Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

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I titled this post Summertime Cookies because the cookie recipes are quick and easy to make and they are filled with flavors that go well with summer ingredients. They are also perfect paired with ice cream desserts.

Basil Pistachio Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen

Ingredients

2 cups self-rising flour
3/4 cup fresh sweet basil, chopped
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup chopped pistachios

Directions

Using an electric mixer on low-speed, blend together the flour, basil, sugar and lemon zest and mix well.

In a separate bowl, mix the olive oil, egg and vanilla. Add this wet mixture to the dry ingredients.

Beat with the mixer, gradually adding the lemon juice. The mixture will be crumbly and slightly moist. It should not be sticky, though.

Add the pistachios and mix well. Gather the mixture into a ball.

Roll the ball into a log about 1½ inches thick and 14 inches long. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator. Can also be overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Cut the chilled log into 1/2 inch thick slices. Place them on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and reshape, if necessary, so they keep their round shape.

Bake for 10 minutes, rotate the pans and bake for 10 minutes more or until they are slightly brown.

Cool on a rack.

Crunchy Biscotti

Ingredients

6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Directions

Place the first 4 ingredients in the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat at high-speed for 2 minutes until well blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the flour to the sugar mixture, stirring until blended. Stir in chips and pecans (dough will be sticky). Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface. With floured hands, shape the dough into a 9 x 4 inch log; pat to 1/2-inch thickness. Place the log on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the log from the pan and cool 20 minutes on a wire rack.

Cut the log on the diagonal into 1/2 inch-thick slices. Place the slices, cut sides down, on the baking sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes, turn the biscotti over and bake for 10 minutes more. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Oatmeal Date Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen

Ingredients

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup wheat germ, preferably toasted
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together applesauce and oil until completely blended.

Whisk in sugar, egg and vanilla; set aside.

In a second medium bowl, combine the oats, wheat germ and flour.

Add to the applesauce mixture and stir well to combine thoroughly. Fold in the dates and pecans.

Using a cookie scoop or a tablespoon drop dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart, and bake until cooked through and golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

Carefully transfer to wire racks and set aside to let cool completely.


party time 6

This is the season for graduations, showers and a host of other occasions – all reasons to have a spring get together with friends and family.  To entertain with elegance, not extravagance, host a dessert party. People will love you for giving them the chance to be just a bit indulgent. A dessert buffet works well in the late afternoon or as an after dinner event. You can easily make the buffet smaller or larger simply by subtracting or adding desserts.

Keep the setting simple: Let single-flower arrangements and the beautiful desserts displayed at interesting levels in plain sight put the focus on what the guests really came for – a good time. Set up the buffet table―minus the desserts and beverages―the night before.

Before setting out your dessert spread, keep these table tips in mind.

  • If you have a cake stand, use it. The height will add visual impact to the table and will offer a bit of extra space on the crowded buffet table.
  • Set out dishes of your favorite chocolates or chocolate-covered nuts.
  • Place the plates at the far end of the table, the desserts in the middle and the beverages, cutlery and napkins at the other end of the buffet table.
  • Depending on how many guests you’ve invited, you may or may not have enough “real” dessert-sized plates, beverage glasses and wine goblets. Disposable serveware is perfectly okay. You could also borrow some plates and glasses from friends—that’s okay too. It’s not essential that all the glasses and plates match
  • You can never have too many cocktail napkins, both on the buffet and on end tables.

Beverages and Desserts 

There’s no need to offer a full bar – regular and decaffeinated coffee, several kinds of tea and a sparkling wine and a fruity white wine are more than enough.

Select desserts with contrasting and complementary textures and flavors. Mix sweet and tart, smooth and crunchy, add a pleasing spice or highlight a big, bold taste — like dark chocolate!

Make one showstopping dessert to dazzle your guests and let the others play minor, but still important, roles.

It’s smart to provide some lighter sweets to go along with the decadent ones — for example, a fresh fruit platter. Cookies are always a big hit — especially if children are present.

Plan as many make-ahead desserts as will work well on your menu. All of the desserts below can be made well in advance of your party.

Preslice cakes, pies and tarts, but do not separate the slices. Arrange cookies in baskets, plates or unique decorative containers.

party time 1

Honey Cheesecake

To keep the cheesecake from cracking, run a knife between the crust and pan a few minutes after removing it from the oven. The cheesecake will cool and condense without sticking to the pan’s sides.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup finely ground walnuts
  • 1/4 cup vanilla wafer crumbs
  • 1 1/2 pounds light cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup honey, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup regular evaporated milk (not low-fat) (you may also use heavy cream)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh berries

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Brush the inside of 8 or 9 inch springform pan with melted butter.

Mix walnuts and cookie crumbs in small bowl; spread evenly in the pan, coating the bottom and sides.

Beat cream cheese and 3/4 cup honey with a mixer at medium speed until smooth, scraping down bowl’s sides occasionally, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time; beat in milk and vanilla. Beat in flour, cinnamon and salt.

Pour into the crumb covered pan.

Bake about 1 hour and 10 minutes or until lightly browned and a little puffed. Cheesecake will jiggle in the center but will set as it cools.

Cool on a wire rack 2 hours. Cover and refrigerate. To serve, drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons honey and garnish with fresh berries.

party time 2

Hazelnut Truffles

Makes 3 dozen

Ingredients

  • 3 dozen hazelnuts
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon hazelnut liqueur
  • 1 (6-ounce) package white chocolate baking squares
  • 2 (2-ounce) chocolate candy coating squares

Directions

Bake hazelnuts in a shallow pan at 350°F, stirring occasionally, 5 to 10 minutes or until toasted.

Microwave chocolate chips and whipping cream in a 2-cup glass measuring cup at HIGH for 1 1/2 minutes or until chips melt, stirring twice. Stir in liqueur.

Pour into a wax paper-lined 15 x 10 inch jelly roll pan; freeze 2 hours or until firm to touch.

Shape 1/2 teaspoon chocolate mixture around each hazelnut, coating completely and place on wax paper.

Microwave white chocolate baking squares in a 1-quart microwave-safe bowl at HIGH for 1 1/2 minutes or until melted, stirring twice.

spring party 1

Truffle Mold

 

Coat plastic candy molds with a thin layer of white chocolate using a small paintbrush; let stand 1 hour or until firm. Place coated hazelnuts in molds; brush with remaining white chocolate, sealing to edges of molds. Let stand at room temperature 1 1/2 hours or until firm.

Invert molds; tap firmly on cutting board to remove candy.

