Skip to comments.Christmas Memories, Cookies, Candies, and Desserts.
Posted on 11/26/2005 7:32:00 AM PST by carlo3b
Christmas Memories, Cookies, Candies, and Desserts
For me, it was the official start of the Christmas season, seeing the matriarchs gather in coffee klatches and recipes exchanges. As a little tike, anything that signaled the approach of Christmas was enough to cause excitement around our home. Watching my great-grandmother summon the elderly women of our family and neighborhood, was a sure sign that big things were heating up in our little kitchen. These beautiful women were dignified and almost aristocratic in their black mourning dresses, with clouded stockings, and clumpy shoes. I can still recall the gentle scent of lavender and rose perfumes as they shuffled to their places around our modest kitchen table. Those mixtures of colognes and coffee were far from the only wonderful smells that began to fill our home and hearts at this glorious time of the year. Fabulous homemade Italian pastries were a right of passage for these gatherings. Baking for the clan was a near sacred honor that my great-grandmother cherished..
We were a typical nuclear family for those times. A working man, my great-uncle, a stay at home wife, my-great aunt, my retired great-grandmother, and great-grandfather, and of course yours truly. Our familial arrangement was not unique, most households had extended family members, and everyone had a place on the clan hierarchy. Women generally ruled the roost, and menfolk earned the bacon. Grandmothers, at least in my family, routinely prepared the meals. Wives raised the offspring and kept the house, meaning the housework and shopping, and those lucky enough to have grandpas, had the benefit of wisdom and history that could only come from invaluable, accumulated life experiences, and vivid recollections..
Our homes were mostly small walk-up apartments, located in the bowels of the inner city of Chicago. They were called, "cold water flats", meaning each apartment had to make their own hot water with a silver colored water heater tanks, located in a convenient corner of the kitchen. If you wanted hot water you had to turn it on and cautiously feel the sides of the tank to see how close it was becoming hot. It was surely crude, but efficient enough to accomplish the job so nobody complained. However, you had to be mindful, not to forget to turn the tank off when the task was complete, the explosive consequences were all too frightening and frequent..
If you were lucky, as we were, you had heat furnished by a landlord in the form of cast iron coiled radiators. The heat was generated by coal fired furnaces, located in dark damp cellars. These subterranean dungeons were also called "the basement", which also housed whatever passed for a clothes washers in those days. I mostly remember those radiators, because they clanged from expanding heat filled pipes on cold winter mornings as we waited for the heat to raise to a reasonable warmth to venture out from under our heavy blankets. The radiators were sparsely placed, usually in the busiest areas of the home. We often warmed and dried clothes on this solitary heat source on frigid winter mornings. More than once I left my chilled trousers on too long, and burned myself on an overheated zipper. Chicago winters were especially cold, and flimsy windows were typically drafty. What was a blessing in the stifling summer heat, a window or skylight, was truly a detriment on cold winter nights.
A single low wattage light bulb hung conspicuously over the center of the white porcelain topped kitchen table. The light cord had a protruding plug for connecting a clothes iron. The light had an on-off string which dangled down low enough so the shortest member of the family could reach it. Every home had an icebox, with a small refrigerated compartment, and a square slot that held a cube of solid ice. The ice block needed to be replenished at least once a week by a gentleman who was aptly named, "the iceman". He carried the heavy block of ice 3 flights of stairs from his waterlogged horse drawn wagon. The gas cooking stove was a 4 burner antique, with an unregulated double oven that could only be lit with a stick match. The kitchen sink was one compartment with a long drain board. It had a single cold water faucet and a sturdy garden hose that connected it to the hot water tank. All of this was crude and simple by today's standards, but it was all that was needed to prepare at least two meals a day, a hardy breakfast, and a scrumptious 4 course, made-from-scratch dinner.
The homemade meals, complete with fresh bread were prepared with meticulous care each and every day, rain or shine. Needless to say, from this dim, sparsely equipped kitchen that made cooking and baking for our large family gatherings all that more remarkable. I learned to cook standing on a kitchen chair at that humble stove, under the watchful eye of my loving great-grandmother. She stood under 5 feet, but she was a giant to all that knew her. I think of her every day when I shamefully complain as the time comes to prepare my family meals at my fully equipped gourmet kitchen..
