Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Desserts

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The province of Chieti is a located in the Abruzzo region on the eastern coast of Italy. The province is hilly and mountainous with many valleys that run along the rivers and creeks. The northern part of the province is pretty desolate, while the southern part is dotted with numerous tiny villages.

The province has  quite a history.

It was first settled by the Osci people around 1000 BCE. The area was also lived in by the Greeks, who named it Teate. The province and surrounding areas were conquered by the Romans in 305 BCE, but after the fall of Rome in 476 CE, it became a Lombard fortress. The area had been occupied by the Franks, the Normans, the Swabians, the Angevins and Aragonese rulers until it was taken over by Charles V of France. Later, it was ruled by the House of Bourbon.

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The Caracciolo nobility rebuilt the area of Chieti in Medieval times. Ferrante Caracciolo began teaching his house staff his cooking techniques, a tradition that continued within the noble family’s household for centuries. Many of the well-trained cooks were sent all over Italy and to other countries to work for royalty and heads of state. This training led to the creation of Villa Santa Maria’s culinary and hotel management school. Every year in October the province is host to La Festa dei Cuochi (the Cook’s Festival) in which locals and visitors from the world over gather to celebrate the local cuisine.

During World War II, the area was the place of a battle between German and predominantly British and Canadian forces where over 2,000 civilians died and many of the towns were  destroyed.

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The area is well-known for growing saffron but it has a different flavor from the saffron used in Spain. The first saffron bulbs were brought to Italy in 1400 by a Dominican friar named Santucci,  who brought them from his birthplace in Spain. He successfully planted the bulbs in his monastery garden and the spice was used to flavor sauces and as a curative herb.

During the autumn harvest, the first presses from the olives are often infused with chili. This is known locally as olio santo or holy oil and used on the table during meals. To experience the significance of this spicy ingredient in the region’s cuisine, visit their famous chili festival held in late August in the small town of Filetto in the province of Chieti.

Lamb is the predominate meat in cooking, vegetables are abundant and there are a large variety of herbs and the use of hot pepper called Peperoncino. Seafood dishes include fish stews, fried fish and fish sauces served over pasta, as well as fresh-water fish, mountain trout and river shrimp.

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This is a cheese loving land and they produce a number of cheeses, many of them flavored with the local herbs. Among the most famous cheeses are provolone, both mild and strong, ricotta and pecorino (made with sheep’s milk).

Desserts tend to be simple and include torroncini (a hard candy), pies and cookies often flavored with amaretto, dried figs, cinnamon, chocolate and  pine-nuts.

And not to be forgotten are the fine regional wines, such as the red Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and the whites Trebbiano d’Abruzzo and Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo. Local liqueurs are also very famous, particularly the Amaro Abruzzese.

Italian Seafood Salad

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Serves 8

Ingredients

Dressing:

  • 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons red chili pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Seafood:

  • 1 1/2 lbs calamari rings
  • 1 1/2 lbs small fresh shrimp, peeled
  • 1 1/2 lbs bay (small) scallops
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 cups dry white wine
  • 3 lemons

Salad:

  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped yellow and red bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2 lemons, cut into wedges
  • Freshly ground black pepper for garnish

Directions

Combine the dressing ingredients and set aside.

In a large pot combine 10 cups water, the wine, bay leaves and crushed garlic. Cut the 3 lemons in half and squeeze the juice into the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the shrimp. Cook 2 minutes, then remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon or spider and place in a serving bowl.

Repeat the procedure with the calamari, cook 2 minutes and remove to the bowl with the shrimp.

Repeat the procedure with the scallops, cook 2 minutes and remove the scallops to the bowl with the shrimp and calamari.

Be sure to drain off any water that has collected in the bowl and return the fish to the bowl.

Add the celery and the peppers to the seafood, season with salt and pepper and pour the dressing over the mixture. Mix well, cover the bowl and refrigerate the salad for at least six hours.

Just before serving, toss the salad and add the parsley and basil. Garnish with black pepper and serve with the lemon wedges.

Crepes in Broth (Crespelle-en-brodo)

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Serves 6-8

Ingredients

Broth:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 lb chicken wings
  • 1 lb beef bones
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 large yellow onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 sprigs parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 plum tomato, cored and halved

Crepes:

  • 1/4 cup minced parsley, plus more for garnish
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 5 eggs
  • Freshly ground black pepper, for serving

Directions

Make the broth:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Working in batches, cook chicken wings and beef bones until browned, 35–40 minutes; transfer to a bowl.

Add the carrots, onions, celery and garlic to pan; cook until golden, 6–8 minutes. Return wings and bones to pan. Add parsley, bay leaf, tomato and 20 cups water; simmer, skimming as needed, for 4 hours.

Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean saucepan; keep warm.

Make the crepes:

Whisk the parsley, flour, cheese, oil, nutmeg, eggs and 1 cup water in a bowl until smooth.

Heat an 8″ nonstick skillet over medium-high. Working in batches, pour 2 tablespoons of the batter into the skillet while tilting the skillet to let the batter cover the bottom completely.

Cook until the crepe is golden on the bottom, 1–2 minutes. Turn and cook 1 minute more; transfer to a plate. Roll each crepe into a cigar shape.

To serve:

Divide the rolled crepes among soup bowls and ladle reserved broth over the top; garnish with parsley, Parmesan cheese and black pepper.

Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Lamb Ragu

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This type of sauce is usually served over spaghetti alla chitarra, a regional pasta that is shaped on a tool that resembles a guitar. Since most of us do not have such a tool, bucatini or perciatelli pasta is just fine.

