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New Year’s Pie & Show “Waitress”

In Holidays, Pies & Sweet Tarts On December 28, 2016 0 Comments

Here’s a delicious and fun way to end 2016 and celebrate New Year 2017 – catch the show, Waitress, now on Broadway. And since the show is all about pies, no doubt you’ll be cravin’ pie afterwards.
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Simply make your own apple pie in advance. After the show, just hang out with your friends and enjoy pie with the bubbly! Check out this easy apple pie recipe with pre-made crust from Trader Joe’s®.

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Prep time: 30 minutes (cutting apples & assembling the pie)
Bake time: 35 to 45 minutes
Makes: One 9-inch pie

Ingredients:
6 large apples (Granny Smith, Pippin or a mixed variety)
1/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar (use unbleached or bleached sugar)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 Trader Joe’s® Gourmet Pie Crusts (follow thawing instructions, per package)
One 9-inch pie plate (discardable aluminum, porcelain or glass)
3 to 4 one-inch wide aluminum foil strips (for pie edges & to prevent burning)

Prepare the Apples:
1. Preheat oven to 425°F.

2. Peel and cut apples into fourths; remove cores and discard.

3. Thinly slice the apples and set them aside in a large mixing bowl.

4. In a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon and allspice.

5. Gently stir the dry flour-sugar-spice ingredients into the apples until uniform; set aside.

Assemble the Pie:
1. Gently unfold the thawed pie pastry (crusts).

2. Remove the top plastic wrap of one pastry.

3. Place inverted pie plate onto pastry.

4. With one hand underneath the bottom plastic wrap and the other on inverted plate, quickly flip the plate over on a work surface.

5. Remove the plastic wrap and discard.

6. Using a fork, poke random holes in bottom pie pastry in plate.

7. Using a large serving spoon, transfer the apples (in a mound – do not pack them down) onto the pie pastry in plate. Set aside.

8. Repeat removal of plastic wrap of second pie pastry. With one hand underneath plastic wrap and the other over pastry, quickly flip it over and onto the apple filling in plate.

9. The pastry should hang over plate edges by 3/4 to 1 inch. If it is longer than this, using a knife, gently trim it.

10. Using fingers, turn edges of pastry underneath and crimp the edges all around pie plate. To crimp edges, gently press pastry in between fingertips to seal the pie.

11. Cover pastry edges with aluminum foil strips.

12. Place pie on a rack positioned in center of oven and bake as follows:
Aluminum plate – 45 minutes
Glass or porcelain plate – 35 to 40 minutes (glass and porcelain cook faster, as they retain more heat).

13. During last 5 minutes of baking, remove aluminum foil strips so that edges can turn light golden brown.

Tip: To check doneness of pie, insert a pointed knife in center. If it goes through apples easily, it means they are tender and cooked. If not, bake for an additional 5 to 6 minutes.
Text and Pie on Blue Background Photograph ©2016 Nancy DeLucia Real

Stuffed Mushrooms

In Appetizers / Starters, Holidays, Vegetables On December 8, 2016 0 Comments

Need a great starter to go with the bubbly at Christmastime? Assemble these stuffed mushrooms a few hours ahead and refrigerate them. At serving time, preheat the oven and bake them. Made with all-vegetarian ingredients, the mushrooms will be devoured in no time. Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

Prep time (stuffing): 15 minutes
Bake time: 15 to 17 minutes
Makes 12 to 14 stuffed mushrooms

Ingredients:
One 8-ounce package white mushrooms, rinsed and patted dry with paper towels
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely-chopped brown or white onion
3 to 4 slices day-old Italian bread
1 large egg, beaten
3 tablespoons grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
2 to 3 tablespoons minced, fresh mint leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash ground black pepper

Directions for the Stuffing:
1. Remove stems from mushroom caps; finely chop the stems and set aside in a small bowl.

2. In a 10 or 12-inch skillet, heat the oil on high.

3. As soon as the oil is hot (it should not smoke), lower it to medium-high and stir in the chopped mushroom stems.

4. Using a wooden spoon or cooking spatula, stir-fry the chopped mushroom stems on medium-high heat for about 2 minutes.

5. After 2 minutes, add the chopped onion and stir-fry for an additional 2 minutes or until onion is translucent.

6. Transfer the mushroom-onion mixture to a bowl – set aside to cool for a few minutes.

7. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F.

8. Take 3 bread slices and quickly pass them under cold water; squeeze the excess water out of bread slices.

9. Discard the crusts and crumble the softened bread into a 2-cup bowl.

10. Add the beaten egg, grated cheese, minced mint leaves, salt and black pepper; stir to combine.

11. Stir in the mushroom-onion mixture. If mixture is too wet and does not amalgamate, soak the remaining bread slice (discard crusts) and crumble it into the mushroom stuffing.

