Amaretti Cookies

I was going through a container that was loaded with recipes that I’d been saving since I was a teen. Most were from newspapers and magazines.

As I was sorting through which recipes to keep and which ones to toss, I came across a recipe for soft Amaretti cookies. I’d made them before, and although I don’t care for nuts in my food, because these were ground fine and mixed with powdered sugar, I found that I enjoyed them. I hope you do too~

Here’s the recipe: Makes about 2-dozen cookies

Preheat oven to 300°

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups blanched almonds
  • 1 Cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 2-3 egg whites
  • 1 Teaspoon almond extract

Construction

Grind the almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor until you have a fine powder.

Add the almond extract to the almonds.

Slowly add the egg whites, one at a time, mixing until the dough comes together.

*Use only as much of the egg whites as it takes to moisten the dough.

Moisten your hands, and take small pieces of the mixed dough and form them into 1-1 1/2 inch balls.

Place the rolled dough on a parchment or lightly greased baking sheet.

  • Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours.

Bake the cookies for about 25 minutes, or until lightly golden in color.

Let cool.

Store them in airtight containers.

Advertisements

Nana’s Layered Graham Cracker and Chocolate Pudding Pie

Today, I suddenly had a Nana flashback!

When we were living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and later in Brentwood on Long Island, Nana would sometimes surprise me with her chocolate pudding and graham cracker pie. It was so delicious and welcomed, especially after a long day of learning!

It’s an easy-peasy recipe where she’d cook chocolate pudding on the stove and then layer pudding and graham crackers.

I wish she were here today to make it – I know it’d taste so much better than mine!

Ingredients:

  • 2 (5 ounce) packages chocolate pudding mix (the kind you have to cook)

  • 6 cups whole milk

  • 1 (16 ounce) package graham crackers

  • 1 9×13 pan

Directions:

  • Combine pudding mix and milk in a large saucepan and cook according to the directions on the package. – DON’T LET IT BOIL!

  • Cover the bottom of a 9×13 inch pan with a layer of graham crackers.

  • Pour the hot pudding mixture over graham cracker layer.

  • Cover the pudding with another layer of graham crackers.

  • If you have extra pudding, cover it again, and then sprinkle with crumbled graham crackers

  • Chill at least 4 hours before serving.

*** You can also layer chocolate and vanilla for added enjoyment

*** A nice dollop of whipped cream to the top is also good

ENJOY!!!

Chocolate Cheesecake

My brother Jeffrey and I didn’t like cheesecake; we may have been the only two in the family who don’t like it.

Aunt Liz recently told the story of how every year for Jeffrey’s birthday, Aunt Liz would make him one of her famous cheesecakes, and he’d have to remind her that he didn’t like cheesecake. My mother was even surprised to learn that neither one of us like cheesecake.

Recently, while sorting through some old recipes, I happened upon a chocolate cheesecake recipe that was given to me by a former coworker. I guess she thought the idea of putting chocolate in the mix would make me like it….. I didn’t.

So, before I throw the recipe out, I’m adding it to this blog for those of you who enjoy cheesecake.

Preheat oven to 350°

Crust:
1 cup crushed graham crackers
2-3 tablespoons of granulated sugar
2-3 tables of melted butter

Filling:
Whites of 3 large eggs – whipped to soft peaks
1 – 15 oz container of part-skim ricotta cheese
1/3 cup sour cream
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4-1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

CONSTRUCTION:
Lightly grease the bottom and sides of an 8″ or 9″ springform pan.
Mix all crust ingredients together and press evenly over the bottom.

In a mixing bowl, mix together ricotta cheese, sour cream sugar, cocoa and vanilla extract.
Fold in the beaten egg whites and gently mix together.
Pour into the springform pan.
Bake in center of oven for 30-35 minutes
Remove from oven and let cool completely before placing in refrigerator.
When ready to serve, run a knife around the sides to loosen and remove the pan sides.

