My memories of Christmas long ago
are those of a feast of aromas. Always, there was the
Christmas also meant the scent of evergreen in the house. There were no ‘forever’ Christmas trees in those days, just the fragrant, fresh cut tree (we always got a short needle, easier to trim) that stood in our front window. We did use electric lights, though…I’m not quite old enough to remember candlelit trees…I think. It does get a bit harder to remember each year.
Naturally, as soon as we were up, doing the
Not too long after we were involved in giftdom, Mom would escape out into the kitchen and the Maxwell House Coffee song would come bubbling in on a beckoning tune of fragrance. Soon it was followed by the aroma of toast and, all our gifts opened, we’d trot out to the kitchen to breakfast on fresh sliced ham, Dad’s Italian sausage, Mom’s bread toasted, with a jar of her orange marmalade to go with, and cheeses and olive salad left from the Christmas Eve extravaganza. You could bet that in just a few moments, the door would open and Uncle Al from across the street would be bouncing in to have
As soon as breakfast was over, Mom got another big turkey ready and popped it into the oven. Thanksgiving and Christmas, our big turkey days,
Once all the preparations for dinner were done, I’d usually get dressed up in my new outfit – there was always something taffeta that rustled, a frilly slip, and new Mary Jane shoes to wear for the holidays, along with my usual stash of skirts, blouses and sweaters to wear until spring. All dressed up, my
They would have a great tree in their living room, also. Aunt Lucy was a whiz with angel hair. The blue lights peeping out from behind the veil of white fluff, placed expertly all over the tree, looked etherally beautiful. Dad’s family was much more simplified in their Christmas celebrations. Grandma died before I was born, and most of the fixing and doing was in the hands of the kids, so it was simple. Not that they weren’t great cooks, though! Aunt Lucy made cavatelli to die for, and Grandpa had a greens and beans minestrone that made your mouth water just to smell it; not to mention his goat cheese, made from the milk of his own goats.
So, the scents from their Christmas house in my memory are the sharp smell of cheese curing in cheese cloth hung from a rack in the kitchen,
Christmas 1980 was probably our last ‘real tree’ year. We ended up
with 3 big trees and a small live table tree you can see right behind the
Things are just abit different on Christmas Days in the later 1990’s for my family. For years we did the big turkey dinner, after the Christmas Eve feast, but several years ago we thought we’d try something different.
We’ve been spending Christmas Day at daughter Lori’s ever since the grandchildren got big enough to open presents. It’s great fun taking all our exchanges to the one house and watching each other open gifts ‘one by one’. The kids take turns being “Santa” and selecting a gift from under the tree for everybody in turn, and we all ‘watch’ as the gift is opened before someone else’s gift is selected. That usually lasts from around 9 a.m. till noon — what can I say, we are all so good, Santa is extra generous with us! Lori always has a buffet breakfast for us to nibble at, as we see fit during the gift opening. Plenty of Eve leftovers, just as in the olden days, find their way up to the house and serve as lunch. Again, catch as catch can.
What’s really new, though, is that early in the a.m. I set enough dough to raise to make about six pizzas for our Christmas Day Supper. Lori gets a big pot of chicken soup started, so that we can put together a great wedding soup and of course, a monster salad is mandatory. There’s always plenty of cookies, nut roll and pies for dessert, and we may even have some punch left from the night before. A bit of wine or beer, some hot coffee or cold soda and ahhhhhhh.
