Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: December 2015

Ring in the New Year in Style

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Pan-Seared Salmon with Linguine

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Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • Four 5 ounce pieces of fresh or frozen skinless salmon fillets, thawed and dried
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • ½ cup oil-packed dried tomatoes, drained and finely chopped
  • ½ cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • ¼ cup finely chopped, pitted green olives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Pepperoncini peppers
  • Cooked Linguine

Directions

Sprinkle salmon with salt. In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add salmon. Cook for 4 to 6 minutes per 1/2-inch thickness of fish or until fish just flakes when tested with a fork, turning once. Transfer to a serving platter. Cover; keep warm.

For the pesto:

Add remaining oil to the skillet. Add onion and dried tomatoes; cook and stir for 3 to 4 minutes or until tender. Stir in cherry tomatoes, olives, basil, and crushed red pepper. Stir to heat through. Season to taste with salt.

Spoon tomato mixture over salmon. Top with additional fresh basil and serve with cooked pasta and pepperoncini peppers.

Roast Duck with Blackberry Sauce

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Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 pound domestic duck
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 small orange, quartered
  • 1 stalk celery, cut up
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 tablespoon finely shredded orange peel
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup orange liqueur
  • ¼ cup mild-flavor molasses
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 2 cups blackberries

Directions
Adjust oven rack to lower third of the oven. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Rinse duck body cavity; pat dry. Rub cavity with the 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Place orange, celery, onion, and thyme in cavity. Skewer neck skin to back; tie legs to tail. Twist wing tips under back. Brush duck with the 2 tablespoons orange liqueur.

Place duck, breast side down, on rack in a shallow roasting pan. Add the hot water to the roasting pan. Place in lower third of oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Roast, uncovered, for 45 minutes.

Carefully remove roasting pan from oven; drain fat.* Turn duck, breast side up. Roast for 45 to 60 minutes more or until drumsticks move easily in their sockets (165 degrees F). Juices may still appear pink.

Meanwhile, for sauce, in a small saucepan whisk together orange peel, orange juice, brown sugar, the 1/4 cup orange liqueur, the molasses, ginger, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 to 12 minutes or until thickened and syrupy. Stir in 2 cups blackberries. Use a potato masher or fork to coarsely mash berries. Cover and set aside.

Transfer duck to a cutting board; let stand for 15 minutes. Discard stuffing mixture. Using kitchen shears, cut duck in half lengthwise. Cut each half between the breast and the thigh into 2 pieces. Drain fat from roasting pan. Arrange duck quarters in pan. Pour blackberry sauce over the duck. Return to oven. Roast in the 350 degrees F oven for 30 minutes.

Transfer duck pieces to a serving platter. Pour any juices in the roasting pan over the duck pieces.

Chicken Roll-Ups

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Makes: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 medium skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, halved horizontally (about 1 1/2 pounds total)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Garlic-herb cheese, see recipe below
  • 1 ounce baby arugula or baby spinach (about 1 cup packed)
  • ¾ cup jarred roasted red sweet peppers, drained well and chopped
  • 1 green onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup purchased or homemade pesto

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place chicken breast halves between pieces of plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a meat mallet, pound each to 1/4-inch thickness.

Season one side of each chicken breast with salt and pepper. Spread each breast with the herb cheese to the edges. Top with arugula, peppers, and green onion.

Press down on toppings, then roll up tightly, starting from a short end; secure with toothpicks. Brush pesto over rolls. Transfer to an oiled 2-quart rectangular baking dish.

Bake, uncovered, 25 to 30 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in the center (170 degrees F). Let stand 5 minutes. Remove toothpicks and slice crosswise to serve.

GARLIC HERB CHEESE

Stir 1 clove garlic, minced; 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed and 1/8 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed, into 3 ounces of cream cheese.

Lobster Tails with Garlic Butter

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Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • Four 8 ounce fresh or frozen lobster tails
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup butter, plus extra for serving

Directions

Thaw lobster tails, if frozen. Preheat broiler. Butterfly the lobster tails by cutting through the center of the hard top shells and meat. Spread the halves of tails apart. Place lobster tails, meat side up, on the unheated rack of a broiler pan.

In a small skillet cook garlic, orange peel, and chili powder in butter over medium heat about 30 seconds or until garlic is tender. Brush mixture over lobster meat.

Broil 4 inches from heat for 12 to 14 minutes or until lobster meat is opaque. Serve with extra melted butter.

Pan Seared Tenderloin Steak

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Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 beef tenderloin steaks (filet mignon), cut about 3/4 inch thick
  • 10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup dry red wine
  • ½ cup reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 4 tablespoons finely shallots
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream (no substitutes for this dish)
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions

Heat a large stainless steel or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter; reduce heat to medium. Cook steaks about 3 minutes per side or until medium rare (145 degrees F). Transfer steaks to a platter. Cover with foil; let stand for 5 minutes while preparing sauce.

Add wine, beef broth and shallots to the hot skillet. Using a whisk, stir and scrape up any browned bits in the bottom of the skillet. Cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes or until liquid is reduced.. Lower heat to medium low.

Stir in cream; stir in the remaining tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking until butter is melted and sauce has thickened slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide the evenly sauce over steaks and serve immediately.

New-Year-Sayings-For-Cards


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Quick and easy appetizers are a must for the holiday season. You don’t need to spend a lot of time preparing appetizers for your guests in order to get some great tasting snacks to serve at a holiday get-together. Keep simple ingredients on hand that you can quickly pull together for an appetizer. Below you will find some suggestions for quick but delicious appetizers.

