Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Things have been quite busy trying to keep up with 3 toddlers. But awaiting Santa tonight is pretty exciting. Tomorrow we celebrate Morgan's REAL birthday with a beautiful gingerbread cake that her mom had made by a friend. Sounds soooo good. We will have some great photos to share when we get back.

I hear things in the northeast are pretty snow-y so it is nice to be in Atlanta!

Last night my other daughter made us a Mexican feast. I know, I know, not exactly Christmas fare! But it was great! She made taco stuffed shells, spinach clementine salad and corn casserole which is to die for!!

¼ cup egg substitute (if using real eggs, this is 1 egg)
¼ cup reduced calorie stick margarine (or 1 stick butter)
1 can whole kernel corn
1 can creamed corn
1 pkg Jiffy muffin mix
1 8 oz. container plain fat free yogurt
Double everything for a double batch!Directions
Combine ingredients in a medium bowl.
Stir well and pour into an 8-in. square baking dish coated with PAM.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until set.
To make larger batch, double everything and bake in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

Tonight we celebrate the feast of 7 fishes ...a totally meatless dinner and tomorrow is prime rib and manicotti. It is a food frenzy in an Italian household at the holiday time!

I want to wish you all a very blessed, peaceful, Merry Christmas. Enjoy your holiday and let the spirit live with you all year long.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

IN Atlanta

Hi all...getting ready today for a BIG birthday party for our grandaughter. She is a year old and cute as a button. We haven't seen her since May...of couse the video cam doesn't count as much as holding and kissing her. But there is a lot of cooking and fun going on here today. Hope y'all have a great day!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

See you in a few days

I am off with hubby on our trek to Atlanta. Getting everything we want to take crammed into the car is going to be a work of art for him. But we want to get on the road before the storms start coming through our way. So, my friends, see you all soon around blogland and for those of you, like me, who kept saying..."just one more kind"'s time to stop the madness and relax!
Remember the reason for the season...God bless you all and Merry Christmas. Love, Linda

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Baby It's Cold Outside!

Today is a blustery day and we are going to have soup for supper. We have to keep the calorie count down these days and eat healthy, to prepare for the food frenzy to come! This is a delicious and hearty soup that will warm your belly! Lentils are also a traditional dish in Italian homes on new Year's Eve. They are eaten for good fortune in the New Year ahead! Mange!
Lentil Soup

1 lb. Bag of brown dry lentils
1 small onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 dried red peppers, broken in half or crushed red pepper to taste
Olive oil
3-4 teaspoons of marinara sauce
2 cans low fat, low sodium chicken broth
3-4 cups water
Dried basil
Dried parsley
Garlic salt or powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Place lentils in a large stockpot and add 3 cups of water and 2 cans of chicken broth. Start cooking over medium heat. As the cooking process continues, you may have to add water depending on how much the lentils soak up while cooking.

In the meantime, place about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the diced onion, diced carrots, diced celery, chopped garlic, and red pepper. Sauté until vegetables start getting tender; add to the lentils in the stockpot, along with the tomato sauce. When lentils begin to boil, add basil, parsley, salt, pepper and garlic salt or powder to taste. Reduce heat to simmer. Continue to taste for seasoning and add as needed. Lentils should be soft/firm…they should have a bite and not be mushy. This should take about 45 minutes.

Serve over ditalini pasta with grated cheese. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Oh my gosh...I just found this. It would make a great gift for someone on your list or maybe yourself! Go to:
There is a microwave up for grabs in this contest. Good luck!

The "W" in Christmas

I just received this in an email and knew I had to post.....Merry Christmas!

