Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Desserts

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

Christmas Butter Cut-out Cookies

Yield: about 4 dozen cookies

Ingredients

1 cup sugar
2 cups butter ( 4 sticks)
4 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups flour
Powdered sugar icing (see below) and red and green colored sprinkles, for decoration

Directions

In a large electric mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and smooth.
Separate 3 of the eggs and leave one whole. Beat the 3 egg yolks and the remaining whole egg into the butter-sugar mixture. Set aside the eggs whites and use for another recipe.
Beat in the vanilla. Gradually add the flour and mix well. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease baking sheets.
Divide the dough into four equal parts. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one-fourth of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut out shapes with floured cookie cutters. Transfer cookies to baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough and re-roll the scraps until all the dough is used.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.


Frost the cookies lightly with the icing and sprinkle with colored sprinkles.

Store in tightly covered containers for up to two months in a cool place, or freeze for up to 6 months.

Powdered Sugar Icing
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk
Mix together to make a thin icing.

Italian Pecan Cookies

Ingredients

1 cup butter
3 heaping tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon cold water
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup pecans halves
Powdered sugar icing, see below
Multi-Colored sprinkles

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Beat butter, powdered sugar, water, and vanilla until creamy in an electric mixer. Add flour and salt. Mix well.
Cover a pecan half with 1 tablespoon of dough and place on cookie sheets.
Bake for 30 minutes until lightly brown. Cool cookies on a rack.
Frost with powdered sugar icing and sprinkle colored sprinkles on top.

Powdered Sugar Icing
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk
Mix together to make a thin icing.

Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

Ingredients
1 ¼ cups, softened (2 ½ sticks)
1 egg
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Red food coloring

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Cream together the butter, egg, powdered sugar, peppermint extract, and vanilla. Add flour and salt. Divide the mixture in half. Add 1 teaspoon red food coloring to ½ the dough. Chill both halves.

Divide each half into 60 small balls. Press a red ball and a white ball together. Roll the two into a 4-inch rope and form into a candy cane shape. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets for 9 minutes. Cool.
These cookies also freeze well.


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.


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.


 

Servings: 24 cookies

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line 4 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Combine dry ingredients: flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
Combine wet ingredients: butter, sugar, and brown sugar in a separate mixing bowl and beat for a few minutes until creamed together. Add egg and vanilla and mix until combined.
Add dry ingredients: Gradually mix in the flour mixture until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
Scoop dough: Measure out 1/4 cup balls of dough and place them on a baking sheet 2 inches apart.
Bake for15 minutes or until set around the edges (don’t overbake!).
Allow cooling for several minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely
Store leftover cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.
Notes
Make-ahead Instructions: Make the dough up to 2 days ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator.
Freezing Instructions: The cookie dough balls may be frozen for up to 3 months. To freeze the baked cookies, allow them to cool completely and store them in a freezer-safe bag for up to 3 months.


 

I double the recipe and freeze some of the cookies for a later date.

Ingredients

3/4 cup golden raisins

1 1/2 tablespoons warm rum or water

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon fine salt

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

For the cookies: Toss the raisins in the warm water and let soak for at least 10 minutes then drain.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt together in a medium bowl.

Beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs and then the vanilla. Add the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated. Stir in the oats, walnuts, and the drained raisins.

Scoop rounded tablespoons of the batter onto the prepared baking sheets, about 2-inches apart.

Bake, rotating the position of the pans halfway through, until golden brown around the edges, about 14 minutes. Cool on the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a rack to cool completely.


My blueberry bushes are producing lots of berries right now, so I am busy thinking up ways to use them

Blueberry Crisp

Ingredients

One 9-9nch prepared pie pastry

For the filling
3 cups blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

For the topping
1cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°.Coat a 9-inch pie pan with cooking spray. Place the pastry in the pan and crimp the edges.

Make the filling: Mix blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and salt in a bowl. Transfer to the prepared pie pan.

Make the topping: Stir together flour, oats, baking powder, melted butter, and salt. Using your hands, squeeze topping pieces together into clumps.

Sprinkle topping evenly overfilling. Place the pie pan on a baking sheet to catch any drips.

Bake until bubbling in center and brown on top, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool for 30 minutes before serving.


When all you want is a simple cookie to have with a cup of tea, the easy recipe below fits just perfectly.

Vanilla Shortbread

Makes 2 dozen

Ingredients

1 cup salted butter, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions

Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.

Gradually add the powdered sugar, beating until smooth.

Stir in vanilla extract and almond extract until blended.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed until blended.

On a large sheet of plastic wrap, with floured hands, shape the dough into a 12-inch by 2-inch log.

Wrap tightly and place in a large freezer bag. Freeze for several hours or even overnight hours.

The dough may be frozen for up to 1 month.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Let the log stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Cut the log into 24 ½-inch thick slices with a sharp knife.

Place shortbread slices 1 inch apart {12 to a pan{ on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake shortbread for 15 minutes or until the edges are golden. Reverse pans halfway through the baking time.

Remove shortbread from baking sheets after 10 minutes, and place on wire racks; let cool completely.

Store in airtight containers.


I used fresh pineapple instead of canned because my market had a buy one, get one promotion on cubed fresh pineapple last week. I put the pineapple in my processor and pulsed it until it was the consistency of crushed pineapple. Don’t over-process or you will have juice. The fresh pineapple worked just fine. This very moist cake is good for breakfast, as is, or you may serve it for dessert with sweetened whipped cream,

Ingredients

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup sour cream or yogurt
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups crushed pineapple with juice

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and thoroughly grease a bundt pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, sour cream, and sugar.

Add eggs and vanilla and whisk until smooth.

Whisk in baking powder, baking soda, and salt until completely combined.

Whisk in flour until just incorporated. Slowly stir in the crushed pineapple with a spatula.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.

Let cake cool to room temperature. Run a thin spatula or knife about the outside of the pan and around the tube. Turn the cake over onto a serving plate.


Strawberry Tiramisu

Ingredients

30 whole  ladyfingers
8 oz mascarpone cheese
2 cups cold  heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup powdered sugar
½ cup orange juice
3 cups fresh strawberries, sliced

Directions

In a large mixing bowl beat heavy cream until soft peaks form.

Add in the mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract and beat on medium speed until stiff, set aside.

Separate the ladyfingers.

Line half of the ladyfingers in a single layer, in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish.

Brush the ladyfingers with half of the orange juice.

Spread half of the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers and layer with half of the sliced strawberries.

Repeat the steps again.

Place in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. Cut into 8 squares for serving.

 


Italian Cheesecake

serves: 10 to 12

Italian cheesecake is one of the easiest Italian desserts to make and is always a big hit.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup amaretto crumbs from about 5-6 cookies
5 large eggs at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups drained whole milk ricotta, at room temperature
1 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
3 tablespoons dark rum
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
Powdered sugar and strawberries for optional topping

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Combine the butter and cookie crumbs together and pour into the baking pan, Press the crumbs over the bottom until firm.

In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, and salt at high speed until creamy and doubled in volume for about 5 minutes.

Add ricotta, mascarpone, rum, and lemon and orange zest. Mix on medium until smooth and fluffy, about another 2 minutes.

Put springform pan on a baking sheet and pour batter into the pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake until edges are set and lightly golden but the center is still a bit jiggly about 75 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for about one hour. With a thin metal spatula, go around the cake in the pan to keep it from sticking to the pan as it cools. Cover the pan and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Remove the cake from the pan and place it on a serving plate. Cover the top with powdered sugar and strawberries cut in half.



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