mangia con me!

Just a college girl who wants to brighten the world with food, photos and fun.

BISCOTTI COME QUESTI DI GUIDO NANNINI… Ricciarelli (Almond Cookies)!

One of our favorite things to get when we go to Italy is a box (or multiple boxes, ndb) of Guido Nannini Ricciarelli. I remember them from when I was little as these funnily-textured almond cookies covered in powdered sugar. Needless to say, at their most basic level, that’s exactly what they are. I’ve grown to appreciate them even more as an adult, especially since I am a fanatic of almonds and almond-flavored anything, and really love the “funny” texture these cookies have. After finishing the box my dad brought home from his last business trip to Siena, my mom and I went on a quest to find a recipe to recreate these cookies so we wouldn’t have to wait for an Italy trip to get them. We seemed to have hit the jackpot.

Two words—”Om Nom”… Ricciarelli!

The first thing I love about these cookies is their texture. They’re slightly crunchy on the outside from the light, harder shell that is created from the baked almonds and sugar. But right above the crunchy exterior is warmed powdered sugar, which takes on this pasty texture after it’s been cooked, and boy is it good! I love how it sticks to your fingers when you eat the cookies, so these cookies are (literally) finger-lickin’ good! The ground almonds and almond meal make the cookies slightly gritty, but nice and chewy in the middle. After you break through the crunchy top, the middle literally comes close to melting in your mouth. Perfection.

The second thing I love is the taste of these cookies. Like I said, I’m becoming somewhat of an almond fiend, and these cookies are the perfect balance of almond flavor and sugary sweetness. Next time we make these, I’d love to add some amaretto to bring out the almond flavor even more. I’m very happy with the taste because I bit into my first cookie and said in my mind, “Yep, just like Nannini’s.” Mission accomplished.

Ricciarelli

Adapted from Traveler’s Lunch Box’s recipe for Ricciarelli

Yields between 24 to 32 cookies

Ingredients:

2 cups almond meal/flour

1 cup ground almonds

1 1/3 cups granulated sugar

1 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 egg whites

2 teaspoons almond extract

Preparations:

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Mix together almond flour, ground almonds, granulated sugar, two-thirds of the powdered sugar, and baking powder in a bowl. In another bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks with the whisk attachment of an electric mixer.

3. Stir/fold egg whites into the almond mixture using a spatula. Batter should be sticky and slightly wet, and look almost crumbly. Stir in the almond extract.

4. Form oval or torpedo shapes for the cookies. I found it was easiest to take a medium sized spoon, scoop some batter into the palm of your hand, and form the cookies initially by pressing the batter down into your palm while its in the scoop of the spoon. Then, use your two palms together to form the cookie completely. Roll the cookies in the remaining powdered sugar. Put cookies onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving some room between each. Leave the cookies at room temperature for about 2-3 hours to dry out a little before baking.

5. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Bake the cookies for 30 minutes, or until lightly golden on top and a little firm on the outside (insides should still be soft). Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

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PANE COME UN PIATTO COLAZIONE… Banana Walnut Snack Bread!

With ever-ripening bananas in the kitchen and my urge to bake something that could recreate one of my favorite instant oatmeal packets (strange urge, I know), I fiddled with a recipe from Family Fresh Cooking to make a new kind of bread… Banana Walnut Snack Bread!

This bread is wicked moist! Even with all of my changes to the original recipe, I wasn’t expecting this bread to be any more moist than normal. The bananas add so much moisture, and since mine were larger bananas and super ripe, the moisture content was through the roof. Personally, I like moist bread, but if you can always downgrade the amount of banana you use. Use your own judgement depending on the size of the bananas and their ripeness.

Nevertheless, I’m happy with the taste and smell of the bread! As it was cooking, and even before when I was making the batter, the aroma was exactly the same as a prepared bowl of one of my favorite instant oatmeal breakfasts—Quaker Instant Oatmeal Banana Walnut. As a college student, I began eating oatmeal as one of many quick breakfasts I could make in my dorm room, and I still love it. There’s something oddly comforting about the oatmeal I eat, and this bread has the same flavor as my beloved breakfast bowl—just with a great, homemade touch. It’s not super sweet, but it has a mild, natural sweetness from the bananas and from the tiny bit of sugar in the batter. I love the crunch and texture of the walnuts, too. It’s a great bread to pair with coffee in the morning, or as a snack in the afternoon with a glass of milk!

Banana Walnut Snack Bread

Adapted from Family Fresh Cooking’s Banana Almond Snack Cake

Ingredients:

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup whole wheat graham flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

4 medium very ripe bananas, separated

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 egg

1/2 cup nonfat milk

1/2 cup 1% low fat milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped and separated

Preparations:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 5 x 3″ loaf pan with nonstick spray.

2. Mash 3 bananas in a bowl until there are very few chunks visible (you want these bananas smooth because the remaining banana will add chucks). Add applesauce, egg, milks, and vanilla and whisk well.

