Sfinge di San Giuseppe

(Cream Puffs of St. Joseph)

Sfinge di San Giuseppe

March 19: Feast Day of St. Joseph

In our nearly 19 years of marriage (since 1996), we have moved five times (excluding the time we lived apart for a year when Islander took a temporary job back home in Hawaii while Highlander stayed in New Jersey for his job). We are aware of the legend of the St. Joseph statue to sell a house—and we do have such a statue. But we have not followed tradition by burying it upside down in the front lawn when we put our homes on the market. We just relied on God for His timing and His care whenever we moved.

St. Joseph is known as the patron saint of real estate and home sales. The earthly father of the Jesus was a good role model to the Christ Child, providing a happy and stable home life to Jesus and his wife Mary. We admire the virtues of St. Joseph and are honoring him on his feast day by making an Italian-style cream puff called Sfinge di San Giuseppe.

Recipe

(Adapted from Recipe Goldmine)

For the filling

  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup chocolate, grated (we used mini chocolate chips)
  • 2 tablespoons pistachios, finely chopped

Directions

In a bowl, cream the ricotta cheese with the powdered sugar and cinnamon. Stir in the vanilla.

Sfinge di San Giuseppe

Mix in the grated chocolate or mini chocolate chips and chopped pistachios. Cover and chill to thicken.

Sfinge de San Giuseppe

For the cream puffs

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup butter, unsalted
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup flour, sifted
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla

Directions

In a large pot, boil the water with the butter, sugar, lemon zest and salt. When the butter is melted, remove from heat. Add the flour and quickly stir until the mixture forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pot.

Sfinge de San Giuseppe

Return to the stovetop on medium heat and beat in the eggs one at a time until well blended. Stir in the vanilla. Remove from heat and let the dough rest in the covered pot for 15 minutes. Line a baking sheet with buttered parchment paper. Scoop a tablespoon of the dough onto the baking sheet about two inches apart. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Sfinge de San Giuseppe

For the topping

  • Powdered sugar
  • Maraschino cherries, drained

Directions

When ready to serve, slice each puff and sandwich the filling between it. Or spoon the filling over the top of each puff. Arrange on a platter and sprinkle powdered sugar over the puffs and top each with a maraschino cherry. Serve immediately so the puffs do not get soggy.

Sfinge de San Giuseppe

Notes

  • Various versions of the St. Joseph cream puff recipe are called sfinge/sfingi and zeppole/zeppola. Some deep fry the pastry balls/fritters, some are star-piped into circles, some are drizzled with chocolate and some have a custard-like cream filling piped inside.
  • Joseph has another feast day on May 1, which honors him as the patron saint of labor workers.

Irish Oatmeal Cookies

Irish Oatmeal Cookies 

March 17: Feast Day of St. Patrick

Highlander likes to eat oatmeal for breakfast to begin his workday at the top o’ the mornin’! And sometimes he can’t resist eating oatmeal cookies for a sweet snack to sustain him through the rest o’ the day. So especially in observance of St. Patrick’s Day, we used two Irish imported products to make Irish oatmeal cookies—McCann’s Irish Oatmeal and Kerrygold Butter. The recipe yields over three dozen cookies, which are enough to share with Highlander’s lucky co-workers! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

A wish that every day for you

will be happy from the start

and may you always have good luck

and a song within your heart.

~Irish Blessing

  

Recipe

(Adapted from McCann’s)

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cup (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups quick cooking oatmeal
  • ¾ cup raisins
  • ½ cup walnuts, chipped

Directions

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the brown and white sugars. Beat in the egg. Stir in the vanilla.

Irish Oatmeal Cookies 

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda and ground cinnamon. Gradually add this to the butter mixture. Blend well. Stir in by hand the oatmeal, raisins and walnuts.

Irish Oatmeal Cookies 

Scoop a tablespoon onto lightly greased cookie sheets. Flatten slightly with the ball of your hand. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it sit on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Yield: Approximately 3-4 dozen cookies.

Irish Oatmeal Cookies 

Notes

  • Highlander traced his ancestry to Ireland and is considered an Ulster-Scot. 
  • Search our blog for other Irish-inspired recipes for St. Patrick’s Day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Johnny Appleseed Cake

Johnny Appleseed Cake

March 11: Johnny Appleseed Day

In elementary school, we enjoyed “movie mornings” when we learned about legendary people of the American frontier like Johnny Appleseed. Formally known as John Chapman (September 26, 1774-March 18, 1845), he was an eccentrically-dressed man who was famous for planting apple trees and establishing orchards across the Midwest. While planting apple seeds, the New Church missionary was also planting seeds of his faith by living simply, touting the health benefits of his fruits, caring for animals and showing kindness wherever he traveled. Johnny Appleseed is also associated with this hymn:

“Oh, the Lord is good to me,

and so I thank the Lord for giving me the things I need,

the sun and the rain and the appleseed.

