December 14, 2014

Don't even think about buying me a Christmas gift...instead give to No Kid Hungry...

This is an interesting time of year. A two edged sword if ever there was one. Let's face it, most folks like getting gifts. I say most because I must admit, I am a terrible receiver. I am not gracious, prefer not getting a gift or card and rarely give them in return. Some though, enjoy the exchange of gifts, ripping through wrapping paper as if they are a drowning person struggling to breathe, opening a box of air.

Others, to their credit, truly enjoy giving gifts more than receiving them. Now that I understand, even though I'm the worst gift giver ever. Heck, just ask those who know me when was the last time they got a card from me, let alone a gift. I'm just not that guy. Meaningless platitudes on a card make no sense to me. I can't stand the endless commercials for products and 'things.' I loathe the shallowness of having to have the 'latest' whatever it might be that the media and countless ads splash on TV claiming I 'must have.'

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a Scrooge. Just because I rail against the shallow commercialism of the 'Holiday' season with its store displays for Christmas going up sometime around Halloween, doesn't mean I am anti-Christmas. I am actually all in for the Spirit of Christmas, even though I am far from religious. I love that 'tis the Season of Giving' thing. But, don't mis-understand, I'm not for that ridiculous, $1,395 Christian Loubertine pair of shoes made from a massage ball kind of giving thing. There is no one who can ever convince me they need or should have a pair of those moronic shoes. No I'm talking real giving. The kind of giving that changes peoples lives. The giving that comes not just on the holiday, but everyday. To those we love, or more importantly, those in need.

See, I think the season of giving should be all the time, not just when the retail world tells me it should be. (I am the same way with Valentine's Day, or any other 'manufactured holiday' for that matter, that tells me I should buy flowers or chocolates or take mom to brunch, etc, on a specific day, all designated to sell me something.) I believe that you have 365 days a year, every year, to show those you love and care about that you love them. And not materially. True giving to me is not about a thing, it's about an act. Giving your time. Your smile. Your hug. Putting down the iPhone or iPad and paying attention to someone, actually looking them in the eye, instead of looking down at a 3 x 5 screen.

Why tell you all this? Well, to announce that this year, I have determined to change my ways. I am going to give gifts...actually one gift...the gift of giving, and I ask the same in return. I'll be donating the cost of material gifts to No Kid Hungry in my family's name. If you feel the need to buy me a gift in return, I ask that you do the same. Give the cost of my gift to No Kid Hungry because I can think of no greater gift than giving a much needed, nutritious meal to someone, especially a child, who's hungry. For those not aware, this year over 45 million people in America will be food deficient at some point, and over 16 million of those going hungry are children. Every dollar donated will buy 10 meals for a hungry child.

Now, most of you are not on my list, nor I yours. but, in the spirit of the Holiday Season, I am asking you to step up with me, take the No Kid Hungry Pledge, join the fight against childhood hunger and do whatever it is you can to help. Make your gifts this year count for something more than just a piece of clothing, a pair of shoes or a piece of jewelry. This year give the gift of sustenance to those in need. There are three ways you can help.

First) Purchase No Kid Hungry holiday cards and help fight childhood hunger in America this holiday season. Celebrate friends and family with a holiday card and let them know you care about ending childhood hunger in America. 
Order Holiday Cards
Suggested donation $10 per card.

Orders should arrive within 7-10 business days. Orders received by December 17 are guaranteed for delivery by December 24.

Second) If Giving a physical gift is your preference, purchase the Perfect Gift that Gives Back This Holiday Season and help No Kid Hungry fight childhood hunger. Whether you're looking for a thoughtful gift for friends and family, or a way to make a difference this holiday, No Kid Hungry is offering the perfect gift that gives back – a Williams-Sonoma Cutting Board with iPad® stand, made by Orange Chef Co. Every cutting board purchased will mean another 450 meals for kids in need. This cutting board is the perfect gift for friends and family this holiday season.

Order Your Williams-Sonoma Cutting Board

Each cutting board is $75.00 and the cost of shipping is $13 per item.
Orders should arrive within 7-10 business days. Orders received by December 17 are guaranteed for delivery by December 24.
For those that would rather just donate on someone's behalf.

