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The month of May brings flowers. We also celebrate Mother’s Day. I would like to wish a Happy Belated Mother's Day to all the moms, step-moms, pet moms, adopted moms, foster moms and all wonderful, nurturing, people.

According to Washington Irving, “A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.”

My Mom, Palma Lenza, has been a wonderful mother to me. She has given me love, caring and support throughout my life. She has influenced and encouraged me in so many ways. I would like to say thank you to my mom for all she has done for me.

My mom comes from a line of women who lived long lives. Her Great-Grandmother lived to be 101 years old. Her grandmother, Josephine Palmeri, lived to be 104 years old and her Mother lived to be 94 years old. These women had one thing in common with my mother - they all baked and cooked into their 90s. My mom still makes many meals, homemade bread and desserts.

My Mom grew up in an extended Italian family in Pittston, Pa. Her generation was the first born in the United States. There were 14 people in the household when my mom was a child, including her parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. With food and money scarce, the women had to plan and prepare inexpensive meals. Mom recollects eating many varieties of pasta with beans or vegetables, homemade bread, and occasionally on a Sunday, baked chicken. One chicken would be made for everyone to share.

I inherited my baking and cooking interest from my Mom. As a little girl, I would help her bake cookies and cakes. I had my own little set of pans and utensils at first, and my mom was very patient with me as she taught me. We also spent a lot of quality time together in the kitchen. I have learned so much from my mom.

As I grew into a teenager, my Mom allowed me to experiment with new recipes in our kitchen. On days off from school, she would go to work in the factory as a sewing machine operator. I knew her day would be long and hard, so I would prepare supper. My Dad didn’t like my experiments of new and different recipes.

My mom is a very caring woman. She always shared and gave away food to family, friends and neighbors. She wanted to feed everyone. The coffee pot was on to share with whomever visited. Mom still to this day continues to share homemade bread, soups and baked goods. She makes coffee for all her visitors.

I want to share some of my mom recipes. One of her famous recipes is Pink Italian Cookies. All of the family and many friends love these. The icing is made with anise flavoring but almond or vanilla flavoring may be used instead. It is tinted with pink food coloring. Another traditional cookie is chocolate pepper cookies. This is a unique flavoring of chocolate, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and pepper. Raisins and walnuts are also added to this cookie.

This past Christmas, mom and I made these cookies and sent them to cousins In New York and New Jersey. They were thrilled to receive them. It was a delicious memory.

Pink Italian Cookies

1 cup Crisco or butter

1 cup sugar

4 eggs

6 cups flour

1 cup milk

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring

1 teaspoon almond flavoring

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a mixing bowl, beat butter for 30 seconds or until softened.

3. Add sugar and beat until combined.

4. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until incorporated.

5. Add flour and baking powder alternating with milk and mix on low until combined.

6. On a lightly floured surface, take a scoop of dough and roll out into a long log about 1 inch thick.

7. Cut long roll into 3-inch lengths. Shape into logs or rounds. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet about an inch apart.

8. Bake for 8-10 minutes until cookie is set and firm but not browning around the edges.

9. Cool for a couple of minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.

10. Allow icing to set.

Chocolate Pepper Cookies

4 cups flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla flavoring

4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 ¼ cup sugar

1 cup cocoa

¾ cup melted shortening or butter

3 eggs

½ cup milk

1 grated orange rind

1 cup raisins

½ cup canned pineapple

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until combined.

3. Add eggs and beat until incorporated

4. Add flour, spices, cocoa and baking powder alternating with milk and mix on low until    combined.

5. Add pineapple and orange rind and mix well.

6. On a lightly floured surface, take a scoop of dough and roll out into a long log about 1 inch thick.

7. Cut long roll into 3" lengths. Shape into logs or rounds. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet about an inch apart.

8. Bake for 8-10 minutes until cookie is set and firm but not browning around the edge.

9. Cool for a couple of minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Icing

2 cups confectioner's sugar

2 Tablespoons or more of water

2 teaspoons vanilla

Pink or red food coloring

For traditional Italian cookies, add 1 drop anise flavoring

Rainbow sprinkles (If desired)

1. Mix confectioner's sugar, vanilla and enough water to get a good drizzling consistency. Add a few drops of food coloring to reach a medium pink color.

2. Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper (for easier clean up later.)

3. Dip the top of each cooled cookie into the icing, scraping the excess off on the side of the bowl before placing onto the prepared cookie sheet.

4. After you've dipped a few cookies, stop to add your sprinkles before the icing hardens, then continue dipping and sprinkling until all cookies are decorated.

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