Centodue Anni!

Bernie's Lemoncello.JPG

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 Days of Spatula Licking are Almost Over

This week, I baked cookies because someone at work asked me to. I’m pretty easy. All you have to do is flatter me by telling me my cookies are the best you’ve ever had and I’ll bake for you too.

I also baked because one of my young co-workers lost his dad to a sudden heart attack a few weeks ago and the pain is still so raw for him that it breaks my heart. So, baking his favorite chocolate chip cookies couldn’t hurt.

Miss Milena

She had the whole thing licked clean before I could even take the picture.

As I was in the kitchen baking, my daughter was on the comfy, sage colored couch in the living room working on a paper for school. I was cleaning off the beater, wondering if she’d want to lick it like she used to when she was a kid. I hesitated, thinking she might not go for it, then offered it to her. She happily took it like she did when she was three. Continue reading

The Circle of Life — Already?

My daughter’s been away, housesitting for the past few weeks and I’m getting a taste of what it’s going to feel like in this very empty nest. It will finally be clean, and very quiet.

It really forces you to take a look at your life, think about what you’ve done, where you’re going and whether you want company for the rest of the ride.  It brought a few tears for me because for 25 years I was a mom first.  That was my most important job.  I always worked, but my kids came first. And it’s all changed lightning fast. Continue reading

Coffee Cake Biscotti — Oh Yes!

I have bounced around the idea of starting a biscotti business for over a year. My family rolls their collective eyes when they hear this because I flit from one idea to another like a fruit fly. Continue reading

The Biscotti Tasting

Yes, I baked my butt off!

Yes, I baked my butt off!

No, I did not forget to write last week, I was covered in flour, white chocolate and nuts for days. Nothing “Shades of Grey,” I was just getting ready for my biscotti tasting on Sunday the 12th. I baked like a maniac, then did the scariest thing a baker can do, I asked people to give me their honest opinions of my biscotti. Continue reading

Adding Seven Layers To My Waist

Dorm desks.  My side (left) covered with books I don't remember and my roommates walls adorned with Steeler photos and hot rollers.

Our desks at Forest Manor in Clarion. My side (left) covered with books I don’t remember and my roommate’s side adorned with Steeler photos and hot rollers.

When I attended Clarion University of Pennsylvania, I studied Elementary Education. I use the term, “study,” loosely because I don’t remember a damned thing about education, but I do remember the Seven Layer Cookies my roommate, Margaret brought back with her. Continue reading

Lemon Ricotta Cookies – My New Love

Dating can be so difficult. Does he like me, does he not? Why doesn’t he call? Should I call him? Why isn’t he emotionally available?

As my mom used to say, “Who loves you comes after you.” She was right — that’s all you need to know about relationships.  Unfortunately, this means I am now in love with a cookie. Continue reading

Mix Trootfully Wedding Cookies

On June 21st, my brother, Bernie and and sister-in-law, Donna will celebrate their 45th Anniversary. I find that impressive because even if I got married right now; the best I could hope for would be maybe 40 years and that’s only if I live to be 98 and marry an infant.

My brother Bob and his wife Patty just celebrated their 40th last year with a great surprise party. My marriage fizzled out before I even got to silver, but I haven’t given up on weddings yet because:

A. I’m still a hopeless romantic who believes marriage can be great if both people really want to work at it.

B. They’re a great excuse to bake cookies and maybe finally learn to do a proper Electric Slide or  Tarantella.

C. I love telling this wedding cookie baking story about my mom, which involves potential bodily injury, table-shaking laughter, and a great recipe.  Continue reading

The Power of a Sugar Cookie

I’ve been using cookies as communication devices for years. The College of Cardinals uses a smoke signal to tell us there’s a new pope,  and I use cookies to send messages too. They can say:  I love you, I miss you, or Happy Birthday.

After I left Pennsylvania in the early ’80s, I knew I’d lose touch with my family and my young nephews if I didn’t connect. Since I adored my nephews, I wasn’t about to let that happen, so what better way to connect than with cookies? Continue reading

Biscotti That May Get You Blacklisted

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If you have an Italian grandmother who bakes biscotti, you should probably stop reading right now. Once you have this recipe, don’t blame me if she turns on you, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

OK, my conscience is clear.

I started baking biscotti more than 20 years ago. I was never really a fan of them when I was young because they were always the same; Anise flavored, plain and dry. Any cookie that had to be dunked to be eaten was, to me, not a cookie worth the calories.

But years ago, I was at my friend, Jean’s house and tasted her biscotti, which were really good and different.  I don’t remember what kind they were but I must have really liked them because I asked for the recipe, which I then turned into my own, with a tweak here and there.

I am now a certified biscotti maniac. The maniacal baker in me was encouraged by my father.  After my divorce, I lived with him for two years.  He regularly polished off two or three biscotti a morning. When none were left, he’d shame me by going to the store and buying Stella D’ oro Anisette Toast.  He’d say, “Well, there weren’t any left, and you didn’t bake any, what was I supposed to do?” As if he would starve to death if there were no biscotti to eat with his oatmeal. Continue reading