Thank you friends! 2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 50,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 12 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.


After Divorce, life goes on….

So much has changed since my last post.  I’m in the middle of a divorce right now, but it isn’t a bad thing.

I’m discovering more about myself and the journey continues.  There will be food, but as you know, it isn’nt all about the food.

Walking the path…

Chocolate Orange Biscotti

Oh my goodness, it’s almost Christmas.  I am not as prepared as I’d like to be, because Mother Nature decided this is as good a time as any to send the Mother of All Life Changes and give me the gift of, a somewhat early, menopause!   (As if dealing with a spinal nerve cyst and surgery wasn’t enough in one year!)

I think the Universe gives me more credit than I deserve, by thinking I can handle so many changes at once.  Oh well, it is what it is and life is too precious to whine and complain (not that I haven’t), so now you know why I’ve been absent for so long, and I thank those of you who have missed me and expressed it in email or by phone.

I haven’t been doing a whole lot of cooking or baking.  My husband has been forced to learn to cook, and I must say, he is doing quite well.  As a matter of fact, I’m feeling a bit threatened by his ability to make spaghetti sauce that tastes so much like mine.  It’s a good thing I didn’t tell him how to make the cassata.   That cassata recipe is going with me to my grave.  😉

Life is a mystery, kind of like the box of chocolate Forrest Gump talked about.   It’s also like trying a new recipe.   Sometimes you get a prize winning dish, sometimes it’s mediocre, and other times it’s an absolute disaster.  That pretty much sums up my year.  The thing to remember, is when you get the disaster,  you must never forget that a prize day is sure to follow.  It always does.  Always.

Speaking of a prize–I found an amazing recipe for biscotti, on  I made a few changes, and now I have the best biscotti I’ve ever made in my life!  I want to share the recipe, and the changes I made, with all of you.


Chocolate-Orange Biscotti RECIPE

Click on link above for recipe.

The following are my ingredient changes:

I added 2 Tbsp coarsely grated orange zest, instead of 1 Tbsp

3 Tbsp Orange Contreau- instead of 2 Tbsp Orange Liqueur

1/2 tsp orange extract

6 ounces Chocolate Chunks (60%), instead of bittersweet chocolate

Angelnina’s NOTES:

I do not like my biscotti rock hard. I baked the first baking for 20-25 minutes and the second baking about 15 minutes.  My family prefers them lightly toasted on the outside, but still tender.

Bon Appetit hit the jackpot with this recipe!

Toasted pecans cooling

I love how pretty the dough looks with the orange zest, chocolate, and pecans!

Pre-shaped dough ready for first bake

After first bake

The flavors of this cookie take me back to when I was a child, visiting my Italian grandparents in upstate New York.  Orange and chocolate in a cookie, is like a bit of heaven, or nirvana, or whatever blissful place you wish to visit!


Happy baking and Happy holidays!

Italian Cookies~ Vintage Ware~My Life as a Vagabond (repeat blog)

Please Note:  I am repeating this blog because these make great cookies for Christmas giving.  I’ve been struggling with a few health issues, but I feel confident I’ll be back in the game soon!

I am a cookie fanatic! This past week, I decided I wanted to bake a few of the Italian cookies I had eaten when I was a child in upstate New York.

As I’ve said before, “Cooking with Grace”, is one of my favorite Italian cookbooks because her recipes are so similar to the Italian American foods I remember my great Grandma Defranco serving. I decided to attempt a few of her cookie recipes, and I’m so happy I did!


Millie’s Orange Drop Cookies
Biscotti all’Arancia

For the cookie dough:
1/2 c unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 c unbleached all-purpose flour
5 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 c whole milk
2 large eggs
1 Tbso grated orange zest
1 tsp orange extract (I used a good extract and added a few drops of orange liquer)

For the Frosting:
1 1/2 c confectioner’s sugar
4-5 Tbsp evaporated milk
1 tsp orange extract

Prepare oven with one rack on bottom shelf and the other on second from the top shelf.
Preheat to 350 degrees. Line 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar with electric mixer. In another bowl, sift flour with baking powder and salt; set aside.

