FOOD: Feast of the Seven Fishes, Puglia Style (a video lookbook)

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Happy Holidays everyone!

We had a fabulous night with my Italian family enjoying the Feast of the Seven Fishes.
It's a night of "fasting". I say fasting in quotes because it is hardly a fast, but a ridiculous amount of food and festivities-all focused around seafood and fish. Last night we enjoyed mounds of delicate fried fish and calamari, bowls of linguini draped with shrimp and squid tomato sauce, basketfulls of homemade focaccia. Take a peek at some of the yummies my parents throw down, and I hope you enjoy a wonderful holiday with your friends and family!

RECIPE: Chobani® Blood Orange Yogurt Bread with Cranberries and White Chocolate Chips

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It's the mad dash to Christmas Eve for us, and it is nothing but crazy at our house. In the middle of wrapping gifts and dropping off cookie plates to neighbors, I am now in the planning phase for the actual holiday itself. One of our traditions is that we like to have yummy baked breakfast goodies Christmas Eve morning while my daughter gets to look through her stocking and open one special present. Then we get ready and head to my parents' house for the traditional Italian "Feast of the Seven Fishes"-and it truly is a FEAST. So I don't want to make something too heavy for Christmas Eve breakfast, but it's nice to enjoy something tasty and with a holiday flair-and if it's a healthier option even better.

One way to bake a little healthier is to use yogurt, and also to cut the white flour with some whole wheat flour. Yogurt can help to add richness without fat. In fact you can cut the oils or sour cream that sweet, quick breads usually are filled with. Chobani® has some really fun flavors to bake with, and their yogurts have a really nice, thick, creamy consistency for a healthy, sour cream replacement. 

In fact, if you want to really dig in and see how baking with Chobani can be really inventive yet healthy, check out their website:

And their Pinterest page for some serious yummies. 

But back to the matter at hand- holiday morning breakfasts!

SO in prepping for a few holiday mornings, I baked up this holiday themed quick bread using the Chobani Blood Orange flavored yogurt. I complimented the orange favor with festive, tart, dried cranberries. And to balance the tartness of the cranberries, I chopped up some white chocolate and added it to the batter. The white chocolate chips are optional-if you want to keep things healthier you can skip it.

I froze the loaves today, and  I'll take it out the night before serving it. The morning of,  I'll lightly warm the breads in the oven a bit before serving. Then drizzle them with the orange sugar glaze and serve them up with some hot cocoa or coffee. Your guests will love it! It will make for an easy treat that has great flavor and healthier to boot!

Get baking now, and then you can take it easier during your holiday morning. Just have your freezer help you out!

Chobani® Blood Orange Yogurt Bread with Cranberries and White Chocolate Chips

1 cup regular flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. orange zest or 1 tsp. orange peel granules
2 packages Chobani® blood orange flavored yogurt
2 Tbsp. orange juice
1 5 oz. pkg dried cranberries
3 oz. white chocolate squares, chopped

1 cup confectioners sugar
3 Tbsp. (more or less) of orange juice
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350˚.

Spray 2 bread pans with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix the flours with the salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.

With a mixer, whip the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and whip until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time. Then add the vanilla and the orange granules and mix well. 

In a small bowl, mix the yogurt from both packages together until well blended. Turn the mixer on low, and alternate adding the flour mixture with the yogurt until all just combined. 

Add the orange juice last, to loosen and lighten the batter. Add the cranberries and white chocolate chunks by hand until well combined. Pour the batter evenly in the two bread pans. Bake on the middle rack for 30 minutes, then move the bread to the top rack for another 5-10 minutes.

Cool pans on wire rack for 10 minutes, then transfer breads out of the pans and onto the rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, mix the sugar with the orange juice and vanilla with a fork until the glaze is of drizzling consistency. You may need to adjust the juice amount or the sugar amount to get this consistency.

Drizzle the bread loaves with the orange glaze with a fork. Let the glaze set up a little and then serve.

