Author Archives: aries041158

The Feast of the Epiphany- La Befana

Painting by James Lewicki, from “The Golden Book of Christmas Tales” 1956

Hi Everyone,

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Today is the Feast of the Epiphany or La Befana.

In Italy, January 6th is a national holiday and is a big part of the Christmas celebrations. It commemorates the 12th day of Christmas when the three Wise Men arrived at the manger bringing gifts to Baby Jesus.

In Italy, this day is especially significant for Italian children who wait for the arrival of La Befana, the old witch. La Befana (formerly called Stria – hag or witch) is the name of an old peasant lady. She had lost her husband, she had never had a child, and she lived in a tiny house alone in the hills of Italy spending her days cleaning and cooking.

One night she noticed a bright light in the sky but she ignored the light and went back to sweeping her home.

According to the Italian legend, La Befana was approached by the three Wise Men (Magi), Melchior, Balthazar, and Gaspar, who asked her how to get to the road to Bethlehem and they asked her to join them on their journey to bring gifts to the Christ child.

She initially refused to join them because she was too busy doing her housework,

When she started to regret her decision a few hours later, she then filled a bag of cookies and dried fruits and went to look for them. But she never found the Magi, despite her relentless search. This is why Befana is always seen with worn-out shoes from her search.

After failing to find baby Jesus, she decided to offer the presents she had planned for him to all the other children she met. Italian children leave out their shoes or put up stockings for La Befana to fill on Epiphany Eve or January 5th. 

The legend states that every Epiphany Eve, the old witch covered in soot and tattered clothes flies around the world on a broomstick and comes down chimneys to deliver candy and presents to children that have been good all year.

For those that haven’t been good, La Befana leaves coal. (some shops in Italy sell black rock candy to represent the coal so even the naughty children can still have a sweet treat.

I have included a recipe for coal cookies if you are interested at the end of this post.

The arrival of La Befana is celebrated with traditional Italian foods such as panettone and marks the end of the holiday season in Italy. In honor of the Three Wise Men, Italians go to church and enjoy spending the day with family.

In my home, it was also the day to take down the tree and all the holiday decorations.

Panettone is an Italian cake that is recognized by its tall domed shape. It is a sweet dough with raisins and candied fruit and today there are many varieties on the market and you can buy chocolate, pear, and chestnut to name a few.

Growing up, we would have panettone for breakfast on the morning of January 6th, which was a great sweet treat for us to have cake for breakfast.

My grandmother would make special cookies on January 5th to leave for La Befana called Befanini – they are traditional shortbread cookies in honor of La Befana. The original recipe included rum but I don’t have my family’s original recipe. Italian housewives would prepare these cookies for La Befana to nibble on between her deliveries.

When I was a child, we followed tradition and left a plate of Befanini cookies and a glass of wine for La Befana (this is similar to leaving milk and cookies for Santa). The cookies were always in the shape of a star to signify the Star of Bethlehem that La Befana saw through her window.

These are my cookies this year.

I have posted the recipe for La Befana cookies below that I have been using for years and I don’t remember where I copied it from so I am sorry to the author of the recipe that I can’t mention your name for full credit but it is not my recipe or my grandmother’s recipe- it is a typed copy from an article but very good.

This recipe doesn’t use rum but vanilla and anisette with orange zest- delicious!

La Befana Star Cookies


  • 3 ½ cups unbleached flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons anisette
  • Freshly grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Multicolored sprinkles


In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.

In an electric mixer (the paddle attachment), cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until creamy and light.

Beat in the egg and egg yolks, one at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition, followed by the vanilla extract, anisette, and orange zest. Beat in the dry ingredients at low speed to form a stiff dough. Remove the dough from the bowl, flatten it into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and chill until it is firm enough to roll for about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray or line them with parchment paper.

Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces; work with 1 piece at a time, keeping the remaining pieces refrigerated. On a floured surface, roll the dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Using a floured 2-inch star-shaped cookie cutter, cut the dough into stars. Place the cookies ½ inch apart on the baking sheets.

Gather the scraps together and repeat rolling and cutting until you have used all the scraps; it may be necessary to refrigerate the scraps until they are firm enough to roll again.

To make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk with the cream. Using a small pastry brush, lightly brush the surface of the cookies with a bit of glaze and decorate them with sprinkles ( I use confetti sprinkles).

Bake the cookies until they are lightly golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking time.

Allow the cookies to cool slightly on the baking sheets, then gently remove them with a spatula to a wire rack to cool completely.


If you are interested in reading the story of “La Befana” to your children or just want to have the book as a keepsake, the classic story is told by author Tomie dePaola and is sold on Amazon.

Bob and I will enjoy these cookies tonight with some espresso with a touch of anisette and lemon rind.


Lump of Coal Cookies – Courtesy of


  • 16 oz. of Oreo Cookies
  • 4 Cups of Miniature Marshmallows
  • 1/4 Cup of Butter
  • Plastic Bag


  1. Place Oreo Cookies in a Large Gallon Size Ziploc Bag.
  2. Using a rolling pin or measuring cup crush the Oreo Cookies into small pieces.
  3. Place Butter and Marshmallows in a bowl and heat in the microwave on high for 1 minute.
  4. Stir marshmallows and butter until smooth.
  5. Add in Crushed Oreos and stir well.
  6. Roll into Small Cookies and flatten to create a “Coal” Shape.
  7. Allow them to cool completely before storing.
  8. Store in an airtight container.

Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,


Happy La Befana and I hope it brings a peaceful and joyous end to your holiday season.

photo courtesy of


New Year’s Day Tradition

Hi Everyone,

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After Bob and I spent New Year’s Day out and about in the beautiful 53-degree weather (unheard of in the Northeast in January), we came home and had our traditional Italian “good luck” foods to bring in the first day of the new year.

The Italian food tradition for Good Luck in the New Year all comes down to eating lentils and some sort of pork product. Pigs symbolized prosperity so my family would eat “cotechino” which is a traditional pork product for this holiday.

Cotechino is an Italian, large pork sausage requiring slow cooking. Usually, it is simmered at low heat for several hours. It is made from pork, lard, and other spices but was never a favorite of mine because it is very fatty.

This is what cotechino looks like if you have ever seen it in a grocery store or Italian butcher and wondered what it was.

New Year Traditions Italy
Courtesy of

As I said, not a favorite of mine so I substituted it with another pork sausage- this time a pork sausage ring mixed with cheese and parsley as the spices.

I roasted the pork sausage with red grapes- a fabulous combination. A fantastic recipe was given to me by my friend Marie Renello (from Proud Italian Cook- great website, check her out ). She is a fabulous chef and I will post her recipe below.

Lentils are the next good luck food and they are supposed to bring good luck and prosperity so we had our traditional lentils & honestly, I love this dish so much, I could easily eat it every day (recipe below).

The shape of lentils represents a coin and they say that each lentil is a penny so the more you eat the more money comes your way. In addition, I added broccoli rabe (spinach can be substituted) which also brings good luck and prosperity because it is the green color of money.

I made lentils this year with another pork product for extra good luck and that is pancetta made from pork belly.

Not to be confused with prosciutto which is made from the hind leg. Pancetta is similar to bacon but is not smoked.

There are a few other traditions that we followed.

On New Year’s Day, Italians make sure they start the new year right by having some money in their pocket or wallet. This tradition is based on superstition.

Apparently, if you leave home with money in your pocket on the first day of the year, you’ll always have something in your pocket to spend every day of the year. 

My grandmother would give each of her grandchildren five dollars on New Year’s Eve to carry in our wallets. She wanted to make sure we had enough cash in our wallets at all times.

I know it sounds odd but even today after all the years that have passed since grandma gave us cash on New Year’s Eve, I always tuck the New Year’s Eve money in a compartment in my wallet and I call it the “emergency fund”. I make sure Bob and my son still have extra cash in a compartment in their wallet for their emergency fund and we carry it for the entire year. Some family traditions just don’t go away even after years and years.

The next tradition that we followed when my grandmother was alive was to ” Frighten away spiteful spirits”.

Some Italian families have fireworks for this reason (especially true in Naples, Italy where my maternal side is from). Instead of fireworks, we went out into the streets in front of our homes banging pots and pans with wooden spoons to scare away evil and spiteful spirits that were supposed to be lurking in the shadows during the transition from the old year to the new year.

As children, we loved to just make lots of noise and not get in any trouble for 20 minutes or so (it helped that grandma was front and center)….ahh, the good old days.

The last tradition that was introduced to us as children by my grandmother was to wear red undies on New Year’s Eve to bring good luck to you for the full year to come.

I had to research the reason behind this (courtesy of google) because grandma stopped at “it brings good luck”.

“Lots of market stalls and shops in Italy sell red underwear on the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Apparently, in order to get the most out of this good fortune, Italians only wear red underwear on December 31st.”

“For the red underwear to be really lucky, it should only be worn on NYE and thrown out the next day. The reason behind this New Year’s tradition dates back to the ancient Romans who wore red tunics during battle which represented blood and strength and instilled fear in their enemies”.

I know there are so many more Italian traditions but these are the traditions that my family practiced.

Have a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous Year with all the Good Fortune your heart can hold…. and thank you for being so supportive of my blog all year. I love sharing recipes, stories, and life’s ups and downs with you. Enjoy the recipes…


Italian Sausage with Grapes

courtesy of Marie Renello from Proud Italian Cook


  • 1 lb. Italian sausage, sweet or hot, good quality with fennel spice kept in a ring or rope style
  • red seedless grapes, 2 to 3 cups, stems removed, rinsed, dried, and left whole
  • sprigs of thyme
  • olive oil


  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Skewer your rope of sausage together using 1 skewer through one end and out the other so it stays held together while cooking.
  3. Heat a 10 or 12-inch oven-proof skillet, medium-high, drizzled with a tiny bit of olive oil on the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add sausage ring and don’t move it until it forms a nice deep golden color, then flip it over carefully and continue cooking for 1 minute.
  5. Remove from heat and sprinkle grapes around, be careful not to crowd them in because as they cook they release their juice, and if you have too many it becomes too liquidy and all will not caramelize like it should. I would say a good rule of thumb is to leave some space between the placing of your grapes.
  6. Drizzle with olive oil and scatter some fresh thyme leaves around.
  7. Place the whole pan into the oven, uncovered to finish cooking the sausage, ( keep checking for doneness, it depends on thickness) during the process your grapes will wrinkle and begin to release their juices.



2 tbsp. olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

1 medium red onion, chopped

3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped

3 celery stalks, chopped

3-4 garlic cloves, chopped

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

1 (14 ½ oz.) can of diced tomatoes with their juices

1 bag of lentils (usually 16 oz.)

8 cups low sodium chicken broth (2 boxes) or homemade broth

4- 6 sprigs of fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

1 cup grated cheese

Cooks Note: I always make lentil soup when I have the bone of a spiral ham. You could use a ham hock, bacon, or pancetta, or skip this ingredient entirely.