I thank you for your help and support, I call you all to action and finish by wishing you all a wonderful Holiday Season and Happy New Year. Let's make No Kid Hungry a reality in our lifetime!

All the Best,


December 04, 2014

Bolo Preto (Caribbean Black Cake) No ordinary fruitcake!

Traditional Fruitcake
All my life, I have cringed at the taste and smell of candied, dried fruits and chopped nuts baked into a sometimes moist (most times not) pound cake-like bread. Fruitcake! Yuk. I call them doorstops. I am a believer in the theory that there is actually only one actual fruitcake and it is re-gifted over and over and over again, year after year. But, I could be wrong.

The earliest recipe from ancient Rome lists pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and raisins, mixed into barley mash. In the Middle Ages, honey, spices, and preserved fruits were added and the name fruitcake was first used.

I was turned off even by the thought of fruitcake, that is until a few years ago, when my friend and muse, Elaine, the original Gourmet Girl, shared with me the most amazing, traditional Caribbean fruitcake recipe from her Aruban mom. While I was skeptical at first, after watching bottle after bottle of liquor added over a months time, I started to think, "Ok, this one may be different." This is Elaine's version and she calls it "Black Cake" and folks, it is truly amazing. Delicious, moist and unlike any traditional fruitcake I had ever tasted. But beware, unless you have a strong constitution, more than one piece will leave you a bit tipsy!

 For those that do not like fruitcake, this recipe is such a completely opposite version of what the term fruitcake conjures up in our mind. Moist, delicious, with marinated fruit that is soft, chewy and definitely not candied hard little bits of yuk. And, with all that liquor, this is definitely NOT a version to share with the kids. Unless of course you'd like a little piece and quiet. One piece ought to have even the most active child sleeping like a baby within the hour. (Okay you crazies, I see you sitting there thinking about that. That was just a joke! I am not advocating sharing a liquor infused fruitcake with children!)

The recipe is as follows and you should start now if you want to be on time for Christmas, as it takes up to a MONTH to soak the fruit properly!

Elaine Giammetta's Bolo Preto
Makes 1 large loaf  or 8 individual loafs (Individual loaf shown here)

Elaine Giammetta's Caribbean Black Cake
1/2 cup chopped prunes
1 /2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped dried figs
1/2 cup chopped dried dates
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup chopped dried peaches
1/4 cup chopped candied pineapple
1/4 cup chopped candied oranges
1/4 cup chopped candied lemons
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup cake flour (no need to add baking powder)
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 stick sweet unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 large eggs
1 Bottle of Amaretto (can also use brandy or cognac)
1 Bottle of Frangelico

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Put fruits and nuts into a very large plastic container (DO NOT USE METAL) Completely cover all the chopped fruits and nuts with the Frangelico and Amaretto. Cover tightly and put into a cool, dry spot. Let it soak for a minimum of one month, checking weekly to be sure that fruit remains completely covered with liquid. Add additional liquor as necessary as the liquor, even in a sealed container will evaporate. (We added at least 1 more bottle of each liquor) Told you this is NOT for kids!

After 30 days drain the excess liquid from the marinated fruit, reserving the liquid to use later. Cream together butter, sugar and vanilla. Beat eggs for 3 minutes on low. Add the sugar/butter mixture to the eggs. Add salt to the flour, slowly incorporate flour into the fruit/nut mixture. Gradually add egg and butter mixture to the fruit until you have the consistency of a cake batter. If necessary, add additional flour, being careful not to add too much, as the fruit mixture will be very ‘wet.’

Elaine Giammetta's Caribbean Black Cake
Lightly butter and flour baking pans. (I like to use the small individual loaf pans.) Pour batter into pans ¾ full. Cook until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Be sure to check on cakes periodically, if top begins to darken, cover with aluminum foil to prevent burning. Depending on the size of your pan, cooking time can take up to an hour (Bundt pan). Cool cakes completely. Using toothpick, prick the top of the cakes and drizzle reserved liquor over cakes. Repeat until all liquor has been absorbed.

WOW does that sound amazing or what? I have learned my lesson; always stay open minded and never count a recipe out until you’ve tried every imaginable version. I am now a believer! Viva La Fruitcake!

Happy Holidays and as always, 

Bon Appetit!

Image source fruitcake;