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Tomato Pesto Flatbread

8 to 10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh pizza dough
  • 1/3 cup tomato pasta sauce or pizza sauce
  • 1/3 cup sliced pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons basil pesto
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

On a floured surface, roll out pizza dough to a large square about 12 inches long and 12 inches wide; place on a cookie sheet. Spread pizza sauce evenly over the dough; top with olives and cheese. Use a teaspoon to drop dots of basil pesto over the pizza. Sprinkle with pepper flakes.

Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted. Cut into 3 inch squares and serve immediately.

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Cheddar Stuffed Mushrooms

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 16 large button or cremini mushrooms, each about 2-inches in diameter
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs or gluten free panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove mushroom stems from the caps and finely chop the stems. Melt butter in a medium skillet. Brush some of the butter over the mushroom caps; place cap side down on a rimmed baking sheet.

Add chopped stems, onion and garlic to the remaining butter in the skillet; sauté until golden brown and tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in salt and pepper

Mix the cheese with bread crumbs and parsley in a medium bowl. Add stem mixture; mix well. Mound into mushroom caps, pressing down to use all the crumb mixture.

Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until heated through. Serve warm.

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Saucy Cream Cheese Appetizer

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 (8 ounce) block cream cheese
  • 3 tablespoons mango chutney
  • 1 tablespoon sliced almonds, toasted
  • 3 tablespoons hot or medium salsa
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • Whole grain or multi-grain crackers

Directions

Cut the block of cream cheese in half crosswise. Place on two small glass or microwave safe serving plates. Place plates in a microwave oven and cook at high power 15 seconds (or let stand at room temperature until slightly softened).

Spoon chutney over one brick; top with almonds.

Spoon salsa over the other brick; top with cilantro.

Serve as a spread with the crackers on an attractive cheese board.

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Blue Cheese Puffs

2 dozen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1⁄2 cup water
  • 1⁄4 cup butter
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1-1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 large eggs
  • 4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh chives or 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme

Directions

Heat oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine milk, water, butter and salt in a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until the butter has melted. Add flour all at once; reduce heat to medium and stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon until it pulls away from the sides of the pan. Continue stirring for several minutes over low heat, and then remove the pan from heat.

The dough will be thick, smooth and shiny and should not be brown. Beat in 1 egg at a time, beating very well after each addition. Fold in the blue cheese and black pepper with a spatula.

Transfer dough to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round tip (or use a heavy plastic bag with a 1/2 –inch cut from one corner.) Pipe dough into 1-1/2-inch mounds, approximately the volume of a heaping tablespoon, onto parchment-lined baking sheets or cookie sheets 1 inch apart.

Bake 10 minutes at 425 degrees F. Rotate the pans on the oven racks; reduce heat to 350 degrees F. Continue baking until deep golden brown, about 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature on the same day they are made.

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Turkey Meatballs with Mustard Dip

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 1 slice bread, torn into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup low-fat milk
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and quartered
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon grainy Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Cooking spray

Dip

  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup light mayonnaise
  • 4 teaspoons grainy Dijon mustard

Directions

Place torn bread in a food processor and pulse until fine crumbs form. Transfer bread crumbs to a large bowl and add milk; set aside until bread is completely soaked.

Place onion, red bell pepper and garlic in the food processor and pulse until finely chopped; stir into bread mixture.

Add turkey, egg, parsley, 1 tablespoon mustard, salt and pepper to the bread crumb mixture and mix well.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.

Shape turkey mixture into 1-inch balls; arrange on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven until firm and cooked through, about 15 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read at least 165 degrees F (74 degrees C). Let meatballs stand for 5 minutes.

Mix yogurt, mayonnaise and the 4 teaspoons mustard together in a bowl; serve alongside meatballs.


sidedishescover

Once you determine your holiday main course, the next decision focuses on side dishes to accompany your meal. As we sift through family favorites and long forgotten recipe books, we mentally calculate how long each dish will take to prepare and do we have enough oven, stove and refrigerator space to cook and store everything. Delicious side dishes do not need to be complicated or expensive. In fact, with a little planning, most side dishes can be made with 5 or 6 common ingredients and prepared in a short amount of time.

Choose recipes that call for in season fruits and vegetables. These generally cost less than out of season produce. Winter favorites include: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, rapini, collard greens, spinach, fennel, cabbage, sweet potato, squash, yams, parsnips, kale, spinach, pomegranates, pears, clementine oranges, cranberries and apples. This way your side dishes will taste fresh.

Don’t select side dish recipes that require an oven, if you are also roasting meat at the same time. If oven space is limited, choose recipes that can be prepared on the stove top.

Create dishes that mix red, green, yellow and orange-colored fruits or vegetables to form a medley of vibrant colors. You don’t need lots of ingredients to create delicious side dishes. You need ingredients that combine well together and offer a variety of flavors such as sweet, salty, spicy and sour. Try adding fruit to bitter greens for an interesting taste sensation, or spicy chilies to sweet squash. Often, one or two different spices or herbs are all you need to bring out the flavors in your dish. If you plan to have several side dishes available, try to select dishes that are different from one another in flavor, texture and overall presentation. Create one sweet, one spicy, one sour. Your guests will love the variety.

All these side dishes will be good accompaniments for the main dishes from Monday’s post.

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Chunky Sweet Potatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 1/2 of a small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

Heat a pan with a lid or cover on medium; add diced onion and garlic; simmer until onions have turned slightly transparent (about 5 minutes). Meanwhile chop sweet potatoes into approximately 1 x 1 x 1 inch/cm chunks; add to the pan when the onions are ready, as well as the salt and cover the pan.

