REMEMBERING CHRISTMASES PAST…

Dear Readers:

Once again I wish you the merriest Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa…wondering at the same time where the time went. This is the time for reflection for me, as I think of all the Christmases of the past.  They were happy, busy, fun-filled times.

 

I can remember the excitement of bringing home a real fir tree, setting it on a base filled with sugar-water, trying to find the best part of the tree as it stood in front of the picture window for the entire world to see as they passed our home.  My brother and I, when small, had control of the tinsel.  Mom would specify, “Place one strand at a time on the tree; do not throw it!”  As we got older, I took charge of the tinsel and my brother helped my parents place the rest of the decorations on the tree.  I didn’t have to rescue the tinsel thrown on the tree anymore.

 

I can remember my Dad taking my brother and me shopping at Newberry’s, a little store that had everything affordable for kids who were seeking presents for their parents and each other. We would spend whatever time it took to purchase just the right gift.  I still have one of the presents I gave Dad when I was a child:  a small tray, holding two smaller trays, each inscribed with a recipe for drinks.  (Recipes were my thing even then!)

 

Usually, on Christmas Eve day, Mom and Dad would finish the Christmas shopping for us, hoping to find last minute bargains.  When they arrived home, I would wrap the gifts, all except my own, and place them under the tree.  That was when the excitement began.

 

When we were little, we were allowed to open one present each, and, you guessed it, we found pajamas!  Once scrubbed and decked out in the new pj’s, we went to bed, only to awake as early as possible on Christmas morning.  As we got older, we opened all the presents as soon as darkness descended, sharing the moments with family and friends who cared to stop by. That’s when we ate and drank and were truly merry!

 

Our Christmas day consisted of playing with the toys and games and more eating, enjoying Mom’s ravioli’s, meatballs, sausage and Braciole in homemade tomato sauce.  Also memorable were her fabulous pies, usually apple, pumpkin and a cream pie were part of the fare.  We cracked nuts, ate tangerines and pomegranates, welcomed more guests, exchanged more gifts…as you can readily understand, my childhood Christmas was filled with excitement, people and food!

 

Before I publish my favorite holiday recipes, let me remind you of those who will not have the happiest of Christmases: the homeless and the helpless.  Please offer a giving hand by contributing toys and/or make a donation to a favorite charity or church.

 

One last thought; as I wish you the best holiday ever, remember those who will come no more.  Say a prayer, go to church, and never forget the happy times.

My heartfelt thanks for following my column go out to you.  Merry Christmas to all!

 

As my gift this holiday season, I am sharing some of my favorite holiday recipes with you.  (This column will be one I will keep handy, as I will be making almost all of these recipes this Christmas season.)

 

Beginning with Braciole:  This Taste of Home recipe is exactly the way my Mom and Grandmother made this delicious way of serving beef flank steak.  The roll is sliced to reveal a pinwheel of goodness.  The Braciole was simmered in her sauce along with meatballs and sausage, and Mom served ravioli’s instead of spaghetti.  This is not a difficult recipe.  I’ll let you in on a secret…Mom hated to cook, which was why I took over the meals when I was eleven years old.

BRACIOLE

TOTAL TIME: Prep: 35 min. Cook: 1-1/4 hours YIELD:  6 servings

  • 1 beef flank steak (1-1/2 pounds)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup soft bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Hot cooked spaghetti, optional
  1. Flatten steak to 1/2-in. thickness. Rub with 1 tablespoon oil. Combine the bread crumbs, parsley, cheese, garlic, oregano, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spoon over beef to within 1 in. of edges; press down. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side; tie with kitchen string.
  2. In a Dutch oven, brown meat in remaining oil on all sides. Add onion and cook until tender. Stir in the tomato sauce, water, Italian seasoning, sugar and remaining salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 70-80 minutes or until meat is tender.
  3. Remove meat from sauce and discard string. Cut into thin slices; serve with sauce and spaghetti if desired. Yield: 6 servings.

 

 

This is the way I prepare…

MOM’S MEATBALLS

1 pound ground beef

1 minced garlic clove

1 small onion, chopped fine

3 tablespoons parsley

2 beaten eggs

1/4 cup milk

Salt and pepper to taste

Pepperidge Farms bread crumbs (enough to make sticky mixture) or 1 cup fresh white bread broken into small pieces.

 

Mix the ingredients lightly to prevent dense meatballs. Form mixture into balls and chill for 1 hour on baking sheet.  Then fry the meatballs in hot oil until they’re brown. Finish cooking the meatballs by simmering them in tomato sauce.

 

NOTE:  I don’t add grated cheese to my meatballs, but many cooks do.  A handful will do for this recipe.

 

This recipe was a favorite of many readers and has been reprinted twice.  Here it is again.  My sauce is similar to the one used in this recipe, except I do not use fennel seed, although I will the next time I make my sauce to test the flavor.  Instead of Italian seasoning, I use a handful of parsley, a half a handful of basil and a 1/4 handful of oregano (Grandmother’s measurements!).

