Saturday, December 13, 2008

Mom's Strufoli

6 eggs
(Save one half of an egg shell for measuring later.)

Add 6-- 1/2 shells of corn oil
add 4-- 1/2 shells of water

5 cups of flour

Mix all of the above and bring together.
Knead well until the dough is smooth and firm enough to handle.
Let it rest for 20-30 minutes covered.

Meanwhile heat your oil to 350 degrees.

Roll your dough into long ropes.

Cut them into small pieces and put on a dish towel until you fry them.

Once they are all cut you can begin frying.
Fry them until they are a light golden color.

Remove from hot oil to a tray lined with paper towels to drain and cool.
Warm plenty of your favorite honey.

Once they are all fried and cooled transfer them to a large bowl.
Pour the heated hone all over the Strufoli and begin tossing with a large spoon. Continue this until all the little balls are completely covered in honey.

You can now arrange them on a dish or platter in whatever shape you like. Then sprinkle with your favorite jimmies.

I'm submitting this to Food Bloggas Eat Christmas Cookies blogging event. Check this link to participate in the event. Or check here to see the roundup (gets updated as entries come in).

Mom's Christmas Bow Knots

This is my Mom's Bow Knot recipe, she has made this every year as long as I can remember.
This year I was lucky to be able to make them with her.
Now I have officially been elected to carry on the annual tradition.

3 cups of flour
6 eggs
3 tbs. granulated sugar
1 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbs. soft butter
1/4 tsp. salt

powdered sugar for dusting

enough oil for frying

Beat the eggs first until fluffy then add all your wet ingredients. Once they are well blended you can begin to add your flour. Bring it all together then continue to knead until your dough is smooth and firm enough to handle. Let it rest for a while covered.

Now you can use a pasta machine to help you make this cookie or you can roll it by hand .
Either way -once the sheets of dough are nice and thin you can cut strips with a pastry cutter to get that really cut ruffled edge.

Fry them until they are a light golden color.

Transfer them to a tray that is lined with paper towels.

Once they are drained and fully cooled- arranged them on your platter and dust with powdered sugar.


I'm submitting this to Food Bloggas Eat Christmas Cookies blogging event. Check this link to participate in the event. Or check here to see the roundup (gets updated as entries come in).

Potato Gnocchi

Heidi from 101 Cookbooks posted
"How to Make Gnocchi like an Italian Grandmother "back in June and after reading that post I knew I had to try this.It has taken me a long time but i finally did it.

I remember my Grandmother making Gnocchi all the time. Actually my Grandmother made hers from Butternut Squash but that will be another post!
Gnocchi are on my list of very special comfort foods!

Heidi's recipe was a breeze to follow :

Scant 2 pounds of starchy potatoes (2 large russets)
1/4 cup egg, lightly beaten
scant 1 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour
fine grain sea salt

Fill a large pot with cold water. Salt the water, then cut potatoes in half and place them in the pot. Bring the water to a boil and cook the potatoes until tender throughout, this takes roughly 40-50 minutes.

Remove the potatoes from the water one at a time with a slotted spoon. Place each potato piece on a large cutting board and peel it before moving on to the next potato. Also, peel each potato as soon as possible after removing from the water (without burning yourself) - I've found a paring knife comes in handy here. Be mindful that you want to work relatively quickly so you can mash the potatoes when they are hot. To do this you can either push the potatoes through a ricer, or do what I do, deconstruct them one at a time on the cutting board using the tines of a fork - mash isn't quite the right term here. I run the fork down the sides of the peeled potato creating a nice, fluffy potato base to work with (see photo). Don't over-mash - you are simply after an even consistency with no noticable lumps.

Save the potato water.

