerbread house pieces and royal icing ready, gather a thick piece of cardboard large enough for the house and landscape.
2. Using your bag of icing, pipe a line of frosting on the inside of the first side piece that will be touching the inside of the back piece.
3. Quickly pipe a thick “L” for the back piece and the first side piece of the house on top of the board where you want the house to stand and place them on top.
4. The icing should be thick enough to hold the pieces in place.
5. Repeat steps until all sides of house are standing. Let dry before putting on the roof.
6. Pipe thin lines of icing between the gaps of where the pieces meet for reinforcement.
7. Pipe icing on top of all the house sides for the roof to lay on top of and seal the entire house together.
8. Meanwhile, decorate your windows and doors and set them aside to dry.
9. Once the windows and doors are dry, pipe icing on the back sides and attach them to the house.
10. Now you are ready to decorate your house and board for the landscaping.
Have you make a gingerbread house this year? We’d love to see it! Email us at letters (at) shelterrific dotocm.
Thank You SusieCakes for sharing with us!