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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Pistachio Cake

This is a must keep cake recipe that you will find yourself making again and again.    We have used this cake for birthdays, holidays, and for just an all around snacking cake.  Pistachio Cake  is a lovely green show stopper that can be used on those holidays such as Christmas or Saint Patrick's Day to help reinforce those holiday colors.

I first tried this cake at my husband's cousins house.  We had been invited on many occasions to  attend dinner or picnic at her home.   Immediately after tasting this cake, I had to have the recipe. 

Yes, there are several versions of this recipe on the web.  However, this is the only version I have ever made.   It is so moist and delicious and it has become one of our family favorites.  

Give it a try and see what your family thinks.

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From the bottom of my heart.............. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

My Mother's Old Fashioned Sloppy Joe's

My mother always made the best Sloppy Joe's.   I am not at all surprised, she made a lot of really good food the best.

Ha, ha, ha.  Don't we all think that our Mother's or Father's are the best at most anything they do.   I suppose we go through stages in our lives where our parents are lower or higher on that pedestal.    My mom was a really good cook.   One of the many things she was praised for and kept her high on that pedestal.   She had a lot of kids to please so she had many recipes that she could make to stretch the basic ingredient's to feed the masses. Besides when that didn't work there was always the golden rule from back in the day, "this is dinner, eat it or go without".   We never went without.

A few of you will squawk that there is ketchup in this recipe.  However, what goes better with a burger than ketchup.   By the time you are done cooking this up, you won't even know there is any ketchup in there.  The apple cider vinegar gives a great sweet and sour tang that you'll love.  

Go ahead give it a try and let me know what you think.

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From the bottom of my heart.............. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Pane Di Pasqua Aka Italian Easter Bread

Easter time is a celebration of “Rebirth” in both  religion and nature.  This Italian celebratory bread honors both as well. These breads are often festively decorated with colorful dyed eggs and sprinkles.  What could be a better way to honor either religious beliefs or nature's rebirth?

As an adult I find making bread very therapeutic.  The measuring, the rising, the kneading, the baking and above all the eating, it takes me to another place. It is hard to be angry while having your hands on the dough.  This dough is very flexible, pliable, and takes on shapes very well. Add the pretty colors of dyed Easter Eggs and sprinkles and the children in the family will want to assist in the making of a new holiday tradition. After all, what adult or child hasn't had a good time playing with that brightly colored toy Play-doh?

My mother-in-law made Italian Bread Baskets a few times through the years when my kids were small.  Being small, the children really didn’t comprehend the egg in the bread, nor did they care for the taste.  Like many Italian treats, even though it is a sweet bread, and has sweet in the name, it is not overly sweet.  In my opinion it is more of a breakfast item, to replace eggs and toast and great to dunk in your coffee or tea in the style of which many of an Italian cookie have been eaten.   


Like every other Italian recipe out there, it comes in many versions: Plain, dried citron, fresh citrus, and anise. Some have fillings, frostings or a glaze. You can search the internet and try which ever recipe appeals to you.  Although the bread shapes can look similar, this recipe is not to be confused with other similar recipes such as St. Joseph’s Bread or Challah.  


Easter Basket Bread comes in many shapes: basket, loaf, crown, dolls, Christ, birds, the all American bunny and these days many other shapes none of which have anything to do with Easter or Religion.   Some of the shapes carry a meaning; such as the Christ form.  This shape is interpreted as Christ body being wrapped for burial.  The cross over the egg represents his crown of thorns.   And the fork tine impressions can be symbolized as his feet. Symbolism is also found in the Crown or Ring forms of dough:  Again the dough is braided and formed into a circle.  The eggs are placed around the circle in a pleasing pattern and then the cross of dough is placed over the eggs.  The cross, symbolizing the crown of thorns that Jesus wore.   The dove shape symbolizes peace.   The bunny form is more of an Americanized Easter symbol.


Pane Di Pasqua/Italian Easter Bread

makes 6 individual loaves

1 package Rapid Rise yeast (2-1/4 teaspoons)
1 1/4 cups milk
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup butter
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sugar
3 1/2 cups flour
Egg wash-1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon of water
6 dyed Easter eggs (do not need to be a hardboiled eggs)
Sprinkles or pearl sugar

In a small saucepan, warm the milk and butter together, just till butter melts.

