Thursday, December 4, 2014

Italian Wedding Soup and Keeping Up Traditions

I love traditions, but I also realize that not all traditions  need to be nor can realistically be carried on. We get older, get married, and more traditions are introduced in to our lives, we have children and want to create our own traditions. It's not possible to keep every tradition going. That's when it becomes important to pick and choose which ones will work for your family and which ones had the most meaning to you personally. Sometimes we do things because "well, we've always done this in our family". But if we're honest with ourselves, we don't enjoy it. Why stress yourself or others out by carrying on something for the sake of tradition when it means nothing but irritation to you.

As the holidays approach, take time to re-think the things you do for the sake of tradition. Be willing to adjust your expectations so that it is a time of peace and not chaos, hustling to get everything in and do everything on the list in a certain amount of time. Keep the things that mean the most, get rid of the things that don't. Do something new and different. 

This year I'm in to "simple". Life has been a bit "un-normal" lately and adjusting to a "new normal" has been tricky. I decided that I needed to simplify things. I simplified decorations, got a smaller tree (less money and less decorations). I let go of expectations and just decided to go with the flow. I didn't even put out any fall decor. 


Growing up our family was full of traditions. My moms side of the family is Italian, my dads side Slavic and for awhile growing up in Ohio (we moved to the Northwest when I was in 4th grade), family was all around and traditions abounded (moreso on my moms side than my dads simply because the relationships were closer on that side of the family). When we moved to the Washington we brought some of those traditions with us and others we left behind. Some we tweaked to fit our family's needs. When we lived in Ohio we would visit grandparents on Christmas Eve (on my moms side of the family that meant EVERYONE visited grandparents and the house was full to capacity and included some relative dressed up like Santa). Once we moved to Washington we made a tradition of opening one present on Christmas Eve, often a gift that one of the grandparents had sent in the mail. My mom used to make Oyster Stew every Christmas Eve, but when I got married, my hubby didn't care for it, so I switched it up to making Clam Chowder. My sister and I, up until I was married and moved out used to sleep in each other's room on Christmas Eve and were not allowed to come out until my dad had his coffee and his cigarette. 

Once we had our own kids we began some of our own traditions. Every Christmas Eve we used to drive around and look at Christmas lights then come home and eat clam chowder served in bread bowls. Christmas morning I make Cinnamon rolls for breakfast. A few years ago (wish I had thought of it sooner) I started buying my girls ornaments and when they move out on their own, they will have a collection of ornaments to take. My mom used to buy them ornaments every year when they were little, so they'll take those along too. There are certain cookies we make each year. I also make caramel corn, and my youngest makes fudge. 

Take time to create meaningful traditions with your family, and if your kids grow up and don't carry them on, be okay with that. 

Are you sitting there wondering where the stinkin' recipe is? Okay, okay, I'll get to that now. A TRADITION in our family was the making of Italian Wedding Soup. It was served at many events in our family. Contrary to the name, it's origin did not come because it was served at weddings, but the name was "minestra maritata" which means "married soup", meaning the ingredients meld beautifully together. Here's a site that talks about it. There are many versions of this soup but there is one common thing....it bursts with amazing flavor. 

A few weeks ago I wasn't sure what to make for dinner. I had ground beef and I knew I had veggies, and for whatever reason, Wedding Soup came to my mind, so I got on my phone, called my grandma (Ma as she is known to us) to find out what the ingredients were and set off on a fun and reminiscent journey. 
I used my grandma's tips, a recipe from Giada DeLaurentis and from an old Italian cookbook a friend gave me years ago. From those three sources I was rewarded with a super yummy soup. 

I remember my mom telling a story of how her Nana DiLuciano had a large table in her basement (I think) and she would have the grand kids roll the meat in to tiny, perfect meatballs, and if they weren't the perfect size and shape she would smash them with her hand and they would have to start over. 

Ingredients:

Meatballs:
1 lb. ground beef
1 egg
1 slice bread grated finely
1 tsp. Garlic powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Pepper
1/4 c. Parmesan Cheese
Parsley

Soup:
8 c. chicken broth (I was out so I used water with chicken bouillon)
1/2 onion chopped (more if you like onion)
3 carrots, sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
a couple good handfuls of escarole, spinach or kale
some form of pasta, if desired. I used mini bowtie pasta
1 egg
1 Tbs. parmesan cheese

Instructions:

1. Combine all meatball ingredients. Form small meatballs, anywhere from 1/4"-1/2" in diameter and set aside on a plate.
2. Combine all soup ingredients except spinach, noodles, egg and parmesan cheese. Bring to a low boil. Drop meatballs in to soup simmer until meatballs are cooked through, about 8-10 minutes. 
3. Add spinach and pasta (or whatever green you chose).

4. In a separate bowl, combine egg and parmesan cheese. Stir the soup in a circular motion, slowly drizzling the egg mixture into the moving broth. Using a fork, continue to stir to cause thin strands of egg mixture to form. 

5. Season soup with additional salt and pepper if needed. 
I don't typically measure  my seasonings unless I'm using a recipe and it specifies...I normally go by taste so feel free to play around with the amounts.  
So as you approach the holiday's, stop to think about the traditions you have. If you don't have any, I encourage you to come up with a few, enlist the help of your family to do so. 

With Joy UNquenchable,

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