Pour milk into glass measuring cup and heat in microwave to warm (30 seconds). Add eggs and orange rind and extract to the measuring cup and mix with a fork. Add the milk mixture to the creamed butter-sugar-mixture and beat for one minute with mixer.

With mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture about 1/2 cup at a time until mixture is used.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoonsfuls onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets, leaving 1″ space around each cookie.

Bake the first sheet for 8 minutes on the bottom rack; then transfer it to the upper rack and continue baking for 7 minutes. When you transfer the first sheet to the top, place a second sheet on the bottom rack, continuing to bake each sheet on the bottom rack for 8 minutes on the bottom rack and 7-8 minutes on the upper rack. Remove the cookies from the oven as they turn golden. Cool for 2 minutes on cookies sheets, then place on wire racks to cool completely before frosting.

To Frost:
Combine confectioner’s sugar, milk, and orange extract–stir until dissolved.
use your index finger like a paint brush to frost each cookie on all sides, including the bottoms, and set them on a rack to dry. Be sure to cover in the glaze frosting to seal them–that way the glaze holds in the moisture.

Store in an air tight container up to one week or freeze them in a heavy duty freezer bag for up to three months. Try to remove as much air as possible from the freezer bag before sealing. You may opt to frost the frozen cookies after you’ve defrosted them rather than before.

These are perfect with a cup of coffee or hot tea. A little reminiscent of a scone–only a bit more sweet.




My second batch of cookies are called:

Chocolate Spice Cookies
Biscotti Speziati al Cioccolato

I’m too tired to print out the entire recipe, but if you love Italian American food, I really encourage you to get your hands on this book. The darker cookies in the first photo are the Chocolate SPice Cookies. They aren’t particularly chocolate tasting–more spice. I’m still searching for the ones I had as a kid which I remember as tasting more like chocolate.

I have not tried the following recipes but they’re pretty close to what I made. Grace’s book called for currants–I didn’t add them, I did however add chopped pecans. I used a vanilla powdered sugar glaze rather than the cocoa glazes here. You really need to cover the entire cookie with the glaze to keep them nice and moist.

These cookies are a cake like cookie.


Another thrift store find:
TOTAL: $1.80
As a kid, my family moved so often, I practically grew up in a car, stopping at roadside diners and truck stops to eat. The cups in the photo above remind me of those cafes. I remember my parents would sometimes try to drive straight through from the west coast back to New York. On a few moves they would stop at midnight–or later–to have coffee. I usually ordered a hot chocolate. Searching for my shoes in the dark and climbing out of a loaded car into an often freezing cold night, made sitting in a warm, well lit diner, feel like a special treat. I suppose my attraction to diner ware has something to do with those memories.
My mother and I sat down one day and wrote down every move we had ever made. I just looked at the list and see she forgot to add Houston, Texas.
The old photo below was taken on one of our 66 (possibly 67) moves.
I’m the girl standing up on the back seat holding something that resembles food in my hand. I have no idea what it is. I often stood while we drove. Remember when seat belts were just those hard metal things that hurt your bum when you sat on one? I just kept trying to shove them out of the way or stuff them under the back seat cushion. Times have changed.

Photobucket <

Farfalle with Mushrooms and Sausages

Have you seen this beautiful Farfalle pasta by Torino?  I was shopping at World Market’s Cost Plus, when this jumped out at me!  Look at the beautiful colors.

It cost more than what I like to spend on pasta, but I couldn’t pass this up.  They call it “designer” pasta.  I’m not into designer fashion, but apparently I’m a sucker for designer pastas now.

The recipe on the back of the box made my final decision.   It’s SO simple to make and it tastes so fresh and earthy!

