Tag: dessert

Black Forest Cake

Black Forest Cake

(Above: This recipe is from “The Treasury of Creative Cooking,” which features award-winning recipes from around the country. It was given to me as a gift more than 20 years ago.)


Chocolate and cherries. If you’re a fan of that combination then this is the cake for you.


Ingredients for Black Forest Cake
Some of the ingredients for Black Forest Cake.


Not as sweet and gooey as chocolate cordials, but still reminiscent of those candies, this is a delicious dessert that will impress your guests. It’s a little time consuming but pretty easy to make (I give it a medium on the difficulty scale).


Bowl filled with raw cake ingredients.
Mix the ingredients in a big bowl to make the chocolate cakes.


You could cut corners by using canned whipped cream but homemade is easy to make and much more delicious. You could also save some time by using a chocolate cake mix, but mixing these ingredients together isn’t really much work.


Scissors cutting waxed paper.
It’s easier to make the waxed paper fit the pan if you tip the pan over and cut the waxed paper following the edge of the pan.


The most difficult part is splitting the two chocolate cakes in half to create four disks. You need a good, sharp knife and a steady hand. I suggest sticking the knife into the side of the cake just as far as the middle of the cake and then turning the cake as you go until you complete a full circle. The cake will then be completely split in two.


Two chocolate cakes.
Use 9-inch cake pans.


After that, assembling the three layers is a snap (you crumble the fourth disk to create chocolate crumbs that you apply on top of the whipped cream on the side of the cake), providing you have the cherry filling and whipped cream already made. The recipe calls for draining the cherries and reserving 1/2 cup of the juice, but I use cherry pie filling which requires no draining.


A knife going through a cake.
I used a serrated knife to cut the cakes in half.


It does take a little skill to spread the whipped cream on the sides of the cake and pipe a whipped cream ridge on top. The recipe also calls for creating a ridge of whipped cream on the bottom, but I skipped that part. Putting on the whipped cream is easier if it’s beaten until it easily forms stiff peaks. Using a chilled bowl helps because warm whipped cream will fall.


Chocolate cake with whipped cream on top.
First you spread the whipped cream on the chocolate layer.


I spread the whipped cream on the sides of the cake using a small pastry spatula. I then stuff a disposable plastic pastry bag — fitted with a cake-decorating nozzle — with the whipped cream to create the ridge.


Cherry filling on top of whipped cream on top of chocolate cake.
Be sure the cherry filling is cool before putting it on top of the whipped cream. Otherwise you’ll make the whipped cream soft and drippy.


Don’t worry if it doesn’t look perfect. It will taste delicious no matter how it looks and that’s the important thing.


Black Forest Cake

April 23, 2019
: Medium


  • For the Cake:
  • All-purpose flour. (2 cups, plus 2 tbsp.) (I use King Arthur. It’s not bleached, and for me, local. It’s made in Vermont.)
  • Baking powder (1 1/2 tsp.)
  • Baking soda (3/4 tsp.)
  • Salt (3/4 tsp.)
  • Sugar (2 cups)
  • Cocoa (3/4 cup)
  • Eggs (3) (Always use “large” eggs for recipes.)
  • Milk (1 cup)
  • Vegetable oil (1/2 cup)
  • Vanilla (1 tbsp.)
  • For the Cherry Topping:
  • Tart pitted cherries (2 20 oz. cans, drained. Reserve 1/2 cup of the juice.) Or 2 20 oz. cans of cherry pie filling, not drained.
  • Sugar (1 cup)
  • Cornstarch (1/4 cup)
  • Vanilla (1 tsp.)
  • For the Whipped Cream Frosting:
  • Whipping cream (3 cups)
  • Powdered sugar (1/3 cup)
  • Step 1 To Make The Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 9-inch round cake pans. Cover bottoms with waxed paper.
  • Step 2 Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Step 3 Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Beat until well blended.
  • Step 4 Pour evenly into prepared pans. Bake 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in centers comes out clean.
  • Step 5 Cool layers in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Loosen edges and remove to racks to cool completely.
  • Step 6 While cake is baking prepare cherry topping (see below) and cool.
  • Step 7 Split cooled cakes horizontally in half to make 4 layers. Tear 1 layer into crumbs and set aside.
  • Step 8 Make frosting (see below) and reserve 1 1/2 cups of it for decorating the cake and set aside.
  • Step 9 To assemble, place 1 layer on cake plate. Spread with 1 cup of frosting. Top with 3/4 cup of cherry topping. Top with second cake layer. Repeat layers of frosting and cherry topping. Top with third cake layer.
  • Step 10 Frost sides of cake with remaining frosting. Pat reserved crumbs into frosting on sides of the cake.
  • Step 11 Pipe reserved 1 1/2 cups of frosting around the top and bottom edges of the cake. Spoon remaining cherry topping onto top of cake. Refrigerate.
  • Step 12 To Make The Cherry Topping: Combine the reserved juice, cherries, sugar and cornstarch in a 2-quart saucepan. Cook over low heat until thickened, stirring constantly. Stir in vanilla. Cool and set aside.
  • Step 13 To Make The Whipped Cream Frosting: Beat together the whipping cream and powdered sugar in a chilled bowl at high speed with electric mixer until stiff peaks form.


