Living by the Old Adage

Lemon cookies goodDid you know that lemons have health benefits – everything from possibly preventing strokes to building collagen in the skin? While you might not choose a lemon as an afternoon snack, you might be like me and opt for something lemony sweet and smooth with a cup of coffee at 3 p.m.

I always think of lemons when spring arrives with its tease of warmth – think yellow, sunshine, lemonade, and lemon vinaigrette with fresh asparagus.

The old adage of “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” seems overused, but really, is there any other way to live?

Here are two of my favorite lemon cookie recipes.

Lemon Ricotta Cookies
Pictured above, these tangy, light cookies were brought to the office by Nancy via Giada De Laurentiis of Food Network. Frankly, Nancy is the Giada of our office!

2-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
3 tablespoon lemon juice
1 lemon, zested
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 lemon, zested

In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the butter and the sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Add the dry ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon the dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let them rest on the cookie sheet for20 minutes.

Glaze: Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon onto each cookie and spread. Let the glaze harden for about two hours.

Yield: 44 cookies.

Lemon Crinkles
I adapted this easy recipe from one of my favorite bloggers, Tidy Mom.

Crinkle cookies

1 box lemon cake mix
1 8-ounce container Cool Whip
1 egg
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice with the pulp and 1/4 teaspoon of lemon zest
1/3 cup powdered sugar (for rolling)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In medium bowl, beat Cool Whip, egg, cake mix, lemon juice and zest, until well blended. Dough will be thick and sticky.

Drop a rounded teaspoon of dough into a bowl of powdered sugar and roll to coat.

Place on parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. The parchment paper is essential. Let the cookies completely cool on the sheet or they are too gooey to remove. Hint: If you don’t have parchment paper then grease a cookie sheet with Crisco and flour it. Don’t use wax paper. (I can attest to that failure.)

Winter is Dead

She turned to the sunlight
                And shook her yellow head,
She whispered to her neighbor:
“Winter is dead.”

A.A. Milne, When We Were Very Young

Although it might still be a little chilly to eat outdoors on the deck or patio, you can bring all the color and blossoms inside for an springtime buffet.

Watch my e-How video on how to pull this off and welcome your guests to your botanical buffet. For table decorations, re-purpose some of your garden implements and decorate with the colors of spring. Your food will also be inspired by the season. Some of my favorite spring-time menu items are:

Click here for my video here on How to Decorate a Serving Table for a Spring Party. (Be sure to press the “CC” button is you would like to view it with captions.)

Give Your Heart Away

When it comes to matters of the heart, there are no short cuts. That’s why you have to make these from scratch. Simple ingredients make up these Linzer Heart Tearts, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

I was thinking all day about making these but I am on a deadline, the family stuff, that project in the basement…

But, you know, the deadline always gets met, the basement project isn’t going anywhere, but Valentine’s Day comes once a year. As soon as I started baking, our son walked in the kitchen and said, “I smell goodness.”

So, make these for someone you love. Or make them for yourself. No matter who they are for, make them with love.

Happy St. Valentine’s Day to all of you!

Linzer Heart Tearts (no, that is not a typo)

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt:
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • raspberry preserves

Beat together first three ingredients (butter, sugar salt). Add egg and vanilla and beat until fluffy. (You can substitute almond extract for the vanilla extract if you like.) Add the flour until mixture forms a ball. Chill dough one hour.

Roll onto lightly floured surface, about 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out and place on ungreased cookie sheet

Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes.

Cool cookies and spread half of the cookie with raspberry preserves and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

Hint: If you want the raspberry to show, cut a small heart into the big heart.

The Cavalier Dog

I’m not talking about a nonchalant puppy. I’m talking about a 15-year-old’s foray into the kitchen.

When our son’s baseball team (The Cavaliers) wins, he’s hungry. It’s a physical hunger mixed with the thrill of victory. That’s when the mood is high and the appetite is strong. After a win on the first day of a tournament, he asked on the way home:

“Mom, what’s for dinner?”

“Pasta with meat marinara sauce, I thought we would do some carb loading for your games tomorrow.”

“Do we have any hot dogs?” he asked.

“Yes, but we are having pasta with meat sauce.”

“I know, I want that, but do we have any hot dogs? I have something I want to do.”

“Knock yourself out.” I thought to myself.

He came up with a hot dog on a bun topped with pasta and meat/marinara sauce. Was it that good he will make it again? I don’t think so, but that’s not the point.

This is where it starts with our kids. Let them go in the kitchen when they’re motivated, even if it’s not in the game plan. This is the beginning – the training – for how they will one day enjoy feeding their own families. And the kitchen isn’t just for girls. In this family, all of us consider it meaningful work to feed the family and our friends.

[Not just for Easter] Easter Pie

A woman I know told me she had so much to do to get ready for Easter…pick up her kids from college, go to the grocery store, make an Easter Pie…

Wait! Easter Pie? I had never made that! What is it? A Google search showed variations – some were pie crust pastries filled with Italian cold cuts, sausages, eggs, cheeses and ricotta cheese. The other version is a dessert made with ricotta cheese with some recipes calling for chocolate chips or candied fruit.