Farfalle with Mushrooms and Sausages

Adapted from Torino pasta recipe

8.8 ounce farfalle pasta

6 ounce mushrooms (possibly porcini or 2 ounce dry porcini put in water to soften for 2-3 hours)I used a package of wild Italian mushrooms I found at World Market

6 oz fresh sweet sausage-I used Italian sausage from Whole Foods

5 oz white wine

1/4 white onion

1/2 clove garlic- I used whole

1 oz extra virgin olive oil

2 oz light cream — I used whole milk

3 oz grated pecorino or parmesan cheese- I used both

pepper and salt to taste

In a skillet, sautee x-tra virgin olive oil with garlic and onion–finely chopped.  Add the sausage without skin, and cook for 5 minutes to color.  Add the mushrooms and cook slowly and add the white wine.   When it looks ready, add the salt and pepper and light cream.

Cook the pasta al dente in plenty of salted water.  Drain pasta and place in the sauce skillet mix on top of stove for 2 minutes and then serve with cheese.

The mushrooms are SO earthy!

I served it with chardonnay


Simple enough for a weeknight meal, and flavorful enough to impress company.

Spanakopita and Gardening in April/May

Spanakopita or Spinach Pie


Adapted from a recipe posted online–years ago–by Jack Roemer

14 Phyllo Pastry sheets

2 cloves garlic, crushed

4 Tbsp olive oil + 4 Tbsp melted butter

spray olive oil

40 ounces frozen spinach, chopped  OR 2 – 16oz pack

1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian(flat leaf) parsley

1/4 cup chopped sweet onion

3  Tbsp fresh chopped dill

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 cup cottage cheese –I use lowfat

1 egg

6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

a light sprinkling of white wine vinegar- approx 2 tsp


Thaw and drain the 2- 16oz packages of spinach.

Crush the garlic and drop into the olive oil and butter. Set aside.

To make the filling, squeeze the spinach between your hands to remove most of
the liquid.   Place in a bowl or in a food processor.   Add the parsley, onions,
dill, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir in the cottage cheese, egg and
feta.  —NOTE– I do it all in the processor except for the feta. — Combine well. Lightly coat a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Lay one sheet of phyllo in the bottom of the dish and drape the edges overthe
sides of the dish. Spray lightly with cooking spray and cover with another sheet of phyllo dough.   Brush that sheet with the garlic-olive oil mixture.

Layer a total of four sheets, coating each alternately with nonstick cooking spray and olive oil. Spread half the filling over the prepared phyllo dough. Lay another sheet of dough over the filling and coat lightly with cooking spray.   Lay down another sheet and lightly coat with olive oil mixture. Continue alternating spray and olive oil for a total of four
sheets. Layer remaining spinach filling on dough.  Sprinkle on the vinegar-as evenly as possible.

Continue layering phyllo dough over the filling, spraying the first sheet and alternately brushing with olive oil and spraying subsequent sheets.  The last layer has 6 sheets.

When finished, brush the surface with olive oil mixture and roll the edges of the doughin ward to create an attractive rim around the outside.  Score the surface with a sharp knife into 12 portions.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Bake for 40 minutes until golden.  I turn on the broiler at this point for 1-2 minutes (keep pan in center of oven) WATCH IT,  or you will burn the top layer!  Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.  Makes 12 portions.

Test kitchen notes: Phyllo means “leaf” in Greek. The dough is usually available in the frozen food section of most supermarkets or in Greek or Middle Eastern markets. For best results, allow dough to defrost overnight in the refrigerator.   Keep it covered with wax paper and a damp towel while making pie.

The Gardens in April and Early May

I’ve decided to post my gardens once a month.  I want to document the stages of growth.

This is the time of year I start to get excited about gardening.   I love my flowers, but I especially love the vegetable and herb gardens.

That said, I planted an assortment of flowers from seed this year.  I rarely do this, but my cousin , MaryAnne, who lives in upstate New York, sent me seeds from her own flower gardens and a packet of Honey Bear Sunflower seeds, which means I might have a new passion.  I’ll post on those as soon as the seeds germinate.

The terracotta pot above is my husband’s great find.  It is from Mexico, and I thought a few coral colored begonias,  double pink impatiens, along with a few chicks from my Hens and Chicks plants, would look lovely in this pot.

