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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Almond Paste

Making cookies for Christmas is an important part of my family’s holiday tradition. This week I am sharing some of our favorite recipes.

Rainbow/Venetians/Neapolitan/Tri-Color Cookies

Ingredient

1- 8 ounce can almond paste
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 drops green food coloring
8 drops red food coloring
12-ounce jar apricot preserves
8 ounces semisweet chocolate

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dishes; line with waxed paper; grease paper.
Break up paste in large mixer bowl with a fork. Add butter, sugar, egg yolks and extract and beat with the mixer until fluffy, 5 minutes. Beat in the flour and salt.
Beat egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form. Stir into almond mixture with a wooden spoon, using turning motion similar to folding.
Remove 1-1/2 cups batter; spread evenly into one of the prepared pans. Remove another 1-1/2 cups batter to small bowl; tint green with coloring. Spread into the second pan. Tint remaining 1-1/2 cups batter red. Spread in remaining pan.
Bake 15 minutes or until edges are lightly golden; cake layers will each be 1/4 inch thick. Immediately remove cakes from pans onto large wire racks. Carefully peel off waxed paper. Cool.


Place red layer on upturned jelly roll pan or large platter. Heat preserves; strain; reserve chunks in a strainer for other uses. Spread half of the strained preserves over red layer. Top with a white layer. Spread with remaining preserves. Cover with a green layer, top side up.
Cover with plastic wrap. Weigh down with a large wooden cutting board, heavy flat tray or large book. Refrigerate overnight.
Melt chocolate in top of double boiler over hot water.

Trim off the uneven cake edges with a sharp knife. Frost the top layer with half of the melted chocolate. Let chocolate dry. Turn the rectangle over and frost the remaining chocolate. Cut cake crosswise into 1-inch-wide strips. Cut each strip into 1-inch pieces. Makes about 6 dozen. Cookies freeze well.

Marshmallow Fudge Squares

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon. salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 (6 oz) pkg. semi-sweet chocolate pieces (1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons milk
30 large marshmallows

Directions:

In a 1-quart saucepan melt butter and chocolate squares. Remove from heat.
Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Into large mixer bowl, measure flour, sugar, salt, vanilla, and eggs. Beat at low-speed until blended, scraping bowl occasionally. With a spoon, stir in chocolate mixture. Spread mixture in prepared pan. Bake 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate pieces and milk. Remove from heat.
Remove baking pan from oven; arrange marshmallows in rows on top of the baked layer. Bake 5 minutes longer or until marshmallows are soft and puffed. Remove to wire rack. With a metal spatula, flatten marshmallows and spread evenly.
Drizzle melted chocolate mixture over marshmallow layer. Cool on rack 30 minutes. Cover and refrigerate, until cold and the top is firm, about 2 hours. When cold, cut into small squares,
Store in tightly covered container in the refrigerator to use up within 3 days.
Cookies may be frozen with between layers of wax paper.

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Making cookies for Christmas is an important part of my family’s holiday tradition. This week I will share with some of our favorite recipes.

Pine-nut (Pignoli)Macaroons

Use only almond paste, not marzipan or canned almond filling.

Ingredients

1 can (8-ounce) almond paste, cut in small pieces
2/3 cup sugar
2 egg whites, from 2 large eggs
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel
1 cup pine nuts, pignoli

Directions

Heat oven to 325°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In mixer bowl beat almond paste, sugar, egg whites, and lemon peel with an electric mixer until smooth. Drop heaping teaspoonfuls dough 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheet. Sprinkle with pine nuts to cover, then press them gently to adhere.
Bake 22 to 25 minutes until tops feel firm and dry when lightly pressed. Cool completely on cookie sheet on wire rack. Store airtight at room temperature. (Cookies are best eaten within 2 weeks, or they can be frozen.)

Italian Wedding Cookies

Ingredients

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups sifted flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
powdered sugar ( for rolling baked cookies in)

Directions

Cream together butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy; stir in vanilla.
Whisk together flour and salt; add gradually to butter mixture; stir in chopped nuts.
Chill dough if it seems too soft.
Form dough into 1 inch balls and place onto parchment-lined or ungreased baking sheets.


Bake at 400° for 10 minutes or just until the cookies start to turn light golden-brown; remove from oven and allow to cool slightly; while cookies are still warm (but NOT hot) remove them from baking sheets and roll, a few at a time, in powdered sugar until evenly coated; cool cookies completely on wire racks.
Cookies may (optionally) be rolled in powdered sugar a second time once cooled to room temperature. Cookies freeze well.
Yield: 48 cookies.


