January 6, The feast of the Epiphany, La Befana,

January 6 is traditionally celebrated and honored by both churches in the United States and Italy as The Feast of the Epiphany.

  • The Catholic Church remembers the visit of The Three Wise men to see the baby Jesus bringing him gifts of gold, incense and myrr as celebration of his birth.
  • Italia
    La Befana and The Feast of Epiphany.
  • It is an old tradition in Italy on January 5 to hang Christmas stockings in the kitchen window or on the fireplace for La Befana to leave gifts for the children while they are sleeping. La Befana is an old woman and does not want to be seen.
  • The Italian custom also says that the Befana leaves her gifts not just at one house, but she also visits grandparents’, uncles and other relatives homes; so at Epiphany, Italian houses are always full of people visiting and of children unwrapping gifts. Tables are laden with cakes and traditional drinks like punch (an alcoholic drink which should be served warm with a small lemon skin) or other Italian liqueurs, and everything is pervaded by a special atmosphere or peace and harmony.Many Italian families, on this day, usually have lunch together in order to spend one last day of fun and relaxation before returning to their daily routine and to work. ( gleni.it-an Italian blog)
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Cooking with Zucchini- Stove top casserole

Good morning. I don’t know about you, but whenever I have a free morning, I’m at the computer, and looking out the window at the sunshine, sipping some green tea.

While talking with mom on the cordless phone,  our conversation went like this.  I was reading a blog recipe aloud where they mentioned Sea Salt as the ingredient for the salad dressing .  (lemon, white vinegar, and sea salt).  Mom asked,” which one is better Sea salt  or Table Salt? ” If there’s a question, Google has the answer. She was amazed , how fast the computer works.

Sea salts retain the trace elements while table salt has been processed to remove trace elements and include additives.

Table salt is processed to remove trace elements while sea salts, in general, leave these in.  These minerals are indeed important in our diets, but in sea salt they exist in what the Mayo Clinic describes as “insignificant amounts.” Chances are you are getting the same minerals in greater quantities in the fruits and vegetables that you eat.

Mom then posed the question about Salt mines. Where are they located?

Google again.

“The oldest salt mine known to date located in Azerbaijan, Duzdagi mine”


“In order to understand these interactions, CNRS researcher Catherine
Marro and her team have been exploring the Araxes basin (Turkey, Iran,
Azerbaijan) for the last ten years or so. The archeologists have been
focusing particularly on the Duzdagi (4) salt mine situated in
Azerbaijan, more specifically beside the old medieval Silk Road linking
Tabriz (in the north west of Iran) with Constantinople.”

“To the researchers’ surprise, intensive salt production was carried out in this mine at least as early as 3500 BC.”

The economic and symbolic importance of salt in ancient and medieval
times is well-known. Recent discoveries have shown that salt most
probably played a predominant role in protohistoric societies, in other
words those that preceded the appearance of writing.  How is salt
obtained? The two most widely used techniques are based on the
extraction of rock salt, in other words a sedimentary deposit containing
a high concentration of edible salt (2), and the collection of sun-dried
salt in salt marshes, for example.”

http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=90605&CultureCode=en

Mom then said, “Well those mines are older than the Coal mines of Pennsylvania. ”

Stove Top Casserole

zucchini 4 cups sliced

Vegetable oil 3 Tablespoons

Garlic cloves, 2 crushed

salt and freshly ground pepper

spaghetti sauce, 1  16 ounce can, heated

mozzarella cheese, 3/4 pound thinly sliced

oregano, 1 teaspoon, crushed

basil 1/4 tsp

In a large Teflon skillet, saute zucchini slices, 1 cup at a time in 1 tablespoon oil with garlic.

Cook until almost tender and a little brown; drain on paper towels.  pour off any excess oil; then layer hot zucchini in skillet, season lightly with salt and pepper , and spreading each layer with some of the hot spaghetti sauce and sliced mozzarella cheese.  Cover top layer with cheese and sprinkle with herbs.   Cover and cook very slowly until mixture is just bubbly and cheese is melted.

