Category:  Holidays

Home » Archive by category "Holidays" (Page 6)

Refried Beans (Frijoles refritos)

In Holidays, Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On May 2, 2014 0 Comments

Last week, I stumbled across these fresh cranberry beans at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market. These beans really captured my attention. Just look at them!


They’re fresh and this means that they take less time to cook than packaged dry beans. In honor of Cinco de Mayo, we’re makin’ some frijoles refritos or refried beans. You can add these creamy beans to tostadas and tacos or serve them as a dip with tortilla chips. I’m sure you won’t forget the Tequila shots and/or the Margaritas… y andale! Or, just go for it!

Inactive Prep Time: Overnight soaking, plus 45 minutes to boil the beans
Prep Time: 15 minutes (for refrying the beans)

1 pound fresh cranberry beans (if using dried beans, allow 20 to 30 minutes more for cooking)
1 yellow or white onion, peeled and halved
3 bay leaves
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 strips of bacon (optional)
3/4 cup peeled and finely chopped yellow or white onion
Half a Serrano chile, finely minced
4 to 6 tablespoons Half n’ Half cream
1 Chipotle chile in adobo sauce, mashed*
Salt, to taste

Soaking & Cooking Directions:

1. Place beans in a 4-quart glass or porcelain bowl; add enough cold water to cover the beans.

2. Cover the bowl and let beans soak overnight.

3. After the beans have soaked overnight, drain them completely.

4. Transfer the beans to a 6-quart sauce pot; add the peeled and halved onion and the bay leaves.

5. Cover the beans with about 2-1/2 to 3 quarts cold water (there should be 3 extra inches of cold over surface of beans).

6. Bring the beans to a boil.

7. After beans come to a boil, set heat on low. Simmer the beans for about 45 minutes or until they are tender, but not broken.

8. Set the sauce pot with beans aside to cool.

9. After the beans have cooled to room temperature, drain them, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

10. Discard onion and bay leaves.

11. Transfer the drained beans to a food processor; process beans into a puree.

Refry the Beans:

1. In an 8-quart sauce pot, heat the oil.

2. When oil is not, add the bacon strips, finely chopped onion and the minced Serrano chile.

3. On medium-high heat, stir-fry the mixture until onion is translucent and bacon turns crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes.

4. After 2 to 3 minutes, remove the bacon strips and discard them.

5. Using a wooden spoon, carefully stir the pureed beans into the stir-fried mixture.

6. Constantly and quickly stir the beans, bringing them to a boil – stand away from stove to avoid hot splatters.

7. Immediately lower the heat setting. If the boil is too strong, cover the sauce pot to avoid hot splatters once more.

8. Constantly stir the beans for about 2 to 3 minutes.

9. After 2 to 3 minutes, add the Half n’ Half cream and the mashed Chipotle chile; continue stirring until the refried bean mixture is uniform.

10. Stir in about 1 teaspoon salt. Taste and adjust seasonings.

11. Serve immediately.

*NOTE: Chipotle chiles in adobo sauce are sold in cans. They can be found in the international foods section of standard supermarkets or in Latin American grocery stores.

Text & Photographs ©2014 Nancy DeLucia Real

Italian Easter Bread

In Breads, Crêpes, Pancakes & Puddings, Holidays On April 4, 2014 0 Comments

Symbolizing fertility, eggs are featured in the traditional foods of many cultures during Springtime.

In Italian gastronomy, colorful eggs are used to decorate baked delicacies at Easter. They are reminiscent of rebirth and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Celebrate Spring or Easter by making this festive bread known as pane di Pasqua. – Italian, for Easter Bread!

Active Prep Time: 45 minutes (for making dough & coloring eggs)
Inactive Prep Time: 90 minutes (for two dough risings of 45 minutes each)
Bake Time: 30 to 35 minutes

Prepare the Yeast Starter:
1/2 cup water
1 envelope (7 grams or 1/4-ounce) active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar

1. In a 1-pint metal bowl, combine the dry yeast and the sugar; set aside.

2. In a 1-pint sauce pot, heat the water until it is warm, but not hot.

3. Pour the warm water over the yeast-sugar mixture.

4. Swirl the bowl slightly to mix the dry and wet ingredients gently.

5. Cover the bowl and place it on a wood board for 15 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, assemble the dough ingredients as follows:

Prepare the Dough:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons rum (light or dark)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3-1/2 to 3-3/4 cups all-purpose, unbleached organic flour

1. Heat the water and milk together in a 1-quart sauce pot until the liquid is barely lukewarm; set aside.

2. After the yeast mixture has risen for 15 minutes, it will look puffy. Transfer it to a 6 to 8-quart mixing bowl or a stand mixer.

