Merry Christmas, Darlings!

Merry Christmas!! I hope you all had a wonderful day! I am so excited to celebrate our first Christmas together. Yes, this is Barry and my first Christmas together, but I am referring to our first Christmas together… Yes… YOU!

Last night, I attended two celebrations. I really lucked out with not having to work. I first drove to Frank’s nephews house. How cute are the boys?! Cal and Anthony were preparing a four-course meal of The 7 Fishes! Not to mention, Cal baked a bunch of favorites, like her famous Angel Food Cake, pignoli cookies, and cocoa pistachio sables!

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Unfortunately, I was not able to stay and celebrate dinner, as I was expected at my grandmother’s house. I was so so excited to see the family, but pathetically excited to eat some kielbasa! Every year, we had three main dishes in the Higgins house: kielbasa and sauerkraut, roast beef, and meatballs! I’m surprised I didn’t turn into a piece of kielbasa! Haha!

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I had a couple favorite moments from last night. The first was a mommom combo. I first handed grandma a bottle of Spumanti from Barry and me. She loves this stuff! This is the drink she got completely buzzed off of at my graduation party. She was so excited she started kicking her feet, yelling, “My drink! Oh my drink! Oh I love this stuff!” (Keep in mind that this is a 79 year old woman with both knee and hip replacements, kicking her feet in joy… PRICELESS). The second was when grandmom opened an ornament I made for her. She immediately pulled it out of the box and kissed the picture of my grandfather that was in the ornament.

Another, came at my Aunt Linda’s House where cousin Eddie proposed to his girlfriend, Cindy! My Aunt was telling Cindy about Eddie’s First Christmas ornament, and when Eddie went to show her it… He showed her an ornament of a bride and groom on a motorcycle and tied around the couple was a ring. “So what do you say, babe? Will you marry me?” She was speechless. “Uh, I kind of need an answer. so I know what to do here…” We all laughed, she held out her hand and said, “Yes.”

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WP_005128Aunt Linda was really excited about the gift she made me.. In all honesty, I normally would have had some serious anxiety with this gift, but I was so well-thought-out, I couldn’t help but love it! Its the Nurse’s Survival Guide, packed with goodies and a paper included that stated the following:

Nurse’s Survival Kit

Lifesavers– A reminder of the times your are a real lifesaver. Starburst– For that extra burst of energy. Mints– A reminder that your compassion is worth a mint to your patients. Kisses– because you deserve many. Tissues– To dry tears, yours or someone else’s. Bandaids– To help with all the “little stuff.” Gum– To help your through the sticky situations. Paper clip– To help hold things together. Tea bags– Sit back and relax after a hard day at work. Taffys– To help you lick the problems you face. Jolly Ranchers– To remind you to laugh when you feel like crying. Tootsie Rolls– To help complaints “roll” off you back. Rubber Bands– For when you need to stretch beyond you limits. Battery– To keep you going and going and going. Candle– For when you feel completely burned out. Snickers– Because laughter is the best medicine. Button– Because you may need to button your lip. Marbles– To replace the ones you will lose.

Everyone asked about Barry, but he had to work. He came over at 6am Christmas morning and we began the holiday early.

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After opening presents with mom, Frank, Barry and my brothers, I headed over to dads with the pup.WP_005051

WP_005046We had a great morning. Money was a bit tight this year so we decided not the get a tree. Instead, we took a ceramic tree out of storage. My grandmother used to make ceramics and this one is one of my favorites! She even put a circuit in the base for a light bulb! It was a great substitution! Yay, for talented mommoms!

Who needs the avengers when youve got the Bundos??

Who needs the avengers when you’ve got the Bundos??

I thought it was pretty humorous that I got dad and Barry Captain America and Iron Man t-shirts, respectively, and my parents got me a Supergirl shirt!

Following a nice morning of family and gift exchanges, dad and I went to my uncle’s house. Before we headed over a prepared a few desserts. One of my cousins was on a low carb diet, so I made some dessert cups using Quest Bars. I cut a Lemon Creme Pie into 8 pieces, and and Apple Pie bar and a Double Chocolate Chunk bar into 4s.

Quest Cups

  • Quest bar of your liking
  • mini muffin tin
  • filling of choice

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cut the Quest bars into the desired about of pieces. Space on a plate and microwave for about 8 seconds. Using dry hands, roll each piece into a ball. Flip over a mini muffin tin and spray the bottom of the pan with non-stick cooking spray. Flatten each ball into a disk and form over the coated muffin tin. Bake for 5 minutes and remove from oven. Once cooled, fill the Quest cups with whatever filling you desire.

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I filled the Lemon cups with the left over fig and walnut filling from my Sicilian Crescents. I chopped up half a small fuji apple and mixed it with a packet of Splenda and apple pie spice. I, then placed the apple mix in the microwave for 30 seconds and filled the Apple Pie Quest cup. Lastly, I placed the Double Chocolate Chip quarters in the bottom of the mini muffin tin and baked for 5 minutes, as well. Upon removing the bar, I found 4 perfectly round Double Chocolate Chunk cookies, that RJ loved! Dessert would not be dessert with some fat free Cool Whip to top it off!

Aunt Carol and I took over the kitchen, preparing ravioli, Lightened Gnocchi, salad, gravy, sausage, and meatballs.

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Great minds must think alike. Barry and I, both bought each other robes for Christmas. My parents got Barry a pair of slippers, and us matching pj pants. Barry’s parents got me a new pair of slippers, and us matching pj pants!

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Some of my favorite gifts, this year, included the ornaments I made my family, the Cutco knife Frank gave me, Dad’s laptop and Mom’s pendant, the onsies dad got me, my Ninja (thanks Barry), and the collage I made Barry’s sister.

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I hope you all had a wonderful holiday!

Natale Italiano

Many Italian families celebrate Christmas Eve with the Seven Fishes, however I celebrate Christmas day with the Italian side of my family.

Nonetheless, I still stick with baking my nonna’s papilli and pizzelles every year. For Christmas dinner, we typically have ravioli, sausage and meatballs. This year, I made a batch of my gnocchi to have, as well. I was very excited for my family to taste one of my favorite recipes!

This year, I also made two new additions to the Italian recipe stash, both of which turned out delicious! Being an incredibly proud Sicilian, I was ampt to bake these!

I attribute both recipes to Giada, and tweaked her recipes. Mmmm I could not get enough of these treats. The first is a perfect mid morning snack to have with your coffee. The colors of the pistachios and cranberries mimic the colors of Christmas, and the white chocolate adds just the right amount of sweet to offset the tart berry. I love the mild hint of lemon in the biscotti, too!

Natale Biscotti

makes 24 biscottiWP_004987

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup granulated Splenda
  • 6 Tbsp light buttery spread, like Blue Bonnet Light
  • 2 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup liquid egg substitute
  • 3/4 cup pistachios, in shell, roasted and salted
  • 2/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 Tbsp flax milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Beat the Splenda, buttery spread, applesauce, lemon zest, and salt in a large bowl. Beat in the liquid eggs, slowly incorporating. Add the flours and baking powder in.

WP_004961While the dough is combining and forming, remove the nuts from there shells. Coarsely chop the bear pistachios  and set aside. Now, roughly chop the dried cranberries. While the mixer is still blending the dough, toss in the pistachios and cranberries and mix until evenly disbursed.

Transfer the dough onto the lined baking sheet and form the dough into a 13-inch long, 3-inch wide log. (This part gets your hands sticky and doughy).  Bake for 40 minutes, remove from the oven and cool for 30 minutes.

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Once cooled, transfer the log to the cutting board, and using a sharp serrated knife, cut the log into 24 slices. Arrange the biscotti, cut side down, back on the lined baking sheet and return to the oven at 350 F for an additional 15 minutes. Transfer the biscotti to a rack and cool completely.

In the meantime, create a double boiler with a pot of boiling water and a glass bowl placed over the pot. Stir the chocolate and milk in the bowl until the chocolate melts. Using a brush, paint the chocolate over the cooled biscotti. Refrigerate until the chocolate dries, about 35 minutes, then enjoy!

Giada Note: “The biscotti can be made ahead. Store them in an airtight container up to 4 days, or wrap them in foil and freeze in resealable plastic bags up to 3 weeks.”

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Fun Fact: “Bi”- “Scotti” translates into “twice baked.” Get it?

Funny Story: When I was younger, dad and I would take nonna food shopping. I can still picture this in my mind. We were in the aisle of Pathmark and I asked if she wanted “biscotti” (pronounced bi-scott-E). “You’re Italian… its “biscotti” (pronounce bish-kot). From that point on, the “E” sound never  left my mouth again when referring to this cookie.

The second recipe is perfect for after dinner. Its like a Fig Newton for Guidos. I am a huge fan of figs. I remember my nonna’s neighbor had a fig trees in the back yard, and every year, I would get to pick some off the bush. Mmm there’s nothing like a fresh fig. I just loved how beautiful these little crescent pastries were and how stuffed they were with the goods! The mild and seedy figs pair perfectly with sweet raisins. I am also a fan of the slight citrus notes from the lemon zest and orange juice!

Sicilian Fig and Walnut Christmas Crescents

makes about 4 1/2 dozen

Pastry Dough:

  • 1/2 cup liquid egg substituteWP_004992
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2  cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2/3 cup Splenda, granulated
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce
  • 10 Tbsp light buttery spread, like Blue Bonnet Light

Filling and Cookies:

  • 8 ounces dried Mission figlets, stems discarded
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup sugar free syrup
  • 1/3 cup orange juice, Trop 50 preferred
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup walnuts, shelled
  • about 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 2 Tbsp liquid egg substitute (egg wash)

For the pastry dough:

Mix the flours, Splenda, lemon zest, and salt in a large bowl. Add the applesauce and butter to the dry ingredients and incorporate the wet ingredients with your fingers until incorporated.

Whisk the liquid eggs and vanilla in a small bowl. Add the egg mixture and mix with a fork until the dough comes together. Gather the dough into a ball and divide the dough in 2. Place each ball dough on plastic wrap, flatten into a disk and wrap the dough disks. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

For the filling and cookies:

In a food processor, pulse the walnuts until finely, yet roughly chopped. Set aside. combine the figlets, raisins, lemon zest, and cinnamon in the food processor, while incorporating the syrup and orange juice until fully blended. Scrape the fig mixture into a medium bowl and stir in the walnuts. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line 2  baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll out 1 cold disk of dough on a lightly floured work surface to 1/8 inch thickness. Using a 2 1/2-inch diameter biscuit cutter (I used a cup with similar dimensions), cut out dough rounds. Gather the dough scraps into a ball, flatten, wrap, and re-refrigerate disk while assembling the cookies.

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Spoon 1/2 heaping Tablespoon of the fruit mixture in the center of each dough round. Lightly moisten the edges of the dough with the egg wash. Fold the dough over the filling and press the edges to seal. Arrange the cookies evenly apart on the prepared baking sheets. Brush the tops of the cookies, lightly, with egg wash. Bake the cookies for 18 minutes, while repeating the process and assembling the remaining dough and filling into more crescents.

Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack.

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I actually ended up having excess filling… I can’t wait to do something with it!

Buon Appetito!