Christmas · DIY · recipe

Pizzelle: Auntie’s Italian Cookies

If you come from an Italian-American family, I have no doubt you had one auntie who seemed to be “in charge” of making the pizzelle for all the family gatherings. I’m pretty sure that’s because pizzelle makers were a bit expensive and therefore hard to justify as a purchase in more than one household.

In our family, my Auntie Elisa was the pizzelle maker.

Every family gathering and holiday Auntie Elisa would place a plate of gorgeous snowflake shaped cookies–complete with the distinctive aroma of anise–on the table for enjoying with coffee and company. Admittedly, I was completely enamored of pizzelle as a kid and I guess I still am today.

Sadly, when my father passed away in 2011, it became too difficult to continue our extended family gatherings and my annual pizzelle consumption took a dramatic nose dive.

Last year, I was ecstatic to find some authentic pizzelle in Costco and I remember bringing a small package to my Auntie Anna’s hospital bed. Her son and my cousin, Ricky, went on and on about them and it reminded me of the annual family gatherings we all attended. How I have missed those times.

Last year I lost two of my favorite aunties–Auntie Mary and Auntie Anna–and their passing has had a profound effect on my thoughts about family, home keeping and love ever since.

So, despite suffering from a serious knee injury this Christmas, I was determined to reinstitute some old family traditions and one of them was making the delicate, snowflake-like cookies that are called pizzelle.

Luckily I had procured a pizzelle maker some time ago; it was still new in its box and hanging out among my many Christmas decorations. Unfortunately if there were instructions, they were long gone, so it was up to me to figure out how to use it. Thankfully there is the internet and I cobbled together an updated recipe for chocolate pizzelle and set to testing out my maker.

If you can get your hands on an authentic pizzelle maker, I would urge you to try. There is nothing like a freshly made pizzelle! When they emerge from the iron, they are very pliable…but you only have a few seconds to shape them. It’s a fun challenge.

Obviously they can be enjoyed on their own with a fresh cup of coffee…but they are also excellent vehicles for a little extra something if you can work fast enough!

You can roll them like cannoli shells and fill them with homemade whipped cream. Or you can shape them into bowls and add a scoop of gelato! They could even be folded like a taco shell and stuffed with berries and cream!

And, obviously, they can be enjoyed plain, too!

So here’s my take on a Chocolate Pizzelle for you to enjoy. You’ll notice that they don’t have the traditional anise flavoring (or any flavoring!), but you can add it if you’d like. Orange or peppermint flavoring would taste especially good

Chocolate Pizzelle:

  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour (I like King Arthur)
  • 1/4 CUP unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar, no lumps
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled (I prefer unsalted butter in my baking, but if you don’t have it on hand, you can substitute regular butter and adjust the salt in the recipe)
  • Water to adjust the thickness of your batter

If you are a purist and want to make your pizzelle the “old fashioned way” the ingredients are much the same

Classic Pizzelle:

  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup of granulated sugar, no lumps
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • Stick of melted unsalted butter, cooled
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. anise extract (you can substitute almond or even vanilla extract, but anise is the most traditional)
  • Water to adjust thickness of your batter

A few hints:

  • It’s important you start with the right consistency batter, so after mixing all the ingredients slowly add water until you get a thick batter….you don’t want it too watery
  • Heat up your iron thoroughly and then spray with cooking spray so your cookies won’t stick
  • Don’t use too much batter for each cookie! I used a standard table spoon and put the batter in the middle of both cookie Wells
  • You should stay with your cookies as they are cooking! They only take about two minutes and you CAN definitely over cook these. When you open the iron, the cookies will be pliable. You will learn as you go…it’s like pancakes!
  • The cookies will remain pliable once removed from the iron, but not for long! Seriously…like ONLY a few seconds. So if you want to shape them, have your tools–little bowls, medium sized rolling pin, funnel–ready BEFORE you take out the hot cookies
  • The iron gets hot…BUT (unfortunately) the best way to remove the cooked pizzelle is with your hands…another reason to work quickly
  • Only add one teaspoon of extract to this recipe and only if you want to! Pizzelle are not suppose to be super sweet, but subtle. The chocolate flavoring really came through without any extract and was made for a very nice “adult” cookie (therefore MO shunned them! Haha!)
  • It’s traditional to dust pizzelle with confectioners sugar, but it’s not necessary…they shouldn’t stick together
  • Store your cookies in airtight containers or zippy bags and they will last for several days!

