Christmas Eve 2022

We're off to my sister, Phoebe's in a couple of hours to start the Christmas Festivities! The travel gods are with us - everyone lives within about a 2-mile radius of her and Nancy's home.

Christmas Eve at Phoebe and Nancy's is hors d'oeuvres and exchanging white elephant gifts. Probably a cocktail or two. There's lots of laughter, lots of stories. It's a really fun tradition.

It's a lot like our Christmases back east where we all went to Victor's sister's house and her husband, Tom. created the Feast of the Seven Fish. Family, tons of food, lots of laughter - and full bellies!

We made Crab Cioppino our first couple of Christmases here, but decided to switch it out this year.

Victor is making his absolutely delicious Ricotta Rollatini in an hors d'oeuvre size. I'm bringing a dessert.

There is going to be a lot of food. This family knows how to cook - and cook well.

Knowing I was going to do a dessert, I decided to do something a bit non-Christmas traditional. No chocolate and peppermint, no gingerbread or eggnog... And I wanted it to be bite-sized. Cake and pies and such are great, but they're difficult to portion for crowds. Mini cupcakes really work well.

I had made a PB&J sandwich the other day for lunch, and it struck me that the flavors would make a great cupcake! The PB&J Cupcake was born!

This was a fun one to put together! I had some peanut butter whisky (don't judge) that I wanted to use up and I had some flavorings that I knew would work, so I set off...

I started with a boxed cake mix. They can be doctored up really well and can make for a good base. Not following their ingredient list, I added peanut butter, peanut butter whisky, and a drop of peanut butter extract to the mix, along with 4 eggs. Into the oven for 8 minutes.

Really simple.

The icing was a cream cheese with pureed apricot jam and apricot extract. A bit of melted peanut butter went on top of the cupcake and then the icing. Dried apricots chopped with demerara sugar finished it off.


Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes

For Cake:

  • 1 box vanilla cake mix
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup peanut butter whisky
  • 4 eggs

Mix ingredients together as you would following the cake mix instructions. Fill 48 mini cupcake cups and bake at 350°F for 8 minutes.

For other sizes, follow instructions on mix box.

For Icing:

  • 8 oz block cream cheeses softened
  • 8 oz butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup apricot jam, pureed
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp apricot extract
  • 5 cups powdered sugar

Cream butter and cream cheese together. Add pureed jam and flavorings. Add powdered sugar and mix well.

To Assemble:

Warm a bit of peanut butter in microwave - just enough to make it easily spreadable.

Add a bit to the top of each cupcake.

Pipe icing on top and finish with chopped dried apricots.

'Tis the Season, indeed!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pound Cake

Have you ever had a dessert that was so rich it was difficult to finish no matter how hard you tried - but ever fiber of your being said take another bite simply because it was so good?!?

Well... look no further - here it is.

Our Chocolate Peanut Butter Pound Cake is a riff on a recipe we found in Bon Appetit magazine 25 or so years ago. It's sinfully rich, ridiculously indulgent, and something everyone should have at least once in their life.

This is probably only the third time in 25 years we have made it. - and this time, we made it even more ridiculous by adding the white chocolate peanut butter ganache to an already ridiculous recipe. Who says you can't have too much of a good thing?!?

The premise of the recipe is quite simple - it's a peanut butter mousse and a chocolate mousse in a loaf pan, frozen, and topped with a chocolate ganache - and, in this case, a white chocolate peanut butter ganache, as well. While the premise may be simple, the end result is anything but...

Every bite is a taste sensation - creamy, crunchy, caramel-like textures with explosive chocolate and peanut butter flavors. A peanut butter cup on steroids times ten.

Even though there are several steps in preparation, it's quite easy to make - and it can be done over several days...

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pound Cake

Peanut Butter Mousse

  • 2 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 cup peanut butter (I like to use chunk-style.)
  • 8 oz cream cheese – room temperature
  • 3 large egg whites

Chocolate Mousse

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 8 oz good quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
  • 1 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 3 egg yolks

Chocolate Ganache

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 8 oz good quality semi sweet chocolate

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Ganache

  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 4 oz white chocolate

Peanut butter mousse: Line 6 cup loaf pan with plastic wrap. Mix together 1 1/2 cups sugar with peanut butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Beat egg whites until soft peaks form, then add remaining powdered sugar and beat till stiff and shiny. Fold whites into peanut butter mixture.

