Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Countdown to Christmas

Two more sleeps until Christmas Eve!!

And so much to do, still!

We have always celebrated Christmas Eve at my parents' place.  It's been tradition to head over around 3:00pm, have a wonderful family meal, with traditional Italian staples. 

Staples like scrippelle 'mbusse, which are italian crepes (recipe here) that are sprinkled with parmigiano-reggiano cheese, rolled up and covered with homemade chicken stock.  We usually cut ours into bite size pieces after rolling.  My kids LOVE this soup! 

When my mom was alive, we used to always have City Chicken, too.  I've found several references online that infer that this dish has Polish origins, but it was traditional fare at most of our holiday dinners.  Here's a recipe that uses pork only, but my mom would always use pork and veal.  Not sure if this is on the menu this year, though...

Another tradition that we will continue to honour, though, is the antipasto di mare, or seafood antipasto, that my mom used to make. Ours differs slightly from this image, though, as we add giardiniera and omit the salad.  Seeing the octopus bits in here reminds me of a story...  About ten years ago, my best friend from college, Monica, was unable to afford to fly home for Christmas so my parents, considering her to be their one and only blonde haired, blue-eyed Amazonian daughter (she's 5'10"!), graciously opened their home to her at Christmas.  I'll never forget the look on my mom's face when Monica, upon being served the antipasto di mare, said to her, "Gina, are these testicles on my plate?"  LOL!  Monica turned about fifteen shades of red while we all cracked up, including my mother.  "Tentacles!  I mean, tentacles!!"  Ah, love that girl...

photo via Martha Stewart

Even since I can remember, we've served baccalĂ , which is salt cod, sold by the slab.  Here's a recipe, but we serve ours more simply, dressed with just olive oil, ground black pepper and parsley.  It's so yummy, but can be very salty if not soaked long enough.

Of course, there's also traditional food, usually ham and/or turkey, salad, etc.  My sister always commandeers dessert, for good reason - she makes wonderful desserts!  But there's always traditional desserts, too.

Torrone is a lovely confection that it usually only brought out (at our house, anyways) at Christmas so it always evokes memories of the holidays.  We've always purchased torrone, but I found a recipe online that I may try next year...

And although you may think that every Italian holiday revolves around food (which is partly right), we have other family traditions.  After dinner is done and the kitchen is clean, we open our presents.  We used to open them much later, around 9pm, and then head to midnight mass, but it's just too long for the little ones to wait!  I think it's more that the adults just couldn't stand hearing, "Is it time yet?" and "Can we open our presents now?", over and over... :)  

So now we open our presents earlier, and then as our kids get into their new pyjamas and settle in with their new books (which we always  get for them to open at my dad's place), the adults settle in for family game night!  Games always differ - we've played Sequence, Taboo (girls against boys, of course!) and the Racing Horse game, which my hubby refuses to play anymore, on account that my dad ALWAYS wins... :)) There's also Mexican Train dominoes (my mom's favourite game) and every Italian's favourite games, rummoli and euchre! :)  I'd like to try to introduce Bunco, as I've heard it's a lot of fun!

This year, we're eating later, as my niece and nephew now live in Toronto and Sarah has to work until 2pm.  We are going to head out to Leamington early and visit my aunts and uncles in the afternoon and take the children to the early Christmas mass at 5pm at the church I attended when I was growing up.

I'm off now, to tidy up before we all get ready for the Christmas party for Connor's swim team.  And then it will be another late night of gift wrapping for me - I may have to pour myself a Bailey's on ice to get me through... :)


  1. Your mother was a GREAT cook always, and opened her kitchen to more than "Sweet" Monica (as my old roomies called her. Remember the trip home from Florida....she fed me well! Love to all this Christmas. Stacey

  2. That's it year it is Christmas at Sue's place! YUM!!! I miss going to midnight mass when my Grandma was alive. Such warm memories for me.

  3. I was excited for Christmas but now you just reminded me of all the amazing food we have every year! Looking forward to seeing everyone!


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