Tag Archives: Christmas

It’s beginning to smell and taste a lot like Christmas : Roasted Chestnuts and Marron Glace

22 Dec

Chestnuts are one of my favorite things about this time of the year. Their taste and smell take me back to my childhood, when I used to spend Christmas at my grandfather’s and his siblings ranch.


My grandfather was one of thirteen kids, all second generation Brazilians. His grandparents immigrated from Italy, and they met and got married in Brazil. They worked as farmers, and had thirteen kids. My grandpa would always tell me about their struggles growing up and how happy the kids were when they got a box of apples to share among them for Christmas. But they worked very hard, and became successful not even going to college.

Long story short, all the siblings owned a ranch together. And every year, for 17 years of my life I would spend my summer vacations there. And Christmas. Me, and all the 13 siblings, their children and grandchildren. You get the picture, over 200 family members. Yep! I would spend the whole year dreaming about spending my time with my family and cousins.

And one of our favorite things to do was to walk around the orchard and pick the chestnuts that had fallen off the trees and looked ripe. They are brown when ripe, and they are encased by a spiky shell that reminds me of a Sea Urchin. After filling up a few bags with chestnuts we would take them to our grandmothers and mothers who would help us take them out of the shells and make the most delicious “Marron Glace”.

Living here in California, I can easily of Italian Chestnuts at this time of the year. I usually roast them in the oven, and it is so easy.

Roasted Chestnuts

* With a shart pointy knife, cut a cross on the flat side of the chestnut. You don’t have to make a deep cut, cut cut slightly so when it roasts it bursts where the cut is, making it easy for you to peel them.

* Place them in a sheet pan layered with parchment paper, or use a Silpat. Place the sheet pan in a preheated oven to 400 F and roast them for 15 minutes.


If you fell adventurous and want to try my family’s Marron Glace Recipe (thank you Tia Ro):

* Just boil the chestnuts in a soft boil until they are al dente (about 30 to 40 minutes). You can also use them roasted, but the original recipe calls for boiling.

* In a medium sauce pan, make a simple syrup, using the same ratio of water to sugar, for example, 1 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water. You can use brown or raw sugar if you want to make it healthier. Let it come to a boil, put the chestnuts inside the liquid and turn it down to low. Add a few whole cloves. Let it simmer for 10 minutes, but be careful the liquid does not start to crystallize.

* Put everything in a glass container with a lid in the refrigerator. It keeps refrigerated for 1 to 2 weeks.


Bom Apetite!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Home

12 Feb
My nieces and nephews

My nieces and nephews

I love Christmas’ Eves. In Brazil, we celebrate Christmas on the 24th and the 25th. Growing up, the adults would lock us children up in the kitchen while they placed the gifts underneath the huge Pine Christmas tree that we had helped them decorate. Then, they would take us out of the kitchen and we would see Santa Claus driving up his tractor and shaking his bell, HoHoHo. Yeah, I said tractor. And it was no John Deerie.

You see, we always spent Christmas at a ranch my grandpa and his 12 siblings owed together. That’s right. So there was about 200 of us family; the elders, their kids and grandkids. And every year they hired a Santa Claus to come distribute the gifts on Christmas Eve.

Now the family ranch has been sold to one of his siblings, and we no longer spend Christmas all together. But my grandparents had four daughters, and my family remains very close. So every year we spend Christmas Eve at my aunt’s house. And every year, she hires a Santa. Only this time he doesn’t drive a tractor, he arrives walking. But still shaking his bell HoHoHo.

It’s always a tropical summer night. And now the new generation of kids (my nieces, nephews and cousin’s children) are so excited to see him. Only this time they don’t have to be locked up in the kitchen. We came up with a solution to this issue and just explain to them Santa Claus dropped the gifts before he arrived with the help of his reindeers and elfs. They take their place on the couch.They don’ t blink, or talk . They are on a trance that is only broken when their name is called by Santa.

And is so magical to see their enchantment, that one can almost believe it’s true. And it reminds me of my childhood, and that I am home.

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