12. Taste stuffing for salt level. If needed, add a tiny amount of salt.

13. Divide the stuffing onto the inverted mushroom caps.

Directions for Baking the Stuffed Mushrooms:

1. Oil a baking sheet and place the stuffed mushrooms (stuffing side up) on it.

2. Set the baking sheet with stuffed mushrooms on a rack positioned in center of oven.

3. Bake the mushrooms for 15 minutes.

4. After 15 minutes, check to see if stuffed mushrooms have turned light golden brown. If not, bake them for an additional 2 minutes. Serve stuffed mushrooms hot.

Text and Photograph ©2016 Nancy DeLucia Real

Grilled Zucchini, Yellow Squash & Fennel

In Holidays, Sides On November 8, 2016 0 Comments

Don’t know what new side to come up with on turkey day?

This year, you can pair Grilled Zucchini, Yellow Squash & Fennel with turkey or ham. And – without carbs you can enjoy a second or third serving. Just make sure to indulge in more wine or bubbly!

Best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving to All!

Prep time: 20 to 25 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
2 pounds assorted zucchini or yellow squash, washed & dried
1 fennel bulb, top stems and bottom trimmed and discarded
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
Rosemary sprigs and fresh mint sprigs, for garnish

Preparing the Vegetables:
1. Make sure the zucchini, yellow squash and fennel are fresh and firm, with no marks or dents. They should look like this:
image-zucchinibasket11-16post

2. Then, working on a cutting board, trim tops and bottoms of zucchini and/or yellow squash.

3. Cut the zucchini and/or yellow squash into 1/4-inch thick rings or circles; set aside.

4. Cut the fennel bulb into 1/4-inch thick slices (vertically); set aside.

5. Line an 18 X 12-inch baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

6. Using a basting brush, lightly oil the lined baking sheet.

7. Place the cut vegetables in rows on the sheet (see photograph below):
image-zucchinibakepost11-16

8. Lightly brush the zucchini/squash and fennel slices with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and ground black pepper.

Griling the Vegetables:
1. Set the baking sheet on an oven rack set 6 to 7 inches below the top “broiler” element of oven.

2. Broil or grill the vegetables for about 7 to 9 minutes on one side or until they are golden brown and look grilled.

3. When vegetables look grilled, transfer the baking sheet to a counter or a trivet.

4. Using tongs, carefully turn over the vegetable slices; lightly brush the vegetables with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and ground black pepper.

5. Return the baking sheet with vegetables to top oven rack; broil the vegetables for 7 to 9 minutes or until they turn golden brown and look grilled.

6. When vegetables are done, transfer the baking sheet to a counter or trivet. Transfer the vegetables to an ovenproof serving platter (arrange them decoratively).

7. Garnish the vegetables with rosemary and fresh mint sprigs. Serve immediately.

8. Alternatively, this dish can be prepared a few hours in advance of a meal. If making this ahead: when vegetables are done, transfer them to an ovenproof serving platter without the rosemary and mint sprig garnish.

9. About 30 minutes before serving dinner, cover the vegetables with aluminum foil; warm in a preheated 350°F oven for about 25 minutes. Serve immediately.
Text & Photographs ©2016 Nancy DeLucia Real

Day of the Dead Bread (Mexico)

In Breads, Crêpes, Pancakes & Puddings, Holidays On October 16, 2016 0 Comments

Every year in central and southern Mexico, the Day of the Dead is traditionally celebrated on November 1 and 2. Although this holiday coincides with the Roman Catholic Church’s All Souls Day and All Saints Day, indigenous cultures have fused the Church’s celebration with the ancient custom of honoring their departed ones.

Memorial altars are erected with photographs of the dead and what used to be their favorite foods. Local bakeries sell Pan de Muertos or Day of the Dead Bread. This sweet bread is made with eggs, anise seeds, flour, sugar and yeast. The loaf is usually round, adorned with dough that is shaped to resemble bones. Although the ingredients are basic, the flavors and texture of this bread literally melt in your mouth!

Ingredients for Bread:
3/4 cup milk (low fat or whole milk)
1/4 cup water
1 package active-dry yeast (Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise Instant Yeast®
2 large eggs
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 tablespoons anise seeds
3 to 3-1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour.

Ingredients for Glaze:
3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Prepare the Yeast:
1. In a small saucepot, combine the milk and water; heat until mixture is lukewarm.

2. Place the yeast and lukewarm liquid in a metal bowl or a small, separate metal saucepot; cover and set aside (on a wood or plastic surface) for 13 minutes.

Mix the Dough:
1. After 13 minutes, the yeast mixture will look puffy – transfer it to a 2-quart mixing bowl or a stand mixer fitted with a bowl.

2. Stir in the eggs, butter, sugar, vanilla, salt and anise seeds. Beat on low until mixture is barely uniform.

3. With electric beaters on low, stir in 1 cup flour at a time, until a sticky dough has formed.

4. At this point, clean off the beaters. Using a wooden spoon, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup flour until the dough amalgamates and becomes a little firmer (not hard).