  • Sort lentils for any stones, rinse with cold water – set aside
  • Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. If you are using the pancetta render the pancetta in the pan and then remove and set aside.
  • Add the red onion, celery, carrots, and a pinch of salt to sweat the vegetables.
  • After 2-3 minutes add the garlic and pinch of red pepper and sauté until all the vegetables are tender about 5-8 minutes
  • Add the tomatoes with their juices
  • Simmer until the juices evaporate a little and the tomatoes break down, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes
  • Add the lentils and mix well to coat. Sauté 1-2 minutes
  • Add the broth, bay leaf, thyme springs
  • Bring to a boil over high heat
  • Cover and simmer over low heat until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes
  • Discard the bay leaf and add the pancetta back to the pot.
  • Add salt and pepper and taste for seasonings
  • When serving, you can drizzle the soup with a little olive oil and serve it with grated cheese

Cook’s Note– salt the lentils at the end of cooking, rather than the beginning, so that they don’t remain hard.


Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,


New Year’s Eve Celebration!

Hi everyone,

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I hope you all enjoyed your New Year’s Eve celebration.…. saying goodbye to the old year and welcoming in the new year.

You now have 365 days of blank pages for the next chapter in your life and I hope it is your best year yet.

Bob and I had a small celebration filled with friends, finger food, and fun, watching the ball drop on TV and welcoming in the New Year 2023.

We enjoyed a variety of hors d’oeuvres and shrimp cocktail plus an assortment of different styles of chicken wings and some chips and dips – strictly fingers foods.

Included in some of my finger foods was a favorite recipe of mine for a 5 ingredient “Apple Jalapeno Chicken Wings” which is so delicious and easy with the help of a jar of jelly from Stonewall Kitchen and a little bourbon.

I wanted to repost the recipe (see below). I hope you give it a try.

And of course, we had to end the night with Prosecco and an Italian cheesecake- simply delicious. A little denser than a NY Cheesecake and has the flavor of anisette.

I hope your celebration was the start to a healthy, happy, and prosperous year to follow…… stay well!

Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,


Apple Jalapeno Chicken Wings

This is a 5 ingredient recipe that I learned how to make back in 2014 when I took a cooking class at the Stonewall Kitchen headquarters in Maine. Simply delicious and works for a barbecue, Superbowl, or any time you need an easy delicious chicken wing recipe. I hope you try it and enjoy it.


  • 1 cup Stonewall Kitchen Apple Jalapeno Jelly
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼- ½ cup bourbon (I used 1/2 cup)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 pounds of chicken wings


  1. In a food processor, puree the Stonewall Kitchen Apple Jalapeno Jelly.
  2. In a large skillet place the Stonewall Kitchen Apple Jalapeno Jelly, water, bourbon, and butter over medium heat. When melted stir until uniform.
  3. Add the chicken wings. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for another 30 minutes, turning the wings several times. The sauce should thicken, but do not allow it to burn.
  4. Remove wings and finish under the broiler until golden brown. Serve hot with reserved sauce from a skillet.

2022 in Review

Hi Everyone,

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Wishing you a safe and happy New Year’s Eve and the beginning of a year filled with love, health, happiness, and many, many blessings in 2023.

May the new year be your best year yet and thank you for being a member and extended family of my blog. And thank you for your support in my health journey as well.

Your comments make my day and you are all so special to me. Let’s enjoy many more days together in 2023

Below is a recap of 2022…..

Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,


Christmas Eve menu

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to post a recap of the 2022 Christmas Eve dinner at my home and if you are interested in any of the photos below, all the recipes are in the files.

I hope you had a fabulous, safe, and wonderful Christmas with your loved ones, family, and friends.

Now we prepare for 2023 and I hope all of your goals and dreams come true.

Thank you for being a part of my blog and I plan on posting more fun tablescapes and recipes in the new year…

Please ask your family and friends to join and they will never miss a post.

One more week to the end of the year- hard to believe how fast time is passing us by and I wish all of us a prosperous and happy, healthy future

Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,



Now on to the menu recap:

I changed up the ordinary shrimp cocktail appetizer by putting both shrimp cocktail and some fried calamari in a paper French fry cup that I had in the house and made it a charcuterie cup and added a mini bottle of tabasco sauce. The cocktail sauce was served tableside with lemon wedges.

Our next course is always linguine with seafood sauce

This year’s seafood sauce was made with crab, clams, tuna and stuffed calamari…

The finished 2nd-course dinner plate

Now the additional seafood dishes to complete all seven required fishes. We had 1. shrimp, 2. clams, 3. mussels, 4. calamari, 5. scungilli, 6. crabs, 7. tuna in the stuffing, and a bonus of #8. anchovies in the seafood sauce.

Stuffed shrimp with crabmeat.

Seafood salad served chilled with calamari, shrimp, scungilli, celery, and olives in a lemon and olive oil dressing.

Mussels and Clams Fra Diavolo with a spicy Calabrian chili addition.

Baked clams oreganata

Fried Calamari

I did not take a pic of our vegetable side dishes and they were cold broccoli salad with garlic and lemon & fried artichoke hearts.

I hope your Christmas Weekend was all you thought it would be and you made some treasured new memories.

EggNog Muffins

Hi Everyone,

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I just wanted to wish you all a very Merry Christmas Eve. I am so thrilled to have all my members as part of my extended family. I love reading your comments and private messages all year. Thank you for being part of the family…. Have a glorious day!

