The Privileged Life: Handed-Down Recipes—The Real Family Treasures

Zia Nina's biscotti

“The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; yes, I have a good inheritance.” Psalm 16:6

As my husband and I celebrated Mother’s Day yesterday with our two moms (both of whom are in their late 80s, still healthy and beautiful), I was reminded of one of the great inheritances I have received from my mother and those who have gone before her—family recipes.

I’ve been blessed to belong an extended family where both the women and men enjoy cooking. The only difference between the two is that the women carefully write and pass down their recipes while the men usually cook without following instructions! 

Having those recipes now is receiving precious jewels. I love to make sugary goodies like great-great Grandma Lovelace’s nutmeg teacakes, Italian great-aunt Zia Nina’s biscotti (see below), Aunt Rosie Lee’s coconut pie, and my mom Betty’s jumbo raisin cookies and sour cream pecans. And Christmas just isn’t complete without Aunt Margaret’s cheese dip or my mother-in-law Martha Ann’s annual orange slice nut cake. 

Now, in turn, I’m writing down my traditional go-to recipes to pass along to my adult children. My mom is working on preserving some of her ancestors’ recipes for me as well, especially the old yellowed cards in my grandmothers’ and great-grandmothers’ handwriting. The more stains on them, the better they are!

Still looking for something to do in shutdown mode? Ask the elder ladies among your family and friends to share their time-tested recipes with you. Make a scrapbook, with notes about who shared them with you. And ask your immediate family now to make a list of what they enjoy among your culinary treats so you can preserve your recipes for them. 

I’m grateful I can still cook, and I’m grateful for the time spent at home recently to plan meals and make goodies to share. If you’re cooking today, remember to rejoice in this privilege…grab your wooden spoon, and start creating new memories!

Lord, please bless us with food in our kitchens and sweet times of fellowship around our tables. Keep us mindful that all good gifts come from You, the Father of Lights. As we spend time preparing meals for others, let us consecrate those moments to You in praise and thanksgiving. Thank You for those who have gone before us and left behind a heritage of faith and service. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Zia Nina’s Biscotti

1/3 pound butter (1-1/3 sticks), softened

1-1/3 cups sugar

4 eggs, slightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3-1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 heaping tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (or anise seed, according to original recipe)

1-1/2 to 2 cups sliced or chopped almonds

Cream together butter and sugar; add eggs and vanilla, and mix well. Combine flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and almonds; add to butter mixture. On well-floured surface, loosely roll dough into two rolls about 2” in diameter and 12” long. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet or baking stone, arranged with space in between for dough to spread as it cooks. Bake in preheated oven at 350° for about 30-40 minutes or until well browned (check it at 30 minutes); remove from oven and let cool slightly. With a sharp or serrated knife, slice each flattened loaf into 1”-thick slices, laying the pieces side-up on cookie sheet. Return slices to oven to bake another 5-10 minutes on each side until very lightly browned. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Serve with coffee, hot tea, or hot chocolate! Yield: 3 dozen biscotti. Recipe from kitchen of Nina Canestrari Contini Pieroni

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