5. Flour your hands and the dough (lightly).

6. Transfer dough onto a lightly-floured board. Knead dough until it is smooth and elastic.

Set Dough to Rise:
1. Oil a clean, 1-1/2 to 2-cup mixing bowl with vegetable oil.

2. Transfer dough to the oiled bowl; cover with aluminum foil and set dough to rise on a wood surface or in a cold oven with door closed. Let dough rise for 20 minutes.

3. After 20 minutes, transfer dough to a lightly-floured surface and punch it down.

4. Remove a 5-inch piece of dough from the dough ball.

5. Shape the largest dough ball into a flat round form and place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet measuring 16 inches by 11 inches.

6. Take the smaller dough ball and pull off 4 to 5 walnut-sized pieces. Roll each piece out to about 4 to 5 inches.

7. Place one rolled dough piece going from the top center and down the sides of dough round on parchment-lined baking sheet.

8. Add the remaining rolled dough pieces in a similar way and evenly spaced all around the dough round.

9. Shape a round knob on top center of the dough round. The rolled dough pieces will look like long bones on the bread.

10. Set dough to rise for 30 minutes on a wood surface or cold oven with door closed.

Bake the Bread:
1. After 30 minutes, transfer the baking sheet with dough to a wood surface; set aside while preheating oven.

2. Preheat oven to 375°F.

3. When oven is preheated, place the baking sheet with risen dough on a rack positioned in center of oven.

4. Bake the bread for 10 minutes.

5. After 10 minutes, lower oven temperature to 350°F; bake the bread for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until it looks golden brown. To test doneness: insert a pointed knife in center of bread. If knife comes out clean, the bread is done. If not, bake for an additional 5 minutes and test once more.

6. Transfer baking sheet with bread to a counter to cool.

Make the Glaze:
1. When bread is completely cool, place 1/4 cup sugar and the orange juice in a small saucepot and heat until the sugar melts.

2. Let the orange juice-sugar glaze cool completely.

3. Using a basting brush, glaze the bread. Sprinkle the bread with remaining sugar.

image-jaguarforest4bags

Enjoy Day of the Dead Bread with the best Mexican coffee on the market -Jaguar Forest® Organic Coffee, sold at Erewhon supermarkets in Los Angeles, Venice and Calbasas, California; and also at Vicente Foods, Los Angeles; Rainbow Acres, Culver City and Marina del Rey, California.

Jaguar Forest® Organic Coffee can also be found online: http://jaguarforest.com

Text and Day of the Dead Photograph ©2016 Nancy DeLucia Real
Jaguar Forest® Coffee Photograph ©2016 Jaguar Forest® Coffee Company

Easter Cookies (Mexican Pastelitos)

In Cookies, Candies & Sweets, Holidays On March 18, 2016 0 Comments

These delicious cookies are from Mexico. They’re called pastelitos or little cakes. I think they look like Easter eggs. Hence, they’re a perfect dessert for Easter Sunday.

Everyone will love the flaky texture and buttery-cinnamon flavors of these melt-in-your-mouth Easter cookies!

Prep time: 25 to 30 minutes
Bake time: 25 minutes
Makes: 36 o 38 cookies

Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
1 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup sifted, powdered sugar (for garnish)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325°F.

2. Sift flour, cornstarch and cinnamon into a 3-cup bowl; set aside.

3. Line two 18X12-inch baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

4. In a 4-cup bowl or a stand mixer bowl, combine the butter and sugar; beat until light and fluffy.

5. Gradually add the flour mixture into the butter-sugar mixture.

6. Mix well and knead until a smooth dough forms.

7. With your hands, take a small piece of dough and shape it into a 3/4-inch ball.

8. Place it on one of the parchment-lined baking sheets.

9. Continue forming 3/4-inch balls of dough, placing them 2 inches apart on baking sheets.

10. Set baking sheets in oven and bake the cookies for 12 minutes.

11. After 12 minutes, invert upper baking sheet with bottom baking sheet; bake for an additional 12 to 13 minutes.

12. After 12 or 13 minutes, check underside of one cookie. It should look light golden brown. If it is not light golden brown, bake the cookies for an additional 5 minutes.

13. Remove the baking sheets with cookies from oven and set them on a counter to cool.

Serve the Easter Cookies:
1. When cookies have cooled, set them on a serving platter, garnished with sifted, powdered sugar.

2. FOR MAKING AHEAD: When cookies have cooled completely, sore them in double Ziploc® freezer bags up to 3 weeks ahead.

3. FOR THAWING & SERVING: Remove cookies from freezer and Ziploc® freezer bags. Place cookies on a platter to thaw for 4 hours (covered with aluminum foil). When ready to serve cookies, garnish them with sifted, powdered sugar.
Text & Photograph ©2016 Nancy DeLucia Real