3. Whether using a hand mixer or the stand mixer, on low speed, stir in the water-milk liquid, egg, sugar, oil, vanilla, rum, cinnamon and salt.

4. When the mixture is smooth, gradually stir in the flour, 1 cup at a time.

5. Each time you add 1 cup of the flour, make sure the batter that forms is smooth and uniform.

6. After adding about 3 cups of the flour, a dough should form. It will be thick and sticky.

7. At this point, use a wooden spoon to mix in an additional 1/2 to 3/4 cup flour.

8. The dough should amalgamate and become semi firm, but soft and easy to handle.

9. Transfer the dough to a smooth, lightly floured wood board and knead it lightly until dough is uniform. [When kneading, to prevent dough from sticking to the board, lightly add flour to top of dough and wood surface.]

NOTE: Do not place the dough on marble, granite or tile, as these surfaces are too cold and will halt the rising process of the dough.

10. When the dough is smooth, set it aside.

11. Oil an 8-quart bowl; transfer the dough to the oiled bowl.

12. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel; set bowl away from draft and let dough rise for 45 minutes.

13. After 45 minutes, punch down the dough and, with a knife, divide it into 3 equal pieces.

14. Shape each of the 3 dough pieces into a ball; set them aside.

15. Take one dough ball and place it on a lightly-floured wood board. Gently begin rolling the dough ball, stretching it to out, to the sides.

16. As you roll the dough ball, it will elongate.

17. Continue the rolling and stretching process until you have made a strand of dough measuring 23 to 24 inches in length. Set the dough strand aside.

18. Repeat the above rolling and stretching technique for the remaining two dough balls. You should now have three strands of dough.

19. Place the three strands of dough next to each other, to form three rows (they will be parallel to each other):


20. At one end of the dough strands, press them into each other so that they hold together. Begin forming a braid:


21. After completing the braid, shape it into a wreath. Press edges together to close the wreath (it will be a circle). Set the dough wreath aside:


22. Meanwhile, line an 18-inch X 12-inch baking sheet with parchment paper.

23. Gently lift and quickly transfer the wreath onto the parchment-lined baking sheet.

24. Cover the wreath with a clean kitchen towel; set baking sheet with wreath aside on a wood surface or in a cold oven to rise for 45 minutes.

25. After 45 minutes, preheat the oven to 375°F. In the meantime:

Prepare Egg Wash & Decoration:
3 colored Easter eggs (made a day ahead, per instructions on one Easter egg coloring kit)
1 egg yolk, mixed with 1 teaspoon cold water (this is the egg wash)
Nonpareils candies

1. Place the colored eggs, spaced evenly, over wreath; gently push them into dough until they are snug.

2. Brush top of wreath with egg wash (DO NOT BRUSH THE COLORED EGGS).

3. Sprinkle the wreath with nonpareils candies:


Bake the Bread:
1. Place the baking sheet with wreath on a rack positioned in center of preheated oven.

2. Bake the bread for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, insert a pointed knife in the bread. It should come out clean. If not, bake the bread for 5 more minutes.

3. After 30 to 35 minutes of baking, transfer the baking sheet with bread to a counter to cool (at this point, marble granite or tile counters can be used).

4. Serve the Easter bread warm or at room temperature, but cutting it into 2-inch thick slices.

TO STORE: After the bread has cooled completely, cut it into 4 sections. Wrap each section in plastic wrap and place it in double freezer bags. Freeze the sectioned bread for up to one month.

TO THAW: Remove bread section(s) from freezer bags and unwrap. Place the bread section on a plate, covered with a new sheet of plastic wrap, to thaw for 1 to 2 hours. Slice the bread and serve.

