Thursday, December 24, 2009

Rocki St. Claire Christmas EveBlog: Feast On This!

CONTEST TODAY!!! One randomly chosen commenter wins a copy of "Hunt Her Down" from Rocki! Pls have your email addy avlble in comment/blogger profile.

Buon Natale, Bellas! The halls are decked, the presents are wrapped, the cookies are baked, the cards are sent. Is it possible…we’re done? There’s only one thing left for me to do: my annual Christmas Eve Blog at RBTB!

Four years ago, I whispered my darkest secret as an RBTB GuestBlogger (so maybe not such a whisper, and not so secret)…that I didn’t completely love Christmas. Not in the way I loved, say, George Clooney. That morphed into my first RBTB Christmas Eve blog (still lovingly known as “Christmas and Clooney”) and I’m just tickled that Michelle has asked for an encore year after year. I love tradition – but never thought I’d be one.

Of course, we all have special traditions at this time of year, but none is stronger for the Italians than La Vigilia. And since we Bellas are all Italians -- some by marriage, some by birth, some just by association, I wanted to use this year’s blog to share the most magical night of the year that takes place every Christmas Eve at our (mostly) Italian home.

Let’s just get this out of the way right now so you can hate me. My husband is an incredibly gifted cook. But that’s not all. He happens to look like this:

Okay, stop hating me. He snores. But he does give ol’ George a run for his money in most rooms of the house….including the kitchen. Especially on Christmas Eve when we celebrate what Italians call The Feast of the Seven Fishes or La Vigilia. This is a multi-course affair that must include at least seven different kinds of fish. No one really knows why seven is the magic number, but theories include the possibility that they represent the seven Sacraments or the Seven Hills of Rome. I suggest the number is for famous Seven Pounds of December that we all gain.

Whatever the history, La Vigilia (the vigil) is the biggest food night of the year for us, a gathering of about twenty friends and family a group of about 20 who eat, drink, and make merry until the kids crash and Santa arrives.

Just to get you salivating, the menu's to the left.

As a special gift to those of you who love food as much as romance, my husband has offered up his recipe for the Scampi Fa Diavolo on the right, a huge hit with anyone who prefer things on the spicy side. And what Bella doesn’t? Click on it for a larger version.

Let’s talk holiday feasts! What is your absolute favorite Christmas food? Leave a comment and one lucky winner will start the new year with a copy of HUNT HER DOWN, a fan favorite in the Bullet Catchers series. (This one has the real honor of being selected by Michelle for Barnes & Noble's Best of 2009’s Hottest Love Scene…AKA “the shed scene.” Trust me, this is a whole different kind of feast.)

Buon Natale, Bellas, and thank you again for letting me share the holiday spirit with you!


Theresa Meyers said...

You have to love Italian traditions!

My Sicilian grandmother always makes cucidati cookies (filled with this amazing fig stuff) pizzelle (these flat waffle hard cookies that are flavored with anise) and from the other side of the family we get Amish Sugar Cream Pie from my German/Austrian grandmother which is too decadent for words. You'll just have to try it yourself.

Here's the recipe for Amish Sugar Cream Pie:
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 9 inch pie crust

Preheat ove to 325 degrees.

In medium saucepan combine sugar, salt and half-and-half. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally.

In another saucepan(larger) combine brown sugar and cornstarch.

Gradually whisk in hot half-and-half mixture. Add butter over medium heat.

Cook mixture, whisking constantly, 5 min. or until boiling and thickened.

Simmer 1 min. and remove from heat.

Stir in vanilla.

Pour into prepared pie crust. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Bake 20 min. or until top of pie is golden.

Place on wire rack and cool completely before slicing. Filling will be very loose but will thicken once cooled.


Myrin said...

Hi Rocki, I'm so afraid I have to make this short, but it's already evening here in Germany and presents will be handed out shortly.

Since we get our presents on the evening of the 24th, the actual Christmas feast is eaten on the 25th and 26th. However, there are those strange people that make whole tables of food on the 24th - I absolutely can't understand that, where do they get the time? But, well, inspired by those people - yes, I'm a spineless loser, I know - I suggested that this year, we make a real feast on the 24th. My mum reluctantly agreed and my sister was like "Well, only if I get to make the dessert!". So we decided that each one of us should make one course - I: the appetizer; my mum: the main course; and my sister the aforementioned dessert. Nobody knows what the other is preparing - well, maybe they both know what I'm about to cook since I've made a great drama because I didn't get the ingredients for what I actually wanted to do. So, okay I don't know what the other two are preparing.

