Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: Brunch

father's day
Brunch is special. It’s almost always more of an occasion than a simple meal. Even if it’s just a midday meal with you and your partner, by its very nature, it’s a statement that we’re taking our time during this meal! What better way to celebrate Father’s Day, than to host a special brunch at home?

I think the main reason we don’t do this more often is because, in the midst of our busy lives, the planning can seem a little daunting. But after tending to a few things, a brunch get-together can actually be quite simple and seamless. Here are a few tips and recipes to help get you hosting this special meal:

Food is obviously something you want to think about for this get together. You can prepare a number of dishes, many with advance preparation, to suit a variety of tastes or you can choose one big dish along with a few little bites and nibbles that people can snack on while chatting. I always prepare a few different dishes, so I can please those family members with special diets, such as gluten-free or vegetarian. Mostly, I try to keep it healthy without losing all the great taste that many brunch recipes are known for. Fresh baked muffins and coffee cake are always a big hit. Don’t forget plenty of fresh fruit.

Not everyone drinks coffee, so it’s nice to have a few alternatives as well. A good herbal tea, fresh juice, like orange or grapefruit, or a fruity punch with a touch of champagne.

Father’s Day Brunch Menu

Father's day 1

Glazed Fruit Medley

Ingredients

  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 cups cubed cantaloupe or honeydew melon
  • 3 medium firm bananas, sliced
  • 2 cups green grapes
  • 2 cups halved fresh strawberries

Directions

In a small saucepan, mix the orange juice, sugar and cornstarch until smooth. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Transfer to a small bowl; cool slightly. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 hours.

Just before serving, combine the fruit in a large, attractive serving bowl. Drizzle with orange juice sauce; toss gently to coat. Yield: 10 servings.

Father's day 2

Lemon Ricotta Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 3/4 cups cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Combine flour and cornmeal and the next 3 ingredients (through salt); make a well in the center. Combine ricotta and next 5 ingredients (through egg). Add ricotta mixture to the flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

Place 12 muffin-cup liners in a muffin baking pan; coat with cooking spray. Divide batter among the muffin cups. Bake at 375°F for 16 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in the muffin pan. Remove muffins to a wire cooling rack.

Father's day 3

Meat and Potato Hash

Roasting the potatoes separately gives them a crisp texture without the addition of extra fat. This recipe can be doubled.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Yukon gold potatoes, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb cooked chicken breast, beef pot roast, corned beef or pork roast, cubed
  • 8 oz button mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • Poached eggs, for serving over the hash

Directions

Heat the oven to 400°F. Place potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with 2 tablespoons oil, salt and pepper; bake until tender, browned and slightly crisp, about 35-40 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper and onion to the pan and cook, stirring, until soft, about 6 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until cooked, about 4 minutes. Add thyme, chili flakes and garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more.

Add the cooked meat or poultry of choice and the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the ingredients are warmed through, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with parsley. Serve a poached egg on top of each serving, if you like.

Perfect Poached Eggs

To make perfect poached eggs, crack a chilled egg into a small bowl. Bring a deep pot of water to a simmer. Swirl the water in a circle with a wooden spoon, then tip the egg out of the bowl into the center of the swirling water. Cover, turn off the heat, and remove the egg with a large slotted spoon after 2 minutes for soft poached eggs.

father's day 6

 

Baked Vegetarian Zucchini Frittata

Ingredients

  • 4 cups shredded zucchini (1 pound)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (2 ounces)
  • 1 medium zucchini, very thinly sliced (1-1/4 cups)
  • 2 large tomatoes, sliced
  • Sliced pitted ripe olives

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 10 inch round baking pan with cooking spray; set aside.

Spread shredded zucchini on a large platter or shallow baking pan; sprinkle evenly with salt. Let stand for 15 minutes. Using paper towels, gently press excess moisture from the zucchini.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook until the onion is tender. Remove from the heat.

In large bowl, combine eggs, Parmesan cheese, basil and pepper. Stir in shredded zucchini, cooked onion and mozzarella cheese. Pour into the prepared baking pan, spreading evenly.
Bake about 20-25 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and the eggs are set. Arrange whole zucchini slices on top of the baked mixture and place the tomato slices on top of the zucchini.

