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Friday, December 31, 2010

In honor of our Greek New Year's Day tradition...Kali Xpovia!

This year, Nana celebrated her 88th/90th birthday (don't ask).  Since she's been suffering from dementia for a few years now, we can't get any information about the past from her...which is why I searched online for a Vasilopita recipe so that I could revive the tradition that we skipped the past couple of years.

Vasilopita, which means "St. Basil's Bread", is a bread (or cake) that is served by the Greeks on New Year's Day.  It became a custom in the fourth century when St. Basil wanted to give money to the poor people in his community...but to avoid embarrassment, he would have his church members bake bread with gold coins inside of it, then distribute it to these people.  This began the tradition, and now Greek households everywhere serve this bread with one coin (which, for us, is a dime wrapped in aluminum foil)...whoever gets the piece with it has good luck for the entire year.

And now for the dirty truth.  I'm not going to lie.

The recipe that I used was easy enough, and as I was making the batter it looked and smelled delicious.  I was stressing over the fact that I didn't have the size pan it called for, and that I always remember it being served in (a round pan 12-13 in. wide and 2-3 in. deep).  After consulting with my mom we decided that a springform pan would work just fine (even though it's 9 in. wide).

I baked it, stuck the coin in midway (like the recipe said) and took it out after the suggested time.

To make a long story short, I should have baked it longer.  I transferred it to a plate and after a few hours, went to check on it...and found a nice big hole in the middle, with a super gooey puddle inside.  Good times.

I put it directly on the sheet pan and baked it for another 15 minutes, but it didn't help much.  So, I did what all good cooks do...I improvised.  I stuck whole almonds in the cake through the hole, followed by some shredded coconut.  They were toppings I was going to use on the cake anyway, so who cares if they're inside, too?  Right?

And now, more of the dirty truth....

First of all, nobody in my family really EATS the cake.  Everyone goes digging through their piece to look for the coin, maybe taking one or two bites in the process, then leaves the crumbly mess on their plate and goes about their business.  So, it really isn't the end of the world if the cake was "custom made" this year.  (By the way, I will update tomorrow after each family member gets their piece and let you know who wins the luck of 2011!)

Second (and this I JUST found out)...Nana never baked this cake herself.  Neither did Aunt Joan, who I thought did for the past several years, and who I asked for the recipe.  Apparently, Greek Mary in Union City has been making my family's Vasilopita since we came here from Europe.

So much for tradition!  But I will continue to hold the torch...I'll just buy the right pan next year :) and if it works, I'll post the recipe.

Happy New Year to you all!!  I hope 2011 brings you and your loved ones health, wealth, happiness...and most of all, good food :)

Oh, and tomorrow keep an eye out for my post about our Italian New Year's Day tradition!

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Home Sweet Home

I bet if I started a poll and asked, "what food makes you think of the comforts of home?" the most popular answer would be...

Chicken soup.

Yes?  No?  Maybe?  (and I'm curious to hear your answer if it's different!)

If it is, I'm with you.  If it's not, then try this, and you'll probably change your mind.  Not only is it very easy, but it's the way my Mom makes it, and nothing is more comforting than Mom's cooking.  I christened my new stock pot that my parents gave me for Christmas by making this...can't think of a better way.

Frank likes me to add broken spaghetti to his...you can add any pasta you like, but I would recommend doing it for each serving as you are about to eat it.  Throwing it into the big pot will only make it mushy and that won't be good when you're enjoying it days later.  Which, you can easily do...stick it in the fridge and just skim the fat that gathers on top...or, freeze it and enjoy its goodness at a later date (not a bad thing to have handy when your winter cold sets in!).

This can definitely stand up as a meal of its own, or served with a sandwich or salad.

Mom's Chicken Soup
1 whole chicken, or whatever parts you have (this time I used all the parts except the breasts)
1 large onion, peeled and halved
3 celery stalks, including tops
6 carrots, peeled and cut in big chunks (3-4 per carrot)
fresh parsley
salt and pepper

Put everything in a big pot and cover with cold water (about an inch or two over the ingredients).  Bring to a boil, then lower and simmer for at least 2 hours.

Serve with lots of TLC.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"Throwback" meal

Growing up, I knew about Shake n Bake, but I don't remember my Mom using it often.  I recall a few times having pork chops made with them, I think...but it was very popular in the 70s, even if not in our house.  Was it a regular item in yours?

