Author Archives: aries041158

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…..

Ingredients:

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.

Instructions:

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,

Diane

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

Ingredients

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

Dressing:

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

Directions:

 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.

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

Appetizer:

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

Dessert:

demitasse

Variety of Christmas cookies -including pignoli

Panettone

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,

Diane

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

Ingredients:

  • 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

Glaze:

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

Directions:

  • 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 mangiabenepasta.com

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Ingredients:

  • 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!

Instructions:

  • 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

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

  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

Ingredients:

  • 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)

Directions:

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

Equipment

  • Frying Pan
  • Rosette Iron

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

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…..

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Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,

Diane

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: https://dishingwithdiane.com/2020/12/13/saltine-chocolate-brittle-aka-christmas-crack/

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”

Ingredients:

  • 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

Filling:

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

Directions:

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.

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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 DanPelosi.com

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

  • 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:

Ingredients:

  • 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

Instructions:

  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 allrecipes.com

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

  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.

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

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Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,

Diane

Christmas Cookies 2022- part A

Hi everyone,

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

Well, it’s that time of year again and I started my Christmas cookie-baking marathon. 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.. I will be baking all weekend so stand by for additional posts.

So far I prepared the following….

Pistachio Cookies

This recipe was given to me by my dear friend Michael Gottuso who happens to be one of the best chefs I know and his meals just wow me at every turn.

Thank you again, Michael.

Here is the link to the recipe: https://dishingwithdiane.com/2020/12/16/pistachio-cookies/

Rum Balls

This is one of the easiest recipes I make and I just love them. They are the perfect size to fill in the little empty spots on a cookie tray. Also, one of the best recipes to take to a cookie swap- they transport well and are a crowd pleaser. Making them a few weeks ahead of Christmas or your event is even better because they marinate and get better and better.

Be warned, they are potent with the rum, so keep the kids away.

Here is the link to the recipe: https://dishingwithdiane.com/2020/12/14/rum-balls/

Another favorite and always the first cookie I bake. This year I added 1 tbsp of Grand Marnier liquor for a slight hint of orange flavor. If you don’t want to add alcohol, then you substitute orange extract or stick to the original recipe and no added orange essence.

Here is the link to the recipe: https://dishingwithdiane.com/2020/12/06/chocolate-crinkle-cookie/

Bruttiboni

This was my new addition for last year and it was a big hit.

“BRUTTIBONI” which translates to “ugly but good”. Ugly for the irregular shape and good for the taste.

It is a meringue cookie with a crisp exterior with a soft, chewy interior flavored with almonds, hazelnuts, and cinnamon.

Simply delightful. Light and flavorful and this cookie was made every year by my Barese grandmother. Unfortunately, I never had her original recipe and then found this recipe in an article I read last year and it brought back memories of grandma.

Here is the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 4 egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract pure
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar granulated
  • 1⅓ cup whole almonds toasted
  • 1⅓ cup hazelnuts toasted and skins removes

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C.
  • Line the baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • Pulse almonds and hazelnuts in a food processor to obtain a coarsely ground texture. Alternatively, chop by hand. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl (of a stand mixture), with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on low-medium speed until they start to foam.
  • Add a pinch of salt.
  • Add cinnamon and vanilla extract.
  • Add the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and whisk until you obtain stiff glossy peaks.
  • With a mixing spoon, fold in the nuts. Gently combine.
  • Transfer this mixture to a heat-proof bowl and place over a pot of hot, barely simmering water. This mixture needs to be stirred for about 15 minutes.
  • Portion with a medium-sized scooper and place on a baking sheet. 
  • Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until the tops are golden.
  • Allow cooling on the baking sheet.

Notes

To roast the nuts: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Position the rack in the center.

Spread almonds and hazelnuts on a baking sheet and roast for about 10 minutes to obtain a light roasting. Remove the skins from the hazelnuts.

Let the nuts cool to room temperature before using them in the recipe. 