Now we've already decided that this was a. Very. Bad. Idea. There are just not enough hours on this day to fit everything into it. So we're trying this new thing with proud heads this year and then will never do it again. Sigh.

amy kennedy said...

Wait. Your husband looks like that? You. Are a lucky girl -- of course, he's a luckylucky guy.

My fave food is Russian Creme, my sister makes it, I know not how -- nor do I want to, it's a magical Christmas miracle as far as I'm concerned.

Thanks for the recipe!

Roxanne St. Claire said...

Buon Natale, Bellas and thanks again for the Christmas Eve welcome. Theresa, I love that recipe! And, yes, my husband really does look like that, although that's from about five years ago, when he retired and did some modeling for fun. Only it wasn't, so he quit to cook more!

Thanks for stopping by on this busy, family-filled day!


Vanessa Kelly said...

Roxanne, my mother's family is also Italian, and we had fish every Christmas Eve, too. Not always seven dishes, but several, anyway. Plus the anitpasta and something like baked ziti, ravioli, or homemade escarole soup - which we called holiday soup. It was only served on holidays because it was very labor intensive. The soup was full of little cheeseballs that had to be rolled so that they were all the same size!

On my website, I have a recipes page called Below Stairs. This month I have some of my mother's fav Christmas recipes, including her Russian Tea Balls (no cracks from you, Michelle!), and her pecan pie. Not Italian, but delicious!

Buon Natale to all the Bellas! Have a safe and happy Christmas!

Unknown said...

favorite food is tamales!!

Marilyn Shoemaker said...

Isn't Rocki lucky to have this hot Italian husband and personal Chef? Happy Holidays everyone!

Now don't turn your nose up, I had this recently at a bridal shower and until I asked for the recipe I had no idea what was in this dip but it's delicious.

That Great Dip
1 15 oz. can black-eyed peas, drained

1 11 oz. can white shoe peg corn, drained

1 4 oz. jar chopped pimento, drained

1 medium green bell pepper, chopped

½ medium orange bell pepper, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 avocado, chopped

¾ C. sugar
½ C. white vinegar
½ C. canola oil
1 ½ T. Tiger sauce (located in marinades/sauce section of grocery store)
Salt and pepper to taste

Tortilla chips (Tostitos scooper chips work well)

Mix all vegetables, except avocado, and place in a dish with a cover. Pour marinade over vegetables and refrigerate overnight. Drain dip and add avocado just before serving. Serve with tortilla chips

The Reading Frenzy said...

Thanks Rocki, wow my favorite Christmas food, that's like picking my favorite Bullet Catcher, but if I have to pick it would be my special Christmas fruit cake, yes I know, but it's not the usual kind of fruit cake and my family raves about it,
So that's my pick.
Merry Christmas everyone!!!

Anna Campbell said...

It's Christmas Day in Australia! Just swinging by to say Happy Holidays to Michelle and the Bellas! Have a great day! Anna x

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Buona Sera, Bellas! And grazie mille for once again joining us, Rocki! It's very kind of you to be our 'tradition!' And I'm looking forward to trying this recipe. Um, yeah give me a sec everyone cause i'm getting to it...If I get the urge or courage to cook something like that. :)

Now, Nessa, I'm not quite sure what you mean! My mom makes something called Russian Tea cookies (sometimes called pfeffernussen, I think? And maybe that's what you're talking about?Are they rolled in powdered sugar? Your escarole soup sounds a little like Italian Wedding Soup, but w/ cheeseballs instead of veal meatballs.

We have traditional soup on Christmas Eve called capeletti. Like yours it's really labor intensive and I stopped making it when my kids were babies. It's like little tortellini sort of w/veal/beef/pork/cheese/spices.

Now I make something xmas eve called passatelli, which my kids call 'worm soup.' It's made from 1c locatelli/romano cheese, 3 eggs, 1c It breadcrumbs, sal/pep and lemon zest (the yellow stuff on the outside). You mix it and force it through an oiled potato ricer so it comes out in long strands that you cut off with a knife. You squeeze the stuff out into an italian beef broth made w/tomatoes and veggies and wonderful spices that they probably used since Medieval times (least that's what I think when I'm sticking cloves into onions to plop in the broth and adding nutmeg and stuff).

You eat the soup super hot, with crusty It bread and the soup meat, and plates of olives and celery.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Deb, I must be a freak, cause I actually like fruit cake! I also like the panetone that everyone gives, which is like the Italian version of fruit cake nobody wants but everyone gives. I love it, too. What's yours like?