This much simpler supper instead of a huge Christmas dinner, is easier on the cooks, better for the diners and leaves a lot of time to play cards or games, or just nap a bit after lunch. Of course, it suffices to say that these goodies lend a whole new adventure to our Scents of Christmas Day
ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP
NUT ROLL — COOKIES — FRUIT
ASSORTED BEVERAGES AND
Large 6-Qt Soup Pot
2 lb+/- Chicken–4 Qt Water–3T Chicken Base–1 Medium UN-peeled Onion
3 Eggs–2 Carrots–1/4C Chopped Parsley–2 Stalks Celery with Leaves
¼ C Romano Cheese–¼ tsp Black Pepper–1 Head Escarole, Wash, Chop
1/2 lb ground beef
½ lb Fine Pastini, Cooked According to Recipe on BoxBring Chicken, Water, Base, Celery, Whole Onion and Carrots just to a boil in pot. Lower heat immediately and simmer slowly 2 hours. Do not boil. Skim as
Make tiny meatballs with the ground beef by adding salt, pepper, grated Parmesean, breadcrumbs, 1 egg and 1 tsp dry beef boullion. Mix all together and roll meatballs about the size of a penny.
Remove the Chicken to cool so that it can be handled. Add the meatballs to the hot broth to simmer. When chicken is cool, remove the skin and bones and chop Chicken bite size. Return to pot. Add the Chopped Escarole and continue cooking very low until ready to serve.
When ready to serve, stir in the cooked Pastini, mixing well.Whisk together well
Your preference of
Blender or Large Bowl and Mixer
2 C Red Wine Vinegar — ½ C Cold Water — 2 T Balsamic Vinegar
½ C Olive Oil — 3 T Sugar — 1 T Garlic Granules
3 T Onion Flakes — 1 T Parsley Flakes — 1 T Oregano — 1 T Basil–3 T Salt — 2 T Brown Mustard — 1 T Black Pepper
Blend well in blender or mixer. Makes about 1 Quart. May be stored in refrigerator.
Serve at ROOM TEMPERATURE, Shaking well before
Pizza DoughLarge Bowl for Mixing and Raising
6 Large Cookie Sheets or Large Round Pizza
Corn Oil for coating pans
2 Packs Instant Fast-Rising Yeast — ½ C Very Warm Water — 1 T Sugar
Dissolve Yeast in Water. Add Sugar; stir until
dissolved. Set aside.4 C Hot Water–1 C Milk Warmed–2 T Corn Oil–1 T
Sugar–1 T Salt
About 5 lb. All Purpose Flour
Dissolve Sugar in Warm Milk. When Yeast mixture bubbles, add to Milk. Add the oil to Hot Water in a
When you can no longer use the whisk, switch to a heavy wooden spoon. Continue adding flour and mixing until a stiff dough forms.
Flour work counter/board very well and turn out dough onto board. Continue folding over and working in flour until it starts to spring back.
Oil a large bowl that will allow the dough to raise double. Form a big ball with the dough and put it into oiled bowl. Punch down a bit and flip over, oiled side up. Cover with clean towel, set in a warm place and let raise until double.
Punch down, turn over and let raise until double
Pizzas (Use about 450-475 degree oven to bake pizzas to insure crispness. Slip off pan last few minutes to further brown the bottom.)
Cut six balls of dough, big enough to spread to about ¼ inch thickness on an oiled pizza pan or cookie sheet. Place each ball onto a tray and proceed to spread dough, letting it rest a few minutes every so often, until all sheets are covered.
Left over tomato sauce for Pasta makes a great pizza sauce. Just add more oregano to your taste. Spread over pizza shell; add toppings of your choice.
A “White” Pizza can be made by beating eggs
A “Greens” Pizza can be made by frying spinach or escarole greens (that have been boiled or thawed and squeezed of all water) in olive oil, minced
Isn’t that just like a big family? Going off and making NEW
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3 Eggs beaten well; ¾ C Oil
1½ C Orange Juice Concentrate mixed with 1½ C Apricot Brandy (or other fruit flavor liqueur)
16 Oz Mixed Candied Fruit + 1/3 cup chopped dates + 6-8 Oz broken pecans
For decorating and glazing the top of the loaves AFTER BAKING: WHOLE pecans, white Corn Syrup, OJ concentrate and Gran Marnier liquer
Mix all main ingredients thoroughly, divide equally into 2 buttered or sprayed bundt pans – or 5 Foil Loaf pans. Bang pans on counter to spread evenly and remove trapped air.