Microwave coating in a 1-cup glass measuring cup 1 minute or until melted, stirring once. Pour into a small heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag; seal. Snip a tiny hole in 1 corner of bag; drizzle over truffles. Let stand until firm.

spring party 2

 

Lemon-Coconut Pound Cake

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut, divided

Lemon Glaze

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Beat butter at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

Stir together flour, salt and baking soda. Add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low-speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in lemon zest and 1/2 cup coconut.

Pour batter into a greased and floured 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 to 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack and cool completely (about 1 hour).

To make glaze:

Whisk together powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons milk and fresh lemon juice, adding an additional 1 tablespoon milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, for desired consistency

Spoon Lemon Glaze over cake and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup coconut.

Watermelon Salad. Moreton's House 712 Greenwood, Chapel Hill, NC 27514-5923. W: 919 967 2185 C: 919 260 7465 www.nealsdeli.com A100527_F&W_NealsDeli_Sept_2010

Watermelon Salad with Mint and Lime

Lightly salting the watermelon brings out its flavor.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups seedless watermelon chunks (1 inch), from a 6-pound melon
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves, torn
  • Salt

Directions

In a large bowl, toss the watermelon chunks with the lime juice and cayenne. Fold in the mint leaves. Season lightly with salt and chill until serving time.

MAKE AHEAD The watermelon salad can be refrigerated overnight. Fold in the torn mint leaves just before serving.

party time 5

Bourbon-Brownie Petit Fours

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup bourbon 
  • 3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Milk Chocolate Frosting/Semisweet Chocolate Glaze

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • One 5 3/4 ounce package milk chocolate chips
  • 16 ounce package semisweet chocolate chips or 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Directions

In a medium saucepan melt and stir butter and unsweetened chocolate over low heat until smooth. Remove from heat; cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 x 8 x 2 inch baking pan with foil, extending the foil over the edges of the pan. Grease foil; set aside.

In a small bowl stir together bourbon and coffee granules; set aside.

Stir sugar into cooled chocolate mixture in the saucepan. Add eggs, one at a time, beating with a wooden spoon just until combined. Stir in vanilla and bourbon mixture.

In a small bowl stir together flour and baking soda. Add flour mixture to the chocolate mixture, stirring just until combined.

Spread batter evenly in the prepared baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

Using the edges of the foil, lift the uncut brownies out of the pan. Cut off the edges of brownie and save for another use.

For the frosting:

In a small saucepan bring whipping cream just to boiling over medium-high heat. Remove from heat.

For Milk Chocolate Frosting:

Transfer 1/2 cup of the hot cream to a small bowl. Add milk chocolate chips (do not stir). Let stand for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. Cover loosely and chill for 1 to 2 hours.

For Semisweet Chocolate Glaze:

Add semisweet chocolate chips to the remaining hot cream in the saucepan, stirring until smooth. Set aside.

When ready to glaze petits fours, reheat Semisweet Chocolate Glaze over medium-low heat to reach pouring consistency, stirring constantly.

For petits fours:

Cut brownies into 1- to 1-1/2-inch squares. Coat petits fours with Semisweet Chocolate Glaze.

For Milk Chocolate Rosettes:

Beat the reserved cooled milk chocolate mixture with an electric mixer about 30 seconds or until fluffy. Spoon frosting into a decorating bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe large rosettes in the center of each petit four.

spring party 7

Oatmeal-Cherry Cookies

Yield: about 60 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup snipped dried red cherries (6 ounces)

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high-speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda.

Beat until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in the remaining flour. Stir in oats and dried cherries.

Drop the dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake in a 350 degree F oven about 12 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Cool on cookie sheets for 1 minute. Transfer to wire racks and let cool.

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Celebrate summer with desserts made with fresh fruit. Cutting back on high-fat, sugar-laden treats, like cakes, pies and brownies is a good idea, but no one wants to skip dessert all the time. Fresh melon chunks, sliced peaches, papaya and ripe berries give your meal a nutritional bonus and satisfies the sweet tooth. Here are some ideas for combining summer fruits with low-fat ingredients to make dessert special- go heavy on the fruit and light on the extras to keep it nutritious.

Summer favorites like cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon are sweet, juicy and flavorful enough for dessert right off the vine. Adding a scoop of sorbet or sherbet to a melon wedge along with a splash of raspberry syrup or lime juice turns fresh melon into a tasty dessert. Melons are virtually fat-free, low in calories and provide a good source of vitamins A and C. With only 50 calories per cup of melon cubes, they’re a nutritional bargain.

Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries signify the peak of summer sweetness. Take advantage of their vibrant color and flavor to jazz up any fruit salad, or top a dish of mixed berries with a scoop of vanilla yogurt or whipped topping for a healthy treat. Sprinkled over frozen yogurt or layered with low-fat pudding they make a beautiful and great-tasting sundae or parfait. Berries average about 60-80 calories per cup. They’re an excellent source of vitamin C and fiber.

For a quick, appealing dessert surround a wedge of angel food cake with slices of fresh peaches or nectarines. Add a small scoop of frozen vanilla yogurt and top with fresh berries and a drizzle of lowfat chocolate syrup. Peaches and nectarines have only 50-65 calories each. They provide vitamins A and C, potassium and fiber.

The key to including dessert is to enjoy a treat without overloading on calories, fat and sugar. As with many things in life, moderation is key, so you’ll need to stop yourself before you overindulge. Try sensible portions; you can eat 1 slice of pie and still be in your calorie range for the day.

Not every chocolate cake or banana nut muffin is created equal. Look for desserts without a lot of butter, sugar or creamy frosting. Since feeling guilty can ruin a good meal, try some healthy alternatives instead of your “regular” desserts.  I have included a few in this post for you to try.

Desserts for everyday:

  • Low fat cookie
  • Frozen 100% juice bar
  • Fresh berries with low fat topping
  • A one ounce piece of chocolate
  • Frozen grapes
  • Angel food cake
  • Pudding made with skim milk
  • Low fat ice cream or sorbet
  • Fruit salad
  • A fresh fruit smoothie

Some tips to baking healthy desserts:

  • Egg substitutes or egg whites instead of whole eggs.
  • Use applesauce or prune puree to replace half the oil or butter when baking to add moisture into your cakes and breads without adding more fat.
  • Less sugar. A lot of recipes call for much more sugar than is needed. Cut back by 1/3. Sugar altenatives for baking are a good option also. You might even like it better.
  • Fruit-based desserts. Although you still have to be careful, these desserts often have less calories and fat than other desserts.