The Lord is good to me.

Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen.”

There are many tales about Johnny Appleseed as there are variations of the Johnny Appleseed cake. Some recipes are made from scratch using fresh-diced apples, while others use shortcut ingredients like canned apple pie filling or jarred applesauce. We chose the easiest one because 1) a child can participate in making this delightful dessert during a teachable moment and 2) we had a coupon for “buy a cake mix and get a can of pie filling for free”.

Celebrate Johnny Appleseed Day and bake an easy Johnny Appleseed Cake.

Recipe

(Adapted from Mr. Food)

Ingredients

  • 1 box yellow cake mix (may use sugar-free)
  • 1 can (21 ounces) apple pie filling (may use sugar-free)
  • 4 eggs (may use egg substitute)

Directions

Mist a 9×13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, apple pie filling and eggs. Mix until smooth.

Johnny Appleseed Cake

Pour the batter into the prepared ban. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, testing with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Slice into squares and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream sprinkled with a bit of cinnamon (optional) or enjoy plain with a cup of tea or coffee.

Johnny Appleseed Cake

Notes

Absinthe Cake

March 5: National Absinthe Day

As we were looking ahead to find green-colored recipes on the Internet to try for our upcoming St. Patrick’s Day festivities, we found a loaf cake made with “The Green Fairy”—also known as the alcohol Absinthe.

The legendary licorice/anise/fennel tasting spirit was a popular drink in Europe in the 18th century. The fluorescent green liquid’s strong flavor and aftereffects are believed to have inspired “creativity” in artists and writers like Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh and Oscar Wilde.

Absinthe developed a reputation for causing hallucinations and was thus banned in a few countries such as France and America, especially during the Prohibition years. However, the crazy claim has been exaggerated, only adding to the alcohol’s mystique. It was just as recent as 2007 that America lifted its ban on the purchase and consumption of Absinthe.

Now we are legally able to try a recipe for Absinthe cake, the glaze topping of which follows the traditional style of serving the drink: place a sugar cube on a special slotted Absinthe spoon over a glass filled with a shot of Absinthe and slowly pour ice water over the sugar cube to dissolve and sweeten the beverage. The glaze itself is a mixture of sugar and Absinthe. Overall, it is definitely an adult dessert! Though the cake is not green, its ingredient “The Green Fairy” can give the leprechaun some serious competition this month. Go crazy and bake a boozy cake containing Absinthe on National Absinthe Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from “The Sweet Life in Paris” by David Lebovitz)

For the absinthe cake

  • 1 ¼ teaspoon anise seeds, ground fine
  • 1 ¼ cup cake flour
  • ½ cup stoneground yellow cornmeal (see Notes)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick/8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¼ cup Absinthe
  • orange zest

For the absinthe glaze

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup Absinthe

Directions

Grease a 9-inch loaf pan and line the bottom with wax or parchment paper. Set aside. Grind the anise seeds with a mortar and pestle or spice mill. Add the ground anise seeds to a bowl of cake flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Combine well.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs. In a small bowl, mix the milk and Absinthe. Stir in about a teaspoon of orange zest.

Beat the eggs into the butter mixture. Gradually add the flour mixture into the butter mixture, alternating with the milk mixture. Blend well but do not overbeat. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes, testing for doneness with a toothpick. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack over a foil-lined lipped pan to catch any glaze drips. Use a toothpick or skewer to poke several holes in the warm cake.

Make the glaze by mixing the sugar and Absinthe in a cup but do not let the sugar dissolve completely. Spoon the glaze over the top of the cake, letting it drizzle down the sides. Sprinkle additional orange zest on top (optional). Let cool completely. Slice and serve.

Notes

  • Cornmeal adds a bit of a crunchy texture to this cake. Substitute with ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of pistachio or almond meal, if preferred.
  • The green color from the Absinthe alcohol bakes out. So tint the batter with a tiny bit of green food coloring, if desired. Author David Lebovitz suggests adding chopped candied angelica (looks like green licorice sticks) to the batter before baking.
  • Learn more about Absinthe from Wikipedia

Sesame Choy Sum

Sesame Choy Sum

February 17: National Cabbage Day

We always made plans to celebrate the Asian lunar new year with our friend Phyllis S., a Chinese-American and fellow expatriate local from Hawaii, and her family when we lived in South Texas. Since we have moved, we still try to observe the cultural holiday, as Islander has Chinese relatives as well. Phyllis introduced us to Sesame Choy Sum, a simple yet symbolic side dish with a salty-sweet sauce that is poured over quickly cooked “Chinese flowering cabbage”. Traditionally, the vegetable represents health and its green color symbolizes money/wealth. So cook up some Sesame Choy Sum on National Cabbage Day or during the Asian lunar new year for health and wealth!