King Cake Recipe For Mardi Gras

King Cake Recipe For Mardi Gras

King Cake is one of those buttery, sweet treats that you make and eat before Mardi Gras ends on Ash Wednesday, ushering in a month or more of self-inflicted deprivation.


A slice of King Cake
Yellow, purple and green are the traditional colors for King Cake.


Our friend Emmy, who used to live in New Orleans, made this and brought it over to the Rootsliving kitchen last night. She said it’s so easy to make, using packaged crescent rolls, that she made three of them.


A plastic baby in a King Cake
King Cake’s traditionally have a small plastic baby hidden inside them. The baby represents Jesus and whoever finds it in their slice is the king or queen for the evening. They also have to make the next King Cake. (Photo by Emmy Hamm)


The cake has a velvety texture, smoother than a papery French puff pastry, that is heightened by a cream cheese, brown sugar, and pecan filling.

Eating this is a memory to savor while you count down the days and hours to Easter Sunday.


Mardi Gras King Cake

March 5, 2019


  • For the cake:
  • 2 packages of crescent rolls
  • 8oz of cream cheese
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of pecans
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • For the Icing:
  • 1 package confectionary sugar
  • 1/2 cup egg whites
  • Teaspoon of lemon juice
  • Food coloring, green, yellow, and purple
  • Step 1 To make the cake:
  • Step 2 Lay crescent rolls in circle formation, overlapping a little.
  • Step 3 Blend together cream cheese, brown sugar and pecans to make filling.
  • Step 4 Spread filling and add king cake baby.
  • Step 5 Fold over wide end of the crescent rolls toward the middle covering the filling.
  • Step 6 Lift pointy end of the triangles up and over the back toward the outer edge of the pan.
  • Step 7 Spread egg wash all over the top of the cake.
  • Step 8 Put in the oven for 20 mins at 350.
  • Step 9 To make the icing:
  • Step 10 Mix together the confectionary sugar, egg whites and lemon juice in a bowl.
  • Step 11 Separate icing into 3 bowls and add food coloring to make yellow, purple and green icing.
  • Step 12 Once cake is cooled drizzle icing over the top.

Homemade Oreo Cookies

(Above: Watch this video and learn how to make chocolate cookies and vanilla cream.)

This is an amazing recipe from Boston chef Joanne Chang. I had the pleasure of meeting her when I filmed her making bread pudding for my Dorm Room Chef video series.

I must have been a little nervous because I used the wrong settings on my camera and ended up filming her mostly in the dark. Thankfully, I was able to lighten it a bit in the edit, but still it wasn’t my best work. Chang, however, rose to the occasion with grace and charm, telling me not worry about it after making a delicious and easy-to-make dessert.


Two stacks of homemade Oreo Cookies.
These cookies are like crunchy whoopie pies.


This recipe for homemade Oreo cookies, isn’t as easy as all that, but it’s brilliant. Store-bought Oreos are delicious but these are even better with real flavors replacing the processed ones. You not only get a better-tasting cookie, you get a cookie you can feel better about eating.


Ingredients to make cookies.
Semi-sweet chocolate chips and unsweetened cocoa are used to make these cookies.


I got the recipe through BostonChefs.com. The only problem I had was that I didn’t have enough filling so I ended making another batch of it. The recipe said it would make between 16-18 cookies, but I was able to make 23, maybe that’s why I needed more filling. In any case, I increased the portions for the filling here, so you shouldn’t fall short.


Bowl of chocolate cookie dough
The dough starts out floury but then gets moist, almost like the texture of Play-Doh.


In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I added a drop of red food coloring to some of the filling, resulting in a batch of white and red filled Oreo cookies. For the Fourth of July, maybe I’ll add blue too.


Cookies on a cookie sheet.
If you don’t roll the dough tightly, you’ll end up with air holes in the center of the cookies. But don’t worry, they fill in when you bake them.


Homemade Oreo Cookies

February 2, 2019
: Makes about 23 cookies.
: Medium-Hard

This recipe from Boston Chef Joanne Chang takes a little work and some time. You have to let the dough rest about an hour at room temperature and later you have to let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.