Baked Peaches and Blueberries with Pecan Topping

Pecan halves form a top crust and provide crisp contrast to the soft fruit. Serve warm or chilled, on its own or with a scoop of ice cream.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh berries, picked over and rinsed
  • 9 cups (loosely packed) peeled, pitted and sliced ripe peaches
  • 1/4 cup quick-cooking tapioca (granulated or instant)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest

Topping:

  • 1  1/4 cups rolled (old-fashioned-not instant) oats
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1  1/2 cups pecan halves

Directions:

Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400°F.

In a large bowl, mix together the blueberries and peaches (plus any juices they’ve released), tapioca, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest. Transfer to a 2-quart baking dish.

Combine the oats, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.

Distribute the pecans on top of the fruit in the baking dish and sprinkle the oat mixture over the nuts.

Set the pan on a foil-lined baking sheet to catch spills if the fruit bubbles over.

Bake until the fruit is tender and the juices are thickened and bubbly, 35 to 45 minutes. If the nuts begin to get too dark before the fruit is done, cover the top loosely with aluminum foil.

Set on a rack and cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Frozen Raspberry Tart

Makes 12 servings

Ingredients:

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 cup dark chocolate cookie crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 cups fresh raspberries
  • 3 egg whites
  • 2/3 cup sugar or sugar alternative for baking
  • 1/2 cup fresh raspberries, strawberries, and/or blueberries

Directions:

Coat a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom with cooking spray; set aside.

For crust:

In a small bowl, combine the cookie crumbs and melted butter. Press the crumb mixture evenly over the bottom of the prepared tart pan. Set aside.

For filling:

Place raspberries in a food processor or blender. Cover and process or blend until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to extract as much of the mixture as possible (you will need about 1 cup). Discard the solids.

Beat egg whites with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 2 to 3 minutes or until soft peaks form (tips curl). Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating about 3 minutes more or until stiff and glossy peaks form (tips stand straight).

Add about one-fourth of the egg white mixture to the raspberry mixture, whisking until smooth. Add the lightened raspberry mixture to the egg white mixture in the bowl. Using a whisk, gently fold together until no white streaks remain. Pour filling into crust; smooth the top. Cover and freeze for 8 to 24 hours.

To serve, let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the sides of the tart pan. Cut into wedges. Garnish with fresh berries.

Almond-Tangerine Panna Cotta

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup fat-free milk
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate or cranberry juice
  • 1/2 cup tangerine sections (3 to 4 tangerines)
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh cherries

Directions:

Place four 6-ounce custard cups or ramekins in a shallow baking pan; set aside.

In a small saucepan stir together 3 tablespoons sugar and gelatin. Stir in milk. Heat over medium heat until gelatin is dissolved, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Whisk in yogurt and 1/4 teaspoon of the almond extract until smooth. Pour mixture into custard cups. Cover and chill for 4 to 24 hours or until set.

For sauce:

in a small saucepan stir together 1 tablespoon sugar and cornstarch. Stir in pomegranate juice. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat. Stir in tangerine sections, cherries and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon almond extract. Cool.

To serve:

Immerse bottom halves of custard cups in hot water for 10 seconds. Using a small sharp knife, loosen panna cotta from sides of cups. Invert a serving plate over each cup; turn plate and cup over together. Remove cups. Serve panna cotta with sauce.

Blueberry Swirl Cheesecake Bars

Yield: 36 bars

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup reduced fat butter alternative, such as Smart Balance
  • 1-8 ounce package light cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar or sugar alternative for baking
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Powdered sugar (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan and spray foil with cooking spray; set pan aside.

In a small saucepan stir together the 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and the cornstarch. Stir in blueberries and orange juice. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat and set aside.

For crust:

In a large mixing bowl stir together the 2 cups flour and the powdered sugar. Cut in the butter alternative until fine crumbs form and mixture starts to cling together (mixture will still be crumbly). Pat mixture firmly into prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in an electric mixer bowl beat cream cheese, the 1/2 cup granulated sugar and the 1 tablespoon flour until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Pour over hot baked crust, spreading evenly. Spoon blueberry mixture in small mounds over the cheese layer. Use a thin metal spatula or table knife to marble the mixtures together.

Bake for 20 minutes more or until center is set. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 1 hour. Cover and chill at least 1 hour. Remove uncut bars from pan by lifting foil to a cutting board.

Cut into bars and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 2 days. If desired, sift powdered sugar over bars just before serving.

Lemon-Cornmeal Pound Cake with Berries and Cream

16 servings

Ingredients:

Cake:

  • 1  3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar or sugar alternative for baking
  • 8 tablespoon butter or reduced fat butter alternative, softened
  • 3 large eggs or 3/4 cups egg substitute
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup nonfat buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 large egg whites
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour for the pan

Topping:

  • 1  1/2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1  1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, optional
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 10-inch tube pan with cooking spray and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons flour.

To prepare cake:

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup and level with a knife. Combine flour with the next 3 ingredients (through salt) in a medium bowl.

Combine 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with an electric mixer at high speed until fluffy.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating until blended; stir in lemon zest and vanilla.

Combine buttermilk and 3 tablespoons lemon juice in a small bowl or measuring cup.

Add flour mixture to butter mixture, alternately with buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl; beat at high speed using clean, dry beaters until stiff peaks form. Gently fold half of the egg whites into batter. Gently fold in remaining egg whites.

Spoon batter evenly into prepared pan.

Bake for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan; cool completely on wire rack.

To prepare topping:

Combine berries, honey and lemon juice. Chill 30 minutes.

Beat cream, if using, with a mixer at high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Serve cake with berries and cream.


Whoever said fruit doesn’t count as dessert clearly needs to revisit this idea. Berry desserts can be just as satisfying as a piece of chocolate cake, if not better! Using fresh summer berries and healthful swaps, the dessert recipes below will satisfy your sweet tooth without compromising your waistline. None of the recipes below are over 160 calories, providing you stick to serving sizes.

Summer berries are bursting with flavor and are packed with antioxidants that have been linked to stalling the aging process, protecting the heart and circulatory system and preventing mental decline. Mix berries into your morning yogurt, bake some into a pie or tart, experiment with savory recipes or eat them as a snack. There are so many ways to enjoy berries.

Health Benefits of Berries

When you read about all the health benefits from berries, you will want to add them to your menu everyday.