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Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 (15 oz.) can whole peeled Italian tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 2 large red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and sliced
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced
  • 1 lb spaghetti alla chitarra or thick spaghetti
  • Grated Pecorino Romano, for garnish

Directions

Heat oil in a 6-quartt saucepan over medium-high. Cook lamb, stirring and breaking up the meat into small pieces, until browned, 6–8 minutes.

Add bay leaves and garlic; cook until garlic is golden, 2 minutes.

Stir in wine; cook until reduced by half, 2–3 minutes. Add stock, tomatoes, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, 35–40 minutes. Stir in peppers; cook until peppers are tender but not falling apart, about 4 minutes. Discard bay leaves.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente, 10–12 minutes. Drain pasta and transfer to the pan with the sauce. Using tongs, toss the pasta in the sauce. Divide pasta among serving bowls and garnish with pecorino cheese.

Ricotta Fiadoni

Samsung

Ingredients

  • 4 whole eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 8 ounces (200 g) fresh ricotta
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup candied fruit
  • Zest of a lemon
  • 2 shots rum
  • 2 tablespoons anise seed
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon lard or vegetable shortening
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, plus extra for the topping

Directions

Combine the 4 whole eggs, half the rum, half the anise, vanilla, lemon zest, the 1 tablespoon of sugar, the baking powder, and sufficient flour to make a homogeneous dough.

Combine the egg yolks, remaining rum and anise, raisins and candied fruit in a bowl, stirring well to mix thoroughly.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C).

Roll out the dough slightly less than 1/4-inch thick and cut out rounds with a round cutter or a glass. Place a tablespoon of filling on each round and fold them over to make half-moons. Seal edges with a fork.

Lightly beat the remaining egg white, brush the half-moons with it, sprinkle with sugar and transfer them to an oiled baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minute until golden brown.

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Cuneo (Italian) or Coni (French) is a province in the southwest section of the Piedmont region of Italy. The province has an interesting history. Nicknamed the town of seven sieges, it still retains the organization plan of a military town. It was once surrounded by massive walls, had large squares and contained magnificent palaces for wealthy aristocrats.

Originating in the 12th century, it was first built as a fortified town. Its location, in a naturally strategic position protecting the roads to France through the Tenda and Maddalena passes, made it a natural choice to be used as a military location. The French eventually demolished the walls and you can tell where the old walls were, as they are now the main streets in the province. During World War II, Cuneo was one of the main sites in the country of partisan resistance against the German occupation of Italy.

Pedestrian crossing and big plaza at city center under cloudy sky at rainy day in Cuneo, Italy.

Pedestrian crossing and big plaza at city center in Cuneo, Italy.

Sections of this province were part of France until 1947. Cuneo borders the French region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur on the west, the province of Turin on the north, the province of Asti to the east and Liguria to the south. It is also known as the Provincia Granda (the big province) because it is the third largest province in Italy and the largest one in the Piedmont region. It is also the capital of the province. This has created problems in the past for inhabitants in the eastern sections of the province, who are frustrated by the long trip to Cuneo every time they have business with the provincial government. The issue of dividing the province into two has been brought up several times.

Chianale (Cuneo, Val Varaita, Piedmont, Italy), old typical mountain village in the Italian ALps at summer

Chianale (Cuneo, Val Varaita, Piedmont, Italy), an old mountain village in the Italian ALps at summer

The province’s beautiful landscapes offer great variety that include valleys, hills and wildlife reserves. Some 75% of the area is mountainous. The Maritime Alps Natural Park with its high-altitude lakes and the Rio Martino Cave with its spectacular waterfall are distinctive sites in the province. Italy’s first forestry commission was established by the local government of Cuneo.

The economy is primarily based on the agricultural produce of the area, especially the wine industry.  Engineering, paper products, metallurgy, rubber and cattle also play an integral role in its local financial system.

The Tour de France travels through here, as well.  The Italian leg of the Tour often goes from Digne-les-Bains in France to Prato Nevoso in Piedmont, followed by a rest day in Cuneo.  From there, bikers head on to Jausiers in France.

The majority of the region’s winemaking (about 90%) takes place in the southern part of the Piedmont region in Cuneo, Asti and Alessandria. The best-known wines from the area include Barolo and Barbaresco. They are made from the Nebbiolo grape. The Piedmont region is located in the foothills of the Alps forming its border with France and Switzerland. In addition to the vast mountainous terrain, the Po Valley consumes a large area of the region. The valley and the mountains contribute to the area’s noted fog cover which aides in the ripening of the Nebbiolo grape (which gets it name from the word nebbia meaning “fog”).

Although the winemaking regions of Piedmont and Bordeaux (France) are very close in latitude, only the summertime temperatures are similar: the Piedmont wine region has a colder, continental winter climate and significantly lower rainfall due to the rain shadow effect of the Alps. Vineyards are typically planted on hillsides with warmer south-facing slopes.

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One of the most commonly used meat in the local cuisine is veal. It is the main feature of festivals, such as the Fiera del Bue Grasso, which attracts thousands of visitors in December each year. The province of Cuneo also produces Italy’s only pork-free sausage. Pig farming, however, provides the ingredient for the famous Cuneo raw ham, which also has a well-known cooked variety.

Il Grande Fritto Misto” (the Great Mixed Fry), one of the most characteristic dishes of the Cuneo region, is made with veal and pork, to which vegetables, semolina and fruit are added. Provincial meat products also include: Morozzo capon, Sambuco lamb and Langa lamb; Piedmontese blond chicken and Saluzzo white chicken. Famous products include the Alba White Truffle, Castelmagno, Raschera, Bra and Murazzano, Toma Piemontese, Grana Padano and Gorgonzola Are cheeses, which are all produced in the province.

