Sunday, December 30, 2007

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

I can't help but think of my father whenever I see or eat pistachios. My father can easily polish off an entire bag of them. He'll sit in front of the TV late at night when everyone else is in bed with a dish towel in front of him and he would begin cracking away at each individual shell one by one. And every morning I was sure to find a nice little happy trail of shells leading to the garbage can as well as a few left over on the rug where he sat. What a mess!
I have since gotten married and moved out. And as much as I complained then, having to clean up that mess, I sure do miss being at home with him. His love of the pistachio has rubbed off on me and now my husband. So when I looked in my pantry one day and saw this HUGE bag sitting in front of me, I knew I had to do something about it! I grew tired of eating just a plain pistachio and wanted something "close to home." Being from an Italian family, we always had biscotti around the house so when I saw this recipe on I knew it was the perfect solution. I tweeked the original recipe a bit. And i'm very happy with the results. I cut down both amounts of pistachios and cranberries, omitted the aniseed and added a bit more lemon peel. I was able to satisfy my craving and send the rest home to dad! Enjoy!

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti


2-1/4 cups all purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1-1/2 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1/2 cup shelled natural unsalted pistachios


Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 1 large baking sheet with parchment paper. Sift first 3 ingredients into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in large bowl to blend well. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Mix in lemon peel & vanilla. Beat in flour mixture just until blended. Stir in cranberries and pistachios (dough will be sticky). Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Gather dough together; divide in half. Roll each half into 15-inch-long log (about 1 1/4 inches wide). Carefully transfer logs to 1 prepared baking sheet, spacing 3 inches apart.
Bake logs until almost firm to touch but still pale, about 30-32 minutes. Cool logs on baking sheet 10 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.

Carefully transfer logs still on parchment to cutting board. Using serrated knife and gentle sawing motion, cut logs crosswise into generous 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place slices, 1 cut side down, on remaining 2 prepared sheets. Bake until firm and pale golden, about 9 minutes per side. Transfer cookies to racks and cool.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

It's Peanut Butter Jelly Time! Peanut Butter Jelly....

A few weeks ago I decided to participate in the "What's Cooking Nestie Recipe Exchange" hosted by Katie of Good Things Catered. Basically everyone submits a tried and true recipe and in return everyone receives back a recipe that they are supposed to make and blog about. I was happy to get the recipe I did! I had just "flagged" this one in my December 2007 issue of Cooking Light Magazine. Being a huge fan of anything peanut butter, this was the perfect recipe to try for one of those wintery cold Sunday nights when you just want to sit in front of your TV, veg out and eat homemade cookies.....then pack up ALL leftovers and send with my husband to his job Monday morning! My butt & thighs will thank me later!

Note: Please read the recipe fully before baking. I have noted alterations that I made

Peanut Butter & Jelly Thumbprints
Cooking Light Magazine
Yield: 36 cookies
(alterations in the original recipe will be starred)


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter **** I'm a smooth PB gal!
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cooking spray
7 tablespoons seedless raspberry preserves
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and salt, stirring well with a whisk; set aside.

Place sugars, peanut butter, and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture to sugar mixture, beating on low speed just until combined.

Lightly coat hands with cooking spray. Shape dough into 36 balls (about 2 1/2 teaspoons each). Place balls 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Press thumb into center of each dough ball, leaving an indentation. Cover and chill 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°. (*** I have made many thumbprint cookies in my day, so instead of baking first then filling with the preserves as the recipe states below, I baked my cookies pre-filled with the preserves. I never tried the other method, I just know this one works very well for me. Do as you please!)

Uncover dough. Bake at 350° for 14 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove cookies from pans, and cool on a wire rack.

Place preserves in a small microwave-safe bowl, and microwave at HIGH 20 seconds, stirring once. Add juice, stirring until smooth. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon preserves mixture into the center of each cookie.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Tequila Christmas Cake


1 cup of water
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup of brown sugar
Lemon juice
4 large eggs
1 bottle tequila
2 cups of dried fruit

Sample the tequila to check quality. Take a large bowl, check the tequila again. To be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink. Repeat. Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar. Beat again. At this point it's best to make sure the tequila is still OK. Try another cup...just in case. Turnoff the mixerer thingy. Break 2 leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit. Pick the frigging fruit up off floor. Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers just pry it loose with a drewscriver. Sample the tequila to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something. Check the tequila. Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Add a spoon of sugar, or some fink. Whatever you can find. Greash the oven. Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fallover. Don't forget to beat off the turner. Finally, throw the bowl through the window. Finish the tequila and wipe counter with the cat.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Virtual Housewarming!

I'm very new to this whole food blogging thing and I've come across quite a few in the past few months. But I'll never forget the first one I ever came across. That would be Peabody's! I was in awe of not only her vast collection of recipes, but of her writing style and most of all, her photos. Her pictures will make anyone want to lunge into their computer screen and grab hold of her latest creation.