I was checking out Cathy's Kitchen Journey and her post today (oreo cheesecake bars...yum!), when I found a recipe to use for two chicken breasts that I needed to cook tonight.  I changed it up a bit and added a side that I've never made for Frank before (another popular dish of the past)...both got a big thumbs up.  I will admit, part of the reason I chose the side too is because it uses the same oven temp to cook as the chicken.  Made my life much easier :)

Mock Shake n Bake Chicken
adapted from Cathy's Kitchen Journey

2 chicken breasts
3/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
2 T chili powder
2 T garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place a roasting rack on top of the foil. Spray the rack with cooking spray.

In a gallon plastic zip bag, combine all the dry ingredients. Shake to mix well.  Add the oil and shake again until it resembles crumbles.
Clean and pat the chicken dry with a paper towel.  Add the chicken to the bag and shake to coat well, using your hands to coat as needed.  Transfer to the rack.  Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until juice runs clear.

Twice Baked Potatoes
2 baking potatoes
cheddar cheese, shredded
pat of butter
1 T sour cream
chives or parsley (optional)

Place potatoes on a baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for about an hour.  Just as they are finished, put cheese and butter in a bowl and microwave for approximately one minute.  Remove from microwave and add sour cream, mix together.
Take potatoes out of the oven, slice lengthwise down the middle, scoop out the insides and mix them up with the heated cheese.  Put mixture back in the potatoes and bake for another 5-10 minutes.  Sprinkle with chives and serve immediately.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Summer in Winter

Something light was the way to go tonight after all the holiday eating that's been going on.  Frank loves this dish and requested it (and went out to get the lemons), so that was that.  Another easy and delicious meal.  We tend to eat this more often when the weather's warm...it's that kind of dish.

I (very) quickly sauteed the shrimp in a teeny bit of EVOO and lots of garlic before adding it to the pasta...you can do the same with chicken, crab, clams, really whatever you like...or leave it protein-less and serve it as a side dish.

Lemon Spaghetti with Shrimp
1/2 pound spaghetti
juice of 2 lemons
1 garlic clove, diced finely
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
grated cheese (I use pecorino romano)
black pepper
fresh parsley, chopped (as much as you like, I use about 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup frozen shrimp, thawed
1 T extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped

Cook spaghetti according to package instructions.  Mix together lemon juice, garlic and EVOO in a bowl.  Drain pasta and toss into bowl with mixture.

Put oil and garlic in hot skillet and saute until garlic is just cooked, then add shrimp.  Cook until shrimp turns pink, about one minute, and combine in bowl with pasta.  Toss together, then add cheese, pepper and parsley to taste.

Serves 2 very generously :)

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

This one was a biggie!  Not sure what the official total is out there, but it's definitely around 2 feet.  And the wind is out of control!  Crazy.  Even though Bella talked a lot about going out to play in the snow, she didn't last more than a few minutes...

Weather like this definitely calls for comfort food.  I busted out the crockpot and threw together an oldie but goodie.  I don't even remember where this recipe originally came from - I've been making it a long time and have done a ton of tweaking to it anyway.  The key is, cut the vegetables in big chunks so they don't get mushy and fall apart.  It still doesn't make for a pretty picture, but it tastes damn good :) and there's always plenty of leftovers.

3-4 pound bottom round roast
salt and pepper
5 potatoes, unpeeled, cut in large chunks
5 carrots, peeled, cut in large chunks (or baby carrots)
2 onions, cut in large chunks
green beans (fresh or frozen)
1 envelope onion soup mix
1 1/2 cups water

Season the roast with salt and pepper and place in crockpot.  Add half of the potatoes, carrots and onion around the sides, then half of the soup mix, then half the water.  Toss in the rest of the vegetables (except the green beans) followed by the remaining soup mix and water.

Cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 7-8 hours.  Add the green beans about 30 minutes before serving.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Those are some big 'shrooms!

So how was everyone's holiday?  We are still exhausted, but since it just started snowing here (we're expecting over a foot of snow!) it gives us a good excuse to stay in and relax, as well as do some experimenting in the kitchen...we'll see how creative I get later.

As I mentioned before, our Christmas Eve celebration is meat-free, so in addition to all of the cookies I baked, I also made this for an appetizer.  I doubled the recipe (which is for 24) and made a few changes.