The portable greenhouse is filled with starts and seedlings:

Tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, artichoke, basil,  and squash are waiting to go under the cloche of the front gardens.

Flowering seeds are in their little seed pots too.

As you can see, the backyard garden has plenty of cool weather plants:

lettuce, radish, beets, onions, spicy mixed lettuces, carrots, broccoli,  and several herbs.

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Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake w/ Faux Ganache~ My dog’s birthday party cake!

I’ve been out of commission for a while.  Back surgery.  Needless to say, before my surgery I was a bit stressed.   Rather than lie around and worry about the outcome, I decided to do something cheerful.  My little dog, Giovanni, turned 6 years old on March 1st.  What better way to cheer myself than to throw a party?

Yes, I know I’m running the risk of being labeled “Crazy Dog Lady”.   I’ve been called worse names than that, so I set out to give Giovanni a party.   I invited a few close girlfriends and family members.

I baked a chocolate bundt cake, and Mark made a huge pot of his famous Turkey Chili.

Giovanni’s party invitation was posted on Face Book because everybody seems to check their Face Book page more often than their telephone messages.   The invitation made it clear that this wasn’t going to be one of those “do gooder” parties where people tell you not to bring a gift.  I mean, a dog’s life is limited and this boy loves a new toy.

I was expecting people to tease me, but instead I was a little taken aback by how quickly people replied to the invitation, and everybody sounded so excited.

“We wouldn’t miss it!”

“We’ll be bringing more than one gift!”

“OH! Can’t wait to see little Gio!”

Maybe dog really is man’s best friend.  All of a sudden I realized how much power I have as the owner of a cute little dog that my friends and family seem to adore.  What if I told people Giovanni is now into Le Creuset cookware?  It’s possible, right?

Some of the guests arrived with fancy decorated gift bags filled with tissue wrapped toys and dog apparel.  A few others just kept the toy in the store bag–Gio didn’t care.  He isn’t picky.  Toys that squeak, chew toys, soft fur covered toys, fancy doggy sweaters, and then some!

It was all going swimmingly, until….

Giovanni looked more excited than I had ever seen him before.   He had opened every single gift—all 19 of them.  Yes, that’s right, 19 toys!  I never knew squeakers could be so loud.

I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown.  We all sat in chairs circling the panicky, shaking, drooling, panting, now extremely hyper-active Giovanni!

He was out of control and looked like he was going to pass out at any minute.   Giovanni was now the center of our Universe, and he knew it.   This was just too much for a little five pound pooch.    When I saw his eyes start to roll back into his head, I moved the party guests into the dining room for dinner and tried to hide a few of his toys .

Greedy boy that he is, he followed me staring longingly at each “hiding place” I stuffed a toy in.   He glared at me with his piercing brown eyes.  I knew he was asking, “Whose party is this anyway?”

People, this went on for days, until Mark finally hid the toys in the garage.  I was happy to make Mark the heavy.

The chili was a hit, the cake was a huge success, and  when the guests left, I felt as though I had just thrown a party for a very spoiled toddler.   I was exhausted.   We went to bed early that night.

I’m four weeks out of surgery.  Still recovering from the back surgery itself, but doctor could not remove cyst because it is inside the spinal nerve.  He removed some bone and stitched me back together.    In my heart of hearts, I believe all will be well.


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Banana Blueberry Raspberry and Pecan Bread (low fat)

Quick post to share a wonderful recipe I found online.   With only 3 Tbsp of oil in 2 loaves, I thought for sure this would be too dry, but it wasn’t!  I did add an extra banana that I had frozen.  I only had a cup of blueberries, so I threw in a cup of raspberries.  I forgot to add the pecans to the batter, so I spread them over the top and pushed them down a little.

They baked much faster than the time in this recipe, so check them super early

Delicious!  Lowfat!  YUM!


Keep in mind I made several changes and you can find them

behind the cut, so click below to see mine…

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