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The cultivation and processing of chestnuts, both brown and white varieties, is a heritage of the area’s mountain tradition. They are used in pastry making and as an ingredient in other dishes. Hazelnuts are grown in the hills and form the main ingredient of Torrone di Alba and the region’s very famous glacè chestnuts and hazelnut cakes. “Alba torrone” (nougat); “paste di meliga” (cornflour cookies), which are also known as “Batiaje” because they are often made for baptisms and “baci di Cherasco” (hazelnut chocolates) are well-known desserts.

If you have a sweet tooth, Cuneo can help satisfy your cravings. The town’s specialty is Cuneesi al rhum, chocolates with a rum-based filling. The most widely known brand is Arione, a favorite of Ernest Hemingway.

Risotto with Hazelnuts and Castelmagno Cheese

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Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 14 oz (400g) risotto rice  (carnaroli)
  • 3 ½ oz (100g) hazelnuts
  • 3 ⅛ oz (90g) Castelmagno cheese, diced
  • 1 ¾ oz (50g) butter
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 ¼ cups (1 liter) hot broth (vegetable or meat)
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Toast the hazelnuts in a 350 degree F oven for about ten minutes. Cool and rub the skins off with a kitchen towel. Set aside.

Heat the butter in a deep saucepan and cook the onion until tender.

Add the rice and rosemary. Toast the rice for a minute then add the white wine.

When the wine has evaporated completely add a ladle of hot broth and stir gently with a wooden spoon until the broth is absorbed.

Continue adding the broth until it is all absorbed. Halfway through cooking add half of Castelmagno cheese and half of the hazelnuts.

When the rice is cooked, add salt and pepper to taste and the remaining the remaining cheese.

Garnish the dish with the remaining hazelnuts and serve.

Meatballs Cuneo Style

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground veal
  • 1 apple, peeled and grated
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red wine

Directions

In a bowl combine the veal, grated apple, egg and salt. With wet hands form small meatballs. Coat each one in flour and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan and brown the meatballs evenly, then add the wine. Cover the pan and cook over low heat for 20 minutes. Serve hot.

Peperonata

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 cup chopped canned Italian tomatoes
  • 6 bell peppers (3 red and 3 yellow) seeded and cut into ½ inch size strips
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • Salt
  • 1/2 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it softens, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, tomatoes, jalapeno and bell peppers and cook briefly. Add the red wine and salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Remove the lid and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, another 10 to 15 minutes. Check frequently toward the end of the cooking time, so the peppers do not stick to the bottom of the pan.

Stir in the herbs and taste for salt and heat through, about 2 minutes. Serve warm as a side dish.

Bunet di Cuneo (Baked Chocolate Pudding)

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Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup (250 g) sugar
  • 2/3 cup (50 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup (100 g) Amaretti cookie crumbs
  • 3 cups (750 ml) milk

Directions

Put the 1/3 cup sugar and water in a heavy skillet over a low heat. Stir with a wooden spoon and cook until the mixture is a syrup and the color of honey.

Remove from the heat and pour the syrup into a 9 inch loaf pan. Swirl the liquid in the pan around to coat all the edges.

Beat together the eggs and 1 cup sugar.

Add the cocoa and Amaretti cookie crumbs. Stir well.

Add the milk, stirring gently but thoroughly.

Pour into the loaf pan and set in a larger baking pan with at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) of boiling water.

Bake at 400° F (200° C) for 1 hour.

Cool to room temperature before chilling overnight.

To serve, slide a knife around the outer edges and invert onto a platter. Cut into thick slices to serve.

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Samsung

The Province of Campobasso is a province in the Molise region of Italy and is situated in eastern Italy on the Adriatic coast. It is bordered in the north by Abruzzo, in the southeast by Apulia and in the south by Campania. The terrain is varied and extends from the mountainous Apennines, down through hills, lakes and inland rivers to the Adriatic coast.

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The province’s mountains offer beautiful views and the forests are a natural habitat for a wide range of wildlife, including wolves and rare birds of prey. The province is also known as the perfect location for mountain climbing and for exploring a network of caves that have been carved into the limestone. Among the province’s most renowned places is Campitello Matese, part of the Municipality of San Massimo and a leading ski resort with outstanding courses and modern lifts.

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Campobasso boasts two nature reserves, the LIPU Oasis in Casacalenda and the WWF Oasis of Guardiaregia-Campochiaro. Those who love the seaside will appreciate the 24 miles of Adriatic coastline with its host of resorts.

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Beans, potatoes, grapes and olives are primary crops of the region. Durum wheat is also important to the region, so pastas are both hearty and abundant. Polenta dishes are common throughout the region. Because animals have been generally raised for sale, recipes are often vegetarian or use very small amounts of meat. Most dishes are prepared simply and use few ingredients.

Campobasso kitchen

Campobasso kitchen

Appetizers include soups made with legumes grown in the area, such as lentils, pearl barley and beans, especially fava.

Caponata is the dish that best characterizes Campobasso’s cuisine. It is made with wheat (tarallo) dampened with water and vinegar and flavored with tomatoes, celery, peppers, anchovies, black olives and boiled eggs.

Crioli con le noci is another specialty, dried cod cooked with chopped nuts, as is tacozze e fagioli, homemade pasta sauce with beans and pork rind.

Campobasso is also home to delicious sausages and cured meats: capicola or seasoned pork, ciccioli pork rinds, ham, pork sausage, salami, torcinelli (roulade, essentially of the “rest of the pig”), and pork belly.