Let the potatoes cool spread out across the cutting board - ten or fifteen minutes. Long enough that the egg won't cook when it is incorporated into the potatoes. When you are ready, pull the potatoes into a soft mound - drizzle with the beaten egg and sprinkle 3/4 cup of the flour across the top. I've found that a metal spatula or large pastry scraper are both great utensils to use to incorporate the flour and eggs into the potatoes with the egg incorporated throughout - you can see the hint of yellow from the yolk. Scrape underneath and fold, scrape and fold until the mixture is a light crumble. Very gently, with a feathery touch knead the dough. This is also the point you can add more flour (a sprinkle at a time) if the dough is too tacky. I usually end up using most of the remaining 1/4 cup flour, but it all depends on the potatoes, the flour, the time of year, the weather, and whether the gnocchi gods are smiling on you. The dough should be moist but not sticky. It should feel almost billowy. Cut it into 8 pieces. Now gently roll each 1/8th of dough into a snake-shaped log, roughly the thickness of your thumb. Use a knife to cut pieces every 3/4-inch (see photo). Dust with a bit more flour.

To shape the gnocchi hold a fork in one hand (see photo) and place a gnocchi pillow against the tines of the fork, cut ends out. With confidence and an assertive (but light) touch, use your thumb and press in and down the length of the fork. The gnocchi should curl into a slight "C" shape, their backs will capture the impression of the tines as tiny ridges (good for catching sauce later). Set each gnocchi aside, dust with a bit more flour if needed, until you are ready to boil them. This step takes some practice, don't get discouraged, once you get the hang of it it's easy.

Now that you are on the final stretch, either reheat your potato water or start with a fresh pot (salted), and bring to a boil. Cook the gnocchi in batches by dropping them into the boiling water roughly twenty at a time. They will let you know when they are cooked because they will pop back up to the top. Fish them out of the water a few at a time with a slotted spoon ten seconds or so after they've surfaced. Have a large platter ready with a generous swirl of whatever sauce or favorite pesto you'll be serving on the gnocchi. Place the gnocchi on the platter. Continue cooking in batches until all the gnocchi are done. Gently toss with more sauce or pesto (don't overdo it, it should be a light dressing), and serve immediately, family-style with a drizzle of good olive oil on top.

Serves six.

Another Year of Joy

This year I had 2 out of 3 kids in the house for part of the holiday, NOT BAD!
The years go by so quickly and they grow so fast. I'm grateful for this!

It's so important to decorate the house with all the traditional decorations
and the tree with the the usual ornaments
that have become memories ...each one of them!
I know they look forward to the day they have their
first tree in their own homes and they can hang
all of their memory ornaments that they acquired through the years growing up.

You can really see how the years have passed when you start to decorate the tree!

Each child with his favorite ornament depicting
a special time in their lives or a favorite thing.

The traditional Angel that tops our tree year after year...

The Nativity scene given to us by my Mother in Law
-made in Venezuela hand carved with love!
Or the Christmas Sleigh hand made by my Dad...
Santa sits in it every year!

They all grow so fast - but one thing we can always depend on is Tradition and the Love and Joy that surrounds our Holiday...
My boys look forward to it ..and I know they will continue all the little traditions we have started together for their families when the time comes.
These are MY Life's Joys


Thursday, December 11, 2008

How To Cook Pasta Properly

I found this really great article HERE and I wanted to share it with you ...
Properly cooking your pasta is crucial to a good meal.

Important Rule: Pasta should be prepared just before serving it.

Use a Large Pot:

  • To cook pasta properly, pasta needs a lot of water. A too-small pot and too little water encourages the pasta to clump and stick together, thus cooking unevenly.

  • For a pound (16 ounces) of pasta, you will want a pot that holds at least 5 or 6 quarts of water.

Use only COLD Water:

  • Fill that big pot 3/4 full of COLD water or use at least one quart of cold water for every four ounces of dry pasta.

    The reason for this is that hot water will dissolve anything - including contaminants like lead - much more easily than cold water and if that water encounters something like an older leaded pipe or some rust before coming out in your kitchen sink, it could very well end up in your glass. The most common problem is water that has been sitting in your home pipes for over 6 hours.

Bring the pot of cold water to a fast boil

  • Covering the pot of cold water with a lid will help bring the water to a boil faster.