  • For the cookies:
  • Unsalted butter, melted, 1 cup (2 sticks)
  • Sugar, 3/4 cup
  • Vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon
  • Semisweet chocolate chips, melted, 1 cup
  • Egg, 1 large
  • All-purpose flour, 1 1/2 cups
  • Cocoa powder, 3/4 cup
  • Baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon
  • Kosher salt, 1 teaspoon
  • For the Filling:
  • Unsalted butter, softened, 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup)
  • Vanilla extract, 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • Confectioners’ sugar, 2 1/2 cups
  • Whole milk, 1 1/2 tablespoons
  • Kosher Salt, a pinch
  • Step 1 For the cookies: Combine the melted butter and sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until combined. Whisk in the vanilla and the melted chocolate. Add the egg and whisk until combined.
  • Step 2 In another bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Use a wooden spoon to stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture. Mix with your hands until it’s moist and the consistency of Play-Doh. Let dough sit for about an hour at room temperature to firm up.
  • Step 3 Place the dough on a sheet of parchment paper. Shape with your hands into a rough log shape, about 10 inches long and 2 1/2 inches in diameter.
  • Step 4 Place the log at the edge of the sheet of parchment paper and roll the parchment around the log. With the log fully encased in parchment, roll it into a smoother log shape (still 2 1/2 inches in diameter).
  • Step 5 Refrigerate the log until firm, at least two hours. The dough log may settle and sink a bit in the fridge, so re-roll it every 15 minutes or so to keep the shape a nice round log shape if you like. If not, your cookies may be more oblong than round, which is not a bad thing taste-wise but they won’t look quite like the packaged cookie. You can prepare the dough up to this point and refrigerate it wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or wrapped in plastic in the freezer for up to a month (if frozen, remove the dough from the freezer the night before you want to bake it and defrost it in the refrigerator).
  • Step 6 Heat the oven to 325 degrees.
  • Step 7 Remove the parchment from the dough log and slice the log into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place the slices about 1 inch apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until firm to the touch. Check them frequently after 15 minutes or so and poke them in the middle. As soon as they feel firm to the touch remove from the oven. You can’t judge by color because they start out looking black. Let cool to warm or room temperature on the cookie sheet or a wire rack—they don’t have to cool completely, but you can’t fill them while they are hot.
  • Step 8 Use a tablespoon to scoop out a rounded tablespoon of Vanilla Cream Filling (recipe follows) and place the filling between two cookies. Press the cookies together to distribute the filling toward the edges. The cookies may be stored for up to 3 days at room temperature in an airtight container.
  • Step 9 For the vanilla filling: In a the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or with an electric hand mixer), mix the butter on low speed for about 30 seconds.
  • Step 10 Add the vanilla and the confectioners’ sugar and mix until totally smooth. Add milk and pinch of salt and continue to paddle until smooth. It will look like white spackle and have about the same consistency.
  • Step 11 The filling keeps in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Bring to room temperature before using.

Italian Christmas Pudding

(Above: Watch the video to see how easy this dessert is to make and enjoy the classical Italian music: Non Piú Andrai, an aria from Mozart’s 1786 opera, La Figaro.)


Get a free Rootsliving eCookbook with “5 Recipes to Help you Stay Healthy
and Lose Weight.”  

My grandmother would make this pudding for family dinners, including Christmas Eve, which was always at her apartment in Boston.

Years later, I discovered it is a quick and easy version of an Italian dessert called “Zuppa Inglese,” popular in Northern Italy where my grandmother was born. My brother and I always referred to it as simply, “the pudding with the red stuff.”


Red liquor being poured over biscotti
Italian liqueurs, such as Alkermes, are sometimes available in the U.S. but I’ve found that it’s sporadic. Companies seem to import them some years, and some years, they don’t (at least in the Boston area).


The “red stuff” is an Italian liquor called “Alkermes,” (sometimes spelled, “Alchermes”) which is nearly impossible to find in the U.S. However, you can make this using brandy or dark rum and then adding red food coloring. I’ve also heard that a raspberry liqueur, such as Chambord, would work.


A bowl of vanilla pudding with red biscotti
The liquor turns the biscotti pieces red, making this a colorful dish, especially for Christmas.


I’m making this for Christmas Eve dinner at my house this year and am fortunate to have a bottle of Alkermes that I purchased in Italy this summer. But don’t let a lack of Alkermes stop you from making this.


A small bowl of pudding.
Liquor pairs well with vanilla pudding. Salute!


This recipe couldn’t be any easier. All you do is make vanilla pudding, following the directions on the box. Soak some biscotti pieces in liquor (Alkermes, brandy, or dark rum will work). Pour the pudding over the biscotti, stir gently, and then refrigerate. Take a look at the recipe below.

(Thanks for reading this far. To show our appreciation we’re offering this free eCookbook with “5 Recipes to Help you Stay Healthy and Lose Weight,”  along with free subscription to the Rootsliving newsletter.)