Christmas Morning Coffee Cake

Almond Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Dough

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 packages (1/4 ounce) or 4 ½ teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110° to 115°)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups all-purpose flour

Filling

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
8 ounces almond paste

Glaze

2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 to 4 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

To Make the Dough:

Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar in the electric mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the water and eggs and beat until well combined.

Mix in the flour until the dough comes to a ball or comes away from the sides of the mixer bowl.

Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for about 5 minutes or until you’ve made a soft, smooth dough.

Remove the dough to a floured surface. Grease the bowl and return the dough to the bowl. Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until it’s puffy (though not necessarily doubled in bulk).

To Make the Filling:

While the dough is rising, prepare the filling by beating the cream cheese and the almond paste together until smooth. Chill until ready to use.

Assembly:

Cover a large baking pan with parchment paper. I use a pizza pan.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and roll into a large rectangle, about 20 x 14 inches.

Spread the filling on the dough, leaving a half-inch border all around the dough.

Roll the dough up from the long side (jelly roll style). Seal the edge tightly. Form the roll into a circle and pinch the ends together to form a ring.

Place the cake on the prepared pan. Using kitchen scissors, cut two-thirds through the dough from the outer rim of the circle at 1 inch intervals.

Allow the ring to rise, covered with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel for 1 hour until almost doubled in size.

Baking:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Place an oven rack in the center of the oven.

Bake the ring for 35 to 40 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Wrap well and freeze until the day before Christmas. Defrost the cake at room temperature overnight.

For Christmas Morning

To make the glaze:

Combine the powdered sugar, almond extract, and enough milk to make a frosting that can be poured over the cake. Sprinkle with sliced almonds, if desired. Allow the glaze to set before serving.


january_thaw

I live in a climate that is hot about nine months out of the year, so winter time, especially January, is a great time of the year to bake. I can get some extra baking in and save the baked goods in the freezer for when it gets hotter. The recipe for one of our favorite breakfast scones is below.

Soup is another favorite and while tomatoes are not in season, Roma Tomatoes are plentiful and are great for cooking. Salads are hearty at this time of year and chicken salad is a great option. Stuffed vegetables or stuffed meat entrees are very comforting when there is a chill in the air. Try some of the recipes below to warm you up.

Breakfast

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Almond Scones

Makes 8 scones

Ingredients

2 cups self-rising flour (or 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon salt)
2 tablespoons sugar
One 7 oz tube almond paste
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup half-and-half (cream and milk)
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
½ cup slivered almonds
Sugar for sprinkling

Directions

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

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and sugar. With a pastry cutter, cut the almond paste and the butter into the dry ingredients until a few pea-sized lumps remain. Stir in the almonds.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, egg and almond extract and add to the flour mixture. With a fork gradually stir the dough until the mixture comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and very gently pat into an 8-inch round about 1 1/2 inches high. Sprinkle the top of the dough with sugar.

Using a chef’s knife or bench scraper, cut the dough round into 8 wedges. Transfer the wedges to the prepared baking sheet, spacing the scones at least 1 inch apart.

Bake in the top third of the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the tops are golden. Transfer the scones to a wire rack to cool.

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Roasted Red Pepper and Egg Wrap

2 servings

Ingredients

1 large, jarred roasted red pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons shredded mozzarella cheese
2 medium tortilla wraps

Directions

Cut the pepper into one inch pieces.

In a measuring cup beat the eggs with a sprinkle of salt, pepper and the Italian seasoning. Add the peppers and mix.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet. Stir and cook until the eggs are set.

img_0002-3

Warm the tortillas in the microwave. Divide the cheese in half and sprinkle over each tortilla. Divide the egg mixture in half and place on top of the cheese. Let stand for a few minutes to allow the cheese to melt.

Roll up each tortilla tightly, cut in half and serve.

Lunch

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Winter Tomato Soup

If you don’t like peeling tomatoes as much as I do, here is a technique I use to get around it. I usually purchase fresh Roma tomatoes for cooking and put them in the freezer when I get home from shopping. One day before I am going to cook with them, I place the amount I need in the refrigerator to defrost. The next day, the skins slip right off and are ready for the pot.

Ingredients

6 ripe plum tomatoes, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, minced
Two 26 oz containers finely chopped Italian tomatoes (Pomi)
1 teaspoon honey
4 cups organic broth (chicken or vegetable)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Optional: add ½ cup half & half to make a creamy version
Basil for garnish

Directions

img_0007

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot. Add the onions, cover and cook until they are soft and just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.

Add the the fresh and canned tomatoes, honey, salt and pepper to taste and the broth. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 hour and 30 minutes with the cover ajar. Remove the pot from the heat.

With an immersion blender or in a processor, puree the soup. If adding cream, add it here and warm the soup. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and serve hot garnished with basil.

img_0004

Open-Faced Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Slow-poaching the chicken breasts keeps them extra moist.

