Culinary Traditions Flavor Three Upcoming Festivities: by Marilyn Ostermiller

The week before New Year’s Day features three celebrations, punctuated by feasting, that embrace religious and cultural heritages.

Hanukkah, one of the most widely observed Jewish holidays, begins Dec. 22.

—  Christians celebrate Christmas Dec. 24 and 25.

Kwanza, a cultural unity celebration for African-Americans, follows on Dec. 26 through Dec. 31.

Hanukkah, an eight-day celebration, commemorates the victory of a small group of Jewish rebels, known as the Maccabees, over the armies of Syria in 165 B.C.E. and the subsequent liberation and rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. Modern celebrations of Hanukkah focus on family and friends, and include the lighting of the Hanukkah menorah, one candle for each night, according to reformjudaism.org

According to the legend of the Miracle of the Light, when the Maccabees entered the Temple, they found a single jar of oil, which was sufficient for only one day. The messenger who was sent to secure additional oil took eight days to complete his mission, and miraculously, the single jar of oil continued to burn until his return. The rabbis of the Talmud attributed the eight days of Hanukkah to the miracle of this single jar of oil.

Foods prepared in oil, such as potato pancakes. are traditionally served during Hanukkah.  Latkes, crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, are often served with applesauce and sour cream. Recipes and a helpful video is available from popular cooking and lifestyle blogger ToriAvey.com at https://toriavey.com/toris-kitchen/potato-latkes/

thumbnail latkes

Christians celebrate Christmas to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian-American Christmas Eve tradition that grew out of the practice of not eating meat on Christmas Eve. A typical menu includes clams casino, fried calamari, seafood salad, oysters shooters and pasta with clam sauce. according to www.thespruceeats.com/la-vigilia-napoletana-feast-of-seven-fishes-2019493

A newly published book,  Feast of the Seven Fishes: A Brooklyn-Italian’s Recipes Celebrating Food and Family, by Daniel Paterna, features recipes and memories handed down through three generations.        

African-Americans celebrate Kwanzaa from December 26 to January 1. Dr. Maulana Karenga, a black nationalist who became a college professor, introduced the festival in 1966 to the United States as a ritual to welcome the first harvests to the home and counter the deadly Watts riots in Los Angeles the previous year. The seven principles of the custom include unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. On New Year’s Eve, participants celebrate with a banquet. Main dishes include African creole, Cajun catfish, jerk chicken, or Groundnut stew from West Africa, which features warm spices, sweet potatoes and peanuts. For a recipe, visit https://www.strongertogether.coop/recipes/african-groundnut-stew

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist who delights in cooking, baking and sharing recipes.     Marilyn Ostermiller

Easy Holiday Paper Crafts For Kids.

I am in love with the RED TED website! If you haven’t discovered this gem, head on over. There are so many great crafts for kids and adults and many come with step-by-step videos to show you how to make each project. Using any kind of materials imaginable, you and your kids can create so many wonderful gifts to decorate your home or give to family and friends for the holidays.

If you plan of giving some books as gifts this Christmas, why not add a homemade bookmark?  You and the kids can make them following the tutorials on the site.  It’s a simple way for kids to give a gift to classmates,  or as a Scout or Sunday School Project. Here is the link to some of the awesome BOOKMARK PAPER CRAFTS  with a holiday theme:

https://www.redtedart.com/christmas-paper-crafts-for-kids/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=top_crafts_for_the_week&utm_term=2019-11-15

*Christmas Paper Crafts for Kids*. Everyone has paper, right? Combine paper with basic stationery items such as scissors, pens and glue and you have a fantastic list of fabulous Christmas Crafts and Christmas DIYs for kids and grown ups. Love how versatile Paper Crafts. CUTE Christmas Paper Crafts. #PaperCrafts #PaperChristmasCrafts #Christmascrafts #ChristmasPaperCrafts #Christmas #Christmascraftsforkids #papercraftsforkids

For more ideas on Do-it-yourself projects, check out the book BE A MAKER, by Katey Howes.

Happy crafting!

Need Good Books For Holiday Gifts? Check Out The KidLit Authors’ Club.

The authors of KidLit Authors’ Club have a variety of books for kids of all ages. Picture books, middle grade, YA, non-fiction and more. Check out the titles and award-winning authors. Give the gift of reading to a child and create a life-long learner.

https://kidlitauthorsclub.com/?fbclid=IwAR2kQFUqDuawWZwfPy-cDHLzcITD46QjVocYQOh2wHHnHMhvYIOclw6N8vg

Mincemeat Enjoys a Storied Past, by Marilyn Ostermiller.

