One of my favorite memories from childhood is all of the goodies that were around during Christmas time. When visiting my father’s family, who were from Illinois, we enjoyed magic cookie bars, german chocolate cake, and my Aunt Leones red velvet cake. On the other hand, if we ended up in Alabama, with my mother’s family, we nibbled on Cousin Judy’s divinity, Aunt Carra’s pecan pie, sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie, and an array of amazing cookies.
Over the years I have tried to give my daughter these same memories. There have been many changes in my life since I was a little girl and the goodies that I make have changed also. My husband is Sicilian and when we got together he brought with him several food traditions that I have tried to incorporate with my own. One of these is what he and his siblings refer to as Chocolate Meatballs. These are little chocolate cookies in the shape of a ball and infused with clove and cinnamon. Every year I make these and an almond anise cookie that we have with our morning coffee. Once with the help of his sister we made Cuccidatas sort of an Italian fig newton. They are great but a lot of work.
The most recent change I have had to make in my holiday baking is adapting these and my own recipes to a diabetic friendly version. My husband is diabetic and I have candida so neither one of us can have sugar. Although a challenge, it’s one that I knew I could conquer. All of these recipes have been adapted to a low glycemic or sugar-free option. I have also updated them to be healthier versions of the original, use all organic ingredients and make alternative choices on things like oil. So without further ado here are the recipes.
Italian Chocolate Cookies (updated version of my husband’s family recipe)
Makes 120 cookies
2 c sugar or xylitol
1 ¾ c coconut oil melted
4 oz. cream cheese
1 c whole milk
1 c cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
3 Tb baking powder
5 c flour
1 c chopped nuts (optional)
1 c chocolate chips
1 tsp ground cloves
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
Preheat oven to 350’. In the bowl of an electric mixer cream together the sugar, cream cheese, eggs, oil, and milk until creamy smooth. Mix the dry ingredients together including the chocolate chips and make a well in the center; add the cream mixture and work into the flour until you have a dough that can be rolled out into balls. Roll out balls the size of a small meatball and place on a cookie sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool completely, you will ice them when they are cooled.
2 c confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp vanilla or orange extract
Mix these 2 ingredients together and add enough water or milk to get a syrupy consistency. Add a little water/milk at a time. Using a spoon drizzle icing over top of cookies. The icing will set up and get hard as it cools. These freeze well but make sure to let them dry well before putting them in bags to freeze.
Italian Anise Cookies or Almond Cookies (This is a versatile dough, use it to create your own special cookie)
Makes a few dozen
1 ½ c sugar or xylitol
½ cup avocado oil or other natural oil
1/8 tsp salt
2 tsp anise may substitute almond extract
3 c all-purpose flour white spelt works well too
4 tsp baking powder
1 c sliced or slivered almonds (Optional)
Preheat oven to 350’. In the bowl of an electric mixer cream the sugar and oil; add eggs, salt, and anise. Mix in the flour and baking powder until smooth. Roll out the dough into walnut sized balls and placed on greased cookie sheet (use additional flour if the dough is sticky). Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. These may also be shaped into an S or log shape, if you do this place the cookie sheet in the fridge for 15 minutes to firm up the dough.
Bourbon Pecan Pie
I created this one year’s ago. I have adapted it to work for a diabetic using coconut sugar.
1 c brown sugar or coconut sugar for diabetic friendly version
3 Tb butter
2 eggs (beaten)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup bourbon whiskey
1 ½ cup pecan halves
1 pie crust
Preheat oven to 350’. In a pan over low heat melt the butter, add the sugar and stir until melted. (If you’re using coconut sugar be careful as it likes to crystalize very quickly, as soon as the sugar begins to melt into the butter remove from heat and stir until it melts) Whisk in the vanilla, eggs, bourbon, and salt. Whisk briskly and make sure the eggs don’t cook. Place the pecans in the bottom of the pie crust and pour the syrup over top. Place in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. Check after 15 minutes to check the progress, depending on your oven it may be done at 20 minutes. It will be soft but the top will crust over and look a bit bubbly. It will set up as it cools.
This next recipe is for Banana Custard with Baileys Irish Cream. It’s not the southern version of banana pudding. This is a recipe from a dear friend that was a customer when I owned my hair salon. She and her husband were farmers and during the winter months, their pantry would sometimes become depleted. However, she still needed to make desserts for her family so she devised this recipe. I find it very versatile I use it for a cream pie filling, I make a coconut cream pie with it, I use it for banana cream pie, and this year I used it for banana pudding.
Old Fashioned Banana Custard with Baileys
1 pint half- n- half
¾ c sugar or xylitol
5 Tb all purpose or white spelt flour
In a heavy pot mix together the half-n-half and xylitol, whisk in the flour. Place the pot on medium heat, stir continuously until the custard thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Once thick stir in;
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tb butter
½ tsp nutmeg
2 Tb Baileys Irish Cream
(2-3 bananas’ for layering)
Once the butter has melted set aside and let cool. To assemble: Slice the banana’s into ¼” slices; in a 8” casserole pour 1/3 of the custard into the bottom of the dish. Arrange slices of banana on top of the custard. Continue layering in this manner and end with bananas. Top with whip cream and sprinkle with nutmeg if desired.
So when I made the custard this year I doubled the recipe and had some left over after I put together the dessert. I wanted something chocolate so I made up this one using the left over custard and adding some ganache. Try it and let me know what you think.
Chocolate Orange Tart
1 Pie Crust baked
1 ½ c vanilla custard (recipe above)
1 c dark chocolate chips
¾ c half-n-half
½ tsp orange rind
½ tsp orange extract
In a small heavy sauce pot warm the half-n-half until tiny bubbles form, Add the zest, chocolate chips, and orange extract. Stir until the chocolate melts completely. Pour mixture into cooled, baked crust, refrigerate 2-3 hours until set. Garnish with sugared orange peel it’s easier than candied.
Sugared Orange Peel
Cut peel on each orange into 4 vertical segments. Remove each segment (including white pith) in 1 piece. Cook in a large pot of boiling water 15 minutes; drain, rinse, and drain again. Cut the peel into thin strips, toss the strips in sugar until coated. Place on a cookie sheet, separate the strips, let sit in a 200’ oven for 2 or more hours until they dry out a bit and the sugar becomes tacky.