Friday, December 23, 2016

Cut Out Snowflake Sugar Cookies

Soft Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies with Perfect Frosting

Makes 2-3 dozen sugar cookies
Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes (includes chill time)
Cook time: 10 minutes


1 c unsalted butter room temperature
1 c granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
2 oz. cream cheese, room temperature (do not use fat free)
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 t almond extract
1 t lemon zest
3 c all purpose flour (I use King Arthur:
1-1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t kosher salt

3 c powdered sugar
3-4 T milk
2 T light corn syrup
3/4 t almond extract
food coloring, as desired
sprinkles etc. for decorating
(I used the snowflake cookie cutters from King Arthur:


1. In large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar on medium until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and add the egg and beat until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Add the cream cheese and beat for a minute, scrape down the bowl once more and beat in the vanilla, almond extract, and lemon zest until incorporated, about 30 seconds.

2. In separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. With the mixer running on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture, mixing just until fully incorporated and a soft dough is formed.

3. Divide the dough into quarters. if using the dough within 24 hours, roll each quarter to a 1/4" thickness between two sheets of parchment paper (I use these sheets: you can store the dough in a ball or disk and roll out when ready to cut and bake). Be careful not to roll the dough to thin, or the cookies will be too crisp. Keeping the dough flat, transfer it to the refrigerator and chill for at least an hour or overnight. (You can stack the dough "flats" on top of each other to save space.) You can also freeze the dough in tiptop bag for up to a month, let thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then proceed with the recipe.

4. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 and line baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat (I use the silicone mats: Remove one dough flat from refrigerator and cut with cookie cutters. Repeat with remaining dough.

5. Bake 9-11 minutes until barely lightly golden brown and edges are dry. Cookies will look slightly under baked. Let cool completely.

6. Make the frosting by stirring together the powdered sugar and 3 T of milk (it will be pretty solid at this point). Beat in the corn syrup and almond extract until the frosting is smooth and glossy. If it is too thick add milk 1 t at a time, until desired consistency. Add few drops of food coloring. Frost and decorate.

(This recipe is from

Struffoli (Italian Popcorn)

My Grandma made this every year and called it pinalada (but I don't think that's the real name for it!). It is also nicknamed "Italian Popcorn." It is a family favorite.

4 c flour
2 gal + vegetable oil
cinnamon (I use Vietnamese cinnamon from
Chopped up large Hershey chocolate bars
8-9 eggs
2 jars of 3 lb. honey
1 lb. roasted almonds

Mix flour and eggs. Set aside and cover. Roll into strips on sheet dusted with flour. Let set for a few minutes. Use special deep fryer with new cold oil every other time. Cut rolls into pieces diagonally. Deep fry; strain. Put in grocery paper bags and change the bags for 2 days to absorb extra oil.


Heat honey in saucepan, warming up with 1 T sugar. Add balls, a LOT of cinnamon and roasted almonds. Mold into cone-shaped "tree." (Dip hands in ice water if having problems molding.) Top with chopped chocolate and roasted almonds after mounding.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

Oreo Crust:

            1-1/2 c ground oreo cookies
            5 T butter
            3 T confectionary sugar

Spray springform pan and wrap in several layers of tin foil around the bottom. Pack crust – put 3 layers of foil around it and cook 10-14 minutes at 350.


4 8-oz cream cheese, softened
5 eggs, room temperature
1-1/2 c firmly packed brown sugar
1 c smooth (Jif!) peanut butter (not natural style; it won’t work)
½ c whipping cream
1 T vanilla
6 2-packs of Reese’s peanut butter cups

Beat cream cheese with brown sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, peanut butter, then whipping cream and vanilla.

Pour half into crust. Top gently with whole peanut butter cups then add remaining filling. Put springform pan (wrapped in several layers of tin foil) into larger pan with water 1” or 1-1/2” up the side and bake for 1-1/2 hours or until done.

Remove from oven and water bath and let cool completely.

Refrigerate until chilled. If you want to remove it from the springform pan, do so not, being careful to separate crust from bottom when transferring to cake plate.


You may make your own hot fudge for the top or drizzle top with Sanders hot fudge or dark chocolate ice cream topping. Decorate with Reese’s peanut butter cups cut in half.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Raspberry Pie

I got this recipe from my friend Julie Russo, and it has become a family favorite!

Cooked pie shell
Large container Cool Whip, defrosted
2 T white Karo syrup
3 T raspberry Jello powder
6-10 small containers of raspberries, washed and dried well
1 c sugar mixed with 3T cornstarch
1 c water

Mix sugar/cornstarch and water over low heat. When sugar starts to dissolve, add 2T white Karo syrup. Boil and keep stirring until it starts thickening. Add 3T raspberry jello powder. Set aside 10 minutes. 

Fold raspberries into gel mixture (add as many raspberries as you want as long as there is enough gel to hold them together -- I stack mine high in the pie!). Pour into cooled pie shell. Top with Cool Whip.