Bob and I had eggnog muffins this morning for breakfast to put us in the holiday mood. This is a quick and easy recipe I wanted to share. It’s great if you have some leftover eggnog or what to try something new for Christmas morning… (Omit the rum if you are serving children).

I hope you try this recipe and enjoy it!

Eggnog Muffins
(Makes 12 muffins)

Serve these muffins with butter or jam … very yummy! If you plan on serving them to children, leave out the rum, increase the amount of eggnog, and add vanilla extract.


2 cups flour
2/3-cup sugar
1-tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup prepared eggnog
1/2 cup dark rum
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 egg, beaten to blend
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Grease one 12-cup muffin pan or use cupcake papers

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
Stir in the remaining ingredients.
Spoon into prepared pan.
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the tester comes out clean.
Cool slightly before serving.

Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,


Mussels and Clams Fra Diavolo (Christmas Eve)

Hi everyone,

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With Christmas Eve only two days away here is another dish we usually serve on Christmas Eve. It is another favorite of mine (I have so many favorites for this holiday, I can’t choose which one I love the most.)……

Mussels and Clams Fra Diavolo

You can make this as hot and spicy as you can handle. I use Calabrian chili peppers to bring on the heat and if that is too spicy for you, substitute it with red pepper flakes. That will give you just enough heat without having too much spice. I love spicy so I use the Calabrian chili peppers…..


For the Sauce

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 small shallot, diced

1/2 medium yellow onion, minced

2 basil sprig

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1 tsp of crushed Calabrian chili peppers (or more if you like the heat)

Kosher salt

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon tomato paste

One 28-ounce can of tomato puree or crushed tomato

 Black Pepper

 For the Mussels & clams * – see Cook’s note

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup minced shallot

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 cup dry white wine

1 tbsp butter

3 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded

2 DZ. Cockles or little neck clams, scrubbed and cleaned

Chopped parsley, for serving

Crusty bread, for serving

Cooks Note:

How to Clean Clams

  1. Prepare a large bowl. To purge clams of sand, fill up a large bowl with a mix of cold water and sea salt. …
  2. Soak the clams. Let the clams soak in the salted water for 20 minutes to an hour. …
  3. Remove the clams from the water. …
  4. Scrub the clams clean. ...
  5. Rinse the clams.

How to Clean Mussels

Place your mussels in a colander or bowl in the sink and run them under cold water. Rinse them to get rid of any debris or seaweed on their outer shells. If you feel any muddy spots, rub them off under the water, but you’re very unlikely to with farm-raised mussels. Mussels sometimes have small, fibrous “beards,” which you should pinch off.


Make the Sauce first…

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion, shallots, basil, oregano, Calabrian chili peppers, and a pinch of salt and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, add the minced garlic and continue to sauté until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add tomato paste and sauté for a minute to toast the tomato paste.

Add the white wine and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the tomato puree and bring just to a boil. Cover partially and simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced, about 20- 30 minutes. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.

Prepare the Mussels and Clams

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil until shimmering, and add 1 tbsp. of butter. Add the shallot, garlic, and crushed red pepper and cook over high heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the wine and boil until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat and stir in the tomato sauce from step 1 and bring to a simmer.

Stir in the clams first (they take longer to open), cover, and cook until they start to open then add the mussels, cover again and cook until the mussels open, 3 to 5 minutes; discard any mussels & clams that do not open- they are dead.

Season lightly with salt, then transfer the mussels and sauce to a platter. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve right away with crusty bread.

These are the Calabrian chili peppers I use...

Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,


Seafood Salad (Christmas Eve )

Hi everyone,

Hope you are all well.

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Now that my Christmas cookies are baked, wrapped, and delivered, it’s time to start preparing for my favorite holiday of the entire year…

Christmas Eve, the Feast of the Seven Fishes.

Every Italian home prepares multiple seafood dishes for La Vigilia (Christmas Eve)  – a day of abstinence.

In the Catholic Church, this prohibits the consumption of meat, so La Vigilia was ALL fish, NO meat. The Feast of the Seven Fishes is celebrated in Italy from Rome on down to the south and my family comes from Naples and Bari.

This seafood salad is always a part of the dinner selections. I don’t have the exact recipe my parents made so this recipe is adapted from “Italian Food Forever” by chef Debra Mele and I have always admired her talent. I have tweaked it over the years and here is the end result. I hope you enjoy it.

Simple to make and it tastes better, in my opinion, if it is made a few days ahead of time so the flavors can marry.

Seafood Salad – serves 6


3 Cups White Wine

5 Bay Leaves

2 Cloves Garlic, crushed

2 Lemons

1 Pound Calamari, cleaned and cut into rings

1 Pound Medium Shrimp, cleaned and deveined

1 Pound Scallops

1 Cup Black Olives

Chopped celery


1 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 Cup Lemon Juice

3 Large Garlic Cloves, thinly sliced 

1/4 Cup Chopped Parsley

Dash Red Pepper Flakes

Salt & Pepper To Taste


 In a stockpot, combine 3 quarts of water, the wine, bay leaves, and crushed garlic. Slice the lemons in half and squeeze the juice into the mixture. Drop the lemons into the pot. Bring the mixture first to a boil, and then reduce the heat to medium-low.

First cook the shrimp, cook for 2 minutes, and remove them from the pot. Cook the calamari for 1 ½ minutes and remove it from the pot as well. If you are cooking scallops, cook them in the same manner for 2 minutes. Mix the seafood together and set aside.

 Place the seafood in a bowl and add the chopped celery. Add the dressing ingredients and mix well. Cover and let marinade for a minimum of 12 hours. Just before serving, adjust the seasonings, and add the black olives if you are using them. Serve at room temperature.

