Tag Archives: holidays

Get ready for Christmas 2020! (Seriously…)

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I know it sounds absolutely crazy to think about, but trust me: NOW is the time to prepare for the 2020 holiday season. As you clean-up wrapping paper, but away ribbons and decide which bags and boxes you plan to keep, it’s important to keep an eye on the prize: being organized next year. Here are a few things you can do to be prepared:

  1. To organize for 2020, make sure you shop for your holiday essentials over the next few days while they’re on sale. That way you will have them tucked away waiting for you next season! It’s such a wonderful surprise when the occasion arrives to be prepared.
  2. Go through your wrap and decor stash to see what is missing. Restock wrapping paper, ribbon and tags, scissors, tape, washi tape and other festive accouterments.
  3. Dispose of any ragged bits of wrapping paper, rolls that are empty or bags that are torn. Think about investing in a shredder to do the job and limit the trash. After all, shredded paper essentially doubles as confetti!
  4. Organize everything in a tidy box that can be slid into a closet, tucked under a bed, or put away in a basement or attic. In fact, invest in two wrapping boxes: one for the holiday season and one for any other wrapping needs that might arise. This way, you’re not digging through Santa tags and snowman paper when your BFF’s birthday comes along.

Any other holiday organizational tips we should share? I’d love to hear your tricks in the comments!

xx Annette

 

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Buon Natale! Celebrate the Holidays Italian Style with Fruit Cake

While perusing through my archives, I rediscovered this Italian fruit cake recipe and felt like with the holidays in full swing, I should share it again.

Skye McAlpine is a talented friend of mine. A few years ago, she sent over this absolutely stunning (and delicious) Italian fruit cake recipe. On Skye’s recommendation, this fruit cake is lovely with a glass of sweet red wine, like port. If you have a local wine merchant, pick up a port to finish a holiday dinner party. It’s such a fun ending to a fun evening.

While perusing through my archives, I rediscovered this Italian fruit cake recipe and felt like with the holidays in full swing, I should share it again.

Certosino di Natale: Honey, Pinenut and Almond Fruitcake
Serves: 8-10

For the cake, you will need:

– 40g raisins
– 40g mixed candied peel
– 30ml dry red wine or Marsala
– 320g flour
– 30g cocoa powder
– 2 tsps bicarbonate of soda
– 300g honey
– 40g butter
– 70g sugar
– 1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
– 1 tsp ground cinnamon
– 3 tbsps water
– 60g pinenuts
– 200g blanched almonds
– 60g dark chocolate

For the decoration, you will need:

– 2 (heaped) tbsp apricot jam
– 2 tsp water
– 10-12 slices of glacé orange
– 3 glacé pears
– 10-12 glacé cherries
– handful of blanched almonds

To prepare:

Add the raisins and candied peel to a medium-sized bowl and pour in the wine, then leave to soak overnight.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees, grease and line a 25cm cake tin. Sift the flour, cocoa and bicarb into a large mixing bowl and set to one side.

Add the butter to a small saucepan along with the sugar, honey, fennel seeds and cinnamon, then set over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Stir now and then to make sure that nothing burns on the bottom of the pan.

Add the raisins (with all their juices) and pine nuts to the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl, stir well.

Roughly chop the chocolate and the almonds, then add them too. Stir again.

Now pour in the melted butter and honey, and stir until well combined. The batter will be quite stiff, so stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. If needs be, add another splash of red wine.

Pour the cake batter into the tin and bake for 45 mins to 1 hr, until it’s golden on top, and when you press a skewer into the cake, it comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin.

To decorate, spoon the jam into a small saucepan with the water; set over a low to medium heat until the jam becomes syrupy and begins to bubble. Take it off the heat and use a pastry brush to glaze the cake, then lightly press the glacé fruits and nuts on to the top of the cake leaving no gaps. Brush the remaining glaze over the nuts so that it is all shiny.

For those of you that need measurements in cups see the conversion chart here

Photos by: Skye McAlpine

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Hungarian Walnut Roll, “Beigli”

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This holiday season, I decided it might be fun to make an old family recipe. I know most of you think I am Italian, but my family is Hungarian. As an homage to my family, I decided I needed to make this classic holiday sweet.

It is called Beigli (bay-glee), and it is made with walnuts and poppy seed filling with a yeasted dough. It really has a lovely flavor.

Find the recipe below. While it does take some extra prep and TLC, the end result is worth it, and it will make such a statement on your holiday table. Let me know if you give it a try!

Hungarian Walnut Roll (Beigli)
Prep time: 2 h 35 m Serves 24

For the dough, you will need:
– 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
– ½ cup of warm milk
– 5 tablespoons white sugar
– 1 cup unsalted butter, cubed
– 3 egg yolks
– 1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
– 4 cups self-rising flour

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For the filling, you will need:
– 1 cup whole milk
– 3/4 cups white sugar
– 2 1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts
– 1 lemon, zested
– 2/3 cup golden raisins

Egg wash:
– 1 egg
– 1 tablespoon water

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To prepare:

In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine yeast and warm milk. Once the yeast has proofed, add 5 tablespoons sugar, butter, egg yolks, and sour cream in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix well. Slowly add the flour until the dough comes together. If the dough feels too wet, add a little more flour; if it’s too dry, add milk a tablespoon at a time. The dough should be moist and easy to work with.