Sprinkle with olives and additional Parmesan cheese. Bake for 10 minutes more. Cut into small wedges.

Father's day 4

Blueberry Coffee Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (about 6 3/4 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup sliced toasted almonds
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Lightly spoon the flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, soda and salt, stirring with a whisk in a medium bowl.

Place granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 2 minutes). Add vanilla, egg and egg white; beat well.

Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to the sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture; mix after each addition.

Gently fold in the blueberries.

Spoon the batter into a 9-inch round baking pan coated with cooking spray. Level the batter with a spatula and sprinkle the top evenly with the sliced almonds and then the coarse sugar.

Bake for 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in the pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove the cake from the pan, if desired. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Father's day 5

Pear Hazelnut Coffee Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 medium pear
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9 inch round baking pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

Core and slice the pear; set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the sugar and the oil. Add milk, eggs and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 1 minute.

In a small bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, the whole wheat flour, baking powder, lemon peel and nutmeg.

Add to the mixture in the mixer; beat until combined. Stir in oats.

Spoon into prepared pan. Arrange sliced pears over the batter. Sprinkle with hazelnuts.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Serve warm.

If made ahead, you can rewarm the cake in a 350 degree F before serving.

fathers-day-ecard


Easter

The traditional Italian-American Easter meal is rich, festive, elaborate and labor-intensive. The array of dishes might include a big antipasto, a thick pizza rustica, homemade pasta, lamb accompanied by several vegetables and numerous pastries. Does this sound like a lot of work? So this year why not try a brunch, instead. Much of the work and preparation can be done ahead of time.

The word “brunch” obviously stands for “breakfast” and “lunch.” It’s served midday and combines the best sweet and savory elements of both of these meals. It’s the most common way to celebrate Easter and Mother’s Day and has even become a way of dining at weddings and family celebrations.

How did this type of meal evolve? It was common among Christians to have a large post-church meal on Sundays. Catholics used to require fasting from midnight on before receiving communion, so after leaving their place of worship, many people ate a large meal combining breakfast and lunch. Some churches even hosted the meals on the premises. We also know that during much of Western history, the Sunday midday meal was the largest meal of the day, followed by an early evening smaller supper.

A British writer named Guy Beringer first used the word brunch in 1895. In his essay, “Brunch: A Plea,” he advocated for a meal that was lighter than what was traditional at the time. The midday post-church meal in turn-of-the-century Britain consisted of heavy meat pies and filling foods, but Beringer proposed a lighter meal, which started with breakfast food before moving onto dinnertime fare. He wrote, “[Brunch] It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”

bloody mary

Beringer also noted that a later meal on Sunday would make it easier for those who liked to drink on Saturday nights. He wrote, “By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday night carousers.” He even suggested that instead of coffee and tea, perhaps this new meal could start with an alcoholic beverage.

Eggs-1

Although brunch originally conjured up images of idle ladies of leisure, Americans became very taken with brunch after World War I. During the Roaring Twenties, partygoers created a mini-brunch that took place in the early morning hours between dinner and breakfast, to refresh and sustain people who were dancing and drinking all night long. One women’s magazine recommended that in constructing a brunch menu, “a delicate hash, light fish balls, liver and bacon were all appropriate.” Tastes have changed … the menus of today’s best brunch establishments feature such creations as lemon-ricotta pancakes, frittatas and Eggs Benedict. According to one legend about the invention of Eggs Benedict, Mrs. LeGrand Benedict in 1893 asked for something new and different during her regular meal at Delmonico’s and she and the maître d’ came up with Eggs Benedict. Others say that in 1894, Mr. Lemuel Benedict requested the combination of poached eggs, Canadian bacon, English muffins and Hollandaise sauce in order to recover from a hangover. Either way, the chef recognized the dish’s potential and it’s been a brunch classic ever since.

One thing that hasn’t changed from Beringer’s original vision of a brunch is its association with alcohol. Most brunch menus serve drinks. A Bloody Mary in particular was developed specifically to be drunk in the morning to quell the pain of a hangover. The Bellini, a cocktail of sparkling wine and peach juice or puree, was invented in the 1930s by Giuseppe Cipriani at Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy and named after one of Cipriani’s favorite Renaissance painters, Giovanni Bellini. Along with its sister, the Mimosa, these cocktails became associated with brunch because their light, drinkable flavor made it seem acceptable to drink them in the morning. Also, brunch is usually a leisurely meal, not rushed, and lounging with eggs and pastries does seem to lend itself to enjoying a cocktail or two.