Each December, I vowed to make Christmas a calm and peaceful experience. I
had cut back on nonessential obligations -- extensive card writing, endless
baking, decorating, and even overspending. Yet still, I found myself
exhausted, unable to appreciate the precious family moments, and of course, the true
meaning of Christmas.
My son, Nicholas, was in kindergarten that year. It was an exciting season
for a six-year-old. For weeks, he'd been memorizing songs for his school's
"Winter Pageant."
I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd be working the night of the production.
Unwilling to miss his shining moment, I spoke with his teacher. She assured
me there'd be a dress rehearsal the morning of the presentation. All parents
unable to attend that evening were welcome to come then. Fortunately,
Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise.
So, the morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in ten minutes early, found
a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down. Around the room, I saw several
other parents quietly scampering to their seats. As I waited, the students
were led into the room. Each class, accompanied by their teacher, sat
cross-legged on the floor. Then, each group, one by one, rose to perform
their song.
Because the public school system had long stopped referring to the holiday
as Christmas," I didn't expect anything other than fun, commercial
entertainment - songs of reindeer, Santa Claus, snowflakes and good cheer.
So, when my son's class rose to sing, "Christmas Love," I was slightly taken
aback by its bold title.
Nicholas was aglow, as were all of his classmates, adorned in fuzzy
mittens, red sweaters, and bright snowcaps upon their heads. Those in the
front row-center stage -- held up large letters, one by one, to spell out the
title of the song. As the class would sing "C is for Christmas," a child would
hold up the letter C. Then, "H is for Happy," and on and on, until each child
holding up his portion had presented the complete message, "Christmas Love."
The performance was going smoothly, until suddenly, we noticed her; a small,
quiet, girl in the front row holding the letter "M" upside down -- totally
unaware her letter "M" appeared as a "W."
The audience of 1st through 6th graders snickered at this little one's
mistake. But she had no idea they were laughing at her, so she stood tall, proudly
holding her "W." Although many teachers tried to shush the children, the
laughter continued until the last letter was raised, and we all saw it
together. A hush came over the audience and eyes began to widen. In that
instant, we understood the reason we were there, why we celebrated the
holiday in the first place, why even in the chaos, there was a purpose for our festivities.
For when the last letter was held high, the message read loud and clear:
"C H R I S T W A S L O V E"
And, I believe, He still is. Amazed in His presence...Humbled by His love.
May each of you have a Merry Christmas as you reflect on His Amazing Love
for us...Have a blessed day!
When you are DOWN to nothing.... God is UP to something!
Faith SEES the invisible, BELIEVES the incredible and RECEIVES the

Beautiful Venetian Cookies

Good morning! These take a little work, but the result is so pretty. Almond paste is a favorite in our Italian home, especially during the holidays. This cookie is moist and delicious as well as festive on a cookie platter. It is well worth the effort.
Venetian Cookies Recipe
These are also called Neopolitan cookies.

1 can (8oz) almond paste
1 1/2 cups butter, softened (3 sticks)
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, separated
1 tblsp almond extract
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
Red & green food coloring
1 jar (12 oz) apricot jelly or
1/2 pkg chocolate chips (or 3 squares baking
1 teaspoon solid shortening (Crisco)

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Lightly grease three 13 x 9 inch jelly roll pans, line with waxed paper, allowing to hang over 1" on each end.
3. Lightly grease waxed paper.
4. Break up almond paste in a large bowl.
5. Add butter, sugar, egg yolks (yolks only) & almond extract.
6. Beat with elec mixer until fluffy.
7. Beat in flour and salt. In a small bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.
8. Fold into almond mixture until well blended.
9. Divide mixture into thirds.
10. Add green food coloring to one, red food coloring to another, and leave the third portion plain.
11. Using your fingers, spread each portion into it's own cookie sheet. Press and spread until an even layer covers the whole sheet.
12. Bake until just set. Do not let it brown. It will only take 10 to 15 minutes, so watch carefully.
13. Immediately remove layers from pans using waxed paper overhang and place on wire racks to cool.
14. Heat apricot jelly in a small saucepan. (If using preserves, put through food processor to eliminate chunks)
15. Place green layer, top down, on a clean cookie sheet. Carefully peel off waxed paper.
16. Spread 1/2 of heated jelly evenly over green layer to the edges. Place yellow layer, top down, on top of green layer.
17. Remove waxed paper and spread with remaining jelly.
18. Place red layer, top up, on yellow layer. Cover with plastic wrap and weight down with something heavy like a cutting board and put in the refrig overnight.
19. Press it down good so the layers will stick together.
20. Melt chocolate & shortening together in a saucepan, the microwave or by placing in a Pyrex bowl or cup in the oven for a few minutes. Spread evenly over the top layer and let cool until hardened (10 min). Trim outer edges if necessary and cut into bite size pieces
21. OR spread the chocolate on the whole top of the cookie, let it harden, flips the cookie over and frosts the other side, then let the chocolate harden again. When slicing them, dip the knife in water and wipe it clean between each slice. -have to tell you-applying chocolate to each individual strip is quite messy-at least for me, if you want to frost both sides!
22. Makes about 5 to 6 dozen