If you want to include Octopus in this salad, you will need 3 cups of cooked Octopus chopped into 2-inch pieces. 

If you are cooking octopus, add it to the pot after cooking the scallops (once all the other seafood is removed from the pot), and cook it for about 45 minutes to an hour or until it is tender.
Remove it from the pot and let it cool.
Remove the skin and suckers, and cut them into bite-sized pieces.
Mix the octopus with the other ingredients.


Here is a sample of My Christmas Eve Menu and I think I go over the seven fish requirement.


Shrimp Cocktail 

1st course:

Linguine with Fish sauce (consisting of crabs, clams, mussels, scungilli (conch), shrimp, tuna, calamari (squid), and scallops).

2nd course:

broiled salmon

stuffed calamari

fried calamari

coconut shrimp

baked clams

mussels in white wine and butter

crab cakes

seafood salad 

and the two most traditional fish dishes

Baccala (dry salted cod fish) with potatoes in a tomato sauce


fried eel with a sweet & sour sauce

Sauteed broccoli rabe with LOTS of garlic and lemon

3rd course:

Fruit and nuts – including roasted chestnuts



Variety of Christmas cookies -including pignoli


Italian bow tie cookies topped with honey and sprinkles (similar to Struffoli)– sorry I don’t know the name. It was my grandmother’s specialty.

Yes, dinner lasts for hours and hours and every bite is so delicious.

When my husband and I were dating (he is not Italian), his first Christmas Eve with us was very overwhelming. Now, after 37 years, he is accustomed to the menu and all the courses; and he even has a few favorites.

After this huge fish dinner, we went to Midnight Mass, came home to sausage and peppers (you could eat meat after midnight), and then we opened all of our gifts. (only the children opened gifts on Christmas morning).

Buon Natale !

Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,


Christmas Cookies 2022- Part C

Hi everyone,

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The Christmas cookie-baking marathon has come to an end for 2022, and here is part C. Have a wonderful holiday and Happy Baking…..

This year I have included some of the traditional favorites along with adding some new cookies to the roster.

The majority of my Christmas Cookie recipes are in the files, so I will provide the link to the old cookies and supply the recipe for the new cookies for 2022.

So far I prepared the following…..

Lemon Ricotta Cookies- Without Eggs or Butter

This recipe caught my eye because it doesn’t have eggs or butter which intrigued me. Plus, I had some ricotta in the refrigerator that needed to be used so I gave it a try. The lemon glaze was outstanding and it’s a new addition to the cookie tray.

Recipe courtesy of Maria Vannelli RD


  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • Zest one whole lemon
  • 1 ¼ cups of AP flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup and 2 tbsp of ricotta
  • 1 tbsp of lemon juice freshly squeezed
  • 1/3 cup sanding sugar


  • 2 cups of powdered sugar
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1-2 teaspoons of milk


  • Use your fingertips to rub the sugar and the lemon zest together for a couple of minutes
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt
  • Add the ricotta and the lemon juice. Begin combining the ingredients together with a rubber spatula, then use your hands to gently knead together for 1-2 minutes
  • Cover and refrigerate for 60 minutes
  • Preheat oven to 325 toward the end of the chill time and position the rack in the middle oven
  • Line baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats
  • Use a medium scoop (about 1 ½ inches) and divide the dough into 20 equal pieces (25 grams ea.) or portion out 1 tablespoon of cookie dough
  • Place them on the parchment about 2 inches apart.
  • Roll out each scoop of cookie dough between the palms of your hands and roll the tops in the sanding sugar
  • Place on the parchment paper with the sprinkles facing upward
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned
  • Allow cooling slightly then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely
  • Add the glaze and allow to set on a cooling rack

Italian Pistachio Cookies

This recipe brought back memories of a cookie my grandmother used to make and I had to give it a try. Very nice dense taste of pistachios and Bob loved this cookie.

Here is the recipe: Courtesy of


1-1/4 cups ( about 5 ounces ) finely ground pistachios, plus more for coating
1 cup confectioners’ sugar ( about 4.5 ounces )
1 egg white
1/2 cup almond flour ( 2 ounces )
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia


In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Knead into a dough ( it will be very sticky).  Cover and refrigerate the dough for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350⁰ F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place about 2 tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar on a plate.
Form the dough into 2 rolls, about 1 inch in diameter and 10 inches long.
Cut into pieces about 1-1/2inches long or 9 pieces per roll.  Roll each piece between the palms of your hands to smooth each cookie into a log and round the edges.  Roll each piece in the confectioners’ sugar to coat. Place on the prepared baking sheets. Press down on each cookie to flatten it slightly. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool. 

Russian Tea Cakes aka Snowball Cookies

This recipe has been on and off my cookie tray for years and years. I haven’t included it in a few years so this year it is back on. Usually made with pecan halves, this year I had an abundance of walnuts and substituted them for the pecans- still very tasty. And a very easy cookie to make.

Here is the recipe: Courtesy of Sweet & Savory


  • ½ cup (60g) pecan halves Note 1
  • 1 stick (115g) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • ¼ cup (30g) powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup powdered sugar for coating

Note: I test all my recipes with both measurements for the most precise and accurate result!


  • Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  • In a large skillet, toast the pecans over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until nutty, stirring constantly. Coarsely chop them.
  • In a large mixing bowl with the paddle attachment, whip the butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla until fluffy. (Start on low speed gradually increasing to medium-high.)
  • Add flour and salt. Mix until combined.
  • Then stir in the chopped pecans.
  • Using a small cookie scoop, form 1-inch dough balls and arrange them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until the cookies are light golden brown around the edges and on the bottom.
  • Place ½ cup of powdered sugar in a large bowl. Add the warm cookies and roll to coat. Transfer onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Roll the cooled cookies again in the remaining powdered sugar and enjoy.

Colored “Stained Glass” Pizzelles

This recipe is on many Christmas trays every year and is one of my favorite cookies to bake. This year I decided to try a new recipe from Ciao Italia with colored sprinkles to give the pizzelle a stained glass look. I love the way they turned out and add a little sparkle to the cookie tray.

Here is the recipe: courtesy of Ciao Italia


  • 3 1/2 cups King Arthur™ Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups multicolored sugar sprinkles


  1. In a medium bowl sift the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. In another bowl, beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer. Beat in the eggs one at a time until well blended. Add the vanilla extract. On low speed, blend in the flour mixture a little at a time until well blended. The dough will be soft.
  3. Cover the bowl and chill the dough for at least 2 hours.
  4. (Note: You can make the dough in a food processor, combining the butter and sugar first, then eggs and vanilla, and last the flour mixture.)
  5. Heat a pizzelle maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. If it is nonstick, spray it with a baking spray or lightly brush with vegetable oil.
  6. Pour the sugar sprinkles into a shallow dish. Using 2 teaspoons scoop up a spoonful of the dough, and using the spoon as a guide, roll the dough in the sugar sprinkles, coating it well. Place the dough in the center of the form; if you have a 2-form maker, or 4-form maker, roll the balls first before putting them on the form.
  7. Close the lid and latch it for a count to 30. Lift the lid and remove the pizzelle with the edge of a fork and place them on cooling racks in single layers to cool completely. For darker-colored pizzelle hold for a longer count. Continue making pizzelle until all the dough is used.
  8. The pizzelle should be thin and have a crisp texture. When completely cool, wrap them in groups of 6 in plastic wrap and place them in airtight containers. Pizzelle can be made ahead and frozen for up to 3 months.
  9. Variation: When just removed from the pizzelle form, the waffles can be rolled around cannoli forms, or pressed between two small custard cups to form shapes that can be filled with cream, custard, or fruit. Scoop softened ice cream between two pizzelle to make delicious ice-cream sandwiches.

This recipe was featured on Season 11 – Episode 1120.

Rainbow Cookies

This is my all-time favorite Christmas cookie. I had a little trouble this year with a different brand of jam and it was too runny; the taste is still the same but other than that it was a success. I usually use the brand “Bonne Maman” for the jam, and I am going back to that next year…

These layers of almond cake are stacked with apricot and raspberry jam and colored to represent the Italian Flag.

You will need three- 9 X 13 pans

Here is the recipe:

Recipe from Mary Carpino and Nicole Carpino Frasco… adapted by Margaux Laskey


  • Nonstick cooking spray or neutral oil, for greasing the pans
  • 2 cups/255 grams all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon fine salt
  • 1(8-ounce/227-gram) package pure almond paste (not pastry filling)
  • 1½cups/340 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup/201 grams granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • 1teaspoon almond extract
  • Red and green food coloring, preferably gel
  • 1(12-ounce/340-gram) jar apricot or raspberry preserves (not seedless) Cooks Note: I use a layer of apricot and a layer of raspberry).
  • 8 ounces/227 grams semisweet or bittersweet bar chocolate
  • Sprinkles, for finishing (optional)


Arrange 2 racks in the center of the oven and heat to 350 degrees. Make room in your refrigerator for 1 half-sheet pan. Grease 3 (13-by-9-inch) baking pans or quarter-sheet pans with cooking spray or a little oil, then line with parchment or wax paper. (This helps the paper stay in place.) Spray or oil the parchment.

Combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a standing mixer (or with a hand mixer), or in a large bowl if using an electric hand mixer, break up the almond paste using a fork or your fingers. Add butter, sugar, egg yolks and almond extract. Using the paddle attachment, beat on high until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping down the bowl halfway through. Turn off the mixer, add a third of the flour and salt, then beat on medium-low until just combined. Repeat with another third, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, and continue until all the flour is added and incorporated. Transfer batter to a large bowl. Rinse and dry the mixing bowl.

Add egg whites to the mixing bowl and beat on high speed with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form, 30 to 45 seconds. Fold the egg whites into the batter until just combined.

Remove one-third of the batter to one of the prepared pans. Use an offset spatula to evenly spread the batter in the pan all the way to the edges. (This can get a little tricky, but have patience and take your time. The oil on the pan should help hold the paper in place, but if you’re having trouble, hold the paper in place with one hand while you spread with the other.) Remove another one-third of the batter to a medium bowl and add a couple drops of green food coloring. Stir until blended, and add more to reach your desired shade. Transfer green batter to a prepared pan and spread evenly. Add a couple drops of red food coloring to the remaining batter, stir to combine, add more as needed, then transfer to the last pan and spread evenly. Firmly tap each pan on the countertop to release air bubbles.

Bake for 10 to 11 minutes, rotating pans halfway through until the edges are barely browned, the tops are just set, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Immediately slide cakes from the pans onto racks using parchment paper. Cool completely.

Using the parchment paper, slide the green cake onto a half-sheet pan. In a small saucepan, heat preserves over medium until loose, then strain through a fine mesh sieve. Spread half of the preserves over the green layer, going all the way to the edge. Carefully flip the uncolored layer on top (use a large offset spatula to help), and remove the parchment paper. Spread with the remaining preserves.