Recipe

From Phyllis S.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch fresh choy sum
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (we used Aloha Shoyu brand)
  • ½ tablespoon sesame seeds

 Directions

Wash the choy sum and trim the bottom. In a large pot, boil some water. Add the choy sum and cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove from the stovetop and drain well. Let cool for about 5-10 minutes. Run cool water over the choy sum and squeeze out excess water. Place the choy sum on a platter.

Sesame Choy Sum

In a measuring cup, combine the oyster sauce, sesame oil and soy sauce. Mix well and let stand for 10 minutes. Drizzle over the choy sum. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top. May be served hot or cold.

Sesame Choy Sum

Notes

  • Phyllis likes to cut the choy sum in half and boil the stems for a minute or two before adding the leaves to the pot, as the stems are thicker and take longer to cook.
  • Search our blog for other recipes containing cabbage as an ingredient.
  • Kung Hei Fat Happy (Lunar) New Year!

Rice Krispies Footballs

February: Super Bowl

Celebrate Super Bowl Sunday and the end of football season with a simple sweet treat: Rice Krispies Footballs. Islander makes these and other game day desserts ahead of time so she can help Highlander prepare other foods when we host a Super Bowl Sunday supper and invite our neighbors, Glenn and Anna Maria B., to join us to watch the game on our big screen TV. Score a touchdown at the table with these Rice Krispies Footballs. They are fun and festive and are sure to be a favorite football food!

Recipe

(Adapted from Rice Krispies)

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup (½ stick) butter
  • 1 package (10 ounces) or 5 cups chocolate-flavored regular marshmallows
    (or 4 cups miniature marshmallows)
  • ½ cup peanut butter (optional)
  • 6 cups chocolate-flavored rice cereal (Cocoa Krispies)
  • white fondant (optional)
  • white tube frosting

Directions

In a large pan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the marshmallows (and peanut butter, if using) and stir until completely melted. Mix in the cereal until combined well. Remove from heat.

Generously butter hands and form mixture into football shapes. Place on a tray lined with waxed paper. Set aside. Roll out a small ball of white fondant, if using, flatten into 1/8-inch thickness and slice into thin strips.

Position on the football shapes (brush a little water on the strips before positioning, if necessary). With a small round trip on the white tube frosting, squeeze out the stitching detail on the football shapes. Yield: 18 two-inch size Rice Krispies footballs.

Notes

Brown Sugar Shortbread Stars

Brown Sugar Shortbread Stars

January 6: National Shortbread Day and Epiphany

“…for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.” ~ Matthew 2:2

Guided only by a wondrous star, three kings (Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar) from the Orient (east) made an incredible journey leading westward to visit the King of Kings (Jesus Christ). This biblical account concludes the traditional celebration of the 12 days of Christmas on Epiphany.

To celebrate the Feast Day of the Three Kings, which coincides with National Shortbread Day, we were wise to cut simple star shapes from a brown sugar shortbread recipe. We also sprinkled the cookies with sparkling sugar crystals to give it texture and brilliance, like a star with royal beauty bright.

Bake brown sugar shortbread stars and enjoy both Epiphany and National Shortbread Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Southern Living: Incredible Cookies)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup brown sugar, dark
  • 2 cups flour
  • sparkling white sugar crystals (we used Wilton brand)

Directions

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until well blended. Gradually add the flour. Mix well until a dough is formed.  Roll into a ball and flatten into a disc between sheets of waxed paper. Press down with a rolling pin and smooth out the dough to ¼-inch thickness. Chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Brown Sugar Shortbread Stars

Remove from the refrigerator and peel away the top layer of waxed paper. Cut out star shapes on the flattened dough. Use a spatula to transfer the star cookies onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or a lightly greased foil). Space the cookies about an inch apart. Continue to re-roll and flatten the scraps of dough and cut more star cookies, refrigerating the dough if it becomes too soft. Sprinkle sugar crystals on top of the star cookies. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or until edges are golden.  Remove from the oven and leave to set for about five minutes. Use a spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Brown Sugar Shortbread Stars

Notes

  • We halved the recipe above to feed a small group of friends.
  • We used mini star cutters for this recipe. Other shapes besides stars may be used to cut into the brown sugar cookie dough.
  • Search our blog for other shortbread recipes as well as Epiphany-themed recipes.
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