Recipe compliments of Bunny's Warm Oven!

Last night I made peppermint bark to give to my staff on festive little platters. I will have to post a photo when I get them put together. Just take mint flavored milk chocolate candy making disks and melt in double boiler. While chocolate is melting, unwrap some peppermint candy...candy canes or starlight mints. Throw a bunch of them in a zip lock bag and take your meat tenderizer (flat side) and pound them out to crush a bit. When chocolate is melted add the crushed candy. Pour out on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Melt some red or white chocolate and drizzle over the top. Chill and then break into pieces. I also did the same with some white chocolate and drizzed with the red chocolate. It looks so pretty!

I am attaching a link to a really nice idea for making over a wreath. Check out Kimba's blog and look for her Open House today! She has some really great ideas. I am in Christmas withdrawal this year. We are leaving Friday to visit our daughter in Atlanta for Christmas and I didn't take any decorations out this year. I bought a small tree and decorations so it at least looks like we have some holiday spirit, but I miss all the fun of getting the house ready. Anyway, stop in and see Kimba!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Tired of cookies? Try this decadent Chocolate Cake!

This is absolutely the very best chocolate cake you will ever have. The cake is velvety and moist. I usually make it and dust it with a little confectioners' suger. To serve it, I spoon some of the warm vanilla sauce on each plate, with a little spooned on the cake and a fanned whole strawberry. It makes a beautiful presentation and is a fantastic dessert for company.

The picture attached is "just a photo" from Google, not the actual cake.

My daughter belongs to a supper club and this was a dessert a few years ago. She shared the recipe with me and it is always makes a great impression.
We have all been busy with cookies, that other things get forgotten. But I had a dinner party 2 years ago on New Year's Eve and served this...sprinkled the sauce with shiny iridescent sanding sugar and it was so festive. And make sure the sauce is served warm. You can make it ahead and just warm it before serving.

Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Cream

1-1/2 cups butter or margarine
3 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
5 eggs
1-1/2 tsp instant coffee
1/4 cup hot water
2 cups unsifted flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup buttermilk
Confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. (About 5 minutes.) Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Dissolve coffee in hot water. Combine flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder; add alternatively with coffee liquid and buttermilk to creamed butter mixture, beating just until batter is blended. Pour into well grease and floured 12 cup tube pan or bundt pan. (I used powdered cocoa so no white marks would show when cake is removed from the pan.) Bake 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until cake tester is clean. Cool 20 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.

1 pint heavy cream
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 Tbsp. vanilla

Combine all ingredients in medium size pan on medium to high heat. Whisk constantly until mixture starts to boil. Serve warm over the chocolate cake. Dust each plate with cocoa powder.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Beautiful Broccolini

For anyone who has not tried broccolini, what you are missing is a sweet tender hybrid vegetable that has only been around in the U.S. for about 10 years. It looks like asparagus spears with little broccoli tops. I came across the following recipe in Bon Apetit and had to try it for a Sunday dinner. It is so delicious and worthy of a dish to serve for holidays or to company. It presents beautifully. I am attaching the photo from the magazine, but mine looked just like this!