“Would you like a mincemeat cookie?”

When I offer holiday guests a platter of fresh baked mincemeat cookies, I’ve come to expect one of two responses, happy or sorta queasy.

It’s understandable. Minced meat and cookies aren’t a famous pairing, like peanut butter and jelly, or cheese and crackers.

 

Mincemeat can be traced back to Medieval Times in Europe. Back then, it was a way to preserve food without refrigeration. Finely chopped lamb was mixed with dried fruits, sugar and vinegar to keep it from spoiling.

 

A tradition evolved that tied mincemeat pie to Christmas. The pie crust was rectangular, like the manger in Bethlehem. It was filled with mincemeat and a small replica of baby Jesus rested on the filling. A sprinkling of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg symbolized the gifts of the Magi. 

 

Over the years, the meat — finely chopped beef became popular — gradually began to be supplanted with preserved fruits, and sweeteners.

Crosse & Blackwell Rum & Brady Mincemeat Filling & Topping ~ 1 count ~ 29 oz jar

Today’s mincemeat is made mostly from preserved fruits. The brand I prefer doesn’t have a trace of meat or suet. Instead, it’s made with apples, raisins, and orange peel, mixed with corn syrup, vinegar, cornstarch, spices and salt. Some other brands still include beef and suet. Some are spiked with brandy or rum.

While I take the shortcut of prepared mincemeat, two of the cookbooks that will guide more adventurous cooks through the steps to make theirs from scratch include:

  • The Forgotten Arts: Making Old-Fashioned Pickles, Relishes, Chutneys, Sauces and Catsups, Mincemeats, Beverages and Syrups (Yesterday’s Skills Adapted to keywords=Mincemeat+recipes&qid=1571846370&s=books&sr=1-1
  • Preserve & Pickle Recipes (Preserve & Pickle Recipes : With these Fruit Cheeses, Curds, Mincemeat, Conserves, Chutneys And Relishes Book 2) Written by Ana Bridge.

Like pumpkin pie and fruit cake, mincemeat pies, tarts and cookies have their season. It begins at Thanksgiving and ends at Christmas, although leftovers are fair game until New Year’s Eve.

My family favors this recipe:

mincemeat

Mincemeat Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 eggs

3 cups unsifted flour

1tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/3 cups mincemeat (I use Crosse & Blackwell brand)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cream butter and sugar in a mixer. Add eggs, one at a time. Whisk together dry ingredients. Add gradually to the creamed mixture. Stir in mincemeat. Drop tablespoon-sized rounds of batter on a greased baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes. Makes 6 dozen.

Marilyn Ostermiller      Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist, who enjoys baking for family and friends.

 

 

What Did The White Pumpkin Say to the Orange Pumpkin?

It’s pumpkin time again…that once a year phenomenon that turns ordinary people into a frenzy of decorating for autumn. Pumpkins spring up everywhere and in everything we eat. Pumpkin latte, muffins, soup, pies, cakes, cookies, pancakes, even beer. So, in honor of the season here are a few fun facts about this popular fruit.   Pumpkins

All facts are taken from the websites listed below:

http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/sciencefacts/food/pumpkins.html

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/diet-nutrition/a22544/facts-about-pumpkins/

 

  • Pumpkins are usually orange but can sometimes be yellow, white, green or red.

  • The name pumpkin comes from the Greek word ‘pepon’, meaning ‘large melon’.

  • The word “pumpkin” showed up for the first time in the fairy tale Cinderella.

  • Scientifically speaking, pumpkins are a fruit (they contain seeds) but when it comes to cooking, they are often referred to as vegetables.

  • Pumpkins are grown on every continent except Antarctica.

  • They vary in weight but an average sized pumpkin might weigh around 13 pounds (6 kilograms).

  • Giant pumpkins can be grown for competitions, with some weighing over 1000 pounds! (450 kilograms). In 2010, the world record was 1810 pounds! That’s huge!!

  • Pumpkin plants feature both male and female flowers, with bees typically being involved in pollination (the transfer of pollen).

  • Over 1 billion pounds (450 million kgs) of pumpkin are produced in the US every year.

  • 80% of the U.S.’s pumpkin crop is available during October.

  • Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of zinc, magnesium, and Omega-3 fats.
  • Pumpkin pie is a sweet dessert that originates in North America and is traditionally eaten during harvest time and holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.

  • Every single part of a pumpkin is edible.

    Yep, you can eat the skin, leaves, flowers, pulp, seeds, and even the stem!

  • Pumpkins are popular decorations during Halloween. A carved pumpkin illuminated by candles is known as a ‘jack-o-lantern’. The tradition is believed to have come from Ireland, where they used to carve faces into turnips, beet and other root vegetables as part of the Gaelic festival of Samhain.

  • The largest pumpkin pie ever baked weighed 3,699 pounds.

People taste 13 October 2007, the bigges

So…what did the white pumpkin say to the orange pumpkin?

ans: I’m looking a little pale, think I should eat some carrots?

Hey, if you’ve got a better PUMPKIN JOKE, bring it on!

 

Children’s Books That Provide Early Halloween Chills, Thrills: By Marilyn Ostermiller

If ghostly capers and heart-stopping high jinks get your juices flowing, here’s a selection of Middle Grade books with nail-biting suspense, chatty ghosts and other, not so sociable apparitions.
Tunnel of Bones, second book in Victoria Schwab’s “City of Ghosts” series.

Tunnel of Bones (City of Ghosts #2) (2)

The plot: Ever since Cassidy Blake almost drowned, she can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead . . . and enter the spirit world. When her parents start hosting a TV show about the world’s most haunted places, Cass accidentally awakens a frightening young boy ghost who roams the catacombs under Paris’ streets.

What’s to Like: It’s one of the creepiest books I’ve ever read, but I couldn’t stop reading.

To Learn More: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43411972-tunnel-of-bones

The Mystery of Hollow Inn, first of the Samantha Wolf Mysteries, by Tara Ellis

The Mystery Of Hollow Inn (Samantha Wolf Mysteries Book 1)

The plot: When 12-year-old Samantha arrives in the mountains of Montana, with her best friend, for a summer vacation, they uncover a villainous scheme at Hollow Inn to force Sam’s aunt and uncle out of business.

What’s to Like: It’s set in a mountain retreat so remote there’s no Wi-Fi or cell phone reception. The girls ignore the rules, and suffer the consequences, as they take readers on a fast-paced, contemporary adventure.

Learn More: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21897748-the-mystery-of-hollow-inn

Lilac Skully and the Halloween Moon, third book in  Amy Cesari’s “Supernatural Adventures of Lilac Skully,” series.          Lilac Skully and the Halloween Moon

The Plot: Lilac lives in a haunted mansion with a coterie of ghosts and goblins. Lilac longs for the one normal thing she has never experienced, to go trick-or-treating on Halloween. Where better to experience it than at the Seaside Fun Park with friends, or so she thought until some really scary villains seem intent on making her vanish forever. 

What’s to Like: It’s a tale of a young girl, who’s led such a sheltered life she’s never been introduced to sweets, not even candy corn until now.

Learn More: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42105981-lilac-skully-and-the-halloween-moon

 

Marilyn OstermillerMarilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist, who enjoys sharing her favorite reads.

 

 

 

17th Annual Collingswood Book Festival…Another Great Year!

On Saturday, October 5, 2019, I had the pleasure of attending the COLLINGSWOOD BOOK FESTIVAL, in downtown Collingswood, NJ.   http://www.collingswoodbookfestival.com/

It’s the festival’s 17th year and I am proud to have been a presenting author for the fifth year. There was a lot of excitement and enthusiasm for all things to do with reading and books. And, each year, I get to talk about books and hang out with fellow authors from all over NJ and beyond. The organizers and volunteers behind the scenes always make members of the KidLIt Authors Club feel welcome.  http://www.kidlitauthorsclub.com

Here are some of this year’s highlights in photos:

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PB Authors Robin Newman and Jodi Moore. 

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“Twinning” with fellow MG author and Kid Lit Author’s Club member, Charlotte Bennardo.    

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Members of the KidLit Author’s Club: Jeffry Johnston, me, Charlotte Bennardo, David Neilsen, Jennifer Barr, Kell Andrews, Rob in  Newman, (front:) Jodi Moore, Hallee Adelman

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Middle Grade Panel: What Do Middle Grade Readers Want and Need?

 

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YA Author Jeffry W Johnston

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