Check out how big these things were!  (they shrunk considerably in the oven, but were still a nice size)

Crab Stuffed Mushrooms
adapted from everydaycook.com

2 dozen large fresh mushrooms (save half of the stems when cleaning them)
4 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 pound cooked crab meat
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons seasoned dried bread crumbs
3 green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove stems from cleaned mushrooms; chop stems and sauté in half of the butter with garlic and onion.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Brush mushrooms with melted butter (use the rest of what's left). 

Mix together crab meat, eggs, mayo, bread crumbs, green onion (save some of the green part for later), lemon juice, salt and pepper; add to onion mixture and cook for 5 minutes. 

Fill mushrooms with mixture. Sprinkle with cheese and reserved green onion. Bake in buttered shallow glass casserole for 15 minutes. Serve warm.

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas to all!

It's been a VERY tiring 2 days but we had a lot of fun...hope you all had a wonderful holiday too.  I will update more tomorrow - until then, here's a glimpse of what our Christmas Eve looked like.  Those of you familiar with the Feast of Seven Fishes will recognize a few of these :)  Buon Natale!

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hi, my name is Melissa, and I'm a crockpot addict.

Yep, I'll admit it.  Go ahead - raise your hand and join in.  Especially you moms out there...SAH or working...I know you totally get what I'm saying.  Quick and easy!  Convenient!  Does my job while I'm out and about, and won't burn the house down!

I'm always on the hunt for good crockpot recipes, and believe me, there aren't too many out there.  Not everything was made to be thrown in the slow cooker...some dishes just don't pass the test.  Therefore, I don't use it as often as I'd like.

So when I do find a good recipe, I make sure to embrace it.  I even find different ways to use the leftovers, if possible.  Like this one, which happens to be one of Frank's favorite dishes.  I don't have a picture of it, but will definitely add one in the next time I make it.

I do, however, have a picture of what I did with the leftovers (a bad one, but whatever), which is one of Bella's favorite things to eat.  And either way, this is freezer friendly.  Score!

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
adapted from Allrecipes

1 pork butt (around 3 pounds)
1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle root beer
1 (18 ounce) bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce
1 large onion, sliced (optional)

Place the pork in a slow cooker; pour the root beer over the meat. Add onions.  Cover and cook on low until well cooked and the pork shreds easily, 6 to 7 hours. 

  • Note: the actual length of time may vary according to each slow cooker (I have a 6.5 qt. Cuisinart and it takes approximately 4 hours to cook this dish).

  • Drain well and remove bone (if applicable).  Stir in barbecue sauce. Serve as a sandwich or on its own.

  • Serves 8-10.

  • then...

  • Pulled Pork Empanadas

  • leftover pulled pork
  • 1 package empanada discs (located in the freezer section)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • cheddar cheese, sliced green olives, beans (optional)...add whatever you like!

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place 1-2 tablespoons of pork in the center of the disc.  Fold dough over to make a half circle.  Press the edges down firmly, then brush the edge with a little bit of water and fold it over itself.  Crimp it as you go along.

  • Place empanadas on a baking sheet.  Beat egg yolk with a little water and brush mixture over each of them.  Bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bella the Baker

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the Sugar Cookie Workshop at Trader Joe's the other day for 99 cents (have I mentioned how much I loooove TJs?) so I picked up two boxes.  The perfect afternoon project for Bella and me!  What 2 year old wouldn't love that?!?!

Needless to say, she lost interest after cutting 3 cookies.  Okay, no big deal.  I finish up.  The cookies come out out the oven and I have to tell her a dozen times that we can't decorate them until they're cool.  Distract by turning on Dora Christmas.  Crisis averted.

Almost an hour later, we're ready to go.  We sit at the table, I ice three cookies, and put them on a plate for her.  I hand her the Christmas colored sprinkles, not really bothering to check the size of the holes on top.  Yeah, it's obvious what happens next...

Rookie move, Mommy!  Oh well.  They still tasted good :)

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A little Scroogy.

I can't believe Christmas Eve is on Friday!  The month totally flew by.  I don't know - I'm just not "feeling it" as much as I usually do.  The fact that I've been under the weather is making it worse, I think.  And that doesn't exactly make me jump for joy and get excited about cooking a nice meal.