Fresh ricotta ravioli with butter and sage

For the fresh pasta:
200 g all-purpose unbleached flour (7.055 oz.; 1.60 c), 100 g semolina flour (3.527 oz.; .57 c), 3 eggs, a pinch of salt.
For the filling: 400 g fresh sheep ricotta (.88 lb.; 3.25 c), 600 g spinach or chard (2-1/2 c), 3-4 TBSP grated Parmesan, a pinch of salt, ground nutmeg and black pepper to taste, zest of one lemon or 1-2 TBSP marjoram leaves.
120 g butter (apx. ½ c), 1 large handful of fresh sage leaves, grated Parmesan.

Prepare the filling: start by blanching the greens in just a little water (you don’t want them floating, if using spinach you might even just cook them barely with the water left on from washing them) for a few minutes. Drain them well and let them cool; when cool enough to handle, squeeze them well from any extra water (a sushi mat works very well for this purpose) and chop them very very finely. Drain ricotta very well, then pass it through a sieve or work it with a wooden spoon to make it smooth; mix it with greens, Parmesan, lemon zest or marjoram  leaves if using, and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Make a homogeneous and rather consistent mixture (it shouldn’t be wet).
Sift flour on your working surface into a mound and make a well in the center. Break in the eggs, add a pinch of salt, and beat them lightly with a fork; gently draw in the flout without allowing eggs to escape. Once eggs are rather mixed with flour and no more running out, start to knead the dough, until it gets soft and elastic, and doesn’t stick to your fingers anymore. Work with clean hands (brush off any dry bits of flour) and eventually dust them with more semolina to avoid sticking. After about ten minutes, once you have a smooth silky ball of dough, wrap it in cling film or in a cloth and let it rest for 20 minutes. After this time, you can roll the dough with a rolling pin or with the pasta machine. Divide the ball in 2-3 pieces; keep covered the pieces you are not working on. If you are using a rolling pin, roll the dough out on a floured board at 1-2 mm thickness working from the center out, until you have an even surface. Either you are using a rolling pin or the machine, it is important to work the dough well, rolling and stretching. We used the machine, so we had the piece of dough passing through the machine cylinders, at first through the thickest setting, for 2-3 times, folding the dough over itself; then we kept moving on to next settings, rolling the dough through each of them until the second thinnest setting, in order to have thin sheets of dough. It’s possible to make long stripes, about 10 cm large, then lay them on floured board and place small mounds of filling evenly spaced apart (about 3 cm) all along the stripe; then cover with another pasta stripe and press with your fingers all around the filling, to let air out and seal the pasta. Generally it must be done quickly, otherwise fresh pasta dries and it’s hard to close ravioli (eventually you can brush the sides of the stripe with a little water of egg whites). Cut ravioli out with a roller cutter, leaving about 1-2 cm of past around the filling. Alternatively, you can make larger stripes, place the filling on the longer side closer to you and fold the dough over onto the filling. Then proceed as above to shape and cut ravioli.
Or you can use a round cookie cutter (8-9 cm) to cut pasta circles, then spoon a heaping teaspoon of the filling onto the bottom part of each circle of dough (slightly off the center) and fold each circle over in half; then pinch the edges together with a fork to seal ravioli. Arrange ravioli on a tray as you do them, sprinkled with some semolina, without overlapping them, until you have used all of your dough.

Melt the butter to a golden color into a pan with the shredded sage leaves, until they get crisp (or you can bring the butter to noisette* for a deeper flavor). Cook ravioli in a large pot of boiling salted water, for about 6 minutes. Remove them gently with a slotted spoon and immediately add them to the pan to coat them well with the scented butter. Serve with grated Parmesan on top.

* Unsalted butter is melted over low heat and allowed to separate into butterfat and solids from milk. The milk solids naturally sink to the bottom of the pan and, if left over gentle heat, will begin to brown. As the milk solids reach a toasty hazelnut color, the pan is removed from the heat. Beurre noisette may be used in its liquid state, or cooled to a solid form. It has a nutty flavor.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

White Chocolate Cherry Scones


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen
1/2 cup dried sour cherries; chopped (I used fresh, pitted and halved cherries)
1/2 cup white chocolate chips; roughly chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
*I added a few shakes of cinnamon and roasted pecans


1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a medium bowl, mix flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Grate butter into flour mixture on the large holes of a box grater; use your fingers to work in butter (mixture should resemble coarse meal), then stir in dried cherries and white chocolate.
2. In a small bowl, whisk sour cream and egg until smooth; stir in vanilla.
3. Using a fork, stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture until large dough clumps form. Use your hands to press the dough against the bowl into a ball. (The dough will be sticky in places, and there may not seem to be enough liquid at first, but as you press, the dough will come together.)
4. Place on a lightly floured surface and pat into a 7- to 8-inch circle about 3/4-inch thick. Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 triangles; place on a cookie sheet (preferably lined with parchment paper), about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden, about 15 to 17 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.
5. If desired, drizzle with melted white chocolate after the scones have cooled.


