Tag Archives: holiday

Seafood Macaroni Salad for Memorial Day!

It’s hard to believe Memorial Day is already here. It seems like spring just flew by, but I’m thrilled to celebrate the start of summer. Even though it looks like it will be a little cold, the weekend looks great. I’ll be spending the weekend with family and friends at the shore. Whether you’re staying at home or heading out-of-town, I’m sure for many the weekend will include a barbecue. This macaroni salad is a great addition to any barbecue or picnic. The recipe is easy, and the addition of seafood means you’re not just bringing the same old macaroni salad. It’s a sweet, crunchy, delicious side for your next barbecue.

To start, chop 2 bell peppers (I used a yellow and red but any will do), 1 small sweet onion, and 2 ribs of celery. Set them aside.pepperschopped peppersonionscelerychopped veggiesFor the seafood, you’ll need 3 small cans of small shrimp and 3 small cans of lump white crab meat. Drain the seafood well and set aside.shrimpcrabmeatNext, make the dressing. Combine a 15 oz jar of mayonnaise, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon white vinegar, salt, and pepper. If the dressing is too thick, you can always add a little milk to thin it out.mayosugarvinegardressingalmost readyFor the pasta, I like to use elbow. It just seems like macaroni salad should always include elbow macaroni. Cook 2 lbs elbow macaroni according to package directions. Drain, then add back to the pot with cold tap water and drain again. Normally, I never suggest “rinsing” the pasta, but for macaroni salad, it works to cool the pasta down. elbowsFinally, mix everything together in the pot you boiled the pasta (no need to dirty something else). Add the pasta, veggies, seafood, and dressing, and stir thoroughly to combine. Give it a taste for seasoning, then refrigerate until cool. It’s best if you can make the salad a day before serving so the flavors can meld, but if you’re in a pinch, just make sure everything is cold.adding pastaadding veggiesadding seafoodadding dressingdoneI hope you all have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend full of family and friends, and maybe some sun! Enjoy!

Pumpkin Pie for the Holidays

Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie. It’s a great way to end the holiday meal.  And, if we listen to the songs, pumpkin pie works for Christmas as well:

I met a man who lives in Tennessee
And he was heading for Pennsylvania
And some homemade pumpkin pie 

shellSo, it’s no surprise that I’ve made my share of pumpkin pies. I’ve also made several for friends and family. After tasting the pie, many people have asked me for my recipe, and I always chuckle. For me, the tried and true recipe is Libby’s. That’s right, I use the recipe right off the can, but it works! This year, like every other, I made Libby’s famous pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.

To start, whisk together 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon cloves in a large bowl. Add 2 large eggs to the mixture and whisk to combine. Add 1 15 oz can pure pumpkin. Next, add 1 12 oz can evaporated milk and whisk to combine.sugar and spiceeggspumpkinevaporated milkall combinedFor the pie crust, I use my standard pie crust recipe. I roll out the crust the crust before making the filling.  Line a greased 9 inch pie plate, and crimp the edges. Place in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

ready for the ovenPlace the pie plate on a cookie sheet close to the oven. Pour the filling into the shell, and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees, and bake 40-50 minutes longer until a knife comes out clean from the center. Oh, and one trick to cover up the knife holes, cut out some extra pie dough using a festive cookie cutter (leaf or pumpkin), and bake for about 10 minutes until golden. Just place it on top, and your pie looks perfect.

If you haven’t tried this simple recipe, give it a try. It’s so easy, and so good. I’ve also tried making the pie from fresh pumpkin, and it just wasn’t worth it. Go for the can, and enjoy.

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and are ready for a fabulous Christmas season!

With Easter Around the Corner I’m Making Easter Bread!

Loaves of Easter BreadSome of my favorite things about holidays are the customs and traditions that people keep.  They may be very new, or they can go back for generations.  They can involve any number of different rituals, but, thankfully, many of the traditions center around one of my favorite topics, food!  That is certainly the case in my family…it’s all about the food.  For Christmas, there is the fish dinner (Feast of the Seven Fishes), for Thanksgiving, there’s holiday soup (Italian Wedding), and for Easter, there is always Easter bread (spianata)!