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Hi, Theresa! LOVE pizelle, but nobody in our family makes em! That cake sounds marvelous! And the fig cookies sound a little like our traditional kifles, which aren't Italian, I think they're Hungarian, but we're all crazed for them. Totally labor intensive, filled with Lekvar/prune filling. Powder sugar on top, sweet, thin pastry crust. Everyone's pressuring me to make some this year. But I'd rather read... Thanks foryour recipe!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

LisaK, I LOVE that you're making a new tradition, or trying out a little something new. so what if it doesn't catch on! Sometimes we're so afraid to change the traditions we grew up w/, we miss out on creating some new additions. Don't forget to let us know what your sister and mum end up making!

The Reading Frenzy said...

Well Michelle, mine is made only with fresh, dates, cherries and lots of nuts, it's very moist and a really big hit w/my family.

Kara said...

We cook a lot of fish Christmas Eve...shrimp, salmon, crab, etc. It is so hard to pick a favorite but I guess it would be the salmon...I just love salmon all through the year, but the ones we cook at Christmas are the best!! Then running a very close second is the crab dip appetizer!! Yum.

Loved the pic of your husband...and a cook to boot...lucky lucky gal!!

Have a great holiday.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Marilyn, that sounds AWESOME! I think I had something like that a while back and have been looking for a recipe. Not that I'll actually attempt it. but maybe I can get my Italian husband to try it if I guilt him into it by saying, 'Well, Roxanne's Italian husband cooks a lot and..." :) Thanks for sharing!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Deb, that sounds terrific. I'm a cherry freak, too. Dates also were big at Christmas growing up. The dried fruit thing was big w/my Italian grandmother.

She did some fish Christmas eve, but not the seven. She did the baccala (also called something like 'stuccafice') which is kind of like the fish Scandanavians eat, what's that called? Where's lizeeS when we need her? Or our Minnesotan friends, Ames?

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Isn't she lucky, Kara? I'd so love to not like her, but she makes it impossible.

I'm envying you your salmon. It's my favorite food, I think. Nobody else in my family likes it. What's your crab dip like? I actually make one - yes, it's very easy, so even I can make it -- with crab, cr cheese, mustard and worchestershire and horseradish. I think that's it.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Anner! Happy Christmas! So nice to see you and we wish you a wonderful new year! Lovely to see you!

Tracey Devlyn said...

Rocki, thanks for the great post! Michelle and all the bellas, Merry Christmas Eve!!

I don't have a lick of Italian in me, but I adore Italian food. Rocki, your husband should setup a business called "Rent a Chef." He'd make a killin'.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Rekaya Gibson said...

Hi Rocki,

My sister lives in Italy, so by association I am an Italian. I love spicy. I appreciate the recipe. Tell your husband thank you. BTW, he looks way better than George Clooney.

Since I am a sweet girl, my favorite Christmas foods are holiday cookies. Theresa, I will be making the Sugar Cream Pie tonight! Thank you.

Happy Holidays Bellas!

Rekaya Gibson, Author
The Food Temptress

Sissa said...

Hi Rockie ^^

My absolute favorite Christmas food probably wouldn't even be considered a food. It's candy canes. ^^ It's the ultimate Christmas food for me. ^^

Merry Christmas Everyone!


Roxanne St. Claire said...

Michelle, I loved how you decorated the recipe and menu! So pretty. I just asked my husband about passatelli and he said, "Next year!" Thanks for making me a tradition and Merry Christmas! xoxo

Roxanne St. Claire said...

Kara - the crab dip appetizer is my DOWNFALL. I love it the next day for breakfast. I know, evil.

Merry Christmas!

Roxanne St. Claire said...

My dear friend, Marilyn! So glad you stopped by. That Great Dip sounds...interesting. But I trust your taste in books, so I'm trusting your taste in dips. Shall try! Plus, black eyed peas are healthy and supposed to be eaten on New Year's Day, right?

xoxo & Merry Christmas!

Roxanne St. Claire said...

Tracey - I'm liking Rent A Chef. How much can I charge? Thanks for the comment and have a wonderful holiday! xoxo

Roxanne St. Claire said...

Rekeya - A Food Temptress! My husband would love you. Say yes to the Sugar Cream Pie - that recipe looks amazing. Happy Holidays!

Theresa Meyers said...


Had a friend from Minnesota make that dip for us at Halloween and it was so good!!! Never had it before. Now everyone asks her to bring it to our get togethers.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Wow. Most of us would pay other women to take our husbands off our hands for a few hours. This really could work out for Rocki. She could do it as a fund raiser for the Novak Auction or something. You know, Rocki's Husband cooks you Italian breakfast at RWA... or takes you to Mc Ds. That would work, too... :)

Gabriella Edwards said...

Buon Natale a tutti!

Mmmm, pizzelle, panetone, and all the other goodies--YUM!