  • The almonds and the hazelnuts can be roasted in advance and stored at room temperature until needed. This ensures the use of room-temperature ingredients until you are ready to make these nut cookies.
  • Do not rush the process of adding the sugar while whisking the egg whites. Add the sugar one tablespoon at a time to the egg whites.
  • The addition of cinnamon is optional.

*recipe adapted from The Gazette

Sesame Cookies or Regina cookies

One of my favorites and they find a home on my cookie tray each year.

Here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. Crisco vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 4 ½ cups of flour
  • 3 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp of pure vanilla
  • 4 large eggs
  • Approx. 2 cups of toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 cup of milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

  • Cream the Crisco, sugar, eggs, and vanilla
  • Add the flour and baking powder – a little at a time until it forms a soft dough
  • Turn the dough onto a floured board and mix well
  • Break off small amounts (approx. 1 tbsp) and roll them into a log shape
  • Roll the logs in the milk and then in the sesame seeds
  • Bake for 12 minutes or until the bottom of the cookies is light brown

Quaresimali

If you have been to a real authentic Italian bakery then you have seen these almond biscotti. They are very hard and crunchy biscotti made for dunking in espresso or hot chocolate. Unless you want a dental visit, don’t take a bite. Some people refer to these as dog biscuit biscotti.

The flavor is fantastic, with almonds, brown sugar, cinnamon, butter, and eggs and I add a touch of ground cloves. This is my husband’s favorite biscotti and it appears on our cookie trays for Easter and Christmas.

Here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. natural almonds (approx. 2 cups)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter OR ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs

Egg wash: 1 egg and 2 tbsp milk

Directions:

Toast almonds in a jelly roll pan in a preheated 375-degree oven for 10 minutes and let them cool

In a blender or food processor grind ¼ of the almonds fine with ¼ cup of the granulated sugar and transfer to a large bowl

Stir in the flour, remaining ¾ cup sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and baking powder. Stir until blended

Add butter and combine with the mixture.

Add the remaining almonds, chopped coarsely, and the eggs and knead the dough until combined

This dough will be VERY STICKY– you may use water on your hands to help with the stickiness.

Form the dough into long rectangles onto a greased and floured cookie sheet (makes about 3 loaves).

Brush each rectangle with the egg wash before baking for 25 minutes

After 25 minutes diagonal slices and then put the slices back in the “turned off” oven for 15 minutes. Store in an airtight container.

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Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,

Diane

Overnight Blueberry French Toast Casserole

Hi Everyone,

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

I hope you are all well…… If you are anything like me, you are probably caught up in preparations for the holidays quickly approaching with lists and lists of things to do. Somehow the time just flies by so quickly.

I just wanted to share a recipe that might make your life a little easier on Christmas morning if you need to serve breakfast to a crowd. I am referring to

“Overnight Blueberry French Toast Casserole”.

This recipe is easy to put together and prepared the night before and then pop the casserole in the oven for an hour in the morning and breakfast is served.

You can serve this casserole with additional fresh fruit, some juice, coffee, and maybe even some maple bourbon syrup to bring it to the next level and have a stress-free breakfast that is delicious and satisfying.

You are not limited to blueberries if that is not what you crave. I have prepared this dish with apples and cranberries; and you could also use raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, or sliced pears.

Be creative and even combine some fruits. The casserole ingredients are highlighted with warm spices to enrich the flavor, and not only does it taste delicious but your house will smell like a bakery.

The recipe is below, so give it a glance and if you try it, let me know what you think.

I am dedicating this recipe to my two “Amazing” Cousins, Alex and Dan who share my love for all things French Toast!