Our bathroom was small and simple. It had a top tank, gravity flushing toilet that sported a pull chain with a ivory handle. The lavatory was a tiny cold water basin that had circular chips from some unknown historic calamity, and a claw footed bathtub that was enormous, with a rubber plug on a chain.. The hot water had to be bucketed in from the kitchen sink, which was unfortunately located at the far end of the adjoining room. The bucket brigade took 2 people, 3 loads each. There was a small gas heater that furnished plenty of heat on the floor, but the small whitewashed window above the tub had a constant whistling from frigid air that seemed to be unobstructed and unending. It made standing for towel drying an olympic speed event..
The apartment had 2 small bedrooms, each only large enough to hold a double bed, and squatty art deco styled dresser. Each dresser was equipped with a mirror and on it's polished top lay assorted decorative perfume bottles and each had a matching sterling silver brush set, which was dutifully arranged at all times. The front room of the home was in reality, our living room, although we hardly ever lived there. The long narrow room held a large sofa, which doubled as my bed, a matching side chair, a huge floor model radio, and a mufti-bulb lamp with a oversized shade with dangling decorative fringe. An imposing chandelier hung prominently in the center of the vaulted ceiling. The floors were all buffed wood, and covered with assorted throw rugs that forever gathered under foot traffic. Our kitchen floor was covered with a patterned linoleum that had long ago began to show a well worn path. The bathroom was a beautifully tiled mosaic, in alternating black and white octagon shapes. At strategic locations were yellowed photographs of unknown origins in various shaped ornate frames, and on every flat surface aside from the kitchen were dozens of tiny knickknacks, and candles..
We lived in 4 simple rooms, but I never thought of it in those terms. In my mind it was a mansion, filled with love and devotion to one another. We were near penniless but rich with respectability and honor. We had all that we needed and enough left over to share with others. Everyone I knew loved me, and I loved and respected each of them. The family expected the best from me and I did my best to fulfill my duty to my good name, in their well deserved honor..
Just recalling these golden, olden days is a treasure in itself, because it brings me back to an era that laid the foundation of my life and that of my own family. It reminds me of the importance we placed and the respect we had for the generational roots and traditions that were instilled at an early age. Those roots were planted deep and would ultimately shape my character. Cooking and baking wasn't just food in our home, it was our women's only gift to give. These recipe choosing assemblages were not called just to pick the heirloom cookies that were going to dominate their lives for the month leading up to Christmas. This was a time-honored task and was the solemn obligation our women placed in making their modest but treasured gifts so very special. Those dear aged women demonstrated their devotion to the family not by buying our presents, but by caring for us, the giving of themselves with their own loving hands..
The men of our family proudly gave up their youth, much too early in life and they did it voluntarily. They fought for their country on distant battlefields they couldn't even pronounce. They risked their lives to insure a freedom for a future they couldn't be sure they would live to enjoy. When they returned, they worked tirelessly to support a fine family of their own. These hardy men gave us an honorable name and a high bar in which to strive. They each raised respectable children that proved what they were made of. Our forefathers scratched an indelible place in our history and in our hearts. They earned our love, our gratitude, and our everlasting respect..
The stalwarts of our family, our beautiful women, have given us our sense of worth, our humanity, the true meaning of love for family. Their selfless sacrifice, placed a high value on sharing, fairness, and a soft simple abiding love. Their talent was devotion, their legacy was in the future of the family traditions passed on in perpetuity.. It is in their name I pass many of my family recipes on to you, for you to share with your family, and hopefully with others far and wide.. Enjoy.. Carlo
MERRY CHRISTMAS, AND GOD BLESS YOU,
GOD BLESS AMERICA.
Where I now live finding real canneloni is IMPOSSIBLE.......do you have any suggestions for a substitute for the tubes to form the shells?????
There are 2 Italian desserts I have been looking for recipes for and can not find...probably because I don't know the correct spelling:
Zeppoles (fried dough coated in confectioner's sugar - the gal (from NYC) at the local pizzeria, who makes the ones I remember from childhood, has so far not given up her recipe to me :(
And Struffoli - the little balls of dough piled like a cone and doused in honey.
Any help would be GREATLY appreciated.
You alway have such great recipes.. and this looks like no exception.. Thanks as always.. :)
Spicy Ole Timey Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
* 1/2 cup butter, softened
* 1/2 cup butter flavored shortening
* 1 cup packed light brown sugar
* 1/2 cup white sugar
* 2 eggs
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 3 cups rolled oats
* 1 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
1) In a large bowl, cream together the butter, butter flavored shortening, brown sugar, white sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth.
2) Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt; stir into the sugar mixture.
Stir in the oats and raisins. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
3) Bake 10 to 12 minutes until light and golden. Do not overbake.
