I’ve mentioned before that Christmas Eve is a big tradition for Italians. In many ways Christmas Eve was more important that Christmas growing up.
For one thing, we opened up all of our gifts on Christmas eve. My brother and I were the first grandchildren on my Father’s side of the family – and we were for a few years until our other cousins came along. So on Christmas Eve Nick and I would have to stay up until midnight before we could open our presents i.e. we would be falling asleep on our Nonna’s couch. ‘Santa’ a.k.a my Nonno or Zio would dress up as Santa and come to my Nonna’s house at midnight to deliver presents.
Earlier in the evening we would eat our Feast of Seven Fishes dinner – Italians do not eat meat on Christmas Eve, only seafood. My brother and I were incredibly lucky to grow up with such amazing food and traditions. It was truly a feast to remember. We would begin with a seafood pasta course (usually tuna sauce my dad or nonna would make), followed by fish, prawns, mussels, clams, baccalà (salted cod), homemade calamari and other amazing dishes. It has always been my favourite memory of Christmas with my dads family.
As a child I remember stealing Pizzelles from the counter before dinner, when Nonna or Nonno weren’t looking. Pizzelles are incredibly thin, delicate waffle like cookies that are crisp and slightly sweet. You can eat about 6 in a minute flat. They were always the elusive holiday cookie that you would only get at Christmas or maybe Easter. Pizzelle makers were not popular so only my Nonna would have one therefore making it an even more treasured dessert that I looked forward to.
Now, I have my very own Pizzelle maker by a complete mishap that happened this summer. Long story short, the company Chef’s Choice sent me an e-mail on a completely different subject that lead me to respond and receive a response from a woman in their marketing department. After a few back and forth conversations about her daughter, myself and my family she offered to send me one of their products to make up for the mishap. Of course I chose the Pizzelle maker, as it meant I would not longer have to borrow my Nonnas. Also – that I could now make Pizzelle’s whenever I wanted.
I am also excited to be hosting my very first Christmas Eve dinner at our house this year. In honour of my Dad I hope everything turns out – though Christmas Eve has never quite been the same since he passed. Christmas makes me feel incredibly nostalgic. Nevertheless I am looking forward to having all of my family over to share a delicious seafood meal together – and Pizzelle’s will definitely be on the dessert counter. This time, I won’t have to sneak them.
Thin crisp waffle cookies
- 3 Eggs
- 1 3/4 cups Flour
- 1/2 tsp. Anise seeds (optional)
- 1/2 cup Butter or oil, melted
- 2 tsp. Baking Powder
- 3/4 cup Sugar
- 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- 1. Turn on Pizzelle Maker. In a medium sized bowl beat together the eggs and sugar until frothy.
- 2. Add the cooled melted butter or oil, vanilla and anise seeds (optional) and beat again.
- 3. In small bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Add to the egg mixture stirring with wooden spoon.
- 4. Stir batter until well combined, it will be slightly stiff and dough-like. The dough should be stiff enough to drop by rounded spoonfuls.
- 5. Drop by spoonfuls in the centre of the Pizzelle maker. Be careful not to place too much dough, otherwise it will spill out over the sides. You want them to have delicate 'fingers' like lace.
- 6. Bake according to your Pizzelle Maker's instructions, usually only 20-30 seconds per batch. Carefully lift off using a fork. Place on cooling rack to crisp.
- Special Equipment Needed: Pizzelle Maker
- Pizzelle cookies last quite well. Place in airtight container (my nonna would always place paper towel over them) and store on counter for up to 2 weeks. You can also easily freeze them for ice cream sundaes, or ice cream sandwiches.
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It didn’t really feel like ‘Christmas time’ until today. We received our first Christmas card in the mail the other day and we’re going to our first Christmas party tonight! We’re also co-hosting a christmas party at our place Monday night for our neighbours.
We even have some more lights on our tree after every hardware store seemed to sell out of lights before December 6th this year. Luckily Adam was able to find some more yesterday so our rather large tree could really be lit up. So now all our decorations are up now and we’re ready to go.
I spent about 6 hours in the kitchen yesterday baking, as well as a few nights last week. I wanted to get it all done and put away so I could just pull out the treats when I needed to. Also, I tend to make a rather large mess when baking so my philosophy is do it all now, make one big mess and then it’s done. Makes sense – right?
These are one of my favourite cookies to make. Since I have a slight peanut allergy, along with many other people, I switched these traditional peanut butter blossoms to almond butter and swapped the hershey’s kisses out for extra large dark chocolate chips. I still made a few with the Hershey’s milk chocolate kisses, although they were so melted that they lost their shape. They still taste delicious, and that’s what really matters.
This recipes makes a large batch because I like to make the cookies smaller than usual. I find that when I’m at a party I like to taste everything – and having a full size cookie or treat limits how many you can try. Plus when they are really decadent or sweet a big piece can send you over the edge. WIth the large dark chocolate chips the cookie itself can be smaller, and the chips are the perfect size.
I always make smaller versions of desserts or cookies for when I’m making a platter or bringing them somewhere so that people can have a little bit of everything. Or you can go ahead and eat 4 or 5, it’s the holidays!
I’ll be posting a new holiday recipe each day until Christmas. These are one of my favourites – really anything with nut butter and chocolate. What about you??
