Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Buon Natale! Christmas Italy Inspired

“The essence of Christmas Day in Italy is family, love and food, la famiglia, l'amore e il cibo.”


Hey all! How’s your week treating you? Can you believe it’s the last week of the year? I am still working on coming up with a New Year’s Resolution, so I’ll be sure to share it when I do!


If you’ve been reading the blog for awhile, you know my family is mostly all Italian. My grandma’s parents came straight from Italy, and I still have relatives over there. (A good excuse to visit I'd say!) I’ve always been a big lover of all things Italian, especially the food! I am still deciding if Italian or Mexican cuisine is my favorite, but I am leaning towards the Italian side. I mean really, who can pass up baked ziti, fresh baked breadsticks, and all other things smothered in homemade marinara sauce? I didn’t think you’d argue! :-)

So when coming up with a menu for this Christmas back in November, somehow all the recipes I had in a folder were Italian-inspired. So I thought, “Hey, why not have an official Italian themed Christmas dinner?” Nobody obliged, so that was that, and our Italian meal was planned, prepped, cooked, and eaten(the best part obviously)and enjoyed by everyone!

The meal was compliments of the two family chefs:


Grandpa and myself


My grandpa prepared the roasted chicken cattiatore & the wild rice stuffing.

I prepared everything else! To say my Christmas day was spent cooking and baking would be an understatement! ;-)


Tossed Italian Salad—mixed greens, sliced cucumber, fresh basil, diced tomatoes, Italian dressing. Toss & enjoy!


Roasted Chicken Cattiatore

6-8 servings


  • 1 chicken (6-8 lbs)
  • 1/2 c fresh chopped basil leaves
  • 4 garlic gloves, peeled
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 jar roasted red bell peppers
  • 1 large can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 c balsamic vinegar
  • 1 c chicken broth


  • Remove giblets from chicken and reserve for other uses.
    Pull off and discard lumps of fat.

  • Rinse bird well inside and out; pat dry.

  • If desired, fold wing tips under first joint.

  • Set bird breast up on a V-shaped rack in an 11- by 17-inch pan.

  • Push 1/3 of the basil  under skin and spread evenly over breast.

  • Place  garlic cloves  in body cavity.

  • Sprinkle chicken lightly with salt and pepper.

  • Distribute peppers, and tomatoes around chicken in pan; spread level.

  • Roast in a 425 degree regular or convection oven until vegetables begin to brown and a thermometer inserted through thickest part of breast to bone reaches 170 degrees, or 180 degrees through thickest part of thigh at joint, 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 hours.

  • Insert a carving fork into chicken cavity, piercing carcass.

  • Lift bird and tilt to drain juices into pan.

  • Set chicken on a rimmed platter; let rest in a warm place about 15 minutes.

  • With a slotted spoon, transfer vegetables to a shallow bowl;  keep warm.

  • Skim and discard fat from pan; add vinegar,  broth, and remaining herbs.

  • Stir often over high heat, scraping browned bits free, until reduced to 3/4 cup, 6 to 8 minutes.

  • Pour through a fine strainer into a small pitcher or bowl.

  • Carve chicken and serve with vegetables.

  • Add pan juices and salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe courtesy of my grandpa


Rosemary Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Caramelized Shallots

Serves 6 (1/2 c)


  • 2  tablespoons  plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3/4  cup  thinly sliced shallots (about 2 large)
  • 2  teaspoons  brown sugar
  • 2  pounds  sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1  tablespoon  finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2  teaspoon  coarse sea salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  black pepper


1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a medium skillet over low heat. Add shallots to pan, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with sugar; cook 20 minutes or until shallots are golden, stirring occasionally.

2. Place potatoes in a medium saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil; cook 8 minutes or until tender. Drain. Place potatoes in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add rosemary, salt, and pepper; beat until blended. Spoon into a bowl; top with shallots, and drizzle with remaining 2 teaspoons oil.


Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apples


  • 1/2  cup  diced apple
  • 8  ounces  Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
  • 2  tablespoons  apple cider
  • 2  teaspoons  olive oil
  • 1  teaspoon  minced fresh thyme
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/8  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper


1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Combine apple and Brussels sprouts in an 11 x 7–inch baking dish. Add apple cider, olive oil, minced fresh thyme, salt, and freshly ground black pepper; toss well. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until sprouts are tender.

Roasted Baby Red Potatoes

Serves: 6


  • 1 1/2 pounds baby red potatoes, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

  • Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss potatoes, oil, and rosemary on a rimmed baking sheet. Spread out potatoes in a single layer; season with salt and pepper. Roast, stirring once halfway through cooking, until potatoes are golden brown and crisp outside and tender inside, about 30 minutes.
  • CIMG0288

    Italian Focaccia Bread

    Serves: 16


  • 1 cup water (70° to 80°)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dill weed
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast

    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1/2 teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/8 teaspoon pepper


    • In bread machine pan, place the first 11 ingredients in order suggested by manufacturer. Select dough setting (check dough after 5 minutes of mixing; add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water or flour if needed).
    • When cycle is completed, turn dough onto a greased baking sheet and punch down (dough will be sticky). With lightly oiled hands, pat dough into a 9-in. circle. Brush with oil; sprinkle with the cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.
    • Bake at 400° for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cut into wedges; serve warm. Yield: 1 loaf (1-1/2 pounds, 16 slices).


    Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake

    Serves: 14-16 servings


    • 12  ounces  creme-filled chocolate sandwich cookies, such as Oreos, broken into pieces
    • 3  tablespoons  melted butter
    • 3-8 oz  pounds  cream cheese, at room temperature (I used 1 fat free, 1 reduced-fat, and one regular)
    • 3/4  cup  sugar
    • 1/3  cup  sour cream (fat-free works fine)
    • 4  eggs
    • 2  tablespoons  all-purpose flour
    • 1  teaspoon  vanilla
    • 1/2  teaspoon  peppermint extract
    • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
    • 1 bag Hershey’s peppermint kisses
    • 1 tub of Cool Whip


    1. Place cookies in a heavy zip-lock plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. Pour into a buttered 9-inch round springform pan and pour melted butter over crumbs; mix to coat, then press evenly over bottom and about 1/2 inch up sides of pan. Bake in a 300° oven until crust is slightly darker and looks a bit dry, about 10 minutes (leave oven on).

    2. Meanwhile, in a bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese and sugar until well blended. Beat in sour cream. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend after each addition. Beat in flour, vanilla, peppermint extract, and salt until smooth. Pour cream cheese mixture into pan over baked crust.

    3. Bake until edges are just golden and center jiggles slightly when pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour. Run a knife around edge of pan rim. Place pan on a wire rack and cool cheesecake completely in pan. Cover and chill until cold, at least 4 hours or up to 2 days. Run a knife around rim again, then release rim. If any liquid has pooled on surface of cheesecake, blot dry gently with a paper towel.

    4. Decorate top of cake with candy cane kisses and dollops of Cool Whip—I piped it using a Wilton pastry bag/tip.

    Recipe by me



    What was your favorite dish you ate or made this Christmas?


    Jenny said...

    what a beautiful lineup!!! and so festive. I'm embarrassed to admit I actually didn't know you were italian! Bellisimo!

    Jen said...

    I'll take a piece of that pie!! ;-)

    And girl, your in MN? Me too! Me too! How cool is that? Love meeting bloggers in my area!!

    Happy Thursday Darling! xo

    Oh, and I'm having a perfume giveaway if you're interested!

    Jen said...

    Oh, and have you added your city to Location Central yet? It shows who blogs by you. All us (super cool) MN bloggers are on there!!

    Mandi said...

    Oh my goodness...can I please explain to you how badly I want to go to Italy? It is probably my #1 place I want to go before I die - and why? Mostly for the food! LOL I just love your Christmas dinner. My hub's best friend is 100% Italian and he grew up getting to partake in their holiday meals which were always Italian. My favorite thing is how they refer to marinara sauce as gravy =) So cool =)

    love jenny xoxo said...

    your fam really goes all out! Looks yummy!

    Happy New Year!


    Nicole, RD said...

    I am so impressed! You 2 did it all, huh!? It looks absolutely amazing!! Are you taking reservations for next Christmas?

    My favorite was the raisin sauce for the ham - delicious!

    Tropical Eats said...

    ahhhh your family is so lucky to have you help cook such an awesome feast!!!

    ya'll are awesome and i love how close you all are.

    the peppermint cheesecake is so creative!

    Lee Hersh said...

    I had an Italian Themed Xmas too! We had a "Feast of 7 Fish" which apparently is what the Italians do on Christmas! Your dinner looked delicious though! That cheesecake, watch out! Merry Xmas and happy new year!!!

    Kylie @ A Hungry Spoon said...

    Incredible! I absolutely love this post--you and your grandfather are adorable, and I absolutely love that you wrote out the menu :) Thank you for sharing all of the recipes, too--I can't wait to try your sweet potato recipe, as well as that awesome cheesecake!

    Happy New Year!

    Ashley said...

    Mmm-mmm. I love focaccia! I can bake alright, but I'm not a very experienced cook. How hard do you think the focaccia recipe would be for someone like me?

    Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog! I love that you're from Minnesota! My boyfriend was born in Virginia, and my dad's side of the family is from Chisholm. If you don't mind me asking, where do you live? And where do you go to school? That sounds so creepy but I swear I'm just curious! I know some other bloggers from MN, but they're all from the cities, so someone from up here is a rarity!

    Erica said...

    What a meal! I love Italian too. The Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apples sounds especially delicious. And focaccia is one of my favorite breads. We had a very funny Christmas dinner- takeout sandwiches from our favorite place near Disney World ;)

    katecooks said...

    happy new year! your family is very lucky to have you cook such an extravagant meal for them! that focaccia looks especially delicious. i have a bread maker but have literally never used it. maybe one of my goals for this year will be to make some homemade bread :)

    Krista said...

    What a wonderful menu!!! And I love that you worked with your Grandpa on it. I'm Italian, too so I think that roasted chicken looks esp divine....

    Kerstin said...

    What an amazing menu - everything looks so yummy! Glad you had such a wonderful celebration!

    Amrita said...

    happy new year!What a wonderful menu............

    laurie said...

    Wow that all looks SO GOOD! And so much fun!

    Mary said...

    What a feast. Everything looks really wonderful and the chicken is something I haven't seen before. I think my favorite dish was one had in the lead up to the holiday. I loved my Mussels Fra Diavola and the Layered Cranberry Cheese Cake that followed it. I hope you have a great day and that the new year brings you all measure of good things. Blessings...Mary