Like most, I grew up on the pumpkin pie from the back of the Libby’s label. The crust may have been homemade or may have been a Pillsbury crust, I don’t really recall, but the pumpkin came from a can. Mixed with fresh eggs, various seasonal spices and a can of evaporated milk it was the holiday standard. When I was old enough to assume pie responsibilities, I follwed the recipe religiously and produced two beautiful pies. There was never deviation from this plan. Don’t mess with tradition; there are dire consequences. The pie was always, always, served with Reddi-Whip right out of the can. In fact, squirting copious amounts of Reddi-Whip directly into our mouths while hiding behind the refrigerator door was an important part of my sisters’ and my holiday tradition. Our mother was on watch as soon as the groceries were unpacked and would listen for that telltale sound. With ears like a hawk, we never quite pulled it off.
Archive for the ‘holidays’ Category
Posted in holidays, pies, tagged canned pumpkin pie, classic pumpkin pie, ginger whipped cream, pumpkin custard pie, thanksgiving desserts, thanksgiving pies, thanksgiving pumpkin pie on November 23, 2013 | 6 Comments »
Posted in appetizers/first courses, holidays, tagged melted cheese appetizer, melted mexican cheese, Mexican cheese appetizer, queso fundito, queso fundito con chorizo, queso fundito con poblano rajas on May 3, 2013 | 3 Comments »
Last year, coincidentally, Cinco de Mayo fell on the same day as the Kentucky Derby making for a very fine fiesta. My friend Chris threw a “Cinco de Derby” party and I spent a great deal of time at the dollar store conceptualizing the perfect party hat. Onto a big straw chapeau that looked a little too Huck Finn to start, went red, white and green ribbons, a bouquets worth of fake red and white flowers and to really make it special, I glued on a big plastic horse because nothing says “derby” like a large equine sculpture on the side of your head. It was heavy and lopsided due to that horse but I looked rather fantastic. Since the 2013 Kentucky Derby is Saturday May 4th and Cinco de Mayo is Sunday May 5th I think my hat may come out of retirement. It will perfectly compliment a big melted mass of cheese.
My mother and I spend a great deal of time planning our holiday meals. Christmas Eve is always a big seafood extravaganza, our own version of the Italian “Feast of the Seven Fishes” and though much of the menu stays the same, we’re open to new ideas. Throughout the year we keep an eye out for something that might work into the menu. If something piques our interest, we’ll make a little mental note and have lengthy discussions. Oysters on the half shell, steamed clams and king crab legs with lots of lemon and garlic butter are fixed, no question. But we’ve also tried shrimp cocktail, steamed mussels, BBQ shrimp, a horrendously failed attempt at grilled calamari, stuffed mussels and a cold seafood salad at one time or another. While all were good, except that calamari which I refused to serve, neither of us was in love with any of them. So I was on the lookout.
I have a deep love for breakfast pastries. Crazy love. As a kid, special morning moments were always marked with a treat – Pillsbury pecan rolls to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, cookies for Christmas breakfast, pink donuts for Valentine’s Day. Don’t even get me started on Paczki Day. I could take or leave a muffin but a well-made croissant makes my toes tap. In culinary school I learned to make Danishes the proper way, with layers and layers of careful butter lamination, and promptly gained 5 happy pounds. A beautiful flaky scone or a perfect old-fashioned donut is cause for celebration. I’ve been known to do some serious damage on a kringle of any kind, but given the choice, a good bakery-style buttery, crumbly coffeecake wins every time.
It’s that time of the year again. The time when Chicago dyes its river bright green and the drunks come out to play by the droves. When everyone is suddenly Irish and people think a green tutu is acceptable day wear. It’s the time I develop insatiable cravings for corned beef, pints of Guinness and pretty much anything soaked in whiskey. Which is why I’ve been baking Whiskey Cakes like a maniac.
So yeah, it’s that day today. Valentine’s Day, the day pastry chefs everywhere secretly (or not so secretly) despise as I’ve discussed before. The intense need to do something special, something important, something meaningful is so high it’s nearly unattainable. So I recommend you stay home and simply enjoy the company of your loved ones from the comfort of your couch. Avoid the obnoxious crowds and eat a bowl of cereal for dinner. Maybe even Lucky Charms where you picked out all the marshmallows except the pink hearts.
Many cultures start January 1st with various rituals meant to bring luck and good fortune in the coming year. It’s no surprise that my favorite of these traditions involve what some consider to be lucky foods. The Italians have their lentils, usually served with a delicious sausage called cotechino. The lentils round shape represent coins, signifying wealth in the New Year. Many think that eating pork is lucky with the pig symbolizing progress and the rich fat content signifying wealth and prosperity. The Chinese enjoy very long noodles to ensure a long life usually with shrimp, whose curve is said to resemble the hunched back of an elderly person. The Spanish eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight for luck, each grape representing a month of the year. It’s not as easy as you’d think. Round foods are also common as the shape is said to signify a complete cycle or a complete year. And hey, if I can eat my way into some good fortune in the New Year, then why not?
‘Tis the season for all things delicious and a fine time for wonderful classics like gingerbread, though I’m on heavy-duty gingerbread overload right now. I’ve made more than a dozen gingerbread houses for both professional and personal projects, a few types of cookies for gifts and taught a fancy decorated ornament class. The house smells permanently of molasses and spice. It’s rather festive and beats a Yankee Candle any day.
Here’s a tip: if at any point you think that a 7am flight out of LaGuardia so you can meet friends for dinner in NYC the night before and then work two jobs in Chicago the next day is a good idea, rethink that plan immediately. One word: exhaustion. So I’ve missed a post or two this week, however, with Easter coming up this weekend don’t forget I’ve got some great things buried in the archives for the holiday. If I get my act together, I’ll post about a pierogi workshop I did a few weeks ago with some friends. Best intentions laid flat. I’m also celebrating Easter later this month with a Polish Easter Sunday Lunch extravaganza. A little late so maybe I’ll post then or maybe I’ll just save those for next year. I’ll figure it out.