Friday, January 27, 2017

Happy Year of the Rooster, 2017 / Chinese New Year Traditions

Kung Hei Fat Choy!
Happy Chinese New Year - the Year of the Rooster, the Fire Rooster, to be exact.
The Rooster brings surprises in both adventures and romance.
The festivities will end with  the Lantern Festival, which happens two weeks from now on the 15th day of the first month.
Plenty of time to party hearty!!

A New Year always means a new beginning. 
To celebrate properly one should have paid off all debts, purchased new clothes, painted the front door, and gotten a new haircut.
Maybe trying a new recipe counts, too.

Homes are cleaned before the beginning of the new year.
So give the place a quick once over.
And put away all cleaning equipment before New Year's Eve because good fortune may be swept away if you are tempted to clean on New Year's Day.

Firecrackers are set off on New Year's Eve to welcome in the New Year.
Flowers are an important part of New Year decorations. 
Red is a key colour, as it symbolizes a bright and happy future.
Homes are usually decorated with special red and gold banners, to represent happiness and prosperity.

There are many different traditions observed over the New Year period:
 • Decorate your house with apricot and peach blossoms, 
                 symbols of new beginnings
 • Share a New Year’s feast: enjoy uncut noodles, symbol of longevity, 
                 and fish and chicken, symbols of prosperity
 • Traditional dishes are steamed rice pudding, long noodles, and dumplings
 • For luck, wealth, good health, and a long life eat oranges and tangerines
 • For happiness and wealth eat persimmons
 • Do not cut your hair or use sharp knives or scissors on New Year’s Day 
                 as you may cut off good fortune
 • Wear red to scare away evil spirits and bad fortune
 • Give red envelopes to friends and family for good luck and prosperity

About food...
 • Many people avoid meat on the first day to bring good luck in the New Year. 
 • Day seven is the birthday of human beings, and long noodles (for longevity) 
                 and raw fish (for success) are eaten. 
 • On the 13th day, people eat rice congee and mustard greens
                 to settle their stomachs.
 • The 14th day is spent getting ready for the Lantern Festival on the 15th night
                 and eating some leftovers. 

Your behaviour on New Year’s Day sets the tone for the year.
No pressure.
Just so you know… the Year of the Rooster is
 • the Best Year for: Dragons
 • an Amazing Year for: Rooster, Ox, Snake
 • a Good Year for: Tigers, Rats
 • a Mixed Year for: Pigs, Goats, Monkeys
 • a Difficult Year for: Dogs, Rabbits, Horses

Sometimes the year of the Rooster is called the year of the Phoenix or the year of the Chicken. Two recipes that might suit the chicken theme, Italian style:

About the ‘do not use sharp knives on New Year’s Day’ rule…
Maybe you should pick up some chicken parts.
Better to be safe.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Anna Sultana’s Coconut Cream Pie for the Family or Two / Bisquick™ Impossible Pie

Goodness! January is over half over.
It’s been one of those months. 
Yeah… THOSE months.
But, no matter what’s happening during the month, we all have to eat.
And a bit of dessert takes some of the rough edges off of the day.
Well, you knew it would.

About fifty years ago Bisquick™ included a recipe for Impossible Pie on the back of its box.
Bisquick™ is a baking mix that can be used for making biscuits, dumplings, pancakes and other meal staples.
It's handy for camping trips and in-a-rush meals.
Well, one of their cooks invented Impossible Pie, and it soon became quite popular.
The flour settles to a crust, the coconut makes a topping, and the centre is a custard.
You don’t have to make a crust and yet you can serve the family a pie! 
What’s not to love?

Ma wasn’t big on buying mixes.
To be honest, neither were most of her friends.
So, somebody came up with a recipe using flour instead of the mix.
Ma got the recipe and tweaked it.
Well, you knew she would.


If you want to use the whole 14 ounce bag of coconut, do it.
If you think the mixture is too much for your pie plate, put some in a custard cup - or two - and bake along with the pie.
If you want a firmer texture, place the baked pie in the refrigerator for two hours.

You can pour the batter over stewed fruit, such as apples. 
Bake at 350º F for 45 minutes.

                        Coconut Cream Pie 

Grease and flour a 9 inch pie plate

Preheat oven to 350º F

Place in a blender
2 Cups milk
1 Cup shredded coconut
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon coconut extract (optional)
1/2 Cup flour
1/2 Cup butter 
3/4 to 1 Cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Mix well.
Pour batter into the prepared pie plate.
Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until centre tests firm.

It's good warm or cold.
Cover and refrigerate leftover pie.