I hope you enjoy my recipes! And if you have an Auntie, give her a call! She is always happy to hear from you!

Please note: When I started my blog, I didn’t realize I would be sharing so many recipes. I am now in the process of figuring out how to make my recipes printable, so please bear with me until I can figure that out!

life

Leftovers

Let’s talk leftovers.

I came from a far away place called the 70’s. During that time, most moms were “stay at home” and many didn’t have cars. Our moms did their marketing once a week and usually purchased enough for breakfast, lunch and supper for the entire family, which usually included a special meal for Sunday after church. Yes, in that far away place, we all went to church on Sunday morning, even if you weren’t feeling like it!

We rarely went out to eat as this was reserved for “special occasions”. Furthermore, the idea of “ordering out” was just foreign to those of us that came from the 70’s…and I am being totally serious here! On rare occasions, my dad might suggest getting a pizza–for example, if it was just “too hot to cook”–but, even then, he would drive to the local pizzeria, order and bring it home. Keep in mind microwave ovens were just being introduced in most homes then and they were still strange and possibly dangerous, too. One of my neighbors insisted that we do not stand in front of theirs while it was “in use” because, well, “radiation”.

The 70’s was a strange place, indeed. 😉

But–getting back to my point–when I was growing up, food came from your kitchen and was usually produced by moms. Sometimes you’d be lucky and have a mom that was a really good cook or even a bit inventive. Sometimes not. Sometimes moms would have a rotating schedule, similar to a school lunch menu, but usually without an alternate. Your alternate was “take it or leave it” usually. My point being she would churn it out and we would all sit and eat at the same time…no tv, no devices, just conversation and eating. Isn’t that weird?

Invariably there were leftovers. Sometimes it would be just a tiny amount of food, but it was food and we never threw it out; it would be saved. Maybe it would be a spoonful of peas & carrots. A slice of ham wrapped in tinfoil, perhaps. Occasionally there might be some rice no one could eat.

And we kept it all! What’s weird is we never ate these leftovers the next day, because it was Wednesday and it was spaghetti day. So she would collect all these bits of leftovers in tiny Tupperware or Pyrex fridge containers, which would sit in the fridge for a couple of days. And, on Saturday, she would take all the leftovers and heat everything up to go with our hamburgs (you heard me…that’s what we called them) which were cooked in the broiler on a tinfoil wrapped broiler pan that no one liked to clean. It was a potluck of sorts and, I have to tell you, it was our version of being adventurous.

These days I am hearing and seeing dinner being handled in far different ways and it’s sort of scary and strange. What about the leftovers? Where are those weekly “pot lucks” of days gone by? Do people actually throw food away now? What do you eat with your Saturday night Hamburgs?

As a single mom of one child, I must admit I have struggled with the idea of “family meals”. It seems odd making a full meal that your child won’t eat and I have no desire to eat what he does most of the time. Lately I might cook something big–like a pot of soup–and eat that every night for a week, while–at the same time–being a short order cook for MO. It sort of works for us right now, but it does change my ingrained beliefs about leftovers.

I suppose that’s why I get really excited when Thanksgiving or Christmas rolls around. Suddenly I can have a conversation with an adult! I can show off my culinary skills! I can have…LEFTOVERS!

Autism · Cricut · life

Why Kindness *Still* Matters

Let’s face it, it’s been a pretty rough year for a lot of people. The news alone can cause even the most optimistic person reason to lose hope. And, unfortunately, all the online back biting and label throwing has truly interfered with daily life. It’s made me pretty grumpy a few more times than I’d care to admit, which has forced me to think about the true nature of people.