Roxanne, your husband is gorgeous! He's gotta be Italian! *grin*

As the baby girl in my Italian famiglia, I didn't cook much (still don't) but I have my favorites. Unfortunately none of them include the previously mentioned baccala that is a huge tradition during Christmas--salt cod.

My father would go to the local Italian deli and buy what seemed like tons, and bring it home to soak for days. The smell was horendous, but it always reminded me of famiglia and Christmas...that just doesn't sound right does it? *grin*

It's served in pasta, salad, marinara sauce, or just with plain old garlic and oil. Oh, and loaves of freshly baked, homemade Italian bread is a requirement.

I never developed a taste for it, but I always look forward to experiencing this heritage-filled tradition. It's a huge part of my Christmas which just wouldn't be the same without it.

Vanessa Kelly said...

Michelle, I think my mother's Russian cookies must be much the same as your mother's. A really buttery cookie rolled in icing sugar or icing.

And I think you're also right about our holiday soup. It must be a version of wedding soup.

Unknown said...

we are trying to figure out how to get plates from KFC ,lol

Anne B said...

Hi Rocki , Michelle and everyone - I guess my favorite food is the popovers that I always make on Christmas morning to eat while we open our gifts - it really brings back a lot of wonderful memories.
Also, my husband (who is Italian - I'm not) and his family always have the big Italian Christmas eve dinner also. He has just finished making red King Crab sauce for linguine - Yum !. Isn't it great to have a husband who cooks ? Anyway, I want to wish everyone a Happy and Joyous Christmas....


Playground Monitor said...

I'm late to the party but the footsteps we heard on the roof of my mother's house this morning were not Santa but rather the Rooter Express man flushing the sewer pipes for the second time in as many days. ::sigh:: My mom just spent 14 days in the hospital after surgery, so my pleasure trip to visit turned into playing Nurse Ratchett. I have to make her walk, make her eat a high fiber/high protein diet and that's just not how I enjoy spending Christmas. I don't have access to my recipes so I can't contribute. :-(

I can say, however, that I've dined at Chez Rocki and oh my was it fabulous!

My mother makes a dip with black-eyed peas, Rotel and other stuff. It's called Texas Caviar and it's yummy!

Me? I take a package of that imitation crab meat and chop it up, put it over a block of cream cheese, pour bottled cocktail sauce over it and serve with crackers. Easy, cheap, delish!

Merry Christmas everyone!


chey said...

Merry Christmas!
My favourite Christmas food is shortbread!

Mitzi H. said...

I love my Grandma's cinnamon rolls. These days we make them with Bridgford frozen bread dough (much easier than homemade). Leave package bread dough in refer to thaw overnight.

Roll out the dough to about a 13 x 17 retangle.

1 cube of butter (spead all over)
1 cup sugar (worked into the butter)
lots of cinnamon worked into the butter/sugar with butter knife.

Tuck and roll into log, cut into large 1 inch sections, put in pan and let rise till double, bake at 375 for about 20 minutes.

Flip out onto foil, careful not to get your fingers in the syrup....They are very very sticky.

Enjoy!! Merry Christmas!!

Catherine said...

Hi Rocki
Wow, beautiful man and cooks too!! There's a keeper
I don't have a holiday fav, anything I love is bad for me but...
My husband and I found a new anytime fav food---Kettle brand Salt and Pepper chips. Once you try these-if you haven't already-you'll curse me. There is just no way to stop after one. Hubby has sat down and worked his way through over 1/2 the bag before he realized it. So good.
Merry Christmas to you and yours.
You don't need to enter me into the drawing, Dan came home with me the day he landed at B/Noble. =)


Michelle Buonfiglio said...

anne buono, are you from new england? cause I thought popovers were an ne thing. my husband's family is all over those. And i don't know what it is about them, but they're SO good! And they're mostly air! love the idea of having em for breakfast. :)

Hi, rekaya! Good to see you here, and your book fits right in! yes, the cookies are good. I miss that I'm not around my mom so I can eat hers. I don't know where she got the energy to make so many. I think she was waymore motivated by guilt than i am.

Hi, Tracey!! Happy Holidays!!! Send our best to the Romance U profs!

Becke Davis said...

I hesitate to admit I have no Italian in my blood, but some of Rosie and Michelle's has rubbed off on me. And we suspect my husband is part Italian, so hopefully that will be my ticket to the party today.

I don't have Rocki (or her husband's) cooking talent, but luckily my son's girlfriend is making dinner for us tonight AND tomorrow. (She did Thanksgiving dinner, too -- I think she's a keeper.)