3. To the wet ingredients, add all dry ingredients (flours, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, sugar) and mix well with a spatula.

4. Chop remaining banana into medium-sized chunks and fold into batter. Add 1/4 cup of walnuts to the batter and fold to incorporate.

5. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and smooth out the top with a spatula. Sprinkle top of loaf with remaining walnuts.

6. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the loaf comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack until at room temperature. Flip cake out of the pan and slice to serve.

FRUTTA FRESCA CON CIOCCOLATO… Spiced Mango Chocolate Chip Muffins!

When I saw this unique recipe mixing two of my favorite flavors—mango and chocolate—I knew I had to try it. Especially since we just bought a very tasty mango a few days ago; it was like a sign from the food gods. I’m very glad I tried combining these two unconventional flavors—Spiced Mango Chocolate Chip Muffins!

I never really thought of combining mango and chocolate in a recipe, let alone a muffin recipe. They don’t seem like they’d work together, but trust me, they do. Very well, actually. The sweet, refreshing flavor of the mango complements the deep cocoa flavor that the semi sweet chocolate chips get after baking in the oven. The addition of some comforting spices, including cinnamon and ginger, give these muffins a special twist. The mangoes and the chocolate chips are refreshing and almost summery together, but the spices give the batter a autumn-holiday feel. Imagine mixing the fresh feelings of a bright summer day with the excitement and the smells of the holidays—best of both worlds, right?

Spiced Mango Chocolate Chip Muffins

adapted from fat girl trapped in a skinny body

yields about 2 dozen muffins

Ingredients:

2 eggs

1/4 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 1/4 cup all purpose flour

2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 1.2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 cup fresh mango, chopped (could use frozen, too)

1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Preparations:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray muffin pans with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Whisk eggs, oil, and applesauce in a small bowl and set aside.

3. In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, sugars, baking power, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix with a spatula until well combined. Add ginger, mango, and chocolate chips. Fold into batter.

4. Scoop batter into prepared muffin tins (I used a melon-baller, a small ice cream scoop would work well, too). Make sure each muffin has the same amount of batter.

5. Bake muffins for 22-25 minutes, or until tops are golden brown and a tester stuck in the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Remove pans and let rest on wire rack for 5-10 minutes. Remove muffins from pan and transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Store in an air-tight container.

BENTORNATO A CASA A MIO PADRE… Almond Butter, Oats and Chocolate Chip Cookies!

I’ve been slacking on my baking, and of course the first thing my father asks me when he got back from Siena was if I baked anything while he was gone (one-track mind, I swear). So, I took advantage of my day off and deserted kitchen today to make these little tasties — Almond Butter, Oats and Chocolate Chip Cookies!

The recipe is simple enough, just a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe with a few kinks. I cooked them for 10 minutes and they came out super soft. I’m perfectly fine with this, even if the cookies break a little along the way, it’s cool. If you prefer a more solid cookie, maybe try cooking them another 2-5 minutes. The texture is nice though—chewy and soft, with some crunchy bits around the edges.

The cookies also taste great, too! The almond butter adds a nice touch, a subtle nuttiness and definitely not overpowering, which is good. It pairs well with the sweetness of the chocolate chips, and the oats add bite, chew, and texture. I think the rich molasses-ness (hah) of the brown sugar helps bring out the almond butter flavor, and makes the entire cookie have a nice level of overall sweetness. At the end of each bite, you get a teeny tiny hint of the cinnamon coming through, too—one of mt favorite parts!

Almond Butter, Oats and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Lindsey Yeo’s recipe

Ingredients:

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

2/3 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup almond butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup oats

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preparations:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two cookie sheets with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk applesauce, almond butter, sugars, and vanilla until smooth. Add egg and whisk until well combined.

4. Stir flour mixture into wet ingredients with a spatula. Add oats and chocolate chips; stir until just incorporated.

5. Roll cookies into balls and place onto baking sheet (I used a melon-baller sized scoop, so I was able to get about 32 cookies). Give them some room on the sheets, because they will spread out.

6. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly brown around the edges. Remove from oven and let rest on sheet for 5 minutes. Remove cookies from sheet and let cool completely on a wire rack. Store in an air-tight container.

“FOOD TIP” del giorno—Poppy Seed!

courtesy of warriorcatsstarclanfanclub.webs.com

Poppy seeds are a popular ingredient to use in baked goods for added texture and a subtle nutty flavor and aroma. You can also grind poppy seeds use them to thicken sauces and sweet dips.

Check out this recipe for Passion Fruit Poppy Seed Pound Cake from Technicolor Kitchen!

COLAZIONE PER LA MIA AMICA MIGLIORE… Oat and Dried Cherry Muffins!

So it shall be a bitter-sweet weekend for me. It’s sweet because my bbff (“best black friend forever”) Imani will be coming to visit from DC! Our plan that we’ve had for at least a year will be a reality: to see the final Harry Potter movie together in Boston. That’s why the weekend will be bitter — childhood as we know it is coming to an end. Like all good things, I suppose. I wanted to make something for Imani, even though she’s not a picky eater by any means, but I wanted to have something home-baked for her to have for breakfast if she wants, and thus here’s my creation — Oat and Dried Cherry Muffins!