Between that, and wanting to clear some stuff out of the fridge since we won't be around much later this week/weekend, I decided to make another pizza tonight.  Same crust as last week, same cooking time, but tonight I used leftover sauce and meatballs (cut up) from Sunday's meal, fresh mozzarella and pecorino romano, pepperoni, sliced red onion, and some crumbled blue cheese - and served it with a green bean, beet and red onion salad.  Mmmmm.

...and then I finished almost all my gift wrapping.  Go me.  Now someone bring me a hot toddy!

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Getting cozy

There's just something about good ol' comfort food that makes everything better.  Lord knows I could have used this dish tonight after the craziness I endured today (this photo is about a month old - and excuse the ugly plate, lol)...plus, I'm not feeling so hot and wasn't up for cooking.  

I love Giada's recipe for this old standby that was popular in our house growing up...Frank's a big fan too.  I served it with polenta with mushrooms, which is another favorite combo of ours.  Depending on my mood and how much time I have, I make my polenta the old fashioned way, the quick way, or the cheater's way, and saute the mushrooms with garlic and oil before combining them.

  • Chicken Cacciatore with Polenta and Mushrooms
  • adapted from Giada DeLaurentis

  • 4 chicken breasts with skin and backbone
  • 2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour, for dredging
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped (I used 2  medium yellow onions)
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped (I used 5)
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 ( 28-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons drained capers (I omitted)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
Sprinkle the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour to coat lightly.
In a large dutch oven, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the chicken pieces and saute just until brown, about 5 minutes per side. If all the chicken doesn't fit, saute it in 2 batches. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Add the bell pepper, onion and garlic to the same pan and saute over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, broth, capers and oregano. Return the chicken pieces to the pan and turn them to coat in the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Continue simmering over medium-low heat until the chicken is just cooked through, about 30 minutes for the breast pieces, and 20 minutes for the thighs.
Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a platter. If necessary, boil the sauce until it thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Spoon off any excess fat from atop the sauce. Spoon the sauce over the chicken, then sprinkle with the basil.  Serve with polenta and mushrooms.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

You can never have too many cookies.

I used to do all the Christmas cookie baking myself.  Then I got smart and recruited my sister last year.  I don't think she enjoys it as much as I do (her hangover this time around may have had something to do with it), but we still have a good time.  We even got my nieces involved this year...soon Bella will be right along side us, too.

These, along with the Hidden Kisses (which absolutely deserved its own post), complete our repertoire this year.  Last year I think we made 10 different kinds so we did cut back a bit  - still just as many cookies though, of course :)

White Chocolate Chip Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
from Recipezaar

Sparkling Butter Toffee Cookies

Mint Oreo Cookies
***we crushed candy canes and rolled the cookies in them...a little something extra to make them even more special :)

Thumbprint Cookies
***see recipe below***

Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies
***some have white chocolate chips added in, others have butterscotch chips

Sparkly Cinnamon Coins 
from Food & Wine
(The dough is in the fridge...once I bake them I'll add a picture)

Tomorrow is our last Mommy & Me Preschool Class before the holidays, so I packed up some goodies for both of Bella's teachers.

How adorable are these containers?  Gotta love Christmas Tree Shops.

Thumbprint Cookies 
from Allrecipes

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup AP flour
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2/3 cup jam (any flavor you like)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease cookie sheets.  Separate egg, reserving egg white. Cream butter or margarine, sugar, and egg yolk.

Add vanilla, flour and salt, Mix well.  Shape dough into balls. Roll in egg white, then walnuts. Place on cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake for 5 minutes.

Remove cookies from oven. With thumb, dent each cookie. Put jelly or preserves in each thumbprint. Bake for another 8 minutes.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

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Sunday, Macaroni Sunday...

DISCLAIMER - when I cook my own dishes, I rarely measure.  I hate to use the coined RR term but I really am an "eyeball it" kind of girl with my original recipes.  So, I apologize in advance for the lack of clarity with them.

Sunday has always been a great food day in my family.  When we were little, we spent most of them at my grandparents' apartment and did the typical Italian Sunday thing...pasta with meat and sauce (in one form or another...as we know, there are a ton of variations), followed by more meat, veggies, salad (Nonno always made the salad and put it in the same big, yellow plastic bowl, week after week...if anyone has a picture of him and that bowl, please send it to me!), wine, and dessert.

Dinner was an all-day event...one that involved 10 crazy boys and girls, and a bunch of adults who basically ignored them and let them just.be.kids.  It was awesome.