RECIPE: Lady Finger Cranberry-Berry Breakfast Bake

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So we had a bit of a marital spat last week. I was asked to make my famous tira mi su, and I needed lady fingers. Now I have been making this dish for over 20 years, and I assumed my hubby knew which lady fingers I liked for my dish. I need the spongy kind, that almost feel like angel food cake.

Well, hubby came home with these.

I know Balocco claims these are for tira mi su. They are not for MY tira mi su. 
These are a little tougher and crispy. And he bought two bags of them. TWO.

So now what do I do with all these? I am on a mission to figure out what to do with them, because their website doesn't have many ideas and I have two giant bags to use up. One of the ideas I had was making a breakfasty bread pudding. I was saving some orange scented cranberries left over from Thanksgiving, so I thought I could use that as well.

You don't need to soak this overnight, just for about 10 minutes. I also used my convection bake setting to cook it up evenly. I only used half a bag for this, so I have a long way to go. Stay tuned for more ideas! The good news is that these last a while in the pantry-THANK GOODNESS!

Lady Finger Cranberry-Berry Breakfast Bake

7 oz. Balocco lady fingers
4 eggs
2 cups milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
dash of salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup hot water
1/2-3/4 cup reserved cranberry compote (left overs from the holidays?) or berry jelly
Non stick cooking spray


Preheat oven to 375˚. Spray an 8" x 8" baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Lay down an even layer of lady fingers, breaking some in half to make them fit in a corner or two.

Next, in a large bowl whisk the eggs with the sugar until thick. Add the vanilla and salt and whisk until mixed. Finally add the milk and whisk until combined. 

In a small bowl, add the hot water to the dried blueberries, and cover with a bowl for 10-15 minutes. Drain and squeeze the berries so some of the liquid drains out. 

 Spread half the cranberry compote on top of the lady fingers, and sprinkle half the blueberries. Layer a second tier of ladyfingers on top, and spread the rest of the cranberries and sprinkle the rest of blueberries.

Gently pour the egg mixture on top. Let sit for 10 minutes so the lady fingers soften and absorb the egg mixture. I gently pressed the top layer into the egg mixture once while sitting.

Bake for about 45 minutes on the center rack, or until things look golden and puffy. Let sit for 5 minutes at room temp. Serve warm with a drizzle of maple syrup or sweetened mascarpone cream.

VIDEO HOW TO: Make a Book/Library Themed Christmas Tree with DIY Upcycled book Ornaments

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So I have a problem. I love the holidays. And that's not such a big problem unless you just keep wanting to decorate and craft things so that each room in your home will eventually be decorated with holiday cheer. But where to store all this stuff in an urban-size house?

Yup. Exactly. 

And my husband is ready to just start tossing stuff out. He gets pretty cranky helping me bring all the holiday bins down from the attic, of which there seems to be more and more of.

But I always wanted a little tree in the library, decorated with little book ornaments. The little book lined room just screams for one. Well, whispers. But still. 

And this is why when I took on this small reading themed holiday tree project, I kept it TOP SECRET. I kept the tree in my trunk hidden for a month! And I quietly crafted away in my craft room, video taping my how-to videos on making my charming mini book ornaments and book tassel ornaments. And when I quickly put it all together on the tree when hubby went to the store, it all just magically was there in all it's loveliness when he got back. 

How could he complain? I mean, look at it!?

So I have put here the two video episodes of making the ornaments for a library themed tree. You will need an old book which you will cut the pages from, so make sure it's something that you won't feel guilty about cutting up. You will need glue or Mod Podge, card stock, ribbon, thread or string, buttons, and paint. The techniques are simple and the mini books use some basic book binding techniques. 

I love my tree. It is so cozy in there and even my angsty tween daughter did her reading homework in there with some hot cocoa.

More crafts to come, so stay tuned. (Like I said, I have issues. Is there a group for Christmas hoarders/crafters anonymous?)

Episode 1: Mini Book Ornaments

Episode 2: Book Page Tassel Ornaments and Book Paper Chains

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