In a large mixer bowl with a dough hook, combine yeast, salt, eggs and sugar.  Add the warm (not hot - it will kill the yeast) milk and butter.  With mixer on low add about half the flour and beat until smooth. Slowly add the remaining flour to form a stiff dough.  Don't worry about how much flour it ends up being, just keep adding until the dough is not sticky anymore.   Once the dough clings to the hook, turn it out onto floured board and knead until smooth.  Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about an hour).

This would be a good time to color your eggs.  I like to use Wilton’s food coloring paste to color my eggs.  I fill a large cup with hot water from the tap and two teaspoons of white vinegar.  Pick a color and add it to the liquid by using a toothpick.   I suggest you use enough color to darken the water so you can’t see through it.   I also use a whisk to hold my egg. Pat it dry with a paper towel.  Remember, you’re using a fresh egg so use care not to crack or break it.

Punch dough down, turn out onto floured surface and knead into a cylinder shape. Cut into 12 equal pieces.  Roll each piece to form a 1 inch thick rope about 14 inches long.  Take two pieces, twist to form a "braid", pinching the ends, and then form into a circle.

Place on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper or a Silpat.  Cover and let rise until double in size (about an hour).  Brush each bread with beaten egg wash.  Let it dry just a short while before adding sprinkles or pearl sugar (helps to prevent color of sprinkles from bleeding).   In the middle of each bread ring, gently place an Easter egg, making an indentation with the egg. The egg will cook to hard-boiled stage while the bread is baking.

Bake at 350 degrees or until golden brown (about 20-25 minutes).  Cool on rack.


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From the bottom of my heart.............. 


Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Little Things In Life Make Us Happy

One of my friends said it best, "It's never good if your blueberries are sinking."  And I totally agree.   I think we have all made quick bread recipes or cakes where the items that are supposed to be suspended in the batter through out the cooking time, have all sunk to the bottom and made  a two layer mess. I can't tell you how many times this has happened to me.  

Needless to say, when I made this recipe and the blueberries didn't sink, I was very excited.   It's the little things in life that make us happy.   This Blueberry loaf is easy to make and the batter is thick enough to suspend the blueberries throughout the cooking time.  When you slice into this loaf  you can get a blueberry  in nearly every bite.  This can make the person eating the loaf a very happy person.  This is not an overly sweet tasting loaf, it is just right. The lemon flavor is very mild and the blueberries are tart.  

Blueberry Lemon Loaf
2/3 cup butter, melted
2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons lemon juice
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter milk
2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
4 tablespoons grated lemon peel


Crumb Topping (optional)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsalted butter
Small hand full of blueberries (for top of loaf)
In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, lemon juice and eggs. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir into egg mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition. Next, I take a couple of tablespoons of flour and put it into a separate bowl.  Then I add the frozen blueberries and shake them around in the flour until they are covered.   Once they are covered in flour fold them into the batter with the nuts and lemon peel.
Pour batter into two greased 8-in. x 4-in. loaf pans.
Combine ingredients for crumb topping.  I make mine in the food processor but it can be done by hand with a pastry cutter.   I start by cutting a frozen stick of butter into smaller chunks and place them in the food processor.  Then I add the remaining ingredients for the topping. Put the lid on the food processer and whir it until it looks like a coarse grain.   Sprinkle on top of loaf to your liking.  I then add a few blueberries to the top here and there, poking them into the crumb topping just a little bit.
Bake at 350° for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.


Notes and Swaps
  • Remember oven temperatures can vary.  It is wise to check your bread at 55 minutes and
  • Do not over mix the batter, it will make the glutens start to work and can make your bread tough.
  • Keep checking until it is done.  It is important not to overcook the bread. Over cooking will dry it out.
  • If using frozen blueberries, use without thawing to avoid discoloring the batter.
  • I make extra crumb topping and keep it in the freezer in a Ziploc bag for use in the next recipe requiring a crumb topping.
  • You could swap out the lemon flavor with orange juice and orange zest.