Loaded with vitamin C, blackberries also contain ellagic acid—an important phytonutrient that protects skin cells from damaging UV rays. Ellagic acid also prevents the breakdown of collagen in the skin that occurs as we age and is linked to wrinkling.

Blueberries are phytonutrient powerhouses. They contain: anthocyanins, ellagic acid, quercetin, catechins and salicylic acid. If the latter sounds familiar, you may recognize it as the drug we’ve come to know as Aspirin. That’s right—blueberries contain natural aspirin, but it comes in a delicious package by Mother Nature where there’s no worry about harmful side effects. What’s more, blueberries are proven to reduce proteins that are linked with some forms of brain disease, making them weapons in the prevention of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, as well as other neurological disorders.

Raspberries, like other berries, contain an important compound that is more effective at alleviating inflammation than aspirin. Containing the phytonutrient ellagic acid, raspberries can help protect against pollutants found in cigarette smoke and may neutralize some cancer-causing substances before they can damage healthy cells. They’re delicious on their own, in a fruit salad, in a smoothie or on top of a salad.

Not only do eight strawberries contain more vitamin C than an orange, they are antioxidant powerhouses. Whether you want to evade heart disease, arthritis, memory loss, wrinkling or cancer, these berries have proven their ability to help. Plus, they’re just so easy to get into your diet on a regular basis.

A cross between blackberries and raspberries, Loganberries strengthen blood vessels, making them an excellent addition to help fight heart disease and developing varicose veins. They contain rutin, which research shows strengthens capillaries and improves circulation. They look like long raspberries.

Gooseberries—the berries that resemble green grapes—help you to feel happier. In recent research in the Journal of Experimental Neurobiology, scientists found that gooseberries contain a flavonoid called kaempferol that prevents the breakdown of the brain hormones, serotonin and dopamine. These brain chemicals naturally help us fight stress and keep our spirits up.

Caring For Berries

By nature, summer berries are small, soft and delicate, so cleaning and storing them is much more of a challenge than, say, a hearty melon or stone fruits.

Only rinse berries right before you use them. Water increases the likelihood they’ll start to mold.

Don’t soak: Place them in a colander and rinse water, grntly, over them instead of fully submerging them.

Give them a quick chill: You know how sun-ripened, warm berries have that delightful softness to them? Well, that is what makes them taste so good, but it’s also what makes them incredibly delicate and difficult to wash. So a good tip is to refrigerate them for an hour or so, when you bring them home from the market. They’re easier to rinse when they’ve had a chance to firm up just a bit.

After washing berries, let them rest in a colander in the refrigerator or another container that allows some air circulation. This will help them dry more quickly than if just placed in a bowl.

Avoid the crisper: Berries won’t last long, if kept in the crisper because the air has a higher humidity and doesn’t circulate as much as throughout the rest of the refrigerator.

Blackberry Sauce

This rich blackberry sauce can be a topper for almost anything — ice cream or frozen yogurt, waffles or pancakes or angel food cake are just some of the options.

This sauce is easily doubled or tripled for company.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blackberries or raspberries
  • 4 tablespoons cranberry juice or apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Directions:

In a small saucepan, combine berries, juice, sugar and Worcestershire. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, about 8 minutes or until desired consistency, stirring often and mashing berries slightly with a fork. Serve warm or cool. Makes 8 -2-tablespoon servings.

Berry Pudding Cake

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Dash salt
  • 1 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 cups assorted fresh berries (such as raspberries, blueberries and/or sliced strawberries)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degree F. Lightly coat six 6-ounce individual quiche dishes with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange in a 15x10x1-inch baking pan; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine eggs, granulated sugar, vanilla and salt; whisk until light and frothy. Whisk in milk until combined. Add flour and baking powder; whisk until smooth.

Divide berries among prepared quiche dishes. Pour batter over berries. (Batter will not cover berries completely.)

Bake about 20 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Serve warm. If desired, sift a little powdered sugar over each serving.

Raspberry-Oatmeal Wedges

12 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 cups fresh red raspberries
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup reduced fat tub-style vegetable oil spread, such as Smart Balance
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup frozen light whipped dessert topping, thawed (optional)
  • Fresh raspberries , optional

Directions:

In a medium bowl, combine granulated sugar and cornstarch. Add the 2 cups raspberries; toss to coat. Using a potato masher or fork, lightly mash berries; set aside for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom or a 9-inch springform pan or line an 8x8x2-inch baking pan with foil and lightly grease the foil.

In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, vegetable oil spread, baking soda and cinnamon; beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until well mixed, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg white. Beat in all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour until combined. Stir in oats.

Set aside 1/2 cup of the oat mixture. Press the remaining oat mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or just until crust is starting to brown on the edges.

Spread raspberry mixture over partially baked crust. Crumble the reserved 1/2 cup oat mixture over the top of raspberry mixture.

Bake about 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

If using the tart pan, remove side of the pan. If using the springform pan, run a thin metal spatula around the edge of the pan; remove ring. Cut into wedges to serve.

If using 8x8x2-inch baking pan, use foil to lift uncut bars from the pan; cut into bars. If desired, top individual servings with whipped topping and garnish with additional fresh raspberries.

Glazed Strawberry Pie

8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe Oil Pastry for Single-Crust Pie, recipe below
  • 6 cups strawberries
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Few drops vegetable red food coloring
  • Fat-free frozen whipped dessert topping, thawed

Directions:

Prepare Oil Pastry for Single-Crust Pie; prick bottom and sides of pastry generously with the tines of a fork.

Bake in a 450 degree F oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until pastry is golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Place 1 cup of the strawberries and the water in a food processor bowl. Cover; process until smooth. Transfer to a small saucepan. Bring to boiling; simmer 2 minutes.

In a medium saucepan stir together sugar and cornstarch; stir in berry mixture. Cook and stir over medium heat until bubbly. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat; stir in enough red food coloring to tint to a rich red color. Cool to room temperature.

Fold remaining strawberries into cooled mixture; pour into pastry shell, arranging berries so the point faces up. Cover; chill for 3 to 4 hours. Serve with whipped topping.

Oil Pastry for Single-Crust Pie

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup fat-free milk
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil (or oil of choice)

Directions:

In a bowl stir together flour and salt. Combine milk and oil in a large measuring cup. Add milk mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir with a fork until dough forms; form into a ball.

On a lightly floured surface slightly flatten dough. Roll dough into a 12-inch circle. Ease pastry into a 9-inch pie plate. Fold under extra pastry; crimp edge as desired.