Bake in pre-heated 350° oven for 45-55 min. (until a toothpick comes out clean ). Cool on rack. Remove from pans when slightly cooled. Lightly press WHOLE Pecan Halves into the top of the loaf in a pretty pattern.
While cooling, prepare glaze of ½ C Orange Juice Concentrate (no
water added), ½ C Gran Marnier and a 1/4 C of Light Corn Syrup.
When cakes are cooled, cut Cheesecloth pieces large enough to cover a cake, rinse cheesecloth under cold water and squeeze dry. Then soak the Cheesecloth in the glaze mixture. Cover the cakes with the cloths and wrap cakes tightly in foil, then plastic bag or place in airtight tin. Keep them covered and occasionally re-wet the cheesecloth with the glaze mixture. Store in
refrigerator to keep from molding. For best flavor, make several weeks before
serving. (Alternate non-cheesecloth method: Leave loaves in the original baking pan and paint the glaze liberally and oftern on the top, letting the liquid seep down into the cake, unmold day of serving and aint all outer serfuces with glaze again, let dry to a shiny finish).
To dress up cake before serving, tuck holly into the center opening and serve on a tiered cake dish. It’s not your everyday old fruitcake, after all!
Grind 1 Lb Walnuts very fine in grinder or blender
Add: 2 C Sugar – ½ C Brown Sugar
– Small can of Condensed Milk and 2 T Vanilla to the ground nuts in a large
bowl. You should have a thick nut paste that can be easily spread. Add milk
carefully if it gets too thick as it sits.
DOUGH (This does not need to rise before making rolls)
2 Packs Quick Rise Yeast – ½ C Very Warm
Milk – ½ Lb Butter
13-Oz Can Evaporated Milk – 3 Large Eggs – ½ C Sugar – 1
1 T Vanilla
6+ C Flour
Dissolve 2 Packs Quick Rise
Yeast in ½ C very warm milk & set aside
Heat Can of Evaporated Milk,
Dissolve one pound butter in hot milk.
Let cool to very warm
Stir the yeast mixture into the butter and milk.
Beat 3 Large Eggs very well in large bowl with mixer.
Slowly add ½ C Sugar beating constantly.
Add 1 T Vanilla & mix again.
Meanwhile measure out about 6 C sifted flour.
Begin combining the flour a cup at a time, alternately with the milk/yeast mixture, to the beaten eggs. In first cup add 1 tsp salt. Start with flour and end with flour.
You can use the mixer until it is too stiff to work, then switch to wooden spoon. Use more or less flour, as needed to make a dough that will ball up and be workable without being sticky. (Amount of flour will depend on size of eggs, etc.)
Turn dough out on lightly floured board. Knead gently until it forms up and can be shaped into a ball. Flatten ball slightly and cut in 8 equal pieces. Shape pieces into round balls…let sit under a bowl.
Immediately begin to form nut rolls. (I recommend rolling them out on a sheet of waxed paper or better still, parchment paper. You can easily flip the paper over to make the dough roll over into a jelly roll shape and it prevents tearing of roll.)
Roll each piece of dough out on the lightly floured paper until it is about 1/8″ thick. I shape mine in rectangles, because it is easier to seal the ends.
Brush the dough with melted butter. Spread thinly right to the edge with nut mixture. (Mixture rises a bit in cooking so too much bursts the dough.)
Roll up jelly roll style, but more tightly. Seal the ends by pressing dough together and tucking the closed end under the top fold of the roll.
Place the rolls on a foil covered cookie sheet (this makes it easier to remove to cool), 2 to a tray. Cover and let rise in a warm spot until double in size, about 20 min. Brush tops with melted butter, sprinkle lightly with sugar & bake in preheated 350° oven until golden brown…. (About 20 minutes.)
Remove from oven; lift foil and all onto a cooling towel or cloth. After a few moments of cooling, roll the Kolachi off the foil to finish cooling. After thoroughly cooled, store snugly wrapped in foil, then plastic bag. Keeps very well a week in refrigerator, 6 months or more in freezer.
