Tag Archives: charmellos

For Calling Birds

When I was younger I thought they were collie birds – dog birds as it were …


Lassie – best collie EVAH – just add some wings to make her a bird…..

Hey – there are Catbirds and Bird Dogs, aren’t there?


Green Catbird of Australia


English Setter trained as a bird dog


Bird Dog was also a hit single for the Everly Brothers the year I was born


Calling birds isn’t much clearer


Tweety Bird on a combination phone/alarm clock.

In some versions of the song, they’re colly birds, which just might be a black bird, colly another word for black, being related to coal, which brings us back to the collie dogs who herded sheep with noses that were black like coal…


Colly or calling, these birds have it covered

There were no birds of any other kind at my sister’s table Xmas day. We just don’t do turkey or goose for Xmas; we’re a lasagna/stuffed shells/manicotti kind of crowd

There were 4 generations of family, all present and accounted for, 30 some odd altogether.

There was food, glorious food.

I had my list to pack and take:

Cinnamon Rolls (Grandma B’s recipe made by her grandson); Shrimp Rings; Sweet Potato Chips and Marshmallow dip and Dunkin Donuts  coffee & ½ and ½ (notice how much is store boughten – and I didn’t really make the cinnamon rolls, I just provided space and equipment, and there were issues with each this year, just to keep things interesting. The next time I make the dip I’mma gonna try cream cheese instead of the sour cream, a suggestion/variation that came up at the table, but with so many talking about soooo much, I’ve lost track of who, but sounds great.)

None of this food was lonely when it got to the party….

There were charmellas and cannoli, although the cannoli had chopped nuts on one end and mini chocolate chips on the other, so they seemed to be trying a little too hard. Not that it slowed down their consumption any.




Nuts or chips – or melted chocolate dipped in chopped nuts

There were sugar cookies made from the package because that’s what we used to make, back in the dim dark ages, and no one is particularly fond of them (there is one brother who is a noteworthy exception) but we all expect them to be there and we all had one. Or two as the afternoon wore on…because it would be not quite as Christmassy without them;


The infamous cut out sugar cookie of our youth. Which is why we still need to have it.

The Santas had spread out to almost life-size size in baking

sugar cookie santa Pillsbury

Much MUCH bigger then a hand…the heads were almost head size

and the candy canes were


sugarcookie candy cane Pills

These are what they were supposed to be – but they spread out MUCH MUCH larger. And still we ate them.

We’re blaming on the unseasonably warm weather…we had a serious conversation about turning on the AC Xmas day. We didn’t, but it was an option. Almost everyone mentioned that they weren’t wearing what they had planned, but something more LESS.

There were also oatmeal cookies, and chocolate chip cookies, and cookies with white chocolate chips and dried cranberries mixed together, a gingerbread house made for eating…..there was a point where I couldn’t see the other end of the table and I didn’t care…..Pies, lemon meringue and pumpkin and homemade  arrived and were made welcome.

It wasn’t all sugar….there was fruit, too. Covered in chocolate…..

edible arrangements boxes

Oh, yes.

But it wasn’t just sugar

Nonnie meatballs and sausages, made ahead and kept warm in a slow cooker.

Pulled pork (a new addition and very nice, very nice indeed) in a slow cooker – my sister is a genius! (She takes after me.)

Calzones – chicken, cold cut – something with peppers….I was saving room for the

Lasagna – and a bowl of sauce. Excellent Lasagna, not too cheesy, not to meaty, not too soggy noodlely – everything just right and very nice indeed. The sauce was also a good dip for the chips…..

This is just what I remember and not a complete list.

santa headband

It was not too hot for Santa headbands

and as for for calling turkey birds:


Hand made turkey call by Robert Clifft in Bolivar, Tenn. His Shop is called: ‘The Last Call’ . I read about him in my new  Xmas cookbook  Smoke & Pickles by  Edward Lee. More about Smoke & Pickles later……



Filed under Christmas, Dinner, Holiday

Italian Cookies

There are many Italian cookies. But over and over there is ONE cookie that means ‘Italian”.

Even in my family, the name is consistent, but the spelling is forever changing. Sometimes charmella, or sharmella or ciamellas…..

This is what they look like - most of the time......

This is what they look like – most of the time……


from Peter Brears – the same cookie is known as jumbles or jemellos in English.

Anise flavored with  anise icing and the all important sprinkles, confetinni, which are round sprinkles and bounce all over the kitchen….Often shaped round little snowballs, but could also be twisted rings or knots.

The knot shape

The knot shape

Italian Cookies

(Right, like there’s only ONE…)


½ # butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs, beaten

2 Tablespoons vanilla

4 cups flour

2 Tablespoons baking powder


½ box confectioners’ sugar

2 Tablespoons milk

1 Tablespoon anise extract


  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar.
  3. Add eggs and flavoring. Mix well.
  4. Blend in flour and baking powder. Work to form a soft pliable dough.
  5. Cut off pieces of dough the size of a walnut.
  6. Roll to about ½” thickness about 2 ½” long or a straight 2 ½” pencil shape.
  7. Bake in a 375° oven until lightly brown about 15-20 minutes.
  8. Cookies may be iced or left plain.
  9. Icing: Blend sugar and anise extract, adding milk slowly to form a soft smooth icing. Ice cookies while war, sprinkle confettini over top.

Anna Guecia, John Paul I Lodge, #2427 in

Preserving Our Italian Heritage. A Cookbook. Sons of Italy Florida Foundation. 1991. p. 177.

But, wait – there’s MORE…

Comments: I shape my cookies into knots, bake, then frost with vanilla flavored sugar icing and sprinkle with confettini or colored sugar.

Mary Lozito, Rev. Albert B. Palumbo Lodge # 2512


Comments: My cookies are shaped into bows, braids or knots and I use anise flavoring in the icing.

Josephine Ragone, Jerry Barletta Lodge #2502


Comments: I break off pieces of dough, roll out into a short pencil shape, then shape the dough around my finger to form a turban. I use fresh lemon juice to flavor the icing and top with red sprinkles.

Nancy Bonamo, Ft. Lauderdale Lodge #2263

Preserving Our Italian Heritage. A Cookbook. Sons of Italy Florida Foundation. 1991. p. 177. (KAF – Jan 2002)

Preserving Our Italian Heritage - I got this through the  King Arthur Flour catalog

Preserving Our Italian Heritage – I got this through the King Arthur Flour catalog

Italian Cookies

1 cup sugar (white)

3 eggs

1 stick margarine

1 cup water

1 teaspoon anise

4 teasp baking powder

4 cups flour

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Mix sugar, marg, eggs, flavor. Put in flour and baking powder + water . Mix until dough is thick. Add rest measure by teaspoons on floured board roll into balls bake on buttered baking sheet 5-6 min at 350°


4 Tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon anise

2 cups powdered sugar

Mix altogether. Frost when cool.

The oldest paper copy that I have from Auntie Elide. She handed out recipes to anyone who asked. But she wasn’t a recipe writer by training. I have at least three different versions, and my sister’s is another variation, and then there’s cousin Flora’s …..

The moral of this cookie is that sometimes a recipe isn’t enough – you have to make the cookie with the cookie maker. Bake with someone this Christmas season.

On the other hand with all the versions in the Preserving Our Italian Heritage there is definitely a through line. There is also a local company – Toni’s Own  – that makes a very nice version. The company is from Wakefield, Mass which is where Auntie Elide lived.They are now in Peabody

.Toni's own logo

Noble Pig has this version

Noble Pig has this version – click the link


Filed under Christmas, Holiday, Italian, Recipe