Text & Photographs © Nancy DeLucia Real

Valentine Chocolate Ganache Cake

In Cakes & Cupcakes, Holidays On February 7, 2014 0 Comments

Frosted with chocolate ganache, this flourless cake is absolutely magnifique for February 14th! First, shop for Valentine’s Day decorations. Then, make the cake and enjoy the romance. Happy Valentine’s Day!

For the Cake:

Butter, flour and parchment paper for 9-inch springform pan

7 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon rum

1-1/4 sticks unsalted butter

¾ cup granulated sugar

5 large eggs, separated

Four 3-inch wide strips of aluminum foil (for cake assembly)

1 cup ground, unpeeled almonds


1. Preheat oven to 350°F oven. Butter a 9-inch springform pan.

2. Place a 9-inch round parchment paper circle at bottom of pan; dust the sides of pan with flour, shaking off excess.

3. Fill a double-boiler pan with about 2 inches of water. Place the double boiler element over the pan and place on stove burner set on high heat.

4. Add the chocolate, rum, butter and sugar to the double boiler. As the mixture heats, stir it with a wooden spoon until it becomes uniform.

5. When chocolate mixture is uniform, remove the pan from heat and allow to cool a little.

6. Meanwhile, in a 2 or 3-quart mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set egg whites aside.

7. In a separate 1-pint bowl, beat the egg yolks until they are uniform.

8. With a spatula, transfer the chocolate mixture to a 3-quart mixing bowl.

9. Gently stir the beaten egg yolks into the runny chocolate mixture.

10. Stir the ground almonds into the chocolate-egg yolk mixture.

11. Gently fold the stiff egg whites into the chocolate batter, taking care not to mash or deflate the egg whites.

12. When mixture is uniform, transfer it to the prepared spring form pan.

13. Place the spring form pan on a rack positioned in center of oven.

14. Bake the cake for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, check to see if the center of cake has puffed up. If it still looks sunken and wet, bake the cake for an additional 5 minutes.

15. After 5 minutes, if the cake looks puffed up, insert a knife with pointed tip in center of cake. If knife comes out clean, the cake is done.

16. Transfer the cake to a rack or trivet set on a counter; let it cool completely.

17. When cake has cooled completely, remove the sides of spring form pan.

18. Invert the cake over a platter and gently lift off the pan bottom.

19. Peel off the parchment paper and set cake aside.


For the Chocolate Ganache:

8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon rum

1 cup heavy whipping cream


1. Place chocolate and rum in a medium glass or porcelain bowl (it should be heatproof).

2. Place cream in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer.

3. When the cream has just begun to simmer, immediately pour it over the chocolate in bowl and let it stand 2 to 3 minutes.

4. After 2 to 3 minutes, whisk the chocolate-cream mixture until smooth. Let cool slightly before using. Set aside.

Pour Ganache Over Cake:

1.  Pour the runny ganache over cake, start pouring in center of cake and then pour over rim/sides of cake.

2. Let the ganache forms drips over the cake sides.

3.   Set the cake aside so that the ganache will solidify – about 30 minutes.

4. When the ganache has solidified, cover the the cake with aluminum foil and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

5. This cake can be made one day ahead and refrigerated.

Text and Photograph ©2014 Nancy DeLucia Real


Christmas Cheesecakes

In Cakes & Cupcakes, Desserts, Creams & Sauces, Holidays On December 13, 2013 0 Comments

I learned how to make these mini-cheesecakes when I was 14 years old. The place was Watertown, Massachusetts. And my teacher was a great neighbor and friend, Susan Pallotta.

Since then, these Christmas Cheesecakes have been the hit of all our holiday parties. They’re fun to make and easy to eat. All you have to do is peel off the paper cups and enjoy the mini-cheesecakes.

Btw, let me know if you miss washing the spatula and dessert plates.

Prep time: 35 to 40 minutes
Bake time: 12 to 14 minutes
Makes: 24 mini-cheesecakes

Prepare the Cherry Filling:
One 24.7-ounce jar Trader Joe’s® Dark Morello Cherries in Light Syrup
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water

1. In a 3-quart sauce pot set on a counter, stir together the dark cherries with the syrup and the sugar. Set aside on counter.