1 Pack Dry Yeast (fast rising is best)
¼ C Very Warm Water + 1T Sugar
– 1 C Scalded Milk
½ C warm tap water – ½ C Sugar – 1 tsp Salt – 2T Corn
2½ C Flour +/-
Dissolve yeast in ¼ C very warm water and 1T Sugar,
Scald the milk and add the ½ C warm tap water to it in a large
Add the ½ C Sugar, Salt, & Corn Oil to the Milk Mixture. Stir
Add the Yeast Mixture, stir.
Beat in 1½ C Flour with wooden spoon
very well. Cover and let sit for 20 Minutes.
Add enough Flour to make a
Stiff Dough (about 1 C). Mix well.
Turn out on floured board and knead until elastic and smooth.
Place dough in greased bowl, turning to oil on all sides, cover and let rise until doubled.
Punch down & let rise to double again.
Heat about 2 inches of peanut oil to 375 in a large skillet, or
Cut dough into 3 inch pieces; stretch and poke hole in center
to make donut shape.
Fry in oil, several at a time, turning, until raised and light brown. Drain well on paper towels. Immediately shake in paper bag with granulated sugar. Place on large tray and let cool.
Shake in sugar bag again after all are fried and sugared the first time.
(This goes easier as a 2-person operation… one to fry, the other to sugar.)
Mound in lined basket or bowl, cover with plastic bag until serving time.
This recipe will serve 8 easily, but it is very popular. Recipe can be doubled, tripled.
Another long drive was in front of us today, so we had a hearty breakfast with those farm-fresh eggs (that we bought in Thruman) before we set out on our trek. At the KOA exit, I inquired of the office staff about the picture of the lighthouse that was on our rental. She told me that it was located on Cape Elizabeth in Portland, so we agreed to take a small detour to see the real thing. I also realized that I had completed a personal bucket-list item…with the drive through Vermont and New Hampshire, I have now visited all 50 US States! I will admit that some of them were “drive-bys”, but I am counting them all the same – so there!
Though overcast on Bar Harbor, as we continued down the coast, the sun showed up again and the leaves continued their fashion show. We crossed streams and rivers that were brimming to the top – some dotted with docks and small ships with seagulls soaring above them. At one point we crossed a very modern looking suspension bridge that was directly next to an old iron-rivet span bridge and I thought about the contrast of worn and new, rustic and sleek, old and young and wondered if the old bridge resented its younger brother or embraced the change and, in converse, if the newer bridge appreciated the legacy of that which had come before him…
Quaint, patriotic towns continued to pop up on our route and the huge but neatly manicured lawns were a lush green with NO weeds to be seen and often a person tending to it with a riding mower . Biker riders sprinted up steep hills with seemingly no effort and children played in school playgrounds under the watchful eye of their supervisors. Occasionally, we saw yellow caution signs for MOOSE CROSSING or Snowmobiles or Farm Tractors on our route. People walked their dogs, held hands and ate ice cream cones. I mention all this because that is what we came to see – not just the whiz of the Interstates, but real people in real places doing real things. This is a great country and we need to appreciate that sometimes.
The white, black and red Lighthouse was a striking contrast to the rocky, craggy coast that it was perched upon and the blue waters beyond. The sun was perfect and a sea-breeze tousled our hair. I may have annoyed Dad, but I insisted on moving the RV to just the right spot to get our banner lighthouse lined up with the real thing. He accommodated my indulgence and then we were off to backtrack to the route to Boston.