Add Salt:

  • Salting the water makes pasta taste better by bringing out the natural flavor of the pasta. This does not increase the sodium level of your recipes. NOTE: I always use kosher (coarse) salt.
  • Do not add your salt until the water has come to a full boil. There are two reasons for this:

    1. First, unsalted water has a lower boiling point than salted water, so it will come to a boil a few seconds faster.

    2. Second and more important, salt dissolves faster in hot water. Un-dissolved salt crystals in cold water can mar the surface of your stainless-steel pots with small white dots or pits.
  • Add plenty of salt, about 2 tablespoons of kosher salt per pound of pasta. This may seem like a lot, but it is necessary for getting the pasta properly seasoned. Plus, most of the salt drains off with the water. NOTE: If you taste the salted water, it should resemble "sea water."
  • If you are on a sodium restricted diet, please follow your doctor’s orders.

Bring your water, with the added salt, back to a full boil:

  • Explanation or Science of Boiling Water: Pasta added to water before it starts to boil gets a heat start on mushiness. Pasta quickly begins to break down in tepid water as the starch dissolves. You need the intense heat of boiling water to "set" the outside of the pasta, which prevents the pasta from sticking together. That's why the fast boil is so important; the water temperature drops when you add the pasta, but if you have a fast boil, the water will still be hot enough for the pasta to cook properly.

Adding the dried pasta:

  • Add the pasta, all at once, to the boiling salted water, and keep the heat high to bring the water back to the boil as quickly as possible. NOTE: Never mix pasta types in one pot.

  • To keep pasta from sticking together, gently stir the pasta in the water during the first 1 to 2 minutes of cooking.

  • Cook the pasta, uncovered, at a fast boil. NOTE: Once you have added your pasta, do not cover the pot with a lid. You can regulate the heat so the pasta/water mixture doesn't foam up and over the pot sides. Lower it the tiniest bit, and everything should be under control.

  • DO NOT ADD ANY TYPE OF OIL - Oil will coat the pasta and keep the sauce from adhering. After you add the pasta to the boiling water, stir with a long wooden spoon (stirring prevents pasta from sticking to each other and from sticking to the bottom and the edge of pan). Frequent stirring with a long wooden spoon or fork while the pasta is cooking will help the pasta to cook evenly. Make sure the pieces are moving freely.

photo by tikitarawa on Flicker

Cooking Time:

  • Don't rely on the package to give you the correct cooking time (this is only a guideline). Start timing when the water returns to a boil. Most pastas cook in 8-12 minutes.
  • Test dry pasta for doneness after about 4 minutes of cooking by tasting it. It is difficult to give exact cooking times since different shapes and thickness of pasta will take less or more time to cook.
  • Watch the cooking process of the pasta carefully. Pasta can overcook very quickly. Pasta should be tender but still firm when you eat it, what the Italians call "al dente." To be sure, bite into a piece of the pasta (take a piece of pasta from the pan, cut off a tiny piece, and chew it in your mouth). REMEMBER - Pasta will continue to cook and soften even after it has been taken from the water.

    Definition of "al dente" (ahl-DEN-tay): In Italian the phrase means "to the tooth" and is a term used to describe the correct degree of doneness when cooking pasta, risotto, and vegetables. The food should have a slight resistance (chewy) when biting into it, but should not be soft, overdone, or have a hard center.
  • Fulvia Guyger's Italian tip for stopping cooking time: Once pasta has reached the "al dente" stage, immediately turn off your gas heat or remove the pot from the heat if using electric heat. Add approximately 1/2 to 1 cup COLD water to the hot water with the pasta. This will immediately lower the temperature of the water and stop the cooking.
  • Cooking Pasta For Baked Dishes: Because the pasta is cooked twice (boiled first and then combined with other ingredients and cooked in the oven), pasta in baked dishes should boil less time than normal. Boil until just flexible but still quite firm (usually about a 1/3 of the normal cooking time). To test, cut into a piece.

Drain immediately:

  • Drain immediately into a large colander standing in the sink, and then pick up the colander with its contents and shake it well to remove excess water.

  • Do NOT rinse unless the recipe says to do so. the starch that makes the pasta stick to itself also helps the sauce stick to the pasta. If you're going to toss the pasta with the sauce immediately, sticking shouldn't be a problem.

