Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Best Things are Simple

I have a bajillion cookbooks, but a few are standouts that have recipes that are made over and over, year after year. Sometimes I go a couple of years without making one of my favorites, but always return eventually. These bars, which I haven't made for a couple of years, is one of those recipes. Julia called to ask for the recipe today, and now I want to make them again. It's a recipe that's so simple, with ingredients that can be pulled from the pantry at any time and made very quickly. Thin, crispy, and full of chocolate and nutty goodness, they are a nice cookie to have with homemade ice cream in the summer, or with a pot of tea in cooler weather.

Chocolate Crunch Bars
 from The Fine Arts Cookbook II, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter and flour a jelly roll pan

2 squares of unsweetened chocolate
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup shortening 
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup walnuts or pecans, finely chopped

Combine the chocolate, cocoa and shortening together in a small heavy saucepan over low heat just until the shortening is melted, stirring well. Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool slightly. Slowly add the sugar and mix well. Then, add the eggs, one at a time, blending well between each addition. Stir in the salt, vanilla and flour and blend until just combined well. Don't overmix. Spread the batter evenly and thinly in the pan, then sprinkle with the nuts. Press the nuts gently into the surface so they don't roll off. Bake in a 350F degree oven for 15 to 18 minutes. Remove and cut immediately into long rectangles. Cool a minute, then remove the thin bars to a rack to finish cooling. They will crisp as they cool. (Which is why they are cut immediately after removing from the oven -- much easier and less messy then.)

Makes 2 dozen or more

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Birthday Cheesecake

This will be a real surprise, as I don't make many cheesecakes. This one is special, New York style, as it has a sponge cake crust instead of the usual graham cracker one, and is light and airy, not dense and heavy.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter well the bottom and sides of an 8" springform pan. Cover the entire pan with foil all the way up the sides. Set aside.

For the sponge cake crust:

1/4 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
2 extra large eggs, separated
1/4 cup sugar, divided 
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 drops pure lemon extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

In a small bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together. 

In large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks on high for 3 minutes. On low speed, add 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and beat 5 minutes, until a thick yellow ribbon forms in the bowl. Add the extracts and mix. Sift the flour mixture over the egg batter and stir it by hand until no white flecks remain. Blend in the melted butter. 

In another bowl, using clean dry beaters, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on high speed until frothy. Gradually add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form, mixture will be glossy. Fold 1/3 of the whites into the yolk batter, then the remaining whites. Gently spread batter over the bottom of  the prepared pan and bake JUST until set and pale golden edges, about 10 minutes. Touch the cake gently in the center; if it springs back, it's done. Don't let the top brown!

Place the pan on a wire rack to cool and leave the oven on and continue to prepare the cheesecake batter.

For the cheesecake batter:

3  8 ounce packages of Philadelphia Cream Cheese (use whole fat only), at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons corn starch
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 extra large eggs
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
zests of lemon and/or orange peel, optional

As the sponge cake crust cools, make the batter as follows:

Beat 1 package of the cream cheese together with 1/3 cup of the sugar and the corn starch on low until creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping down bowl several times. Blend in remaining cream cheese, one package at a time, beating well and scraping down after each.  

Increase mixer speed to medium and beat in remaining sugar, then the vanilla and optional zests. Scrape down bowl a couple of more times. Beat in the heavy cream on low speed JUST until completely blended. The filling will look light, airy and billowy, like clouds. Be careful not to overmix!  Gently spoon the batter over the crust. Place the foil-wrapped springform pan in a large shallow pan and add hot water to the large pan until it comes halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake until the edge is light golden brown and the top is pale golden and the center  barely jiggly, 75 to 85 minutes. Remove from the water bath and cool on a wire rack for 2 hours without disturbing it. Don't move it! Then leave the cake in the pan and cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

On serving day:

Release from the springform pan and leave the cake on the pan bottom. Place on a plate. Cut with a straight edged knife dipped in hot water between slicings. Use the cake within 2 days. Refrigerate leftover cake tightly wrapped. 