Italian Christmas Pudding (aka: Pudding with the Red Stuff)

December 19, 2018
: Easy (super easy)


  • Vanilla Pudding Mix (2 boxes or enough to make 8 servings)
  • Biscotti (Regular almond flavored, broken into 1-inch pieces)
  • Liquor (Alkermes, or brandy, or dark rum)
  • Step 1 Make pudding according to package.
  • Step 2 Soak biscotti in liquor. Add just enough for the cookies to absorb.
  • Step 3 Pour vanilla pudding over the liquor-laden biscotti. Stir and refrigerate (for at least a couple of hours or even overnight).


Amaretti Cookies (Macaroons)

Amaretti Cookies (Macaroons)

(Above: Italian Sugar Cookies. These almond cookies are brittle and crunchy and look great served in a Nora Fleming napkin holder/candy dish with a Nora Fleming hand-painted snowman charm.)

One of my favorite cookies are amaretti. I usually buy them once a year around the holidays. I never knew how easy they are to make — they only have three ingredients — until I stumbled upon the recipe in the Artusi.


Cookies on a floured board
These cookies only have three ingredients: almonds, egg whites and confectioners sugar. This recipe makes about 48 small cookies.


The Artusi is the classic Italian cookbook first published in 1891 by Pellegrino Artusi, a prosperous Italian silk merchant who collected recipes from homemakers he met during his travels all over Italy. If you want a truly authentic cookbook with recipes from the north and south of Italy that Italians still use today, get this one (the hardcover is available on Amazon).


Almonds, sugar, egg whites
It’s hard to believe that these cookies only require three simple ingredients.


Although the book is very popular in Italy — it has gone through 111 printings and most homes there have it — it wasn’t translated into English until 1996. (Full disclosure: My father and I had talked about working together to publish an English version but never got around to it.)


Dough rolled into the shape of a snake
Once you roll the dough into the shape of a snake, cut small pieces to make each cookie. Don’t worry that they’re too small. This dough rises in the oven creating a larger cookie.


The recipes are authentic and have probably been passed down through generations for hundreds and hundreds of years. Most are pretty easy and simple to make too, making them perfect for Rootsliving. However, they often refer to old techniques that I figured out could be performed quicker and easier using modern methods and in some cases, modern machines.


Cookies before being put in the oven
Be careful when forming these cookies. Any irregularities will be exaggerated as the cookies expand while cooking them.


Such is the case with this recipe that called for crushing the almonds with a mortar and pestle. I tried that the first time I made them but it was very labor intensive so the next time I made them, I used a food processor and there was no difference.


Cookie dough in food processor
Using a food processor, rather than a mortar and pestle is much easier and faster.


While making these a few times following the recipe in the Artusi, I found it necessary to make some other adjustments too:

  1. I floured a pastry board so the dough wouldn’t stick to the pastry board when I rolled it into a snake shape.
  2. And I greased (with Crisco shortening) and floured a cookie sheet before putting the cookies on it for baking. In fact, I recommend putting a good layer of grease on the cookie sheet before you flour it. One of my cookie sheets wasn’t greased enough. The cookies stuck to it and broke when I tried to remove them.


Cookies on a baking sheet
Be sure to grease the baking sheet well because these suckers like to stick.


The end result are amaretti cookies that are a little different than the ones you can get in Italian speciality stories in the U.S. The main difference is the consistency. They are even more brittle than the crunchy store-bought variety.

I liked them better but still thought they might be improved by adding an ounce or two of Amaretto liquor.  So the next time I made them I tried that and determined that just a little bit of Amaretto, about one or two tablespoons, gave them a little better, stronger, flavor.  The difference was small and so this is completely optional.


Cookies on a plate
The recipe in the Artusi called for making 30 cookies but I made them a little smaller and got 48. I find that most people today find it hard to commit to a larger cookie and are more apt to pick up and eat a small one (or two, or three).


The main thing to remember is to use only a small amount of the dough (about one teaspoon) to form each cookie. Roll the dough between your hands to form a small ball and then press down on it slightly, but don’t flatten it out. And be sure to give each cookie enough space to expand on the cookie sheet.

One batch I made, I used too much dough for each cookie, flattened them too much, and put them too close to one another on the cookie sheet. The result looked like one big cookie. Everything was stuck together. It tasted great but the presentation was awful. I also whipped the egg whites in that batch until they were stiff although I’m not sure if that caused some of this problem. What I am sure of is that you don’t need to whip the egg whites.

This is a simple recipe and my recommendation is don’t try to make it more complicated.

(Thanks for reading this far. To show our appreciation we’re offering this free eCookbook with “5 Recipes to Help you Stay Healthy and Lose Weight,”  along with free subscription to the Rootsliving newsletter.) 