Tilt loaf pan sideways (45º angle) and spoon mousse down pan.  Smooth top and place in freezer about an hour to firm. (Prop pan to hold 45º angle.)

Chocolate mousse: Slowly melt chocolate, stirring until smooth. Add egg yolks and stir until slightly thickened.  Cool to room temperature.

Beat whipped cream, espresso powder, and sugar to soft peaks.  Fold cream into cooled chocolate mixture.  Set pan with frozen peanut butter mousse flat onto the counter and fill with chocolate mousse. Smooth top and return to freezer at least hours – best overnight.

Ganache: Heat cream and butter just until cream simmers and butter is melted. Remove from heat and add chocolate, stirring until smooth. Let cool until thickened, but still pourable.

Invert loaf onto rack, removing pan and plastic. Pour ganache over loaf and smooth all sides.

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Ganache: Heat cream and peanut butter together until creamy. Stir in white chocolate and mix until all combined.

Pour over top, allowing a bit to run down sides.

Transfer to serving platter and decorate or not, as you see fit.


For this, I used Lindt 70% chocolate and Lindt white chocolate. If you prefer, you can use a lower-percentage chocolate for a less-intense chocolate flavor. You can also use creamy peanut butter, but I really like the textural differences with the chunky.

On a final note, it's recommended that you have lots of people over when you make this... This is not something you want left over in the house.

Guinness, Jameson, and Bailey's Cupcakes

It's the Wearin' of the Green time in the good ol' USofA.

Funny how a fairly nondescript holiday in Ireland turned into such a huge day of revelry here in the states. Then, again... when you look at immigration and discrimination in this country, it's not that surprising, at all. It's not unreasonable for a group to want to have their heritage recognized by the ruling classes... the Italians latched onto the now-not-so-popular Columbus Day. Mexicans have Cinco de Mayo. And, of course, there's Chinese New Year, to name but a few... but once recognized, we shouldn't look down upon the next wave of immigrants coming in. We've [mostly] all been there...

So... while I shan't be drinking green beer or making green pizzas like I did at Pirro's, lo these many years ago, I did decide to make some cupcakes to bring to my sister's tomorrow. We'll be doing the traditional corned beef and cabbage - the Jewish connection to our humble beginnings in the slums of New York - along with soda bread and a new recipe I found for an Irish Freckle Bread. Freckles are something my Dermatologist and I know lots about.

But I digress...

I found this recipe quite a few years ago but have only made them once before. Time for a repeat.

Guinness, Jameson, and Bailey's Cupcakes

adapted from The Browneyed Baker

For the Guinness Cupcakes

  • 1 cup Guinness stout
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoons salt
  • 2 eggs
  • ⅔ cup sour cream

For the Jameson Ganache

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (finely chopped)
  • ⅔ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter (at room temperature)
  • 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey

For the Bailey's Icing

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 6 tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream

Make the Cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two standard muffin tins with liners.

Place the Guinness and butter in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the cocoa powder and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sour cream on medium speed until combined. Add the Guinness-chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat just to combine. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture and beat just until it starts to come together, about 30 seconds. Using a rubber spatula, fold the batter until completely combined. Divide the batter among the cupcake liners. Bake until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 17 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the Whiskey Ganache Filling:

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Place the heavy cream in a small saucepan and bring to simmer over medium heat. Immediately pour it over the chocolate, then let it sit for two minutes. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir the mixture from the center outward until smooth. Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined. Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped, about 30 minutes. (If it becomes too stiff, simply give it a good whisk and it will loosen up.)

Fill the Cupcakes:

Using a paring knife, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes, going about two-thirds of the way down. Using a cookie scoop or spoon, divide the prepared ganache between the centers of the cupcakes.



Make the Baileys Frosting:

Using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Reduce the speed to medium-low and gradually add the powdered sugar until all of it is incorporated. Add the Baileys, increase the speed to medium-high and whip for another 2 to 3 minutes, until it is light and fluffy.

Using your favorite decorating tip, or an offset spatula, frost the cupcakes and decorate with sprinkles, if desired. Store the cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.


And the inside of the finished product!



I know it looks like a lot of work, but, really, they're quite easy to do - and really taste great!

And while we're speaking of immigrants...

“Ní thuigheann an sách an seang”

“The well-fed does not understand the lean.” Those who have may not understand the concerns of those who don’t have, and that you may need to lose a little to understand what it is like to have nothing.

Think about it.



Sicilian Olive Oil Cake

Our new oven is definitely getting a workout! Lots of breads, rolls, casseroles, roasted veggies... all of the things we couldn't make in the Extended Stay, and all of the things we didn't make the first month we were here with the old electric range.

The new gas range is awesome - we're both having a lot of fun in the kitchen - getting used to a new layout after 20 years, new places for pots, pans, and bowls, new places for spices and other ingredients... We're quickly getting things organized. It is a smaller space than what we left, so we've been getting creative. It's giving the old brain cells something to do...

Victor's brain cells decided we needed a cake, so he pulled out a recipe he's had for a while and went to work.

olive oil cake

I really wish we had gone metric in the '70s when the rest of the world did... weighing out ingredients is just to much better...

Sicilian Olive Oil Cake


  • 3 large eggs (150 grams)
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (112 grams) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) almond extract
  • 1 1/2 cups (188 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 grams) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1.5 grams) kosher salt


Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Spray an 8-inch round cake pan with baking spray with flour; line bottom of pan with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat eggs and sugar at high speed for 30 seconds. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, beating until combined. Add milk, beating until combined. Reduce mixer speed to low. Beat in extracts.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to egg mixture, beating until combined, stopping to scrape sides of bowl. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 33 minutes. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes. Remove from pan, and let cool completely on a wire rack. Brush with fresh olive oil just before serving. Store at room temperature wrapped loosely in foil or plastic wrap.



It came out great! Excellent texture, tons of flavor, not too sweet... the perfect dessert! He dusted with powdered sugar instead of brushing with olive oil - something I definitely recommend.

I think one could also go with some lemon zest and a bit of lemon juice or extract and switch it up a bit, as well.

So many ideas, so little time to eat them all...

Coconut Cookies

Coconut Cookies

I made gelato the other day... I hadn't used the ice cream maker in 2 years, so I thought it time. It's amazing what being in the house 24/7 will do for your creative juices - and waistline.

The gelato recipe I like uses 4 egg yolks, which means 4 egg whites are left over. I thought it prudent to come up with an idea other than just freezing them - the freezer is getting fuller by the minute.

I started going through recipes and found one for a coconut cookie I haven't made in years. It's really simple, just a couple of ingredients, and ready in no time! They're just like a really good macaroon.

I prefer unsweetened coconut. If you only have sweetened, you may want to lower the sugar a bit...

Coconut Cookies

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups shredded coconut
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Beat egg whites and sugar together until very soft peaks. Stir in flour, vanilla, and coconut. Scoop onto parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake in a preheated 275°F oven for about 30 minutes.


Coconut Cookies

I had some chocolate sauce left over from the ice cream, so that was drizzled on top!

Really n-brainer simple.  And really good!

Coconut Custard Pie

Coconut Custard Pie

It's Victor's Birthday, and what better way to celebrate than with a pie?!?

Birthday Pie has a long tradition in my family. I don't quite remember when, but at some point, Birthday Pies replaced Birthday Cakes with my siblings. My birthday pie was Pineapple Cream - following my Birthday Dinner of Veal Marsala. We never actually had real veal in our house - Mom pounded round steak into tender scallops.

But I digress...

Victor's traditional Birthday Dinner has been Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy, Mashed Potatoes, and Peas. I was all set to make it when he mentioned a spatchcocked chicken - since we had one in the freezer from Founding Farmers.

It's the Birthday Boy's Choice - Spatchcocked Chicken, it was. And dessert?!? A Coconut Custard Pie.

Cream and custard pies are pretty basic - and relatively easy to make. I think the easiest and most flavorful are made with milk, egg yolks, and cornstarch. You can also make them with flour, but I tend to have better luck with cornstarch. The base recipe will also work with very well-drained crushed pineapple to make a Pineapple Cream Pie.

One secret for this particular pie - in my not so humble opinion - is to use unsweetened flaked coconut. It's not the easiest to find at the grocery store, but I buy it online from Atlantic Spice. Traditional Baker's Coconut will definitely work, but we both like a slightly less-sweet filling.

Personal preference.

Coconut Custard PieCoconut Custard Pie

adapted from NY Times

  • 1 Prepared 9-inch pie shell


  • 2 cups milk, scalded and cooled
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp coconut extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flaked coconut


  • 1/2 cup flaked coconut
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Method:Partially blind-bake the pie shell: Heat oven to 425°F. Roll out chilled pie dough and place in a 9-inch pie pan. Trim and flute edges, pierce the bottom crust with a fork then cover with a large square of parchment or foil. Carefully add 2 or 3 cups of dried beans or pie weights onto the foil or parchment, and spread evenly so they reach up the sides of the pie. Bake 12 to 16 minutes or until crust is lightly browned.

Make the filling: Scald milk by placing it in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently until it just begins to foam and bubble around the edges. Set aside to let cool slightly. In the top of a double boiler, beat together egg yolks, sugar, salt and cornstarch. Stir in melted butter, then add the milk. Whisk until the mixture thickens. This will take 2 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, coconut extract, and coconut until well mixed. Pour into the pie shell.

Make the meringue: Toast the coconut lightly. Set aside. With a hand or stand mixer, mix egg whites and cream of tartar until the mixture is foamy. Increase speed to high and gradually add sugar, a tablespoon at a time. Keep beating until the meringue is glossy and forms soft peaks. Be careful not to whip into stiff peaks.

Spoon the meringue on top and spread to the edge of the crust so it forms a seal. Swirl the spatula through the meringue to make little peaks. Sprinkle evenly with the reserved coconut.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until meringue is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack and then refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.

Coconut Custard Pie

It's easier than it sounds - and every bite makes it worthwhile.

Heaven on a little plate!

Sicilian Almond Lemon Cake

Sicilian Almond Lemon Cake

I guess it's no longer much of a secret that we're putting the house on the market and moving west. It's been a fun run, but 19 years on the east coast is enough. Vancouver, Washington, here we come!

Vancouver is just across the Columbia River from Portland, where we have a lot of family. For uis, it's more affordable than Portland, and Washington has no state income tax - an important consideration when you're old and on a fixed income.

For both of us, this is the longest we have lived in one place - ever. 19 years. We even had the longest jobs we've ever had. As I said, it's been a good run, but time to move back.

Of course, uprooting after 19 years has its own set of issues and stress. First and foremost, of course, is making sure Nonna is taken care of. After another stroke in December, she had to go into long-term care. She's happy and complacent - and the home is just a few minutes away from us. Great facility, really good staff... We worked out the financials, powers of attorney, the care schedules, et al, and Victor's brother and sister will take over once we're on our way.

Then, of course, we have to sell here and buy there. Fortunately, we have the best Realtor around - Sharon Sharpe - who is making this as painless as possible. Our Realtor out west - Kenneth Johns - was recommended by a family friend and has been great in helping us narrow down our search and steering us in the right direction.

And then there's the added stress of actually having to keep the house really clean and organized for showings! Let's face it - we're much more Oscar than Felix, Blanche leaves wads of fur everywhere, and I really don't understand how cobwebs can reproduce within minutes of cleaning.

And then there's the whole foreign concept of having to keep the kitchen clean. I mean... really...

And getting rid of 19 years of clutter. While Victor is a purger, I'm more of a packrat. And it never fails... whenever I decide to start tossing stuff, I find out I needed something. The local GoodWill store has been our favorite destination - after calling JDog Junk Removal for stuff even I could get rid of... They were great guys and we'll be calling them, again, for the final clean-out after packing.

The stress, the stress.....

So... to try and ease the stress a bit, Victor headed into the kitchen to bake a cake he saw on Ciao Italia with Mary Ann Esposito. We have not baked a cake for 18 months - but it was definitely time.

Sicilian Almond Lemon Cake

Sicilian Almond Lemon Cake

adapted from Mary Ann Esposito Ciao Italia

Equipment: 9-inch spring form pan, buttered, lined with buttered parchment paper and set aside.



  • 3 large lemons, washed and left whole (Meyer lemons preferred)
  • 2 3/4 cups finely ground blanched or sliced almonds (The easiest way to measure the almonds is by weight. You will need 3/4 of a pound or 300 grams.
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Confectioner’s sugar


  • 1 cup or more of confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fiore di Sicilia extract (mix 1/2 orange extract and 1/2 vanilla extract)
  • a few drops of milk



Place lemons in a pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook just under the boil for about 45 minutes. Drain and when cool, trim the ends, cut them in half widthwise and remove the seeds. Chop the lemons and place in a food processor with 1/2 cup of the sugar and process until smooth. Transfer mixture to a fine mesh strainer set over and a bowl and strain the lemon mixture.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Divide blanched peeled almonds into three batches and whirl them in a food processor until they are powdered. Combine the batches and set them aside. (Or: buy fine almond flour at the supermarket!)

Beat the egg yolks and remaining 1 cup of sugar in a medium bowl until they are pale yellow and frothy looking, and then beat in the drained lemon mixture and the powdered almonds. Stir in the salt and baking powder.

In a separate bowl with clean beaters, whip the whites into soft peaks. Fold the beaten whites into the lemon mixture and pour the batter into the pan.

Bake the cake for about 45 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out dry. Be careful not to let the cake brown too much; it should be golden brown.

Cool slightly then release sides of the spring pan, remove the sides, and let the cake cool. Dust it with confectioner’s sugar or make a confectioner’s glaze with:


Mix all glaze ingredients until the glaze consistency forms then drizzle over cooled cake.


Sicilian Almond Lemon Cake

Talk about an excellent way to break our cake fast! Moist and lemony, it was perfection on a plate.

We each had one slice and then wrapped it up tight. The following day we sliced it up for the Realtor Open House. I hope they loved the house as much as they loved the cake. There was nary a crumb left...


2020 is bringing new adventures...

We're ready!

White Fruit Cake

S.G. Widdoes

  • 1 lb sugar (2 cups)
  • 1/2 lb butter
  • 1 lb flour (4 cups)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 lb seeded white raisins
  • 1 lb blanched almonds
  • 1/2 lb citron
  • 1/2 lb red cherries
  • 1 large coconut, grated
  • 1/2 lb crystalized pineapple
  • 1/2 lb crystallized orange peel
  • 1/2 lb crystallized lemon peel
  • 8 egg whites


  1. Cream butter. Add sugar gradually.
  2. Sift baking powder and salt with half of the flour. Add alternately with liquid.
  3. Add remaining flour to sliced or chopped fruits and nuts.
  4. Stir floured fruit into cake mix.
  5. Fold in beaten egg whites.
  6. Bake in loaf tins or round angel food pan lined with heavily oiled paper. (brown paper bag oiled and floured.)

Bake at 250°F for 2 1/2 hours.

Pastina Pie

Pastina Pie

I first heard of Pastina Pie from our friend, Michael Gottuso. A Pastina Pie is a sweet ricotta custard pie with little pastina pasta. He had made one, posted a picture online, and I immediately knew it would be on our Easter Dessert Table. It was instantaneous love at first sight.

I have seriously fallen in love with different Italian foods and even working in Italian restaurants in my youth never really prepared me for the infinite number of rustic, regional - and even family - recipes out there. Victor's family has their share of family tradition recipes - he made Uncle Rudy's Easter Pie the other day and we've tried our hand at a sweet bread Easter basket called a Gadudi - although no one knows where that name came from - or even how to spell it! Different holidays, different foods... And every holiday has its required dishes.

I didn't grow up with any sort of ethnic holiday traditions. My Colorado-born grandmother and my California-born mother were already several generations removed from the old sod - where their forebearers were more than likely subsistence-farmers living on potatoes under the inhumane rule of England. They brought their love of family with them - and made due with the new foods they found here.

Not having those constraints let my mom be creative and make what she wanted. While certain things were consistent - canned ham on Easter or turkey on Christmas, the appetizers and desserts varied with her mood and the times. Her cookbooks are a testament to how varied her tastes were and how creative she was in the kitchen. And I know she would have loved this!

Michael said his Pastina Pie can be made with or without a crust - and when it was made with a crust, it was usually a Pasta Frolla - a shortcrust pastry. I went with the pastry.

Pastina Pie

Michael Guttoso

Pasta Frolla

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest


1. Pulse flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor just until combined. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, 6 to 8 times.

2. Whisk together egg, egg yolk, vanilla, and lemon zest. With processor running, add egg mixture; process just until dough begins to come together. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface; lightly knead to form a ball.

3. Divide dough into 2 pieces, and gently press into flat disks. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

Line a large tart or quiche pan with rolled-out pasta frolla.

Pastina Filling

  • 1/2 cup pastina
  • 7 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp anisette
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 lb ricotta
  • Cinnamon for dusting

Cook 1/2 cup pastina in boiling water until soft. Drain and set aside.

Beat 7 eggs with 1 cup sugar until well blended. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1 tbsp anisette, and 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (optional).

Blend in one 15 oz container ricotta cheese. Then blend in the pastina.

Pour into the crust Bake at 375°F until golden. 45 minutes - an hour, check every now and then. Let cool completely .

Store in fridge.

Pastina Pie


Easter 2019

Limoncello Tiramisù

The perfect addition to an Easter Dessert Table...

We made the Limoncello and the Savioardi, but both can be easily purchased... This is based on a Lidia recipe...

Limoncello Tiramisù

  • 5 large eggs
  • 5 or 6 lemons
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups limoncello liqueur
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 pound (2 cups) Mascarpone, at room temperature
  • 40 - more or less - ladyfingers

Pour just enough water in the double-boiler pan so the water level is right below the bottom of the mixing bowl when it is sitting in the pan. Separate the eggs, putting yolks into the large bowl of the double boiler and the whites into another stainless-steel bowl for whipping by hand or with an electric mixer.

Remove the zest of two or more of the lemons, using a fine grater, to get 2 tablespoons of zest. Squeeze out and strain the juice of these and the other lemons to get 3/4 cup of fresh lemon juice.

To make the base for the tiramisù, heat the water in the double boiler to a steady simmer. Off the heat, beat the egg yolks with 1/4 cup of the sugar and 1/2 cup of the limoncello until well blended. Set the bowl over the simmering water, and whisk constantly, frequently scraping the whisk around the sides and bottom of the bowl, as the egg mixture expands and heats into a frothy sponge, 5 minutes or longer. When the sponge has thickened enough to form a ribbon when it drops on the surface, take the bowl off the double-boiler pan and let it cool.

Meanwhile, pour the remaining cup of limoncello, all of the lemon juice, 1 cup water, and 1/2 cup of the sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and cook for 5 minutes, evaporating the alcohol. Let the syrup cool completely.

In another large bowl, stir the mascarpone with a wooden spoon to soften it, then drop in the grated lemon zest and beat until light and creamy.

Limoncello Tiramisu

Whip the egg whites with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, by hand or by machine, until it holds moderately firm peaks.


Limoncello Tiramisu

When the cooked limoncello sponge (or zabaglione) is cooled, scrape about a third of it over the mascarpone, and fold it in with a large rubber spatula. Fold in the rest of the zabaglione in two or three additions.

Limoncello Tiramisu

Now fold in the whipped egg whites in several additions, until the limoncello-mascarpone cream is light and evenly blended.

Pour some of the cooled syrup, no deeper than 1/4 inch, into the shallow-rimmed pan to moisten the ladyfingers (savoiardi).

Limoncello Tiramisu

One at a time, roll a ladyfinger in the syrup and place it in the casserole or baking dish. Wet each cookie briefly—if it soaks up too much syrup, it will fall apart. Arrange the moistened ladyfingers in neat, tight rows, filling the bottom of the pan completely. You should be able to fit about twenty ladyfingers in a single layer.

Scoop half of the limoncello-mascarpone cream onto the ladyfingers, and smooth it to fill the pan and cover them. Dip and arrange a second layer of ladyfingers in the pan, and cover it completely with the remainder of the cream.

Limoncello Tiramisu

Smooth the cream with the spatula, and seal the tiramisù airtight in plastic wrap.

Limoncello Tiramisu

Before serving, refrigerate for 6 hours (or up to 2 days), or put it in the freezer for 2 hours. To serve, cut portions of tiramisù in any size you like, and life each out of the pan and onto dessert plates.




One of the desserts we're making for Easter is a Limoncello Tiramisu. Lemon is the perfect Springtime flavor, and something a bit ooey and gooey is a nice reward for being so good the past nine months.

This is the type of dessert that really reminds me of my mother. I don't think she ever made an actual tiramisu, but she was great with puddings and contrasting textures and flavors - she just knew how to do it. And while I may not be as gifted as she was in the making of them, I definitely inherited her love of them.

A typical tiramisu is layered savioardi - lady fingers - and a mascarpone custard, with the lady fingers dipped in coffee and brandy. One can buy lady fingers at the store, but, I thought that since it's an actual holiday meal, I'd make them. I also thought that if I made them today and totally screwed them up, I'd still have time to pick them up at the grocery store. I also made pie crusts for Uncle Rudy's Easter Pie and a Pasta Frolla - a sweet Italian pastry crust - for a Pastina Pie. That recipe comes from a friend of ours, Michael Gottuso. I'll make the actual pie Thursday or Friday...

There is a method to my madness - and, fortunately, it seems that I did not screw them up!