Serves 8.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

It's Almost Time: Potato Leek Soup

The first whiff of Fall is in the air, and it won't be long until the first really crisp and cool day descends on us. That's always the day we make our first batch of Potato Leek soup of the Fall and Winter seasons. It's hearty, satisfying, and I typically serve it with a good bread or cheese biscuits, and, after supper, a pot of tea and some sort of spicy or homey cookie, like homemade ginger or peanut butter cookies. I think we just like all the rich, warm aromas that emanate from the kitchen! On that first cold night, nothing beats Potato Leek Soup.  But I digress. Here is the soup that we all love:


I use a 12 quart lidded stockpot

* * * * * * * * * *

1 pound of thick cut smokey bacon, cut into 1" pieces

1 or 2 large yellow onions, roughly chopped

1 stalk celery, roughly diced into approx. 1/2" pieces

6 leeks, washed well to remove the sand inevitably stuck down near the root end, then roughly sliced into 1/2" slices

1/2 small head of cabbage, cored and coarsely shredded

8 to 10 large russet or yukon gold potatos, peeled, halved, then quarter the halves

12 cups (96 ounces) of chicken broth -- have another 2 to 3 cups on hand if needed

1 or 2 bay leaves

salt to taste

fresh ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon Penzey's Bavarian Seasoning

1 large carrot, shredded

1/4 tsp. caraway seed (optional)

1/2 pint of heavy cream -- or get a pint if you plan to have the soup again within the week

4 to 6 ounces of gruyere cheese, shredded (this is easier if the cheese has been frozen first) - you will need more cheese for subsequent meals

In a large stockpot, cook the bacon until browned and almost crisp, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the pot. Remove bacon, chop roughly; place in a paper towel lined bowl and set aside. If there seems to be more than 3  or 4 tablespoons of bacon fat left in the stockpot, drain some of it off.

To the bacon fat in the stockpot, immediately add the onions and celery, scraping up the brown bits and stirring to cook just until the onions begin to brown. Add the leeks and cook over medium low heat until wilted. Add the potatoes, stir, and cook a few minutes longer. Add the chicken stock, coarsely shredded cabbage, Penzey's Bavarian Seasoning, bay leaf, carrot and thyme. Add salt if needed: Remember there is already some salt in the bacon drippings and chicken broth, so add small amounts and repeatedly taste to get it to your liking. Turn up the burner to medium, and when the stock begins to boil, add half of the bacon pieces, then turn down the heat so that the stock just simmers gently, cooking until the potatoes are tender, about 40 minutes or so, stirring occasionally with the lid ajar a bit.

Using an immersion blender, pulse through the soup to break up the potatoes to the consistency you desire; we like some small potato chunks in the soup, but you may want it smoother. If you like a smoother soup but still a like a little texture, press the potatoes through a ricer instead of using an immersion blender, then return the potatoes to the stockpot.  If the soup seems a bit too thick at this point, (or you just like it a bit thinner), add additional chicken stock and heat until simmering. Add the caraway seed, parsley, and freshly ground pepper to taste.

In individual soup bowls or soup plates which have been pre-warmed, add a tablespoon or two of the heavy cream, and microwave it for 15 seconds or so to take the chill off. Ladle in the soup and stir. Add a drizzle of heavy cream to the top, followed by a 2 tablespoons or so of the gruyere, and top with some of the remaining bacon bits. Serve with nice crusty bread and a salad.

NOTE: I don't add heavy cream to the stockpot for these reasons: 1) the entire pot will be ruined if the cream boils, and 2) there will be lots of soup left for more meals, and soup with cream does not freeze well. The soup freezes wonderfully without the cream and can be used up to four months later. Freeze leftover soup in multiple serving batches.  Defrost a batch when needed, and slowly reheat in a covered heavy bottomed pot until simmering. Make up the soup bowls as above and serve.

Also: The soup is better when allowed to cool and is then chilled overnight and reheated. That never happens, though! We have absolutely no willpower. But if you can make this in advance, it is actually better reheated and served the next day. First day soup is very good; second day soup is GREAT. :-) Hence the big batch. 