Here’s the (slightly altered) recipe from the Artusi:

Amaretti (Macaroons) (From the Artusi)

December 7, 2018
: 48 cookies
: 1 hr 30 min
: Easy, but you need to be careful


  • Almonds (1 1/2 cups, plus 1/8 cup)
  • Egg whites (2)
  • Confectioners sugar (3 cups)
  • (Optional: Amaretto liquor, 1-2 tablespoons)
  • Flour (for dusting)
  • Shortening (to grease cookie sheets)
  • (Optional equipment: Food processor)
  • Step 1 Put almonds in a food processor with one of the egg whites and process until fine (about 10-20 seconds).
  • Step 2 Dump mixture into a large bowl (add the optional Amaretto if you’re using it) and mix in half of the sugar with your hand.
  • Step 3 Add half an egg white and stir with your hands. Add the rest of the sugar and stir with your hands. Add the remaining egg white and mix with your hands.
  • Step 4 Grease two cookie sheets and flour them by sprinkling flour on them and dumping the flour out so that both sheets are completely covered in flour. Be sure to put a good layer of shortening on the cookie sheets before sprinkling the flour because these cookies like to stick.
  • Step 5 Roll dough into the shape of a snake on a lightly floured board. Cut the snake into small pieces. Roll those pieces into a ball in your hands and then press down on them slightly before putting them on a greased cookie sheet. (Note: Take care to round the cookie edges because any irregularities will be enhanced when the cookies rise and expand while cooking.)
  • Step 6 Bake for 30 minutes in a preheated 325 degree oven.
Quick, Easy Nutella Cookies

Quick, Easy Nutella Cookies

Get a free Rootsliving eCookbook with “5 Recipes to Help you Stay Healthy
and Lose Weight.”  

My friend Antoinette (who was born in Italy and is one of the best cooks I know) brought these to my house for a dinner party. They’re so good, it’s hard to stop eating them. And then when she told me how easy and fast they are to make I had to try it.


Nutella on a wonton wrapper and a spoon
All you need is a 1/4 teaspoon of Nutella for each cookie, maybe even a little less.


These cookies can be made well in advance. The cookies come out crunchy and sweet. And it’s very hard to stop eating them.

With only three ingredients — wonton wrappers, Nutella, and vegetable oil — these are a breeze to make. You put a dab of Nutella in the middle of a wonton wrapper and then fold it over so you have a triangle. Then you press down on the edges, being sure to get any air bubbles out.


A jar of nutella and some uncooked cookies.
Nutella is a chocolate and hazelnut spread, very popular in Italy.


Some other recipes recommend sealing the edges with a beaten egg, but I found this wasn’t necessary. I also suggest making up a bunch of these before you start deep frying because the frying goes very quickly and you need to pay attention so that the cookies don’t burn.


Nutella cookies frying
Pour about 1/2 inch of oil in a good frying pan and don’t take your eyes of the cookies.


Be sure to control the heat too. You don’t want the oil to start smoking. If you see it start to do that quickly turn down the heat or even remove the pan from the flame (if you’re cooking with gas). You want the oil to remain clean and you want the cookies to be lightly brown.


Nutella cookies draining on a paper towel.
Transfer the cookies from the frying pan to a plate lined with a paper napkin so they can drain.


One final note: I always believed there were many similarities and/or opportunities to blend Italian cooking with Chinese cooking and this recipe proves it.

(Thanks for reading this far. To show our appreciation we’re offering this free eCookbook with “5 Recipes to Help you Stay Healthy and Lose Weight,”  along with free subscription to the Rootsliving newsletter.)

Quick, Easy Nutella Cookies

September 20, 2018
: Easy

You can make these at a moment's notice and are great to bring to a party. Just be sure to keep a close eye on them so they don't burn.


  • Nutella (buy a small jar)
  • Wonton wrappers
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Vegetable oil
  • Step 1 Put a dab of Nutella (less than a teaspoon will do) into the middle of a wonton wrapper. Fold the wrapper over so that it creates a triangle. Press down the edges until they stick.
  • Step 2 Heat about an inch or so of vegetable oil over high heat in a good skillet (I used a cast iron skillet).
  • Step 3 Drop three or four wonton cookies into the oil and cook on each side for about 30 seconds or less (just until light golden brown). Remove cookies to a plate lined with paper towels so the oil can drain.
  • Step 4 Put cookies on a platter and sprinkle powdered sugar over both sides. I used a sieve to sprinkle the sugar evenly.


La Tourte de Blettes: A Pie for Dinner or Dessert

La Tourte de Blettes: A Pie for Dinner or Dessert

(Above: La Tourte De Blettes translates to Swiss Chard Pie. But don’t let that fool you. This can be served as a sweet dessert or the main course for a light supper.)