Berry Ginger Shortcakes

10 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups fresh berries (sliced strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and/or blackberries)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour or Eagle Brand Ultra Grain flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons healthy butter substitute, such as Smart Balance
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute or 1 egg
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 – 28 ounce container frozen fat-free whipped dessert topping, thawed
  • 1/4 cup lowfat dairy sour cream

Directions:

In a small bowl combine the berries and the crystallized ginger. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425 degree F. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray; set aside.

To prepare shortcakes: 

In a medium bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Combine buttermilk and egg substitute or egg. Add to the flour mixture all at once, stirring just until mixture is moistened.

On a lightly floured surface pat the dough to 1/2-inch thickness and pat the sides into an even 10 inch square. With a sharp knife cut the dough into 10 equal sized rectangles. (You can also cut them out with a biscuit cutter, reroll the dough and cut out more biscuits. I prefer my method because it is quicker and doesn’t waste anything.)

Place shortcakes on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden. Cool the shortcakes slightly on a wire rack.

To serve:

In a small bowl combine the whipped topping and sour cream. Split shortcakes in half. Place bottoms on dessert plates. Divide the berry mixture among bottoms. Top each with some of the whipped topping mixture. Replace the shortcake tops.

Gluten Free Strawberry Cheese Tart

10 Servings

Ingredients:

Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups Gluten Free almond meal or flour (or grind an equal amount of almonds)
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons healthy butter substitute, such as Smart Balance, melted.

Combine almond flour, sugar and melted butter. Press into bottom and sides of a 9 inch tart pan with removable bottom. Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F and bake tart shell for 15 minutes or until evenly brown. Cool before filling.

Filling

  • 1 package reduced fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla flavoring

Beat all the ingredients together until smooth with a hand held electric beater. Set aside.

Topping

Wash and dry 4 cups of fresh strawberries. Cut in half. You may need a little more depending on their size.

1/4 cup clear jelly, such as apple, warmed in the microwave.

Assembly

Spread filling in cooled tart shell.

Arrange berries on top of filling in a circular pattern, end to end (with the rounded side of each strawberry facing the pointed end). You will have three circles and then fill in the center. Or you can make an arrangement that you like. With a pastry brush, spread a little warm jelly over each strawberry.

Chill before serving.

Mocha Cake with Berries

12 servings

Serving 1 slice cake, 2 tablespoons topping, and 2 tablespoons berries

Ingredients:

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso coffee powder or 2 tablespoons instant coffee powder
  • 3 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 5 egg whites
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)
  • 1/2 of an 8-ounce container frozen light whipped dessert topping, thawed
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries, blackberries and/or blueberries

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, stir together sugar, the water and espresso powder. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves and mixture almost boils. Stir in the chopped chocolate until melted. Remove from heat.

Place egg yolks in a small bowl. Gradually stir the chocolate mixture into egg yolks; stir in vanilla (mixture may appear slightly grainy). Set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together the 1/2 cup cocoa powder, the flour and baking powder. Stir in chocolate-egg yolk mixture until smooth.

In a large bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer on medium speed until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight). Stir a small amount of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten. Fold chocolate mixture into remaining egg whites. Spread in the prepared pan.

Bake about 30 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly touched. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Loosen and remove side of the pan. Cool completely. (Cake may fall slightly but evenly during cooling.)

To serve, cut cake into wedges. If desired, sprinkle dessert plates with additional cocoa powder. Transfer wedges of cake to dessert plates. Top with whipped topping and berries.

 


Italian Easter dessert recipes are a mixture of tradition, symbolism, light textures and rich tastes. Each region in Italy has its own specialty desserts so you would have to travel the country to understand the entire array of Easter desserts available in Italy.

Italian Easter Cookies

At Easter-time in Italy, cookies made of light and airy meringues are very popular. For an added after dinner touch, try a chocolate-espresso. Almond biscotti, a twice baked cookie, for dipping in after-dinner-drinks are also popular.

Italian Easter Pastries

Pastries abound in Italian desserts–for Easter, too! — including the well-known cannoli and the layered chocolate, liquor and cake pastry known as tiramisu. For most Italians though, Italian sponge cake is preferred for a light finish to a large meal, especially when topped with fruit and flavored syrup.

Italian Easter Fruits, Nuts, and Grains

Fresh fruit is a popular dessert any time of year in Italy. But it can also be found in tarts, fried pies or served whole with Italian cheeses.

Rice even makes an appearance in Italian Easter dessert recipes. Black Easter Rice is made by mixing rice with milk, dark chocolate, cocoa, candied fruit, orange zest and spices.

Italian cooking uses almonds and nuts as additions to cake batters, pastry toppings, and fillings.

Neapolitan Easter Pie (Pastiera)

No Easter celebration in southern Italy would be complete without a slice of sweet ricotta pie. Each region has its own version.

In Naples, the ricotta pie is called “pastiera” and it is thickened with softened wheat berries.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups wheat berries
  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 5 large eggs, divided
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 pounds fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup candied citrus
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 orange
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Directions:

Cover wheat berries with 2 cups water in a bowl; soak, changing water daily, for 3 days. Drain and boil in a pot of fresh water for 15 minutes; drain.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour and the 2 tablespoons sugar. Blend in butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add 1 whole egg and stir with a fork until just combined. Turn out dough onto a work surface.

Knead just until well combined, then form into a disk.

Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.

While dough is chilling, cut a 1-inch-wide strip of zest from the lemon, avoiding the white pith.

In a large saucepan, combine milk and zest; bring to boil. Add wheat berries, reduce heat to low and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes.

Spread wheat berries on a plate and cool; discard zest.

Heat oven to 375°F.

Separate the remaining 4 eggs.

In a large bowl stir together wheat berries, ricotta, remaining cup sugar, candied citrus, egg yolks, orange extract, finely grated zest from the orange, 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest and cinnamon.

Beat egg whites in another bowl to soft peaks and fold into ricotta mixture.

Grease a 9-inch springform pan; dust with flour.

Divide dough into 2 pieces, one larger than the other (three-quarters and one-quarter).

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the larger piece into a 15-inch round with a floured rolling pin.

Fit dough into prepared pan, leaving a 1/4-inch overhang. Chill for 10 minutes.

Roll out remaining dough into a 9-inch round. Using a pastry wheel or pizza cutter, cut 3/4-inch-wide strips.

Spoon filling into crust. Arrange strips over filling to form a diagonal lattice.