The area’s woodlands are ideal for producing a variety of mushrooms, among them porcini, field mushrooms, gallinaccio and, of course, the renowned truffle.

Cheeses include caciocavallo, burrino, mozzarella and pecorino. Among the province’s most famous wines are Biferno (white, red and rosé) and Moscato.

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Bread with Broccoli Rabe

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 14 oz (400g) stale durum wheat bread
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 ¼ lbs (1000 g) rapini or broccoli rabe
  • Pinch salt
  • Black pepper or chili pepper

Directions

Slice the bread into ¼ inch (0.5 cm) thick slices.

Wash and clean the broccoli rabe.

Boil for 3 minutes in water to cover, add the bread and drain immediately.

Arrange the bread in layers along with the broccoli rabe. Dress with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper (or red chili flakes).

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Bean Soup

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ham bone
  • 1 cup bite-sized ham pieces
  • 2 large onions, halved
  • 1 whole large garlic, skinned and cloves smashed with the side of knife
  • Fresh or dried basil or both (to taste)
  • 5 large bay leaves
  • 5 large carrots, sliced
  • 2 whole celery stalks and 4 stalks sliced
  • 3 medium potatoes, cubed
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 lb dried navy or great northern beans, soaked overnight
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions

Simmer in large soup pot approximately 1 1/2 hours: the ham bone with enough water to cover, onions, garlic, basil, bay leaves, 2 whole celery stalks, salt & pepper to taste.

Drain beans and place in a large pot covered with water by three inches. Add the baking soda. Simmer for 45 minutes, then drain and change the water. Simmer for 45 minutes. Add more water if necessary. When the beans are almost cooked add 1 teaspoon of salt, drain and set aside.

Strain the ham broth and discard the bone and vegetables. Add the broth to the cooked beans, ham pieces and all the remaining ingredients. Simmer for approximately one hour.

Season with salt and pepper.

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Campobasso-style Tagliolini

Pork is preferred in the mountains, while the coastal areas are mainly characterized by seafood dishes.

4 servings

  • 10 ½ oz (300g) fresh egg pasta, Tagliolini
  • 3 oz (80g) ham, julienne or peeled medium shrimp
  • 1 hot chili pepper, minced
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 1 ¾ oz (50g) olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper

Directions

Cook the pasta al dente and reserve some of the pasta cooking water. Drain

In a skillet, heat the oil and fry the chili with the onion. Cook at moderate heat till soft, stirring often with a wooden spoon.

Add the ham or the shrimp and heat it quickly.

Add a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water, the minced parsley and a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper.

Add the cooked pasta and mix well. Serve.

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Old Style Ricotta Pie

2 pies

Ingredients

Pie Filling:

  • 12 eggs
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 pounds ricotta cheese

Sweet Crust:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup shortening plus 1 tablespoon shortening, chilled
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Directions

For the filling:

Beat the 12 eggs, the 2 cups sugar and vanilla extract together in a large bowl. Stir in the ricotta cheese. Set aside.

For the crust:

Combine the flour, baking powder and the 1 cup sugar together. Cut in the chilled shortening with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Mix in the 4 beaten eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Divide dough into 4 balls, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease two deep-dish 9 inch pie plates.

Roll out 2 of the balls to fit into the pie pans. Do not make the crust too thick, as it will expand during cooking. Do not flute the edges of the dough.

Roll out the other 2 balls of dough and cut each into 8 narrow strips for the top of the crust.

Pour the ricotta filling evenly into the two pie crusts. Top each pie with 8 narrow strips of dough. Brush the top of the pie with milk. Place foil on the edge of the crust.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes; remove foil. Rotate pies on the rack so they will bake evenly. Continue to bake until a knife inserted in the center of each pie comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes more.

Cool completely on wire racks. Refrigerate until serving.

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Just because you’re trying to eat healthy doesn’t mean you can’t have dessert. You just have to choose carefully. High fat ingredients contain saturated fat and they can cause higher cholesterol levels in the body. Desserts and sweets don’t have the nutritional value that other foods do, but if you stick with healthier recipes and less-frequent, reasonable portions, desserts can fit into your healthy eating plan. Make fruit a part of your dessert menu as much as possible, whether it is the dessert itself or is part of a recipe. Although fruit is high in carbohydrates, it’s also filled with vitamins, minerals and fiber. If you crave something more, try adding fruit to sugar-free gelatin or mixing up a quick fruit salad. You will be amazed at how delicious these healthy dessert recipes taste.

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Almond Brown Rice Pudding

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup pitted dates
  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 4 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup toasted, chopped slivered almonds

Directions

Place dates in a bowl and pour 1/2 cup boiling water over them. Let soak 15 minutes, then transfer dates and water to a blender and puree until smooth to make a date syrup.

Bring rice and almond milk to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until rice is cooked and has absorbed most of the almond milk, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes.

Stir date syrup, raisins, vanilla extract, almond extract, cinnamon and almonds into the cooked rice and serve warm or cold.

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Pumpkin-Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted dry roasted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup finely chopped pitted dates (6 ounces whole dates)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine peanuts and oats in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse about 25 times to create a coarse meal. Add cocoa and salt and pulse a few more times to combine.

Put pumpkin purée and peanut butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until the peanut butter and pumpkin are incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, about 2 minutes.

Add vanilla and dates and mix until combined, about 1 minute. On low-speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the peanut butter mixture. Mix until completely combined, forming a dense dough.

Scoop up tablespoons of dough and roll them into balls. Arrange on the prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Press down on the balls with the back of a fork first in one direction and then in the other to form a checkerboard design on each cookie.

