Happy Christmas Eve, Olives!

Happy Christmas Eve, Olives! 


It’s not a family gathering without a very special ingredient that sits on our table.  Since before I can remember, a beautiful bowl of black olives has always been a part of all family celebrations. You might ask, Black Olives?  What’s so special about Black Olives?  Well, the story goes a little like this…

My Pop-Pop, my mother’s father, grew up outside of New York City with many brothers and sisters.  Their family was very poor and most holiday celebrations were sparse with presents and goodies.  My Pop-Pop’s family always received baskets from local churches during the holidays.  His mother would use the ingredients to create a feast for the family.  There was one item that Grandma Patak would not use and no others in the family wanted… Black Olives.  At a young age, Pop-Pop, learned that the jar of black olives went untouched until he unlocked the yumminess of the olives.  For years Pop-Pop would look forward to the basket and that one jar that was all his.  This was true Christmas.

Well, Pop-Pop met Mom-Mom, they had three children, those children had amazing children. We would all gather at their house on Christmas Eve.  The memories are so clear and wonderful.  They feel like just yesterday.  Every year, under the tree, everyone would have a wrapped can of olives from Pop-Pop.  In return, everyone would give Pop-Pop a can of olives.  Each year we would hear the story of how even a can of olives can give you the feeling of Christmas.  Black Olives are a part of who we are.  Each of Pop-Pop’s granddaughters shared a black olive with him before they walked down the aisle to be married.  Pop-Pop taught William how to place an olive on the tip of each finger and then eat every one of them off.  It’s all about the olives.

As I write this Happy Christmas Eve blog, there are tears and a heart full of love and memories of a man who always had the spirit of Christmas.  As a family, this is our first Christmas Eve without our Pop-Pop.  I know my Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop are having the Christmas Eve of their lives with Jesus.  Tonight as we place the dish of olives on the table, this year in my Mom-Mom’s dish, I will remember how a simple olive can give so much joy.

Happy Christmas Eve to You All!- Amanda (or A.J. as Pop-Pop would say)

Will (age 4) and his Black Olive

Will (age 4) and his Black Olive

Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies

Is there anything that says Christmas more than ginger cookies? It’s that time of year that everyone wants a ginger cookie or two.  Several years ago I was determined to find that perfect, easy, and traditional recipe.  With several experiments in the kitchen, polling friends, and conducting my own taste tests, I found the recipe I give to you now.  You still have several weeks to enjoy this holiday classic.  Your family, friends, and coworkers will thank you!  -Amanda

photo-89Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 t baking soda

1/4 t salt

1 t ground cinnamon

1 t ground ginger

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 extra large egg

1 t vanilla

1/4 cup regular unsulphured molasses

1 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees with the rack in the center.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Set aside.  Sift flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger into a medium bowl.  Set aside.

Cream the butter and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl with mixer on high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.  With mixer on medium speed, beat in the egg, vanilla, and molasses, until the mixture no longer looks curdled.  Scrape the sides with a rubber spatula several times while mixing.  Mix in flour mixture on low speed.  The batter will be rather stiff.

Place some granulated sugar on a small plate.  Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to form 1/4 cup portions of dough.  Or I have been using a cookie dough scoop to make a little smaller cookies.  Transfer the dough to your hands and roll each portion into a rough ball, then roll each ball into the sugar.  Place six (large) or nine (small) sugared balls on each baking sheet, spacing evenly, because they will spread during baking.  Dampen your fingers with water and press down lightly on each cookie to flatten it a little and dampen the top.  Refrigerate one filled baking sheet while the other bakes.

Bake for 9- 10 minutes, or until the cookies have spread and are slightly firm to the touch.  Rotate the sheet 180 degrees halfway through the baking time.  Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheet.

Makes 20-22 large (1/4 cup) cookies or 37-30 (dough scoop measurement) cookies

Roasted Pears with Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts

The quest was to create a roasted pear.  Chris loves roasted pears.  Then to add all the deliciousness of goat cheese, pine nuts, honey, and rosemary… Stop It!  Roasted Pears are the perfect addition to any upcoming festivity.  But please treat yourself to this yumminess whether you have a party or not.  You deserve it! -Amanda

photo-87Roasted Pears with Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts

2  pears, ripe but firm

3.5 oz goat cheese, crumbled

3/4 oz  pine nuts

1 sprig rosemary, chopped

2 T honey

2 T butter

Wash the pears, slice them lengthwise into halves. With a small sharp paring knife and a spoon remove the core and seeds from each pear, leaving a round well for the filling.

Heat the butter in a skillet and brown the pears, skin side down, on low heat for about 10 minutes

Preheat your oven at 350 degrees.

Place the pears in a ovenproof dish and pour the cooking butter on top. Add half a cup of water in the ovenproof dish. Bake 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, gently toss the goat cheese with the pine nuts and the rosemary in a small bowl.

Remove the pears from the oven. Divide the mixture among the pears, mounding it on top of the indentation. Spoon 1/2 tablespoon of honey on top of each pear.  Bake pears again for another 10 minutes. Serve immediately.


Basic Pie Crust

In a season of making pies, you might be in the mood to make your own pie crust.  This is my favorite go-to recipe.  It’s easy and comes out right every time.  I make extra so that I can cut out little creations for my pie crust.  On my last pumpkin pie, I added leaves.  It’s all about presentation! -Amanda

photo-86Basic Pie Crust (9-inch)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 t salt

1/3 cup plus 1 T shortening

3 to 4 T ice water

Combine flour and salt; cut in shortening with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly.  Sprinkle with ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, evenly of surface.  Stir with a fork until dry ingredients are moistened.  Shape into a ball; cover and chill until ready to use.

Roll pastry to 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface.  Place in pie plate.  Trim off excess pastry along edges.  Fold edges under, and crimp.  Chill.

Continue with creating your pie.  If you need a baked pie shell, prick the bottom and sides of pie shell with a fork.  Chill pastry until ready to bake.  Bake at 450 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden.