It takes weeks of planning, a week of prep, and it’s over before you know it.

But what fun we have!

Easter, this year was a bit extra-special because it’s 2 days before Victor’s birthday.

Every year his family gets together on Saturday night for the annual pizza-and-egg-coloring-eggstravaganza.  This year they surprised him with a birthday celebration, as well.

They baked a lot of cupcakes!  And yes, the number is correct.


The pizza was great.  There were five different varieties.  This one was topped with arugula.  Back in the day when I made pizza, I was such a purist  I probably would have turned my nose up at something like this.  Over the years I’ve learned to appreciate things a bit more.  And I definitely appreciated this!

I ate more than I should – but then…  when don’t I?!?  Especially when faced with something like this – and 60 cupcakes.


Earlier in the week I started the Peep-Dipping.

I personally cannot abide Peeps but they are fun to play with.  And one of these days I’m going to get serious about playing with them.  Every year I see the contests, creativity, and extremes people go tt with Peeps.  Some of them are just outstanding.  A far cry from a mere chocolate dip!

On to the eating!

Today, we started early – 1pm – with enough food to feed many more than the 15 assembled.  We really tried to cut down.  We really did.  Somehow, though, things just kept multiplying.

We started off with appetizers, of course… Meat balls, stuffed eggs, cheeses and crackers, olives, peppers, prosciutto…

The stuffed eggs were really simple.  Mayo, turmeric, dill, salt, and pepper.

We decided to do a bit of a picnic theme this year.  We did cold turkey, ham, and beef tenderloin with rolls and croissants for sandwiches, lingonberry sauce and aioli for spreads, and potato salad, pasta salad, green bean and red onion salad, and a green salad.

And we had two hot dishes – Marie’s pineapple bread pudding and Ricotta Rollatini – a pasta dish Victor made with homemade pasta and homemade ricotta cheese!

He made a variation a few weeks ago that was excellent – but today’s was stellar.  He used fresh peas instead of the spinach and the homemade ricotta.


The ricotta is no-brainer easy to make and what a difference in flavor!

Fresh Ricotta

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Add all ingredients to a heavy pot and simmer 15-20 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to sit for 30 minutes.

Scoop curds into a cheesecloth-lined sieve and drain about 30 minutes.  Squeeze to remove as much whey as possible.

Cover and chill.

It really is easy to make and it’s totally worth the time!

And then it was Dessert Time!

It pretty much doesn’t matter how much I’ve eaten – when dessert is ready – I make room.

We started off with Victor’s Carrot Cake.

Carrot Cake

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups shredded carrots (about 4 medium)
  • 1 1/2 cups oil (neutral oil like grapeseed – not olive)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup coconut (optional)

Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour 2 9″ cake pans.

In a large bowl, blend all ingredients (except nuts, etc) on low speed until moistened. Beat 3 minutes on high speed. Stir in nuts, raisins, and coconutr, if using.

Pour into pans and bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Cook cake 10 minutes before removing from pans.

Cool completely before frosting.

I made cream cheese frosting, split it into 4 layers, and decorated it with marzipan carrots we bought at Cost Plus when we were in San Francisco last month.  They were festive,  i couldn’t resist.

And I made a Strawberry Cheesecake…

It was a variation on my most favorite recipe.

Strawberry Cheesecake

The Crust:

  • 3/4 cups walnuts, finely ground
  • 3/4 cup vanilla wafer crumbs
  • 3 1/2 tbsp butter, melted

The Filling:

  • 4 pkgs cream cheese, room temperature
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream

The Topping:

  • 16 oz sour cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

The Glaze:

  • 4 cups strawberries
  • 1 10 oz jar red raspberry jelly

Putting it together: Preheat oven to 350º.  Mix crust ingredients and press evenly into bottom of 10″ springform pan.  Set aside.

Cream the cheese until light and fluffy.  Mix in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add sugar, vanilla, and whipping cream, mixing until smooth and light. Pour into pan and bake 60 – 70 minutes. Remove from oven and cool about 15 minutes.  Keep oven on.

Mix topping ingredients and spread onto top of cheesecake to within about 1/2 inch from edge.  Return to oven and bake about 7 more minutes.  Cool completely, cover, and refrigerate at least 24 hours (as I said, 2-3 days is best.)

On day you’re going to serve, make glaze.  Simply melt jar of jelly over low heat.

Remove cake from pan.  Press graham cracker crumbs onto sides, if desired.

Arrange sliced strawberries on top of cheesecake, covering the whole thing. Brush glaze on strawberries, allowing it to run down and pool on cake.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

It really is the best.

Marie brought a crostata di frutta that was outstanding!

A tender crust with a pastry cream, topped with sliced strawberries.  Excellent.

And, finally, fresh fruit with honey and more fresh ricotta.

Totally simple and totally good.

The honey is local that I pick up down at Gentile’s Market in Newtown Square.  I’ve heard that eating local honey is supposed to help with seasonal allergies.  It actually may be working.  I haven’t felt as bad recently as I have since moving back here!

Our final things were gifts we made for everyone to bring home with them – Limocello and Strawberry White Balsamic Vinegar.

Both are really good and really easy to make.

The vinegar is simple crushed strawberries steeped in white balsamic and then strained and filtered. It can be accomplished in a couple of hours.

The limoncello takes a bit longer.  Weeks longer.


  • 15 organic lemons, well scrubbed
  • 2 (750 ml) bottles 100-proof vodka
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 5 cups water

Wash the lemons well and pat dry. Carefully zest the lemons with a zester or vegetable peeler so there is no white pith on the peel.

Step One:
In a large glass jar (1-gallon jar), add the vodka and the lemon zest. Cover the jar and let sit at room temperature for at least 10 days and up to 40 days in a cool dark place. The longer it rests, the better the taste will be. (There is no need to stir – all you have to do is wait.) As the limoncello sits, the vodka slowly take on the flavor and rich yellow color of the lemon zest.

Step Two:
In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and water; cook until thick and syrupy, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Cool the syrup and then stir into the limoncello mixture. Allow to rest for another 10 to 40 days.

Step Three:
After the rest period, strain and bottle: discarding the lemon zest. Keep in the freezer until ready to serve.

It was a lot of fun. And a lot of food.

It doesn’t get much better.