Crimp edges of crust. Bake until filling is set and crust is golden about 1 hour. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Run a thin knife around edge of the pie and remove the side of the pan. Chill cake at least 2 hours. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Italian Easter CookiesItalian Lemon Ring Cookies

Dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons lemon extract

Icing

  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3-4 teaspoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons lemon extract
  • Sugar Sprinkles, if desired

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, oil, milk and lemon extract on low speed until well blended. Stir in the flour mixture until dough is formed. Let rest, covered for 20 minutes.

Break off small pieces of the dough and roll into pencil-thin strips 4 inches long. Twist dough pieces to make circles or braids. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove cookies from cookie sheet and allow to cool on wire racks.

Icing: Mix together the confectioners’ sugar, milk, and lemon extract until smooth. Add more milk, if necessary. Using a metal spatula, frost the tops of the cookies. The frosting will drip down the sides and coat the cookies. Return to wire racks for the frosting to set. Sprinkle with multi-colored sprinkles, if desired, before frosting is set. Store in an airtight container. Makes 36.

Pinza Goriziana (Traditional Easter Cake)

A soft and light dessert from Italy’s Friuli region.

Ingredients

  • 7 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 5 oz butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, divided
  • 9 egg yolks, divided
  • 2 tablespoons instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon oil
  • Pinch salt
  • Powdered Sugar, optional

Mix together 4 cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, yeast and 1/3 cup milk in an electric mixer bowl. Knead until the dough is smooth and uniform, then let it rise for 30 minutes.

Once the dough has risen, knead it again, adding half of the remaining flour (1 ¾ cups), all of the remaining sugar, half (2 ½ oz.) of the butter (melted and allowed to cool), 1 egg, 6 egg yolks, half of the remaining milk (1/3 cup) and a pinch of salt. Mix together until you have a soft dough and let rise for another hour.

After the dough has risen a second time, add the remaining flour, 3 egg yolks, the remaining milk, the other half of the melted butter, the lemon oil and rum. Mix together until smooth and uniform, then shape the dough into a ball. Let rise for another hour.

Place the dough in a round baking dish lined with parchment paper. Whisk the remaining egg and brush it onto the dough. Bake the “Pinza Goriziana” in a 320° F oven for 40 minutes.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired, when cool.

Easter Knot Cookies

These are traditional cookies from Italy flavored with vanilla and almond extracts. They are tied in loose knots and baked, then frosted.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder

Icing

  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • Multi-colored sprinkles, if desired

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease cookie sheets.

In a large bowl, cream together 1/2 cup butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon almond extract, 1/4 cup milk, and oil.

Combine the flour and baking powder and stir into the sugar mixture.

Roll dough into 1 inch balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll the balls out into ropes about 5 inches long.

Tie into loose knots and place cookies 1 inch apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 5 minutes on the bottom shelf and 5 minutes on the top shelf of the preheated oven, until the bottoms of the cookies are light golden brown.

When cookies are cool, dip them into the icing and sprinkle with multi-colored sprinkles, if desired

To make the icing: cream together the confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon almond extract.

Beat in 3 tablespoons milk, one tablespoon at a time.

 

Italian Easter Egg Basket (Pupa Cu L’ova)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 16 tablespoons butter
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons anise extract
  • 6 cups flour
  • 6 teaspoons baking powder
  • 6 eggs, uncooked and dyed in Easter egg colors

Directions

Combine butter and sugar until light and fluffy in an electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time and beat thoroughly after each. Add the anise extract, mix thoroughly.

Combine flour and baking powder and add to bowl. Mix until a dough forms.

Take a small amount of dough, roll into a ball, flatten it to make a 4-inch round and place on a baking sheet. Place a colored egg in the center.

Pinch another piece of dough, roll into a “rope” 1/4 inch in diameter and cut into 2 pieces, each long enough to crisscross over the egg. (See photo above.)

Seal the edges to the round by pressing firmly. Repeat until all the dough is used up.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Italian Ring Cake

A traditional cake that is easy to make. It’s usually eaten for breakfast, dipped into warm milk or caffè latte. It’s also served at the end of a meal, either with a glass of dessert wine or with the slices drizzled with zabaione or fruit sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted over a double boiler or in the microwave and allowed to cool
  • 4 1/8 cups unbleached flour
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup milk, plus a little more at the end
  • 6 teaspoons baking powder
  • Coarse sugar, optional

Directions:

Put the sugar in the electric mixer bowl and crack the eggs into it. Beat with the mixer set to low/medium for 3-4 minutes, or until the mixture is a creamy yellow.

Add about a third of the flour to the egg and sugar mixture and beat the batter for about a minute. Add another third of the flour and beat for a minute more.

Add the melted butter and beat for another 30-40 seconds. Next, add the lemon zest.

Beat in half of the milk and half of the remaining flour. Then beat in the rest of the milk and the rest of the flour.

Add the baking powder and beat until creamy.

Butter a 10-inch tube pan and then flour it, tapping it upside down to remove excess flour.

Pour the batter into the pan. Give the filled pan a couple of quick shakes and tap it once or twice against your countertop to level the batter.

Sprinkle the top with coarse sugar, if desired.

Bake the cake on a low rack for 40-45 minutes. Cool before removing from the pan.


Make a simple but festive centerpiece for your table.

 

Planning Your Dinner Party

Get ready to make lists! Lists are absolutely essential for any party, as you can jot things down as you think of them. Once you have the basics well planned and written down, your mind will be free to be creative with the food, fun, and decor.

Plan your menu. Have fun with this, but don’t overreach! If you are a beginning cook, choose a main dish that you have made before, then build upon it by buying dessert, a salad, and some crusty bakery bread. It’s a good idea to never make a recipe for the first time for a party. There’s nothing worse than struggling with an unfamiliar recipe when you can hear your guests having fun in the next room. Try to plan a mix of make ahead recipes and those that require last minute baking or preparation. I really prefer having everything done, and ready to heat or bake and serve.

Think about how you want to decorate. Decorations for a party can be as simple as candlesticks on the table, or more elaborate flower arrangements and tablecloths. Decorate with the seasons in mind, too. Fresh flowers in the summer, a bowl full of polished apples and spruce tree branches in the winter, or a vase with colorful leaves and cattails in the fall are simple, inexpensive, and beautiful.

Block out time on your calendar for house cleaning, shopping, decorating, and setting the table. Make sure to save some time before the party so you can get ready and relax before your guests arrive.

Go over your menu, gather your recipes, and plan shopping lists directly from the recipes. Don’t rely on your memory for this! Check your pantry too. If you are low on staples like baking powder, sugar, or flour, add those to your list.

