Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Beginnings

2010 is upon us; 2009 can be put to bed. For those of you who have suffered, I wish you peace in the new year. For those of you who have thrived, I wish you another year of riches. For those of you who are hoping for new beginnings, I wish for those ladybugs to appear. For those of you blessed with the love of family and friends, may those bonds remain strong.

Will you make a New Year’s resolution…..will you stick to it? I think I’ll continue to resolve not to make any resolutions, since they’re so easily broken. Call it lack of will power, or perhaps it’s just human nature. I will do my utmost to be the best person I can be, but not just for others….more importantly, for myself.

Those of us who are givers—whether it be in the tangible or intangible form—sometimes forget that in order to be strong for others, we need to be strong for ourselves. Listen to those inner voices reminding us that it really is okay to say “no.” It’s not a weakness to say, “I’d love to help, but I just cannot at this time.” No explanations needed. True friends will understand. We all have limits. Even the most giving of people need down time, or that candle we burn at both ends finally reaches the center…..and then…..it is extinguished.

So, to all of you out there: Be good to others…..but be especially good to yourselves.  I wish you peace, health, and happiness.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday Cheesecake Torte

As if cheesecake isn't rich enough, sandwich it between two chocolate cake layers spread with apricot jam, and cover the entire dessert with a delicious buttercream frosting...with a hint of raspberry liqueur.  Sprinkle a few crushed pistachios on top; arrange a few marzipan kumquats and cranberries dipped in egg white and dusted with sugar, and I'll bet the cholesterol police will be at your door.  But, I guarantee they'll have a piece before carting you away to the land of sensible eating.

Merry Christmas! 

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Buche de Noel and Struffoli

Buche de Noel with Struffoli in the background

Reading the above title, one might get the impression that I have both French and Italian roots.  My only connection to France is my four years of high school French.........and my Buche de Noel.  Ok, I can still sing most of La Marseillaise when I've had perhaps tee too many martinis.  But, I digress. 

I believe it was Julia Child who was on television preparing a Buche de Noel, and I thought it was just the neatest dessert.  I had to make it for my family.  Eric was four months old that Christmas, and I've been serving it every year since then.  28 years.  Since I assemble the whole thing on Christmas Eve, and I wanted to post a photo prior to Christmas, this is one from a prior year.  I'll be making the meringue mushrooms later today.  Perhaps I'll even make a few snails.  They always look appropriate sitting on and around the log.  I've added sugar-coated cranberries, marzipan cranberries, holly, or have just left it in its simplest form:  The log and the meringue mushrooms.  Sometimes less is more. 

As for the Struffoli, no self-respecting Italian...or at least Neopolitan....Christmas dessert table would be complete without them.  Little balls of dough that are deep fried, drained, coated in honey, lemon, and orange zest.  They're then stacked and covered with colored sprinkles.  They are positively addictive. 

I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Lucky Ducky

Copyright Loew's Incorporated, 1956

When I think back to my childhood.....as I do quite often at this time of year and on this blog.....memories of my mother flash vividly in my mind.  And, interestingly, every year I dig out the Tom and Jerry cookie cutters.  Do I use them?  No.  Why?  Well, for one thing, they have nothing to do with Christmas, but primarily because they're not as convenient as cookie cutters made post that "era."  That era being 1956, when these were produced, and from what I understand, sold for a whopping 25 cents.  Alright, so I'm not an antique, but I guess I am inching closer. 

Tom & Jerry, Tuffy, Droopy Dog, Barney Bear, and Lucky Ducky sit atop my counter, making their annual appearance so that I can say, "Oh!  Remember these?"  Heads nod, a smile adorns my face, and yes....even a tear is shed as I think lovingly about my mom who always showed the patience of a saint as she poked the cut-out-dough through the cutter's "convenient" little holes.  As the title indicates, I was quite lucky to have Ann as my mother. 

Now I'm sure you won't cry when you look at the photo of these treasured kitchen items from my past, but I hope you enjoyed another walk down that lane we like to call, nostalgia. 

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas Cookies

I tried a few new cookies this year, but the ones that remind me of my mother are the 7-layer Ribbon Cookies and the Chocolate Crackle Tops.  She always had them on her "repertoire" of goodies at this time of year.  The 7-layer cookies are made with almond paste and have an apricot jam filling; then covered on both sides with chocolate. 

The Chocolate Crackle Tops include plain breadcrumbs, ground pecans, and grated chocolate.....they're rolled in confectioners' sugar, and as they bake, "crack" on top.  I've been baking these every year for over 30 years.

Cookies shown below include:  Coconut-Orange Snowballs, Italian Almond Cookies, Chocolate Crackle Tops, 7-Layer Ribbon Cookies, Fig Swirls, Gingersnaps, Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies, White Chocolate Covered Peppermint Cookies, Peppermint Sugar Cookies (I apparently had a "thing" for peppermint this year)

Not shown:  White and Dark Chocolate Peppermint (see?) Bark,
Brandy-soaked Fruitcake (My husband is the ONE person on the planet who loves fruitcake),
Banana Bread

I might still bake:  Rugelach, Spice Shortbread, and White Chocolate Cranberry/Pistachio Biscotti

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Music

Admittedly, when I'm browsing the web, I get a bit miffed when the site opens and I'm bombarded by music.  Sometimes I enjoy what I'm hearing, but for the most part, I find myself racing for the pause or mute button, so that I can "think" while reading or not disturb the entire household if I happen to be cruising the web at some ridiculous hour of the morning while having a bout of insomnia. 

