We're keeping things simple for Thanksgiving this year so we will forgo the traditional apple pie & pumpkin cheesecake for our (OH so simple & delicious) gluten-free apple crisp. Not having to make pie crust saves a lot of time in the kitchen with better than pie results! We use Gala apples for this recipe as they are juicy, sweet, and hold their shape well. It’s a big hit with our family by itself or topped with a little vanilla ice cream or a Klondike Heath Bar divided (pictured below).
cast-iron skillet (10-inch preferred but 12-inch will do)
5-7 large Gala apples (approximately 1200 g), peeled, cored & cut into wedges
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup white sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1½ tsp cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
3 Tablespoons salted butter
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup gluten-free flour (we use Bob’s Redmill Gluten-Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour)
2½ Tablespoons brown sugar
2½ Tablespoons white sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) salted melted butter
3/4 oats (regular old fashioned or Quaker 1 minute)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 375ºF.
In a large bowl place the apples, lemon juice, white sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice. Toss until all apples are well coated and combined. Set aside.
Melt 3 Tablespoons of butter in a heated cast-iron skillet.
Add the 1/3 cup of brown sugar. Stir to combine well.
Add the apple mixture to the skillet, mix well. On medium-low heat keep a simmer while preparing the topping.
In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the flour, 2½ Tablespoons of brown sugar, 2½ Tablespoons of white sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
Once combined, add the 8 Tablespoons of melted butter. Stir well to combine.
Add the oats and chopped pecans.
Stir the apples in the skillet, liquid should start to thicken. Add 1/4 cup of water over the apples and combine. It will create a syrupy mixture when done.
Remove skillet from the heat and sprinkle the crispy topping mixture evenly over the top.
Place the entire cast-iron skillet in a pre-heated 375º F over and bake for 35 minutes until the crispy top is golden brown edges are bubbling.
Best served while hot but delicious cold or at room temperature too. Top with vanilla ice cream for an added treat!
Note: To cut your total prep time in half, peel, core & slice your apples ahead of time. Sprinkle some lemon juice on them to prevent apples from turning brown then cover & refrigerate until you start the mixing portion of ingredients.
There was a time when our favorite go-to soup came in a can, Progresso Italian Wedding Soup. Something about the little meatballs and tiny pasta is so comforting on cold, dreary days. In our quest for healthier eating, we offer you this recipe which is so easy & quick to make using all fresh ingredients. You'll never buy canned anymore! It can be made on the stove, crockpot, or even an Instapot and can be frozen so you might want to double the batch! Meatballs can be made ahead of time using leftover meatball mixture and made into small 1/2 to 3/4 inch rounds. Store-bought meatballs can also be used, just cut to mini size. The featured picture in this post was using leftover frozen, cooked meatballs that were cut into quarters. Last week we were making meatballs so we kept some of the mixture and made mini's that we froze in the picture below. With just a few simple ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry, you can whip up this delicious, hearty soup for any weeknight meal served with crusty bread.
1 Tablespoon EVOO
1 large onion, diced
2 large celery stalks, diced
2 large carrots, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced (approximately 2 Tablespoons. Add more or less to suit your taste.
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 Tablespoon dried parsley (or 1/4 cup fresh & chopped)
salt & pepper to taste
8 ounces Ditalini (small round hollow tubes) or Acini de Pepe Pasta (tiny round pasta) or Orzo (cook separately)
8-10 ounces fresh baby spinach, torn into pieces (escarole or endive can be substituted)
8 cups chicken broth (We used a combination of chicken, beef, and vegetable broth but anyone broth is fine.)
1/2 to 3/4-inch pre-made meatballs (use leftover meatball mixture or meatloaf mixture to make ahead or you can substitute with store-bought meatballs i.e. Costco)
Pecorino Romano, freshly grated cheese (Locatelli) or Parmigiano Reggiano (not the stuff in the green container, please!)
In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the EVOO.
Once the pot is hot enough, add the onion, celery, & carrots & saute for about 5-7 minutes to soften.
Add garlic, oregano, and basil. Saute another minute longer.
Add torn spinach. Season with salt & pepper.
Add the broth/broths.
Bring to a boil.
Add the cooked or raw meatballs.
Lower heat and simmer an additional 8-10 minutes, until meatballs are heated thoroughly if pre-cooked or a little longer if cooking raw in the soup.
