All Saints’ Day and a Cheesecake

November 1, 2010 at 20:29 | Posted in Family, Homemaking | 2 Comments

Today is November 1st, All Saints’ Day, and here in Italy it is both a national holiday and a holy day of obligation.
This means that all Christians are required to go to mass and celebrate the holy apostles and all saints, martyrs and confessors, all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world. We usually celebrate it together with All Souls’ Day, which is on November 2nd, and has the specific purpose of remembering the dearly departed.

Therefore, this morning my family and I went to mass with grandma, and then we took a couple of huge flower pots to our small parish’s cemetery, where all our beloved family members are resting. It is our custom to take fresh flowers to the cemetery, and it is really beautiful to see such a sad place full of color and joy. It may seem strange, but I have always enjoyed going to the cemetery and pay my respects to those who have passed on to be with the Lord and I have to credit both my grandmothers for that.

After arranging the flowers, we spent a few minutes in the chapel and prayed, before heading home and starting to prepare a huge lunch for all the family.

Grandma made her famous spinach roll, served with lots of grated parmesan cheese and melted butter. Then, she made a wonderful veal roast with potatoes and pumpkin. For dessert, we had some ice cream and a cheesecake I’ve made.

I would like to thank my dear sister in Christ Meredith for the cheesecake recipe: it turned out to be really really good and everybody commented on how tasty and creamy it was! Here is a quick shot of what’s left of it:

It was very nice to get together with all of my relatives on my dad’s side and I was especially delighted in seeing my sweet cousin Greta: she is turning two next month and is a real handful! However, we all have waited for her so much that we cannot have enough of her!

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On a different note, I would like to express some of my thoughts on Halloween and its dangers.

In Italy, we never used to celebrate Halloween, as traditionally it is connected to countries with a Celtic background and we already had All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day. However, in the last few years the Halloween franchise has invaded my country as well, causing a sensation with parties, costumes, fake blood, zombies, you name it. 

Personally, I chose not to celebrate Halloween and stick to the more “conventional” (or should I say “respectful“?) All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day. 
This is primarily because I see Halloween merely as a “feast” which promotes dressing up as zombies, relating to the occult, making fun of death and is starting to drive people away from paying a respectful and godly tribute to those who are no longer with us. All the towns in the area, big or small, have been adorned with posters promoting gruesome parties and zombie parades.  

Today, grandma asked a 15-year-old boy who was at church what he did the previous day and he proudly stated that he went to 3 different Halloween parties dressed up as Death with a black robe and he was at mass just because his parents made him go. We all were utterly bewildered in seeing just how powerful Evil can be, and how it is plaguing the young generations, who are growing up being respectful to all that’s “material” and has a value money-wise, instead of striving to serve the Lord.
I will be forever thankful to my parents and my family for putting me on the right path, for providing me with wholesome and important values which have helped me tremendously to become a God-driven person with a higher purpose.

Ephesians, 5:6-12 ” Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” 

Fresh from the oven!

October 16, 2010 at 18:47 | Posted in Christmas Project, Homemaking | Leave a comment

It turns out that my first cookie “test batch” has exceeded my expectations, and it all went very well.

As I have mentioned on my previous post, I have tried “Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps”, a Martha Stewart recipe. A couple of months ago, I remember watching a tiny segment of her show from 2006, when she baked these cookies with Jeremy Irons: they looked so gorgeous that I had to go and look for the recipe.

Here it is…

Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps (makes about 20)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 teaspoons instant espresso
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, for coating

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, espresso, baking powder, and salt. With an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg until well combined; mix in cooled chocolate. With mixer on low speed, gradually add dry ingredients; beat in milk just until combined. Flatten dough into a disk; wrap in plastic. Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl; working in batches, roll balls in sugar twice.
  3. Place balls on prepared baking sheets, two inches apart. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies have spread and coating is cracked, about 12 to 14 minutes; cookies will still be soft to the touch. Trasnfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

My tips:

  • Make the dough at least two days in advance and do not freeze it, rather leave it in the fridge.
  • Don’t be discouraged if it looks like cake mix and not cookie dough: it will firm up, eventually.
  • As soon as you take the dough out of the fridge, cut it into even-sized cubes, and place it on a cold surface.
  • Dust your hands with confectioners’ sugar to prevent the dough from sticking too much. Repeat the process if necessary.
  • When placing the balls onto the baking sheet, leave some extra sugar on top of them, to create the nice contrast of chocolate brown and sugar white.
  • If you don’t have instant espresso (I didn’t), you may substitute it by adding a little coffee in the chocolate while it’s melting.

The final result:


Fresh from the oven!

In Him,
Alice

Proverbs 31:31, “Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates”.