As guilty as I am at spiking the eggnog, I've broken my golden rule of having readers of my blog choose whether or not to listen to the music I've selected.  Please forgive me.  It's only for the next few weeks....only for Christmas....only because the songs invading your space make me happy....or sad....or nostalgic.  It's Christmas.  And even Bob Cratchit said, "It's only one day...."  Ok.  I've taken liberties there, too.  But....it is Christmas. 

I promise to return things back to the way they were after the tinsel and lights have been stowed. 

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Who Spiked the Eggnog?

Guilty.  I'm sure if there's eggnog, I've added some brandy, bourbon, rum, vodka, or all of the above.  However, in this case, I'd like to bring your attention to a vocal group called, "Straight No Chaser."  Perhaps you've heard of them.....if not, do yourself a favor and click on the following link.  I believe you'll be quite impressed. 

For those of you who'd like a great eggnog recipe...try this one:

12 cups heavy cream (or combination heavy cream, light cream, and/or half and half)
2 dozen egg yolks
2 cups sugar

Additions:  Freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups liquor of your choice: My preferences are a combination of bourbon, peach brandy, and dark rum

Bring cream to a simmer in a large saucepot.  Whisk yolks and sugar in a large bowl.  Gradually, whisk in half of hot cream.  Return mixture to pot.  Stir over medium-low heat until mixture thickens to a custard-like consistency; about 5 minutes.  Do not boil.  Strain mixture into a bowl.  Cool; chill.

Add liquor and nutmeg. 

Makes about 16 servings

Monday, December 7, 2009

Nesselrode Pie

For the most part, this classic pie has suffered the same fate as the dinosaurs.  Interestingly, Arthur Schwartz, aka, The Food Maven, used almost the same descriptive.  And, it's a shame if you ask me.  Mr. Schwartz discusses the history of the Nesselrode moniker--named after Count Nesselrode--and continues to describe its popularity by Hortense Spier.  He goes on to list where the main "ingredient," can be found, at the Raffetto manufacturer, Romanoff International, Inc.  Unfortunately, as Mr. Schwartz laments in an additional post, Raffetto's Nesselro can no longer be found.  So, for all of you Nesselrode Pie lovers out there....if anyone knows where a renegade jar can be purchased, please inform Arthur Schwartz and me....and anyone else who loves this pie. 

Mr. Schwartz does post a terrific recipe, but for tradition's sake (my tradition), I'm going to post the recipe my mother made....and yes, even a wonderful Italian cook used Betty Crocker's recipe.  She desperately wanted to please everyone. 

You can substitute candied chestnuts for the Nesselro, and as Mr. Schwartz points out, there was actually cauliflower, yes cauliflower, in the Raffetto's product.  Who knew? 

I've also learned through my quest for Nesselro, that a bakery in Brooklyn, NY--Teena's Cake Fair--makes this pie....but only for the holidays.  As it should be. 


Baked 9-inch pie shell
4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
6 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 bar (4 ounces) sweet cooking chocolate, grated
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon rum flavoring
1 jar (10 ounces) Raffetto's Nesselro
3 cups chilled whipping cream

In a medium saucepan, mix gelatin, sugar, cornstarch, salt, milk, and egg yolks.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils.  Boil and stir 1 minute.  Pour 1 1/2 cups of the hot mixture into bowl; set aside and cool.

Reserve 2 tablespoons of the chocolate for topping; blend remaining chocolate and the vanilla into hot mixture in saucepan.  Cool completely.

Line 9-inch pie pan with waxed paper.  Stir rum flavoring and Nesselro into plain mixture in bowl.  In chilled bowl, beat 2 cups of the cream until stiff; fold one half into each mixture.  Pour chocolate mixture into baked pie shell; pour Nesselrode mixture into waxed paper-lined pan.  Chill each until firm.

Loosen edge of Nesselrode layer; invert layer on chocolate filling.  In chilled bowl, beat remaining cream until stiff.  Spread over pie, covering completely; sprinkle with reserved chocolate.  Serve immediately.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Girls' Night

Before cutting....

Once upon a time a group of women gathered together to play that infamous dice game known as, Bunco.  We'd talk, eat, drink, laugh, roll dice, keep score, and exchange gifts.  As time moved on, we realized that the game was getting in the way of valuable gab time, and the better option was to just relax with a few glasses of wine and good food.  We're now Bunco drop-outs, but the laughs and yummy food abound when we're together.  Last night was our Christmas gathering, and I wanted to make a special dessert to bring as my offering.  Looking through my seemingly endless recipe files, I finally decided on Bon Appetit's, December 2009, Peppermint Meringue Cake with Chocolate Buttercream.  We girls love our chocolate, and the peppermint added just the right holiday touch.  The only thing I changed was to make two meringue layers instead of three.  There was no specific reason, I just liked the idea of two chocolate and two meringue layers filled and frosted with the rich ganache-like buttercream.   The recipe can be found on Epicurious at the following link:


As Promised.....

My Limoncello is all bottled, labled, and ready for gift giving.  If desired, print out the recipe and tie to the ribbon. 

The bottles shown are 16-ounce capacity, and I purchased them from: Beer-Wine Hobby