Ladle hot soup into your favorite bowl, add the pasta and top with grated cheese.
Add torn spinach to celery, onion and carrots
Add broth to pot and bring to a boil. Add meatballs and simmer 8-10 minutes.
Frozen mini meatballs for future use.
Enjoy with a piece of crusty bread.
Note: To make this soup gluten-free, use GF broth, GF pasta, and & GF bread or breadcrumbs in your meatball mixture.
Meatballs can be fried in oil or baked in the oven, whichever you prefer.
It's our favorite time of year again as we start our holiday baking together. It doesn't matter if the holiday is Thanksgiving or Christmas, we have been baking together for over 40 years, a holiday tradition we love. Christmas music is playing in the background while we reminisce about our childhood & Christmas's of long ago. One of our family's favorite holiday cookie is the Italian Rainbow cookie that you see in every Italian bakery all year round. We also make this recipe Gluten-Free by substituting Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten-Free Baking Flour for the all-purpose flour! They are the first to disappear from the holiday cookie tray...you, your family & friends will love them. ❤️❤️
1 jar apricot preserves (12-16 ounces)
1 12-ounce bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 12-ounce can of Solo almond paste
1 tsp almond extract
2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted (for a gluten-free substitute use Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten-Free Baking Flour)
1 cup sugar
Food Coloring, red & green (if you want a more yellow layer, add yellow coloring to the 3rd bowl)
3 sticks unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
4 large eggs, separate yolks and whites
chocolate sprinkles (optional)
3 9×12 baking pans
Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.
Grease all three baking pans heavily with butter then line each pan with parchment paper or wax paper, leaving enough overhang to lift and slide out of the pan after baking. Grease heavily again.
In a large mixing bowl, break up the almond paste, butter, sugar, almond extract, sugar, and egg yolks. Beat until light & fluffy, about 10 minutes on a medium speed stand mixer.
Beat in flour & salt.
In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. With a wooden spoon, fold in egg whites to the almond mixture until you no longer see the whites.
Divide the mixture equally into 3 bowls. (To be accurate, weigh each mixture on a digital scale)
Add food coloring to each bowl, leaving the 3rd bowl plain, or add yellow coloring if you prefer a more yellow layer. Mix color in well.
Spoon each color into separate prepared baking sheets. Spread evenly then bake at 350º pre-heated oven for 12 to 15 minutes. Do not let the edges brown.
Layers are done when you can gently touch the center and it bounces back. Remove from oven and place on cake racks for 5 minutes to cool.
Holding the overhang ends of the parchment paper, carefully lift and slide the layer, supporting underneath, onto a flat surface (countertop).
Use a large cookie sheet and invert the first layer (red) onto the cookie sheet. Carefully remove parchment paper.
Heat the preserves until it bubbles. Using a fork mix well to loosen some of the chunks. Remove from heat and using a spatula, spread enough preserve to evenly cover the entire layer. Don’t worry if it drips down the sides.
Repeat for the middle layer (plain or yellow).
After inverting the last layer (green, do not spread with preserves). Cover with parchment paper and place a baking sheet on top. Weigh it down with some heavy books or cans for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator or overnight.
Remove from the refrigerator when ready to add the chocolate layer.
Trim all edges to be uniformed with a very sharp knife. (Don’t throw out the trimming…they are great to taste).
Melt chocolate in the microwave* a little at a time until melted through.
Spread melted chocolate over the top layer and down the sides. Add optional chocolate sprinkles while chocolate is still warm. Refrigerate uncovered for at least one hour then cut into 6 or 7 even rows & bite-size pieces of your choice when ready to serve.
Line an airtight container with parchment or wax paper and store layers in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Should last about 10 days if kept in the refrigerator.
Mix food coloring in separate bowls
Spread batter evenly in pan
Remove before edges brown
Add apricot preserves between first 2 layers
Cut into 6 rows
Spread melted chocolate on top and sides
Note: It has been our experience that Nestlé’s chocolate chips will seize if melted using the double boiler method. Nestlé’s appears to have changed their formula as we used to use the double boiler method up until last year. We recommend using the microwave for best results.