Broccolini with Pecan-brown butter
· 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 pounds broccolini (about 4 bunches)
· 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
· 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots (about 2 medium)
· 1 garlic clove, chopped
· 1/2 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
· Coarse kosher salt
· Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Add broccolini; stir to separate and cook 2 minutes. Drain. Transfer broccolini to paper towels to drain. Cool. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap broccolini in several layers of clean paper towels; enclose in resealable plastic bag and chill.
· Melt butter in extra-large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic, then pecans; sauté until shallots are soft, about 3 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high; stir constantly until butter is browned and pecans are aromatic, about 3 minutes. Add broccolini to skillet and toss gently until heated through, about 7 minutes. Season to taste with coarse salt and pepper. Transfer to platter and serve.

Sunday Baker Giveaway

Hi all, If you haven't already seen this, Tanya at Sunday Baker is giving away a gift certificate for a neat way to redo a photo. The possiblilites are so great and these would make an ideal gift for anyone!

I would do a photo of the newest addition to our family, Cassie, or maybe one of our 3 grandkids!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cranberry Shortbreads

Today was a busy day. I delivered the almond bark to the nursing home staff where my mom-in-law lives. We had an hour of singing Christmas carols and delivering good cheer.

Last night I made some cranberry shortbread cookies. These are my favorite. Cranberry Shortbread Cookies

Cream together:
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
Add and blend well: 2 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups chopped dried cranberries
Drop onto shiny ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes until edges are golden.

That's it! Try these, they are easy and good! Sorry the photo isn't that is having problems!! But you get the idea.
Back to the kitchen!! The cat is sleeping, hubby is at the gym and I am in the Christmas mood!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Almond Meltaways

After finishing the cookie dough truffles and packing up the almond bark in feastive red and white bags, I am on the the next round. Dough is already chilling for Almond Meltaways. I have a few things that I would like to accomplish tonight, but suffice it to say there is a folder full of recipes waiting to be baked! These will literally melt in your mouth.

Almond Meltaways

28 min 10 min prep
SERVES 36 , 3 dozen cookies
· 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
· 1 cup confectioners' sugar
· 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
· 1 cup all-purpose flour
· 1/2 cup blanched slivered almond, finely ground
Beat together butter and 1/2 cup of the confectioners' sugar in bowl until smooth and creamy. Beat in almond extract.
On low speed, beat in flour and nuts.
Wrap dough in plastic wrap; refrigerate until firm, 2 hours.
Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Pinch off pieces of dough in heaping teaspoonfuls.
Roll into logs and taper ends; bending into crescents.
Place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake in 325 degree oven for 16 to 18 minutes, until lightly browned.
Remove cookies to wire rack. While warm, dust with a generous layer of remaining confectioners' sugar.
Cool completely then sprinkle again with any remaining confectioners' sugar.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cookie Dough Truffles

OMG...if you have never tried these, you should. First of all...EASY! I made a bunch of these last night as I needed a little treat to bag up for some friends. They are going to love these.

And if you couldn't resist licking the spoon from the chocolate chip cookie dough, this is for you...without the guilt of raw eggs hanging there.

I made the dough and let it sit several hours before handling it and that made it easier. Then back in the fridge for another hour or so. I used the rest of the bag of chips for dipping and left out the nuts. Wonderful and worth the wait of the refrigeration time.

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (OPTIONAL)
1-1/2 pounds semisweet candy coating, chopped

Directions: In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Gradually add flour, alternately with milk, beating well after each addition. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts. Shape into 1-in. balls; place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Loosely cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or until firm. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt candy coating; stir until smooth. Dip balls in coating, allowing excess to drip off; place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes. If desired, remelt remaining candy coating and drizzle over candies. Store in the refrigerator. Yield: 5-1/2 dozen.

Monday, December 8, 2008

It's Soup Weather!

Oh my gosh...yesterday was a blustery day. Fortunately, we had no place to go. Hubby watched football and I happily finished all the wrapping. Tonight I start the baking process. All of my ingredients are standing at attention on the island, waiting for their turns to march into a batter of luscious mixtures....almonds, pistachios, warm vanilla, cinnamon....mmmm...the house will smell so good!