Top with the red layer and remove the parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and place another rimmed baking sheet on top of the cookies. Transfer to the refrigerator, then top with heavy cans so the weight is evenly distributed. Refrigerate overnight.

Melt half of the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave in 30-second bursts. Using an offset spatula, spread the chocolate on the top and to the edges, then refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Melt the remaining chocolate. Place a piece of parchment or wax paper on a cutting board, then place on top of the cake and invert the cake onto the board. Spread the bottom with the remaining chocolate. Let cool for a few minutes, then use the tines of a fork to draw waves in the chocolate and add sprinkles, if desired. Refrigerate until almost firm, but still slightly soft, about 5 to 10 minutes. (If you wait until the chocolate is fully set, the chocolate will crack when you cut.)

Run a sharp knife under hot water, dry, then trim the edges and save for snacking. Cut the cake into 1-inch squares, running the knife under hot water and drying between cuts. Return to the refrigerator to set completely. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container with wax paper between layers. Allow to come to room temperature a bit before serving.

Rosette Christmas Cookies

The rosette is a lightly deep-fried cookie and a Scandinavian tradition. My mom and grandmother did not make these for Christmas but I had an Aunt that did and she made different shapes every year on her cookie trays. The rose and star were my favorites so when I purchased my rosette irons I made sure I purchased those shapes first. Sprinkled with powdered sugar they are quite tasty, almost like a zeppole flavor. You have to be really fast preparing these because they easily burn.

Here is the recipe: Courtesy of Life on Misty Acres


  • Frying Pan
  • Rosette Iron


  • Vegetable or Canola Oil is Enough to make a layer on the bottom of the pan- I made it 2 inches.
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Sugar
  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 1 Cup Flour


  • In a saucepan pour 2 1/2 – 3 inches of oil and heat it up. You will want your oil to be around 350-370 degrees Fahrenheit (170 -190 Celsius). You don’t want the oil to be too hot.
  • Beat the eggs, sugar, and salt. Add milk and flour. Beat until smooth. Set batter aside.
  • Once your oil reaches the correct temperature you will then want to start to heat the iron. This is very important. Stick the iron in the oil and let it warm up for a few seconds. If the iron is not hot enough the batter will not stick to it and clumps up.
  • Dip the iron into the batter (be careful not to let the batter go over the top of the iron or you will have trouble getting the rosette off of the iron). Once the batter is stuck to the iron then you will move it to the frying oil. This step only takes about 3 seconds. You want the rosette to be lightly browned.
  • We use a butter knife to get the cookie off the iron and push it down with the iron to get it nice and brown. Sometimes we flip the cookie over to make it evenly brown. 
  • Once the rosettes are cool, you will then sprinkle them with powdered sugar. 
  • Time to eat them and share them with friends! These are best eaten on the day they were made. You can store them in a dry, slightly sealed container. My grandmother used to store them in clothing boxes. If you seal them too tight, they will go soggy.


It may take a few rosettes to get the hang of it. Heat is usually the issue.

A quick tip: It is better for the oil to be a little hotter and then burn a few rosettes rather than have the oil be too cool. Do not bring the oil to a full boil.

Please be safe and enjoy these beautiful cookies!


I hope you enjoyed these recipes for Christmas 2022!

If you try any of the cookie recipes, please let me know what you think, and have a safe, healthy, and blessed holiday from my family to yours…..


Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,


Christmas Cookies 2022- part B

Hi everyone,

Click on photos to ENLARGE and then hit the back arrow to return to the post.

The Christmas cookie-baking marathon continues and here is part B. This year I have included some of the traditional favorites along with adding some new cookies to the roster.

The majority of my Christmas Cookie recipes are in the files, so I will provide the link to the old cookies and supply the recipe for the new cookies for 2022. Stand by for additional posts, I am not done yet.

So far I prepared the following…..

Saltine Chocolate Brittle or Christmas Crack

Always a favorite addition of salty and sweet for a quick bite and is very easy to prepare.

Here is the link to the recipe:

Cranberry Orange Swirl Cookies

The combination of oranges and cranberries has always been a favorite of mine in muffins, loaf cakes, and scones. When I found this cookie recipe with these flavors, I was thrilled. This is a basic sugar cookie recipe filled with fresh cranberries and orange peel.

Recipe courtesy of “Beyond the Chicken Coop”


  • 1 cup butter at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 tablespoon orange peel, fresh and zested
  • 3 cups of AP flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking powder


  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon orange peel fresh, zested


In a mixing bowl, add butter and sugar and mix until fluffy.

Mix in vanilla, eggs, and orange peel

Add flour, salt, and baking powder. Mix

When the dough is mixed well, remove it from the bowl and form it into two rounds

Wrap each round in plastic wrap and refrigerate for ONE HOUR

For the Filling…

In a food processor add cranberries, sugar, and orange peel. Process until finely chopped

Prepare the cranberry filling just before using it. If you make the filling too early, the mixture will become too juicy. If this happens strain off the liquid before adding it to the dough.

Rolling the dough…

Working with one disc of dough at a time, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into a 10 X 14 rectangle

Add half the filling mixture on top of the dough leaving a ½ inch border

Carefully roll the dough into a log – no need to pinch the seam. The dough will hold its shape once chilled.