RecipeSweet breads are very common around the holidays.  Many cultures have their own versions, but this one is an Italian Easter bread.  Flavored with vanilla and anise seeds, it’s a great breakfast treat.  There are many different recipes, some more light and bread like, others more dense and cake like, but they are all delicious.  For this one, I used my Mommom Phil’s recipe.  As you can imagine, in my Mom’s recipe box, she has a ton of different recipes (Mommom Phil, or Philomena, being my Dad’s Mom), and this one is more cake like and makes about 6 loaves.

ProofingTo start, mix 1 envelope yeast with 1/2 cup warm water and 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Let this proof for a few minutes while you mix everything else.  Using a mixer, cream together 1 stick softened butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar.  Add 6 eggs and continue to mix.  Add 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 3/4 cup warm milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon anise seeds, and the yeast mixture (make sure that the yeast mixture has bubbled up and you no longer see the individual yeast seeds).  Mix everything until combined, then add about 2 1/2 lbs flour (about 9 cups).  Mix until a dough Mixing Doughforms.  You may need to add an extra cup or two of flour so that you have a dough that you can knead.

Dump the whole thing on a floured surface and start to knead.  You want the dough to be smooth and consistent.  This won’t take long.  Once it’s ready, pour a little bit of oil in a large bowl and swirl the ball of dough in the oil, then turn it over.  This way the dough is covered in oil, including the top.  Cover the dough with a piece of plastic and a towel (because that’s how my Mom and RisingMommom do it), and set the bowl in a warm place to rise.  I put mine right next to the radiator.

After a few hours, the dough should have doubled in size.  Take it out of the bowl and divide it into 6 equal portions.  This is always the tough part for me…equal portions.  Shape the pieces into loaves and place in greased loaf pans.  You’ll want to again cover these and set them in a warm place to rise.  I let them rise another hour or two.

Loaves RisingThese loaves bake at a very low temperature, 250 degrees.  They’ll take about 50 minutes to an hour.  You want them to be very light in color, but just cooked through.  You can tap on them to see if they sound hallow, or just use a toothpick to make sure they’re cooked all the way through.

This Easter bread, or spianata, is perfect smothered with butter, or you can do it the old school way like my Aunt Elvira and pour a little bit of olive oil on it.  Either way, it makes a great breakfast, especially on Easter Sunday!

My First King Cake for Mardi Gras

Colored SugarI had the good fortune of being invited to a party last night to celebrate Mardi Gras.  The party was a blast, complete with beads, Cajun food, masks, and decorations of purple, green, and gold.  Of course, as the good guest that I am, this week I asked what I could bring.  The very simple response was “maybe something sweet” so, of course, I had to bring a traditional Mardi Gras dessert…king cake!

Sour Cream, Sugar, ButterKing cake is a sweet bread, baked in a ring, covered in a sugary icing, and usually decorated with colored sugar in the traditional colors of Mardi Gras, purple, green, and gold.  One special part of the king cake is that a little plastic baby is hidden in the cake after it’s baked, and, whoever gets the piece of cake with the baby, “wins”.  I say wins in quotes because it seems to vary what you win.  Some people say you’re the “king” for the day, others say you win the privilege of bringing the cake the next year.  Not really sure the official rules, as until yesterday, I had never made one or tasted one.

YeastBecause I’ve never made it before, I had to do some digging for a recipe.  I came across a traditional king cake recipe from Southern Living and then also a cream cheese-filled king cake recipe, also from Southern Living.  Since I can’t pass up anything cream cheese-filled, I opted for that one, and then ended up sort of melded the two together.  It was a big hit at the party, even though I didn’t add the baby.  I searched and searched for a plastic baby (and by searched and searched, I mean the night before the party, I went to the grocery store, a party store, and a craft store, then gave up…but still, I tried), and I wasn’t able to find one.  DoughSo I just skipped it, although I think it would have been fun to have it.  I hear you can substitute something else, you just need something someone’s not going to choke on that could be hidden inside after it’s baked but before it’s iced.

