I had been wanting to publish this post the day before Christmas but dealt with some technical issues. After lots of hours of working it out and my patience being tested, I am happy to be back! Better late than never, right?
My little Juvee kitty’s first Christmas and he was such a good boy without destroying the tree or all the tempting gift packages underneath the tree. I am so proud of him! He loves to sleep and curl up underneath the tree.
I know it is now the last day of the 2015 year and for some their holiday season may have come to end but here in Italy they keep the Christmas spirit going until after January 6th. (January 6th is the day of “Befana” an Italian witch who fills the stockings with either candy or coal. Santa comes for Christmas and brings gifts but the stockings are used for Befana) Every year I have a new theme for my Christmas tree and decorate the house accordingly. I love doing it and have such a fun time deciding which theme to use for the season. This year I chose a Nordic theme. This style is very popular in Scandenavian countries. White, modern and simple winter decor. Our house is modern and white already so the theme went quite well. I made that banner of stars with star ornaments and papier mache balls.
The month of December went by so fast! I swear as I get older the time just seems to disappear in a blink of an eye. My birthday was December 20th and I had such a wonderful day. We went to E’s family’s house for lunch and his sweet mom cooked a delicious meal of homemade pasta and made me an absolutely gorgeous Birthday cake! I have never seen a more beautiful cake and it made me so happy. Fresh flowers and berries are my favorite. I would say she knows me well. Then later for dinner E took me out to a fabulous dinner on the sea that included truffles, foie gras, seafood and champagne. I loved receiving gifts and cards from my loved ones in the states all month long too. I felt so special that day!
This has been my third year spending Christmas here in Italy with E’s family who make me feel like I am also apart of their family. Everyone has their own traditions in their family that makes Christmas special for them. I do miss my family during this time and so I continue with some of our traditions to feel closer to those who I am not currently spending the holidays with. On my dad’s side of the family a tradition is to hide a pickle ornament on the Christmas tree and whoever finds it, wins a prize! On my mother’s side a tradition of ours was to go to the Nutcracker Ballet dressed to the nines. One tradition that was celebrated on both sides of the family was to bake Christmas cookies together. It just wouldn’t feel right without a day or two full of baking while listening to the Nutcracker soundtrack. I have also learned E’s family traditions for Christmas and love to celebrate those now as well. This year I made three different kinds of cookies. I gifted some, ate some and brought the rest for Christmas lunch. Snowball almond cookies are a recipe from my family, Red Wine Cookie Stars are a recipe I learned to make from E’s mom and Gingerbread Cookies are something I like to make because I adore them!
Snowball Almond Cookies
5 ounces butter
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups powdered sugar for rolling
These cookies have been a tradition in my family for a long time. I read that they were originated in England which makes sense because my mother’s side of the family, our ancestors are from England. They can be called Russian Tea Cookies, Crescent Cookies, Snowballs or many other names I am sure. I remember going to my grandma’s house when I was young and helping shape the cookies into crescent moon shapes and little balls. This year I decided to only make them in ball shapes so that I could fit more on the cookies sheet since I had many other cookies to bake that day. These are so easy and were a huge hit to E’s Italian family and friends. I was pleasantly surprised by the feedback from everyone as I know Italians have their own dessert recipes special only for Christmas time that are a staple in almost every home. All you have to do it pour the almonds in the food processor until they are finely grounded and then add the butter, flour and sugar and mix them in the food processor until it all forms a dough. Shape them into balls or crescent moon shapes and lay them on the cookies sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes at 325 F (160 C) and let them cool completely before you roll them in the powdered sugar or else they will crumble in your hands or crack. Not only do these taste delicious, they are beautiful!
Red Wine Star Tuscan Cookies
3 1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup large pearl sugar (optional)
1/2 cup water (optional)
In a large mixing bowl place all the ingredients together until a dough forms. Roll out on a floured surface and cut them into any shape you please. I used the star shape this year and rubbed water on the top of the dough and dipped it over the pearl sugar and baked them for about 30 minutes at 165C (325 F) They turned our great and definitely added something special.. The traditional recipe calls for rolling it in regular sugar but I thought the pearl sugars were beautiful and decided to use them this year. E’s mom taught me this recipe the first Christmas I spent here in Italy. Two years ago we baked Tuscan cookies together and she taught me how to make three different types of cookies typical to this are. We had so much fun and I love learning new things! This recipe I chose to make this year because they are my favorite and they use wine! Of course I used E’s wine, Lagone because I had just enough left in the bottle. The great thing about Tuscany is that all the traditional recipes are almost always very rustic and simple to make. It’s all about the quality of ingredients. These cookies are so easy to make and so delicious! I am not a huge sweets person and these cookies are the perfect cookie for me. They are also vegan so if you have any friends or family that are vegan, it would be a great gift for them!
I always liked the way gingerbread cookies looked and tasted and I have made them every year so far that I have lived here. They are not as popular here in Italy as they are in the US. I guess I could say that is another American tradition that I have brought here to Italy. I found this eggless recipe on the food network website to make these cookies. You can find the recipe here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/patrick-and-gina-neely/holiday-gingerbread-cookies-recipe.html
Tonight we are going to ring in the new year in the city of Florence, Italy with our friends and have dinner at one of my favorite spots in the city, Le Menagere. http://www.lamenagere.it/en/new-years-eve/
Cheers to everyone near and far and may everyone have a healthy, happy and blessed new year!