Never, Never Over Drain Pasta:

  • EXCEPTION: Except when saucing with thin or brothy sauces such as fresh tomato or seafood, pasta needs to be moist to combine well. As soon as it is drained, remove it from the colander and place it either back in the cooking pan to keep warm to toss it with the sauce, or place it in a preheated serving dish or individual preheated serving bowls. Once the pasta is in the pan or bowl, use a fork and spoon and quickly toss it with the sauce.

Do NOT Rinse Pasta:

  • EXCEPTION: Do rinse the wide pasta, such as lasagna noodles. If you don't, you will have a hard time separating the noodles without tearing them.
  • Also rinse when making a cold pasta salad. The thin coat of starch on the pasta will be sticky when cold.

photo by crunked on Flicker

Don't Drown Pasta

Never over sauce pasta. Italians complain that Americans drown their pasta in too much sauce. The Italians way is to toss pasta with just enough sauce to coat it without leaving a big puddle on the bottom of the plate.

  • Warming A Serving Bowl:
    Pour some hot water into it and let stand until ready to use. Then pour out the water and dry the bowl. Warm plates by putting them into a 250 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes just before serving.

  • Reheating Pasta:
    Microwave the pasta in the storage container on HIGH for 1 to 3 minutes, tossing the pasta halfway through. The length of time in the microwave depends on how much pasta you have. You can also reheat the pasta by putting it in a colander and running very hot water over it. Be sure to drain the pasta well before putting on sauce.

  • Making Pasta Ahead:
    Cook the pasta as usual, being particularly careful to cook it only until al dente. Drain, rinse under cold running water to stop the cooking, and again drain thoroughly. Let pasta cool completely, then toss with a couple of teaspoons of oil so it won't stick together. Pasta can be stored in a plastic bag or in a covered bowl in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Pasta Etiquette

  • It is considered proper, in Italy, to eat pasta with only a fork, not a fork and a spoon.
  • You can get some leverage by turning the pasta while holding the tines of your fork against the edge of your plate. It's even correct to neatly cut the pasta if twirling is too hard.
  • What is undeniably bad manners is slurping in a mouthful of trailing pasta without benefit of twirl or knife. It's often loud, and it's never pretty.
  • If possible, serve warm pasta in warm, shallow bowls instead of on dinner plates. The sides of the bowl aids in turning pasta noodles on the fork.
  • During the 18th and 19th centuries, the ordinary people ate spaghetti with their hand. When the fork was invented, pasta became food fit for royalty as well, because they could now eat it without a loss of dignity. The Italians say that a character of a man can be determined by the way he eats spaghetti.

Sunday Baker has been Fiddling Around and you have to check it out!

Tanya at Sunday Baker is having some serious fun at her Blog site with one of her very favorite holiday gift ideas and you have to check it out.

She is giving away
$50.00 gift design your very own piece of photo artwork at PHOTOFIDDLE

Tanya says ...All you need is one of your favorite high-resolution photos
. You upload it to the
PhotoFiddle website and transform it into gorgeous, high-quality artwork that you can proudly hang in your home. You can choose from over 50 canvas art styles! The really fun part is playing around and transforming your photos to see what they'll look like as an oil painting, charcoal sketch, pop-art, and so much more on their easy-to-use editing tools
Photo changed
to Modern Style (
Photo Transformed To
Pop-Art Style ( Photo transformed into an oil painting (
Photo Transformed to L
ow-Detail Watercolor (
You can get the photo on stretched canvas, or as an art print and frame it yourself (they offer something for every budget). You can also order them in just about any size.

Now if I were to make one of these totally awesome photos it would probably be of my boys...

Hurry over to Sunday Baker before the deadline...(The contest will end Sunday night at 5:00 p.m. )
Tell Tanya I sent you...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dorie Greenspans Baking Hints

On making biscuits: Use a benignly neglectful technique; be a little lackadaisical about working the butter into the flour. Using fingertips—always my first choice—or a pastry blender, cut the butter into the dry ingredients quickly but not conscientiously. You want the mixture to resemble a rocky road—there should be some sandy patches, some tiny little pebbly pieces, pieces as slim as flakes, and pieces as chubby as peas. Let diversity reign. It's the water in these higgledy-piggledy bits of butter that, under the heat of the oven, turns to steam and creates air pockets in the dough that become flaky layers.