For the recipe I picked, it makes 2 cakes.  It was very easy to half, and there was plenty of cake for the party.  First, heat  8 oz of sour cream, 1/6 c sugar, 2 tablespoons of butter, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a small saucepan over a low flame until the butter Pre-Risemelts.  You’ll want to stir often just to be sure nothing burns.  Once everything is melted, you want to cool it to about 100-110 degrees.  Meanwhile, stir together 1/4 oz envelope of active dry yeast with 1/4 cup of warm water and 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar, and let stand 5 minutes.

Once the yeast has sat for 5 minutes and the sour cream mixture is the right temperature, beat these together with 1 egg and 1 cup of flour (the recipe called for bread flour, but I used all-purpose, and it turned out Post Risegreat) at medium speed until smooth.  Then reduce the speed to low and add 2 cups flour (1 cup at a time), and mix until a soft dough forms.  Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, for about 10 minutes or so.  Place in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled for about an hour.  My house was cold, so I turned the oven on to its lowest setting for a few minutes, then turned it off, and put the bowl in there.  Just be sure it’s not too hot.

RolledAfter an hour, punch down the dough, and roll it out to a 22×12 inch rectangle.  Beat 1/2 cup sugar, 8 oz softened block of cream cheese, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (this was my change from the original), and 1 egg yolk on medium speed until smooth. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the dough, leaving about a 1 inch border.  Then roll the whole thing up, starting at the 22 inch side.  Transfer to a parchment lined cookie sheet with the seam side down and bring the ends together to form a ring.  I had to moisten the ends with water and pinch Ready for the Ovento get them to stick together.  Then cover and let rise till doubled again, about 20-30 minutes.

Bake the dough at 375 degrees until golden.  The recipe says that will take 14-16 minutes, but it took mine more like 25 minutes.  Then cool the cake for about 10 minutes, and put it on your serving tray.  Cover it with the glaze (mix 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons butter melted, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla, and 2 tablespoons of milk until spreadable…and you can add more milk or use less, depending on the consistency).  Then, while it’s still wet, cover it with colored sugar.  The traditional is purple, green, and gold.  Just sprinkle bands of color all the way around.

DoneIf you’re looking for a show stopper dessert for Mardi Gras, this is definitely a good pick.  It did take a while because you had to wait for the dough to rise on several occasions, but it was delicious and I thought it was worth it.  When you bring this to the table, you will definitely impress your guests!

Simple Holiday Decorating Idea…in January!?!

OrnamentI know, I know, it’s January 10th, why am I talking about holiday decorations?  But as I think about taking down the Christmas decorations (and yes, I said “think about” not “start” or even “remember” because I keep delaying and delaying, I hate the take down part), I wanted to share a simple decorating idea I did last year.  I think it’s really easy, but I can’t tell you how many people commented and complimented!

The first thing I did was search for the branches.  Even though I thought this would be the easy part, this actually took some work.  The yard failed me…nothing was right.  I wanted something think to showcase the ornaments, and it had to be stripped of leaves.  So then I thought I would just buy them, but after going to Michaels, A.C. Moore, and Jo-Ann Fabric, with no luck, I was starting to give up. Finally, a neighbor cut down a huge old tree, so I snipped some branches off the top and was all set.  Honestly, I think finding the branches was the most difficult part.

SuppliesThe next hunt was for a vase. I needed something that would hold the branches in place.  I settled on an old vase that was my grandmothers.  You can see how small the opening tapers to from the picture.

For the balls, I had these 24 ornaments for years.  I used to put them on the tree, but figured I’d try something different.  And I felt like I had too many ornaments for the tree anyway!  I like the matted finish of these too.  But use whatever you have or whatever you like.  And if you are like me and think 24 is way too many…you’re wrong.  In the end it was barely enough.

Bare BranchesOnce the supplies were together, the tricky part was getting the sticks in place.  It took some trial and error, and probably cursing, but in the end, it worked. Then just get those ornaments up and you’re set!

Like I said, pretty easy and great results.  You could even spray paint the branches white, or use ribbon instead of the hooks to hang the ornaments, but hey, I went for easy!

So…January 10th with a tree up, lights, everything.  I guess I should start taking things down.  I mean it is after the Feast of the Epiphany…the official end to the Christmas season…or at least that’s what I remember from my 12 years of Catholic school!  When do you take you’re stuff down? Or did you already…don’t judge me!