We arrived at our campsite just before sunset, so there was a mad dash to get “hooked-up” before we lost the light. We are getting pretty efficient at that by now, so it went smoothly. We were both starving because we had basically skipped lunch to make up driving time. Since we are technically in Plymouth, Mass (near Cape Cod) – I opted to make a Thanksgiving dinner (in an RV using only 2 pans and a microwave)! Turkey cutlets with gravy, stuffing made with bread bought on day 1 of our trip, candied yams (recipe to follow – they were wonderful and simple), peas and cranberry juice. We decided that the word “thanksgiving” would be our word of the day – we have a lot to be thankful for… our family, our friends, our health, our love, our newest addition on the way, the list goes on – we are blessed. Dad will be 75 years old tomorrow and I secretly am thankful that he is still with us and that I can spend this time with him.
Yams in a Pan (it was either the fresh farm produce, the fresh air, the fact we were starving or I am a damn good cook – maybe a little of each – but, these were one of the best yam dishes I ever made or ate…)
2 medium yams – washed and sliced into thick slices (1/3″)
3 tablespoons each: butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, water and frozen OJ concentrate
2 dashes of salt and 1 teaspoonful of pumpkin pie spice
Put all ingredients (at once) into a saute pan that you can cover loosely with a lid and stir together to coat yam slices. Start pan on med-high heat until OJ melts and then cover loosely with a lid to let some steam out and reduce heat to med-low. Leave lid on, but stir occasionally and let out enough steam so that a syrup forms. Turn off heat when yams are fork tender. Serve and enjoy.
(Excerpted from I Smell a Memory, by Joanne S. Bishop 2003)
What is your earliest memory of the mouth-watering smell of something good? For me, it came on a cold winter’s day, several weeks after my uncle and his new wife came to live with us. They were married in October of 1939 and times were hard on newlyweds then, just before the USA went into WWII, so they settled into one of our bedrooms and shared the kitchen until they could find and afford a place of their own. Though I was just under four years old, I can remember most of the first-hand observations I made of some of the different ethnic practices of the first non-Italian member of our family – Uncle Mike’s wife, Lee, who was of German descent.
On this particularly frosty day, some time in November, I had crawled up on our living room sofa to look out of the window and watch big flakes of snow fall through the beam of the street lights that had just flickered on against the gloom of the late afternoon, when I was drawn by a magnetic aroma that wafted from the kitchen where Aunt Lee was preparing their dinner. Jumping down from the couch, I scooted from the living room, maneuvered around our big dining room table and on sturdy three-year old legs, followed the mysterious (potatoy/oniony) smell – different from anything I had ever caught scent of cooking in our home before.
In the kitchen, I watched has as she pulled a casserole from the oven to test the potatoes that, nestled in a creamy, white sauce, were beginning to turn golden brown on top. That, alone, was enough to stop me in my tracks. Cook with milk?? Never, in my short years of experience in that Italian family; they would talk about it for months to come. Uncle Mike would surely starve! She gave me some, though, when it was all tender and golden, and I was hooked for life.
Bolstered by the fact that Uncle Mike had not yet starved to death (or been poisoned), the rest of the group finally worked up the courage to try her casserole at one of our picnics. They mobbed her for the recipe!
Aunt Lee’s Scalloped Potatoes
(Serves 4 to 6)
Preheat Oven to 375 degrees; Bake casserole on a foil-lined cookie sheet to catch any boil spill-over. Generously butter bottom and sides of a 9 x 13 glass baking dish.
4 Large Russett Potatoes – peel, slice thinly and place into a bowl of cold water 1 Large onion – peel and slice thinly
Mix together 1/2 cup Flour, 1 Tablespoon salt and 1 Teaspoon pepper
Add 4 Tablespoonfuls of melted Butter to 2 cups whole milk (substitutions for even creamier potatoes: 2 cans Evaporated Milk or 1 Quart of Cream)
Drain the potatoes well, overlap a layer on the bottom of the baking dish. Place some onions on top of the potatoes. Sprinkle the flour/seasoning mixture over the potato/onion layer. Repeat: potato layer, onion layer, seasoned flour layer – until all are used.
Pour the milk/butter mixture over all to cover (you may need to add more milk or cream to bring the volume up to cover all layers).
