Centodue Anni!

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Bernie’s Limoncello

 

My brother Bernie called me last night. He said he was making Limoncello. I love that he and my brother Bob still do that kind of thing. It’s proof they haven’t lost their Italian-ness. The label with my dad’s photo on it is one of Bob’s wine labels.

Bernie was peeling lemons as we talked, and I wanted to watch, so we Face-timed, and it was almost as good as being there. I watched his big hands peeling the lemons and it was like sitting in the kitchen with both of my parents at once. My dad’s strong bricklayer hands combined with my mom always making something in the kitchen.

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Lemon Cheesecake Squares

 

He asked me if I remembered that today was my dad’s birthday, and, of course, I did. My dad would have been 102 today. We always used to say Cent’anni when we toasted, hoping he would make 100 years…but, sadly he did not.  But, I’ll toast to 102 (Centodue) today in his honor.

I’ll bet Bernie was making Limoncello to honor dad, because my dad loved lemony things. Bernie and I got talking about lemons and Limoncello and recipes (we cannot talk without recipes coming up)  and how Lemon  Meringue Pie, Lemon Cake, Lemon Squares, Lemon Ricotta Cookies, and all things lemon were my dad’s favorites. Then we veered toward Chicken Piccata…and that’s when I realized I was going to have to share some lemony recipes and a story of torture you may not have heard yet.

I was an expert at tormenting my dad when I was a child. He loved lemony things but couldn’t eat an actual lemon. If you asked him to, his face would pucker up in such a sour expression.  I used enjoy torturing him by fishing lemons out of the iced tea and eating them in front of him just to get him to pucker up. He always did it, as if on cue and I would laugh hysterically.

Children are evil that way.

I miss that sweet man every day, and even though our conversations toward the end were mostly repetition, there was something reassuring about hearing him say the same things he said time and again like, “Don’t worry, we’ll get through it,” or “Stay tough,” or “Keep your nose to the grindstone, you can do it.”

My dad was the taskmaster. When there was work to be done, you did it until it was finished. Period. Not even a discussion.

Mom was fun personified, which is why I am such a mess. Half the time I’m disciplined and half the time I just want to have fun.  This does not make for a simple career path. But it’s good for blog writing, which I consider 99 percent fun.

So, Happy Birthday Dad. You are always with me in my thoughts, actions, and DNA. You’ve made me at least half of what I am today and I am so grateful for you. You are the reason anything ever gets accomplished in my life. I love you forever.

Mom, I love you forever too, but for very different reasons.

Single Lemon ricotta

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

To honor Dad, here is Bernie’s Limoncello Recipe – (if you make it – just remember one ounce will knock you out like a prizefighter). Also a link to my Really Good and Easy Lemon Cheesecake Squares Recipe, a link to my Lemon Ricotta Cookies Recipe, and a link to a Williams Sonoma Chicken Piccata Recipe, which is absolutely delicious! I used it when I catered a wedding last January and it was a huge hit.

Bernie’s Limoncello

Peel only the yellow off 14 lemons

Place the peels in a large glass container

Add 2 liters of grain alcohol

Add two cinnamon sticks (these are optional)

Let the mixture sit for 30 days.

Then strain it into a clear container and add 2 liters of distilled water and sugar to taste.  put a cork in it and put it in the freezer before serving it.

Fran’s Really Good and Easy Lemon Cheesecake Squares

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

Williams Sonoma Chicken Piccata

 

 

The Most Awesome Cheesecake You’ve Ever Had

first-page-cheesecakeI am finally getting my bearings after the shock of going back to being a full-time employee on November 3rd.  I’m trying to get back on a weekly blogging schedule, and will do my best, but don’t hold your breath.  However, I just had to write about this cheesecake because it’s worth every decadent calorie.

I know I already laid claim to the best Carrot Cake ever. I’m going out on a limb again because I also have the recipe for the best cheesecake ever.  I may be a lapsed Catholic, but I cannot lie (not convincingly anyway) and I’m serious, this is the best cheesecake I’ve ever had. The common denominator for both these outstanding recipes is my sister-in-law, Donna. Her attention to detail is almost mind-numbing.   Continue reading

When Brownie Mix is Your Best Friend

My apartment can go from immaculate to disgusting in about 2.5 days.  Having my Corgi, Topper in the house makes it all possible. Clumps of dog hair the size of tumbleweeds are rolling around as if it was the high desert. Newspapers are toppling over the basket where I usually have them neatly stacked. Dishes are piled in the kitchen and I am too stinking tired to do them. I am pooped. Working numerous jobs will do that to you. That’s why I had to turn to brownie mix tonight. Continue reading

When the World Gets Ugly, Bake Cupcakes

close up cupcake.JPGThe world was very ugly this week. I don’t have a solution, and it was too awful to face, so I turned to baking because it always makes me feel good. I know it’s a cop-out, but it’s better than drinking, smoking or gambling, and everyone loves you for it, so it’s my coping mechanism.

This year has been pretty full of tragedy, so, I’ve been baking a lot. Continue reading

Chocolate Peanut Butter Heaven

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Behold the glorious Chocolate Peanut Butter cup

It’s been an uneventful week. I haven’t had any run ins with the law and haven’t even been scammed on my dating website. My only excitement was that my computer decided to stop working, so I couldn’t record this. With things this slow, there was nothing left to do but turn to food — chocolate and peanut butter to be exact.

Continue reading

Alex is Getting Married? But She’s Only 12, Isn’t She?

Alex helping me bathe Milena in the sink.

Alex helping me bathe Milena in the sink.

Alex is getting married.  I find this hard to believe because, according to my calculations, she is still twelve and helping me bathe my daughter in the kitchen sink. I was never good at math. Continue reading

A Pat on the Back, Porkchops and Poached Pears

Porcine heaven on a plate.

Porcine heaven on a plate.

Remember, almost a year ago when my friends, my kids, and their friends helped move me into an apartment that needed a lot of work? Well, it still needs a lot of work and since I’m almost over the embarrassment of living in a place that desperately needs a paint job, I figured it was time to pay back my friends Mandy and Bjorn. Continue reading

Pies and Virginity

Summer means fruit pie season and I am a ho for fruit pies and crisps — especially right out of the oven with vanilla ice cream on top. Every time I overeat then vow to cut out sweets completely (this happens weekly) I realize I could never do it if it meant not having fruit pie again.

This is clearly genetic. My brothers are  both ho’s for blackberry pie and my sister is a ho for any pie. At family get-togethers, she makes her way, like a cat burglar, to wherever the pies are stored and sneaks a piece before anyone even lays eyes on them.   Continue reading

Happy Birt-a-day Mom!

I love the Fourth of July. Even its name shows it’s a holiday to be reckoned with. No holiday gets the number first, not even Christmas. I also LOVE fireworks. They’re all the excitement of lightning without the house burning down part. And mostly, I love the Fourth of July because it was my mom’s birthday. Continue reading

The Carrot Cake Off

Pretty much every baker in the United States has a carrot cake recipe.  Each one is convinced that hers/his is the absolute best. Clearly, this can’t be true because mine is actually the best.  It wasn’t always the best, but I’ve finessed and finessed it and now I’d put it up against anyone’s carrot cake recipe, even Joan, the queen of cakes.  (My sister-in-law, Donna is going to have a nervous breakdown over this because my recipe is a variation on her recipe and she’s convinced hers is the best.)  Continue reading