Here’s a savory sweet pastry from our Southern France meal plan. I made this from a recipe card I picked up in the market in St. Remy last summer. Although there was an English translation, it wasn’t that good and so I had to figure out a few things, including the conversion of some measurements from grams to ounces.

Apple, swiss chard pie, without top crust
The torte before the top layer of dough was put on.

I also used a 10-inch round springform pan instead of an 11 x 8 x 1 inch tart pan (who has one of those?) and so there was leftover dough to make a few apple turnovers.

Brush in milk bowl

(APPLE TURNOVER BONUS: If you have left over dough, simply roll it out. On one half, add peeled and sliced apples with some brown sugar, cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg and a slice of butter. Roll over other half of dough to cover apples. Seal edges. Brush with cream or milk. Prick with fork to create several steam holes and cook in a 350 oven until golden, about 20 minutes. Makes a nice after-school or after-work snack).

Although the mixture of ingredients may sound strange — mixing swiss chard with raisins and parmesan cheese — they work well together to create a dish that can be served as a main course with a salad or as a dessert. It’s a sweet and savory tried-and-true classic that has been enjoyed in Provence for many generations.


February 6, 2013
: Difficult


  • For the pastry dough:
  • Flour (About 4 1/2 cups)
  • Eggs (2 large)
  • Sugar (2/3 cup)
  • Butter (2 sticks or 8 oz. of softened butter)
  • Salt (just a pinch)
  • Water (About 1/2 cup or a little more
  • just enough to make the dough)
  • For the filling:
  • Swiss chard (1 bunch or about a dozen large leaves)
  • Parmesan cheese (1/4 cup, grated)
  • Brown Sugar (3/4 cup)
  • Golden Raisins (4 oz., I used regular dark raisins but the recipe calls for light golden ones)
  • Marc or Grappa (Just enough to cover the raisins to marinate them.)
  • Olive oil (1 tablespoon)
  • Pine nuts (4 oz.)
  • Eggs (2 large)
  • Apples (about 1-2 large, peeled and sliced)
  • Powered sugar (just enough to dust the torte after it’s cooked).
  • Step 1 Combine all of the ingredients for the pastry dough in a small bowl, adding the water a little bit at a time at the end until most of the flour and ingredients are absorbed and a good ball of dough is formed.
  • Step 2 Turn out the ball of dough onto a floured board and knead several times until the ingredients are mixed well and a smooth dough is formed. Form a ball with the dough, put it back in the bowl, cover with a towel and put in a cool place (the refrigerator is a good spot). Let rest about an hour.
  • Step 3 Soak the raisins in either Marc or Grappa in a small bowl. Let rest about an hour.
  • Step 4 Wash the swiss chard and strip it from its stem (you can throw out the stems or save for another day). An easy way to do this is to make your hand like a cat’s claw and drag the stem between your forefinger and middle finger. Boil swiss chard in a covered pot for just a few minutes. Take it out. Drain well and chop it. Place it in a bowl.
  • Step 5 Drain the raisins and add to the bowl with the swiss chard. Add all other filling ingredients, except for the apples and powdered sugar, and mix well.
  • Step 6 Butter your tart tin or springform pan.
  • Step 7 Cut pastry dough into two equal pieces. Roll out one of the pieces on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin until it’s flat (about 1/4 inch thick). Cut dough to fit your tart tin or springform pan with some dough coming up the sides. Press the bottom and sides of the pan with the dough.
  • Step 8 Add the filling. Top with the peeled and sliced apples.
  • Step 9 Roll out the remaining piece of dough. Place it ontop being careful to seal the ends by pinching it all around. Take a fork and prick the top so that steam can escape while it cooks.
  • Step 10 Place in a 350 oven until golden. This took about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Check it from time to time to make sure it doesn’t burn.
  • Step 11 Cool on a rack. Dust with powdered sugar.


Meal Plan: Blending French, Italian, Old and New in Southern France

Meal Plan: Blending French, Italian, Old and New in Southern France

(Above: Nice is a fun city that does a great job of blending the old and the new.)

Nice is in Southern France, near the Italian border, and so the cuisine there is a mixture of Italian and French. On our first visit we ate well and were able to pick up some great recipes: some that blend both cuisines and some that take classics and make them new.

Aerial view of the beach in Nice
(The French Riviera in Nice is a great summer spot with many wonderful flavors to explore.)

Three of these recipes we got from our favorite restaurant there, La Zucca Magica: a vegetarian restaurant with dishes so rich, no one missed the meat. Unfortunately, that restaurant has closed but I still have very fond memories of one of the best meals I’ve ever had.