Like most of the recipes I make, this muffin recipe was quite simple. It was interesting because it calls for oats soaked in buttermilk. This initially confuzzled me, because I’ve never done something like that before, especially not for a muffin. I was wary about what it would do to the batter, and how it would change the texture of the muffin.

To my pleasant surprise, the buttermilk-soaked oats were wonderful. Sure, they didn’t look pretty as I poured them into the batter with the flour, but the soaked oats gave the muffins a very unique, fun texture — moist in the middle and slightly chewy. It’s not your typical muffin texture, which is what I love about it. The dark brown sugar gives the muffins a subtle sweetness, and the dried cherries really add a pop of flavor when you bite into them. I think I could have added some vanilla extract to make the batter somewhat less plain, but the recipes is good nonetheless. I also love how the edges of the muffins have a slight crisp; combined with their chewy centers, both textures make for a wonderful, simple anytime muffin!

Oat and Dried Cherry Muffins

yields 12 regular sized muffins

Ingredients:

1/2 cup rolled oats

1 cup buttermilk*

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking power

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup dried cherries

* I made a cup of buttermilk by using a cup of skim milk and adding one teaspoon of lemon juice.

Preparations:

1. In a bowl, combine oats and buttermilk and let sit for one hour.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the egg and mix.

4. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, alternating with the oat mixture. Fold in dried cherries. Do no overmix.

5. Fill the prepared cups two-thirds of the way full with batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove and let muffins sit in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from tin and let rest on wire rack until completely cooled. Store in an air-tight container.

“FOOD TIP” del giorno—Salmon!

courtesy of recipes.terra-organics.com

Salmon, unlike other delicate fish, can take on a lot of strong flavors and still hold its own. Try experimenting with different flavors with salmon recipes, such as dill, sage, basil and other spices; pesto, curry, or other marinades; or simply with lemon juice, lime juice, or any other citrus flavor.

Check out this recipe for Salmon Avocado Sandwich from Green Cilantro! Smoked salmon slices pair perfectly with creamy avocado, smooth cream cheese, and fresh chives—a yummy sandwich version of one of my favorite sushi combos!

“FOOD TIP” del giorno—Dill!

courtesy of dishinanddishes.com

Dill flavor diminishes quickly the longer you cook it, so be sure to add it to recipes toward the end of cooking for the fullest flavor possible.

Check out this recipe from Good Life Eats for Tzatziki Sauce! A traditional Greek dip, tzatziki combines dill with thick, creamy greek yogurt, tart lemon juice, and fresh cucumbers—a perfect dip to brighten any meal!

“FOOD TIP” del giorno – Molasses!

courtesy of benefitsofplants.com

Dark and light molasses are interchangeable in most baking recipes, however be aware that dark molasses will be more intense in flavor and slightly darken the final product. To reduce darkening of your baked goods, reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees F.

Check out Serious Eat’s recipe for Cranberry Walnut Hermits! The spice blend of cinnamon, allspice, and cloves pairs well with the molasses, giving these treats an almost gingerbread-y zing of flavor!

LIMONE E LAMPONI—Jumbo Lemon Raspberry Muffins!

I’ve been craving a muffin day for a while now, and these muffins really fit the bill—Jumbo Lemon Raspberry Muffins!

Raspberries have been on sale for the past week or so, and my mom went out and bought a bunch. I haven’t made muffins in a long time, so I figured I would try a berry muffin recipe. These muffins came out wonderful. Super simple to make. Full of light, bright flavor. Chewy outside with a soft, fluffy inside. Magic muffin.

The lemon extract and juice truly make the recipe. The amount is just enough so you can taste a hint of lemon (and certainly smell it when you’re making the batter and the muffins are in the oven!) but not enough to overpower the entire muffin. I love the way baked goods smell when you first bite into them or break them apart. This muffin smelled slightly sweet with a pleasantly subtle aroma of lemon. You really taste the raspberries when you bite into a spoke stained with their pink color—tart and fresh. I think the fresh raspberries also help keep the inside of the muffins moist and fluffy.

I also think that splitting the flour up—half all purpose and half whole wheat—really made a difference. I always try to make this substitution, just because I like the health benefits of whole wheat flour, but the whole wheat flour also adds texture, slight chewiness, and a hint of nutty flavor. I think it really tied all the ingredients of the muffin together nicely.

Jumbo Lemon Raspberry Muffins

(yields about 8 jumbo muffins, or 16 regular muffins)

Adapted from Taste of Home

Ingredients:

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup skim milk

1/2 cup canola oil

1 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries

Preparations:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a jumbo muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, mix flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt until well combined. Set aside.

3. In another bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, oil, lemon extract, and lemon juice. Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients until just moistened. Fold in raspberries.

4. Fill muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack completely.