Overnight Blueberry French Toast Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1 (14 oz) loaf of challah or brioche bread … (Great results if you use dayold bread that is sliced and cubed and left to sit overnight to get a little dry and crusty).
  • 1 ½ cups of blueberries – fresh or frozen (I prefer fresh)
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups half & half (whole milk can be substituted)
  • ½ to 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice (optional)
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp of pure vanilla extract

Topping Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup AP flour
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cubed

Directions:

Grease a 9 X 13 casserole dish with butter. Slice and cube the bread into 1-inch pieces. Spread the bread cubes in the buttered dish and top with your fresh blueberries.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, half & half, cinnamon, brown sugar and vanilla, and (pumpkin pie spice if using), and pour over the bread cubes.

Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator overnight to set.

Next, prepare the topping in advance, cover it tightly and store it in the refrigerator overnight….

Use this to sprinkle over the soaked bread before baking.

For the topping:

Whisk the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl and cut in the cubed butter with a pastry blender or two forks working the dry mixture into the butter to make a streusel topping.

In the morning…….

Preheat oven to 350

Remove the pan of soaked bread cubes from the refrigerator and let the pan sit for 10- 15 minutes to get to room temperature before going into the oven and sprinkle the topping over the cubes.

Topping sprinkled and ready for the oven!

Bake for 55 minutes or until golden brown on top.  Serve immediately.

Final Product and ready to eat…..

THIS RECIPE CAN BE HALVED in a 9-inch baking pan and the bake time will be 35 minutes.

Cover leftovers tightly and it will store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days

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Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,

Diane

Simple Charcuterie – Easy Entertaining

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Hi Everyone,

Welcome to December 1, 2022…. I really can’t believe that December has arrived. I have been so busy in my personal life lately that I can’t believe that we sailed past Thanksgiving already- the year is flying by.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and I wish you many blessings.

And now here we are at the beginning of December and that means getting ready for the holidays and entertaining.

I have a little secret to share with all of you that keeps me a little ahead of the entertaining panic when someone stops by for a visit. We have all been there when someone calls that they will be right over…..

I always keep a few staples in my pantry and refrigerator for a last-minute guest and this has saved me from panic on many occasions.

I keep packaged breadsticks, a variety of nuts and dried fruit, a package of soppressata and or prosciutto, and packaged crackers on hand along with everyday items that are always in my home such as fresh fruit, mozzarella balls, and variety of soft cheeses such as goat cheese or any flavor hummus plus fancy bamboo extra long toothpicks. These ingredients will go far and they make a lovely presentation.

The photo of a recent charcuterie board I made is a perfect example of using these staples. Prepared under fifteen minutes.

Here we have breadsticks, almonds, walnuts, dried apricots, Medjool dates, crackers, and two easy appetizers… Simple and delicious!

The first appetizer is a pear slice wrapped with a slice of prosciutto and garnished with arugula and a dollop of herb goat cheese (this is always a big hit).

The second appetizer is a bamboo toothpick with a cherry tomato, a mozzarella ball, a slice of soppressata salami, and a basil leaf. (Optional: drizzle with balsamic glaze).

Just a quick example that entertaining can be easy and fun and not so stressful. Have fun with your guests and enjoy the holidays….

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Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,

Diane

Happy Halloween 2022

Hi everyone, Happy Halloween!

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

It seems the months are passing by so quickly and here we are at the end of October already. I hope you all have a safe, happy, and healthy Halloween.

This is the second year that DishingwithDiane is donating a tray for charity at a local school and I am honored to be asked again.

I was under a little pressure this morning to get it completed and wrapped for pick up and combine that with opening the door all day for trick-or-treaters and that is why this post is a little later in the day.

Yesterday I spent the day making rainbow cookies in the colors of Fall for the donation tray along with Halloween bark and once again I had to buy the sugar cookies at a bakery.

Maybe next year I will add that skill to baking but for all those who know me well, baking is not my strong point. It is a labor of love though and I am happy to make the donation…

After the pick-up and a big sigh of relief, Bob and I decided to have a luncheon celebration for the holiday before the trick-or-treaters arrive so we had “Bats & Pumpkin” ravioli served with butternut squash sauce (recipe to follow).

I prepared a simple tablescape and used plastic cutlery and paper napkins along with casual porcelain dishes that I recently purchased in Homegoods.