Let them cool for 2 minutes before removing from cookie sheets to cool completely.
Store in airtight container.
Hi, Carlo. This isn't exactly Christmas, but folks have liked it. Make a crust of crushed ginger snap cookies (Salerno is pretty good), sugar, and butter. Into it put a mixture of fresh sliced peaches and mangos with enough sugar and some minute tapioca for thickening. For a topping mix chopped pecans, flour, brown sugar, and oatmeal, with enough butter to moisten it all. Bake at about 350 until the topping is starting to brown. Let it sit long enough so that it can be cut and maintain integrity.
This is a true Italian Christmas tradition. This is our family recipe and is tried and true. They are easy enough when you get everything together, to make in great numbers and to give as wonderful gifts.1) Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add all liquid ingredients (Except honey) to dry to form a dough.
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 fluid ounce whiskey (rye, bourbon, or anything but Scotch)
- 3 cups honey
- oil or shortening (for deep frying)
- multi colored sprinkles
2) Knead dough well to incorporate all ingredients. For balls roll dough out in 1/4 inch round strips like pencils.
3) Cut the pieces at small intervals with an angle cut. How far apart you make the cut is your call the smaller the spacing the smaller the balls.
For round balls, you can roll the pieces in the palms of your hands like miniature meatballs before frying.
For ribbons cut some of the dough in flat strips about 1/2 inch wide preferably using a crimped edge cutting wheel as it gives a fancy serrated edge to them.
Form loops or bow shapes with the ribbons and deep fry balls and ribbons separately until golden brown (ribbons lay flat and will cook quicker than the balls).
4) Drain on absorbent paper.
5) Heat honey in a deep pot until it starts to thin out and become pourable. Remove from heat.
6) Dip bows and ribbons in warm honey and set aside.
7) Add balls to the honey and toss to coat.
8) Transfer balls to holiday plater and top with the ribbons and bows. Or mound the balls to look like a Christmas tree and decorate with bows on the sides.
Sprinkle with multi colored sprinkles.
Carlo, my dear, how did you know I absolutely love biscotti? I shall endeavor to make some next weekend.
The simplest answer is Manicotti Shells. Found almost everywhere. They are ribbed but can easily be a substitute in a pinch.. My ex used to prefer them to cannelloni because they were a bit thicker and didn't break up as easy when handling.. and she was an Italian chef.. HA!
Made from scratch. The Ice Princess recipe.. Woo Hoo!
* 4 eggs
* 2 cup water
* 1 tsp. salt
* 2 cup flour
* 2 lbs. ricotta cheese
* 8 oz. shredded mozzarella
* 2 tsp. parsley
* 1 large egg
* 3/4 cup grated romano cheese
* Your favorite sauce
* Salt & pepper to taste
Crepes: Whisk together eggs & water. Add flour & salt and continue to whisk until all of the lumps are gone. Heat a 6-7" nonstick skillet. lightly brush the skillet with oil. Pour a gravy size spoon of batter into the skillet. Cook each side until lightly brown. Place the crepe onto a dish. Repeat the process until all of the batter is done. Make sure to place a piece of wax paper between each crepe. Wrap crepes in foil and set aside.
Filling: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix ricotta, mozzarella, parsley, egg & 1/2 cup of romano cheese together. Add salt & pepper to taste.
Coat a thin layer of sauce in a baking dish. Take a crepe and spoon the filling into the center. Roll up the crepe and place it in the dish. Continue until all the crepes are finished. Cover with the remaining sauce & sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of romano cheese on top. Bake for 30-45 minutes.
Great story, Carlo3b, and recipes look wonderful, too.
Come mangiare uno zeppole.( Easy as 1-2-3)1) Mix into a soft batter.
- 2 c. flour
- 1 pkg. yeast (dissolved in 1 c. warm water)
- 3 tbsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
2) Let rise for 2 hours.
3) Fry in deep oil.
Dust with confectioner's sugar.
Hahahahhaa.. Salerno Bakeries is a sure give away. I grew up with the Salerno kids and their mom liked me better than her own jerks.. LOL..
Mouth Watering Eggnog FudgeLine a 9" x 9" pan with aluminum foil and set aside. Spray the sides of a large saucepan with butter-flavor non-stick spray.
- 1/8 cup butter, chilled
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 cup eggnog
- 6 ounces white chocolate chips
- 1 1/2 cup mini-marshmallows
- 1 cup almonds, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1) Add the eggnog and sugar, and bring to a rolling boil over medium to medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Boil for two full minutes.