Makes 8 to 10   2 cup servings

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

THOSE Toffee Bars

My Mom would make Scotch Toffee Bars when we were kids, and I remember seeing the recipe on a Quaker Oats container ... and she wrote it onto a piece of paper, which became pretty dogeared over the years.

Fast forward 45 years, and when going through the recipe drawer as we were sorting out her estate, the recipe was nowhere to be found. That is just crazy! We know it was there, somewhere.

The internet has saved us once again! I did a search for the bars, and eventually recognized the recipe that someone had claimed as their own under a different name. Here it is, in all it's original (And SIMPLE!) glory.

Quaker Oats Scotch Toffee Bars

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Farenheit
Line a METAL 7 x 11 or 8 x 8 pan with heavy duty foil that is very well buttered -- be sure to have 2" or so of excess foil beyond the rims of the pan

1/2 cup melted butter
2 cups Old Fashioned Oats (rolled oats, not quick oats)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a large mixing bowl, add the butter to the oats and stir well. Add the salt and brown sugar and mix well. Add the dark corn syrup and stir until thoroughly combined. Press into the foil lined pan, and bake for 11 or 12 minutes on the middle rack of a 450 degree oven. Remove from the oven, and immediately sprinkle with 6 ounces of semisweet or milk chocolate chips. Allow to melt for 10 minutes, then spread to swirl across the top of the bars. Allow to cool 30 minutes longer, then lift the bars from the pan by the excess foil 'ears' ... and cut into bars ASAP with a VERY SHARP KNIFE.  Don't wait to cut them any longer than 30 minutes or they are very difficult to cut.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Pretty cheesy!

We (as in our family) have a long standing love affair with cheese. Good cheese, not grotty american processed cheese products or wimpy flavorless varieties. Cheeses with character and backbone, cheeses with personality and gumption. And to that end, we love recipes that use cheeses of that ilk.

So no surprise that this cheese biscuit recipe is a favorite: It incorporates a heady cheddar and a pungent parmesan for a wonderful treat of a biscuit. I snack on them often instead of the same-old-same-old tired fare of chips, etc.

They are wonderful as the starch part of a meal instead of rice, potatoes, or pasta. They are, in a word, yummy.


2 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking POWDER
1/2 teaspoon baking SODA
3/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of cayenne pepper
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into smallish cubes
2cups (packed!) shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese (about 4-5 ounces)
1cup (about 2-3 ounces) grated or shredded parmesan cheese
1 1/3 cups buttermilk

Oven 400 degrees

Fit a baking sheet with a width of parchment paper OR grease lightly

Whisk dry ingredients together, then cut in butter and blend wit ha pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the cheeses all at once and toss to coat well. Gradually add buttermilk, and stir only until mixed together.  Round up the dough, and drop by large spoonfuls (a scant 1/4 cup) and drop onto baking sheet about 2" apart. Bake 16 - 20 minutes; be sure to check them right at the 16 minute mark for doneness. Don't overbake. Serve at room temperature for best flavor.
Makes 16 biscuits.

Can be doubled, which is usually what I do .... since they make excellent snacks, too.

Friday, January 9, 2015

A tribute to Mom

This recipe is a tribute to my Mom, who passed away on January 3. Chicken and biscuits were her favorite meal. I make Sour Milk Biscuits as my go-to biscuit. This is my standard biscuit base for that meal, and it also makes a wonderful breakfast biscuit slathered with butter  and raspberry jam. Here's to you, Mom: may you have heavenly chicken and biscuits every day in the hereafter.

Sour Milk Biscuits

3 cups flour
½ cup shortening
pinch of baking soda
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups sour milk*
melted butter (optional)

*Make sour milk by mixing 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar OR fresh lemon juice with enough milk to measure 1 ½ cups at least 15 minutes before starting to make this recipe.

Sift all dry ingredients together. Cut in the shortening until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in sour milk with a large spoon, by hand. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for a minute or so. Roll out at least ½" thick and cut with a biscuit cutter or the top of a small drinking glass. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush with melted butter if desired. Bake at 450 degrees for 12 -15 minutes.