Allow potatoes to cook covered, for 20-30 minutes on medium heat until the potatoes are soft. Uncover and mix every 5-10 minutes in between. Add rosemary, cumin and cinnamon to the pan 10 minutes after adding potatoes.

sidedishes2

Sautéed Broccoli Rabe with Tomatoes

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds Broccoli Rabe
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 10 cloves garlic, lightly smashed, or to taste
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup fresh plum (Roma) tomatoes, peeled, seeded & cut into ½-inch dice
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper (chili) flakes
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil or Italian parsley, chopped

Directions

Wash broccoli rabe and dry on paper towels. Remove the large tough leaves, leaving just the tender leaves and flower buds.  Cut off and discard the lower part of the stems, leaving the broccoli about 8-inches long and slice into 3 or 4-inch lengths.

Add olive oil and garlic cloves to a large heavy frying pan. Over low heat, slowly sauté garlic until golden on all sides. This can take about 10 minutes.

Add the broccoli rabe to the pan, tossing to coat with garlic and oil. Add tomatoes and toss for a minute or so to remove excess water from the tomatoes. Add chicken stock and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add lemon juice, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, fresh herbs, salt & pepper.Taste for seasoning; adjust if necessary.

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Italian Rice & Savoy Cabbage

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups (250 g) Vialone Nano or other short-grained rice, e.g. Arborio
  • 1 pound (450 g) Savoy cabbage
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup (40 g) freshly grated Parmigiano
  • Salt & white pepper to taste
  • 4 cups (1 liter) beef broth, stock, or water, simmering
  • ¾ cup crushed Italian tomatoes

Directions

Strip off and discard any blemished outer leaves the cabbage may have. Separate the rest, rinse them and shred them.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a pot and sauté the chopped onion and celery. Add the cabbage leaves and continue cooking, stirring them about with a spoon, until they have wilted. Add a cup of hot broth to the pot, cover and simmer over a low flame for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the rice, add the remaining hot broth and crushed tomatoes, add seasoning and simmer until the rice reaches the al dente stage and the broth is absorbed, about 30-40 minutes.

Stir the cheese into the rice and check the seasoning.

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Leeks & Spinach Saute

4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 medium leeks, white and lightest green parts
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a large pinch
  • 4 cups (packed) washed and stemmed fresh spinach leaves, torn into smaller pieces
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Directions

Trim the ends from the leeks. Slice the leeks across into thin rings (about 1/8-inch thick), discarding any woody stem in the center. Put the sliced leeks in a bowl and cover them with tepid water. Swish them around a bit and let them sit. Lift the leeks out of the bowl and transfer to a colander. Drain and rinse the sand from the bowl, return the leeks to the bowl and cover again with tepid water. Lift, drain and repeat one more time, leaving the leeks in the water with the last wash.

Heat the butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-low heat.  Lift the leeks out of the water and add them to the pan with whatever water is clinging to them. Season with the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are limp and all of the liquid has evaporated, 10 to 12 minutes.

Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the leeks are very lightly golden brown, another 3 to 5 minutes. Add the spinach leaves and a pinch of salt and fold or gently stir them in with the leeks until they are wilted, about 1 minute. Add the fresh thyme and the cream and remove the pan from the heat.

Gently stir until the cream is mostly absorbed into the dish and the thyme is well-distributed. Stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Taste for salt and serve.

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Creamy Fettuccine With Mushrooms

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces fettuccine
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pound cremini or shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/2 cup half & half or light cream
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat, add salt and the spaghetti. Cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente.  Prior to draining the pasta reserve one cup of the cooking liquid and set aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat and add the oil and butter. When the butter melts add the onion, mushrooms, garlic and salt and pepper to taste; sauté 20 minutes or until the mushrooms are browned and have released their liquid. Add wine and thyme and cook for a few minutes until the liquid evaporates.

Remove the pan the from heat.  Add the hot cooked pasta, half & half and cheese to the skillet, tossing to combine.  Add cooking pasta cooking liquid until needed for moistness and continue to toss. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

I-wish-you-a-Merry-Christmas-Message


maindishcover

When it comes to holiday entertaining, you’ll want to serve your guests food that is not only delicious but also looks beautiful on the plate. However, you want to enjoy the holiday and not be stuck in the kitchen.

The recipes below are not complicated and some of the accents and flavorings can be prepared in advance. These special entrees can go in the oven and cook while you enjoy visiting with your company.

maindish3

Pork Loin with Orange Wine Sauce

8-10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (3-pound) boneless pork loin, trimmed of fat
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Combine the salt, pepper and coriander and sprinkle first 3 ingredients over pork.

Combine parsley and the next 4 ingredients (through thyme); rub over the pork.

Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork to pan; cook 7 minutes, browning on all sides.

Place pork in the oven and bake for 35 minutes or until a thermometer registers 155° (slightly pink). Remove the pork to a cutting board. Cover loosely with foil; let stand 10 minutes.

Place  pan over medium heat. Add shallots to the pan; cook 2 minutes. Add wine, scraping pan to loosen browned bits; bring to a boil. Cook until mixture is reduced to 1/3 cup (about 3 minutes).

Add chicken broth and orange juice; cook until mixture is reduced to 3/4 cup (about 8 minutes). Serve sauce with pork.

maindish2

Baked Steak with Mushrooms

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced thin
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • One 2-lb, 2-inch thick sirloin steak
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

Directions

Heat oven to 400°F.

In a roasting pan, combine the mushrooms, celery, lemon, onion, oil and 1⁄4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Mix well

Season the steak with 1⁄2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, sprinkle the garlic over the steak and place on top of the vegetables.

In a small bowl, whisk together the ketchup, lemon juice and Worcestershire.

Spoon the ketchup mixture over the top of the steak and place the roasting pan in the oven.

