Archive | February, 2012

Chocolate Dipped Macaroons


This recipe came from a fellow preschool mom who made these delicious cookies for a school event. The plate was empty in a flash! She told me that the recipe came from Gourmet Magazine. These cookies take some time but are well worth the effort.

4 large eggs whites
1 – 1/3 cup sugar
1/2  teaspoon salt
1 – 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 – 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoon flour
Fine Quality bittersweet chocolate

In a heavy saucepan stir together the egg whites, sugar, salt, vanilla, and coconut. Sift in the flour and stir the mixture until it is well combined. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Increase the heat to moderately high and cook the mixture, stirring constantly for 3 to 5 minutes more, or until it is thick and begins to pull away from the bottom and sides of the pan. Transfer to a bowl, letting it cool slightly. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and chill mixture just until cold. Drop desired size cookies 2 inches apart on buttered baking sheets. Bake in the middle of a preheated 300 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until they are pale golden. Watch for cookies to get the color and consistency you desire. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let them cool. Melt the chocolate and dip the macaroons. Transfer to a foil-lined tray and chill until the chocolate is set (30 minutes to 1 hour). The macaroons keep chilled and separated by layers of wax paper in an airtight container for 3 days. Makes about 30 small cookies or less if bigger cookies are desired.

Grandma Annie’s Mostazzoli

One of Dad’s holiday favorites was Grandma Annie’s Mostazzoli. Nothing smells or tastes quite like them! When she agreed to walk me through this recipe she said that this cookie was made in Bari, Italy for Christmas and weddings. Grandma made them in the true Italian cookie tradition – quite dry and hard. The variation below is my spin on this wonderful treat but caters more to the soft cookie lover. Hopefully it packs the same great taste and flavor!

1 pound almonds – shelled and roasted
2 – 1/4 cups sugar
4 cups flour
2 cubes margarine or butter – softened
2 eggs
2 – 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
strong coffee
1 cup powdered sugar
2 or more tablespoons cocoa
lemon juice

Mix margarine and sugar with electric mixer until well blended. Add eggs and vanilla, mix well. Combine flour, baking powder, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice, mixing to incorporate. Stir in the almond pieces. Slowly add a bit of strong coffee to form a firm dough. Shape pieces of dough into a one inch thick rope, pat down a little and cut 1 – 1/2 inch angled pieces. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. Do not over bake as the cookies will harden as they cool.

Icing: Mix together the powdered sugar and cocoa. (The amount of cocoa depends on how dark you want the cookies.) Slowly whisk in enough milk to achieve the desired glaze consistency. Although she did not include it in the written recipe, she told me that a touch of fresh lemon juice was also stirred in to the icing to make them a bit more shiny.

To roast almonds: Place almonds in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 15 minutes. Allow to cool and crush almonds to desired size pieces for cookies.

Chicken Noodle Casserole

Our dear Aunt Fran led the charge of countless family adventures, but without a doubt she was the maestro of our annual beach camping trip. Not only did she orchestrate and execute all aspects of our week, she also saw to it that our every culinary need was met! What we sometimes affectionately referred to as “Camp Coronary” was a time that created indelibly etched memories that will be treasured forever. This recipe is my re-creation of the camp chicken noodle meal she made in a very large stock pot on an old camp stove.                                                                                                                                  

This one’s for you Jer and Sarah!

4 baked boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 small onion, chopped
margarine or butter
1/2 pound fresh sliced mushrooms, sauteed
1 cup lite sour cream
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 large package of good quality wide egg noodles
shredded Monterey Jack cheese
kosher salt
dash of fresh ground pepper

Place seasoned chicken in a baking pan with a splash of sherry. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. Cool the chicken and shred or cut up, reserving the juice. Saute the chopped onions and sliced mushrooms in butter separately. Cook the noodles per package instructions, being careful not to overcook. When the noodles are finished, drain well. Stir together the sour cream and soup in a bowl. Combine the noodles, onions, sour cream and soup mixture in a greased 9 x 13 pan. Gently stir to blend all the ingredients well. Stir in the chicken. Add juice from the baking pan as needed to moisten. Stir in the desired amount of shredded monterey jack cheese and season to taste with salt and a hint of nutmeg.  Fold in the mushrooms. Additional cheese can be added to the top of the casserole if desired. Sprinkle top with a pinch of nutmeg. Bake at 350 degrees about 15 to 20 minutes or until hot.
This is a great make ahead casserole – just remove from the refrigerator and bake before serving.