However, recently I’ve had a few experiences that have reassured me that kindness–once very commonplace in workaday life–still exists and, more importantly, still matters to us all.

Yesterday I went to see my old friend and amazing chiropractor, Dr. Scott Kline, from Back on Track Chiropractic. My neck and lower back have been zapping me of energy for a while now and regular visits to his clinic really have been helping me get around much easier.

Dr. Kline’s office is fairly open and you often interact with other patients during your visit. When my son MO and I arrived, we couldn’t help but notice the extra large flatbed truck in the parking lot and said “hello” to the truck owner when we got inside. A few minutes later, Dr. K asked me–sort of out of the blue–if I had ever taught at one of the local schools and I replied that I had been a “para” at the high school a while back, but for a short time.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, the truck driving young man was a former student of mine–with a very good memory–and came over to chat with me. I was SO happy to hear my help with Algebra actually helped him in his daily life and that he had remembered me for the kindness I showed him in the special ed classroom. I was even happier to know that a once somewhat troubled kid had built a wonderful life, complete with a talented and darling fiancé, in spite of some educational setbacks.

It was a true “A HA!” moment for me, helping me to understand that even the smallest actions can have a big impact on someone else.

After the young couple left, Dr. Kline–being the terrific guy he is–took some time to interact with MO, telling him a few jokes and asking him questions. This is his usually modus operandi (M.O.!) so I just listened to the conversation. But then I was nearly floored when Dr. K surprised MO with a wonderful gift of an inversion table!

Now…Dr. K said the gift was because I had been so helpful to Debbie with her new Cricut Maker, but I knew better. Dr. Kline is just a REALLY nice guy! He has a heart of gold and he knows MO struggles a bit without having good male role models around. This unexpected gift was an investment in my son. A “kindness seed” if you will.

Needless to say, MO and I were both tickled PINK at his gift! But beyond that, I truly felt the love of another person reaching out to a young boy–who has had his share of troubles–for no other reason but to sow a seed of kindness that will hopefully grow and bear fruit in the future.

As MO and I sat in the car–inversion table carefully stowed between us–we marveled at the extraordinary gift we had just received. MO exclaimed with great enthusiasm “I am SO HAPPY!”

And the beautiful thing was, I know he was. I really know he was!

And so I see–from a chance encounter with a former student and an unexpected gift from a good doctor–how kindness can and does matter. In spite of all the chaos in the world…in spite of the anger and vitriol coming across from everywhere…kindness can make a huge difference in our lives and the lives of others.

I’ve got a renewed interest in spreading love and care to my little corner of the world, and I hope–after reading this–you might feel the same. Won’t you join me in this important and life changing crusade? Won’t you reaffirm your pledge that “Kindness Matters” in your life and the lives of others?

And, one last note, if you are local to me (North Shore area of Boston) and need a little help with some back, hip, neck or knee pain, please consider making an appointment with my friend, Dr. Scott Kline at Back on Track Chiropractic in Peabody.

While I can’t promise gifts, I can tell you you will receive the most caring treatment around!

Autism · life

Election Day with My Au-some Kid, MO

Sushi
Lordy be!  This child of mine is just too precious for words!

From the moment he awakes–often by jumping out of bed–to when he falls asleep, MO is in motion.  And talking.  Moving and talking.  All day, every day.  He’s got only one setting–ON!

Yesterday–being Election Day–MO had no school. He decided to come with me to vote and do errands.

We vote at a church that is located across from my dear Auntie Anna and Uncle Sal’s old house.  The neighborhood has changed a lot and I start to reminisce with MO. “Do they live there now?” he asks, to which I reply no.  He’s not interested.  He laughs and says he “doesn’t need a history lesson”.

When we go inside, nearly everyone knows us from his days in public school, so he delights them by talking about his new school and then turns their attention to the pocket on his too-small shirt. He says he wears the small shirt because it has a pocket and he thinks pockets on shirts are “the wave of the future”!  He also states he prefers his new school, because “lunch is free there–not like in public school–and they serve breakfast, too!”

