Pop Culture

The Candy Holidays

It’s over.  I can breathe a sigh of relief.  You know what I mean.  The candy holidays.  No normal human being can resist the constant barrage of sugary treats that appear in September and last until April.

It starts with that damn candy corn and the “fun size” candy bars.  You can have a few because they’re so small, harmless really.  Yeah, right.  It’s only fun until you suddenly can’t zip up your favorite jeans unless you lie down on your bed and hold your breath.  Let’s say that by some small miracle you make it through Harvest without gaining any weight.  Now it’s the hap-happiest season and you’re surrounded by candy canes and chocolate Santas.  Be careful here or you might get sucked into the sugar vortex that leads to an obscenely gigantic heart-shaped box of caramel and nut-covered chocolates, and a bag of tiny red cinnamon candies that, if you eat one too many, will burn your tongue and leave the roof of your mouth numb.  Next you’re hopping down the bunny trail trying to dodge those pastel-shelled chocolate mini-eggs, (I refer to as “devil eggs”) and neon-yellow marshmallow chicks.

As alluring as all that candy is every time you go shopping at the supermarket, drugstore, or large retail chain, the real challenge, at least for me, is the day after Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter when holiday candy gets marked down to half-price.  Forget the allure of the candy itself.  Who can resist such a bargain?  Clearly, not me.

Easter Sunday has come and gone and here’s my dilemma:

What to do about those Peeps?   A friend of mine once told me of a long-standing tradition that took place at her ivy-league university.  After eating one or two of the gritty, sticky little things, the rest of the brood got put into the microwave.  To get nuked.  Until they exploded.  I swear I’m not making this up.

Summer’s coming and fortunately, there are no Fourth of July sweets to tempt me.

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Zitella's Favorite Recipes

Buona Pasqua!

Easter Tulips

Buona Pasqua means Happy Easter in Italian.  Saying it evokes vivid childhood memories of Easters spent at my grandparents’ house.  I remember each and every Easter dress, coat, and hat I wore.  But mostly, I remember the food.

An Italian-American immigrant, my father’s mother was old-school when it came to holiday cooking.  For Easter, she made lamb.  A whole baby lamb.  Maybe it’s a texture thing, but I’ve never cared for it.  Despite the accompanying caramelized roasted vegetables that decorated the large oval meat platter, the lamb looked like a small dog sprawled out on the good bone china.  It was enough to make my little brother cry.  “It’s a puppy!  Don’t make me eat it…”

My reward for suffering through the lamb was the Easter bread, called “cuzzupe.”  My grandmother and her sister each made it differently.  A serrated knife was needed to saw through my grandmother’s cuzzupe, which was intentionally dry and hard, to symbolize unleavened bread, while my Aunt Theresa’s cuzzupe was moist with a subtle vanilla aroma.  Regardless of which sister you asked, getting the recipe for cuzzupe was not an easy thing.  My mother eventually pieced together this much from them:

7 ½ eggs cuzzupe
1 stick butter
1 ¼ tbs vanilla extract
2 ½ tbs sugar
3 ¾ tsp baking powder
Salt
Add flour, a little at a time – enough flour to knead
confectioner’s sugar and egg white for the icing

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?  Why were they so specific about the SEVEN AND A HALF eggs, yet so vague about the quantity of flour?  Did they know just how much flour was needed simply by how the dough felt in their hands?

When I began hosting Easter at my house, I tried making the cuzzupe.  It was a disaster.  Luckily my mother has the patience, and she continues to make it every year, adjusting the recipe here and there.

Me?  I like a sure thing.  So I make the “cassata” or Easter cheesecake.  And I’m happy to share the recipe with you.

Easter Cheesecake recipered poppy

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