Ferrara Family Feast

Your life is a series of memories, and my parents work so hard to create amazing lasting memories for me.  Although I am admittedly a grinch, Christmas Eve is one of my favorite days for the giant feast we put together and the Christmas Pudding we serve on Christmas Day is something I dream about all year long.  Strong memories can be associated with smell, one waft and you are transported to that wonderful time. Although each Christmas may be a little different, once we start cooking the smells bring me back to all the wonderful times before it.  I hope you had a wonderful Holiday with your family and friends and enjoy looking at what the Ferrara’s feasted on this holiday season.

For Christmas Eve we had the traditional Italian Feast of Seven Fishes.  This is what our menu consisted of:

  • Appetizers: Drinks, cheese, and chex mix
  • Stuffed mushrooms (seafood stuffing)
  • Spinach Bread
  • Zeppoles (fried bread with anchovies and crushed red pepper)
  • Antipasto Salad: pickled eggplant, roasted red pepper, marinated mushrooms, veggies, and olive salad
  • Fried Smelts
  • Fried Shrimp
  • Homemade French Fries
  • Artichokes
  • Fried Calamari
  • Pasta Course: Crab and Marinara Sauce
  • Dessert: thumbprint cookies, pizzelles, vegan cookies, cherry and walnut pound cake, rum raisin sauce (VERY good), almond cookies, ice cream

As if that wasn’t enough to last us the next three days, we had another feast the next day on Christmas Day

Christmas Day was hosted at my wonderful Aunts house.  The highlights were the appetizers, prime rib, and Christmas pudding, just to name a few!

  • Appetizers: Baked Brie Eggrolls, stuffed celery, stuffed mushrooms, white bean and olive dip, cheese platter with fruit, antipasto, homemade nuts
  • First course: Caesar salad and pasta with red sauce
  • Main Event: Prime rib, roasted beets, roasted veggies (carrots, onions, parsnips), roasted potatoes, brussel sprouts, broccoli
  • Dessert: Christmas pudding with hard sauce, homemade cannolis, cookies (14 different kinds), German Cake, Panettone bread

We are all still full, and have leftovers for at least 3 weeks! Recipes to come for some of the dishes!


From Scratch Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Homemade Bagel Chips

Football season is underway as well as is the holiday season.  Pair those together and that also makes it dip season! Dips are great for parties, football games, girls nights, and when you just need a pick me up. Another great thing about dip is there are so many types and options and they are all incredibly versatile.  Todays dip is a totally homemade spinach and artichoke dip.  Everything was from scratch and that makes a world of difference.  Pair this with homemade bagel chips, and you have one hell of a good snack! Plus, this recipe has low fat components and lots of veggies so it is mostly guilt free!


  • 4 cooked artichokes (or just the hearts)
  • 1 package of spinach (or canned)
  • 1/4 of a white onion chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1/4 package cream cheese
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • sprinkle mozzarella cheese
  • a few pinches montreal steak seasoning
  • 2 bagels (stale is best)
  • pan spray

How to:

  1. Set your oven to 350.
  2. Begin with the bagel chips.  Slice them 1/2 centimeter thick, lay flat on a cookie sheet and spray with pan spray. Then place in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden.
  3. I used fresh cooked artichokes as opposed to canned artichokes. To do this you have to scrape away the heart from the whole artichoke.  Its a little labor, but great results.  Be sure to get any choke into the mixture.
  4. In a pan, add some oil and sauté the garlic and onion until transparent. Then add in your spinach.  Once wilted add the artichoke. Let cook for a few mintues
  5. Add in your cottage cheese and continue to stir and cook for 5 more minutes.
  6. Pour mixture into a oven safe dish, add in the cream cheese, and stir until even.
  7. Then sprinkle on the grated cheese and bake for 15-20 minutes until bubbly and the cheese is golden brown.
  8. Serve with your bagel chips and enjoy!