Plan to shop for foods and supplies that can be purchased in advance (like staples) and those that need to be bought the week of the party. You may have to revise the party menu if you can’t find certain ingredients.

Check which recipes can be made ahead, and make sure you have freezer or refrigerator space to store them.

It’s best to choose some recipes that can be made well ahead of time, and are just served cold or at room temperature, or heated at the last minute. Planning this well will help make sure that all of the foods are ready to eat at serving time.

 

Dinner Party Menu

Appetizers

Red Wine of Choice

Crusty White Bread with Olive Oil

Stuffed Cherry Peppers

Stuffed Zucchini

Main Course

Italian Beef Rolls in Tomato Sauce

Angel Hair Pasta

Broccoli with Garlic and Hot Pepper

Dessert

Chocolate Pecan Cake

 

Do Ahead Tips:

Set the table the day before the party.

You can prepare the beef two days ahead and reheat it on the day of the party. The braciola takes about three-four hours to prepare, so be sure to leave plenty of time to make it.

The stuffed cherry peppers can also be made two days in advance.

The zucchini rolls can be made the day before serving and the broccoli ingredients can be cut or chopped one day ahead.

The cake can also be made the day before the dinner party.

 

 Appetizers

Stuffed Cherry Peppers

Ingredients:

  • 5 oz. canned tuna in olive oil, drained
  • 8 anchovies in oil, drained
  • 1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons capers, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 32-oz. jar red, hot cherry peppers, drained, rinsed, and stemmed (jar reserved)

Directions:

Finely chop tuna and anchovies; mix with 1/3 cup oil, bread crumbs, capers, parsley, and salt and pepper in a bowl; stuff each pepper with tuna mixture. Transfer to reserved jar; pour remaining oil over peppers. Chill for at least 8 hours to marinate.

 

Stuffed Zucchini

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 slice white sandwich bread
  • 4 medium zucchini, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2″ lengths
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup Pomi strained tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 oz. prosciutto, minced
  • 1 oz. pancetta, minced
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil

Directions

Heat oven to 400° F. In a bowl, pour milk over bread; soak for 10 minutes. Squeeze bread to drain milk; discard milk. Return bread to bowl.

Using a melon scoop, hollow out zucchini pieces, leaving 1/4″ walls, to form “cups”; season insides with salt and pepper. Stir together tomatoes, 2 tablespoons oil, chili flakes, garlic, and salt and pepper in a bowl; set sauce aside.

Mix bread with prosciutto, pancetta, Parmesan, parsley , egg, and salt and pepper. Stuff mixture evenly among zucchini cups. Heat remaining oil and butter in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add cups; cook, turning once, until browned on both sides, 2–4 minutes. Transfer cups, stuffing side up, to a 9″ x 9″ baking dish; pour sauce over and around cups. If made ahead cover dish and refrigerate until the next day.Bring to room temperature before heating. Bake zucchini 30 minutes. Sprinkle with basil.

Main Course

Braciola (Italian Beef Rolls in Tomato Sauce)

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 5 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 12 6″x 4″ slices boneless beef top sirloin or round steak, pounded to 1/16″ thickness
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 2 (26-oz.) containers Pomi chopped tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Angel Hair pasta

Directions:

To make the filling, mix together raisins, 4 tablespoons parsley , pine nuts, Parmesan, and garlic in a bowl; set aside. Place a slice of beef on a work surface perpendicular to you, season with salt and pepper, and place about 1 tablespoon filling on the bottom half; starting with the filled half, roll beef up around the filling into a tight cylinder. Secure roll with toothpicks and repeat with remaining beef and filling.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 6-qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add half the beef rolls, and cook, turning as needed, until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Add remaining oil and brown the rest of the beef rolls. Transfer to plate with the previously browned rolls.

Add onion to pot, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add wine, and cook, stirring to scrape bottom of pot, until almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Stir in chili flakes, tomatoes, and bay leaf, and then return beef rolls to pot.

Bring to a boil; then reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered partially and gently stirring occasionally, until meat is cooked through and tender, about 2-3 hours.

Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and place on a large serving platter.

Remove meat rolls from sauce, remove toothpicks, and transfer to the platter with the cooked pasta. Bring sauce to a boil and pour sauce over meat rolls and pasta, and sprinkle with remaining parsley.

 

Broccoli with Garlic and Hot Pepper

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch broccoli (about 1 lb.), stemmed and cut into florets
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add broccoli; cook, turning occasionally , until lightly browned, 6–8 minutes. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons water; add garlic; cook until golden, 2–3 minutes. Add chili; cook until toasted, about 2 minutes. Season with salt.

Dessert

Chocolate Pecan Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Dash of salt
  • Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.

Using a double boiler or pan over simmering water, melt together chocolate and butter. Set aside to cool.

Using a blender, chop pecans finely. Add eggs, vanilla, sugar, salt and melted chocolate mixture, blending until smooth. Pour batter into pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes; cake should be moist but not wet. Allow to cool completely. Dust top of the cake with powdered sugar just before serving.


 

For most Italians, the sea is never very far away. Though a relatively small country, Italy has 5000 miles of coastline—so it’s easy to understand why fish and “frutti di mare” (literally “the fruits of the sea”) have always had a special importance in Italian daily life and in regional culinary traditions. The love Italians have for fish begins early in life.  

Some of the most succulent seafood dishes in the world can be found in Italy.  Popular varieties of fish include tuna, anchovies, sardines, swordfish, cod, salmon, shrimp, crab, squid, clams and mussels. Such fish and shellfish are traditionally added to stews, pasta dishes and risotto. Cioppino was developed in San Francisco by Italian-American fishermen, who prepared what they had while on their fishing boats, so they must have used local fish and seasoning.  Zuppa di Pesce or Brodetto are the Italian names for fish stews/soups from various Italian regions.

The interesting history behind Italian fish stews stretches back at least five hundred years, as it is believed that fish stew was first made in Livorno around the year 1500. As with many other Italian traditional recipes, there are various legends surrounding its creation, but two of these stories stand out from the rest.

The first legend tells of a fisherman from Livorno who lost his life at sea in a shipwreck. His children were so hungry with no one to provide for them after his death that they turned to all their neighbours for food. Everyone gave them different types of fish, with which their mother made a huge soup, adding tomatoes, garlic, oil and slices of bread – thus creating the first cacciucco (fish stew).  The second is that a lighthouse keeper created the stew. The Florentine Republic had prohibited the use of olive oil which he always used to fry his fish and, so rather than having his favorite “fritto”, he made a fish soup instead.  The most realistic explanation is that after having sold what they fished, fishermen’s families had to cook with whatever had remained unsold, thus starting the tradition of mixing all kinds of fish together. The traditional recipe calls for thirteen different kinds of fish as ingredients, but nowadays, most people use between six and eight varieties.