Want to make a dessert for two? It’s easy.
Grease 2 custard cups or an individual ramekin

Place in a blender
1/2 Cup milk
4 Tablespoons shredded coconut
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon coconut extract (optional)
2 Tablespoons flour
2 Tablespoons butter 
4 Tablespoons sugar
dash salt
dash nutmeg
Pour into prepared custard cups or ramekin
Bake at 350º F for 50 minutes. 

If you’d like to make the original, using the mix, here it is:

1 Cup flaked or shredded coconut
3/4 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup Original Bisquick™ mix
1/4 Cup butter or margarine, softened
2 Cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 9-inch pie plate with shortening or cooking spray.
In medium bowl, stir all ingredients until blended. Pour into pie plate.
Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until golden brown and knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cover and refrigerate any remaining pie.

About the sky this week, thanks to the folks at The Farmers' Almanac

January 23 - Castor and Pollux, the brightest stars of Gemini, the Twins are nearly overhead at around 11:30 p.m. local time.

January 25 - About 45 minutes before sunrise look very low to the southeast horizon for a narrow sliver of the waning crescent Moon. About 5° to its lower left will be Mercury. Binoculars will help pick both objects up against the brightening dawn sky.

January 27 - New Moon at 7:07 p.m. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Anna Sultana’s Anginetti / Lemon Knot Cookies, Maltese Style / The Quadrantid Meteor Showers and January’s Full Wolf Moon

A few years ago I posted the recipe for Carmela Soprano's Anginetti.
They’re also known as Italian Lemon Knot Cookies with Lemon Glaze.
The post has become very popular, especially during the holiday season.

One thing I learned when I was cooking my way through the two Sopranos cookbooks is that Carmela’s recipes are often a bit more complicated than Ma’s recipes.
This is also true about the Anginetti cookies.

Carmela’s cookies are individually cut and knotted, hence the name Lemon Knot.
Okay… the knots look pretty on a cookie tray, and they are not too much trouble if you’re only making three dozen cookies.

But, if you’re inviting the whole family over, three dozen cookies won’t be enough.
And, if you’re inviting the whole family over, you’re probably busy making more than just the cookies. 
Like appetizers, a baked pasta item, the main course, the veggies, other desserts…
You get the idea.

So if you’re going for taste more than visual, why not give Ma’s recipe a try?
In addition to being a featured item on your holiday cookie tray, lemon knots are a perfect light treat for when the family drops by in the summer!


If you want to bake the cookies in advance, freeze them unfrosted.
When ready to use, remove them from the freezer, allow them to thaw and then top with frosting.

You can also use butter or solid margarine, instead of the solid vegetable shortening. You will need to add 25% more butter or margarine, since they have a lower fat content than shortening.
Cookies made with butter are more flavourful, but they spread more and are flatter and crisper if baked long enough. Cookies made with shortening bake up taller and are more tender.

If you want a stronger lemon flavour you can add more lemon extract. 


Makes 2 dozen cookies


In a medium bowl sift together
2 Cups flour
1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
Set aside.

In a large mixer bowl beat together until light and fluffy
1⁄2 Cup sugar
1⁄4 Cup solid vegetable shortening (if using butter or margarine, please see hints)

Beat in
1 1⁄2 teaspoons lemon extract
Beat in, one at a time, until blended
3 large eggs
Beat well.
Add the sifted dry ingredients and mix until blended.
The dough will be soft and sticky.  Don't add more flour.
Cover the bowl and chill the dough at least 2 hours. Overnight is better.

Lightly grease two baking sheets

Preheat oven to 350º

Scoop the dough with a spoon and place the dough on the prepared cookie sheets, spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart.
Bake 12 - 15 minutes, until firm and lightly brown.
Transfer the cookies to racks and cool completely.


Place in a medium bowl
3 Cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/4 Cup water gradually, beating until the glaze is  smooth.

Spread the frosting over the cookies.
multi-coloured sprinkles (optional)
Place them on racks and allow to dry thoroughly.
Store in an airtight container.

About the sky this week, thanks to the folks at The Farmers' Almanac…

January 4 - Set your alarms early to view the Quadrantid Meteor Shower. This is a strong shower, radiating from the constellation Boötes, The Herdsman, and can produce up to 40 meteors per hour at its peak. 
Also January 4 is the latest sunrise of 2017. 

January 8 - Look to the east to see the waxing gibbous moon, the bright reddish star Aldebaran and the Pleiades star cluster. Aldebaran will be the brightest star near the Moon, the Pleiades cluster will be above it to the left. Binoculars make for best viewing. Aldebaran is the bright reddish eye of Taurus the Bull.

January 12 - Full Wolf Moon at 6:34 a.m. To see how this full Moon got its name, watch this Farmers’ Almanac short video.