6 servings

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 scallions, minced
2 medium celery stalks, finely chopped
¼ of a green bell pepper finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
6 slices whole wheat or rye bread, lightly toasted

Directions

In a large saucepan, cover the chicken breasts with water. Bring to a very slow simmer and cook over low heat until white throughout, about 18-20 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a plate and let stand until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Cut the chicken into 1/2-inch dice.

In a large bowl, mix the mayonnaise with the mustard and season with salt and pepper. Fold in the onion, celery, bell pepper, parsley and chicken until evenly coated.

Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Spread some of the chicken salad onto the toasted bread slices and top with tomato slices to serve.

Dinner

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Crab-Stuffed Flounder

This is a hearty entree and only needs one vegetable as a side. flounder comes in large sizes here on the gulf and mine weighed 14 oz. Substitute an equal amount of smaller fillets.

For 2-3

Ingredients

Crab Filling

1 tablespoon each of minced onion, celery and bell pepper
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon seafood seasoning (Old Bay)
1/2 pound lump crab meat

Flounder

12-14 oz flounder fillet or fillets
Paprika
Chopped fresh parsley

Directions

In a small bowl, combine all the filling ingredients, except the crab. Then, gently fold in the crab. Place the flounder in a baking dish coated with olive oil.

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Spoon the crab mixture evenly over the fillet or fillets. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley.

Bake at 400°F for 20-24 minutes or until the fish is cooked through.

img_0001

Southwest Stuffed Peppers

January is a good time to try different ethnic cuisines. They can spice up some typical winter produce. While I find an occasional taco or quesadilla tasty, I am generally not a fan of Southwest recipes. This recipe turned out quite well, though, and is a nice change from regular stuffed peppers. It is also good served with a green salad with ranch dressing.

2 servings

Ingredients

1 large green bell pepper
¼ lb lean ground beef or turkey
1 teaspoon olive oil
½ teaspoon chili powder
1 scallion, chopped
½ cup of corn kernels
¼ cup salsa
½ cup Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cut the pepper in half and remove the seeds. Place the pepper halves in a small baking dish.

Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat and cook the ground beef until brown.

Turn off the heat and add the scallion, corn and salsa; stir to combine. Spoon this mixture into the pepper shells. Add water to cover the bottom of the dish.

Bake for 45 minutes, until the peppers are fork tender. Drain the water from the baking dish. Sprinkle the peppers evenly with the shredded cheese. Return the baking pan to the oven and bake just until the cheese melts.


img_0014

This coffeecake has been traditional for our Christmas morning breakfast for more years than I can remember. My children have always loved it and know it is special for Christmas. When they were young, I used to decorate it with red and green cherries. These days, I usually transport the cake without the glaze to their houses, since we visit them for the holidays now that they have children. I decorate the cake just before serving. The grand-kids also look forward to this festive cake. 

You can also divide the dough in half and make 2 braids or 2 horseshoe-shaped cakes. The dough can also be shaped into a large candy cane.

Almond Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Dough
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 packages (1/4 ounce) or 4 ½ teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110° to 115°)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 ½ – 4 cups all-purpose flour

Filling
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
8 ounces almond paste

Glaze
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 to 4 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Sliced almonds or colored cherries for garnish, optional

To Make the Dough:

img_0006

Combine the flour, yeast and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar in the electric mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the water and eggs and beat until well combined.

Mix in the flour until the dough comes to a ball or comes away from the sides of the mixer bowl.

Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for about 5 minutes or until you’ve made a soft, smooth dough.

Remove the dough to a floured surface. Grease the bowl and return the dough to the bowl. Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until it’s puffy (though not necessarily doubled in bulk).

To Make the Filling:

While the dough is rising, prepare the filling by beating the cream cheese and the almond paste together until smooth. Chill until ready to use.

Assembly:

Cover a large baking pan with parchment paper. I use a pizza pan.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and roll into a large rectangle, about 20 x 14 inches.

img_0010

Spread the filling on the dough, leaving a half-inch border all around the dough.

Roll the dough up from the long side (jelly roll style). Seal the edge tightly. Form the roll into a circle and pinch the ends together to form a ring.

Place the cake on the prepared pan. Using kitchen scissors, cut two-thirds through the dough from the outer rim of the circle at 1 inch intervals.

img_0013

Allow the ring to rise, covered with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size.

img_0011

Baking:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Place an oven rack in the center of the oven.

Bake the ring for 35 to 40 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack. 

To make the glaze:  

Combine the powdered sugar, almond extract and enough milk to make a frosting that can be poured over the cake. Sprinkle with sliced almonds, if desired. Allow the glaze to set before.

For Christmas

After glazing the cakes decorate with red and green cherries if desired.



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