Entertaining at Home

I have always enjoyed entertaining and inviting friends and family over for a dinner party or informal pizza get-togethers.  I learned quickly that it is a good idea to plan menu items that allow for advanced preparation, so that I could spend time with my guests instead of cooking in the kitchen.  The menu below is an example of how most of the preparation for the menu items can be done ahead of time.  The appetizer can be breaded ahead of time and placed in the baking dishes until close to serving time.  Just before your guests arrive, you can drizzle the vegetables with oil and bake.  Actually, this appetizer tastes good at room temperature.  The lemon dip can be prepared well in advance.  I like to offer an appetizer like this one because it allows guests to eat and talk for a while before the main course.  The cook can do the same because the second course preparations were done ahead.

Much of the second course will have been completed by the time you are ready to serve. The garlic paste can be prepared ahead of time and smeared on the bread just before you put it in the oven. You can put the garlic bread in the oven (the oven will be hot and is the same temperature you used for the vegetables) while you cook the fish in the broth and dress the salad.  Serve the stew in a soup terrine, if you have one.  Just before placing the dishes on the table, I like to move the parfaits from the freezer to the refrigerator.  Put the topping and chocolate on when you are ready to serve them.  You will have enjoyed this dinner as much as your guests.

Dinner Party Menu For Four

  • Oven Fried “Fritto Misto”
  • Italian Fisherman’s Stew
  • Ok For You Garlic Bread
  • Salad of Baby Lettuces with Italian Dressing
  • Almond Mocha Parfait

First Course

Oven Fried “Fritto Misto”

A favorite in Italy, fritto misto (mixed fry) is an assortment of bite-size pieces of vegetables or other foods that are dipped in batter, deep-fried and served as an appetizer. My version keeps it healthy by using the “oven fry” method.

Ingredients

2 cups  vegetables (your pick)

  • cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets
  • green beans, halved
  • fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • zucchini, cut into ¼ “ slices
  • frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted
  • asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into thirds

Batter

  • 3 eggs, beaten or 3/4 cup egg substitute
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil 
  • Lemon Mayonnaise Sauce, recipe below

Directions

Cut vegetables, rinse them off and drain on paper towels.

Spray 2 large 13×9 inch glass baking dishes with olive oil cooking spray

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Place the eggs in a shallow dish.

In a deep wide bowl place the flour mixed with the cheese and spices.

Dip each piece of vegetable first into the egg, and then into the flour mixture, making sure they are coated evenly on all sides.

Put the vegetables in the prepared baking dishes and drizzle the tops lightly with olive oil.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until browned, turning them over with a fork halfway through the cooking time. Serve with the lemon mayonnaise sauce.

Lemon Mayonnaise Sauce

  • 1 cup low-fat olive oil mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from about ½ lemon) 
  • parsley

Whisk together and chill in a serving bowl.  Garnish top with chopped parsley.

Second Course

Italian Fisherman’s Stew

Halibut is a favorite fish in this dish, but you can use cod, snapper or grouper. You can substitute a cooked lobster or 1 cup of cooked crab meat or squid for any of the fish in the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1  tablespoon olive oil
  • 1  onion, chopped
  • 1  carrot, chopped
  • 1  celery rib, chopped
  • 5  cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1  (28-32 ounce) container Italian chopped tomatoes
  • 1  finely grated rind and juice of orange
  • 1  tablespoon sugar or honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2  cups dry red wine
  • 2  cups bottled clam broth
  • 4  fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1  teaspoon salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1  cup chopped roasted red peppers
  • 1  pounds firm white fish fillets, cut into 2” inch pieces
  • 1 dozen clams or mussels
  • 1  pound sea scallops, cut into halves
  • 1  pound shrimp, peeled
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • Chopped parsley

Directions
Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Sauté 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, orange rind and juice, sugar, chile flakes, wine, clam broth, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, 30 minutes. Uncover and simmer over medium heat until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.  

The broth can be prepared several hours ahead.  Cover and let sit on the stove until close to dinner time.  You can also prepare the broth a day ahead . Cool and refrigerate. Bring the broth to a boil when you are ready to complete the dish and then add the fish as indicated in the recipe.

Add roasted red peppers and stir in the fish, scallops and shrimp and simmer for about 5 minutes. Next add clams, pushing them down into the soup a little. Cover the pot and simmer for another 3 to 4 minutes, or until the clams are steamed open and cooked through.

Discard any clams that do not open. Remove from heat and stir in chopped basil.
Pasta bowls work well for serving this dish; garnish with a little chopped parsley. It’s best to have a side plate for each diner to hold empty shells.

Ok For You Garlic Bread

Ingredients

 

  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Italian bread baguette, cut in half lengthwise

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Place garlic in a small saucepan with enough cold water to cover and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook 3 minutes and drain.

Mash the cooked garlic, oil and salt in a small bowl with the back of a spoon until a smooth paste forms. Spread the mixture over the cut surfaces of the bread.

Place the bread on a baking sheet and bake until the bread begins to brown around the edges, 4 to 6 minutes. Slice and serve.

Insalata

Salad of baby lettuces and sliced black olives with Italian dressing

Dessert

Almond Mocha Parfait

Ingredients

  • 3 cups low-fat vanilla ice cream or frozen low-fat yogurt, softened
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso granules
  • 8 teaspoons Amaretto
  • 1/2 cup chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (8 cookies)
  • 4 tablespoons reduced-calorie frozen whipped topping
  • Grated chocolate

Combine ice cream and espresso granules; stir well.
Spoon 1/4 cup ice cream mixture into each of 4 (8-ounce) parfait glasses or pretty stemware.
Top mixture with 1 teaspoon amaretto and 1 tablespoon cookie crumbs.

Repeat layers, ending with ice cream mixture; freeze 1 hour.
Top each parfait with 1 tablespoon whipped topping and grated chocolate.
Serve immediately. Serves 4.



ACCREDITED SENIOR PSYCHOTHERAPIST / COUNSELLOR -Dr.Fawzy Masaoud-LONDON, ENGLAND

NO DESPAIR WITH LIFE AND NO LIFE WITH DESPAIR . Email: dr.fawzyclinic2019@yahoo.com

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