1. I added a light egg wash to the top of the scones and a sprinkle of coarse sugar before placing in the oven.

2. I have prepared these in the food processor with fabulous result, simply pulse cold butter into the dry ingredients instead of grating the frozen butter.
3. Add in a variety of ingredients to make your signature scone, think chocolate chips, nuts, espresso powder... endless possibilities! 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Chicken Salad Supreme

This is my favorite chicken salad recipe. I used to make it for wedding showers and serve it with croissants. Serving with cantaloupe slices is also great. If not serving with cantaloupe, you will only use 1 cantaloupe.

4 cantaloupe                                                            ¼ c scallions or green onions
5 c chopped chicken (I use mixed)                         1 t grated lemon rind
1 t salt                                                                      ½ c fresh lemon juice
1 c seedless grapes                                                  ½ c mayonnaise (real)
apx. 12 oz. roasted slivered almonds

Remove skin and fat from chicken; boil the chicken just until done in water with onion, celery, carrot and peppercorns (I also use a bay leaf or two). Drain chicken, saving some water if keeping overnight.  Take off bone and cut into cubes. (If keeping overnight, sprinkle with the 1t salt and cover with water so it doesn’t dry out.)         

Halve, peel and dice 1 cantaloupe to make 1-1/2 c diced melon. Set other melons aside. Place diced chicken in large bowl; add cantaloupe, seedless grapes cut in half, roasted almonds (pre-roasted in 350 oven until browned and fragrant), sliced scallions and finely-grated lemon rind. Drizzle with lemon juice. Mix gently and fold in chilled mayonnaise. Serve with sliced cantaloupe.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Strawberry-Almond Muffins

Adapted from Disney’s Family Cookbook
Makes 12 to 14 muffins
This may seem like an unusual source, but they turn out great!

I recommend toasting the almonds for additional flavor, but you can skip this part if you prefer. 
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk 
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
2 cups roughly chopped and loosely packed strawberries 
3/4 cup sliced almonds
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees to toast nuts. Toast for 5 to 10 minutes on an un-greased baking sheet, turning once.
Increase heat to 375 degrees; line muffin cups.
In small bowl, whisk flours, baking powder and salt together. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar in mixing bowl with hand-held mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add eggs one at a time, and beat until fluffy. Mix in milk and almond extract (mixture will separate). Add flour mixture, and stir until just blended. Fold in strawberries and almonds, reserving a few berries and almonds to decorate muffin tops.
Fill muffin cups to the top, decorate with reserved berries and almonds. Be careful not to over-fill; mine were just skirting the edge of being too full. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

These are best the first day, but can be stored in an air-tight container with the lid slightly ajar for up to three days.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Lemon White Chocolate Chip Cookies

Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 12 minutes (makes 2 dozen cookies)


1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 + 1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon zest (from about 3 medium lemons) 1 large egg

1 tsp lemon extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups white chocolate chips 


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and cornstarch for 20 seconds, set aside.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and lemon zest (not until pale and flu
ffy, just creamy). Mix in egg, then mix in lemon extract and vanilla extract (if you want the cookies a little more yellow, you can add a few drops of yellow food coloring when adding the extracts). With mixer set on low speed slowly add in dry ingredients and mix until combined, then mix in white chocolate chips.
Scoop dough out 2 1/2 Tbsp at a time and shape into balls (I used a 1 1/2-inch cookie scoop and filled heaping). Place on Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheets, spacing cookies 2-inches apart. Bake in preheated oven 10 - 12 minutes (cookies should look slightly under- baked, they will continue to cook slightly once removed from oven). Cool on baking sheet 2 minutes (if desired, you can lightly press more white chocolate chips into tops immediately after removing from oven) then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container. 

Recipe from




1 cup oat bran (I use oat flour because oat flour is amazing)
½ cup white and ½ cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
1/4 -1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup safflower or other mild oil (extra if greasing muffin tins; I used the papers)
generous c of halved fresh cherries (recipe called for 1/4 cup dried Bing cherries, chopped)
1 c chopped pecans or other nuts (I added this)  
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Grease muffin tins.
  3. In large Pyrex measuring cup or medium bowl, mix dry ingredients.
  4. In large Pyrex measuring cup, beat egg. Add milk and oil. Stir to blend.
  5. Pour wet ingredients into dry, add cherries and mix swiftly with a few strokes. DO NOT OVER BLEND even if you see a little flour or bran unincorporated in the batter.
  6. Spoon batter into muffin tins, filling 3/4 full—these whole-grain muffins do not rise very high.
  7. Bake for 12-14 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Run knife around tin to loosen muffin.
Makes 12 muffins.