Man sitting on a bench overlooking the port in Nice.
(La Zucca Magica, aka the Magic Pumpkin, was located near the port.)


Meal Plan: Mostly Vegetarian

When we got back, we had several dinner parties, including one with this meal plan:


First course: Cantaloupe Gazpacho With Crispy Prosciutto. (Recreated from Le Comptoir in Nice)

A bowl of orange cantaloupe soup.


Second course: Tomato Stuffed With Pasta Salad. (From La Zucca Magica in Nice)

Tomato stuffed with pasta


Third course: Chard Stuffed with Risotto and Mozzarella. (From La Zucca Magica in Nice)

Stuffed swiss chard.


If you want to have a completely vegetarian dinner, you can either omit the prosciutto in the first course or you can serve this dish instead: Patata Ball in Tomato Sauce (just substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth in this recipe). (From La Zucca Magica in Nice)

potatoes in tomato sauce


And for dessert you could serve this tried-and-true classic that has been enjoyed in Provence for many generations: La Tourte De Blettes.(From a recipe card purchased in the market in St. Remy.)

A slice of pie
(La Tourte De Blettes translates to Swiss Chard Pie, but don’t let that fool you. It is sweet and can be served as both an entree and a dessert.)


Chocolate Kahlua Rum Balls

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This is what we call “Rootliving Sugar Plums.”

Real sugar plums have nothing to do with the fruit. Instead, they’re an English hard candy that was named after the fruit because of it’s size and shape. So we figure ours have just as much right to appropriate the name, maybe even more, especially when you think of your head spinning with visions of them.


Rum balls in a snowman dish

(Above: That’s a Nora Fleming hand-painted snowman charm on a Nora Fleming napkin holder/candy dish.)


These devilish treats will have your head spinning with visions because you don’t cook them so the alcohol doesn’t burn off. Beware: they pack a potent punch (and aren’t fit for children).

They’re easy to make, making them a good last-minute gift for friends and family. You simply melt some chocolate and add rum and Kahlua (and a few other baking ingredients). And then you add that mixture to some crumbled vanilla wafers and chopped walnuts. Roll them into balls and coat with sugar.


Rum balls on a cookie sheet


They should also be refrigerated overnight. They’ll keep for about five days in the fridge. Get the complete recipe below.



Santa ornament with rum balls
These are easy and quick to make. However, you’ll want them to rest in the refrigerator overnight before eating.

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Chocolate Kahlua Rum Balls

December 23, 2010
: Easy


  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (about 12 ounces)
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 6 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup of dark rum
  • 1/4 cup of Kahlua
  • 5 cups of finely crushed vanilla wafer cookies (about 11 ounces)
  • 2 cups of finely chopped walnuts
  • Step 1 Stir chocolate in top of a double boiler set over simmering water until melted. Or microwave on high for about 45 seconds at at time, stir, and repeat until fully melted.
  • Step 2 Whisk in 1 cup of sugar and the corn syrup, then the rum and Kahlua.
  • Step 3 Mix the vanilla wafers and the walnuts in a bowl and blend.
  • Step 4 Add the chocolate mixture and stir to blend well.
  • Step 5 Place remaining 1 cup of sugar in a shallow bowl. For each ball, roll a teaspoon of the chocolate mixture into a 1-inch ball.
  • Step 6 Roll the balls in sugar to coat evenly.
  • Step 7 Cover and refrigerate at least overnight and up to five days.

Pane alla Cioccolata (Chocolate Bread)

Pane alla Cioccolata (Chocolate Bread)

(Above: This light, fluffy bread with chocolate chips takes several hours to make because the dough needs to rise twice.)

This is great with a cup of coffee or a glass of red wine. It’s not too sweet. The recipe comes from “The Italian Baker” cookbook, by Carol Field.

I’ve made this several times before but this time it tasted better than ever. The texture was light and more like soft Italian bread. In the past, it’s had more of a cake consistency. I think the difference was sifting the flour (actually I don’t own a flour sifter and instead push the flour through a fine sieve with a butter knife) and using a food processor (instead of working it all by hand).

In the past I’ve spread cream cheese over each slice but this time I splurged and used Mascarpone. I’ll never use anything else or make it any other way.

This recipe makes two round loaves.

Pane alla Cioccolata (Chocolate Bread)

January 5, 2010

This takes several hours to make because the dough needs to rise twice.