Easter Brunch Menu

Prosecco Strawberry Cocktail
Italian Easter Bread
Cold Poached Salmon with Mustard Sauce
Asparagus, Orange and Lentil Salad
Caramelized Mushroom and Onion Frittata
Homemade Sausage Patties
Italian Easter Cookies

strawberry_drink_vert

Prosecco Strawberry Cocktail

Ingredients

  • 2 cups hulled strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 bottle chilled Prosecco 
  • 1 orange, sliced into rounds
  • Mint sprigs, for garnish

Directions

In a blender, puree 2 cups hulled strawberries and 2 tablespoons water until smooth. In a pitcher combine strawberry puree,orange juice, sparkling wine and orange slices. Stir gently. Serve garnished in tall glasses with mint sprigs.

Italian Easter Cheese Bread

Italian Easter Cheese Bread

Crescia al Formaggio or Italian Easter cheese bread is still mostly unknown in this country. This light-textured, golden egg bread containing Parmesan cheese makes a wonderful, savory aroma as it bakes. Be aware that this isn’t a soft, moist loaf. It’s very light, crusty and dry inside. Serve it in thin slices with butter or use the leftovers for grilled sandwiches or paninis.

Dough

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, white reserved
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) softened butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper (black if you don’t mind the specks, white if you do)
  • 1 1/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan, Romano or Asiago cheese, or a combination

Glaze

  • Reserved egg white (from above)
  • 2 teaspoons cold water

Directions

Combine all of the dough ingredients except the cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed for 10 minutes, until the dough becomes shiny and satiny. It’ll be very sticky; stop the mixer to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl a couple of times during the mixing process.

Add the cheese and beat until well combined.

Scrape the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and set it aside to rise for 1 hour; it rise much. Gently deflate the dough, turn it over, return it to the bowl and allow it to rise for an additional hour; again, it may not seem to rise much — that’s OK.

Oil or flour your hands. To make a traditional round loaf, form the dough into a ball and place it in a large souffle dish or another round, deep pan. The pan should be about 6″ to 7″ wide, and 3″ to 4″ deep.

To make a braid:

Divide the dough into three pieces; roll each piece into a 12″ log and braid the logs. Nestle the braid into a lightly greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.
Cover the loaf lightly with a thin kitchen towel and allow it to rise for 2 hours (or longer, depending on the warmth of your kitchen); the dough should become noticeably puffy, but it won’t double in size.

To bake the bread:

Put the oven rack in a lower position, just below the middle and preheat the oven to 425°F.

Whisk the reserved egg white with the water and brush the top of the loaf.

Place the bread in the oven and bake it for 15 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F, tent the bread lightly with aluminum foil and bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes, until it’s a deep, golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190°F. The braided loaf will require less time than the round loaf.

Remove the bread from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Use a knife to loosen the edges, if necessary, and turn the loaf out onto a rack to cool completely before slicing.

Store airtight, at room temperature, for several days. Freeze, tightly wrapped, for longer storage. Yield: 1 loaf.

asparagus-orange-lentil-salad-sl-x

Asparagus, Orange, and Lentil Salad

Red or Pink lentils cook quickly and become mushy if overcooked.

Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 1 medium-size fennel bulb
  • 2 large oranges, peeled and sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 2 pounds fresh asparagus
  • 1 1/2 cups dried pink/red lentils, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • Baby arugula leaves for garnish

For the dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Rinse fennel thoroughly and trim the root end of the bulb. Trim stalks from the bulb and chop fronds to equal 1/4 cup. Thinly slice bulb and mix with oranges, black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and let stand until ready to complete the dish.

Cut asparagus tips into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Cut stalks diagonally into thin slices, discarding tough ends.

Bring 3 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add asparagus and cook 1 to 2 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain. Pat dry with paper towels.

To make the dressing:

Whisk together vinegar, shallots, honey, Dijon mustard, kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil until blended.

For the lentils:

Bring 3 cups water and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add lentils; return to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often, 8 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain well and rinse with cold water. Toss lentils with 1/4 cup of the dressing.