Jeffrey’s Easy Peasy Tuna Melt

My brother Jeffrey’s 9th angel anniversary is coming up on the 6th and it’s got me thinking of him and remembering.

When Jeffrey and I were growing up on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, we were on our own a lot. Our parents and Uncle Steve worked long hours at Sebastian’s on the Waterfront so we would fend for ourselves.

One memory I have is when Jeffrey and I used to do the laundry. Every Saturday morning, Jeffrey and I had to take the laundry to the Westinghouse laundromat on the waterfront near Palm Passage. My friend and classmate Joan Barbel’s family owned the laundromat and they knew my parents, so we had to be on our best behavior when we were there.

We lived on Norre Gade, a few doors down from the Moravian Church.  Many people who knew our family would see us walking from our house on Norre Gade to Palm Passage along the waterfront.

Imagine if you will, you’re on an island paradise and everyone spoke with a Calypso accent. Now imagine people watching my brother and me walking with this huge sack on our backs (he’d be in front, and I’d be bringing up the rear), looking like Santa’s elves, and they would point and say; “Eh, Eh! There go de Black children with de laundry!”

Once we got the laundry started in the machines, we’d walk around Main Street and the waterfront, or stop at Sebastian’s to have something till it was done and then we’d head back home and hang up and put away the laundry.

Since Jeffrey was a vegetarian, tuna fish was one of the foods we ate with regularity. When we were home alone on Saturday, Jeffrey used to make us tuna melts. It’s not a fancy dish, and there are probably tons of ways to prepare it, but Jeff made it simply with English muffins, tuna and cheese.

Basically, he’d do the following:

  • Toast a couple of English muffins
  • mix tuna with mayo, onions and celery
  • place the tuna on top of the toasted muffins
  • Place a slice of American cheese on to of the tuna.
  • Pop it in the oven at 350° and bake it for about 3-5 minutes until the cheese was melted.

** You could also add tomato to it if you so desired.

It was so satisfying – comfort food.
I think I’ll go to the grocery store and pick up some English muffins and make this tomorrow in honor of my brother.

EASY SAUSAGE BREAD

Sausage bread is totally different from Stromboli or Calzone. With Stromboli, you roll the pizza dough with the filling like a jellyroll, and calzone is basically a pizza folded in half.

Sausage bread can be done with a loaf of Italian bread cut lengthwise or it can be made using pizza dough rolled out lengthwise and folded over the sausage mixture… either way, it’s delizioso!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. mild or spicy Italian pork sausage (or a combination of both – remove from casings)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano or Italian seasonings
  • 2 tsp. basil
  • pinch of salt
  • dash of black pepper
  • 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (I like a lot of cheese!)
  • 1/4 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • 1 loaf French or Italian bread

** OPTIONAL: you can add 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, mushrooms, diced pepper – whatever you wish.

PREPARATION:
1. Heat oven to 350°.

  1. In a large skillet, cook sausage chunks over medium-high heat for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up the chunks.
  2. Next, add onion and garlic, oregano, Italian herbs, salt, pepper, basil, and pepper flakes (if using) and continuing stirring until the sausage is no longer pink – about 5-10 minutes.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and mix in ¼ cup of sauce, and mix well and let cool.
  4. On a baking pan, layer a sheet aluminum foil
  5. If Using Bread: Cut the bread in half lengthwise; scoop out center of each bread half.
  6. Place bread halves on cookie sheet. Spread 1/2 cup of the ricotta cheese down center; top evenly with sausage mixture, mozzarella cheese and grated cheese.
  7. Next, fold one half of the bread on top of the other half
  8. Cover the foil around the bread tightly
  9. Bake 20-30 minutes or until the bread is thoroughly heated and cheese is melted.
  10. Let cool, then cut into slices.