Sundays aren't always like that anymore, for one reason or another (I'd love to have more of them!)...when we're all together though, it's much of the same (except it's 4 1/2 crazy kids...Nicky will be running with the big dogs soon).

Today is an "off" Sunday...just the 3 of us at home.  But the sauce can still be found on the stove, along with the meatballs.  That's the variation today - Ravioli with my meatballs and marinara.  And salad.  No big yellow bowl though.  Where did that bowl go, anyway?

Four Cheese Ravioli with Meatballs and Marinara

Meatballs: (this made about 25)
one onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1.25 lb. ground beef (normally I'd use beef, pork and veal but didn't have it today)
1/2 cup italian bread crumbs
1 egg
4 T. parsley (didn't have fresh today so I used dried)
a little salt
extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup flour

***another disclaimer***  I pretty much never make my meatballs and my sauce the same way.  It all depends on what I have available and what my mood is.  Sometimes I bake, sometimes I fry, sometimes I add other spices/ingredients.  And, all measurements are approximate.

Mix all ingredients except oil and flour together in a bowl.  With your hands, incase you need to be told that.  Meatballs are meant to make you get down and dirty with your food.  Take approximately one tablespoon worth of meat mixture and roll into a ball until you're done.

Heat a large skillet over high heat and add EVOO.  Lightly dust each meatball with flour and add to the pan.  DO NOT OVERCROWD.  When fully cooked, transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess grease.

extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
crushed red pepper
3 large (28 oz) cans crushed tomatoes
2 T. tomato paste
dried basil
dried parsley
garlic powder
pinch of sugar

Heat a dutch oven over medium-high heat and add EVOO.  Add crushed red pepper, then onion and garlic, making sure not to overbrown them.  Add tomatoes and tomato paste, then the rest of the ingredients.  As soon as sauce starts to boil, lower heat to a simmer, and cook for about an hour.

(after dinner, I had enough sauce leftover to fill a large chinese soup container and freeze...the rest went into the fridge in a smaller container)

Tonight I made Kirkland (Costco brand) Four Cheese Ravioli to go with this.  If you haven't tried it, pick some up - it's really good.

Linked to:  Meatball Blog Hop

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Waste not, want not

Like every good Italian family, we always have ricotta cheese in our fridge.  Normally we buy the 15 oz. container, but recently we had a large one that needed to be used up before it went bad.  I wasn't in the mood for lasagna, baked ziti, or anything savory...so I opted for these.

They were delicious, but I think adding a LITTLE bit more flour might lessen the gooeyness (is that a word?), which would make them easier to handle.  A few of my friends have already tried this recipe and were happy with the results too.  And, it made a TON of cookies, so be prepared to share!

Ricotta Cookies
from Italian Recipes

15 ounces ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 pound butter
1 3/4 cups white sugar
2 eggs
5 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup colored candy sprinkles

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together butter, sugar, eggs, ricotta cheese and vanilla extract in a bowl. Combine the flour, baking powder and baking soda, then mix it into the wet ingredients thoroughly to form a creamed mixture. Add some flour to keep it from becoming sticky. 

Shape the dough to form balls the size of a teaspoon. Place them on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until they turn light brown. 

Beat the milk, confectioners’ sugar and almond extract in a bowl until smooth. Pour the mixture over warm cookies with a spoon and sprinkle with colored candy sprinkles.

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The best Christmas cookie ever!

There are lots of things that remind people of Christmas...colorful flashing lights, Santa, crowded malls, reindeer, wreaths, etc.  In our family, many of our holiday memories revolve around food.  For us, it plays an important role when it comes to tradition.

One of the things I remember most from Christmases when I was a kid was my Aunt Maria's Hidden Kisses...aka the BEST cookies ever.  She used to bring them to my parents' house every Christmas Eve in a big shirt box.  The day she handed me the recipe and said, "it's your job now- have fun!" I was honored, and very excited.  It's definitely one of the best traditions we have for the holidays!

For you Christmas cookie snobs out there, a warning - these aren't the prettiest.  But they taste amazing...and really, isn't that what matters?  Keep your beautiful, average tasting cookies for yourself...I'll pass.

