Festive Dessert:: Italian Almond Cake

Panforte Ice Cream Affogato with Italian Almond Cake | http://annettejosephstyle.com/
Earlier this week, I shared my recipe for meatless lasagna, my ultimate Italian comfort food! If you’re entertaining family and friends over the next few weeks, the lasagna would be a wonderful dish to serve. Of course, all meals are made even more complete with a fantastic dessert. Pair the lasagna with almond cake. You’ll love this recipe for Italian Almond Cake by Alisa Barry.

Grazie Mille Alisa, molto buono! xx

Italian Almond Cake

You will need:

– 7 oz. almond paste
– 2/3 cup sugar
– 1/2 cup almond meal
– 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
– 1 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla
– 6 eggs
– ¾ cup all purpose flour
– 2 teaspoons baking powder
– ¼ tsp. salt

Note: This is one of my favorite (and so easy!) dessert recipes adapted from Chez Panisse Desserts cookbook. I like to add locally milled almond meal for flavor and texture, but you can substitute with all purpose flavor if not available. You can also make it gluten free by using more almond meal instead of flour. It will be more dense, but nonetheless delicious! The beauty of this dessert is that it can be made a day ahead of time, the flavor actually improves as it sits.

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

In a food processor, blend the almond paste, sugar and almond meal until finely ground. Add the butter and vanilla . Process the ingredients until creamed. Add the eggs one at a time with the processing running until the batter is smooth. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the food processor and mix just until combined .

Pour the batter into buttered and floured 8 inch spring form pan.

Bake at 325 degrees for one hour or until toothpick is dry when inserted. Remove from the oven to cool on a rack.

Serve with warm or at room temperature.

Photo Credit: John McDonald

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My Comfort Food:: Meatless Lasagna

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This meatless lasagna is something I love to make for friends and family. It’s the quintessential comfort food, especially during cold winter days. If you’re looking for a few easy meals to prepare for large groups in the coming weeks, give this one a try. It’s a crowd pleaser!

Meatless Lasagna
Serves 12-14

You will need:
– 1 package lasagna noodles (you will need 12 noodles)
– 3 tablespoons olive oil
– 2 cloves of garlic finely minced
– 2 cups mushrooms cut into thin slices
– 6 cups Spinach
– 1 16.oz ricotta ( low fat is fine)
– 2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese (reserve 1 cup for the topping)
– 1 egg
– 1 teaspoon dried oregano
– 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese (reserve ½ cup for the topping)
– 1 16 oz jar prepared marinara sauce (or your own sauce recipe)

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To prepare noodles:

Preheat Oven 400 degrees F

Prepare noodles according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Note: once the noodles are cooked, I like to rinse them in cool water and then leave them in the water until I am ready to layer the pan, this makes them not stick together.

To prepare filling:

Combine the ricotta, 2 cups of mozzarella cheese, and the 1 cup Parmesan cheese, oregano and egg in a bowl and combine until smooth. Set aside.

In a saute pan, add oil, garlic and mushrooms. Saute until browned, then toss in the spinach and saute the spinach and mushrooms until all the moisture in the pan has evaporated. You want the mixture as dry as possible.

To layer:

Separate the noodles in the water some of them may have stuck together, then drain in a colander. I like to line up my fillings and the noodles.

In a lasagna pan (9”x13)” lay in the layer of noodles, 3 to 4 is perfect. Then add the sauce about (1/2 cup), the spinach mushroom filling, and then dollops of the ricotta filling (about 3 tablespoon dollops), finishing off the layer with a sprinkle of shredded Mozzarella ( about 1/2 cup). Repeat this process 3 times, each time starting with the noodle layer. The top layer should be the noodles, sauce and the 1 cup of Mozzarella and ½ cup of Parmesan make sure to cover the entire top layer.

Bake in the oven for 40 minutes at 400 degrees F. Let it set up for 15-20 minutes before serving.

xx Annette

 

 

 

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Easy and Stunning DIY Hanging Wreath

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I first created this easy DIY project a few years ago when I was asked to participate in the Home Depot Holiday Style Challenge, and it’s still one of my favorite projects. I always loved the idea of doing a holiday table under the arbor in our backyard, and this challenge gave me an opportunity to see it through.

Since we usually have mild temperatures for the holidays, consider moving your holiday dinner outdoors. You can recreate this look in your own backyard with just a few supplies, and I promise guests will be super impressed with the finished product: a DIY hanging wreath! It’s easy and really pretty.

