Monthly Archives: December 2015

Happy New Year!

There was an article in my local newspaper a few days back that talked about some of the traditions for the New Year from around the world.  Many of them, we do and others I had heard about.  Let me tell you the full agenda of our past New Year’s Eve celebrations.

First of all, we would often have out of town guests or friends over.  After dinner, we  play “Poverty Poker”.  This is regular poker in which everyone buys $10 worth of chips.  The “poverty” part is the rule that you still play even if you are out of chips.  We play to a specified hour, usually 2:00 in the morning.  While we are playing poker, there’s a pot of black-eyed peas with ham hocks and another one with rice cooking on the stove.  We always eat pork because pigs push forward unlike chickens that scratch back.  You get the idea, right?

As midnight approaches, we pour the champagne and select our pots and wooden spoons.  When 12:00 hits, we give kisses and hugs and then, run outside banging our pots and pans, yelling “Happy New Year!”  Many of my pots have scars from those nights.  Then the champagne and the toast, which is something quite simple:  “To good friends and good times.”  or “To  the best in the coming year.”

We tried the Spanish custom of plopping a grape for each dong of the clock.  We had to use the sound of the cuckoo since we don’t own a clock that chimes.  We didn’t keep it.  We have too many other things to do than sit there and wait for the cuckoo to cuckoo.

A Venezuelan friend of mine taught me this next tradition.  We get a suitcase and put some money in it and proceed to run to the corner and back.  This was to give us much travel with plenty of money in the coming year.  We usually have two suitcases going at a time and it looks like a relay race as everyone takes their turn to the corner in the dark and cold.  I never run, I take my time.

Cold and tired, we settle down to the poker game and a small bowl of Hoppin’ Johns for good luck.  So much fun.

There are two other traditions that I hold on to on New Year’s Day and that is, I never sweep on the 1st because I don’t want to sweep my good luck out the door.  Second, sometime during the day, I will get a small pot, fill it with milk and put it on the stove on high.  It needs to boil over.  It’s messy, I know, but if it boils over evenly around the rim, that means that the year will be very favorable.  If it boils over to one side only, hold on, the year will be bumpy.

I am so pleased  to be able to share all our traditions with you.  I am closing this year with much joy, blessed by family and many friends.  Thank you for being a part of my joy.





Buckeye Balls

Way back in the 90’s, we were living in a suburb of Seattle, Washington called Maple Valley.  We were in the best cul-de-sac.  Almost everyone in our neighborhood had children and they were similar in age to mine.  So, we all bonded and had our little ones go from home to home to visit and play.  Before I go on, let me tell you a little about the vicinity.  It wasn’t very established yet.  There was a Safeway not too far with a coffee shop next to it and a few churches.  I am not sure the public school was even built then.  We had no need for a fence in the backyard because there was a small wooded area behind us, The Forest.  We never went past the edge of The Forest for we didn’t know what might live in there.  The truth is that it was about one block wide.  We probably could have walked through it to get to the next street but it was heavily treed, so we didn’t dare.  Now The Forest is full of houses, a new development went in after we left.  A few blocks away was an equestrian center that we would visit often.  We, my husband and I, always talked about getting the kids into riding horses but they were too little at the time.    There wasn’t much between our little Safeway strip mall and the nearest city.  The roads were narrow and it took about 45 minutes to get anywhere. There was a lake close by and we would go and feed the geese.  I really loved it there.

We didn’t live there long because my husband got transferred to California.  His company was downsizing and he was stepping down in position.  Money was tight.  That Christmas, I decided to bake cookies for all the families in the neighborhood and the tradition has stuck ever since.  Now, I keep trying new recipes every year but there are a few that are customary and this is one.

My Buckeye Balls recipe comes from a November 1978 Redbook Magazine.  I remember that I made them for my husband one Christmas because he was from Cleveland, Ohio and a fan of the Buckeyes football team.  They have become a permanent part of the Christmas gifts that I pass along every year.


1 1/2 cups Creamy Peanut Butter

1/2 cup Lightly Salted Butter, at room temperature

1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

1 – 16 oz. package Confectioners’ Sugar

1 – 6 oz. package Semisweet Chocolate Chips

2 Tbls. Vegetable Shortening

Line a cookie sheet with wax paper.  In a medium bowl, mix Peanut Butter, Butter, Vanilla and Sugar with your hands.

IMG_3606Form a smooth but stiff dough.


Taking 2 teaspoonfuls of the dough, roll into balls.  Place on the wax paper and refrigerate.


Using a double boiler over simmering (not boiling) water, melt the Chocolate and Shortening.  When smooth, remove the Peanut Butter balls from the refrigerator.


Insert a wooden toothpick into a ball and dip into the Chocolate so that three-fourths of it is coated.  It should look like a buckeye.