Making them was a bit of as challenge because I didn't have a plain 1/2" icing tip, so I had to fudge things a bit. And... the batter is really loose. But... they came out!

I was even a good boy and drew my 4" lines on the parchment paper to make them reasonably even.


Savoiardi (Ladyfingers)

adapted from Easy As Apple Pie

  • 3 eggs separated
  • 100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar divided
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice divided
  • the zest of 1 lemon grated
  • 65 grams (1/2 cup) cake flour sifted
  • 30 grams (2 tablespoons) potato starch
  • powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Prepare a pastry bag fitted with a round 1/2 inch tip.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites, 50 grams (1/4 cup) of sugar and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice until stiff peaks form.

In another bowl, beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar, lemon zest, vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and salt until thick and light yellow.

Sift the flour and potato starch over the egg mixture and gently fold it in with a rubber spatula until smooth and well combined.

Gently fold in the egg whites.

Transfer half of the batter to the prepared piping bag. Pipe the batter into lines about 10 cm (4 inches) long, keeping distance between them.

Repeat with the rest of the batter.

Sprinkle the cookies lightly with icing sugar. Let them rest for about 5 minutes and sprinkle again with icing sugar.

Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes until lightly golden.

Let the ladyfingers cool for a few minutes then release them from the parchment paper, with a flat spatula, while they are still warm.

Serve the savoiardi immediately or store in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.

We already know they won't be around for two weeks...

Oh... and I'm making Lidia's Limoncello Tiramisu...

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake

'Tis the season to eat pumpkin - and while pumpkin pie is one of my most favorite desserts, a pumpkin cheesecake ain't too shabby, either - especially when pecans and maple syrup are included!

We're bringing a couple of desserts and an appetizer to dinner, tomorrow - the aforementioned cheesecake, and Victor made traditional anise biscotti. Certain things are better made a few days in advance - and cheesecake is definitely one of them - it should sit a good 72 hours before cutting into it. Really. Most recipes you see online will say cool for 4 hours or overnight. I've made a lot of cheesecakes in my life. I can make them blindfolded with one arm tied behind my back and standing on one leg while singing Bohemian Rhapsody. If you want to eat a cheesecake on Saturday - make it on Wednesday. Trust me on this.

Untying myself and stepping off my soapbox, here's the recipe I came up with for an 8" springform pan. You can use a standard 10" pan, if that's what you have. It will be a bit thinner and take a bit less time to bake - or you can add another brick of cream cheese  and a splash of heavy cream to the amounts below. Either way, it will come out just fine... Cheesecakes are very forgiving.

Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake with Maple Pecan Caramel Topping


  • 1 sleeve graham crackers
  • 3/4 cup chopped, toasted pecans
  • 3 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 tbsp sugar


  • 3 8 oz bricks cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 can pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • pinch salt


  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Butter an 8" springform pan. Set aside.

Place graham crackers, pecans, and sugar in food processor and process until they are fine crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse until it is all mixed well. Spread crumbs into pan and press firmly using a measuring cup or straight glass, pressing a bit up the sides, as well. Refrigerate until needed.

Blend the cream cheese until creamy. Add the pumpkin and mix well. Mix in the two sugars, vanilla, and a small pinch of salt. Blend well.

Add the eggs and egg yolks and continue mixing until fully incorporated but not over-mixed.

 - There are two schools of thought on mixing cheesecake batter: One is to mix like hell and incorporate air into the batter. The other is to mix minimally to not incorporate air. I am of the latter school. I mix as little as possible. Personally, I find mixing in too much air makes the cheesecake more prone to cracking. That being said, go with what works for you! -

Pour batter into pans and level top. In an 8" pan, the batter comes fairly close to the rim of the pan. I found making a foil collar helps in keeping the cheesecake from over-browning on top.

Place in a preheated 425°F oven and immediately lower the heat to 350°F. Bake for about an hour.

Turn off heat, open oven door about a third, and allow to slowly cool in the oven for another hour or so.

Cool completely, wrap, and refrigerate for a few days.

On the day you're going to serve, make the topping:

Bring maple syrup and pecans to a boil and reduce by about a third. Stir in heavy cream and boil again, for a minute or two. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Spread on top of cheesecake and refrigerate.

Pull out of 'fridge about 30 minutes prior to serving.

I'll try and remember to take a picture of a slice of this on Thursday...