Use remaining sauce for dipping

** USING PIZZA DOUGH: Roll out the pizza dough lengthwise. Add ricotta, the cooled sausage mixture and cheeses, and roll it like you would a burrito (that’s the best way I can describe it). Brush a little melted butter on it and sprinkle a little grated cheese or minced garlic (or both) on top.  Then bake it in the 350° oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool, then slice and enjoy!

sausagebread

Pignoli Cookies

Pignoli Cookies originated in Sicily and Southern Italy. They’re kind of like a macaroon.

They’re made with Almond Paste (never use marzipan) and Pine Nuts. Pine nuts are the edible seeds from pine trees. It takes a long time to grow and harvest them – which is why they are expensive.

I used to make these cookies every Christmas and they’re easy to make and oh, so delicious!

INGREDIENTS: 


  • ½ lb. (1 cup)  Almond Paste (not marzipan)

  • 2 egg whites

  • 1 cup granulated sugar


  • ¼ cup pignoli (pine nuts)

  • 1/4 cup of sifted flour


PREPARATION:

  • 
Preheat oven to 325°.


  • Break up almond paste in a food processor – or use a pastry chopper until the almond paste is granulated.

  • Mix flour and sugar together in a separate bowl

  • Transfer almond paste to a separate mixing bowl and gradually add the flour and sugar mixture. Mix gently and well.

  • Separate eggs and (save the yolks in a separate bowl for use in another recipe)

  • Whip the whites until stiff.

  • Fold the egg whites into the dry ingredients and gently mix.

  • Grease and flour a cookie sheet and drop cookie mixture by spoonfuls.

  • Press pine nuts to cover the top of the cookies

  • Bake for 10-12 minutes until light brown

  • Cool on a wire rack. Makes about 2 dozen

ALTERNATIVE METHOD:
I’ve seen pignoli cookie recipes without flour. I’ve also seen recipes using powdered sugar. Here is another recipe below that omits the flour making it gluten-free:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb (2 cups) almond paste

  • 1cup granulated sugar

  • 3 egg whites

  • ¼ lb pignoli nuts

PREPARATION:

  • 
Preheat oven to 325°.


  • Break up almond paste in a food processor – or use a pastry chopper until the almond paste is granulated.

  • Mix sugar together into granulated almond paste

  • Separate eggs and (save the yolks in a separate bowl and save for use in another recipe)

  • Whip the whites until stiff.

  • Fold the egg whites into the dry ingredients and gently mix.

  • Grease and flour a cookie sheet and drop cookie mixture by spoonfuls.

  • Press pine nuts to cover the top of the cookies

  • Bake for 10-12 minutes until light brown

  • Cool on a wire rack. Makes about 2 dozen

* You and also add lemon or orange zest to give it a little extra flavor

** You can also dust the cooled cookies with powdered sugar

Caprese Salad

Caprese salad is one of those simple Italian salads that is delicious and can be served with traditional antipasto. I usually make a meal out of it with warm Italian bread.

Its generally made with sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and sweet basil, seasoned with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

In case you were wondering, the green basil, white mozzarella and red tomatoes are representative of the Italian flag – just like pizza Margherita.

I’ve also made Caprese salad with Bocconcini (small mozzarella balls) and cherry tomatoes.

Here’s the recipe for the traditional way:

1. Slice the tomato in approximately 1/4″ thick slices.

2. Slice the mozzarella in 1/4″ this slices.

3. Alternate layers between the tomatoes and mozzarella by starting with a tomato slice, then a mozzarella till you’ve finished.

4. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar

5. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.

6. Top with basil (you can either chop the leaves or leave them whole).

* You can also do a balsamic reduction:
In a small saucepan, pour in a cup of balsamic vinegar and cook over a low heat until the vinegar is reduced – don’t forget it keep stirring it. It’ll usually take about 15 minutes and you’ll notice the vinegar thickening. You’ll end up with 1/2 cup of reduced vinegar that is really intense in flavor!

  • You can also add a little honey to sweeten it up.