I only purchased the dinner/salad plates and I am looking for matching bowls. The pattern is called “Wicked” by Jahie Pty. Ltd.

(Please let me know if you see them around-thanks).

The ceramic mugs are a favorite of mine and feature a witch’s house and creepy trees…

The Halloween centerpiece is an oldie but goodie and it’s one of my favorite ceramic houses purchased many years ago in Pier 1, it makes an appearance somewhere in the house on Halloween.

Table accents are my tried and true Frankenstein mug that also makes an appearance every year since he arrived with a bouquet of flowers attached many years ago.

This year Frankie is holding black licorice. The other accents are candy bowls and pumpkins.

And speaking of candy- I am a candy corn lover, I will admit. And my new favorite flavor is “Smores”.

A big shout out to Bon Bons Chocolatier in Huntington, NY for the best candy corn in the world…..

My new Halloween purchases are salt and pepper shakers that are “Mr. and Mrs. Frankenstein”; I couldn’t resist this set since their lips are magnetic and they never leave each other’s side with a forever Halloween kiss.

Dessert always reigns supreme on any table, especially on Halloween, and this year I have two special treats.

The first dessert is Halloween cupcakes displayed in plastic wine flutes filled with candy corn.

The next dessert is ghost cupcakes along with a mini pumpkin cheesecake and a special Halloween beverage. I purchased pumpkin cocoa bombs from Trader Joe’s for an extra little something.

I just love these ghost cupcakes (I purchased these because I am not that talented with frosting…)

We have been celebrating all day and adding one more holiday completed for 2022… Have a great Halloween! Be safe.

Butternut Squash Sauce

I have used this recipe from Simplyrecipes for years with a little tweaking. I will post the original recipe and my changes in parentheses.

ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash weighing about 2 1/2 pounds
  • 1 pound pasta
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup chopped shallots or onions (I use shallots only)
  • 1/4 cup packed, freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt (I use mascarpone cheese)
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, for garnish (I use chopped sage in the sauce and to garnish).
  • 1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Pasta Water as needed to thin the sauce, about 1 cup

Method

  1. Bake the butternut squash: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the butternut squash lengthwise in half and scoop out the guts and seeds and discard them (or save the seeds and toast them). Pour 1/4 cup of water into a baking dish and place the butternut squash halves cut side down. Bake for 40 minutes or until a fork easily pierces the squash. Allow cooling for 10 minutes. Scoop out the squash flesh from the skins and put it into a blender. Discard the skins.
  2. Sauté the shallots: in the olive oil over medium heat in a small skillet until just beginning to brown, about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Purée in a blender: Add the shallots to the blender. Add 1 cup water, the parmesan, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg and blend until smooth. Taste and add more salt if needed. If the sauce is too thick, thin it with a little more water. (I add some sage to the blender as well).
  4. Add sour cream and heat until warm: Pour the sauce into a small pot set over low heat. Mix in the sour cream and warm it through. Do not let the sauce boil.
  5. Cook pasta in boiling salted water:Fill a pot with water and salt (1 tablespoon of salt for every 2 quarts of water). Set over high heat to bring to a hard boil. Add the pasta and cook at a hard boil, uncovered until al dente.
  6. Mix cooked pasta with sauce:When the pasta is ready, drain and put it into a bowl. Mix with a little of the sauce and serve. Add a dollop of additional sauce and some parsley right when you bring it to the table.

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Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,

Diane

Rustic Pizza

Hi Everyone,

How are you? The weather is getting very chilly and it’s time to head back “indoors” to the kitchen.

I know a lot of people love Friday night pizza and I found a great “yeast” just for pizza making that requires no rising time that I just had to share with you.

So, with a quick gathering of simple ingredients to make the dough, add your sauce and toppings and a fresh hot pizza is yours for under 30 minutes from start to finish…..

I make this dough for a quick pizza when I have leftover odds-and-ends toppings from other meals that I want to use or if I have an abundance of fresh tomatoes. The combinations are limitless.

