December 30, 2010

Happy 2011 from Kokopelli's Kitchen! Roast a Pig for Your New Year's Meal!

Many cultures plan extravagant New Years Eve celebrations, but the ancient Babylonians were probably the first to do so. Four thousand years ago, they celebrated for eleven days beginning with the first crescent moon after the spring equinox. In a sense, January 1st is an odd date because there isn't anything special about it from an astronomical standpoint. Nor does the day conjure up themes of spring.

For a relatively young country, the citizens of the United States have come up with our own annual New Year’s Eve celebrations. Every year, nearly a million people crowd into Times Square for one of the world's largest annual parties. At 11:59 PM, a one-ton crystal ball will begin its one-minute descent down the 77-foot flagpole. At the stroke of midnight, party goers wearing funny hats will blow noisemakers and kiss their loved ones. Billions of people around the world will watch the televised event.

Check out the Top 10 New Year’s Traditions and Superstitions - we discovered this list at TopTenz, the ultimate top 10 list site.
10. Fireworks
9. Making Resolutions
8. Paying Off Your Debt
7. Kissing at Midnight
6. Singing “Auld Lang Syne”
5. First Footer
4. Nothing Should Leave the House
3. Lay Low & Do Nothing
2. Eat Luck Foods
1. What You Do On New Year’s, You Will Do All Year

Foods to Avoid on New Year's
Be sure to avoid "unlucky" foods -- this is considered just as important as eating the good luck foods. If you were to serve something as unlucky as a chicken to your guests it could ruin their entire year. Many cultures believe that eating anything with wings is a no-no for New Year's because the bird could fly away, taking all of your luck with it. Chicken is thought to be especially unlucky because the bird scratches backwards (unlike the forward-thinking pig), which can possibly possibly lead to setbacks. The color white is a symbol of death in the Chinese culture, so avoid eggs, tofu, or white cheese. And, remember not to clean your plate too thoroughly — many cultures believe that leaving a little leftover food on your plate will usher in a year of plenty.

For those of you wanting to prepare and serve good luck food for your guests, Kokopelli's Kitchen chose the following recipe from “Arizona Territory Cook Book” by Daphne Overstreet. Permission to reprint granted by Golden West Publishers in Phoenix, AZ.

Clean piglet. Do not remove head or feet. Make a stuffing of dry bread, grated onion, sage, salt, pepper and warm water for moisture. Fill the cavity with stuffing and sew closed. Stand pig in pan of water, beef stock, onion, and butter and baste often. Bake slowly for three hours. Put a corn cob in his mouth and serve hot with baked apples.

For additional advice and guidance on cooking the whole hog, visit Ask the Meatman!

And if you can't find a whole pig to roast, visit McReynold's Farms. They are located in Phoenix, Arizona but their "farm-fresh roasting pigs" can be ordered online and shipped anywhere within the continental U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii. Their USDA farm fresh roasting pigs have been grain and milk fed to ensure the meat’s maximum flavor and tenderness. They are delivered raw and completely prepped and ready to cook (hair and insides removed).

December 05, 2010

Happy Holidays from Kokopelli's Kitchen - Origins of Santa Claus

The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals -- murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 6th (December 19 on the Julian Calendar).

Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas' life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need.

Waves of European immigrants brought cherished St. Nicholas holiday traditions to the United States. Over time these have melded into some common practices. If one looks closely, these reveal some distinctive characteristics of beloved St. Nicholas.
  • Christmas stockings by the fireplace: And the stockings were hung by the chimney with care in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there, goes the oft repeated Christmas rhyme. In a story of Nicholas rescuing poor maidens from being sold into slavery, gold dowrey money, tossed in through the window, is said to have landed in stockings left to dry before the fire.
  • Orange or tangerine in the toe of filled Christmas stockings: The gold Nicholas threw to provide the dowry money is often shown as gold balls. These are symbolized by oranges or even apples. So the orange in the toe of the stocking is a reminder of Nicholas' gift. 
  • Candy Canes:These are really candy croziers, one of St. Nicholas' symbols. All bishops carry staffs, hooked at the top like a shepherd's crook, showing they are the shepherds who care for, or tend, their people.
  • Gift-giving in secret, during the night: Stockings are filled while children are sleeping. Nicholas did his gift giving secretly, under cover of darkness. He didn't want to be seen and recognized as he wanted those he helped to give thanks to God.
  • Seasonal concern for the needy: St. Nicholas gave gifts to those in greatest need—the young and the most vulnerable. Christmas gifts and baskets given to those in need, along with other seasonal contributions to charity, reflect St. Nicholas' unselfish concern for others. He never wanted or expected anything in return.

(Source: St. Nicholas Center where there is more information about the saint, customs from around the world, stories and activities for children, recipes, crafts, and much more to help families, churches and schools learn about and celebrate St. Nicholas.)

Both candy recipes that we've selected this month are used to celebrate the Feast St. Nickolas. We found the recipes at St. Nicholas Center.

SCHOKOLADEKUGELN (German and Austrian Chocolate Balls)
  • 1 cup grated MILK CHOCOLATE
  • 1 cup SUGAR
  • 1 cup ground FILBERTS
  • 1 EGG
  • 1 tablespoon RUM
  • 1 cup COCOA
Mix chocolate, sugar, nuts, egg, rum. Shape into balls. Roll in cocoa. Dry several hours at room temperature. Yield, 1 pound candy.

MARZIPANKARTOFFEL (German Potato Marzipan)
  • ¼ pound POTATOES - boiled, grated and chilled
  • 1 pound ALMOND PASTE
Mix potatoes, sugar to smooth paste. Add almond paste. Mix until dough becomes firm, smooth. Chill 1 hour in refrigerator.

Form marzipan into varied fruits, vegetables, flowers, using food coloring to give real appearance. Carrots and potatoes are popular for St. Nicholas Day. Dry 5 minutes in oven at 250ยบ F. Yield, 2 pounds candy.  

Both recipes from The Catholic Cook Book: Traditional Feast and Fast Day Recipes by William I. Kaufman. The Citadel Press, 1965.