Roast to the desired temperature. (125°F for medium-rare, 30 to 35 minutes.) Transfer the meat to a cutting board and let for rest at least 5 minutes before slicing.

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Chicken in White Wine Sauce

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 medium red-skin potatoes, quartered
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 onion, cut in eighths
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 pounds chicken thighs and/or drumsticks
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Directions

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven or other heavy-lidded pot over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side; transfer to a plate.

Add vegetables, garlic, herbs and white wine to the pot; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer about 4 minutes.

Return chicken, skin side up, to the pot; add broth, return to a simmer, cover and transfer the pot to the oven. Braise until the chicken is cooked through and tender, 20–25 minutes. Uncover; continue to cook in the oven until the skin begins to crisp, 8–10 minutes longer. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken and vegetables to a serving platter; cover with foil to keep warm.

For the gravy:

Skim fat from cooking juices; strain juices into a large measuring cup. Add butter to the Dutch oven and let it melt. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Add cooking liquid. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 2 minutes more. Serve chicken and vegetables with the wine gravy.

maindish4

Honey Glazed Baked Ham

  • Half of a ready-to-eat, cooked ham, bone-in, uncut (NOT spiral cut), shank end or butt end, about 9-10 pounds

Glaze

  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme (or 2 teaspoons dry)
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Directions

Remove the ham from the refrigerator a couple of hours before you intend to cook it so that it is room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Place ham, fattier side up, in a foil-lined roasting pan. Score a diamond pattern in the fat with a sharp knife, about 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch deep.

Prepare the glaze:

Mix the thyme in with the hot melted butter and let sit for a few minutes. In a small saucepan on high heat, let the cider vinegar reduce down from 1/4 cup to 2 tablespoons, remove from the heat.

Whisk in the butter and thyme. Add the honey, the brown sugar and the Worcestershire sauce.

Using a pastry brush, brush the glaze over the ham. Only use about third of the glaze (reserve the rest for later in cooking). Work the glaze into the scored lines.

Place ham in the oven. Cook for about 1 1/2 hours (check after 1 hour) or about 10 minutes per pound, until the internal temperature of the ham is 110°-120° (use a meat thermometer).

(Note that ham is already cooked when you buy it and you just want to heat it.) Baste the ham with the glaze a couple of times during the cooking.

When the ham has reached the desired temperature, take the pan out of the oven and brush the ham all over with the pan juices. Cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

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Spice-Crusted Roast Salmon

This dish makes such a pretty presentation for the holidays.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pound beets (about 8 small to medium, a mix of red and gold if available), peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the parchment paper
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon pink peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 whole side (about 3 pounds) boneless salmon, skin on
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh chives
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Place beets on a rimmed baking sheet large enough to hold them in a single layer. Sprinkle with ginger, fine sea salt and 1 tablespoon of the oil and toss to coat.

Place black peppercorns in a spice grinder and pulse once or twice until cracked, or place them on a cutting board and crack with a rolling-pin. Add pink peppercorns, coriander seeds, rosemary and coarse sea salt; continue to pulse or crush until the mixture is very coarsely ground.

Line a second large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, oil the paper and place salmon on top; fold the thin tail section under if the fillet is too large for the baking sheet.

Brush salmon with remaining 2 teaspoons oil and sprinkle with peppercorn mixture.

Roast the beets in the middle of the oven, stirring once or twice during cooking, until tender and lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes.

After the beets have roasted for about 15 minutes, place salmon on the top rack of the oven and roast until just lightly pink in the center, about 12-15 minutes.

Loosen salmon from the parchment with a spatula, then use 2 large spatulas to transfer salmon to a serving platter. Spoon beets around salmon and sprinkle them with chives and parsley.


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!

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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.


cookietreatscover

Cakes of all shapes and sizes (including cookies) have been part of festive holiday rituals long before Christmas. Ancient cooks prepared sweet baked goods to mark significant occasions. Many of these recipes and ingredients such as cinnamon, ginger, almonds and dried fruits were introduced to Europe in the Middle Ages and they were incorporated into European baked goods. Christmas cookies, as we know them today, trace their roots to these Medieval European recipes.

Dutch and German settlers introduced cookie cutters, decorative molds and festive holiday decorations to America. Dutch New Year’s cookies were also sometimes molded into fancy shapes. German lebkuchen (gingerbread) was probably the first cake/cookie traditionally associated with Christmas. Sugar cookie recipes descended from English traditions.

By the 1500s, Christmas cookies had caught on all over Europe. German families baked up pans of Lebkuchen and buttery Spritz cookies. Pepparkakor, spicy ginger and black-pepper cookies were favorites in Sweden and the Norwegians made krumkake,  thin lemon and cardamom-scented wafers. The earliest Christmas cookie recipes in America can be attributed to the Dutch in the early 1600s.

In the article  “America’s Best Holiday Cookies,” from McCall’s magazine, December 1994, comes this bit of  food history:

The flood of cheap imported wares from Germany between 1871 and 1906 inundated the markets with cooking utensils, such as cookie cutters. Unlike homemade counterparts from the local tinsmith, these tools depicted highly stylized images, often depicting subjects designed specifically to hang on the Christmas tree. Likewise, recipes appeared in popular cookbooks to better match the demands of such utensils. With the advent of inexpensive tin cutters, new emphasis was placed on shape, where in the past, many homemade cookies simply had been square or round. Bells, Christmas trees, camels, cutters with zigzag edges, Santa Clauses and turkeys created a new tradition.

