Sunday, August 28, 2011

Buon compleanno, mi Nonno!

Friday night was a very special one. My family and I all gathered in celebration of my Nonno's 80th birthday. Granted his birthday is not until November, but he is incredibly hard to surprise, and is heading back to Florida very soon. The conditions were perfect to surprise him in August.

My grandfather is someone that I truly admire and have always looked up to. He puts family first in a quiet yet strong & dedicated way. He is responsible for bringing over many of his siblings from Italy to America, being an incredibly hard worker, a great friend, a father of five, an uncle to an uncountable number of nephews and nieces, a grandfather to nine, and a great grandfather to three.  He does without asking, cares unconditionally and never looks for a thank you.

Joker, Dancer, Fighter, Friend, Rock. He is all of these things. I feel so blessed to have him in my life and so honored to call him my Nonno. Thank you for always being proud of all of us, supporting us through good and bad, and for your constant loyalty and love.

In true Italian fashion, we celebrated with wine, dancing, food and desserts. My grandfather is a fisherman, so of course, we had to implement that in to the party - showcasing many photos of him holding great catches of the years, a cake adorned with a photo of him cruising in his boat, fish sugar cookies as favors, sea glass & shell center pieces and more.

Here's a quick look at some of the delectable treats provided by family, friends and cuginos:

Mass Production of Fishy Sugar Cookies (Bagged & given as favors)

More photos after the break...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Orange Juice Cookies

Do you know what I saw the other day when I was driving? A tree whose leaves were already changing colors. The nerve! How did this tree not know that it isn't even labor day yet?  Although I love fall, that impatient season really needs to back up off my summer. Granted, fall lasts just about as long as spring does in New England, and that would be about 5 minutes. I get it, it wants it's time to shine, but I ask with all sincerity, in fact I'm pleading, please can you just wait?!

In a desperate attempt to hold on to summer as long as I can, I am sharing with you one of my favorite cookies. Orange juice cookies are light, fluffy and remind me so much of summer because of their subtle citrus flavor. One batch makes an unnecessary amount of cookies. The Angel on your shoulder will tell you to share them - the devil will whine, "But they're sooo good!"

My grandmother makes these cookies all the time - but bakes them longer until they're a little more dry & hard, like a biscotti. My mother makes her version softer, fluffier, and edible without the need for a dunking partner.

Recipe after the break....

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Lots-of-Birthdays Weekend

This weekend was full of birthdays! Two of the most adorable children I know had birthdays. My distant "cousin," Marissa, and my second cousin, Chase, both celebrated their birthdays this weekend with family parties filled with food, fun & laughs. Of course, I had to contribute to the celebrations the best way I know how - with sugar.

I baked these chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream frosting for little Miss Marissa's birthday, which as you can tell, was Dora the Explorer themed. I made bright wildflowers out of laffy taffy & Starbust - the perfect compliment to the rest of the cupcakes that were adorned with "Let's Fiesta" Doras.

Last week, I had promised Chase that I would make him dinosaur cookies for his birthday. Although a day late, I made good on the promise and hand delivered these to him today. He loved them -and of course, ate them head first. I told him the blue ones were T-Rexes and the green ones....I couldn't identify - I just knew they were some type of dinosaur. He seemed okay with that.

I used the sugar cookie recipe & royal icing that I had previously posted. See it here.

Happy Birthday Marissa & Chase! Wishing you the absolute best for a great year filled with love & sweets. If you ever find yourself without, you know where to find me.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Rice Krispy Treats - A Marshmallow Mess

Some people might say that I had a deprived childhood because I never made Rice Krispy Treats as a kid. After making them this week, I would like to personally thank my family for never subjecting me to this horror during my adolescence.

Although "easy" to make, these things are a mess - a sticky struggle. The best part about making them was watching the marshmallows expand and come close to the point of explosion in the microwave.

I will say, that with a little bit of doctoring, these things have the potential to be delicious. On their own, they're pretty bland. Next time (if there is a next time) I would probably add chocolate chips, or add some almond extract in to the marshmallow mixture, and there definitely needs to be a drizzle...butterscotch, chocolate...or...nutella (yum.). In fact, I had to break in to my secret nutella stash (yes, I have one) to frost a few of these and give them some flavor.