Finished voting, we set out for the electric company down the street.  Along the way he says he’d like to “visit that place where we got the RECYCLE stickers” (meaning our City Hall) and asks if we “know” the mayor.  I say, yes, we know him.  His name is “Teddy” just like our dog.  He asks me why I don’t run for mayor, because he thinks he would like it if I were mayor.  (Watch out, Ted!)   He likes the idea, because he thinks he would then “know everyone in the city” and wouldn’t that be great!  Plus it would “give me something to do during the day”…because, you know, I simply do not have enough to do!  As he is pitching the mayoral job to me, he exclaims: “Imagine all the paperwork you’d have to do!” as if that were a super big draw for me deciding to run for office.

Arriving at the light plant, he spies a rocky wall and a few trees and asks if he can climb outside instead of going in. I agree. When I am finished, I don’t see him. But he quickly responded from behind a tree when I call him. He says he needs hiking boots (he does) to climb the terrain next time.  He tries to decide when the “next time” will be.  He thinks maybe Saturday, that is if I can get his new boots by then.

Off we go to the post office, where he climbs one of trees there.  We go inside and he finds a pen, which he puts in his trusty shirt pocket, delighted in his “prize”.

He notices how many Snoopy cards they have on display.  I tell him I love the Peanuts and he replies with great animation: “I know! Believe me, I know!”   He then decides to re-enact the scene when Lucy gets kissed by Snoopy and has a good laugh as he exclaims: “Get the iodine! Get the disinfectant!”

When it’s our turn, I ask for bird stamps and he inquires if they are sticky backed. He says they must be sticky backed because “he doesn’t want them to fly away”.  He waits for the postmistress to get his little joke, but she is all business today.  Oh, well.

Leaving the post office, he climbs the tree again and points out another one he thinks he could climb.  He thinks he could break off one of the limbs if he “weighed 200 pounds or so” and then we get back in the car and head for the mall.  Along the way, he asks if we can have sushi and perhaps look for a new jacket, because it’s getting cold out.  He is, after all, wearing his beloved but too small short-sleeved shirt!

At Old Navy, he picks out a vest and tries to convince me he can wear a small.  We settle for a large one in camouflage green with fluorescent orange trim.  Seconds later he found a buffalo check hunting hat–complete with faux fur ear flaps–and refuses to take it off.  I guess we are adding it to the list.  We also find red slipper socks and women’s pajama bottoms with Christmas sweater wearing dogs all over them.  One is a corgi, so we HAD to get them.  He casually says I can hem them.  At the check out he also gets a pack of Pop Rocks–red–he prefers blue. Could I try to find him blue ones tomorrow?

At the sushi restaurant, he waits very impatiently for his order.  Apparently it isn’t a good thing that they make his food “to order”, because it is taking way too long to be prepared.  He gobbles the four pieces of ebi nigiri (🍣 sticky rice with a butterflied cooked shrimp on top) and wants more.  I ask him how much more and he asks for eight more.  Eight more pieces?  So, four orders?  “No” I say “that’s too much” so he settles for 2 more orders, which is 4 pieces.  He wonders why the sushi chef gives him the pickled ginger (Ick!) and carefully removes the ball of wasabi paste and places it on my plate.

After gobbling down EIGHT pieces of ebi nigiri 🍣  he says he is full and we are headed home.  On the ride home, he decides he wants more sushi. “Can we go again? Maybe not tonight, but soon?  Maybe tomorrow? Okay, how about Friday?”

When we get home, he wants to try out his new stuff.  He decides the buffalo-checked and faux fur-lined hunting cap goes perfectly with his camouflage and orange vest.  He adds a different short sleeve shirt, which also has a pocket because “wave of the future” and all.  For good measure, he dons the new slipper socks and pajama bottoms–“too long, so can you hem them now?”–and decides this will be his ensemble for tomorrow.