Bake until the cookies are firm and dried, about 12 minutes. Cool cookies on the baking sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Place cooled cookies in an airtight container and store at room temperature up to 4 days or refrigerate up to 1 week.

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Carrot-Almond Cake

Serves 12

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil, divided, plus more for the pan
  • 3 cups grated carrots, divided
  • 1 3/4 cups almond flour, divided
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Oil an 8 x 8-inch baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, make the crumb topping by combining 1 cup carrots, 1/4 cup almond flour, 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon oil; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 1 1/2 cups almond flour and the 1 cup all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a second large bowl, whisk together sour cream, vanilla, eggs, remaining 3/4 cup sugar and remaining oil. Add flour mixture to the large bowl and whisk again until incorporated; fold in the remaining 2 cups carrots.

Transfer to the prepared pan and scatter crumb topping over the top. Bake until the cake springs back in the middle when pressed, and is deep golden brown, 50 to 60 minutes.

Set aside to let cool until warm, then remove from the pan and transfer to a plate, discarding the parchment paper. Cut into squares or wedges and serve.

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Sweet Potato Apple Pie

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2 medium)
  • 1 (9 to 9 1/2-inch) unbaked pie shell
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and cut into thin slices

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Prick sweet potatoes with a fork and place them on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake about 1 hour or until very tender. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Line pastry shell with parchment paper or foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake on the lower rack of the oven about 15 minutes or until just starting to set. Remove the weights and continue to bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool on a wire rack 10 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.

Meanwhile, peel sweet potatoes and transfer flesh to the bowl of a food processor. Discard skins. Process until potatoes are puréed. Transfer 1 1/4 cups purée to a large bowl. Add milk, sugar, flour, eggs, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt and whisk until combined and smooth.

Layer apple slices in concentric circles in the bottom of the cooled crust. Pour sweet potato filling into the crust over the apples. Bake about 50 minutes or until just set in the center of the pie.

Let cool to room temperature on a wire rack. Serve or chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

dessert5

Pear Crumble

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup regular rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3 medium pears, cored and cut into thin wedges
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Frozen vanilla yogurt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl combine oats, flour, 2 tablespoons brown sugar and cinnamon. Mix with a fork until combined. Add the butter and work it in with your fingers, a fork or a pastry blender until the mixture begins to form clumps.

In a large bowl toss the pears with the water, lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Transfer pear mixture to a 9-inch pie plate. Sprinkle the oat mixture evenly over the pears.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the topping is golden and the pears are tender. If desired, serve warm with frozen yogurt.

Tip
To make individual servings, prepare as above, except divide the pear mixture among six 6-ounce custard cups or ramekins. Sprinkle with oat mixture and bake about 35 minutes or until the pears are tender. Serve as above.


Italian village with mountains in the background

The province of Catanzaro is one of the four provinces in the region of Calabria in southern Italy.  Catanzaro occupies both sides of the Calabrian Apennines and in the central part of the province is the isthmus of Catanzaro, a long narrow valley connecting the north and south parts of the coastline that feature beautiful white sandy beaches. Other parts of the province are mostly mountainous with steep-sided valleys formed along short rivers. There are large numbers of lakes surrounded by dense coniferous forests. The province includes much of the Sila National Park, a wild area with rough grassland and forests of pine, oak, beech and fir. The area is a main route to Naples and is a major terminal for goods traffic.

catanzaro1

Typical cuisine is similar to the Mediterranean diet, simple, local and healthy but also characterized by strong flavors. Extra virgin olive oil is the main condiment and is rarely replaced by lard. Hot pepper, introduced by the Saracens, is a basic ingredient in most dishes and in regional salamis.

catanzarocuisine

Pasta is mostly homemade and usually served with a simple fresh basil tomato sauce or with a ragu sauce. A traditional dish prepared for religious holidays is “pasta chijna”, layers of homemade pasta (lasagne) topped with small fried meatballs, slices of hard-boiled eggs, slices of spicy salami, caciocavallo cheese and grated pecorino cheese. You will also find pasta or bread combined in minestrone along with vegetables and herbs. Legumes are also common and replace meat in many recipes. The most used are fava beans served as a puree with tripe or with peas, lentils or chickpeas and pasta.

Among the meats, the pig is undoubtedly the most used meat, especially in winter as a second course dish.  However, most pork is used to make salami. The inland villages and towns utilize goat and sheep, of which every part of the animal is used, including the animal’s entrails, which are usually cooked with tomato, hot pepper and served inside pita bread, called “morzeddu” (the small bite).

catanzaro2

Along the coast fresh fish is cooked in different ways. Swordfish is usually grilled and served with a sauce called “salmoriglio” made with extra virgin olive oil, vinegar or lemon, garlic and spices. Tuna is topped with “ la cipolla” (onions), the famous red sweet onions of Tropea. Dried codfish is soaked before cooking and baby fish called “neonata ” are used to make small fritters.

Calabria is a region that produces a great variety of cheeses made with cow, sheep and goat milk. Caciocavallo cheese produced  in the Sila mountains and awarded  the DOP quality brand (protected origin designation); scamorza cheese; provola cheese and the “butirro” which is a caciocavallo with butter inside are among the most well-known cheeses. Cheeses most often made with sheep milk are fresh ricotta cheese and pecorino cheese,

The vegetables that  are commonly served are eggplant, parmigiana style or as balls; fried pumpkin and zucchini; pumpkin stem fritters; potatoes and green peppers; boiled wild vegetables (chicory, asparagus), mushrooms and dried tomatoes that can be stored in oil.