  • 1 package (2 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/3 cup, plus 1 tbsp, warm water
  • 4 1/2 cups of unbleached, all-purpose flour (sifted or pushed through a fine sieve with a butter knife)
  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 tbsp, sugar
  • 1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 1 1/4 cups of warm water
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp butter, at room temperature, cut up into four pieces
  • 1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips
  • Step 1 Stir the yeast and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar into 1/3 cup, plus 1 tbsp of warm water in a small bowl. Let stand until foamy (about 10 min.)
  • Step 2 Put the flour, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a food processor fitted with a dough blade. Process with several pulses to mix well.
  • Step 3 Stir 1 1/4 cups of cold water and the egg yolk into the dissolved yeast.
  • Step 4 Put the pieces of butter ontop of the dry ingredients in the food processor.
  • Step 5 With the food processor running, pour the yeast mixture through the feed tube as quickly as the flour can absorb it and process it until the dough gathers into a ball.
  • Step 6 Process for another 40-45 seconds, pouring the chocolate chips through the feed tube during the last 10 seconds.
  • Step 7 If necessary, knead dough a little more on a floured surface until it is velvety, elastic, and moist.
  • Step 8 First Rise: Put dough in an oiled bowl and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Let it rise until doubled (about 2 hours).
  • Step 9 Second Rise: Punch the dough down and cut it in half on a lightly floured surface. Shape each piece into a round or oval loaf and place on an oiled baking sheet. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled (about 1 hour).
  • Step 10 Heat the oven to 450 degrees and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake 30 minutes longer.
  • Step 11 Cool completely on a rack before slicing. Spread Mascarpone cheese on a slice and enjoy. Makes a good dessert or breakfast treat.


Christmas Befana Cookies

Christmas Befana Cookies

(Above: My grandmother’s recipe makes about 200 cookies. Here, I cut the recipe in half.)


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La Befana is an old woman who visits children in Italy on Jan. 6 in celebration of the Epiphany. Similar to Santa Claus, she enters their homes through the chimney in order to deliver gifts.

A bowl filled with wet and dry cookie ingredients
This recipe is pretty easy as you just dump all of the cookie dough ingredients in a bowl and stir.


Small towns throughout Italy celebrate her arrival each year, including Barga, in northern Italy, near where my family is from. Many people from Scotland have settled in this area and this year the local school put on an outdoor show, featuring Father Christmas and La Befana.


Cookies on a sheet before they're baked
The egg white in the red mixture makes the filling expand in the oven.


My grandmother used cookie cutters shaped like the four suits on playing cards. When I made these all I had was the spade cutter, which I used along with a star-shaped cookie cutter. Since then, I was able to purchase on the secondary market the other suit-shaped cookie cutters.)


Cookies on a sheet right out of the oven
Fresh out of the oven. You have to watch these so they don’t burn.


My grandmother, Bruna, made these Befana cookies every Christmas. Requiring 8 cups of flour, her recipe made enough of these biscuit-like treats to last well past Valentine’s Day. Here, I’ve cut her recipe in half, which still makes about 100 cookies.


Santa Claus with Befana cookies and milk
Ha! Even Santa celebrates La Befana.


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Christmas Befana Cookies

December 16, 2009
: Medium


  • For the cookie:
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 sticks of butter
  • Skin of 1/2 orange, grated
  • Skin of 1/2 lemon, grated
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • Milk, just enough to work with (about 1/4 – 1/2 cup)
  • Crisco shortening (enough to grease a few cookie sheets)
  • For the filling:
  • 1/2 cup of almonds
  • Sugar (1/4 cup plus 1/8 cup)
  • Skin of 1/2 orange, grated
  • Skin of 1/2 lemon, grated
  • Vanilla (1/2 tsp.)
  • 1/2 ounce of Anisette or Whiskey
  • 1 drop of red food coloring
  • 1/16 tsp. of cinnamon
  • 1 egg white (beaten until foamy)
  • Step 1 To make the cookie dough: Put all cookie ingredients in a bowl and stir well to blend ingredients.
  • Step 2 Put flour over your hands and over a flat surface. Take dough from bowl and knead a few times until all ingredients are blended well.
  • Step 3 Take large chunks of the dough and roll it out on a floured surface with a rolling pin covered with flour. Roll it out to about 1/4-inch thickness.
  • Step 4 Grease a couple of cookie sheets by spreading Crisco shortening over them and then flouring them.
  • Step 5 Take your cookie cutters and cut out cookies. Put on a greased baking sheet and with your index finger, make a small indentation in each one (This is where the filling will go.)
  • Step 6 To make the filling: Put almonds and sugar in a food processor and mix until very fine. Empty into a small bowl.
  • Step 7 Add the rest of the filling ingredients, except for the egg white, and mix well. Then fold in the egg white.
  • Step 8 Put a small drop of the filling on each cookie and bake in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes, until the cookies turn a dark golden brown on the bottom. (Note: You only need about a 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of filling for each cookie as the egg white makes the mixture expand during cooking.) (Warning: If the cookies are too thin, they will cook quickly and could burn if you don’t watch them.)
  • Step 9 Let them cool on a rack and bake the rest in batches.