DIY Hanging Wreath

You will need:
– 1 6 foot garland
– 3 – 4 ornaments
– Twine for securing the ornaments
– Ribbon for hanging
– Floral wire

To create:

1. Form the garland into a circle.

2. Secure the wreath in 3 places with floral wire.

3. Attach the ornaments with twine.

4. Using 4 pieces of ribbon about 3 feet long, tie the wreath to your light fixture or chandelier. Note: this can be suspended from the ceiling with longer pieces of ribbon or with hooks.

Happy Holidays!

xx Annette

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Make Ahead Holiday Dessert:: Salted Chocolate Pots de Crème

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One thing that’s super important when it comes to hosting is to be a stress-free hostess. A key to remaining calm and collected is to make a few dishes ahead of time. Pots de Crème are a lovely way to end a meal, and they happen to be a great make ahead dessert choice. In fact, these can be made up to two days in advance! It’s an elegant, indulgent dessert that’s sure to wow your guests. Let me know if you give them a try; I’m confident you’ll love it if you do!

Salted Chocolate Pots de Crème
Serves 6-8

You will need:
1 ½ cup whole milk
– 1/2 cup whipping cream
– 5 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
– 1 teaspoon sea salt, or flake salt
– 6 large egg yolks
– 1/3 cup sugar
– 1 cup whipped cream for topping

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Bring milk and cream just to simmer in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and salt; whisk until melted and smooth. Whisk yolks and sugar in large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in hot chocolate mixture. Strain mixture into another bowl. Cool 10 minutes, skimming any foam from surface.

Divide custard mixture among six 3/4-cup custard cups or soufflé dishes. Cover each with foil. Place cups in large baking pan. Add enough hot water to pan to come halfway up sides of cups. Bake until custards are set but centers still move slightly when gently shaken, about 55 minutes. Remove from water. Remove foil. Chill custards until cold, about 3 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.) Top with whip cream, and serve.

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Hanukkah is here! Time for Latkes!

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Every year my kids look forward to our Hanukkah meal. We light the candles, say a prayer, open little gifts and then sit down together for our traditional meal. I roast free range chicken, and I make homemade sweet potato + yukon potato latkes with homemade applesauce. I also usually toss together a sweet and savory salad with a balsamic vinaigrette. It’s a meal that incorporates all the flavors while bringing back warm memories from the years we’ve enjoyed this celebration of light together.

If you’re celebrating Hanukkah this year, give my yellow and gold latkes recipe a try, and don’t skip the apple sauce. It might be the best part.

Yellow and Gold Latkes
serves 4 to 6
You will need:

– 3 medium size sweet potatoes
– 3 medium size yukon gold potatoes
– 2 eggs
– 1/4 cup matzo meal
– 1 small yellow onion diced
– salt and pepper to taste
– 1 cup olive oil
To prepare:

Prepare a paper towel lined cookie sheet for finished latkes.

Hand grate potatoes, so they are shredded. Add salt and set aside for 10 minutes.

By hand, squeeze liquid out of the potatoes, transfer to another mixing bowl.

Add eggs, matzo meal and diced onion and mix.

Note: if the potatoes still have some water, it’s fine to add 1 more egg and more matzo meal to bind.

In a large skillet put 1/4 cup oil and heat. Drop in latke mix with a spoon forming small pancakes.

Fry in the oil until golden and crispy.

Place cooked latke pancakes on the towels to drain oil, and continue to fry the latkes and drain. You will need to continue to add oil to the skillet as you continue to fry the latkes. Place the cooked, and drained latkes in the oven on low until guests arrive.

Serve with homemade applesauce and sour cream, or non fat plain greek yogurt.

Homemade Applesauce
You will need:
– 3 to 4 lbs of peeled, cored, and quartered apples
– 4 strips of lemon peel – use a vegetable peeler to strip 4 lengths
– Juice of one lemon, about 3-4 Tbsp
– 3 inches of cinnamon stick
– 1/4 cup of dark brown sugar
– Up to 1/4 cup of white sugar
– 1 cup of water
– 1/2 teaspoon of salt

 

To prepare:

Put all ingredients into a large pot. Cover. Bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Remove from heat. Remove cinnamon sticks and lemon peels.

Mash with potato masher.  Place in the fridge. It should last for 2 weeks in the fridge.

Latkes photo by Stephanie Meyer for Food & Wine 
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