Very early recipe:

“To three pound of flour, sprinkle a teacup of fine powdered coriander seed, rub in one pound of butter, and one and a half pound sugar, dissolve one teaspoonful of pearlash [a rising agent] in a teacup of milk, knead all together well, roll three-quarters of an inch thick, and cut or stamp into shape and slice you please, bake slowly fifteen or twenty minutes; tho’ hard and dry at first, if put in an earthen pot, and dry cellar, or damp room, they will be finer, softer and better when six months old.” —American Cookery, Amelia Simmons, 2nd edition [Albany:1796] (p. 46).

[NOTE: this book is considered by most food historians to be the first American cookbook.]

cookietreats5

Spumoni Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/3 cup shelled pistachios
  • Green food coloring
  • 1/3 cup red candied cherries
  • Red food coloring

Directions

Line a 9-inch by 5-inch metal loaf pan with plastic wrap, letting wrap extend on all sides. On waxed paper, combine flour, baking soda and salt.

In large bowl with mixer at medium speed, beat butter and sugar 4 minutes or until light and fluffy, occasionally scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Add egg and almond extract and beat until well blended. Reduce speed to low; beat in flour mixture just until blended, occasionally scraping bowl.

Transfer 1 rounded cup plain dough to a medium bowl; with spoon, stir in pistachios and enough green food coloring to tint dough bright green.

In another bowl, place 1 rounded cup plain dough; stir in cherries and enough red food coloring to tint dough bright red.

Evenly pat pistachio dough into the bottom of the prepared pan; freeze 10 minutes.

Pat plain dough on top of pistachio layer; freeze 10 minutes. Pat cherry dough on top. Cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight, until the dough is firm enough to slice.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove dough from the pan. With a serrated knife, cut dough crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Cut each slice crosswise into 3 cookies.

Place cookies, 2 inches apart, on ungreased, large cookie sheets.

Bake cookies 10 to 12 minutes or until firm and golden brown at the edges. Cool cookies on the cookie sheet on a wire rack 2 minutes. With a wide spatula, carefully transfer cookies to rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

Store cookies in tightly covered container at room temperature up to 2 weeks, or in freezer up to 3 months.

cookietreats1

Apricot Crumb Bars

2 dozen

Ingredients

Cookie Crust

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

Topping

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup apricot jam

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray 13 by 9 inch metal baking pan with nonstick baking spray; line pan with foil, then spray foil.

With mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, brown sugar and salt until creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla. With mixer on low-speed, beat in flour until just combined.

Transfer to prepared pan. With lightly floured hands, spread into an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes.

For the topping:

Combine in a medium bowl: 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 3 tablespoons softened butter and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon; pinch with fingers until clumps form.

Take crust out of the oven and spread crust with the apricot jam. Sprinkle with the topping. Bake 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Cool completely on wire racks.

Once cool, cut into 2-inch squares.

cookietreats2

Pistachio Thins

4 dozen

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup pistachios

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray an 18 by 12 inch rimmed baking sheet with nonstick baking spray; line pan with foil, then spray foil.

With mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt until creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla. With mixer on low-speed, beat in flour until just combined.

Transfer to prepared pan. With lightly floured hands, spread and press into an even, thin layer.

Sprinkle with pistachios and press the nuts into the dough. With a pizza cutter or very sharp knife, cut dough lengthwise into 3-inch-wide rectangles, then crosswise to form 3-inch squares. Cut squares diagonally into triangles.

Bake 15 to 17 minutes or until golden. Cool completely on wire racks. Gently break triangles to separate.

cookietreats3

Hazelnut Bars

3 dozen

Cookie Crust

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

Topping

  • 1/2 cup hazelnut chocolate spread (Nutella)
  • 1 cup toasted hazelnuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 13 by 9 inch metal baking pan with nonstick baking spray; line pan with foil, then spray foil.

With mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, brown sugar and salt until creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla. With mixer on low-speed, beat in flour until just combined.

Transfer to prepared pan. With lightly floured hands, spread into even layer.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until deep golden brown around edges. Cool completely on wire rack.

Spread crust with hazelnut chocolate spread. Sprinkle with hazelnuts; press to adhere. Using the foil, remove from the pan. Cut into 1 1/2-inch squares.

cookietreats4

Italian Angelette Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons  butter
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla or lemon extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup colored candy decorations

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease large cookie sheet.

In large bowl with mixer at low-speed, beat granulated sugar and butter until blended. Increase speed to high, beat 2 minutes, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula.

At low-speed, beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beat in vanilla or lemon extract until mixed. Beat in flour, baking powder and salt just until blended.

With heavily floured hands, shape dough into 1 1/2-inch balls. Place balls, 2 inches apart, on cookie sheet. Bake cookies 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough.

In small bowl, whisk confectioners’ sugar and 3 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons water until blended.

Dip the top of each cooled cookie into the glaze. (Whisk more water into the glaze if it becomes too thick.)

Place cookies on wire rack set over waxed paper to catch any drips. Sprinkle with candy decorations. Allow glaze to set, about 20 minutes. Store cookies in a tightly covered container, with waxed paper between layers for up to 2 weeks.


pastadinnercover

It’s the holidays and you want to invite friends over but don’t want to spend all day in the kitchen, then pasta is just right for such an occasion. Most people like pasta and it can become an elegant company meal with the right ingredients.

The menu can come together quickly by adding a simple appetizer, such as cheese and crackers or a light soup. Add a salad, some bread and cookies and the meal is done. Don’t forget the wine.

pastadinner1

Sausage Stuffed Shells

This dish can be assembled early in the day and refrigerated. Take the dish out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking.