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Homemade Cannolis

An Italian classic: The cannoli.  For years the perfect cannoli recipe has eluded me and my mother.  We tried countless times, but alas, it was to no avail.  But last night, by a true Christmas miracle, we made a damn good cannoli.  Perfection isn’t easy to achieve but we were close.  The thing is there are several things that make a cannoli perfect.  The shell, the taste, the texture, and how you dress it up.  For us, our shells were perfect, a delicate yet still sturdy pizzelle cookie, rolled into a perfect cylinder which allows for just enough filling to cookie ratio.  The taste was spot on, with a sweet but not overly sweet taste.  It didn’t overshadow the creaminess of the ricotta.  The way we dressed it up, simple.  Just a few chocolate chips on each end to add some bittersweet notes when you first start eating it, and who does like chocolate?  But where our perfection faltered was the texture.  Just a bit too runny.  Could this be because it traveled for an hour, one cant be certain. But one thing is certain is if you are going to make a homemade cannoli, try this recipe.


  • 1- 8 oz container of heavy cream
  • 1 pound of whole milk ricotta
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, but add more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Cannoli shells (fills about 18 shells)
  • Something for the ends: chocolate chips, cherry, pistachio

How to:

  1. In a metal bowl, whip the heavy cream until it is very stiff, almost like a whipped butter.  This should take about 5-10 minutes to achieve.
  2. Lightly fold in the ricotta, 1/2 cup at a time.  Also slowly adding in the powdered sugar and vanilla.
  3. Try not to over mix, but make sure the mixture is even.
  4. Then add to a pasty bag (or a ziplock bag that you cut off the tip)
  5. Then fill the cannoli shells, add your desired toppings, and enjoy.
  6. This is an easy recipe to make for family and friends that will definitely impress.

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A Celebration Must: Chex Mix

Let me begin by saying Merry Christmas Eve and hopefully you had a happy Hanukah! Over the next two days my house is going to be filled with family and food.  Tonight we celebrate with our feast of seven fishes (recipes and pictures to come).  Tomorrow we will have our traditional Christmas dinner, with fresh pasta and Christmas Pudding, just to name a few highlights. Although all of these celebrations have an insane amount of food, there is a certain snack food that needs to be put out every year.  Chex Mix!  Once you try homemade chex mix you will never again reached for the bagged stuff.  You can add in what you like and customize it so it is your ideal snack food.  It is an easy recipe and leaves your whole house smelling delicious.  Make this for your next party and enjoy the holiday cheer!’

My family has a saying “eat what ya like”, and the only parts I like are the chex cereal itself.  As a matter of fact I pick out only that part and leave the rest for other people.  So the chex mix I made today just has the cereal in it, but I going to suggest a few more additives that you can add in for your family, or add in whatever your heart desires!

One other thing, did I mention this snack can be made totally gluten free and vegan?! Yeah, its the perfect snack!


  • 3 cups rice chex cereal
  • 3 cups corn chex cereal
  • 1 cup pretzels
  • 1 cup fritos
  • 1/2 cup peanuts
  • 4 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 stick margarine (or butter)

How to:

  1. Set the oven to 250.
  2. Begin by melting the margarine in the microwave and then adding in the worcestershire and spices.  Stir that up.
  3. In a big roasting pan, pour in all your cereal and other add ins.
  4. Pour the margarine mixture over the top of all the cereal and stir.
  5. Place into the oven for 1 hour.  Every 15 minutes stir the mixture making sure what was on the bottom is now on the top.
  6. If the mixture still looks very soggy, cook for another 15 minutes.
  7. Then lay out on paper towels until it has cooled.
  8. Then eat immediately before anyone else can have some and then say you burnt it and threw it away (I’ll keep your secret 😉 )

Happy Holidays!!!

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Shepherds Pie: Revamped

Although I already have a recipe for shepherds pie, this is the new and improved version.  Give this new version a try!!


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • smashed potatoes (6-8 potatoes worth)
  • 1 can corn
  • 1/2 a large onion
  • 1/4 green bell pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • parsley
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 pinch cumin
  • 1/2 package french onion soup mix
  • 2 bay leaves

How to:

  1. Begin by sautéing the garlic, onion, and pepper.  Once translucent add in the beef and cook until brown.
  2. Once brown add in parsley, bay leaf, onion soup mix, and corn.
  3. Continue cooking for 15 minutes.  There will be excess liquid in the pan and you want to make sure that is cooked off, when that is the meat is ready.
  4. In a casserole pan with deep walls pour in the meat mixture.
  5. Then using the smashed potatoes in the recipe provided above, layer that on top of the meat.  You want about a inch layer of potatoes, over the meat.
  6. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top and place in a 350 oven to bake for another 10-15 minutes.
  7. Then serve and enjoy!!

