Remember To Make Memories At The Table

Remember To Make Memories At The Table

Nonna used To Say...

Got Agita? It's Not What You Eat; It's What Eats You

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Candy For The Christ Child

It was a first. Ladies Night 2010 with the Cerabona sisters and Mom was celebrated on a Saturday this year. This was our 26th year. This celebration had always been on a Sunday, but Joan sister #4, was having a Sunday Graduation party for her son, Vincent. Paula, the baby of the family, began this tradition because the women of our family ran themselves ragged shopping, wrapping, cooking, & baking during the Christmas season. We didn't take time to relax and appreciate the beauty of the Sacred Season. Paula decided to set one afternoon aside for the ladies to gather and chat, sip wine and share the blessings bestowed on us throughout the year gone by. It's kept simple. An antipasto platter consisting of salami, ham, prosciutto & provolone, a dish of ricotta salata and fresh mozzarella, a variety of olives, marinated artichoke hearts, lupini beans, crusty Italian bread, bread sticks and one special dish....maybe grilled Italian sausage or Escarole pie. Home-baked Christmas cookies and Struffoli (Italian honey balls) with coffee and cordials completes the meal.
Then there are the gifts! The first year, artsy Paula decorated a simple wooden candle with ribbon and placed a red stick candle in the center..each female received one at her place setting. And so another tradition was born. Each woman buys 6 similar gifts, wraps it prettily and places it on the table. What fun to open each present amidst oohs and ahhhs without a child needing attention, a phone to be answered, a problem to be children, no husbands, just the gals. The atmosphere is always perfect...Christmas music in the background, wine sparkling in crystal goblets, candles glowing, laughter, chatter and a tear or two as we reminisce.

Struffoli made in Florida shown via Skype
Ladies Night changed over the years, four
sisters (Terry, Judey, Joan, Kaz) and Mom moved to Florida. But the tradition continued. Judey hosts it in Florida with the same food, gifts on the table (mailed early), on the same day at the same time.
Antipasto Platter similar to Ladies' Night
(tuna & celery in center)

Now we Skype. Modern technology allows us to share the day as if we were in the same room. We blow kisses, wave, laugh and talk over each other just like we have always done. This makes it less lonely for the two New York sisters and we look forward to the day we can celebrate Ladies Night together and make more memories that will fill our hearts to overflow.
This year, Paula and I took a break and attended 5 PM Mass, then went back to her house for dessert and coffee. The Sunday forecast was for drenching rain, a perfect day to stay in and make my Christmas candy. It's an all day affair and then some. I try something different each year, but there's fudge. Silky not too sweet chocolate...raspberry and pistachio, orange and walnut, Mexican fudge with a hint of cinnamon and cayenne pepper, white chocolate (the real deal) with cranberries and peppermint flavoring, and my husband's favorite fudge-packed with mini-marshmallows. Brittle gives me the shivers, but there's nothing like its buttery taste....I skip the peanuts and go with pecans or pistachio. Brittle isn't difficult to make, but the hot bubbling sugar mixture needs undivided attention. Things can get very messy and a careful eye is needed not to burn the nuts.
Nothing is easier than chocolate bark flavored with banana, lemon, rum or sprinkled with coconut. One year, I was on a three chocolate covered marshmallows on a stick kick, another year-chocolate covered pretzels and this year....chocolate covered coconut balls topped with slivers of almonds.
I consider myself a "cook" rather than a baker or candy maker. But Christmas isn't Christmas without platters of traditional cookies, mini-paper cups of fudge, stacks of brittle and other sweet confections. I stop what I'm doing at 3 PM, which is considered the "Holy Hour", and say my rosary, the chaplet of the Divine Mercy and read an Advent reflection. It is a time to pause and remember what the Reason for the Season is....the Birth of Jesus. I count my blessings and wonder what new ones Abba will give me in the year ahead. I pray for all those I love and that no one will be missing from our Ladies Night tables next year. I ponder the gifts the Magi brought to the New Born King....and I see myself among the shepherds, the Blessed Mother & St. Joseph, humbled to be in the presence of the Holy Babe and bearing my gift....Christmas Candy For The Christ Child.

Chocolate Coconut Balls With Almonds

2 1/2 cups of Unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup of confectioners' sugar
2 1/2 Tablespoons of butter cold and cut thin
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
12 oz bittersweet chocolate chopped
Slivers of almond

Prepare a baking sheet with wax paper or release foil. Mix coconut, sugar, butter and corn syrup with a standing or hand mixer. Pinch off a good size piece and roll into a ball. Place on baking sheet. Freeze for 15 minutes.
In a double boiler, melt about 3/4 of the chopped chocolate. Stir until chocolate is smooth. Remove insert and add the remaining chocolate, stirring until all is melted. Be careful not to get any drops of water in the chocolate or it can seize.
Working with a fork, drop one coconut ball into the chocolate, shake off excess and place on prepared pan. Place a few almond slivers on top. Continue until all the coconut balls are coated. Let sit until chocolate is set. Makes about 2 dozen
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Remember To Make Memories At The Table.    
Merry Christmas     Buon Natale