Here's the recipe:

Rice Krispy Treats

3 tbsp. Margarine
1 bag regular sized marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispies Cereal

In a microwave-safe bowl, heat butter & marshmallows on high for 2 minutes. Stir. Microwave again for another minute. Stir until Smooth.

Add Rice Krispies to the marshmallow mix and stir until cereal is well coated. Pour into a greased 13 x 9" pan and press down evenly throughout the pan. Allow to cool. Cut into bars or shapes. Best if served the same day. Wrap in plastic wrap tightly to store.

Here's some discoveries I made along the way:

1. Make sure you use a bowl with high sides when microwaving your marshmallows. They are going to expand, expand, expand and if they don't have enough room to grow, they will fall out of the bowl.

2. The mixture will be hot, hot, hot! Make sure you have a strong spoon to mix with, and mix well before trying to transfer in to the bowl. You will need to use your hands to help pour and spread the mix into the pan because it is going to be a cement-like ball.

3. Have the Rice Krispies pre-measured & ready to pour in to your marshmallow mixture. The mixture goes from silky to the consistency of dry rubber cement in seconds, so you need to work quickly.

4. Nutella makes everything delicious. Even rice krispy treats.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Candy Warehouse

I am in love with this website!

They sell every type of candy imaginable and I want them all! They specialize in old-time classics & hard to find confections.

Check it Out!: The Candy Warehouse

Here is my Candy Warehouse Wishlist:

Black Cow - Chocolate & Caramel Bars
$24.00/Box of 24 Bars

Chocolate & Caramel - What's not to love?

Image Courtesy of

McCraw's Giant Taffy Candy Slabs
$12.00/24 Taffy Candy Slabs

Who doesn't enjoy a nice piece of taffy?

Image Courtesy of

Old Fashioned Creme Drops
$48.00/Box of 24 10 ounce bags

These are my absolute favorite "vintage" candy! My Aunt Grace would always buy these for us sporadically throughout the year and surprise us with them. So decadently sweet!

Image Courtesy of

Mountain Candy Bars
$24.00/24 Count Box

I've never had these, but I definitely feel that I need to! A layer of chocolate & chopped peanuts covering a silky inner layer of flavored cream. Cherry, Original, Peanut Butter. Next flavor in the line could just well be heaven.

Image Courtesy of

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Classic Italian Pizzelles

Like any good Italian, my mother volunteered to make pizzelles for a get together with friends this weekend. Unlike traditional pizzelles, my mother likes to make them a little thicker, so they're a little less crunchy and a lot more reminiscent of what I like to call, a comfort cookie.

I've always loved pizzelles. They're a very simple cookie, really - flour, sugar, eggs, margarine, baking powder, anise. Your textbook ingredients for your typical-old-baked-good. But pizzelles are special - each one is like a snowflake when you make them from scratch. Each holds a slightly different shape than the last, the patterns seeming to form a unique design on each individual cookie even though they all came from the same press. Yes, they're undoubtedly the snowflakes of Italian cookies.

My mother bought this pizzelle maker in the late 1970s and has been using it, with love, ever since. It is still packed away after every use in it's original blue & white (now yellow with the years) box. And, in the box, goes the key to the power of the pizzelle - the original recipe that came with the machine:

Here's the recipe again for easy reading:


6 eggs
3 1/2 C. of Flour
1 1/2 C. Sugar
1 C. Margarine
4 tsp. Baking Powder
2 tbsp. Anise extract

Beat eggs, adding sugar gradually. Beat until smooth. Add cooled melted margarine and anise. Sift flour and baking powder and add to egg mixture. Dough will be sticky enough to be dropped by spoon.

Spray the pizzelle maker with butter spray. Drop dough by the tablespoon in to the center of each cookie plate. Close for a minute & allow to cook. Next, check on your pizzelle! If you want a more crispy cookie, leave in the machine for another thirty seconds - If you prefer yours a little softer, remove after a minute. Cookie will be lightly golden.

Allow to cool & store in an airtight container.

Don't have a pizzelle maker? Here's a modern version by Cuisinart:

Cuisinart WM-PZ2 Pizzelle Maker
$36 -

Photo Courtesy of

Amerete questo pizzelle! (You will love this pizzelle!)