Some bonus food pics from the dinner as well

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Holiday Cookie Edition: Thumbprint Cookies

Christmas is just a few short days away, and with that comes a lot of preparation for the celebrations!  Although I have only been home a few days in that short time I have made 15 dozen cookies and my Mother is currently discussing what other ones she wants to make (someone send help, PLEASE).  Baking isn’t my favorite form of cooking but it definitely a way to bring holiday cheer and is perfect this time of year.  This recipe is for thumbprint cookies, they are perfect bite sized cookies that have nuts and fruit and go great with a cup of tea.  They are a little tedious to make but the end result is well worth it.  These are a must have for the holiday season since they look so festive with their colored filling.  Happy Holidays from my cookie filled family to yours!!

This recipe was provided by my wonderful Aunt, thanks Aunty, but please stop giving my Mother ideas! 


  • 1/2 cup butter, room temp
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • raspberry or apricot preserves (or whatever flavor you prefer)

How to:

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. With an electric mixer mix the butter, sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla, until creamed.
  3. Then add in the flour and salt and mix.  The dough is going to be very piecey, this is okay.
  4. Chop your walnuts until fine, food processor is the best way to achieve this.
  5. Roll the dough into a large marble ball. Dip in the egg white, then roll in the walnuts.
  6. Using your thumb, create a well in the center of the cookie.
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden and then fill with jam while warm.
  8. Then eat, and eat, and eat, until you never want to see another sweet again in your life 😉

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Brazilian Fudge: Brigadeiro

In an earlier post I raved about a Brazilian fudge, Brigadeiro, that I learned how to make while “studying” in Brazil this past summer. This simple chocolate bonbon will add an unexpected twist to your holiday dessert menu, so try it out! It’s only 4 ingredients:

  • 1 can- sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • granulated sugar or jimmies for rolling (optional)

How to:

  1. Begin by melting the butter in a sauce pan on low.
  2. Add in condensed milk and stir continuously, increase the heat to medium (rubber spatulas work best). Do not stop stirring, ever.
  3. Slowly add in one tablespoon of cocoa powder to the pan.
  4. Whisk mixture to evenly disperse cocoa.
  5. Continue to stir until the mixture is half its original size and thick enough that when you scrap the spatula down the middle of the pan, it will stay parted for a second. Let the mixture cool completely.
  6. To make brigadeiro balls, begin by greasing your hands with butter or oil. Your hands have to be very well-greased or you’ll have a gooey, sticky mess (literally) on your hands.
  7. Scoop out and roll into small balls, about 1 1/4 inches wide.
  8.  Roll in the sugar or jimmies.  Keep chilled or they will melt and become shapeless blobs.
  9. This recipe is incredibly versatile so you can make it your own by adding in flavors!


Gluten Free Roasted Eggplant Meatballs

My Grandma is a woman of many talents.  One of the best things she makes is eggplant meatballs. This dish is perfect for vegetarian Italians because it has all the flavors of a traditional meatball, without the meat. I’ve decided to go one step further and make my eggplant meatballs gluten-free.


  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup mashed potato flakes (flavorless)
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • 3 mashed garlic cloves
  • salt and pepper

How to:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Slice the eggplant in half length-wise. Salt and pepper the flesh side, and place flesh side down on well-oiled pan.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes. Flip over and bake another 30 minutes, until tender.
  4. Let cool. Peel the eggplants and place them in a strainer. Place a plate or pan underneath the strainer to collect the liquid.
  5. Push on the eggplant to drain excess liquid. Place a bowl or plate on top of the strainer with something to weigh it down and let it drain for 30 minutes. Eggplant should be as dry as possible.
  6. Run the dry eggplant through a food processor or chop it up by hand.
  7. In mixing bowl, combine with egg, potato flakes, spices and garlic.
  8. Form small balls and place on a well oiled pan.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes, flip and bake another 15-20 minutes on the other size.  They will be golden brown and firm.