Combine parsley, asparagus, fennel mixture and fennel fronds in a large bowl; toss with remaining vinaigrette according to taste. Spoon lentils onto a serving platter; top with the asparagus mixture and garnish with arugula.

poached salmon

Cold Poached Salmon with Mustard Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 salmon fillets (6 ounces each)
  • Sea salt and finely ground black pepper
  • 3 cups chicken stock, or low-sodium canned broth

Mustard Sauce

  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground dry mustard
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Place in a large, ovenproof sauté pan with the chicken stock and heat over medium heat just to a simmer. Place the pan in the oven and poach the salmon until the flesh is opaque, but still medium rare, 12 to 15 minutes.

Make the Mustard Sauce. Combine the mustards, honey and vinegar in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil and stir in the chopped dill.

Transfer the fillets to a platter and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Slice the salmon into thin slices and serve with Mustard Sauce on the side.

frittata

Caramelized Mushroom and Onion Frittata

Ingredients

  • 1 pound sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 8 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream or half & half
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Preheat the broiler.

In a 10-in. ovenproof skillet, saute mushrooms and onion in butter and oil until softened. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook for 30 minutes or until deep golden brown, stirring occasionally. Add shallot and garlic; cook 1 minute longer.

Reduce heat; sprinkle with cheeses. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, salt and pepper; pour over the mushroom mixture. Cover and cook for 4-6 minutes or until eggs are nearly set.

Uncover skillet. Place pan under the broiler. Broil 3-4 inches from the heat for 2-3 minutes or until the eggs are completely set. Let stand for 5 minutes. Cut into wedges. Yield: 4 servings.

sausages_hd

Homemade Sausage Patties

Makes 8 small patties

Ingredients

  • 1 poundlean ground pork or ground turkey
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage, crumbled
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried fennel, crushed
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

Mix together the ground meat, garlic, sage, thyme, fennel, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add the egg white and combine thoroughly. Cover and chill for at least 15 minutes

To easily form the sausage patties, rinse your hands in cold water. Divide the mixture into eighths and shape each portion into a 2 1/2-inch disk. Patties can be made to this point and refrigerated or frozen until ready to use.

Heat a skillet over high heat and then add the oil. Once the oil is heated, swirl it around the pan. Cook the sausages on both sides until completely cooked through and golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Drain and serve immediately.

easter_cookies-175x175

Italian Easter Cookies

Dough

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon anise seed
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups (10 5/8 ounces) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Icing

  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Multicolored nonpareils

Directions

Beat together the oil, butter, eggs, vanilla, salt, baking powder, anise and sugar until smooth. Add the flour, beating until smooth. Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Pinch off the dough into 2-teaspoon-size (1/2-ounce) balls; a teaspoon cookie scoop works perfectly here. Roll the balls into logs about 4 inches long and about 1/2-inch in diameter. Coil into doughnut shapes, leaving a small hole in the middle.

Place the shaped cookies on lightly greased baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.

Bake for about 18 minutes. They may have the merest hint of golden color on top, but they definitely won’t be brown. Do not overcook or they will get too hard to eat.

Remove them from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool completely before icing.

To ice the cookies:

Combine all icing ingredients in a saucepan and heat on low until the mixture is lukewarm, stirring often. Hold one of the cooled cookies by the bottom and dip the top of the cookie into the glaze, letting the excess icing drip back into the pan. Immediately sprinkle with the nonpareils and place on a wire rack to let the icing set.

Allow the frosting to harden before storing the cookies. Yield: 3-3 1/2 dozen cookies.

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How is New Year’s Day Celebrated Around the World?

Celebrating New Year’s Day is one of the oldest customs around the world. Ringing church bells, tooting horns and ear-piercing shrieks echo throughout the world on this holiday. Since this festival marks the beginning of the year, New Year’s Day is thought of as a perfect time for a “clean start”, so people worldwide resolve to act better in the year just beginning than in the year just ended. Many New Year’s traditions are similar, but some are different. Here are some interesting customs, past and present, around the world.

