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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lidia's NONNA TELL ME A STORY: A Book Review and Recipes

Just in time for Advent and Christmas preparations!

by Kathleen Blease

At this month, I review a wonderful book by a chef from whom I've learned a great deal, Lidia Bastianich, who is well-known for her cookbooks and PBS series, Lidia's Italy.

Lidia's new book, Nonna Tell Me A Story is meant to bring family together, and it's especially geared toward our little ones, ages four through eight. It features bright and joyful art, as well as fifteen scrumptious recipes of holiday treats for your family.

So I don't give it all away right here, you'll need to click here to read the entire review at CatholicMom. Are you the aunt that bakes the Christmas cookies? Me, too! So I also include at CatholicMom one of my own favorite recipes--something new for the holiday tray.

To purchase your own copy of Nonna Tell Me A Story by Lidia Bastianich (Running Press Kids, Oct. 2010, $15.95, ages 4-8), you can visit Kathleen's Catholic Book Shop right here on this blog. Just look for the little red box in the right column and click on it. Then click on Kathleen's Catholic Book Shop For Kids. We're offering the book at the discounted price of $10.85.

Here's a sneak preview of the book's colorful and joyful art, as well as as two of its scrumptious recipes. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Laura Logan's illustrations are bright and cheerful, setting the mood for the Advent and Christmas seasons.

Here are two recipes I'm looking forward to trying myself: Pine Nut Cookies and Sesame Cookies. They are printed here with permission from the publisher.

(Amaretti con Pignoli)

Yields: 3 dozen

1 lb. canned almond paste
1 1/2 c. sugar
3 large egg whites
1 c. pine nuts (optional)
1/4 c. confectioners' sugar, or as needed (optional)

1. Arrange one rack in the upper third of the oven and the other in the lower third. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Crumbe the almond paste into a mixing bowl. Beat with a hand held electric mixer until finely crumbled. Sprinkle the sugar over the almost paste and continue to beat unmtil the sugar is incorporated. Beat in the egg whites, one at a time adn continue beating unti lthe batter is smooth.

3. If using the pine nuts, spread them out on a plate. Pinch off a tablespoon-size piece of dough and roll between your palms to form a ball. Roll the ball in pine nuts or just place it on the baking sheet if you want plain cookies. Repeat with the remaining dough.

4. Bake the cookies until lightly browned and soft and springy, about 20 minutes. Remove and cool completely on wire racks before serving. The cookies can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 week and are delicious with or without the pine nuts.

Note: The plain cookies can also be dusted with confectioners' sugar before serving.

(Biscotti ai Semi di Sesamo)

Yield: 4 dozen

1 c. sesame seeds (or sprinkles)
2 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. semolina flour
2/3 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1. Arrange one oven rack in the upper third of the oven and the other in the lower third. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spread the sesame seeds out on a baking sheet and bake them on the lower rack until toasted to golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Shake the pan once or twice as they bake so they toast evenly. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, vanilla, and salt until blended. Stir the all-purpose flour, semolina flour, sugar, baking powder, and nutmeg together in a mixing bowl until blended. With your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture until the butter resembles small cornflakes. Pour in the egg mixture and mix well into a dough. Cover the refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes to let it firm up.

3. Lightly flour your hands and pinch off a nectarine-size piece of the dough and roll it out with the palm and fingers of your hands, using light pressure, to a rope about 1/2 inch in diameter. Cut the rope into 2-inch lengths and roll them in the sesame seeds or sprinkles to coat completely. Transfer the coated cookies to the prepared baking sheets and repeat with the remaining dough and seeds.

4. Bake the cookies unti golden brown, adn 15 to 17 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets from rack to rack and side to side once during baking so the cookies bake and brown evenly.

Don't forget to visit to read my complete review and print out my own cookie recipe.

God bless!


  1. You always do the best reviews, Kathleen.

    This sounds great!

  2. Thanks, Allison. Here's an early wish for a happy and fruitful Advent!


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