Clementines of Calabria IGP, chestnuts, figs covered with chocolate or spices are common fruits.

Typical regional sweets that are usually linked to specific days and holidays, are mostly made with ricotta sweetened with honey and flavored either by a figs or dried fruit or candied fruit. The best known are the multi-shaped “mostaccioli”, covered with honey.

catanzaroanchovies

 

Anchovies al Cetrarese

Cetraro, an important port in the Tirreno sea, where anchovies are caught in abundance.

Ingredients for 6

  • 1 ¾ lbs. (720 gr) anchovies, bones removed
  • 8 ½ oz (240 g.) stale bread
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 oz (60 gr) grated Pecorino cheese
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • Chopped fresh wild fennel fronds
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Make a stuffing with the stale bread soaked in water and hand squeezed, wild fennel, eggs, salt, black pepper and grated Pecorino cheese.

Put anchovies in an oiled baking dish and stuff each with some of the bread mixture. Bake for 10 minutes.

Add wine and bake for another 5 minutes. Serve drizzled with the cooking juices and garnish with a handful of fennel fronds.

catanzaropasta

Bucatini Pasta with Anchovy and Bread Sauce

Ingredients for 4

  • 12 ½ oz (350 gr) Bucatini pasta
  • 2 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 8 salt cured anchovies
  • 1 fresh chili pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Oven toasted bread crumbs
  • 2 oz (60 gr) grated Pecorino cheese
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Heat the oil in a skillet and brown the garlic; add finely chopped chili pepper. Add the anchovies and breadcrumbs.

Cook the pasta in a large pan of lightly salted water. Drain when the pasta is al dente. Add the pasta to the pan with the anchovies, season with pecorino cheese and serve.

catanzaropork

Arrotolata Pork with Citrus Fruit

Ingredients for 6

  • 2 ¼ lbs (1 kg) boneless pork
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fennel seeds, rosemary, pistachio nuts, parsley and 2 garlic cloves
  • Olive oil

Salsa:

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 cedro (citron/ugly looking Italian citrus fruit – use an orange in its place)
  • 1 grapefruit
  • Salt and pepper to taste, extra virgin olive oil and green onions

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Butterfly the meat and season the inside with salt and pepper. Finely chop some parsley and the garlic. Spread on the meat and add fennel seeds and pistachios to cover. Moisten with olive oil.

Roll up the meat and close with cooking string. Season the outside with salt and pepper. Place in a baking dish.

Cook for about an hour and a half. Remove from the oven and cool for a couple of hours.

For the salsa:

Squeeze the lemon and grapefruit and finely chop the cedro peel. Season with salt and mix with enough oil to make a sauce. Add finely chopped onions.

Slice the pork when cool and serve on a plate dressed with the salsa.

catanzarofish

Sea Bream Stuffed with Ricotta

Sea Bream is a popular European fish that is a mild ocean fish similar to sea bass

Ingredients for 4

  • 4 small sea beam
  • 5 ½ oz (16og) ricotta cheese
  • ¾ tablespoon (16g) honey
  • 2 tablespoons chopped almonds
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mint
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 3 oz arugula
  • Salt
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Ground red chilli pepper to taste
  • Mashed potatoes for serving
  • Almonds and parsley for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove the center bone from the fish. Lightly salt the fish.

Mix the ricotta cheese with the pine nuts, almonds, chopped mint, parsley, garlic, arugula, honey and a pinch of salt. Add enough lemon juice and oil to make a smooth filling.

Stuff each fish with some of the filling, cover the filling with foil and put the fish in an oiled baking dish.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Serve each fish on a bed of mashed potatoes. Garnish with almonds, parsley and ground chili pepper.

catanzarodessert

Aubergine and Chocolate Mousse

This is a sweet but unusual dessert.

Ingredients for 6

  • 10 ½ oz (300g) aubergine (eggplant)
  • 10 ½ oz (300g) chocolate, plus extra for serving
  • 1/1/2 oz (50g) citron
  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) brandy
  • 1 tablespoon sultanas (raisins)
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon (10g) candied fruit
  • ¼ cup (30g) sugar
  • 2 egg whites

Directions

Peel and boil the aubergine in water along with the brandy and citron. Drain.

Beat the egg whites until stiff.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler saucepan.

Mix the aubergine and melted chocolate together adding mint, pine nuts, candied fruit, sugar. Fold in the beaten egg whites.

Fill small pots or bowls with the mixture and cool. Serve drizzled with additional melted chocolate.

catanzaromap


italianamericancover

Christmas was always a special time. As a child growing up in an Italian American family, it also meant that our family followed the same traditions year after year. What I remember of those years was that, after church on Christmas morning, my father would take us to visit the relatives where he would pick up all kinds of goodies from his sisters for us to eat later in the day. Those goodies included struffoli, panettone and homemade ricotta cookies.

On the way home, he would  pick up my maternal grandfather (who was a widower) so he could have Christmas dinner with us. My grandfather always had a huge box of all those delicious Italian pastries. While all this was going on, my mother was home preparing Christmas dinner. It was always the same dinner – that was how they liked it!

italianamerican1

A traditional Italian Antipasto – a large platter of Italian cold cuts alongside olives, anchovies, artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, marinated mushrooms, Italian cheeses and lots of crusty bread on the side.

The next course was Meatball Lasagna – my mother’s specialty. A lasagna with little meatballs between the layers of noodles. I used to have to help her make those little meatballs and after making 20 or so, I was looking to quit.

The main course was always roasted boneless pork loin with potatoes. I liked the potatoes because they got brown and crusty from roasting alongside the meat, but, at the time, I wasn’t crazy about the pork. Thinking back, it may have been because my mother is a simple cook, who doesn’t use many spices in her cooking.