There are other recipes out there for these (I tried a few) and believe me, NOTHING comes close to hers.  This can easily be doubled or tripled...and SHOULD be!  Trust me, they're that good :)

Aunt Maria, we miss having you here on Christmas Eve!

Hidden Kisses
from Aunt Maria

Approximately 70 Hershey Kisses, unwrapped
4 sticks softened salted butter (not TOO soft)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
Confectioners sugar

Beat butter, granulated sugar and vanilla in large bowl until fluffy.  Add flour and walnuts and mix until well blended.  Chill dough in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Using about one tablespoon for each cookie, shape dough around each chocolate kiss.  Roll in hand to make a ball and place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until cookies are set but not browned on top.  Cool slightly before removing from cookie sheet and place on wire rack.  When completely cooled, sprinkle generously with confectioners sugar.

Linked to: uTry.it Culinary Smackdown Cookie Battle -  hosted by Amy
                 Christmas Blog Hop

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Wouldn't it be nice if...

...cooking and baking burned off all the calories you consume?  Or at least half of them?

It figures that my favorite pie has to be the most fattening one known to mankind.  So, why not make it even more decadent by adding chocolate?  Makes sense.  I've made this for the past two years for Thanksgiving (this picture is actually from 2009)...since we split the day between our families I bake 2 so we have one for each house.

My sister and I baked our annual holiday cookies last weekend (I'll blog about it soon) and she showed me a trick I never knew, and it would come in handy with this recipe.  Dust the chocolate chips with a little flour before adding them in...it'll prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the pan.  She did it for the cookies we were making by tossing both into a ziploc bag.  Shake for a few seconds so the flour covers all the chips.  I'll remember that for next year!

This is another one that falls under the "ridiculously easy" category.  We actually discussed it at my sister's this year - her brother-in-law was convinced I slaved in the kitchen over it.  Not even close!

Just noticed the lopsided crust...oops!  Good thing it doesn't affect the way it tastes! :)

Chocolate Pecan Pie
(I don't remember where I first saw this recipe - it was a long time ago and I've made some changes)

1 (9 inch) pie shell
3 eggs
1 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In medium mixing bowl beat eggs lightly with a rotary beater or fork. Stir in corn syrup, sugar, and butter; mix well. Stir in pecan and chocolate pieces (remember the dusting trick!).

To prevent overbrowning, cover edges of pie shell with aluminum foil. Place pie shell on oven rack and pour filling into it.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil from crust edges and bake an additional 25 minutes, or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Chill before serving.

Serves 8.

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Season of the Soup

I love this time of year when it comes to cooking...there are so many great soups and stews to choose from.  I make them often - sometimes in a dutch oven, sometimes in my crockpot.  I like to try new ones out but there are a few that totally bring me back to my childhood...

My mom makes the BEST Pasta Fagioli.  Seriously, it's awesome.  Ham hock and everything.  Even though Frank hates beans (haha, that sounds funny...frank and beans, Frank hates beans...ummm, never mind) I'm going to have to make it at some point this winter - even if I freeze most of it and eat it all myself.  Mom, send me that recipe when you get a chance, please!

I made this in a dutch oven...it was dinner earlier this week.  It was good, not GREAT, but good.  Very easy too.  Those of you who are fans of Olive Garden (cough, cough) may recognize it - supposedly it's a copycat recipe of their version.  I tried it because I had all the main ingredients on hand, although I made some substitutions.

Rich Italian Sausage and Potato Soup
from Allrecipes

1 pound Italian sausage
3/4 cup chopped onion (I used more, as usual)
1 slice pancetta, diced
1 1/4 teaspoons garlic, minced (I used more, again, as usual)
1 cube chicken bouillon
4 cups water (instead of this and the bouillon, I used a 32 oz. container of low sodium chicken broth)
2 potatoes, cubed (I used some baby potatoes, red, purple and yellow)
2 cups kale, rinsed and julienned (I used frozen chopped spinach)
1/3 cup heavy cream

  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Place sausage links on a sheet pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until done. Cut each link in half lengthwise, and then into 1/2 inch slices. Set aside for later.

  • In a 4 quart saucepan over medium heat, saute the onions and the pancetta for 10 minutes, or until onions are almost clear. Add the garlic and saute for one more minute. Add the chicken base OR bouillon, water and potatoes and bring to a simmer for 15 minutes. Add the kale, cream and reserved sausage, simmer for 5 more minutes and serve.

  • Serves 7.

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