Place the log on a piece of plastic wrap and wrap it tightly. Place the log on a baking sheet

Repeat with the remaining dough and filling

Refrigerate for 2 hours

Slicing and Baking

Remove logs from the refrigerator and remove plastic wrap

Slice the dough into ¼ – ½ inch slices and place 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet

Bake at 375 degrees preheated oven for 10-12 minutes

Remove from baking sheet and cook on a baking rack

Nut Butter Cookies

Peanut Butter cookies have always been a favorite of my husband and this year, I decided to try making his favorite cookie with a new ingredient that he has become a fan of – mixed nut butter. The results were fantastic. The nut butter consists of almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, chia, and flax seeds.

This recipe was given to me by my dear beloved cousin Jeanette Geyer many years ago and I have adapted it with nut butter this year. Her memory will live on in my house this Christmas.

You can use this recipe for peanut butter cookies.


1 stick butter (soft)…

1/2 C Peanut butter…

1/2 C sugar…

1/2 C brown sugar…

1 egg…

1 ¼ cup flour

½ tsp baking powder

¾ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt


Mix these ingredients together…then add…1 1/4 C flour…1/2 tsp. baking powder…3/4 tsp. baking soda…1/4 tsp. salt…mix well & chill dough…roll to the size of walnuts or use an ice cream scoop.

place 3″ apart on a greased cookie sheet…flatten with a potato masher dipped in flour or use a fork crisscross.

bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes. makes about 2 to 3 dozen cookies depending on the size. I usually double the recipe…

ENJOY…it’s like a blast from the past!!!

Pignoli Cookies

Always been a favorite on any Christmas Cookie tray, and this year I am trying a new recipe. My older recipe is still in the files for your review.

Recipe courtesy of


  • 1 ½ lb. almond paste
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 lb. pine nuts


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Add 1 ½ lb. of almond paste, 1 ½ cups sugar, 1 cup confectioner’s sugar, and 4 egg whites to the bowl of a stand mixer or just your favorite bowl if you are mixing by hand. Mix until combined
  • Scoop enough dough to form an approximately 1-inch ball of dough. Add the ball to the bowl of pine nuts and use your hands to crush/push pine nuts into the balls of dough. Be careful not to overwork the dough or the pine nuts won’t stick.
  • Continue this process until you’ve used up all your dough and each ball is perfectly covered in pignoli!
  • Place your pignoli-encrusted dough balls on a parchment-lined baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
  • Let your cookies cool and enjoy

Cannoli Cookies

This is one of my favorite cookies every year. A combination of ricotta, pistachios, and chocolate. I usually make them bite size but this year I tried a 1 1/2-inch cookie scoop and made it the size of a soft chocolate chip cookie. I’ll see which way my family prefers them.

Here is the recipe:


  • 1 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon fresh orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 10-ounce bag of mini chocolate chips divided
  • 1 cup chopped pistachios


  1. In a large mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs then ricotta cheese until well combined then mix in the vanilla extract, cinnamon, and fresh orange zest.
  2. Next, mix in the baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well combined. Mix in the flour. Stir in 1 cup of chocolate chips and the pistachios. Cover and refrigerate the dough for at least one hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or lightly grease.
  4. Using a medium cookie scoop or spoon, drop about 1 1/2 tablespoons of cookie dough for each cookie leaving about 2 inches between each cookie.
  5. Bake cookies at 375 degrees F for about 8-11 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Cool slightly then move to wire racks to cool completely.
  6. Microwave the remaining chocolate chips on high in a small microwave-safe bowl in 20-second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted and smooth. Spoon melted chocolate into a small resealable bag, clip one corner slightly, then drizzle melted chocolate over cookies. Let cool for the chocolate to set.

Raspberry Almond Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies

This is definitely my favorite cookie to bake and the most requested every year. Absolutely delicious.

Recipe source: adapted from both Land O Lakes and MarcieJ’s review on


2 cups + 2 Tbsp. (300g) all-purpose flour * see cooks note

  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, cold and diced into 1 Tbsp. pieces
  • 2/3 cup (140g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract *
  • 1/2 cup raspberry jam, seedless if preferred
  • I substituted amaretto for the almond extract and it was 2 tbsp. of amaretto for every ½ tsp of extract.

Glaze (optional)

  • 1 cup (124g) powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp almond extract
  • 2 – 4 tsp water


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl whisk together flour and salt, and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend together butter and sugar until combined (it will take a minute or two since the butter is cold. If you don’t have a paddle attachment that constantly scrapes the bowl, then occasionally stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl). Mix in almond extract then add in flour and blend until the mixture comes together (it will take a bit of mixing since the butter is cold, so be patient, it will seem really dry at first).
  3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls, about 1 Tbsp each, and place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Make a small indentation with your thumb or forefinger in each cookie (large enough to fit 1/4 – 1/2 tsp of jam). Fill each with 1/4 – 1/2 tsp jam. Chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes (or freezer for 10 minutes). Bake in preheated oven for 14 – 18 minutes.
  4. Cool for several minutes on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool (at this point you can add a little more jam if you’d like to, it just won’t be set like the other is). Drizzle cookies with glaze when cool. Store cookies in an airtight container.
  5. For the glaze:
  6. Whisk all glaze ingredients together in a small mixing bowl, adding enough water to reach desired consistency. Pour or spoon the mixture into a sandwich-size resealable bag, cut a small tip from one corner, and drizzle over cookies or use a fork in a quick back-and-forth motion to spread the glaze.
  7. * Cooks Note:Measure flour scoop with a measuring cup and level with a butter knife. Don’t whisk or sift first and don’t spoon into the measuring cup.


I hope you enjoyed these recipes today and stayed tuned for Part C coming up later in the week for more cookie recipes.


Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,