Sautéed spinach and a big mixed green salad were always the side dishes.

My mother was not one for baking lots of desserts and she never made Christmas cookies, as I have done all the years of my married life. She does bake great apple pies, chocolate chip cookies and  Capri cakes for special occasions – just not for Christmas. We had plenty for dessert with what my father’s sisters gave him and all those lovely pastries my grandfather had bought with him.

Italianamerican2

Italian-American Meatball Lasagna

This is another favorite from my childhood days that my children and husband are also crazy about.

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground meat (pork, beef, veal, chicken, turkey or a combination)
  • 1/2 cup plain dried bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 finely minced garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil

Lasagna

  • 12 traditional lasagna noodles
  • 4 cups homemade or store-bought tomato sauce for pasta
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • Two 15 ounce containers ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 lb  mozzarella cheese, sliced thin

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a rimmed cookie sheet.

In a large bowl, combine the meatball mixture. With wet hands, shape into mini meatballs, using 2 teaspoons of mixture for each. Place the meatballs on the prepared cookie sheet and bake until brown all over, about 15 minutes.

To make the lasagna:

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boiling. Add noodles to the boiling water one at a time and cook for 10 minutes. Drain and place the noodles on kitchen towels.

Stir the chopped basil into the sauce. Reserve 1 cup of the sauce for the top layer.

In a medium bowl, blend ricotta, egg, parsley and ¼ cup of the Parmesan cheese.

To assemble the lasagna:

Spread 1 cup tomato sauce in the bottom of a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish. Top with 4 noodles, overlapping. Layer half of the mozzarella slices on top of the noodles, followed by half the ricotta cheese. Spread the ricotta with a spatula. Scatter half the meatballs over the noodles. Pour 1 cup of the  sauce over the meatballs.

Top with 4 more noodles and layer with the remaining mozzarella and ricotta cheese. Scatter remaining meatballs over the cheese. Pour 1 cup sauce over meatballs.

Top with the final 4 lasagna noodles. Spread with the reserved 1 cup of sauce. Top with the remaining Parmesan. Cover the dish with foil.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake for 15 minutes until bubbly and slightly browned. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

italianamerican3

Italian Roast Pork

Ingredients

  • One 3 pound center-cut pork loin roast
  • 4 large russet potatoes (about 3 pounds), peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 2 teaspoon freshly ground rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

Directions

Rub the pork roast with garlic, thyme, oregano, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper and 1 teaspoon of the ground rosemary.

Drizzle half of the olive oil on the roast and rub to coat.

Place pork into a roasting pan with a rack at the bottom.

Place potatoes around the roast and sprinkle them with the remaining rosemary, salt and pepper.

Pour the remaining olive oil over the potatoes. Add the white wine to the pan.

Place in a 350 degree oven, covered, for about 45 minutes.

Uncover and roast for another 30 minutes, until the meat registers 140 degrees F.  Transfer the pork to a cutting board and tent with foil. Let rest 20 minutes before slicing.

italianamerican4

Struffoli

Ingredients

For the Dough:

  • 3 1/3 cups (400 g) flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon anise liqueur
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • The zest of half a lemon, grated
  • The zest of half an orange, grated
  • 1 pinch salt

For the struffoli:

  • Olive oil for frying
  • 3/4 pound (300 g) honey
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Colored sprinkles

Directions

Combine the ingredients for the dough, knead it well and let rest for at least an hour, covered. It does take a while for the dough to absorb the eggs.

Pluck off a piece, roll it out under your fingers to form a snake about as thin as your pinkie and cut the dough into quarter-inch long pieces.

Fry the pieces a few at a time in hot oil until brown and drain them on absorbent paper. Repeat with remaining dough.

In another pot, preferably round-bottomed, put the honey, sugar and water in it. Boil the mixture until the foam dies down and it begins to turn yellow.

At this point reduce the heat as much as possible and add the struffoli. Stir to distribute everything evenly through the honey and turn the mixture out onto a plate.

Using your fingers shape the mixture into a wreath with a hole in the middle or in a dome shape, dipping your hands frequently into cold water so you don’t burn yourself.

Sprinkle with colored sprinkles.

italianamerican5


morningcover

Christmas cake is an English tradition that began as plum-porridge. People ate the porridge on Christmas Eve, using it to line their stomachs after a day of fasting. Soon dried fruit, spices and honey were added to the porridge mixture and, eventually, it turned into Christmas pudding. In the 16th century, oatmeal was removed from the original recipe and butter, wheat flour and eggs were added. These ingredients helped hold the mixture together, resulting in a boiled plum-cake. Richer families with ovens began making fruit cakes with marzipan, an almond paste, for Easter. For Christmas, they made a similar cake using seasonal dried fruit and spices. The spices came from the eastern countries and this cake became known as Christmas cake.

Christmas cakes are made many different ways, but generally they are variations on the classic fruitcake. They can be light, dark, moist, dry, heavy, spongy, leavened, unleavened and more. They are made in many different shapes, with frosting, glazing, a dusting of confectioner’s sugar or  just left plain. The traditional Scottish Christmas cake, also known as the Whisky Dundee, is very popular. It is a light crumbly cake with currants, raisins, cherries and Scotch whisky. Other types of Christmas cakes include apples and mincemeat.