Due to some family and work related issues I was facing recently, I haven't had the time to catch up on some bookmarked blog posts. So it wasn't until early this evening I saw that Peabody was hosting a potluck style "virtual" housewarming party for her new home. I knew I wanted to "bring" something! With an almost empty refrigerator and a few minutes before I had to run out for some overdue Christmas shopping, I was able to put together a little appetizer. I'm bringing some not something I would typically bring to a housewarming party (I'm more of a baker than a cook!). I apoligize in advanced because I can do so much better than this, but I didn't want to miss this one!

Peabody, congrats on your new home! Enjoy!!!

Red Velvet Cupcakes

When it was time to bake something for our Thanksgiving dessert table, I knew I wanted to stay away from your traditional pumpkin/apple/pecan pie (even though I also made some pecan pie cookies, see below). I knew red velvet was the way to go. I have always been a fan, but wasn't sure my family had ever even heard of it. I was quite surprised, however, when people were asking..."Who made the red velvet cupcakes?" Again, it's not something my family normally had around any of our holidays and get togethers, but it was received well.
I've tried other recipes in the past, but when a fellow co-worker brought in a few of her cupcakes to sample, I knew it was THE recipe to use. With striking bright red coloring sharply contrasted by a velvety white cream cheese frosting, and a very subtle...and I mean subtle!... chocolate flavor, it's fun to eat as well as to look at. There is only one word to describe this confection and that is ....FABULOUS! I hope you enjoy!

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Paula Deen (original recipe here)

For the cupcakes:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

For the cupcakes:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.
In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


This pastry is one of my mom's favorite. Every bite reminds her of her life back in Sicily before she and most of the family moved to the states. During a recent baptism reception at the Brownstone in Paterson, my mom filled her plate with at least 5, and everytime she put another in her mouth, she recalled a different memory. I knew then that I wanted to try to re-create these for her. The perfect opportunity came up mid-November, and one night when I had the house to myself and no one to complain about the mess that I knew I was going to make, I got working on creating what I knew my mom would really enjoy and appreciate.
Overall, the end result was fantastic! The pastry shell turned out delicate and moist and the filling, with subtle hints of vanilla and lemon, was perfectly creamy and not too sweet. However I knew I did well when after my mom's first bite, called over my Zia Lucia (our family master baker) to show her what I did. Her thumbs up, as well as my mom's, mean the world to me, and that's just what I got with this recipe. Enjoy!

The following recipe is used as a "filler" for many Italian desserts. It makes about a quart and a half of filling.

Crema Pasticciera
(Basic Pastry Creme)

Recipe from La Cucina Siciliana di Gangivecchio by: Wanda and Giovanna Tornabene with Michael Evans

1-1/2 quarts milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Peel of 2 large or 4 small lemons, cut in one long strip each
8 large egg yolks, at room temperature
2-1/4 cups of sugar
2/3 cup cornstarch

Over low heat, slowly bring the milk, vanilla and lemon peel to a boil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, stirring occasionally.
Beat the egg yolks and sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the cornstarch and blend well.
Remove the milk from the heat and discard the lemon peels. Little by little, beat 3/4 cup of the hot milk into the eggs.
Slowly stir the egg mixture into the remaining milk in the saucepan, constantly stirring. When it is thoroughly incorporated, return the pan to high heat and let the crema boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until thick and creamy.

Side note: This recipe is easily cut in half. Crema pasticciera keeps well in the refrigerator for one day.


Recipe from "Concy" da Forum di Coquinaria: Pasticciotti
Non-translated version can be found here with step-by-step photos.

500 grams of flour
250 grams sugar
150 grams shortening
3 eggs
The peel of one lemon, finely grated
1/2 packet of lievito bertolini
1 recipe of crema pasticciera

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the flour on a large flouring board. Place the shortening in the middle of the flour and with your hands slowly incorporate them together. Mix in the lievito. Make a "hole" in the middle of the flour mixture and add in the eggs, sugar and grated lemon peel. Slowly mix in the flour mixture working your way from the inside of the hole to the outside, eventually forming a ball of dough. Wrap the dough and refrigerate for a half hour.

After refrigeration, roll dough to a 6/7mm thickness. Cut out the necessary sizes needed for the tart shells you are using. Place the dough in the tart shell and gently press in to make sure all nooks and crannies are filled. Put enough of the crema pasticciera in the shell to almost fill it to the top, do not fill completely! Cut out another shape of the dough large enough to cover the shell, and seal shut cutting away the dough that is left over. Brush the tops with some milk and bake at 350 degrees for about 20-22 minutes. When cool to the touch, remove from tart shells. When completely cool, dust with powdered sugar.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pecan pie....or not!

Two of my favorite things in life are:

1. Cookies!!!!

2. Pecan Pie

oh and husband of course! Sorry Enz!

