There really isnt any place like home for the holidays! I love all the warm smells and holiday baking that goes on in my house! I think as I get older I feel like being at home and spending time with my family more and more. Maybe its the ‘getting old’ thats getting to me haha. I think it’s also the traditions that my family has – stuff we do every year – like put up the Christmas lights right after Thanksgiving, decorate the fresh tree the same way since my sister and I were born, presents under the tree, all the baking we do, nightly walks around the neighborhood to see our neighbor’s lights, drives around Lodi to check out Christmas lights… the list goes on and on! What are your family traditions during the holidays? On top of those regular traditions, we add new traditions every so often – for example, this year I baked some baklava and gave it to our neighbors to spread some good holiday neighborly cheer! I love how I live in Lodi and you can just walk to anyone’s house. Ever since our house got burglarized last year all of us neighbors have watched each others backs and have really stepped up in helping each other. I really hope when I get out into the real world and have my own house that I would live in a community just as friendly and welcoming as my own in Lodi. With all that said, what are you up to for the holidays and what are some of your traditions?
I had pistachio baklava at a Lebanese cafe in SD last week and didnt realize it was a holiday treat! Baklava is made of nuts and syrup and this thin phyllo dough! It lasts a long time without going bad and it’s easy to pack and cut. I hope you enjoy making it! It really isnt that hard! 🙂
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup honey
4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp cinnamon (or 2 cinnamon sticks)
1 tbsp fresh orange peel (I used a slicer and just sliced a few pecks)
1-2 tsp vanilla
1 cup water
1 package phyllo (fillo) dough (I bought Athens brand fillo dough) (There were 2 packs in there, use 1 pack)
**When you are layering the nuts or doing something else, place a plastic wrap over the dough and place the damp towel over it. Phyllo dough dries out quickly!**
3 cups walnuts, grounded
1 cup pistachio**, grounded
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 stick butter (12 oz), melted
**If you dont have pistachio, you can use all 4 cups of walnuts, or a mixture of pecans and walnuts!
1. Using a food processor or pounder, grind the walnuts and cinnamon until they are grounded.
2. Toast the walnuts for about 10 min in 350 deg oven. Just slightly toast, dont burn them!
3. Grind the pistachios. Set aside 1/4 cup ground pistachio. Mix the rest with the toasted walnuts. Set aside.
4. In a medium saucepan, mix the water, sugar, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, and orange peel. Let simmer until reduced to about 2 cups. It will still be watery, so dont reduce it to a thick syrup. It is a slight syrup. Set aside to cool to room temp.
5. Preheat oven to 350 deg.
6. Remove phyllo dough from freezer and let thaw overnight in the fridge. Take out of fridge and let sit on counter for 1 hour.
7. Prepare a damp towel. Set aside.
8. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9×12 baking pan. Set aside.
9. Open the package and with careful hands unroll the packet of dough.
10. Butter the 1st sheet of phyllo dough. Place the sheet butter side face down into the pan.
11. Add a 2nd sheet (unbuttered) of phyllo dough on top of the first.
12. Butter the 3rd sheet of phyllo and place the sheet butter side face down onto the first two sheets.
13. Add a 4th sheet (unbuttered) onto the 3rd sheet. Butter the TOP of the 4th sheet. **When you are layering the nuts or doing something else, place a plastic wrap over the dough and place the damp towel over it. Phyllo dough dries out quickly!**
14. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the nut mixture.
Here is where we are now:
Buttered sheet face down in pan
Unbuttered sheet on top of that
Buttered sheet face down
Unbuttered sheet on top of that
Butter the TOP of the 4th sheet
Layer of nuts
REPEAT 2 more times, ending with a layer of nuts.
15. Butter the 13th sheet of phyllo. Place sheet butter side face down on top of the nuts. Butter the last 3 sheets and placing it butter side face down.
16. Butter the top of the last sheet.
17. Cut into diagonal squares (rhombus).
18. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 min, until golden.
19. Once you take out the baklava from the oven, immediately pour the syrup onto the baklava. Sprinkle the last 1/4 cup of pistachio on top.
20. Let sit overnight to cool.
21. Serve!!! You did it!