2) Fold in the marshmallows, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Bring back to a rolling boil for another 6 minutes, stirring constantly.
The mixture will start to turn brown, which is normal, but if you see brown flakes in the mixture then turn down the heat a little.
3) Remove from heat and add the butter, chips, and nuts.
4) Stir until thoroughly mixed or until the mixture starts to lose its glossy appearance.
Pour into prepared pan.
Cool at room temperature.
Remove from pan, remove foil, cut into squares.
Thank you Carlo.
I was thinking about you the other day, wondering if you would fill us with yummies this year. Hope you are well. I used to be on your ping list. Can you add me again, if I have gotten lost?
Back to my gingerbread house baking.
Caramel Truffles Extraordinaire
1) In the top of a double boiler over hot (not boiling) water, melt chocolate with the cream.
2) Pour into a mixing bowl and stir in sour cream, butter, sugar and vanilla. Whisk with a wire whisk until smooth.
Refrigerate 1 hour or until the mixture is firm but malleable.
3) Put the caramel spread in a small bowl and freeze for 1 hour or until very firm.
4) Place the sweetened cocoa powder in a small bowl; set aside.
5) Take 1 teaspoon of chocolate mixture and flatten it into a 2-inch diameter circle in the palm of your hand, then set it on a piece of parchment paper.
6) Take 1/2 teaspoon of frozen caramel spread and roll it quickly into a small ball.
Place the caramel ball in the center of the chocolate circle and completely cover the caramel with the chocolate, forming it into a nice round ball with the caramel in the center.
7) Roll the truffle in the sweetened cocoa powder then place in a paper candy cup. Repeat until all truffles are made.
If the caramel becomes too soft to handle, return to the freezer for a few minutes.
Store truffles in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.
Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.
Makes about 28
* 2-sticks butter (softened)
* 2-cups sugar
* 8-Lg eggs (Beaten)
* 2-cans chocolate syrup, (Hershey is my choice)
* 2-cups all-purpose flour
* 2-ts baking powder
* 1/4-ts salt
* 2-ts vanilla
* 28-oz semisweet chocolate chips
* 1-16oz sour cream
* 2-8oz pack cream cheese (room temp.)
* 2-Tsp powder sugar
* 3-Tsp brandy
* 4-Tsp Milk
* 1-ts instant coffee
* 1-pkg frozen raspberry (thawed)
* 2-Tsp corn starch
* 2/3-cups water
Preheat oven to 350
1) Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl add eggs and mix well, add the chocolate syrup, flour, baking powder, salt, and vanilla mix well.
2) Pour into 2 cake pans (cut into 4-layers) bake for 25-30-min or until done. Remove and cool for 15-min then remove the cakes from pans and cool completely on wire rack.
3) Make the filling by melting one pound of the chips slowly over low heat until mixture is smooth. Then set out to Cool
4) Combine the sour cream and one of the cream cheese beat until smooth. Add the chocolate and mix well. Spread this mixture between the layers and set each layer on top of one another.
5) Prepare raspberry filling : thaw raspberry and smash till smooth add the cornstarch and water together on heat, heat till thick set aside; till it becomes thicken.
6) To Make icing: melt the remaining 12-oz of chips in a saucepan over med low heat.
7) Add the powdered sugar, orange flavored liqueur (opt) milk, instant coffee, and stir until smooth. Remove from heat and let cool until mixture is good spreading consistency.
8) Beat cream cheese and cover the layers. assemble the layers until you have 4-layers putting filling and raspberry on top. (I put the filling on first let set and then add raspberry on top.)
9) Add brandy to cooled raspberry mixture.) continue to fill rest of layers.
10) Finish with the Icing this makes a wonderful cake....
The Clinton Legacy Cookbook
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Thanx. I remember my Noni (Scicilian grandmother) baking small tubular not very sweet cookies. And her biscotti (she said bis-coy-ti) are unmatchable to this day. She used to make flat bread and sometimes with oregano, tomato paste and grated cheese, other times just sugar. We lived with our parents and grandparents and I miss them very much. Especially at this time of the year.
thanks for pinging me
I'd buy one of the cookbooks, but I'm not an Ebay "member" and I have long since left Paypal behind ... any other options I would be glad to hear
Thank you for asking. Indeed there are, you may FReepmail me your address and I will send you mine for a check mailing.. Many folks have done the same..:) . Merry Christmas
Please add me to your ping list. Love the recipes. thank you