My love of the common cookie is beyond measure. I mean what is there not to like about cookies? Your options are endless...crispy or chewy, chocolate or vanilla, topped or filled, dipped or sandwiched, bite-sized or super sized, topped with jam, filled with peanut butter, rolled in sprinkles, dredged in powdered sugar...I can go on and on! I freaking LOVE cookies and you will probably notice that most of my blogging will consist of cookies! Anyway back to my point! When I came across a recipe combining my two "loves" I knew it would be the perfect addition to our dessert table for this Thanksgiving. This recipe does not disappoint! Buttery, chewy & gooey, it's as close as you can get to a pecan pie while still keeping it simple and less traditional.

Cookie Ingredients:

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Filling Ingredients:

1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 p firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 350°F. Combine all cookie ingredients except flour and baking powder in large bowl. Beat at medium speed until creamy. Reduce speed to low; add flour and baking powder. Beat until well mixed. Shape dough into 1 1/2-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Make indentation in each cookie with thumb; rotate thumb to hollow out slightly.Combine all filling ingredients in small bowl; fill each cookie with 1 rounded teaspoon filling. Bake for 9 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I Think I'm Over The Rainbow....Cookies!

OK so I've had enough! I mean don't get me wrong they ARE phenomenal! But 2 batches in 2 days time is a bit much. Plus it took me over an hour last night to scrub off the red food coloring that EXPLODED all over me...not fun! Don't worry...not all went in my belly! My first batch (see below) was my last trial run just to make sure I perfected the recipe. That batch was then brought over to my aunt's house for the Feast of St. Martino. Batch number 2 is for my husband's lovely co-worker, Tian. She fell in love with them last year when I sent a tray of my homemade cookies to his place of employment and asked if I could bake her a few. Though I didn't get the chance to then, short notice (3 days before the holiday), I had the perfect opportunity to bake them for her for Thanksgiving. Tian, I hope you enjoy!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Holy Rainbow Cookies Batman!...errrr ummm I mean Shrek!

Growing up these cookies were a treat for my family. Because of time needed to make these, they were usually only served around the holidays. And by the time us "little" ones made it to the dessert table, they were gone...eaten...or snagged up by a few of my aunts that loved to hoard up (Is hoard even a word?) and package some food to take home for leftovers before everyone else got a chance to finish eating....which aunts they were...well i'm sure some of my cousins reading this know who they are! I decided enough was enough! I found a few recipes for these delectable little treats and after a few trials, I came up with the perfect recipe. And don't say I didn't warn you! The first time making these I guarantee your going to want to ripe your scalp off, but don't despair ladies and gentlemen! It gets easier after your first run and in no time you'll be popping these cookies out like something stuck between Mama's teeth. Ewwww sorry! I grossed myself out with that one. Enjoy!

Rainbow Cookies


4 large eggs

1 cup sugar

1 (8-oz) can almond paste

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

35 drops red food coloring
35 drops green food coloring

1 (12-oz) jar apricot preserves, heated and strained

7 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate chopped


Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 13- by 9-inch baking pan and line bottom with wax paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 ends, then butter paper. Beat eggs in mixer fitted with whisk attachment at medium-high speed. Add 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time. Transfer to another bowl.

Switch to paddle attachment, then beat together almond paste and remaining 3/4 cup sugar until well blended, about 3 minutes. Add butter and beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add almond extract and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low, then add flour and salt and mix until just combined. Mix in egg mixture.

Divide batter among 3 bowls. Stir red food coloring into one and green food coloring into another, leaving the third batch plain. Set white batter aside. Chill green batter, covered. Pour red batter into prepared pan and spread evenly with offset spatula (layer will be about 1/4 inch thick).
Bake red layer 10 to 11 minutes, until just set.

Using paper overhang, transfer layer to a rack to cool, about 15 minutes. Clean pan, then line with wax paper and butter paper in same manner as above. Bake white layer in prepared pan until just set. As white layer bakes, bring green batter to room temperature. Transfer white layer to a rack. Prepare pan as above, then bake green layer in same manner as before. Transfer to a rack to cool.

When all layers are cool, invert green onto a wax-paper-lined large baking sheet. Discard paper from layer and spread with half of preserves. Invert white on top of green layer, discarding paper. Spread with remaining preserves. Invert red layer on top of white layer and discard wax paper. Cover with plastic wrap and weight with a large baking pan. Chill at least 8 hours.

Remove weight and plastic wrap. Bring layers to room temperature. Melt chocolate in a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat. Keep chocolate over water. Trim edges of assembled layers with a long serrated knife. Quickly spread half of chocolate in a thin layer on top of cake. Chill, uncovered, until chocolate is firm, about 15 minutes. Cover with another sheet of wax paper and place another baking sheet on top, then invert cake onto sheet and remove paper. Quickly spread with remaining chocolate. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Cut lengthwise into 4 strips. Cut strips crosswise into 3/4-inch-wide cookies.

Cooks' note:Cookies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment, in an airtight container at room temperature 2 weeks.