I chose the sweet Easter Pie, a tradition in Italian homes. (Perhaps that’s why I missed the whole Easter Pie thing.) An Internet search kept bringing me back to Giada De Lauerentiis’ recipe with toasted pine nuts and orange rind. The result was a not-overly sweet pastry with a filling resembling a rice pudding. The filo dough was buttery, crispy and light.

Make it this spring for a sweet ending to an Italian meal. Cut the pieces small and pair it with small glasses of Asti Spumante or Vin Santo.

Easter Pie
Recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis

  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar, extra for sprinkling
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoons orange zest
  • 1 (15-oz.) container whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup cooked short-grained rice
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 6 sheets phyllo sheets (if frozen, thawed)
  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted

Blend 3/4 cup of powdered sugar, eggs, vanilla, orange zest, and ricotta in a food processor. stir in the rice and pine nuts and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly butter a 9-inch glass pie dish. Lay one phyllo sheet over the bottom and up the sides of the dish, allowing the phyllo to hang over the sides. Brush the phyllo with the melted butter. Top with a second sheet of phyllo dough, laying it on the opposite direction as the first phyllo sheet. Continue layering the remaining sheets of phyllo sheets, alternating after each layer and buttering each sheet.

Spoon the ricotta mixture into the dish. Fold the overhanging phyllo dough over the top of the filling to enclose it almost completely. Brush it completely with melted butter.

Bake the pie until the phyllo is golden brown and the filling is set., about 35 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool completely. Sift powdered sugar over the pie and serve.

Don’t Eat That Cookie Dough…Yet!

I know it’s not popular advice to tell the kids not to eat raw cookie dough due to uncooked eggs, so why not make a cookie filled with something that mimics the taste and texture of uncooked chocolate chip cookie dough?

These cookies were a hit with all of us. Who doesn’t enjoy a finger full of dough every now and then? This recipe is from Chef in Training. Check it out – Nikki has a long list of imaginative cookies.

Homemade Cookie Dough Oreo Cookie Recipe

If you like cookie dough, these are for you!


  • 1 box devil’s food cake mix, dry, not prepared
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup oil


  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 envelope Dream Whip® whipped topping mix, not prepared
  • 2-4 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup mini chocolate chips

To make the cookies, mix the cake mix, eggs and oil until combined. Roll into small balls and gently flatten on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Do not over bake, cookies should be soft. Cool completely.

For the frosting, cream butter in a large bowl. Add brown sugar, vanilla and Dream Whip and cream together. Add milk, flour and powdered sugar, bet until smooth. Frosting should be somewhat thick, add as much milk as you want to reach desired consistency. stir in mini chocolate chips. Can chill frosting if you want to work with it thicker.

Frost bottom half of cookie then top it with another cookie. You can freeze the cookies and thaw and frost when ready to serve. Make about two dozen.





Trending Now — Decker

Decker is a new summer, citrus cooler to enjoy on the deck (or porch, or backyard, or by the pool, or …)

The Name

It’s not “the Decker,” it’s just Decker. The drink was named by our neighbor Bob who happened to wander over to the deck while I was experimenting with ingredients and photographing the drink on, where else, the deck?

Bob’s commentary went like this as we sipped: “It’s like Facebook. Its inventor, Mark Zuckerberg, said it’s not cool to name it the Facebook…now that I think of it, Margarita is not the Margarita, right?”

So Bob named the drink, but he added, “Well, don’t go by me or give me credit for it, I just thought Decker might be a good name.”

I replied, “And for those who want two, we’ll call it a Double Decker”

“Hey, yeah….”Bob and my husband Bill replied. “Or a double shot of Vodka to make it a Double Decker.”

Serendipitous Hospitality

You never know when it will happen. You’re fiddling around with some ingredients and before you know it, you have a new drink with a cool name thanks to someone who found his way to your backyard. Do you have a serendipitous story of hospitality?

For the record, Decker is only trending on a small corner of my deck. But, you heard it here first.

Decker Recipe

You can adjust the ingredients to taste. Here is the recipe I used, inspired by the “Barbie of Sunny Acres Cosmopolitan.” (She freezes her concoction with the ingredients ever-changing.) And, Decker isn’t as sweet as a Margarita or a Cosmopolitan (one main ingredient is Triple Sec which Barbie also omits to cut down on sweetness). They key is the fresh lime juice for a pulpy tartness.

Yield: 2-3 drinks

  • 1 lime for freshly squeezed juice, about 3 tablespoons
  • 4 ounces of citrus-flavored Vodka
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice, or 1 tablespoon of frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 3/4 cup cranberry juice

Put all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake. Pour into glasses. Garnish with orange slice and place an orange rind in the drink for extra flavor.



Ring Tum Ditty

Rarely do I write about food with only a recipe attached. There’s always a back story involving tradition, hospitality, family, and friends. Even if food prep means a tired mom or dad cobbling together leftovers to hurriedly get dinner on the table, it’s done to feed the hungry family, with love.