 Serves 6.

Reference: The Zucchini Cookbook by Paula Simmons.

Bellini, The Origin

The Bellini was invented sometime between 1934 and 1948 by Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy. Because of its unique pink color, which reminded Cipriani of the color of the toga of a saint in a painting by 15th-century Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini, he named the drink the Bellini.

A true Bellini is made with the nectar of white peaches and Italian sparkling wine. Mionetto Prosecco Brut D.o.c is an example of a good Italian sparkling wine.

The Bellini consists of puréed white peaches and Prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine. Marinating fresh peaches in wine is an Italian tradition.[2] The original recipe was made with a bit of raspberry or cherry juice to give the drink a pink glow.[4] Due, in part, to the limited availability of both white peaches and Prosecco, several variations exist.

Bellini Bar

Giada De Laurentiis

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

Rated 5 stars out of 5
Total Time: 1 hr 5 min
Prep: 30 min
Inactive: 30 min
Cook: 5 min
Yield: 12 serving

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 (16-ounce) bag frozen peaches, thawed
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • 1 (16-ounce) bag frozen strawberries, thawed
  • 1 (16-ounce) bag frozen blueberries or blackberries, thawed
  • 4 to 6 (750-ml) bottles Prosecco or other sparkling wine, chilled
  • Fresh strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, for garnish
  • Orange peel twists, for garnish

Directions

Stir the sugar and water in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Cool completely.

Puree the peaches and orange peel in a blender with 1/2 cup of the sugar syrup until smooth. Strain through a fine-meshed strainer and into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate. In a clean blender puree the strawberries with 1/3 cup of the sugar syrup until smooth. Strain through a clean fine-meshed strainer and into another bowl. Discard the seeds. Puree the blueberries in a clean blender with 1/3 cup of the sugar syrup until smooth. Strain through a clean fine-meshed strainer and into a third bowl. Discard the seeds and solids. Pour each of the purees into clear glass bowls or small pitchers.

For each serving, pour 2 to 4 tablespoons of the desired fruit puree into a Champagne flute. Slowly pour enough Prosecco into the flute to fill. Gently stir to blend. Garnish with the whole berries, as desired, and serve.

Do-Ahead Tip: The fruit purees can each be made 1 day ahead. Cover separately and refrigerate.

This wine is perfect alone as an aperitif or as a delight- ful complement to appetizers such as prosciutto or
mild cheeses. Excellent as a base for Bellinis and other sparkling wine cocktails.

Bellini is also the name of a music group originating in Catania, Sicily .     Agostino Tilotta and Damon Che begin writing songs in August 12, 2000.  They started their first North America tour in 2001.  I must locate this group on you-tube or I -tunes and catch a few bars of their music today!

Bellini is a rhythmic, tight, beautifully aggressive quartet consisting of Agostino Tilotta, his wife Giovanna Cacciola (both also of Italy’s famed Uzeda), bassist Matthew Taylor (the Romulans) and drummer Alexis Fleisig (Girls Against Boys). Though retaining some of the basic elements of their former selves, Bellini are more focused, more structured and more rhythmic than ever before. They embody the true spirit of perseverance and punk rock, making uncompromising, honest music strictly for the brutal love of it.

The Teatro Massimo Bellini is an opera house in CataniaSicily, southern Italy. Named after the local-born composer Vincenzo Bellini, it was inaugurated on 31 May 1890 with a performance of the composer’s masterwork, Norma. It seats 1,200.

Saint Lucia Day is December 13, 2010

Saint Lucia day is December 13, 1010 and my dad’s cousin Lucy’s birthday is today!

Happy birthday, cousin Lucy!

Saint Lucia Coffee cake wreath:

Saint Lucia Wreath

A Saint Lucia coffeecake is the traditional offering on Dec. 13. The rich dough is colored and flavored with saffron. Either a large wreath or a plate of individual buns — formed in the shapes of wreaths, crowns and cats — is perfect for a holiday brunch or when guests come to call. This authentic recipe is from Beatrice Ojakangas’s “Scandinavian Feasts” (University of Minnesota Press). If yours is a small household, divide the dough in half and make two smaller wreaths.