Chocolate No-Bake Cookies

Nothing brings back childhood memories of Mom’s kitchen in the the summertime more than her “No-Bakes”. She made them so often that they were simply perfect every time! As the years wore on and the four of us grew up, she made them for special occasions, too. On one such day, as a group of her children, nieces, and nephews headed off on a 12 hour road trip, she handed off a carefully packed tin bursting with this treasured confection. The cookies barely made it to our destination as they were almost gone by the time we left our first stop along the way!

3/4 cup milk
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
1 – 1/2 cubes of margarine
3/4 cup peanut butter
4 – 1/2 cups oats
1 – 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Measure the peanut butter, oats, and vanilla extract and set aside in separate bowls. Combine the milk, sugar, cocoa, and margarine in a pan and bring to a full boil, stirring constantly. Continue to boil for 3 minutes but not longer. Remove from the heat and add the peanut butter, oats, and vanilla, stirring after each addition. Work quickly to drop the cookies on waxed paper. Allow to cool.


Antoinette’s Iced Italian Cookies

“A Friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of Nature.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The first time our family had these amazing cookies was when a family friend brought them to a reception that followed the funeral services for our beloved Aunt Kay. This recipe makes a very generous batch of comfort cookies that we have made for years. They are one of our favorites to share with those that are near and dear to us!

1 cup crisco
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 teaspoons baking powder
6 eggs
1 cup milk
5 1/2 – 6 cups flour
powdered sugar
lemon juice

Combine crisco, sugar, vanilla, oil, and salt. Mix with an electric mixer. Add baking powder and eggs, mixing well. Pour in milk, mixing again to incorporate. Add enough flour to make a soft dough. Some flour may be stirred in as it may get difficult to use a mixer. Roll pieces of dough like a rope and cut them into desired sizes – about 1 or 2 inches long. (Cookies will expand during baking.) Put on lightly greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Icing: Mix the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and milk to make a medium thick icing. Brush the tops and sides of cooled cookies.
Allow icing time to dry before serving.

Chicken Salsa Verde Casserole

This is an original Trader Joe’s recipe. With a little twist it quickly became a requested main dish for some of our coveted family dinners with our adult children. I like to serve it with a green salad tossed with cilantro dressing, paired with rice and beans. Chips and salsa are optional!

This is a great make ahead casserole for busy days. Just put it together, refrigerate, and bake in time for dinner.

1 jar Trader Joe’s Salsa Verde
1 (16-ounce) container lite sour cream
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 package of corn tortillas
6 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
Seasonings: kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, and Mexican seasoning

In a baking dish or slow cooker season skinless, boneless chicken breasts. Add a splash of dry sherry. Bake covered for about 40 minutes at 350 degrees or slow cook on high for 1-1/2 hours. Remove the chicken, reserving juice. Shred or cut up the chicken. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 baking pan. In a large bowl combine the salsa verde, sour cream, and chicken. Add a bit of juice from the baking dish but not too much – the mixture should be thick. Layer some tortillas on the bottom of the baking pan. Pour half of the chicken mixture over the tortillas. Top with desired amount of cheese, up to 3 cups. Repeat one more layer, ending with the the cheese. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Note: The original recipe calls for 1 package of TJ’s frozen chicken strips, thawed and chopped. It also calls for monterey jack cheese.


Slow-Cooked Chicken Tortilla Soup


If ever there was an award for the easiest soup recipe this surely would win! Don’t be fooled though, it is surprisingly tasty. What’s not to love about a meal you throw in the slow cooker in the morning and come home to at the end of the day!

1 can black beans
1 can corn
1 can diced tomatoes
5 cups chicken broth
1 cup salsa
1 package taco seasoning mix
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

Although the recipe calls for 1 cup of salsa, I use a small container of (medium heat) pico de gallo. Since most of the ingredients are canned, I like the fresh pop it provides. Using the whole container does give the soup quite a kick, so adjust according to the palates of the people you will be serving. Layer all the ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. Remove and shred the chicken, returning it to the pot.

Garnish with: grated cheese, sour cream, cilantro, tortilla chips, or sliced avocado. This soup is great served with tortillas, corn bread, or quesadillas.