For the pizza I made I didn’t even make a classic circle but a rustic free-form shape and added some topping combinations I had on hand….a trio of flavors…tomato with mozzarella, basil, and oregano, butternut squash with meatballs, and broccoli rabe with sausage…

This recipe can make a regular 12-inch pie crust or 2 thin-crust pies. And the company lists a website for more recipes…...www.breadworld.com/pizza

The product is Fleischmann’s Pizza Crust Yeast

Photo courtesy of Fleischmann’s

and here is the tried and true recipe from Fleischmann’s (I use this for stromboli as well)……. Have fun!

Ingredients

  • Crust:
  • 1-3/4 to 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 envelope Fleischmann’s® Pizza Crust Yeast (or Fleischmann’s® RapidRise® Instant Yeast)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup very warm water (120° to 130°F)*
  • 3 tablespoons corn oil (I use olive oil)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of pizza sauce
  • other toppings as desired
  • 1 to 2 cups (4 to 8 ounces or 125 to 250g) shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Combine 1 cup flour, undissolved yeast, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add very warm water and oil; mix until well blended, about 1 minute. Gradually add enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. The dough should form a ball and will be slightly sticky. Knead** on a floured surface, adding additional flour if necessary, until smooth and elastic, about 4 minutes. (If using RapidRise Yeast, let the dough rest at this point for 10 minutes.)
  3. Pat dough with floured hands to fill greased pizza pan or baking sheet. OR roll dough on a floured counter to a 12-inch circle; place in greased pizza pan or baking sheet. Form a rim by pinching the edge of the dough.
  4. Spread with pizza sauce. Top with desired toppings and sprinkle with cheese.
  5. Bake on the lowest oven rack for 12 to 15 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is browned.

    *If you don’t have a thermometer, water should feel very warm to the touch.

    **To knead the dough, add just enough flour to the dough and your hands to keep the dough from sticking. Flatten the dough and fold it toward you. Using the heels of your hands, push the dough away with a rolling motion. Rotate the dough a quarter turn and repeat the “fold, push and turn” steps. Keep kneading the dough until it is smooth and elastic. Use a little more flour if the dough becomes too sticky, always working the flour into the ball of dough.

    Recipe Note: Use crust to make one thick-crust 9-inch pizza. Increase baking time to 20 minutes.

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I hope you have an opportunity to try this recipe and enjoy some pizza making…..

Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,

Diane

Italian Vegetable Stew (aka Giambotta)

Hi everyone,

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

Hope you are all well… Happy First Day of Autumn!

I am back from taking a month off for some much-needed rest and relaxation and to catch up on a few things we needed to get done around the house. I am rested and ready to cook, share recipes and prepare tablescapes…..

This time of year is bittersweet for me… Leaving the beach and the great hot summer days behind and getting prepared for cooler days, earlier sunsets, and all the fall treats and traditions.

Every year when we transition from summer to fall, I start making recipes that use the last of the summer vegetables before the pumpkins and squash arrives. Our bountiful summer gardens are coming to an end about now and we want to hold on to those summer flavors just a bit longer.

In the next few days, I will be posting a few of my favorite end-of-summer recipes. These are the recipes that have become a tradition in my Italian family.

The first recipe is a vegetable stew. My mother would always take the last of the summer harvest and make a vegetable stew with all the odds and ends that are left on the vine.

Some years yielded more zucchini than tomatoes or more eggplant than green beans -whatever the case, my mother made it work and it was always delicious. Feel free to experiment with different flavor combinations.

Nice and hearty and served simply with grilled ciabatta bread rubbed with garlic or a loaf of crusty Tuscan bread. Topped with grated cheese, it is always delicious. Over the years I like to serve this with polenta* topped with grated cheese.

This recipe is called “Giambotta” and it has basic ingredients but you can add or subtract whatever ingredients you prefer. There is no right or wrong, it depends on what you grew in the garden and what you want to add.