Almond Butter Buttons
Soft almond butter cookies studded with dark chocolate chips - like the peanut butter blossoms, but peanut-free.
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup almond butter
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 2 eggs
- Splash of Almond milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (Gluten-Free All purpose, regular All-purpose or Whole Wheat will do)
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- Jumbo Dark Chocolate Chips/Hershey's Kissess
- 1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
- 2. In stand mixer cream together butter, almond butter, brown sugar, and sugar until smooth. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating until fully incorporated. Mix in a couple splashes of Almond milk and 2 tsp vanilla.
- 3. On low speed add in flour one cup at a time, and baking soda. Mix until incorporated. Dough should come together, and be a little bit sticky but easily able to shape. Add more flour a tablespoon at a time if too thin.
- 4. Shape spoonfuls of dough into balls in the palm of your hand. Place cookies 1 inches apart on un-greased cookie sheet. *To make them extra fancy, roll the balls in sugar before placing them on the cookie sheet*
- 5. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to12 minutes. Remove from oven, and immediately press a jumbo chocolate chip or chocolate kiss into each cookie. Allow to cool completely, so the chocolate hardens before storing.
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It was December 1st a day ago, and now it’s almost a week until Christmas. Crazy how time goes by so quickly. I actually bought and ordered our christmas cards at the end of November and thought I was on top of things. However, somehow they were only sent out this week. I probably should have sent them out at the beginning of December like I thought I was going to do. Oops.
I am on top of my christmas shopping though. Last night I think I actually managed to finish all of my shopping. There’s a few things I bought online this year and I am hoping they make it in time for the big day. One of them is actually at the post office right now waiting to be picked up, but when I went the other day there was a line up out the door to pick up packages. I think I’ll try again today and hopefully it won’t be so crazy. Maybe.
Now it’s time to wrap all of the gifts. Our family had lots of traditions growing up, including opening all of our gifts on Christmas Eve because that’s the European tradition.
Italians have a big Christmas Eve, and Christmas day isn’t traditional as it is in Canada. I never woke up on Christmas morning to a stocking, or the excitement that Santa had come. I had all my gifts Christmas eve, usually falling asleep on the couch waiting for ‘Santa’ to visit my Nonna’s house (usually my Nonno or my Zio dressed as Santa) after our massive Feast of Seven Fishes dinner. Which was fine by me because that meant I got to wake up on Christmas morning and immediately play with my toys. Some years my brother Nick or I would stay at my Nonna’s and sleepover there instead on Christmas eve, waking up with my Nonna and Nonno on Christmas morning.
Christmas day we spent with my moms side of the family, with a big dinner surrounded by aunts uncles and all of our cousins (my mom is the youngest girl of 6 children, so we have a lot of cousins). However, since we never did the whole Christmas morning thing, we never had a big Christmas day breakfast or brunch like a lot of families do. Usually it would be coffee for my parents and Panettone for Nick and I.
These Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls would be a great addition to Christmas morning when you’re feeding a crowd, and you could even make them the night before just allow them to rise and then leave them in the fridge until morning. Take them out about 30 minutes prior to baking. I used coconut sugar instead of brown sugar, so they aren’t overly sweet since they are usually smothered in a sweet cream cheese icing. I found the original recipe here, and subbed in Almond Milk for regular milk, reduced some of the sugar and made it with half gluten/wheat free flour as well.
Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
- ¾ cup almond milk, warmed to 100 degrees
- 2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup butter, melted and cooled
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 3 cups gluten free/wheat free all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1 ¼ cup coconut sugar
- 11/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 cup cream cheese, room temperature
- ¼ cup butter, softened
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine warm almond milk and 1 tsp granulated sugar. Sprinkle with yeast and let stand 10 minutes, until frothy.
- Next whisk melted butter, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, eggs and pumpkin puree together in a medium bowl.
- Use paddle attachment to beat 3 cups of the flour into the frothy yeast, then add in the pumpkin mixture.
- Switch to dough hook attachment. On the lowest mixer speed, add remaining 3 cups of flour one cup at a time until the dough forms a smooth ball, about 5 minutes.
- Transfer dough to an oiled bowl ( I like to spray mine with coconut oil), turning dough to coat completely with oil.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 ½ hours.
- Turn dough onto a floured surface and roll it out into a rectangle about ⅛” thick.
- For filling, spread softened butter over the surface of the dough using your hands to cover evenly.
- Combine brown sugar and spices in a small bowl, and sprinkle over the butter.
- Starting with the edge closest to you, gently roll the dough into a long log.
- Using a dough scraper, or sharp knife cut into about 15-17 pieces.
- Arrange in a 9×13” baking dish, and one other small baking dish. Cover with a clean towel and allow it to rise somewhere warm until doubled in volume once more, another 60 minutes.
- Once ready, bake at 350 F for 20-25 minutes.
- In a medium sized bowl using a hand mixer, combine cream cheese and butter. Continue to mix until fluffy and whipped. Add confectioners’ sugar. Beat until well combined. You can spread onto warm rolls, if you want it to melt a little. Otherwise allow the buns to cool and then spread on for a thicker icing.
Adapted from Foodess
Adapted from Foodess
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