Today marks a very special milestone birthday for us. To add to our celebration we're making a healthier version of our favorite birthday dessert...Cannoli. We weren't sure how the texture would be effected using part-skim ricotta instead of whole milk ricotta, but as it turned out we were very happy with the results, The texture isn't quite the same but hardly noticeable. Since we didn't want to give up our favorite dessert using part-skim ricotta was a huge success for us. If eating healthier means you think you have to give up your favorites, we proved you don't have to. ❤️❤️
12.5 ounces part-skim milk ricotta (drained for 2 days in the refrigerator to remove all excess liquid)
We remember our Grandmother Florence always having homemade liqueurs on hand for an after-dinner drink with coffee & dessert, especially around the holidays. Our favorite was Finocchietto (fennel) which she touted as a good digestif drink. We were only allowed a sip for taste…but liked it even then.
On our trip to Italy back in 2018, we had dinner at a farm in Naples. After dinner, we had a choice of Limoncello or Finocchietto. Of course, we chose the Finocchietto and it sure did bring back good memories of Grandma.
After having great success with making our own Limoncello, I decided to send away for the Italian Wild Fennel seeds and make my own. Teresa and I along with my good friend, Jane Hall, planted the fennel seeds. We watched the seedlings grow big & strong then planted them outside in a side garden my husband Gary prepared for us. They were doing beautifully and even survived Hurricane Florence but low and behold they didn’t seem to survive the deer!!!!!!! We were pleasantly surprised the following season and proceeded to make our own liqueur. You wouldn’t believe how many umbrella flowers we had with just 2 plants that survived. This year it’s even more! Fennel has a wonderful anise-like/licorice taste and you can use the green fronds to garnish a salad or even infuse with some olive oil. I don’t remove the fennel bulb because it will cause the demise of the plant, although I may this year!
Note: Harvesting starts towards the end of June through August here in North Carolina. Fennel plants create umbrella-like flower buds similar to Queen Anne’s Lace. I pick the yellow flower umbrellas once the yellow flowers begin to open.
Ingredients for about 2 liters
2-3 large handfuls of wild fennel flower umbrellas. ( I fill a 32-oz mason jar 1/2 to 3/4 high with the flowers)
1 liter of Everclear (151 proof – grain alcohol) Please do not use rubbing alcohol!
800 grams of sugar (about 3 1/3 to 3 1/2 cups)
2-liter jar that closes hermetically (We used hermetically sealed lemonade bottles from Aldi)
Funnel- wide mouth
Immediately after picking the flowers, wash and let dry thoroughly on a clean dish towel.
Place all the flowers in the jar and pour the grain alcohol into the jar, making sure all flowers are covered. Close the jar and place it in a dark place for at least 30 days. ( I use my closet)
Keep the bottle out of direct sunlight. All the color will leach out into the alcohol turning the alcohol a green color. No problem if you leave it longer than 30 days.
After the 30 days or longer are up, prepare the sugar syrup.
Make a simple syrup by boiling 1 liter of water with 800 grams of sugar for 15 minutes. Let it cool before the next step. (about an hour)
While the syrup is cooling down, filter the alcohol. Using a wide-mouth funnel, place into another mason jar and place the cheesecloth in the funnel.
Pour the alcohol through the funnel making sure none of the fennel plants get through.
Mix the cooled sugar syrup into the filtered alcohol. Pour into a clean 2-liter hermetically sealing jar (the one you used before is fine, just make sure it’s clean & dry first.
Let it sit another 4-5 days in a cool, dark place.
Now we filter again and bottle.
Put a regular funnel in the bottle with another piece of cheesecloth and pour the mixture into the bottle or use a small ladle so it doesn’t spill everywhere.
There might be some organic matter caught in the cheesecloth. Wash the cloth for re-use.
In a cool dark place, store the bottled fennel for at least another 3 months. The longer it sits the clearer it gets.
Italian Wild Fennel growing on the side of Barbara’s house
Almost 7 feet tall!
Another angle of growing fennel that’s 2 years old now
Wash & Dry the umbrella flowers
Place the wash & dried flowers in a 32 oz mason jar
Cover flowers with Everclear 151 grain alcohol
The alcohol starts leaching color after only an hour
Fennel umbrella flower
My bottle from last year with my own label along with new batch
Lately all my friends and neighbors are wondering what to cook since we are all observing the Stay at Home restrictions going on across the country. They are bored and tired of cooking 3 times a day. While checking my text messages I saw one from 'Nextdoor' with the title 'What's for Dinner'. This recipe caught my eye so I decided to give it a try. Wow! I'm so happy I did. Not only is it full of flavor but it's so easy to make. Both Gary & I loved it. I hope Teresa makes this for my niece while she's helping her recuperate. I know they will love it too! 😋❤️
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano (freshly grated) (please don’t use the fake stuff in the green container…)
2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes (in oil)
In a large skillet add 2-4 Tablespoons EVOO. When oil starts to shimmer, add the chicken and cook on medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes on each side or until golden brown on each side. Don’t crowd the skillet or you’ll get steam instead of browning. Cook until no longer pink in the center. Remove chicken and set aside on a plate.