In Japan, Christmas cake is a frosted sponge cake with strawberries, chocolates or seasonal fruit. In the Philippines, Christmas cake is a yellow pound cake with nuts. Don’t forget the traditional British fruitcake that is soaked in brandy or rum, sugar syrup and water. Italy has a long culinary tradition of serving cakes and sweets during the Christmas season. The tradition of “dolci di Natale” is long and varied with hundreds of types of cakes, cookies and sweets on the Christmas table. Every table for sure has Panettone and Pandoro –  the symbols of Christmas in Italy.

Following are some modern day fruit style cakes.

Jam Filled Coffee Cake

morning1

Ingredients

  • One 8 ounce package reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup seedless red raspberry jam or your favorite jam
  • Powdered sugar
  • Fresh fruit for garnish

Directions

Grease a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan or a 3-quart rectangular baking dish; set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl combine cream cheese, granulated sugar and butter; beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add 3/4 cup of the flour, the eggs, milk, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla and salt. Beat about 1 minute more or until combined. Add the remaining 1 cup flour, beating on low-speed just until combined.

Spread batter evenly in the prepared baking pan. In a small bowl stir jam with a spoon until nearly smooth. Spoon jam in eight to ten mounds on top of the batter in the baking pan.

Using a thin spatula or knife, swirl jam into the batter.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake portion near the center comes out clean. Cool cake in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar and, if desired, serve with raspberries or other fruit. Serve warm.

Date Coffee Cake with Orange Sauce

morning2

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup orange or lemon yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 cup pitted whole dates, chopped

Orange Sauce

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger)
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces

Directions

To make the Orange Sauce:

Stir sugar, cornstarch, ginger and finely shredded orange peel in a small saucepan. Stir in orange juice. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture is thickened and bubbly; cook and stir 2 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in butter until melted. Cover pan and cool slightly. Serve warm. Makes about 1 cup.

To make the cake:

Grease and flour an 8 x 8 x 2-inch baking pan; set aside.

Stir together the 1 cup flour, baking powder and baking soda in a small bowl; set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F oven.

Place softened butter and ginger in a medium mixing bowl; beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg; beat well. Stir in yogurt and milk.

Add flour mixture, beating on low to medium speed until combined. Toss dates with 2 tablespoons flour and fold into the batter. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool slightly (about 30 minutes) in the pan on a wire rack.

Cut into squares. Serve with warm Orange Sauce.

Cherry Crumb Cake

morning3

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 ¼ cups cherry, raspberry or strawberry preserves

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan with foil, extending the foil over the edges of the pan; set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, oats, brown sugar, pecans, lemon peel and baking soda. Stir in applesauce and oil; mix well. If necessary, use your hands to combine.

Measure 1 cup of the oat mixture; set aside.

Press the remaining oat mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes.

Carefully spread the preserves evenly over the hot crust. Sprinkle with the reserved 1 cup oat mixture; pat gently into preserves.

Bake about 30 minutes more or until top is lightly browned. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Using the edges of the foil, lift the cake out of the pan. Serve warm.

Prune Bread

morning4

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups bread flour
  • 1 ½ cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup pitted prunes, snipped
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • Two 6 inch wooden skewers

Directions

With the paddle attachment, combine all the ingredients in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough until soft and shiny.

Place in a greased bowl and let rise, covered with plastic wrap, until double.

For the filling:

In a small bowl, stir together chocolate and dried plums; set aside.

Remove dough from the bowl to a lightly floured surface; punch down dough. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Roll dough into a 15 x 10-inch rectangle. Along the short side (10 inch) of the dough sprinkle about 1/2 cup of the prune mixture over a 3-inch-wide section of the dough.

Starting from the opposite side, fold dough over filling, allowing dough to extend beyond the prune-topped dough.

Sprinkle another 1/2 cup of the prune mixture on top of the filled layer, pressing filling down lightly. Fold dough back over prune mixture, accordion-style.

Repeat filling and folding dough, accordion-style, twice more.

Fold remaining dough over the top, pressing lightly. (You will have five layers of dough and four layers of filling.) Gently pat the sides of the dough to form a rectangle.

Lightly coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Place loaf on the prepared baking sheet. Cover and let rise in a warm place until nearly double in size (about 30 minutes).

You can use this dough and filling to make any shape coffee cake – horseshoe, ring, etc.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a sharp knife, make a shallow lengthwise cut down the center of the top layer, then make several crosswise cuts at 1-inch intervals.

To keep bread layers from slipping while baking, insert wooden skewers (one close to each end of the loaf, inserting each skewer at a slight angle) from top through the bottom layer.

Bake about 35 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when lightly tapped. If necessary to prevent over browning, cover with foil for the last 10 minutes of baking.

Remove from the baking sheet; cool on a wire rack. Remove wooden skewers. Slice thinly to serve.

Christmas Biscotti

morning5

These are especially good with coffee.

Makes: 48 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs plus 1 egg for the wash
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons anise seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup pistachios, shelled
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, snipped
  • Powdered sugar glaze

Directions

Beat butter in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium to high-speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt; beat until combined.

Beat in the 3 eggs, vanilla and almond extract until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour, anise, fennel seeds, cranberries, pistachios, and apricots with a wooden spoon.

Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or until the dough is easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Divide dough in half. Shape each half into a 12-inch-long log 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Place logs at least 3 inches apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet.

Flatten each log slightly to 3/4-inch thickness. Combine egg and 1 tablespoon water. Brush over logs.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until light brown. Cool logs on cookie sheet 1 hour or till completely cool.

When logs are cool, preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Transfer logs to a cutting board. Cut each log diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Lay slices down on the cookie sheets.

Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Turn slices over and bake 5 minutes more or until dry and crisp.

Remove and cool on wire racks. Drizzle with powdered sugar glaze, if desired.



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