Giambotta can be a side dish or a main course if you add some protein such as chickpeas or cannellini beans.

And a great dish if you have guests that are vegetarians.

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Photo courtesy of Running to the Kitchen website

Ingredients:

3 TBSP olive oil

2 – 4 garlic cloves- minced

1 small onion-sliced

3 carrots- peeled and diced

3 stalks of celery-diced

4 small red potatoes- washed & diced

Fresh parsley (approx 2 TBSP)

4-5 vine tomatoes diced OR 1 (28 oz) can of crushed tomatoes

1 can (14 oz) of low sodium chicken broth

2 cups green beans – fresh and blanched is best or frozen is fine

1 medium eggplant –diced in cubes (peeling optional)

2 zucchini- diced in cubes

1 (10 oz) box or bag of frozen peas

Red & green bell pepper or 4 Italian frying peppers, sliced

1 Cup grated cheese

Salt & pepper

1 tbsp. dried oregano 

Fresh basil (approx 5 leaves-chiffonade)

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1 tbsp. dried Italian seasoning

(1 can chickpeas or cannellini beans- rinsed and drained -optional)

(Parmesan rind- optional)

(1/2 cup white wine – optional)

Directions:

  • Sauté onion in olive oil for 5 minutes over medium heat, season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes
  • Add garlic, carrots, parsley, celery, peppers, and potatoes, and sauté for 10 minutes
  • Add fresh diced tomatoes OR 1 can of crushed tomatoes, broth, and green beans, season with oregano, Italian seasoning, bay leaf, fresh basil, and Parmesan rind & white wine (if using). 
  • Cover and simmer for 30 minutes to cook the sauce (taste for seasoning – additional salt & pepper can be added)
  • After 30 minutes—Add eggplant, peas and zucchini, cannellini beans, or chickpeas (if using), and simmer on low for an additional 30 minutes
  • Remove bay leaf and Parmesan rind before serving

Sprinkle with grated cheese. 

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This meal can be served with polenta. *Polenta is a northern Italian coarsely ground cornmeal. When freshly cooked it is soft and creamy and is a gluten-free substitute for any recipe that calls for pasta.

When polenta cools, it firms up and can be sliced and fried or layered like pasta sheets.

The old-fashioned way to cook polenta took roughly 45 minutes to cook stirring constantly but now there are many companies that sell instant polenta that cooks between 3-5 minutes. Here is an example of one brand, so you know what to look for.

Photo courtesy of Amazon

Ingredients:

  • 1 (16 oz) box of instant polenta
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup grated cheese
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese (optional) OR
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)

Directions:

Follow package directions. When the polenta is done, take the pot off the heat, and then add butter and cheese, AND heavy cream OR mascarpone cheese (if using).

Serve soft polenta in a shallow bowl and add Giambotta on top.

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Cooks Note: when my mother made this dish, any leftover soft polenta was cooled on parchment paper on a baking sheet. Spread the polenta out as flat as possible. Once the polenta has hardened and cooled, cut out rounds with a wine glass or cookie cutter or cut in slices, and store in the refrigerator overnight.

The next morning, my mother would fry the polenta in a 1/2 cup of olive oil or butter in a large skillet on both sides until golden (then drain on paper towels), or broil for 3 minutes on both sides. Serve with scrambled or fried eggs instead of toast.

Extra rounds/slices can be wrapped in wax paper in a container in the refrigerator. You can refrigerate them for up to 5 days or store them frozen, for up to 3 months.

If you don’t want to make your homemade rounds you can buy them. I have never used this product myself, but I see the rounds in the dairy case. Pre-cooked, just slice, heat, and serve.

81QWybKPPUL._SX522SX522_SY201_CR,0,0,522,201_PIbundle-12,TopRight,0,0_SX522_SY201_CR,0,0,522,201_SH20_- polenta roll

(Photo courtesy of Amazon.com)

I hope you have an opportunity to try these recipes and enjoy them.

Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,

Diane