Isabelle Kelley, my mother-in-law, introduced me to Ring Tum Ditty. I was never sure of its spelling but I went along with it. An Internet search shows many variations of Ring Tum Ditty, but it’s usually a combination of inexpensive ingredients, tomatoes being one, and it’s meat free. It’s a simple dish Bella grew up on during the Depression, but more recently, something she made for her 11 children, most likely during Lent as a meat-less meal.

Bella didn’t rush when she prepared the ingredients with her delicate and feeble hands. Ring Tum Ditty is a comfort food and the secret’s in the Worcestershire Sauce.

The Last Memory of Ring Tum Ditty
Almost 10 years ago, I gathered the ingredients and called Bella thinking I might stop in during my lunch break, make some Ring Tum Ditty, and have a visit.

Oddly, my brother-in-law Mike answered the phone instead of Bella. I told him my lunch plan. In his usual way (he’s a fireman so he’s always steady and calm), he said, “What a nice idea, I know mom would like that but I am going to take her over to the hospital right now.”

Bella, in her 80s, never returned to her home after that day. Her 11 children all came to be with her and she passed away peacefully to join her husband in eternal life.

I’ve never forgotten that day tied up in the memory of a tomato soup-cheese-cracker combination. Every time I make the dish, I think of Bella, the big Kelley family, and being so darn lucky to be a part of it! It’s Lent, and Ring Tum Ditty makes its usual appearance.

Today’s writing is for all our departed loved ones and memories of good food, good times, and good people. Do you have a memory or recipe you would like to share? Respond to this blog or email me at

Bella’s Ring Tum Ditty

  • 1 can Campbell’s®Tomato Soup, condensed version, mixed according to the directions on can
  • 1-1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Saltine crackers, about one cup in each bowl, or to taste
  • Worcestershire Sauce®, to taste

Heat soup according to the directions on the can. Add the shredded cheddar cheese and simmer on low until all the cheese in melted throughout. Keep warm.

Crumble saltine crackers in an individual soup bowl.

Pour hot soup over the crackers. Stir to absorb soup. Add more or less soup and/or crackers until desired consistency. Top with Worcestershire sauce and eat.

Yield: 2 servings

Ding, Ding, Ding…Ladies and Gentlemen We Have a Winner!

You all answered the challenge of December 9 when I asked you to send me your cookie recipes. The deal: If I choose your recipe to feature on this blog, you win a prize from Kelley Hospitality (that’s me!).

I never said the recipe had to be an original, just a favorite and a good one. Melanie submitted Cranberry Coins by Martha Stewart. They passed my test-kitchen rigors. I made the ones in the photo with dried Montmorency cherries. Why? Because I had the cherries and didn’t have cranberries so I thought, why not? Make a batch with cranberries or cherries. Everyone will be glad you did.

Congratulations Melanie. Your prize is in the mail – four issues of Celebrate Home Magazine in print. Thanks for tuning in.

Cranberry Coins
From Martha Stewart Holiday Cookies 


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries

Beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla with a mixer until smooth.  Add flour and salt; beat just until combined.  Stir in dried cranberries.  Divide dough into quarters.

On parchment or waxed paper, shape each portion into a log about 1 ½ inches in diameter and 4 inches long.  Wrap logs tightly in parchment or waxed paper. Chill 30 minutes or up to one day. (Dough can be wrapped tightly in plastic and frozen up to one month.)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. With a sharp knife, slice dough into one-quarter-inch thick rounds. Rotate log as you cut to keep it from flattening.  Place rounds on parchment-lined baking sheets, one inch apart.

Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges just begin to turn golden, 20 to 22 minutes. Let cookies cool on sheets on wire racks. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to two weeks.

Send Me Your Christmas Cookie Recipe and Win a Prize

I would love to add some Christmas cookie recipes to my repertoire. If I choose your recipe to feature on this blog, you will receive a gift which will include four issues of Celebrate Home Magazine.

Send me your holiday best by December 15, 2013. Recipes can be cookies, candy or another sweet treat. Send recipes to my email here. May the best cookie win!

Cranberry Biscotti
Pictured above is one of my favorites — easy and a festive addition to your cookie platters. Et tu biscotti!


  • 1 package Pillsbury Cranberry Flavored Quick Bread Mix
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup white baking chips
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cups white baking chips, melted

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat large baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine quick bread mix, butter and eggs in large bowl. Stir 50 to 75 strokes with spoon until mix is moistened (dough will be stick). Stir in 1/2 cup white baking chips.

Turn dough out onto lightly-floured work surface. Shape into ball, adding flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Divide dough in half; place on prepared baking sheet. Shape each half into 9 x 3-inch loaf, placing four inches apart. Flatten tops slightly.

Bake 24-28 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 15 minutes. Cut each loaf into 3/4” slices. Place slices upright on the same baking sheet. Bake an additional 13-16 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 10 minutes. Drizzle with melted white chocolate chips. Freezes well.