 

ABSOLUTELY THE BEST LASAGNA

SAUCE:

1 pound sweet Italian sausage

3/4 pound ground beef

1/2 cup minced onion

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes

2 cans (6 ounces) tomato paste

2 cans (6.5 ounces) tomato sauce or 1 can (15 ounces)

1/2 cup chicken broth or water.  (I use chicken broth)

2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil (Not needed if using Grammy’s measurements above)

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (I use Grammy’s recipe above)

1 tablespoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

 

LASAGNA:

12 lasagna noodles

16 ounces Ricotta cheese (for cheesier lasagna, add another 16 ounces ricotta and an additional egg.)

1 egg

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 pound sliced Mozzarella cheese (If making cheesier recipe, increase to one pound.)

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

 

TO PREPARE SAUCE:  In a large, heavy pot, cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned.  Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce and chicken broth or water.  Stir in sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and parsley.  Simmer, covered, for 1 //2 hours, stirring occasionally.

 

TO PREPARE LASAGNA:  Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.

Boil lasagna noodles for 8 to 10 minutes.  Drain noodles and rinse with cold water.  In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, 2 tablespoons parsley and 1/2 teaspoon salt. (If making cheesier filling, mix in additional 16 ounces ricotta and egg.)

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

 

TO ASSEMBLE:  Spread 1 1/2 cups meat sauce in the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking pan.

Arrange 6 noodles lengthwise over the meat sauce.  Spread with 1/2 of the ricotta cheese mixture.  Top with a third of the Mozzarella cheese slices.

(Cheesier version:  Use half of the Mozzarella slices.) Spoon

1 1/2 cups meat sauce over Mozzarella, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

Repeat layers and top with remaining Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Cover with aluminum foil sprayed with cooking spray to prevent sticking.  Bake for

25 minutes.  Remove foil and bake an additional 25 minutes.  Cool 15 to 20 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!                      

 

I will be making ravioli’s again this Christmas.  My son will be happy!  I always made ravioli without measurements.  This is a tried and true Italian cook’s easy recipe.  Beth and her family get together and make batches of ravioli for the holidays.  I will be cutting the filling recipe in half, but if you intend to freeze the raviolis, make the full recipe.

 

RAVIOLIS
Dough Recipe:

3 1/2 c Flour

4 eggs plus 1 yolk

3 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons water

1 teaspoon salt

 

Mix all ingredients until small ball is formed.  Move to a floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes, dough should be smooth and tender.  Wrap in saran wrap and let rest if refrigerator for 1 hour.

 

Filling:

4 pounds Ricotta Cheese

1/2 Cup Romano Cheese (you can also use Parmesan cheese)

4 eggs

3 Tablespoons Parsley

Salt

Pepper

You can also add up to 2 boxes of frozen spinach that has been defrosted and all liquid squeezed out using cheesecloth.

 

Roll out dough on floured surface adding flour if dough sticks. Roll into thin sheets, brush the egg wash over a sheet of pasta.  Put 1 teaspoon of filling mixture on the dough about one inch apart. Cover with another sheet of pasta, pressing out the air and press firmly around the filling, cut and use a fork to press to seal edges.

 

Freeze in a single layer on a cookie sheet and then place in freezer bags.

 

Bring salted water to a boil; add 2 teaspoons of oil to keep ravioli from sticking.  Add Ravioli, keep water at a low boil and gently stir until ravioli floats to the top 5-8 minutes.  Add sauce and enjoy.

 

Lastly, readers, let me share my favorite recipe for pie crust.  I love this recipe!!!

PIE CRUST (EXCELLENT)

12 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening

6 -8 tablespoons ice water (about 1/2 cup)

Directions

  1. Dice the butter and return it to the refrigerator while you prepare the flour mixture
  2. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse a few times to mix.
  3. Add the butter and shortening.
  4. Pulse 8 to 12 times, until the butter is the size of peas.
  5. With the machine running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse the machine until the dough begins to form a ball.
  6. Dump out on a floured board and roll into a ball.
  7. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  8. Cut the dough in half.
  9. Roll each piece on a well-floured board into a circle, rolling from the center to the edge, turning and flouring the dough to make sure it doesn’t stick to the board.
  10. Fold the dough in half, place in a pie pan, and unfold to fit the pan.
  11. Repeat with the top crust.

I hope your family and friends consider you one of the best holiday cooks this season.  With these recipes, you cannot miss!  I also hope your holiday time will be one to remember, shared with family and friends. I send my best to you and yours, with deep appreciation for your following, “Among Ourselves.”  Thank you, one and all.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

HAPPY HANUKKAH!

FABULOUS KWANZAA!

Keep smiling!

 



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