In the United States, New Year’s Day is observed on January 1st and, for many, it is a day of recovery from the New Year’s Eve celebrations the previous night. In some towns and cities, parades are held and special football games are played. The birth of the first baby in the New Year is often celebrated with gifts to his or her parents and appearances in local newspapers and on local news shows. Many people make New Year’s resolutions. These are usually promises to themselves that they will improve something in their own lives. Common New Year’s resolutions are to stop smoking or drinking alcohol, to lose weight, exercise more or to live a healthier lifestyle.

People in China celebrate this holiday for several weeks between January 17th. and February 19th., at the time of the new moon. The Chinese called this time of feasting and celebrations Yuan Tan. Lanterns illuminate the streets as the Chinese use thousands of lanterns “to light the way” for the New Year. The Chinese believe that evil spirits roam the earth at the New Year, so they let off firecrackers to scare off the spirits and seal their windows and doors with paper to keep the evil demons out.

In Scotland, the New Year is called Hogmanay. In many of the villages barrels of tar are set afire and then rolled down the streets. This ritual symbolizes that the old year is” burned up” and the new one is allowed to enter.

In Great Britain the custom of “first footing” is practiced. The first male visitor to the house, after midnight, is supposed to bring good luck. The man brings a gift of money, bread, or coal, to ensure the family will have plenty of these in the year to come. The first person must not be blond, red-haired, or a women, as these are supposed to be bad luck.

New Year’s Day is also the Festival of Saint Basil in Greece. Children leave their shoes by the fireside on New Year’s Day with the hope that Saint Basil, who was famous for his kindness, will come and fill their shoes with gifts.

The Jewish New Year is called Rosh Hashanah. It is a holy time when Jews recall the things they have done wrong in the past and then promise to do better in the future. Special services are held in the synagogues, children are given new clothes and bread loaves are baked to remind people of harvest time.

The Indian New Year’s Day begins with a festival of lights called Diwali. Cards and gifts are exchanged and people finish off any uncompleted work.

Iran’s New Year’s Day, which is in March, celebrates not only the beginning of the new year according to the solar calendar, but also bahar, “the beginning of spring.”

On New Year’s Day in Japan, everyone gets dressed in their new clothes and homes are decorated with pine branches and bamboo–symbols of long life.

The French New Year is “Jour des Etrennes”, or Day of New Year’s Presents. Dinner parties are held for the entire family, where presents are exchanged.

In other European countries such as Italy, Portugal and the Netherlands, families start the New Year by first attending church services. Afterwards, they visit friends and relatives. In Italy boys and girls receive gifts of money on New Year’s Day. Some very old and popular customs in Italian history include:

Throwing pots, pans, and clothes out of the window to let go of the past and move toward the future.

Light a Christmas log before New Year’s Day to turn away evil spirits (who don’t like fire) and invite the Virgin Mary to warm the newborn Jesus.

Wearing red underwear for good luck.

 

It is fun to entertain your friends and family on New Year’s Day. It is a day of new beginnings, a return to normalcy after the craziness of the holidays, and it holds all of the hope and possibilities for the coming year. To make things as simple as possible, I suggest a New Year’s Day Brunch as a low stress, comfortable way to celebrate with friends and family. Plan a casual and comfortable party filled with delicious breakfast type foods, that can be prepared ahead of time and heated before serving.

The breads can be baked several days ahead or even frozen. The quiches can be baked a day ahead and reheated in a moderate oven. Depending on the number of people you are entertaining, you may need to make double the amount of quiches.The fruit salad can be made a day ahead and chilled.

Brunch Menu:

Bloody Mary

Fresh Fruit Salad

Zucchini, Tomato, and Swiss Cheese Pie

Mushroom Bacon Potato Crust Quiche

Banana-Chocolate Chip Muffins

Maple Nut Scones

Pot of Coffee

Christmas Cookies

 

 

Bloody Marys

Serves: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 limes, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon celery seeds
  • 3 tablespoons grated fresh or prepared horseradish
  • 2 quarts tomato juice, chilled
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups vodka, chilled in the freezer
  • Celery stalks, for serving
  • Cucumber spears, for serving
  • Handful fresh parsley stalks, for garnish

Directions

Combine the lime juice, celery seed, and horseradish in a pitcher. Stir the mixture with the end of a wooden spoon to blend and break up the celery seeds. Pour in the tomato juice, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce; season with salt and pepper. Stir everything together to combine.

Divide the vodka among 6 tall, chilled glasses filled with ice. Fill the glasses with the bloody mary mix and stir well. Add celery, cucumber and parsley to each glass and serve.