Add the heavy cream, chicken broth, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Whisk over medium-high heat until it starts to thicken.
Add the spinach and sundried tomatoes. Let simmer until the spinach starts to wilt.
Add the chicken back to the skillet and serve over your favorite pasta.
1. Use genuine Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese that you freshly grate. The pre-grated cheese has additives and makes it ball up instead of melting into the sauce. You may also substitute with Locatelli Pecorino Romano cheese, also freshly grated.
2. Large chicken bone-in chicken thighs can also be used in place of chicken breasts. Just make sure you cook a little longer so they are fully cooked.
Recipe adapted from Alyssa Rivers (The Recipe Critic).
Brown the chicken thighs or chicken breasts on medium-high 3-5 minutes on both sides then set aside on a plate
Add the heavy cream, chicken broth and the dry spices with the grated cheese
This isn’t just another meatloaf recipe! I have made many meatloaf variations throughout the years, but none have ever come close to this super easy, flavorful, moist, and absolutely delicious meatloaf that my daughter Tracy makes. I’ve been staying with my daughter while she is recovering from surgery and wanted to cook meals for her and, as she refers to him, her roommate John🤣. The only change I had to make was adapting it to be gluten-free for Jack so he could enjoy it too. I have to say it was the biggest hit. The glaze was just the right amount of sweet and tangy that made this meatloaf extra special. Enjoy !!😋 😋
In a large bowl, add the ground beef, bread crumbs, onion, milk, beaten eggs, 4 tablespoons ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, salt, garlic powder, dried onion flakes, celery seed, paprika, bouillon granules, and pepper. Using disposable gloves on your hands mix these ingredients together until well combined. Do not under-mix.
Add the meat mixture to a 9×13 inch roasting pan. Pat and form the meat into a loaf shape approximately 3-4 inches high.
In a small bowl, add 1/2 cup ketchup, the brown sugar, and vinegar. Stir well to combine. Pour the glaze on top of the meatloaf and place it on the center rack in the preheated oven.
Bake uncovered for 55 -65 minutes.
Let the meatloaf rest for 8-10 minutes before serving.
1. Homemade Gluten-free onion soup mix. Mix all ingredients together. Store in an airtight container. This will yield the equivalent of 2 envelopes of gluten-free dry onion soup mix.
2. If gluten isn’t an issue you may use any Lipton Onion Soup mix in place of the homemade version and regular plain breadcrumbs.
2. For a tasty meal, serve with creamy mashed potatoes and sautéed fresh spinach with garlic and EVOO
Like many children, and some adults too, we didn't like eating carrots growing up. We don't remember who came up with the idea, mom or dad, but they creatively added them to the mashed potatoes then proceeded to tell us they were orange mashed potatoes. We loved them! Weren't they smart getting us to eat a healthy vegetable? Teresa carried that tradition on with her family who also loved them. 😋 😋
2lbs Yukon gold potatoes, peeled & cut in half then cut in quarters
4-5 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch rounds
1 Tablespoon Kosher salt for water
3/4 – 1 cup heavy cream
1 stick salted butter
salt & pepper to taste
Place carrots in a large saucepan filled with water to hold the carrots and the potatoes. Bring carrots to a boil and add 1 Tablespoon kosher salt. Boil the carrots for 6-8 minutes. Add the cut potatoes.
Bring to a full boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until fork-tender, about 15-20 minutes.
Remove saucepan from heat & drain well. Place potatoes and carrots back into saucepan & return to low heat. Stir constantly for about 1 minute to remove any excess liquid.
Remove from the heat. Add the butter. Using a handheld masher, mash the butter into the potatoes and carrots. Add enough cream & salt & pepper to taste. Continue mashing until the desired texture is achieved.
Serve hot and enjoy.
Notes: In place of hand mashing you can use a hand mixer.