In the interest of time, I whipped up a batch of soup to make dinner time easy tonight. This is a great dish for those on the go. It's hardy and fulfilling and healthy! Put a pot of this in the fridge for those frantic days.

Beef Minestrone Soup

1/2 lb. ground beef
-Season with salt & pepper
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1 onion, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
4 cups beef broth
2 cans cannelini beans, drained and rinsed

Brown beef in soup pot with seasonings. Add onion, zucchini and carrots. Saute for 4 minutes or a little longer if necessary. Add tomatoes, broth and beans. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Sprinkle romano cheese on individual servings.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Chocolate Orange Biscotti

I have been wrapping for a week now and moving things from one pile to another and from one room to another. Whew! But all this is going to be so worth it! I am not so sure Tony is going to like packing it all in the car for the drive to Atlanta, but he'll get over it!

Today I found a wonderful recipe for Chocolate Orange Biscotti on

I always make a biscotti tray at holiday time, so this is going to make a beautiful and tasty addition. It calls for grated orange peel, but I think I am going to use clementines which are so plentiful right now. MMMMMM.....I can just imagine the aroma! The recipe says that these freeze well, so I am going to do these over the weekend.

Thanks to Midgelet, here is her recipe:

10 oz of butter, softened to room temp
1 pound 6 oz sugar,
10 oz liquid whole eggs ( fresh or frozen thawed)
3 tsp grated orange peel,
2 tsp of either vanilla, almond or orange extract
1 lb 9 oz flour, weigh
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
8 oz mini chocolate chipsDirections
Cream butter
Blend in eggs
Mix and sift dry ingredients together.
Blend into creamed mixture.
Blend and mix in chocolate chips
Divide into 4 pieces
Roll each into a log shape
Placed on greased or paper lined baking sheets, 5 inches apart
Bake 350F for 10 minutes
Use a serrated knife to slice/score accross rolls into 3/4 inch slices
Bake 10 minutes cut side down
Turn over and bake another 10 minutes
May cut recipe in half
These freeze well

I hope you all have a great weekend!!

Great Giveaway

If you haven't seen Tanya's Sunday Baker blog, you don't know what you are missing. I would love to be invited to her home. She has lovely taste and wonderful ideas. And she has a beautiful holiday giveaway that ends this Sunday. Check it out at

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Check out this contest!

For those of you who love fine salts, the above website has a great contest that ends Dec. 8th and is giving away some fines salts! Good luck!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

After on to the baking!

It has been a few days since my last post, but I have been busy wrapping and planning my cookie list! I have a few new ones to try this year, but the old stand bys don't want to leave the tray! This year I am making some individual platters to give as gifts to my staff. Yesterday I bought the cutest plates! In the center I am going to put a mini red or green mini loaf pan wioth a pistachio cherry bread in it. I will surround it with wonderful homemade cookies.

My personal favorite is the almond paste cookie. This is a holiday tradition for us. It makes lots of cookies and very nice gifts!

Here is the recipe....These are absolutely mouth watering!

Almond Paste Cookies Recipe

2 ½ lbs. Almond Paste
8 egg whites
2 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 ½ lbs. confectioner’s sugar
10 Tbsp flour

Grate almond paste in bowl. ( I use an electric mixer to break it up.)
Add sugar, flour, and baking powder. Keep beating and add lemon juice.
Add egg whites, one at a time and mix slowly.
Form little balls and top with nuts. (This is a time consuming procedure as you have to keep your hands dusted with confectioner’s sugar to keep the dough from sticking to your hands. To save time, just drop by teaspoon or small scoop onto cookie sheet.)
Also, to make festive for the holiday, use chopped pistachios or almonds and color with food dye, or use toasted pignioli nuts (pine nuts).
Bake at 325-350 for 15 minutes. Cool and keep in air-tight container.