Lost In Thought

I was sent home from work tonight because of low volume.

The night started off on a high note. One of my co-workers stopped at an Italian bakery and brought me some pignolata! It is a Sicilian dessert that I blogged about 5 days ago. I was excited to dive right in. Naturally, I had my reservations. My grandma never used sprinkles, and this batch has them on it.

I asked my co-worker if she wanted to try it. She stated she bought some for herself and a friend and had tried it. She was not impressed. My heart sank. Now, I had to try it. I was disappointed. It was similar, but no where close to grandma’s. There was not enough honey, not enough chocolate chips, and no powdered sugar. Sigh.

As I drove home, I passed the town Christmas tree. It was already lit. Stupid Covid. Every year, our little town does a tree lighting ceremony. Santa shows up, there is a parade where the high school band marches down main street, and the shops are open with baked goods and hot chocolate. Afterward, there are some games and other activities. Obviously, this didn’t happen this year. What a shame! I really enjoy doing that with the family.

I came home to to a quiet house, turned on the Christmas lights and thought about how different things are gonna be this year. It makes me sad. It makes me hope that there will be some sort of “normal” by next year! Kids shouldn’t have to talk with Santa through a bubble or behind glass…

It seems that every time I open my Facebook, a friend has lost someone dear to them. One friend has literally posted about one friend passing away and within an hour, she posted another friend had passed away, too. Too many friends have lost parents or children this year. Many of these aren’t even Covid related! There is so much sadness.

I feel like my prayer list grows bigger and bigger every night. I pray for those friends who have family members in the hospital. I pray for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. I pray for those who have struggle because of the loss of employment. The list goes on and on. I will keep praying …

My cousin summed things up recently when she posted this…

Before you start bragging that you’ve done your Christmas shopping and post a picture of 175 wrapped gifts under the tree, please remember :

Some parents have lost their jobs and don’t know how they’re going to feed their kids, never mind buy presents for them.

Some families are on 80% pay and only just managing to pay bills. 😔 (Some are making less than that, or trying to make it off unemployment!)

Some people have lost family members and Christmas won’t be the same now or ever again. 💔

Some people don’t go online and now have no idea when or how they’ll be able to shop.

Some people are completely isolated and alone, and won’t be receiving any gifts from anyone at all.

Some people are fighting for their lives!!! Christmas shopping is the last thing on their minds. So remember, nobody likes a show off!!!

For me this year, more than ever before, it’s more important who is around your tree rather than what’s under it.

Be humble. Be thoughtful. Be kind. That’s what the holiday season is really about.

Here’s a Christmas Treat I Miss

As a child I always looked forward to my grandma making Christmas treats. She made hundreds of cookies every year! Another treat she made, which I was thinking about this afternoon was “pignolata.” Pignolata is one of the most popular southern Italian sweets made for Christmas. It used to be made in Sicily usually during Carnevale (similar to mardi gras), but is now also made during Christmas. You can find pignolata in different parts of Sicily with different names: pignocata, pagnuccata, pignolata, and in other places it was called struffoli.

So what exactly is pignolata? It is basically fried dough balls drizzled in honey. Every recipe I have found uses candy sprinkles on top. My grandma’s version always had chocolate chips in it, and never had sprinkles. She’d have powdered sugar on top and we could always find it in a pie tin, covered in plastic wrap. It was delicious! I remember one day, my dad brought a friend over and he ate an entire tin of the stuff!!

There is a little Italian bakery by my dad’s house that still makes it and sells it around the holidays. It costs a pretty penny (about $15 a tin), but worth every dime! It is also worth it because my grandma said it took a lot of time to make.

Pignolata

I found a few recipes online, but I am almost positive I have grandma’s recipe at home somewhere. If not, I know I have a few cousins who may have one. One day I would love to make this!!

If you are inclined to try, here is a recipe you can try. If I can find grandma’s – I’ll post it.

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 ¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour (extra may be needed)

Syrup

  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • zest of one large orange
  • 1 cup orange blossom honey
  • Vegetable oil to fry
  • Sprinkles

Instructions

To make the dough

  • In the bowl of a large mixer, beat eggs sugar, salt and oil.
  • Sift the flour into the mix and beat on medium speed with a dough hook until you obtain a soft dough. Add more flour as needed a little at a time if the dough is too sticky.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it until it is smooth.
  • Cover the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes.
  • Divide the dough into 8 pieces and roll into ropes (about ½ inch thick). Cut each rope into ½ inch pieces and roll the pieces in your hands (like you’re making meatballs) into little balls.
  • Toss a little bit of flour on the dough balls so they don’t stick while you roll the other pieces.
  • Heat oil in a large heavy saucepan to 350 degrees F.
  • Carefully add about 6 pieces of dough at a time and fry until they are evenly browned (about 3 minutes).
  • Remove the dough pieces with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel lined plate. Repeat process until you fry all the pieces of dough.

To make the syrup

  • In a large skillet, bring the sugar, water and orange zest to a boil. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves.
  • Whisk in the honey; reduce the heat to medium-high.
  • Add the balls and stir to coat them evenly with the honey syrup. Cook for about 5 minutes until they obtain a nice glaze.
  • Immediately place them on serving plate stacking them like a pinecone. Use caution as they are very hot.
  • Toss on the sprinkles.