Knead on a floured surface until smooth, then form the dough into a ball, cover the bowl with a plastic wrap, and set aside for 1 ½ hours.  While the dough is resting, make the filling. Heat the milk and ¾  cups sugar in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture has a syrupy consistency about 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the chopped walnuts and stir to combine. Remove the saucepan from the heat; stir in the lemon zest and raisins, and let filling cool.

Once proofed (keep in mind the dough does not have a big rise), divide the dough into three pieces. Roll one piece of dough out on a lightly floured surface to form a long rectangle about a 1/4-inch thick 8’x 10”. Spread 1/3 of the walnut filling on the dough evenly, leaving about an inch of dough at each edge. Roll the dough up to form a log, and press to seal. Place the dough, seam-side down, on a parchment-lined or Silpat lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Makes 3 logs.

Beat the egg with the tablespoon of water to make an egg wash. Brush the loaves with egg wash and let rest for 1 hour in a warm place. After the dough has risen, brush it again with egg wash and put the baking tray in the refrigerator for 30 minutes (this will give the dough a shiny finish).

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Bake the loaves until they’re a deep golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes.

Cool and slice into 1 inch slices.

xx Annette

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2 Apple Sauce Recipes for Latkes (and anything else!)

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On Monday, I shared my recipe for latkes, and as everyone knows, latkes are even better with toppings. Greek yogurt and sour cream are good additions, but there’s nothing like topping them with apple sauces.

Over the years, I’ve perfected not one but two amazing apple sauce recipes perfect for latkes, and I’m sharing both with you today. Let me know what you think and which one you prefer. Honestly, I think it will be a tough decision to determine the winner!

Wouldn’t this make a lovely hostess gift? Tie some ribbon on the jar and you’re all set.

Traditional Homemade Applesauce
You will need:
– 3 to 4 lbs of peeled, cored, and quartered apples
– 4 strips of lemon peel – use a vegetable peeler to strip 4 lengths
– Juice of one lemon, about 3-4 Tbsp
– 3 inches of cinnamon stick
– 1/4 cup of dark brown sugar
– Up to 1/4 cup of white sugar
– 1 cup of water
– 1/2 teaspoon of salt


To prepare:

Put all ingredients into a large pot. Cover. Bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Remove from heat. Remove cinnamon sticks and lemon peels.

Mash with potato masher.  Place in the fridge. It should last for 2 weeks in the fridge.

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Cranberry Apple Sauce

You will need:
– 8 cups of cranberries
– 8 small or 6 medium apples sliced
– 1/2 cup sugar

To prepare:
In a large sauce pan place cranberries, sliced apple, and sugar.

Simmer on low heat, stirring regularly to prevent sticking, for 45 minutes until completely cooked and softened. Press the cooked cranberries and cooked apples with a fork to completely combine. The fruit should have a smooth yet chunky consistency.

Let the applesauce cool. Stored in a closed jar, it can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

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My Latkes Recipe, just in time for Hanukkah!

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Every year my kids look forward to our Hanukkah meal. We light the candles, say a prayer, open little gifts and then sit down together for our traditional meal. I roast free-range chicken, and I make homemade sweet potato + Yukon potato latkes with homemade applesauce. I also usually toss together a sweet and savory salad with a balsamic vinaigrette. It’s a meal that incorporates all the flavors while bringing back warm memories from the years we’ve enjoyed this celebration of light together.

If you’re celebrating Hanukkah this year, give my yellow and gold latkes recipe a try. Actually, give these a try regardless of your celebrations; everyone loves latkes!

Yellow and Gold Latkes
serves 4 to 6
You will need:

– 3 medium size sweet potatoes
– 3 medium size yukon gold potatoes
– 2 eggs
– 1/4 cup matzo meal
– 1 small yellow onion diced
– salt and pepper to taste
– 1 cup olive oil
To prepare:

Prepare a paper towel-lined cookie sheet for finished latkes.

Hand grate potatoes, so they are shredded. Add salt and set aside for 10 minutes.

By hand, squeeze the liquid out of the potatoes, transfer to another mixing bowl.

Add eggs, matzo meal and diced onion and mix.

Note: if the potatoes still have some water, it’s fine to add 1 more egg and more matzo meal to bind.

In a large skillet put 1/4 cup oil and heat. Drop-in latke mix with a spoon forming small pancakes.

Fry in the oil until golden and crispy.

Place cooked latke pancakes on the towels to drain oil, and continue to fry the latkes and drain. You will need to continue to add oil to the skillet as you continue to fry the latkes. Place the cooked, and drained latkes in the oven on low until guests arrive.

Serve with homemade applesauce (recipes coming later this week!), sour cream, or non fat plain greek yogurt.

xx Annette

Latkes photo by Stephanie Meyer for Food & Wine

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