It’s only six o’clock the night before he plans on wearing them to school.  With the hat, vest, pj’s, slipper socks and snow boots, he becomes hot.  I suggest he put something else on until tomorrow, but he decides he’d rather turn on the air conditioner.  All dressed up in his new attire, he hunts for his “dog tags” and then proceeds to tell me all about the history of dog tags, in case I didn’t know.

Eventually I convince him to peel off the new clothes and get ready for bed.  Bedtime is the hour or so before he actually falls asleep when he repeatedly turns on all the lights in every room and I follow him around and turn them all off.  It doesn’t matter how many times I tell him to turn off the lights, he still leaves them on and I still follow him around and shut them off.  This happens every night at least three times before he is ready for bed.

After he wrestles with Ted E. Bear on the bed–with socks on his hands to protect them from random nips–he finally (finally!!) just <boom> closes his eyes and is asleep.  Like I said before–there is no speed adjustment switch.  There is only OFF and ON.  You get one or the other.  Believe me, I’ve checked!

Are you tired?  I know I am and I haven’t even included all the things I did around him!  I wonder what other people do with twelve year old, autistic boys on their days off.  But I also think about how boring my life would be without him. He sure is colorful!

I thank the Lord for such an energetic child and think about “all that paperwork!” I might be trying to do as the elected mayor.  I’m happy to let Ted take care of it for a few more years!

Autism

The Big Reveal, Part 1

I’m sort of “new-ish” to blogging.

I say “new-ish”, because I used to have a blog when I ran my own business, but I’m finding out the Blogging World changed quite a bit when I was “on sabbatical”.  It seems everyone is about “monetizing” their blog; in other words, making money from their writing…turning it into a “cash cow”.  This has set me back some as I try to establish what I want to achieve here.

Please don’t get me wrong!  I am all about loving your work and making your passions be your career, but I didn’t re-start my blog to make money.  I started this blog to talk to everyone, or no one, or just myself about what brought me to this particular place in life.

So–in case you missed it–here is “my story” up until now in a nutshell:

Successful woman in her 30’s wakes up one day and finds out she can no longer live the life she created as an executive in a local company.  One day, when her new boss–who seems hellbent on destroying her– pushes her a little too hard, she cracks.  Into a million pieces.  She just couldn’t  “pull it together” anymore.  And, strangely enough, she doesn’t want to.  She has a weird life changing experience that affirms she can no longer continue faking everything.  And, to make things interesting, a few weeks later she finds out she is pregnant with her first child.  

She spends her pregnancy trying to figure out what went wrong and coming to the realization that her dysfunctional husband has become severely addicted to several substances and has no interest in changing himself.  After several scary episodes with her druggy husband, she realizes she must toss him out to save herself and her infant son.  Of course, the husband does not go willingly or without causing some major financial and emotional troubles.  

The woman spends nearly ten years of extreme lows (and a few highs) trying to reinvent her life, because she can’t go back to the old life.  By the age of 2, her son is diagnosed with autism.  So now she has to figure out how to take care of her autistic son, how to survive on her own, and how to figure out why this happened to her.  Along the way, she finds out she, herself, has been living with Asperger’s all her life, which only adds to the “hot mess” that her life has become.

Seriously…how do you “monetize” that?  How do I even blog about it?  I literally lived 80% of my life not knowing what autism was, and now I’m finding myself looking backwards and forwards at once; examining my past through this lens called Asperger’s so that I can figure out how to make my son’s future better than I had it.

When you spend almost 40 years not knowing you have a disorder, it can be a weird experience when you suddenly find out that you now have a reason WHY you do or say things.  Yes, I know, the horrific stuff should have been a clue…a BIG clue…a recurring clue.  But, most of the time, I just didn’t understand what I did to mess something up. To keep my sanity, I told myself I was good at some things and bad at other things, just like everyone else; I never claimed perfection.  Sure, I had some pretty remarkable gifts, but they got balanced out by my inability to relate to people.

How did I make it through college?

How did I land an awesome job, travel, develop some amazing talents and hobbies?

How did I survive all those horrific relationships and experiences?

-To Be Continued-