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 24 dried jumbo shell macaroni
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped fresh cremini mushrooms
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 large red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 12 ounces Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 ½ cups ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 3 1/2 cups homemade or store-bought tomato pasta sauce
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Minced fennel leaves for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain and place the shells on clean kitchen towels.

In a large mixing bowl combine eggs, ricotta cheese and Parmesan cheese.

In a large skillet cook mushrooms, chopped fennel and bell pepper in hot oil over medium heat about 4 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Add the vegetables to the ricotta mixture.

Add sausage to the skillet and cook until browned, using a wooden spoon to break up meat as it cooks. Drain off fat and add the cooked sausage to the vegetable ricotta mixture. Stir well.

Fill the cooked macaroni shells with the ricotta, vegetable and sausage mixture.

Spoon 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a 3-quart rectangular baking dish, spreading evenly. Arrange shells on top of the sauce. Drizzle shells with remaining sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Bake, covered about 30 minutes or until heated through. Garnish with fennel leaves.

pastadinner2

Shrimp and Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds fresh peeled and deveined medium shrimp
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped onion
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • One 12 ounce jar roasted red sweet peppers, drained and chopped
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • ¼ cup snipped fresh basil
  • 1 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb penne or ziti pasta

Directions

Rinse shrimp and pat dry with paper towels. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and place in a large pasta serving bowl.

In a large skillet, heat butter and oil over medium-high heat until butter is melted. Add onion and garlic. Cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes or just until onion is tender.

Add shrimp and crushed red pepper; cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add roasted peppers and wine. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, about 2 minutes or until shrimp are opaque, stirring occasionally.

Stir in cream. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Boil gently, uncovered, for 1 minute. Stir in basil. Add shrimp mixture and cheese to hot cooked pasta; toss gently to combine.

pastadinner3

Meat Stuffed Manicotti

6 servings

Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion (1 large)
  • ½ cup finely chopped carrot (1 medium)
  • ½ cup finely chopped celery (1 stalk)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Two 26 to 28 oz containers of Italian crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 3 tablespoons snipped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3 bay leaves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Manicotti

Ingredients

  • 12 dried manicotti shells
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • ½ cup finely chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons basil pesto
  • 1 pound lean ground beef or ground turkey
  • 3 cups Marinara Sauce
  • Fresh basil for garnish

Directions

For the Marinara Sauce:

In a large saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are very tender but not brown, stirring occasionally.

Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, water, wine, parsley, basil, Italian seasoning, sugar, crushed red pepper, bay leaves, salt and black pepper.

Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, about 45 minutes or until sauce thickens stirring occasionally. Remove and discard bay leaves.

For the Manicotti:

Cook manicotti for 2 minutes less than the package directs; drain. Place manicotti in a single layer on a sheet of greased foil.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl combine 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese, the onion, bell pepper, egg and pesto. Add ground meat; mix well.

Divide mixture into 12 portions. Shape each portion into a 5-inch log. Push a log into each cooked manicotti shell; arrange the shells in an ungreased 3-quart rectangular baking dish. Pour Marinara Sauce over filled manicotti.

Bake, covered, for 45 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese and the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, about 10 minutes more or until the cheeses are melted. Garnish with fresh basil.

pastadinner4

Artichoke Lasagna

8 servings

Ingredients

  • One 9 oz package of frozen and thawed artichoke hearts or 15 cooked baby artichokes
  • 9 dried lasagna noodles
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • ½ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • One 15 ounce carton ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups half-and-half or light cream
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook lasagna noodles al dente; drain and place the noodles on clean kitchen towels.

Place the defrosted artichoke hearts on paper towels and cut each in half.

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add artichokes, pine nuts and half of the garlic. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes or until the artichokes are tender, stirring frequently. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Do not clean out the pan.

Stir in ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup of the basil, the egg and salt into the mixing bowl with the artichokes..

In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, combine broth and flour.

In the large saucepan used to cook the artichokes, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add the remaining garlic; cook and stir until garlic is tender but not brown. Stir in flour mixture and half-and-half. Cook and stir until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat. Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup basil.

In a small bowl, combine mozzarella cheese and the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.

To assemble the lasagna:

Spread about 1 cup of the sauce over the bottom of an ungreased 3-quart shallow baking dish. Layer three of the cooked noodles in the dish. Spread with one-third of the artichoke mixture and one-third of the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the mozzarella mixture. Repeat layering noodles, artichoke mixture, sauce and mozzarella mixture two more times.

Bake, uncovered, for 35 to 40 minutes until edges are bubbly and top is lightly browned. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

pastadinner5

Seafood Linguine

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces linguine or spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallot
  • 1 28-ounce can diced Italian tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 18 littleneck or small cherrystone clams, scrubbed
  • 12 ounces sea scallops, muscle removed
  • 12 ounces grouper, tilapia or other flaky white fish, cut into 1-inch strips
  • 6 ounces calamari, cut into thin rings
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram, plus more for garnish

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and place in a large pasta serving bowl.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and shallot and cook, stirring, until beginning to soften, about 1 minute.

Increase the heat to medium-high. Add tomatoes, wine,chili flakes, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 minute. Add clams, cover and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in scallops, calamari, fish and marjoram. Cover and cook until the scallops and fish are cooked through and the clams have opened, 3 to 5 minutes more. (Discard any clams that don’t open.)