Return to the wax paper, chocolate side down and remove the pick.  Repeat with the rest. To remove the hole left by the toothpick, or as I refer to it, the bellybutton,  just pinch the sides of it with your fingers until it comes back together.  Refrigerate 30 minutes or longer, until the chocolate is firm.  These can be stored in plastic containers with wax paper between layers.


These are great fun to make and little ones can help.  Tried and true, I hope you will enjoy them.

I usually listen to Christmas carols as I make these.  This year it was Mariah Carey Merry Christmas II You CD.

Makes 30 Buckeyes, each at 198 Calories, 11.9 grams Fat, 21.0 grams Carbs, 2.8 grams Protein

This is a little high because it’s hard to calculate the chocolate coating.  I just added all the ingredients in.

Olio Nuovo

Is your Olive Oil Olio Nuovo?  Check your harvest date.  If it says October or November 2015, it is.  Lucky you!

So, what exactly IS Olio Nuovo?  Well, if you remember some of your high school Spanish, which I truly hope you do, or know some Italian, it means “new oil”.  Olio Nuovo is EVOO that has just been milled.  It is bottled right after milling and is unfiltered.  There are many producers who do not believe in filtering anyway.  Extra Virgin Olive Oil does not need to be filtered to be accepted in that category.  But it is usually racked.  This means that the olive oil is placed in stainless steel drums and, in time, the sediment drops to the bottom.  The oil is bottled after some time has passed in the stainless steel container.

What this means to you and me, is that you need to consume your Olio Nuovo quickly.  It can go rancid faster than usual.  The important thing to remember is that it is saturated in all the beneficial elements that EVOO is known for.

So, take a tablespoon of this elixir every morning.  Finish all your dishes with it.  Pour some extra on your salad, soup, vegetables, chili, stew, chicken, brownies and ice cream.  Yes, you heard me right.  Brownies and ice cream are great with a pungent olive oil.  Add a little sea salt on top and you won’t believe your taste buds.


I’m going now to enjoy my Olio Denardi.  Great stuff!  So pungent that my sinuses feel it when I  go for a whiff of it.

Buen Gusto!


Tips for Old Olive Oil

This is my little olive tree.  It may be small but it is mighty.  He was planted last year in this pot and this year, gave me a few olives, a sample of what is to come.  I live in a neighborhood that was once an olive orchard or grove.  My neighbors all have trees which they complain once the olives begin to drop to the ground.  As you step on them, the ground gets a nice oily spot and your shoes carry that oil inside.  I am one of the few houses where the trees were eradicated by the builder.

I received this sweet little tree from one of my sisters-in-law.  She sent it to me to help me through the death of my mother.  Mom died a year ago last August.  She was one of many, seven, I counted, that were close to me and passed away within a time span of two years.  Grief has been a daily battle.  Sometimes I win and sometimes it wins over me.  Nonetheless, I look at the bright side of life as much as possible.  This brings me to my olive oil tip.  You thought I’d never get here, didn’t you.

Olives are being harvested in the Northern Hemisphere.  What this means for us, the consumers, is that new oils will be available soon.  Olio Nuovo is available now and if you come across some, I recommend that you buy a bottle.  My question to you is – How long have you had your bottle of EVOO opened in your pantry or cupboard?  When did you buy it? Depending on how long it’s been opened, it might not be a good idea to consume it.  If your unopened bottle is one year old or more, or if it was opened for more than 3 – 4 months, it is probably showing signs of rancidity at the moment and it’s a good idea to use it up. Try smelling it.  If it smells like old walnuts or maybe paint, do not ingest it.  If it smells a little rancid, use it up quickly.  The next best thing to consuming it, is to use it in other ways.  Here is one way that I use EVOO outside of the kitchen.

I tend to get a dry and itchy scalp at the beginning of Fall and Spring.  If I use a dandruff shampoo, I need to continue using it to control my flakes and itchiness.  One solution, that has worked for me, is a hot oil treatment.  My mom would do this on my hair when I was young and I had used olive oil on my daughter’s hair, also.  It is a wonderful treatment and feels so good, especially if someone is doing it for you.  So, I’ve taken some pictures.  Try it and see what you think.


All you need is a bowl with 1/2 cup of EVOO, more or less, a comb, cotton balls, a plastic bag and a towel.


First, warm up the olive oil.  You can use the microwave for about 30 seconds or so, warm but not too hot. Put a towel around your shoulders just in case. Part your hair.

IMG_3337Dip the cotton ball in the oil and run it down your part.


Keep parting your hair every inch or so.  When you’ve done the top, sides and back, comb it through and put a plastic bag over your head.


Wrap a towel over the bag and relax.  I tend to keep it on until I feel that it is getting cold.  Shampoo it out.  You may need to give it an extra wash.  You won’t need a conditioner today.


Your hair will come out soft, silky and shiny.  I hope you try it.

Thanks, Peggy.  I love my little tree.