 

Fresh Fruit Salad

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cantaloupe melons cut into chunks
  • 1 honeydew melon cut into chunks
  • 3-4 kiwi, cut into slices
  • 1 bunch grapes, halved
  • 2 pineapple (cut into chunks)
  • 2 quarts strawberries (tops removed)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice

Combine fruit in large serving bowl. Drizzle in orange juice.

 

Zucchini, Tomato and Swiss Cheese Pie

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 3 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 pound grated Swiss or mozzarella cheese
  • 3 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375º F. Spread the 1 tablespoon butter on the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie plate, then sprinkle the bread crumbs all over the sides and bottom. Allow whatever loose crumbs are left to just sit on the bottom.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and the onion. Sauté until translucent, then add the garlic and sauté for another 3 minutes.

Stir in the diced tomatoes and sauté another 5 minutes. Raise the heat to high. Mix in the zucchini, fennel seed, salt and pepper. Cook about 5 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat and cool 5 minutes. (The recipe may be prepared in advance to this point and chilled up to 24 hours. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.)

Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Stir in the milk, then mix in the zucchini mixture. Pour half into the prepared pie plate, top with the Swiss cheese, then pour on the remaining vegetable mixture. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese all over the top.

Bake 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean and the top is golden brown. Let sit 10 minutes before cutting.

Mushroom Bacon Potato Crust Quiche

CRUST

  • 1/2 cup grated onion
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dry thyme
  • 1/4 cup unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 pounds Idaho potatoes, peeled
  • Olive oil for brushing crust

FILLING

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups (1 large) leek, sliced, washed, and drained
  • 4 cups sliced mushrooms
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup grated Fontina or Swiss cheese
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 5-6 slices Canadian bacon or ham

 Directions:

Preheat oven to 450°F. Grease a 9- or 10-inch deep-dish pie pan.

Set up a strainer over a bowl.

Grate the onions into the strainer and drain for 10 minutes, pressing out the extra liquid.

When the onions are drained, transfer them to a bowl and combine them with the salt, thyme and flour.

Grate the potatoes into the strainer. Press out any extra liquid, then combine with the onion mixture, mixing to combine.

Pat the mixture into the prepared pan bottom and up the sides.

After 25 minutes, brush the potatoes with oil, then bake for 15 minutes more, until the edges are golden brown. Remove from the oven and turn the oven temperature to 350°F.

While the crust is baking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and mushrooms and cook until the leeks are wilted, and the mushrooms give up their liquid. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cover the baked crust bottom with Canadian bacon. Spread the vegetables over the bacon and sprinkle the cheese evenly on top.

Whisk the eggs, milk and Worcestershire together, and pour slowly over the vegetables. Return the quiche to the oven and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes, until the center is set. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve warm.

 

Banana-Chocolate Chip Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 2/3 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup mashed very ripe bananas (about 3 medium)
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup fat-free (skim) milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Heat oven to 375°F. Spray bottoms only of 12 regular-size muffin cups with cooking spray, or line with paper baking cups.

In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

In medium bowl, beat bananas, egg substitute, oil, milk and vanilla with a fork until smooth. Stir into flour mixture just until flour is moistened. Gently stir in chocolate chips. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.

Bake 20 to 24 minutes or until light golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately remove muffins from pan to cooling rack.

Makes 12 muffins.

maplenutscones

Maple Nut Scones

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup pecans or walnuts
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Topping

  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup quick cooking oats

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Grease a large baking sheet or cover it with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. Use a pastry knife to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is coarse and uniform. Stir in the pecans and oats.

Form a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the syrup, milk, and extract. Stir to combine then remove to a floured counter and knead until uniform. (Do not over-knead. Too much kneading will develop the gluten in the flour and make the scone tough.)

Divide the dough into two pieces and press each into 3/4 inch thick circles. Cut each circle into six wedges and place them on the prepared baking sheet.

Mix the 1/4 cup oats and the 1/4 cup brown sugar together. Melt the 3 tablespoons of butter and brush on the scone wedges. Drizzle maple syrup over the wedges and sprinkle on the oat and brown sugar mixture. Let bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until the tops are lightly browned. Remove to a rack to cool.



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