1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup (1 stick ) butter, melted
1 teaspoon saffron threads (a good pinch)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup currants
2 eggs, warmed
4 to 4 1/2 cups flour
1 large egg, beaten
Sugar sprinkles, optional

To make the dough: In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Add a pinch of sugar. Heat the milk and add the melted butter to it; cool until the mixture is lukewarm.

Pulverize the saffron with 1 teaspoon of the sugar, using a mortar and pestle or with the back of a spoon in a small dish. Add 1 tablespoon of the warm milk-and-butter mixture and allow the saffron to steep for 5 minutes.

Add the saffron mixture, milk-and-butter mixture, sugar, salt, currants and eggs to the yeast. Using an electric blender on medium speed, beat until blended. Add 2 cups flour and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add 2 cups of the remaining flour and mix with a wooden spoon to make a medium-stiff dough. Let dough rest for 15 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Knead for 8 minutes or until the dough is smooth and satiny. Place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Turn the dough over to lightly oil the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

To make a braided wreath: Punch the dough down and divide into 3 parts. With the palms of your hands, roll and shape each part into a rope-like strand about 36 inches long. Braid the strands by aligning them vertically and alternately crossing each outer strand over the center strand. Shape the braid into a circle and place on a greased or parchment-covered baking sheet. Pinch the ends together where they meet to seal the strands and to conceal the beginning and end of the braid.

Transfer to the baking sheet. Brush with the beaten egg. Sprinkle with sugar sprinkles if using. Let rise for about 45 minutes or just until puffy.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until lightly browned, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the dough comes out clean and dry. Cool on a rack. Makes 16 servings.

Note: To make two smaller wreaths: Divide the dough into 2 parts and braid as above. Place each wreath on a baking sheet, allow to rise and bake for about 20 minutes.

NOTES:
reposted from another blog, POST Gazette.com from Pittsburg.
As far as weather, my mother always says, “whatever Pittsburg, Pa gets, that we’re going to get”; for example SNOW is coming our way, since Pittsburgh has it.

Saint Lucia was Italian

Oddly, Saint Lucia was Italian, a Sicilian martyr. So how did an Italian girl-turned-saint come to be honored in Sweden?

There are several legends about the real Saint Lucia. One of the most common is that she was born of wealthy, noble parents about 283 AD in Syracuse, Sicily. Her father died when she was very young.

When her mother fell ill and her death appeared imminent, the desperate Lucia took her on a pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint Agatha, where miraculous healings were rumored to take place. The mother was healed and both women embraced Christianity. Together they pledged to use their wealth to help the sick and the poor.

At the time, Sicily was under the rule of an emperor, and Christianity was forbidden in favor of pagan gods. But the devout young Sicilian virgin held to her faith and distributed food to the homeless and starving.

Many of those poor families sought refuge in caves, and Lucia would make her way through the passageways with armfuls of bread. She wore a crown of candles on her head to light the way, leaving her hands free to distribute the food.

Now the plot thickens. Lucia vowed to remain a virgin. But before her father died, he had arranged her marriage into a pagan family, a deal that Lucia had no intention of honoring. Her betrothed, however, demanded her hand as his bride. Lucia flat-out refused. In a rage, the suitor took his revenge and reported Lucia’s Christian faith to the Roman officials, setting up a worst-case scenario.

On Dec. 13, 304 AD, Lucia was led before a court where she was sentenced. But she was one tough cookie. When the guards tried to drag her away, she was immovable. They tried to poke out her eyes, but she could still see. In desperation, the court ordered that she be burned. Bundles of wood were piled up around her and the fire ignited. But she was not consumed by the flames. Lucia was finally killed by the sword of one of the soldiers.

Later she was venerated as a martyr and saint, and the day of her death, Dec. 13, was named Saint Lucia’s Day.