I can't stay long, because I'm gaining weight just reading these recipes. Have to agree about the shed scene -- HOT, HOT and HOTTTTTER!

Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Jedisakora! You and my daughter would get along famously! She's a candy=cane freak this year. She got Crayola candy canes to hang on the tree. And I've had to cut her down to , like, one cane a day. It's not pretty, because she's obsessed.

Rosie/Gabriella! Isn't it nice that Rocki's so thoughtful that she brought a nice Italian boy for us to look at! Such a good girl, no? Nothing drove away kids faster at my grandmother's than when they broke out the stinky fish. But my childhood memories are ALL about Christmas EVE at her tiny little apartment, crammed w/aunts/uncles/cousins/dates, etc. Everyone else had nice homes, but we all gathered there, ate at different stations and in the kitchen w/the stove and the washing machine. She cooked the 'cappaletti' in a big cauldron-type pot and spent weeks in advance hand=making literally thousands of the little things. The men would eat like pigs, fall asleep and the women would clean up. Then we'd go to midnight mass, and open one gift when we got home after.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

ames, russian creme? vat ees theese and why have you not shared it w/ your best friend?

Marilyn! I've been thinking about you ALL day! I was remembering that hot little category of Rocki's you turned me on to, the one with the young ad exec hero? Sheesh. I wish you were having a less slavish holiday, but I'm definitely sending happy holiday vibes your way. It could be worse: you could be eating my cooking. See? There's always a bright side!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Amanda, my husband'sw/yu on the tamales!

chey, what a great 'sweet' to mention. is shortbread anything like Lady Fingers? I bought some this year w/a little marscapone/tiramisu to plop on top for dessert or snack.

blackroze, is there anything better under Heaven than extra crispy? I think not.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Oh, Merry Christmas, Becke! Lucky girl, having your son's girlfriend cooking again. You were in a Nirvana state for days after Thanksgiving... And as you know, Rosie and I have enough Italian to share...

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Oh, Catherine, taking Dan home w/out any how-do-you-do? Very naughty! I think I've had Kettle chips and they've got everything a potato chip should have. I'll look for those!

Jane said...

I love green bean casserole. We make this for Thanksgiving and Christmas and it's one of my favorite holiday dishes. Merry Christmas.

janie1215 AT excite DOT com

kaisquared said...

Well, I am not only Italian but Sicilian, and my hot Irish hubby makes terrific lasagne for Christmas Eve.

pjpuppymom said...

Merry Christmas, Rocki! That menu looks delicious...almost as delicious as your hubby! ;-)

We're just home from church and enjoying chili, a variety of appetizers (meatballs, shrimp, dips, etc.) and chocolates with the neighbors. Tomorrow will be turkey with all the trimmings.

I hope you're having a wonderful Christmas Eve with your family and friends. Wishing you a beautiful Christmas Day as well.


Stacy McKitrick said...

I guess I don't really have a favorite Christmas food, but for the last few Christmas Eve's we've had chilled shrimp w/cocktail sauce. If it's easy, I'm all over that!

But I do make cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning (even if they are the Pillsbury kind). My daughter won't let me get away without making them!

Merry Christmas!

David B. said...

I'm inspired to actually cook the spicy shrimp dish. I'm concerned however that I might be the only one in the house who would eat it. The kids won't. I know that much.

Merry Christmas to all the bellas and bellos!


robynl said...

my absolute favorite food for Christmas is the White German Christmas Cake that Mom made every year along with the darker one. But I loved the white one better. I have taken up making it a few times since Mom passed away but I am not that good at making loaves and getting them done in the middle and not getting the edges too hard.

On Christmas eve we have snack food such as baking, crackers and Bouvin cheese or cheese ball, pop, chips/dip and shrimp/sauce.

Merry Christmas and blessings to all.

Unknown said...

I love the turkey and home made dumplings! Just got back from my sister's house and the feast was awesome@

Everyone have a Merry Christmas!

Laney4 said...

Absolute? That's a toughy. Hmmm. EVERYTHING is my favorite. I must admit, though, that today I was looking forward to my sis-in-law's fudge. OMG, it was delish! I've been losing weight lately, so it was a real effort to only eat one piece, but I can still taste it hours later! I sure hope I don't gain weight by just thinking/salivating over it!

Anonymous said...

love chisabob my mom makes
meat on a stick the best baby

happy holdays to all
please count me i n

Marlene said...

My whole family loves cornbread salad. I fix it every year. My daughter loves it so much that she eats it for breakfast the next morning. The best part it's not hard to make.

Hope everyone has a safe and blessed holiday.

Pat L. said...

I love my mom's baked claims - they have mozzarella in them.