2. In a 2-cup bowl, mix together the cornstarch and the water.

3. Using a wooden spoon, gently stir the cornstarch-water mixture into the cherry mixture in sauce pot.

4. Set the sauce pot on a burner and bring the cherry mixture to a boil. Cook on medium-high heat and stir with a wooden spoon until mixture boils.

5. As soon as the cherry mixture comes to a boil, lower the heat to medium. Cook and stir until cherry filling begins to thicken. This will take 25 to 50 seconds.

6. When the cherry filling has thickened, gently transfer it to a glass or porcelain bowl. Cover the bowl and set it aside so that the cherry filling has time to cool.

Meanwhile, make the crust:

Prepare the Crust:
24 holiday muffin paper cups
1 cup graham cracker crumbs or animal cracker crumbs (ground in a food processor)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup sunflower or safflower oil

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.

2. Divide the paper cups among two muffin baking pans (each one should hold 12 paper cups). Set aside.

3. In a shallow bowl and using a fork, mix together the crumbs, cinnamon and either butter or oil.

4. When mixture is uniform, using a teaspoon, put some crumb mixture into each paper cup.

5. Using the back of an espresso spoon or small teaspoon, press down, into the crumb mixture.

6. Set the muffin pans with paper cups aside while you prepare cheesecakes.

Prepare the Cheesecakes:
Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened to room temperature
3 large eggs
1/2 cup regular or natural cane (unbleached) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. In a 4-quart mixing bowl or in a stand mixer fitted with a bowl, beat together the above ingredients on high speed until mixture is creamy and smooth.

2. Drop 1 tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture over the crumb mixture in paper cups.

3. Set each muffin pan on its own rack in oven.

4. Bake the cheesecakes for 6 to 7 minutes.

5. After 6 to 7 minutes, invert the muffin pans.

6. Bake the cheesecakes for an additional 6 to 8 minutes or until tops look puffed and slightly crack.

7. After baking the cheesecakes, set them IN MUFFIN PANS on a counter to cool completely.

8. When the cheesecakes have cooled completely, lift them out of the muffin pans. To avoid crushing the still-soft cheesecakes, use both hands to grab the paper cups and lift them out.

9. Carefully set the cheesecakes on a serving platter. Cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

10. As soon as the cherry filling has cooled to room temperature, set it in an airtight container. Refrigerate the cherry filling until the cheesecakes are ready to be served.

11. About 2 hours before serving cheesecakes, place 3 cherries on top of each one. Carefully cover the cheesecake platter with aluminum foil and refrigerate.

12. At serving time, remove the aluminum foil and set the cheesecakes on a table.

Note: The cheesecakes and cherry filling can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated.
Text and Photograph ©2013 Nancy DeLucia Real

Pumpkin-Walnut Pancakes

In Breads, Crêpes, Pancakes & Puddings, Holidays On November 26, 2013 0 Comments

For me, the most comforting part of a holiday is when I start my day with a great cup of coffee and a delicious breakfast. This Thursday (Thanksgiving Day), have your family wake up to these luscious pumpkin-walnut pancakes. Add some pure maple syrup and enjoy the moment. Happy Turkey Day!

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Makes: Six to eight 5-inch pancakes

1 large egg
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup canned pumpkin
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash ground nutmeg
100% pure maple syrup (any brand)

1. In a 2 or 3-quart mixing bowl, combine the egg, milk, oil, vanilla extract, pumpkin, walnuts and the sugars.

2. Using a wire whisk or a fork, mix until ingredients are uniform.

3. Stir in the remaining ingredients – do not overmix.

4. On medium-high setting, heat a non-stick skillet (or a pancake griddle).

5. Once the skillet or griddle is heated, lower the setting.

6. Butter the skillet or griddle.

7. Immediately add 1/4-cup of the pancake batter onto the skillet or griddle, letting it spread to a 5-inch circle.

8. Continue forming 5-inch pancakes, leaving a one-inch space in between each one.

9. Cook the pancakes for about 2 minutes per side or until underside is light golden brown when lifted with a spatula.

10. Immediately serve the hot pancakes with pure maple syrup.

Note: Dollar-size pancakes are shown in photograph.

Text and Photograph ©2013 Nancy DeLucia Real