Bringing light to Sweden

Time passed, and the day had no real significance for centuries. As Christianity spread through Europe and into Scandinavia, though, the pagan celebration of Winter Solstice had to be replaced with a Christian celebration. In keeping with “timing is everything,” winter solstice happened to fall on Dec. 13, so Saint Lucia was the natural choice.

The legend of the celebration was cemented when a terrible famine came to the Province of Varmland in Sweden during the middle ages. The poor village was starving to death. But on Dec. 13 of that year a large white ship was seen coming through the night across Lake Vanern, with a beautiful young woman standing on the bow. She was wearing a brilliant white gown, and a ring of light encircled her head.

The country people boarded the ship to find that its cargo was food, clothing and supplies. They quickly unloaded it, and as they carried the last baskets away the people looked back to see that the ship was no longer there.

Probably, it had been a much-needed supply ship from another province. But many felt in their hearts that it was a gift from Saint Lucia, and as the story spread, celebrations of Saint Lucia’s Day began. Even after the calendar was reformed and winter solstice fell on a later day, the 13th of December remained the celebration of Saint Lucia.

Visiting Lucy and family in Vermont, 2008

Happy Columbus Day

 

Me making etching of my grandfather's name at Ellis Island

Me making etching of my grandfather's name at Ellis Island

There are

a few things  that I always remember about Columbus Day  and one is that is was my maternal grandfather’s birthday.  My grandfather was born in Italy in the small town of Poggio Cinolfo about 40 miles from Rome.   He immigrated to the USA with his mother at the age of 6 coming through Ellis Island.

My husband and I recently went to visit Ellis Island again.  I had made an etching of my grandfather’s name a long time ago in the early 90’s and decided to make a new one.

 I thank my cousin Donna for having his name inscribed on the Ellis Island wall when it was being built.

My maternal grandfather and I playing a board game after dinner as a teen.

My maternal grandfather and I playing a board game after dinner as a teen.

Recipe-Lentil Soup , a source of folate

Preparing carrots with my vegetable peeler
Preparing carrots with my vegetable peeler

What a wonderful day, full of sunshine.

This morning I was reading in Body and Soul magazine, September issue.  I continuosly like to learn about new ways to keep one’s health and immunity level high.

How To Fight Fall Allergies:

A new study from the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology shows that” B vitamins may help keep allergic reactions in check and ease the severity of symptoms”.

Researchers found that higher levels of folate had fewer allergy symptoms and a lower risk of asthma and wheezing.

Good Sources of Folate:

Broccoli, Asparagus, oranges, kidney beans, collard greens, black-eyed peas, spinach, avocado, and lentils.

 

Lentil Soup

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons Canola oil or Olive oil

3 carrots,  cleaned and diced or sliced in coin sizes

2 stalks celery, sliced or diced ( I like chunky soup so I slice.)

1  14 1/2  ounce  can diced tomatoes ( unsalted or salted depends on preference)

3/4 cups dry lentils ( soaked, rinsed and drained)

1 Quart of vegetable stock or chicken broth

4-6   cups of  water ( depends if want thick or thin soup)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper or to taste

1/2 teaspoon paprika

 

Directions: 

1.  In large stockpot, saute carrots and celery for 10 minutes.

2. Add vegetable stock (I used Organic from my local grocery store (or Chicken broth) , lentils, salt and pepper.

Let mixture come to a boil, cook for 30 minutes, covered until lentils soften and vegetables are fork tender.  Then reduce to simmer and cook, simmering for additional 30 mi utes

3.  Add can of diced tomatoes,some of the water, (depends on how thick or thin you want the soup ) paprika., for second 30 minutes of cook 

4.  Sprinkle  with parsley or Parmesean cheese to garnish before serving or instead can add a liitle bit of fresh lemon juice.

Addendum December26, 2011

I have been preparing this Lentil soup for some time now.

You can add the herbs of your choice to spice up the flavor of this soup; substitute Cumin, 1 tea-spoon and curry powder 1 teaspoon and omit the Paprika.

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