Spoon the sauce and clams over the pasta and sprinkle with additional marjoram.


siena1

The Province of Siena is located in central-southern Tuscany. The main agricultural products are wheat, grapes, fruit and silk. Chianti wine is produced here, as well. The town’s 13th-century main square, the Piazza del Campo, is still the city’s symbolic and physical heart. Piazza del Campo is the ideal Italian piazza, a huge space reached by winding streets that suddenly converge in front of the city’s town hall. The twice-a-summer bareback horse race, Il Palio, are popular events. The city’s Museo Civico is in the Piazza del Campo, where you’ll find beautiful frescoes, like the collection painted by Simone Martini and the Allegory of Good and Bad Government created by Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Sala della Pace. Commissioned by the city council in the 14th century, at the height of the city-state’s power, the frescoes depict on one side a city at peace and, on the other, a tyrant-ruled Siena in ruins with armies descending on one another. In the Piazza Grande in Montepulciano, a festival of love stories in the Tuscan tradition is held, where players dressed in costume, narrate the stories. The Medieval folklore is continued in Montepulciano, with the combat of the Bravio delle Botti, during which athletes compete by pushing 176-lb barrels.

sienarace

sienzcathedral

Few dishes are more Tuscan than Bistecca Fiorentina, grilled steak from the prized Chianina cattle.  Other typical delicacies are pici (a thick, handmade spaghetti), ribollita, a vegetable, bread and bean soup, roasts, stewed or grilled game, cacio pecorino – a hard, salty Italian cheese, often used for grating and made from sheep’s milk, mushrooms, tripe, wild boar and cold cuts made from the Cinta Senese, the famed black pig with a white stripe, depicted in some famous 15th Century paintings.

Italy / Italia - Siena (Toscany / Toscana) / FLR : on Piazza del Campo - Palazzo Pubblico - Unesco world heritage site - photo by M.Bergsma

Italy / Italia – Siena (Toscany / Toscana) / FLR : on Piazza del Campo – Palazzo Pubblico – Unesco world heritage site – photo by M.Bergsma

Osteria-style lunches tend to be simple meals of small plates containing sausage, local meats, such as prosciutto and salami, panzanella, meatballs and different types of frittata accompanied by carafes of the house wine. Seafood from the Tuscan coast, may consist of Calamari Eggplant Parmesan (crispy strips of battered calamari with chunks of aubergine topped with cheese) or fresh fish, such as  amberjack baked with potatoes, zucchini and olives.

Sienese sweets are not particularly well-known, but two treats — Panforte and Ricciarelli are typical of the province’s desserts. The former, with its spices and dry fruit, is reminiscent of a slightly hard Christmas fruit cake. The Ricciarelli are soft almond-based cookies with a crunchy top and the flavors of honey and vanilla.

sienacheese

Some Traditional Recipes From Siena

sienacrostini

Crostini With Chicken Livers

Ingredients

  • 1 pound chicken livers
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 sage sprigs
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1 anchovy fillet, minced
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup cognac
  • 1 large baguette, thinly sliced

Directions

Trim the chicken livers of any sinews and veins and set them on paper towels to dry for about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a large skillet, melt the butter in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the chopped onion, sage and rosemary and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the minced anchovy and capers and cook over low heat until the onion is lightly browned, about 8 minutes longer. Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl.

Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet. Season the chicken livers with salt and pepper, add them to the skillet and cook over high heat until browned, about 2 minutes. Turn the chicken livers over and cook for 1 minute longer. Stir in the onion mixture. Add the cognac and carefully ignite it with a long match. Cook the livers until the flames subside.

Discard the herb sprigs and scrape the contents of the skillet into a food processor; let cool slightly. Pulse until chunky, then season with additional salt and pepper, if it is needed.

Place the baguette slices on a large baking sheet and toast them for about 15 minutes, until they are golden and crisp. Spread the baguette toasts with the chicken liver and serve.

sienahens

Tuscan Roasted Game Hens

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 6 Game Birds or Rock Cornish Game Hens, each about 3/4 pound each and at room temperature
  • 6 fresh sage leaves
  • 6 bay leaves, preferably fresh
  • 12 black olives (preferably small Gaeta or Nicoise)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 12 thin slices pancetta or prosciutto
  • Roasting pan or baking dish large enough to accommodate the hens

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place a piece of pancetta inside each hen, along with a sage leaf, a bay leaf and 2 of the olives.. Sprinkle salt and pepper all over the outsides of the hens and rub into the skin, along with some of the olive oil at the same time. Wrap a slice of pancetta or prosciutto around each hen, stretching the meat to cover as much of the hen as possible. Set the hens in the baking pan.

Roast for 45 minutes, then turn down the oven to 325 degrees F. and continue roasting 30 to 45 minutes longer, or until the hens  are cooked.. Serve with the pan juices as a sauce.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Panforte Di Siena Recipe – Italian Siena Cake

Panforte is an Italian confection that is a cross between fruitcake, candy and honey cake and is a specialty of Siena, Italy that dates back to the 13th century.

Ingredients

Bread Crumb Crust

  • 1 tablespoon cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon fine bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons ground almonds or hazelnuts

Cake

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup candied citron or candied melon, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup candied orange peel, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup almonds or hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped*
  • Powdered (confectioner’s sugar) sugar

* To toast nuts, preheat the oven to 350° F.  Place nuts in a single layer in an ungreased shallow pan or rimmed baking sheet. Bake 5 to 10 minutes, stirring once or twice during toasting to aid in even browning, or until they are golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and place the nuts on a plate to cool

Directions

Brush an 8-inch Springform Pan with the butter. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the pan bottom. Brush with paper with butter and fit into pan bottom.

In a small bowl, combine cake flour, bread crumbs and almonds or hazelnuts; evenly scatter over sides and bottom. Pat gently into place and set aside..

Preheat the oven to 300° F and adjust the oven rack to the center position.

In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup cake flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, coriander, cloves and nutmeg; set aside.

