Thursday, December 22, 2016

ITALIAN MERINGUE COOKIES

These Italian Christmas cookies do not contain butter, flour, or egg yolks and is another
Christmas family favorite. They are so easy to make and totally delicious. You can also replace the vanilla extract with almond extract and pecans for almonds.

Lee's Kitchen Tips:
Make sure your mixing bowl is impeccably clean or the eggs whites will not form into stiff peaks.



5 large egg whites, room temperature (save yolks for another recipe)
¼ t (1 ml) cream of tartar
¾ cup (175 ml) granulated sugar
1 t (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
1½ cups (375 ml) chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 225 F (110 C) degrees.

Beat egg whites in a large bowl until foamy. 
Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form.
Gradually add sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
Beat in vanilla extract. 
Remove bowl from mixer and mix in nuts with a spoon.

Drop by a rounded tablespoon onto baking sheets lightly sprayed with cooking oil or line with parchment paper.
Bake for 45 minutes. Turn off oven and let meringues stay in oven for 1 hour, or until completely cooled.

Store in an airtight container.





ITALIAN ANISETTE COOKIES

My husband's grandmother, Elisabeth Greco Noviello, always made these cookies at Christmas time. She colored the icing and formed the cookie dough into circles and 'S' shapes. I like the simple ball shapes with white icing and red and green sprinkles. My husband said it brings back his childhood when he smells them baking.


¾ cup (175 ml) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¼ (310 ml) cups granulated sugar
1 t (5 ml) anise flavoring
1 t (5 ml) lemon zest
½ t (2 ml) salt
3 large egg yolks
1 large whole egg
3 cups (750 ml) all-purpose flour

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter and sugar. 
Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. 
Beat in anise, lemon zest, and salt. 
Add yolks and whole egg, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Reduce speed to low and add flour, 1 cup (250 ml) at a time, beating until fully combined.

Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C) degrees.

Roll dough into 1-inch (2.5 cm) balls.
Transfer to a cookie sheet. 

Repeat with remaining dough. 

Bake until firm and lightly golden, 12 to 14 minutes. 
Transfer to a cool cookies sheet fitted with a wire rack to cool.  

Place wire rack on the baking sheets to catch any icing drips.

Royal Icing
2 cups (500 ml) confectioners’ sugar
1 egg white
1 to 2 T (15 to 30 ml)  milk
1 t (5 ml) anise flavoring
Red and green sprinkles

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine all ingredients on low speed until smooth. 
You can also do this in a bowl using a wire whisk.

Dip cooled cookies into icing and add sprinkles while icing is still soft.
Let icing harden and then store in an airtight container.

Makes about 6 dozen (72) cookies

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

TOMATO-BASIL SOUP

I used a combination of two jars of strained tomatoes and a couple of small cans of fire roasted tomatoes. For a garnish, you can pick up a package of fresh basil pesto in your supermarket or just add a little bit of minced basil. This is not the canned tomato soup you had when you were a child.



3 T (45 ml) extra-light olive oil or grape seed oil
3 T (45 ml) unsalted butter
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 (23-oz/680 ml) jars strained Italian tomatoes
2 (14-oz/398 ml) cans fire roasted tomatoes
4 cups (1 litre) chicken stock
3 T (45 ml) tomato paste
2 T (30 ml) minced fresh Italian parsley
1 t (5 ml) fresh or freeze-dried oregano
¼ cup (60 ml) minced fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream, or half-and-half

In a large saucepan, heat the extra-light olive oil and butter over medium-low heat.
Add the carrots and onion and sauté for about 10 minutes, until soft.
Add the garlic and sauté another minute.
Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, tomato paste, parsley, oregano, and basil.
Simmer 30 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, carefully puree the soup until very smooth.
Alternatively, let the soup cool and blend, in batches, in a blender until smooth.
Pour back into the soup pot.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Stir in the heavy cream or half-and-half and reheat to just under a boil.

If desired, garnish with a spoonful of pesto or minced basil.

Serves 6


Friday, December 16, 2016

THIMBLE PRINT COOKIES WITH GLAZE.


I only make these cookies at Christmas time and my family always looks forward to them. The dough can be made plain or you can add ¼ cup 
(60 ml) poppy seeds or finely ground nuts. You can also fill with chocolate ganache instead of jelly or jam.


½ cup (125 ml) strawberry, raspberry, or cherry jelly or jam
1 cup (250 ml) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (250 ml) granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
2 t (10 ml) vanilla or almond extract
2 cups (500 ml) all-purpose flour
¼ t (1 ml) table salt

Put jelly or jam in a small bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat together butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. 
You can also do this with a hand held mixer.
Add egg yolks and vanilla or almond extract and mix well. 
Gradually add the flour and salt, beating on low until well combined.

Cover and place dough in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C) degrees.

Roll dough into small balls and place onto a baking sheet. 
Press an indentation with a thimble or end of a wooden spoon (dipped in flour) on each ball and add a small amount of jelly or jam.

Bake cookies until edges turn golden, about 13 to 15 minutes. 
Let cookies cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
Place wire rack back on baking sheet and let cookies cool for at least 30 minutes before glazing. 
The baking sheet will catch the overflow of glaze.
  
Glaze
1 cup (250 ml) confectioners’ sugar
2 T (30 ml) cream or milk
1 t (5 ml) vanilla or almond extract

Combine glaze ingredients in bowl and whisk until smooth. 
Drizzle over cookies with a spoon.