On mixing muffins: Muffins do best when mixed least. No beating, and no worrying about the lumps and bumps in the batter—most will disappear in the baking and you'll get just the right light, open crumb.

On baking cookies:

• Always start with a cool baking sheet, otherwise your dough will ooze and melt before it bakes.

• Avoid insulated baking sheets, which bake more slowly than standard ones.

• Always line your baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone mat, which will not only make cleanup easier but help the cookies to bake more evenly.

• Give your cookies space: even nonspreaders shouldn't be crowded so the oven's heat can bake the edges properly.

• Keep crunchy cookies in one jar and soft, chewy ones in another—combine them and you'll end up with a jar full of softies.

On chocolate chips: Chop your own chips and chunks from fine-quality bar or block chocolate. The big-name supermarket brands are not of premium quality. Chocolate chips, for the most part, don't come from the choicest cacao beans, and the chips end up with a very low percentage of cacao. What they save in convenience, they often take away in flavor and texture.

When I make chocolate chip cookies, I don't worry about cutting the chocolate into uniform sizes or shapes. Having chunks, chips, and slivers makes the eating more fun, and I love the way the mishmash of shapes looks when the cookies are baked—streaked, marbled, tweedy, and totally tempting.

On using butter: Please, please, please, and please again, when a recipe calls for butter, do not use anything else. You cannot use margarine or any other kind of "spread" in a recipe that calls for butter and expect to get the proper results. Try to find unsalted butter for your baking. Using unsalted butter not only gives you control over the amount of salt in your recipe, it gives you a difference in taste and texture, too, since salted butter has a lower percentage ofbutterfat and therefore a higher percentage of water.

On making layer cakes: Always set your filled and frosted layer cake aside for at least 2 hours so the components settle into a whole and the layers attach themselves to one another. That way you can cut impressively clean wedges.

On baking holiday pies: When you've got a turkey just about living in the oven, you need a few strategies for what I think of as battlefront conditions.

Roll ahead: Roll the pie dough out and fit it into buttered pie plates and keep them ready and waiting in the freezer for up to 2 months. You don't even need to defrost the crusts:

• Just give them a few extra minutes in the oven.

• Partially bake the crusts: You can do this the night before and keep them at room temperature.

• Get a head start on the fillings: Make them the night before and refrigerate.

• Double up: Desperate times call for desperate measures. You can bake the stuffing, sweet potatoes, and green bean casserole at the same time as the pies. Use the temperature needed for pies, since the fixings are flexible.

On pumpkin: If this vegetable were getting its kindergarten report, it would get an A for "playing well with others." I confess that my pumpkin doesn't come from the patch, but right off the supermarket shelves. I always used canned puree (not pie filling, which is already spiced) and always have a couple of cans in the cupboard because a craving can strike long after—or long before—the proverbial frost is on the pumpkin.

From My Home to Yours

by Dorie Greenspan
Photographs by Alan Richardson
Houghton Mifflin Company
Full-color, 528 pages,
ISBN: 0-618-44336-3
Reprinted by permission.

Buy It Here..

About the Author

Dorie Greenspan has written or co-written eight cookbooks, including Baking with Julia, which won a James Beard Award and an IACP Award; Desserts by Pierre Hermé, which was named IACP Cookbook of the Year; and Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé, which won the Gourmand World Cookbook Award for the best English-language cookbook. She created many recipes for The All-New Joy of Cooking and is a special correspondent for Bon Appétit, for which she writes the "Tools of the Trade" column.

Information provided by the publisher.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Win a Kodak Digital Frame! at 5 Minutes for Giveaways

5 Minutes for Giveaways is offering a fantastic prize from Kodak —
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  • 8 in. (20.3 cm) high-quality display
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If you want to win an EASYSHARE W820 Wireless Digital Frame with Home Decor Kit valued at $219.95,rush right over to 5 Minutes for Giveaways and enter!