Antipasto e Panino: Holiday Goodies

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Antipasto is always a special treat for us, especially during the holidays season – Italian coldcuts like salami, capocollo and soppressata are typical meats. For cheeses – a good parmesan, some mozzarella and for us goat cheese are often featured. Throw in some olives and grape tomatoes and some good bread and it is a delicious feast for the eyes and the stomach. It is a great spread to have around for the holidays when you have unexpected (or expected) visitors, or it is just great with a glass of wine to enjoy with good friends or family. Perfect for a New Year’s Eve celebration!

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If you have leftovers, try making a panino. This one has the coldcuts, mozzarella, pesto and greens!

Buon Appetito!

*On a personal note, I will be taking a short hiatus from the blogosphere. Roberto and I are moving on Jan 2 into our new fabulous condo in St. Augustine, so I will be very tied up with all of that. I wish everyone a happy and healthy and SAFE New Years celebration!*

Royal Foodie Joust: Pistachio-Pomegranate Chicken

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December is drawing to a close, which means we are almost at Royal Foodie Joust time! Be sure to get your entry in by January 1, 2008!

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This month our ingredients were chosen by Emiline of Sugar Plum, who was the winner of last month’s joust. She picked these ingredients Pomegranate, Pistachios and Mint, to showcase the colors of the season. I love the flavors that all of these components bring as they are all featured heavily in the foods of the Mediterranean. I created this dish to celebrate Yule, or Winter Solstice which was on December 21st.

You too can create your own pomegranate, pistachio and mint recipe for your chance to WIN A PERSONALIZED APRON! For details – check out The LeftoverQueen Forum.

Also, I have been featured on GlamNest and wrote an article about how to use those holiday leftovers! So please check out this article too!

Best wishes to everyone for a healthy and food-filled New Year!
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Happy Holidays!

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Peace On Earth…

Happy Holidays to all my blogging buddies out there in the blogosphere. This has been quite a wonderful year! I am so happy to have met all of you and to have been inspired by all of you. Best wishes to everyone for the happiest New Year of all!

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She is off to eat all the mice from the last post…so much for peace on earth! ;)

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Christmas Cookie Series: Night Before Christmas Mice

“Twas the night before Christmas, not a creature was stirring except for a huge pile of shortbread mice! My cat doesn’t know what to do and they are too cute for me to eat!

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It appears that I am compelled to make sweet creatures for every holiday. There are Bunny Breads at Easter, Spiders and Kitties at Halloween and now Mice for Christmas. I must admit baking all these family Christmas cookies got me thinking. What do I want the generations after me to remember about holiday traditions? Immediately I knew it had to be whimsical and cute confections and creations- something that really brings that *magical* element to the holidays – something that speaks to the child in all of us who still remembers how wonderful it is to be a kid during the Holidays.

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I saw these adorable cookies in a holiday baking book and I knew I had to try them out this year. If they were a success then I would make them every winter holiday season to bring joy and smiles to the faces of the people I love. Hope they make you smile!

Happy Holidays to everyone! I have so enjoyed meeting all of you through the blogosphere this year, it has been wonderful. I really wish all of you and yours the best and most joyous holiday season!
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Daring Baker’s Challenge: Yule Log

Happy Yule Everyone!

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Yule is a celebration of the Winter Solstice. It marks the longest night of the year and celebrates the re-birth of the sun and longer days to come after the darkness of winter. Christmas was transplanted onto winter solstice some 1,600 years ago, centuries before the English language emerged from its Germanic roots. The tradition of burning a Yule log is to celebrate light itself and the lightening of the days thereafter. Personal faults, mistakes and bad choices are burned in the flame so everyone’s New Year can start with a clean slate. You never burn the entire log, you save a piece for next year to start the next Yule Log. Traditionally on the eve of the Winter Solstice, at midnight, you turn off all your lights or candle lights and everyone takes a moment to sit in the dark and reflect on the darkness, then at 12:01 everyone lights their own candles, turns on all the lights and gives thanks to the sun and its life sustaining power.
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Christmas Cookie Series: Cuccidata, Sicilian Fig Cookies

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These were the cookies growing up that really set our family Christmas cookies apart from the cookies you saw on other family tables. These are the cookies that my Nana made every year for my Pap who came here from Sicily when he was 3 years old because they were his absolute favorite. His most clear memory of his life in Sicily was sitting on the porch of his Nana, waiting for cookies. Perhaps the cookie he was waiting for was a Cuccidata, perhaps not. But I like to think it was. Sicilians are known for their love affair with sweets and make some of the best in the world.

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The fig is so under-rated here in America. People just really don’t know what to do with figs. I am a huge lover of this sensual fruit. I have shown my adoration of it on pizza, on salad and even as a jam. It can be sweet, savory or in between. There are endless ways to use this beautiful fruit, but one of the best ways is in these cookies. Dried figs are mixed with raisins, a ground whole orange (peel and all) and walnuts to create a filling for one of the softest best smelling dough I have ever worked with. Then the fun part is in true colorful, Sicilian fashion, get crazy with the colors and decorations-colored icing, sprinkles and this year, chocolate, really make each one of these cookies special. These cookies mean Christmas for the DiPiazza family. So I made these with my mom to honor the generations of DiPiazzas before us. Hope you enjoy!
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Christmas Cookie Series: Pizzelle

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These cookies are a special treat for me. Every year at Christmas my two Aunts would make them. They were also featured at every family wedding I have gone to, although in the recent future, I see them less and less because the old tradition of the older generation baking the cookies for the couple happens less and less as most people have jobs these days and can’t afford all that time in the kitchen! It is sad that these traditions are being lost. So I have decided it is high time I get to making these traditional recipes with my mom, that make celebrations so special and memorable.

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Anyway, back to the cookie. They are a delicious wafer cookie that is cooked on a special pizzelle iron and can be flavored in all sorts of ways. Traditionally in my family, they would be anise flavored. This year, we did anise, orange and vanilla all together and then we also added a bit of cinnamon to the last half of the batter. They are good! This is the fun of them – add your own flavor combinations or put some finely chopped nuts in! You can also shape them when they first come off the iron – you can make mini waffle cones or waffle bowls. Yum!

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The thing that always struck me about these cookies are how beautiful they are, how crunchy they are (I LOVE crunchy cookies) and how quintessentially Italian they are. Now last Christmas, I was talking to Roberto about them when we were discussing holiday food traditions. I hadn’t had pizzelle in a few years, and he had never even heard of them. I couldn’t believe it! This cookie had graced the table of my family’s Christmas celebrations for generations and I had seen it as a part of other Italian Christmases. But he had never heard of them! Imagine! Again, this tells us a lot about regional Italian cooking. Being from Rome, his normal holiday cookie would be amaretti or a different kind of wafer cookie with flavored cream in the layers. I just love the food culture of Italy! So regionally specific! So of course I had to get him in on the pizzelle making too!

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Holiday Treats From Faraway Places

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I recieved this lovely little package from my friend Cris at From Our Home To Yours. Cris blogs from Brazil and she knows how much I love coffee, so one day she told me that she’d send me some coffee from Brazil someday. Well it arrived here the day before my birthday! Which was perfect! Not only did it include the delicious coffee, but also a beautiful kitchen towel that her mom made and a beautiful ornament made by the Native people of Brazil. This little gift was so thoughtful and really touched my heart!

Not only do Cris and I share the love of food, but we are also both former AFSers. We were both exchange students through the same program years ago. She went to Maryland, in the US (My home state) and I went to Norway. The internet sure can be a small world!

Feliz Natal to you Cris and all your family! Thank you for being so sweet.