In another small bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of cake flour and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon; set mixture aside and save for the top.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the honey and sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until the mixture comes to a full boil; remove from the heat. Stir in candied fruit and almonds or hazelnuts. Sift in flour mixture; stir until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan. Smooth the top with the slightly wet palm of your hand. Sift reserved cinnamon-flour mixture over the top.

Place cake in the center of the oven rack. Bake 30 minute or until panforte just starts to simmer around edge of the pan. Remove from the oven; cool completely on a wire rack.

Loosen the cake from the pan by running a small knife around the perimeter and remove the sides of the springform pan. Invert onto a wire rack, letting excess cinnamon flour fall away. Use a knife to peel away the parchment paper. Invert panforte again and transfer onto a wire rack. Dust top with powdered sugar.

When cool, it can be wrapped in several layers of plastic wrap and a layer of aluminum foil and stored in an airtight container for several weeks or frozen for up to six months. Serve at room temperature. Before serving, dust lightly with additional powdered sugar. Cut into small wedges to serve.

Makes 16 servings.

sienamap


cookiegiftscover

Homemade Christmas gifts are a great way to add a very personal touch to your gift giving during the holiday season. There are countless ways to spread Christmas cheer and, for hundreds of years, one of the world’s enduring time-honored traditions is that of giving food gifts. The cookie recipes below make excellent gifts but they are also good to take to a Christmas party or a cookie exchange. Packaging them in decorative bags, jars or boxes or arranging them on Christmas plates, makes these gifts very festive.

cookiegifts1

Lemon Pecan Cookies

Makes about 4 dozen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup salted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped, toasted pecans
  • Lemon Icing, recipe below

Directions

Beat the butter and sugar in the large bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed until well mixed. Beat in egg and vanilla. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour and the lemon peel.

Divide dough in half. Shape each dough portion into an 8-inch-long log. Sprinkle half of the nuts on a sheet of waxed paper. Roll one log in the nuts to coat. Repeat with remaining nuts and log.

Wrap logs in plastic wrap. Chill about 2 hours or until firm enough to slice.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

If necessary, reshape logs to make them round. Cut logs crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place slices 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets covered with parchment paper.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or just until edges are firm and tops are set. Cool on cookie sheets for 1 minute. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; cool completely.

Lightly cover cookies with Lemon Icing. Let stand until the icing sets.

Lemon Icing

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons milk

Directions

In a medium bowl, stir together powdered sugar, lemon peel, and enough milk to make a spreading consistency.

To store:

Layer cookies between waxed paper in an airtight container. Cover; seal. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

cookiegifts3

Dark Chocolate Cookie Kisses

Makes about 3 dozen

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely shredded orange peel
  • 36-40 dark chocolate candy kisses and/or dark chocolate stars

Directions

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until combined. Add the baking powder and salt; beat until very light and fluffy.

Beat in egg white. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour and the orange peel.

Cover the bowl and chill dough about 30 minutes or until easy to handle.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Place balls 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets covered with parchment paper. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or just until the edges are set and the bottoms are very lightly browned.

Immediately press a chocolate kiss or star into the center of each cookie. Transfer cookies to wire racks; cool completely.

To store:

Layer cookies between waxed paper in an airtight container. Cover; seal. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

cookiegifts4

Chocolate Sugar Cookie Stars

Makes about 30 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 recipe Vanilla Icing and Chocolate Icing

Directions

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until combined. Add baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Beat until combined, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Add egg and vanilla; beat until combined. Beat in cocoa powder. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour. Divide dough in half. Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 to 2 hours or until easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough, half at a time, to just under 1/4-inch thickness. Using 1- to 2-1/2-inch star-shaped cookie cutters, cut into stars. Reroll scraps as necessary. Place cutouts 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets covered with parchment paper.

Bake for 5 to 6 minutes or until edges are firm and centers are set. Transfer to wire racks; cool completely. Drizzle cookies with Vanilla and Chocolate Icing.

Chocolate Icing

Ingredients

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 5 – 6 teaspoons milk

Directions

In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla, and enough milk to make drizzling consistency.

Vanilla Icing

Ingredients

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 – 4 teaspoons milk

Directions

In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, vanilla, and enough milk to make drizzling consistency.

To store:

Layer cookies between waxed paper in an airtight container. Cover; seal. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

cookiegifts2

Chocolate Covered Pretzel Sticks

Makes 16

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces white baking chocolate (with cocoa butter), semisweet baking chocolate or dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped, toasted pistachios
  • 16 pretzel sticks
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped dried tart cherries

Directions

In a small saucepan, heat chocolate over low heat until melted and smooth, stirring frequently. Spread pistachios on a sheet of waxed paper.

Dip each pretzel into the  melted chocolate, covering about two-thirds of the pretzel. Let excess chocolate drip off.

Roll dipped pretzels in pistachios to coat. Press a few cherry pieces into the chocolate on each pretzel. Place pretzels on a clean sheet of waxed paper; let rest until the chocolate is set.

To store:

Layer pretzels between waxed paper in an airtight container. Cover; seal. Store at room temperature for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.

cookiegifts5

Cranberry Cornmeal Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cold butter
  • 4 ounces chocolate chips
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • One 8 – ounce carton light dairy sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons milk

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

Place cranberries in a small bowl; add enough boiling water to cover. Let stand for 5 minutes; drain well.

In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in drained cranberries and chocolate. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture.

In a small bowl, combine egg white, sour cream and milk. Add egg white mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Using a fork, stir until combined.

Drop dough by well-rounded teaspoons, 2 inches apart onto prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until the edges are lightly brown..

Transfer cookies to wire racks; cool completely.

To store:

Layer cookies between waxed paper in an airtight container. Cover; seal. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.



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