Tightly seal with foil or lid. Bake 1 hour at 375. Lower heat to 325 and remove cover to allow the top to brown and all is tender (approx. 45 more minutes).
from our Carpenteria, CA family vacation, August 2011
First, make a fragrant broth with the following ingredients:
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 large carrot (peeled and grated)
1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
5 whole sprigs (stems and leaves) cilantro
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 cups chicken broth
juice of 1/2 small lime
1/4 teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, salt and black pepper (if you like it spicey, you can also add 1/4 tsp of (optional) cayenne pepper)
1/8 teaspoon of Sumac (optional) (you can substitute Curry Powder)
Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer about 30-60 minutes (until vegetables are soft). Remove the cilantro stems (if leaves fell off, that’s OK, you can leave them). Mash all the vegetables until fine and incorporated evenly throughout the broth. Add more chicken broth to bring total volume to 2 cups.
When the broth/veggie mixture is finished – THEN add 1 cup dried lentils (I prefer the orange colored ones). Cook at low temperature until liquid is absorbed and lentils are soft (add more chicken broth, if needed, to allow enough liquid to be absorbed – do not let the lentils dry out and burn on the bottom). The final consistency will be like a thick oatmeal. Can be served plain as a main or side dish ( you can also add a dollop of sour cream or greek yogurt just before serving).
FOR A PRINCESS
about 1 quart of spread)
½ LB. BOLOGNA – 3 STALKS CELERY – 1 C
SWEET PICKLE RELISH
1 TSP PAPRIKA – 1 C MAYONNAISE
Run everything but the mayo through a fine food grinder twice -or- process in food processor until fine but not liquid. Cut Whole Bologna into pieces before use.Put the fine mixture into a mixing bowl and add the mayo. Mix with a wooden spoon until all is a smooth, moist, spreading consistency.
Trim crusts from fresh bread (wheat and white are nice). Spread one slice of bread thickly with mix, top with another slice, and cut corner to corner into four small triangles. Cover and refrigerate up to three hours. You can use 2 slices white or wheat, or one slice of each per sandwich. A variety is pretty.
Peanut Butter at room temperature ( or 1 cup of each)
½ C Grape Jelly — ½ C Mint Jelly
Mix Grape Jelly into one cup of the Peanut Butter, and the Mint Jelly into the other cup, blending well.
Trim crusts from fresh bread (wheat and white are nice). Spread once slice of bread thickly with mix, top with another slice, and cut into three equal ‘fingers’.
You can use 2 slices white or wheat, or one slice of each per sandwich. A variety is pretty. Cover and refrigerate up to two hours.
8 oz Whipped Cream Cheese
4 oz. Crushed Pineapple, drain well, reserve juice
2 T Mayonnaise — 2 T Reserved Juice
4 drops Yellow Food Coloring
Cream together the Mayo, Pineapple Juice, and softened Cream Cheese, until well blended and creamy. Mix in the drained Crushed Pineapple. Add food coloring 1 drop at a time, until desired color. Mixture must be room temperature to be soft enough to spread easily on banana nut bread.
If using your own nut bread, cut thin slices and then use a whiskey glass or other small cutter to cut round circles (small, shaped cookie cutters would also work well).
When using cylindar can of bread, just remove the roll of bread from the can and slice thinly.
Spread one circle thickly with filling, top with another circle. Continue until all is used up. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
You need to drain the pineapple very well before adding it to the gelatin, but the juice can be measured to replace half of the cold water in the original box recipe, and ginger ale or lemon soda for the rest of the cold water in original recipe. If you have a pretty jello-mold use it, if not a cake dish will do. Cool Whip makes a pretty topping for each serving.
2 Quarts of Ginger Ale
1 Orange Sliced — I Lemon Sliced
Ice Cubes — Punch Bowl
Prepare the Kool-Aid according to instructions—Chill overnight.
Chill the unopened Ginger Ale overnight.
To Serve: Put the Chilled Kool-Aid into a punch bowl. Stir in the Chilled Ginger Ale. Add the Ice Cubes. Float the fruit slices on the top.