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Holiday

Christmas

Holiday Baking Roundup 2014

November 30, 2014

There is something so magical about the first snowfall of the season. 

Friday night while watching a movie with one of my friends, and snacking on our charcuterie board (the best), the soft white flakes began falling down. We took a peak outside and were happily surprised to see how much had accumulated over the past couple hours. 

As a kid it was always so exciting when the first snow fell – waking up to a winter wonderland was everything.  And, if you knew it was supposed to snow, you would leap out of bed and tear open the blinds to see if it really had snowed. You’d race to get your snow gear on and bound out to the fresh mounds of snow to make snowmen and snow angels.

Now, as an adult, I get equally as excited about the first snowfall. However, for much different reasons. First, I’m happy it was on a Friday night so I didn’t have to get up and drive to work the next day because, lets face it, people freak out at the tiniest bit of snow. And second, instead of running out to enjoy the snow, I am happier to stay indoors, cozy up with a warm cup of tea, a good book or show and watch the snow fall around outside. 

What better way to spend a snowy day inside than by baking. I’ve rounded up a few of this past years favourite holiday recipes. Some new, some old and some gluten free and/or vegan! Something to please everyones taste buds :)

1. Italian Pizzelle Cookies – crisp, light and delicately sweet.

2. Vegan Brownies - bake them in a larger pan, cut into smaller squares to please a crowd. 

3. Personalized Gingerbread Cookies - monogrammed cookies means everyone gets one :)

4. Flourless Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars – fluffy and light, gluten free. 

5. Fudgey Raspberry Brownies – dense, and deliciously decadent. 

6. Christmas Toffee Crack(le) – addictive, salty and sweet – amazing 

7. Flourless Almond Brownies – made with almond meal, dense and fudge-like

8.  Almond Butter Blossom Cookies – an almond-butter take on the traditional thumbprint classic

9. Nanaimo Bar Bites – one of my favourite holiday treats, just dressed up a little different

10. Salted Almond Butter & Pretzel Cups – just like their peanut-y partner, these almond butter cups are a bite of heaven.

11. Pumpkin Biscotti – a seasonal twist on another italian classic – drizzle in chocolate for an extra treat.

Christmas, Cookies, Italian

An Italian Favourite: Pizzelle

December 17, 2013

Pizzelle // Bakeaholic.ca

Pizzelle // Bakeaholic.ca

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 РItalians 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.

pizellea

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. 

Pizzelle // Bakeaholic.ca

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.

Pizzelle // Bakeaholic.ca

Italian Pizzelles
Yields 36
Thin crisp waffle cookies
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Ingredients
  1. 3 Eggs
  2. 1 3/4 cups Flour
  3. 1/2 tsp. Anise seeds (optional)
  4. 1/2 cup Butter or oil, melted
  5. 2 tsp. Baking Powder
  6. 3/4 cup Sugar
  7. 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
Instructions
  1. 1. Turn on Pizzelle Maker. In a medium sized bowl beat together the eggs and sugar until frothy.
  2. 2. Add the cooled melted butter or oil, vanilla and anise seeds (optional) and beat again.
  3. 3. In small bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Add to the egg mixture stirring with wooden spoon.
  4. 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. 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. 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.
Notes
  1. Special Equipment Needed: Pizzelle Maker
  2. 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.
b a k e a h o l i c http://www.bakeaholic.ca/

 

 

Friendsgiving

First Annual Friendsgiving & Tips to Host Your Own

November 24, 2013

friends giving friends ivingfriendsgiving1 friendsgiving2There’s a revolution happening among friends. 

It’s called Friendsgiving.

While most holidays are centred around family or loved ones (Christmas, Valentine’s Day etc.), there is one holiday where you can be thankful for the people in your life you have chosen to be a part of your life – your friends. 

I am truly thankful to have the wonderful friends I have. Friends since kindergarten, high school, and friends I’ve met at university and beyond – they mean a lot to me and I am so thankful to have them all in my life. 

The concept of Friendsgiving is simple: the host makes the turkey while the guests each bring a potluck of side dishes to accompany the feast. 

We began planning back in October and soon enough Friendsgiving had arrived. Having it in November is a great mid-holiday between Thanksgiving/Halloween and Christmas.

If you’re wanting to partake in the American Thanksgiving happening next weekend I suggest hosting your own Friendsgiving.

Unlike Thanksgiving, you are the ones doing all the work and planning for it. It was only the second time I have cooked a turkey on my own – and I am thrilled to say it turned out so delicious.

Here are a few tips for hosting your first Friendsgiving:

Plan in Advance: Make sure everyone has RSVP’d to know how many mouths you have to feed. 

Make Sure You Have Enough Room: While it would be lovely to invite all my friends over, we just don’t have the space. So we had a lovely number of 12 guests. 

Turkey: The host makes the turkey. It only makes sense that the person who is hosting makes the turkey because of the prep work and cooking time needed. Be sure to have a large enough turkey for the amount of people coming (about a lb. per person) and maybe leftovers. Be sure to thaw it well in advance, about 3 days in the fridge. Also, the host should do the gravy and possibly stuffing – though you can definitely make stuffing without the turkey.

Coordinate the Food: Plan the event online or somewhere where you can share who is bringing what. You can have a variety of dishes – that way you don’t end up with 5 sweet potato casseroles. Although sweet potato casserole is delicious.

Speaking of Potatoes: There should always be mashed potatoes. A must.

Accommodate: If you have a guest coming with a food allergy or special diet make sure there are dishes for them to eat too. Otherwise they will be hangry.

Skip the Hors D’oeuvres: Turkey dinner means bringing out the stretchy pants. There is no need to stuff your face with mini quiches before a massive turkey feast. Plus it just means more work for everyone.

Vegetables: There should be an assortment of healthy vegetable dishes that aren’t smothered in cream sauces or cheese. Leave that for the stuffing and potatoes. Green beans, brussels sprouts, carrots and broccoli are all great sides – even just boiled.  

Salad: Never underestimate a good salad with turkey dinner. 

Cranberry Sauce: Homemade is best – and easy! – but canned stuff will do the trick. Have 2-3 small dishes of it on the table. 

Dessert: Oh yes – there should be pie. While there can also be a variety of desserts, no turkey dinner is complete without a slice of pie. Preferably pumpkin. 

Table etiquette  The host should set a visually appealing table with gourds and other orange hued pretties. Name tags are also great for making sure everyone has a spot. 

BYOB: Each person should bring their own drink for the evening, though the host should have some non-alcholic options. 

Post-Dinner Games: The best way to digest after a feast is to play games. Some great games to play with friends are charades, catch phrase, apples to apples. All can be played at the dinner table while finishing off dessert. 

Most of all – enjoy the food and company of your friends. 

friends