Christmas Project

October 13, 2010 at 14:13 | Posted in Christmas Project, Family, Homemaking | Leave a comment

It’s only a little over two months until my favourite holiday season: Christmas!

Every year, I celebrate Christ’s birth with my family and feel so very blessed to do so.

Every year, I try to give meaningful and useful presents and this year will make no exception. However, there is an important twist to my traditional Christmas shopping in 2010.

I have decided to “make” the presents instead of “buying” the presents.
First of all, one of my goals in 2010 was to be more thrifty, and secondly I believe that the best presents you can get are those made with hands, love, and prayer.

I have done a lot of thinking and praying to seek guidance to find a project that would be purposeful and compatible with my full-time work schedule.
And the end result was… Christmas cookies!

(photo courtesy of Google Images)

In the next few weeks, I am going to look at various cookies recipes, try them, and then shortlist the ones that turn out best. Then, I am going to browse through various shops and my grandma’s cellar (the best place to find hidden treasures!) looking for medium-sized cookie jars or simple, plain glass jars to put the cookies in.

At first, I thought about making just one kind of cookies for every jar, but then I realized I wanted to add the feeling of “something special” that you can find only at Christmas time, and decided it would be better (and more appreciated, too!) to have each jar filled with a selection of cookies. I am planning on baking 4 to 5 different kinds of cookies, making them slightly on the smaller side, so that I will be able to bake more out of one cookie dough recipe. And smaller cookies will also fit better in the jar.

Each jar will ideally be finished off with a piece of fabric on top of the lid, tied up with a nice ribbon and a Christmas tag with the names of the cookies and the ingredients.

Since I have quite a large extended family, and my time is limited to say the least, I have opted for giving one jar to each family unit, therefore making it a lot easier while being still a fun and rewarding experience.

I hope to start posting news about my “cookie trials” very soon!

In Him,

Alice

Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates“, Proverbs 31:31.

Plum Cake!

August 14, 2010 at 11:42 | Posted in Homemaking, Recipes | Leave a comment

A few days ago, I was asked to make a plum cake to take over to another aunt’s house.

So I thought I should re-vamp a recipe that I found in one of my mom’s old cookery books, which works wonders! My aunt doesn’t like desserts that are overly-sweet, raisins or chocolate, that is why I have opted to keep the recipe plain. And I have also been using this recipe to make the base for cakes that I wanted to fill with cream/custard and ice.

The picture is slightly out of focus… apologies for that!

The ingredients needed are:

150 gr. of all-purpose flour
130 gr. sugar
100 gr. melted butter (cooled at room temperature)
3 eggs
2 tablespoons baking powder
100 gr. raisins (optional)
2 tablespoons vanilla essence 

First, beat the eggs and the sugar well in a bowl, until pale white. Then, add the melted butter (it has to be cooled down at room temperature) and the flour, mixing everything well. Pour in the vanilla essence and the raisins (if you are using them). Lastly, combine the baking powder.
Pour the batter in a greased and floured plum cake tin, and bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the plum cake comes out clean.
You may serve it with fresh fruits and cream on the side.
Enjoy!

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On a very happy note, congratulations to Nathan and Melanie Maxwell for the birth of their second daughter, Bethany Faith! May the Lord bless your little one!

Romans 8: 16-17 “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”

Fruit tartlets

August 8, 2010 at 12:39 | Posted in Homemaking, Recipes | Leave a comment

I had one of my aunt’s birthday party last week and she asked me if, aside the tiramisu’ she was preparing, I could make a fruit dessert for the party.

A couple of months ago, I have purchased 8 nice tartlet pans and never had the chance to use them so far. So I thought it would be so nice if everyone had their own little fruit tart, as opposed to a slice of the big one! In this way, every person is able to get the same amount of fruit, crust and custard!

I have started off by making a basic pie crust, combining 220 grams of all-purpose flour with 100 gr. of soft butter (diced), 3 egg yolks and a pinch of salt. I worked the dough rather quickly, as it was quite hot and the butter does not have to melt in your hands. Then, I wrapped the dough in film and put it into the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

After letting the dough chill, I started taking small amounts of it, while keeping the rest in the fridge: I found that it is actually easier to cut and roll each small crust individually, rather than rolling out the whole dough and cutting it afterwards.
I filled all 8 pans with the dough, made little holes in them with a fork so that they won’t rise much, and put them in a pre-heated oven at 160 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes.

I prepared a lemon and vanilla custard beforehand, and started filling the tartlets as soon as they came out of the oven. Then, I cut some strawberries and decorated each tartlet, along with some blueberries.
To finish them, I poured some clear tart jelly over them.

They were delicious!!!

God Bless,

Alice

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