When it comes to side vegetables, broccoli is probably our go too choice. It's delicious with oil and garlic, lemon juice or just butter. It can get boring so why not kick it up a notch or two? Since we love broccoli and cheese, making a broccoli gratin was the perfect way to combine both and get rid of the boring. This is a creamy, delicious side dish that's very satisfying. It's always a big hit with our family and friends and we think you'll love it too. Enjoy!❤️❤️
2 lbs. fresh broccoli, cut into small florets (about 4 heads or 8 cups)
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more to grease baking dish
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1½ cups whole milk
Pinch of freshly grated or ground nutmeg
1½ tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1½ cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 cup shredded gruyere cheese, divided
1/4 – 1/2 cup flavored bread crumbs (for a gluten-free version, substitute bread crumbs with gluten-free bread crumbs)
Place rack in the middle of your oven. Pre-heat oven to 450ºF.
Butter an 8 x 8 x 2-inch baking dish
On medium heat, melt 3 Tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan.
Whisk in the flour until smooth. Cook, stirring for 1 minute.
Add the milk, salt, and nutmeg then bring to a boil, whisking constantly.
Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until the white sauce is thickened, about 10 minutes, maybe less.
Season with pepper and remove from heat.
Bring about 1-inch of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Set up with a collapsible steamer on top. Place the broccoli in the steamer and season with salt. Cover and steam until crisp-tender, about 4-5 minutes, less if florets are very small.
Place the broccoli in the prepared baking dish, sprinkle with half the shredded cheese.
Pour the white sauce over broccoli & cheese then top with remaining shredded cheese.
In a small skillet melt the remaining Tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat. Add the bread crumbs and cook, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle over the gratin then bake until lightly browned and bubbly, about 20 minutes.
Notes: You may use all cheddar cheese if you prefer or mix cheddar with swiss. Experiment with your favorite soft cheeses.
Growing up in our Italian American household we could always count on one of our favorite meatless meals on a Friday night...Pasta Fasùl. Depending upon the region of Italy your family is from, you may know it as pasta fagioli or pasta fasùl (fazool). Our grandparents were from Naples and Sicily, which shared the same word for beans, fasùl. Technically this dish is a soup; however, we loved it best when most of the liquid dried up & was topped with lots of grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Our Mom always made this with small or medium-sized pasta shells; however, you can use any small pasta in your pantry as we did tonight. This is a very rustic meal but can be dressed up with the addition of any vegetable you have on hand, i.e. spinach, carrots, zucchini, or escarole. To complete this meal, serve with a side salad. Give it a try on those nights you're pressed for time and let us know how you and your family like it.
1 lb. medium or small pasta shells or elbow pasta (we used ditalini as that’s what we had on hand)
10 -12 cloves garlic, smashed
4 cans cannellini beans, do not rinse or drain the liquid
1 cup prepared tomato sauce (preferably homemade or your favorite jar sauce) I also use Hunt’s Tomato Sauce with basil, garlic, and oregano if I don’t have homemade sauce.
1 small can tomato paste plus same can filled with water to dilute (Omit if using Hunt’s Tomato Sauce with basil, garlic, & oregano)
salt to taste
reserve at least 1 cup cooked pasta water
Pecorino Romano grated cheese for topping
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a Tablespoon of salt then add pasta. Cook pasta according to package directions. Before draining reserve at least 1 cup of the pasta water then drain pasta & set aside in a large bowl.
In a large, deep skillet on medium heat add EVOO. Add smashed garlic & sauté a minute or two but don’t burn.
Add the 4 cans of cannellini beans and stir well until they begin to boil. Lower heat to medium-low and add 4 cans of Hunt’s Tomato Sauce with basil, garlic & oregano OR 1 cup prepared sauce & small can of tomato paste with a small can of water. Add a little of the reserved pasta water if too thick. Combine well and continue to cook for about 10-15 minutes.
If you prefer a soupier pasta fasùl just add more of the reserved pasta water until it’s the consistency you like.
Let sit for 5-10 minutes in a covered pot before serving.
Top with grated cheese & garnish with fresh basil or parsley (optional)
NOTE: To make this meal gluten-free, just substitute any small-sized gluten-free pasta in place of regular pasta.
This dish thickens as it sits so if you want a thinner sauce, add more liquid in step 3-4 while cooking or add extra sauce.
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