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Christmas memories, part 1

Posted in Features, history of foods, Holidays, special occasions, and Uncategorized

(excerpted from The Basic Art of Italian Cooking-Holidays & Special Events, copyright 2007, to be released in 2008)

copyright Maria Liberati

Hope you enjoy some Holidays memories from one of my upcoming books and please feel free to share some of yours.

My Christmas memories are very special ones.  They are made up of vivid sights, smells and sounds.

*Sights-of family and good friends, brightly decorated presents and wrapping and bows and colorful table decorations, .large tables spilling over with food

*Smells of great foods cooking on the stove and baking in the oven.

*Sounds- laughter, clanking of bowls and whirring mixers, oven timers, singing Christmas Carols-(in Italian and English), happy chatter, wine and champagne bottles popping and toasts of glasses clanking.

The most precious gifts that I received during the Holidays are these memories to treasure. Memories that I can relive, if only in my mind, or through some faded photos.


There is one material gift that I do remember out of all of my Christmases- a sled. You see we lived in the city of Philadelphia- not exactly the optimum place to ride around on a sled. But my parents always dreamed of building a house in the country and taking us out of the city- (which they did) and a place where we can go sledding with open fields and hills. My dad, being always the dreamer, wanted me at 4 yrs old to be able to have my Christmas Day sleigh ride- even if it meant that he had to pull me around on the sidewalks.


.  After all the presents were opened, Mom insisted that we get ready to go to nonna’s house for our family Christmas Day dinner . But my father couldn’t budge until he took me on my first sleigh ride-‘city style’.  What a great memory, and luckily I have  a photo to prove it-  my Dad pulling that little sled along the sidewalk, through the driveway and  the peaceful quiet of a crisp snowy day.  When the cold was too much we began heading towards home, but “pull me again Daddy”, I chanted.  Of course my doting Dad  headed around the block again, and again that day.  Nothing could stop him, but Mom, who finally came out to find us.  That winter was a special one, filled with memories of many snowy days and many sleigh rides with my Dad. Fortunately I have many photos of my sled-my Dad and I- together gliding along the streets of Northeast Philadelphia- to help me relive those special Christmas moments.


Here is hoping you have a special Holiday made up of many




 And for Tastes, here is a special Christmas recipe- (this is what to do with all the leftover Panettone , it is a scrumptious version of Bread Pudding.  This recipe  I created was highlighted in the special holiday edition of Tastes of Italia magazine):

Panettone di Natale


*½ of a large panettone-cut into small cubes

*2 cups of  milk

*1/2 tsp of pure vanilla extract

*Dark chocolate (70-90 % cocoa) broken into small pieces or chopped.

*4 dried figs, cut into small pieces

*1/4 cup dried cherries

* ¼ cup raisins

*1 fresh lemon rind grated

Powdered cocoa for dusting on top


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Break or pull apart panettone into small cubes.

Place one layer of panettone cubes in an 8 inch round or square glass or ceramic baking dish. Cover with, chopped chocolate pieces, chopped fig pieces , then cherries ,then raisins. Cover this layer with remaining panettone cubes.

In seperate bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla and sugar.  Pour liquid over panettone cubes. Gently push down on top to be sure liquid soaks into all layers, Let sit for 10 minutes then bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes or until firm and golden on top. When cool, dust with powdered cocoa and serve.


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