Makes about 2 dozen small biscuits (2" diameter) or 15 large ones

Thursday, April 17, 2014

An Easter Tradition: Bunny Rolls

When the kids were little, I stumbled on a recipe for making bunny-shaped rolls in Gourmet magazine. Since then, I've made Honey Glazed Bunny Rolls every Easter we celebrate. Try them; they are wonderful.

Honey-Glazed Bunny Rolls
Gourmet  | April 1995
 Makes 12 Rolls

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • a 1/4-ounce package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 12 dried currants, halved
In a small saucepan, heat milk with honey, stirring, over low heat just until lukewarm and remove pan from heat. Stir in yeast and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add butter and yolks, whisking until combined well.
Transfer milk mixture to bowl of a standing electric mixer (or to a large bowl, if kneading by hand). Add flour and salt gradually to milk mixture, stirring until incorporated. With dough hook, knead dough until smooth, about 2 minutes. (Alternatively, dough may be kneaded by hand on a lightly floured surface until smooth, 10 to 15 minutes.)
Transfer dough to a lightly oiled large bowl and turn to coat with oil. Let dough rise, covered with plastic wrap, in refrigerator overnight, or until doubled in bulk. (Alternatively, dough may be allowed to rise in a warm place about 2 hours, or until doubled in bulk.)
Grease 2 baking sheets. Punch down dough and divide into 12 pieces. Form each piece into an egg shape and transfer pieces to prepared baking sheets. Form a bunny tail on each piece by holding scissors, points down, perpendicular to baking sheet and making a 1/2-inch-long snip at base of wide end. Form 2 bunny ears on each piece by making a narrow 2-inch-long snip on each side, starting near wide end and cutting toward narrow end. Form eyes on each piece by making 2 holes in narrow end with a wooden pick and pressing a currant half firmly into each hole with pick.
Brush half of warm glaze on rolls and let rise, covered loosely with plastic wrap, in a warm place 45 minutes or less, or until doubled, in bulk (rising will take longer if dough is cold).
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Heat remaining glaze over low heat just until warm and brush rolls. Bake rolls in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets in oven halfway through baking, 20 minutes, or until golden, and transfer to racks to cool.
Serve rolls warm or at room temperature.
In a small saucepan, heat glaze ingredients over low heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted. Remove pan from heat and keep glaze warm, covered.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Yummy Winter Breakfast: Baked Pumpkin Steel-Cut Oatmeal

Claire, forever on the hunt for flavorful recipes and food ideas, hit on a new winner: Baked Pumpkin Steel-Cut Oatmeal. I've never been a fan of oatmeal as a stand-alone menu item, but this piqued my interest. As she read the list of ingredients, I could already smell it wafting from the oven. We tend to love sweet spices and most things pumpkin, so this was a 'must try'. 

So try we did. In two words, it's absolutely delicious.

We are having a prolonged cold spell (read: long visit from the Artic Express), and this is the perfect antidote to short days, long winter nights, and icy cold windy weather. Try it. You'll love it. Guaranteed to keep you feeling warm and full of goodness.

Baked Pumpkin Steel-Cut Oatmeal

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

1 tblsp. butter
1 1/2 cups steel cut oats

1 tblsp. butter
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. mace
2 cups milk
2 1/2 cups warm water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. salt

Optional nut topping:
1 tblsp. butter
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup pecan halves
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of ginger

In a dutch oven, melt 1 tablespoon of butter at medium heat; add 1 1/2 cups steel cut oats (we used Bob's Red Mill) and saute the oats about 3 minutes or until toasted. 

Push the oats to one side of the pot and add another tablespoon of butter to melt. Add the pumpkin and saute it, stirring after a minute. Add the brown sugar and spices. Saute for 3 to 4 more minutes. Add the milk, water, vanilla and salt and whisk everything together to combine. Place a lid on the dutch oven and bake for 35 minutes at 375 degrees. 

Drizzle with cream or maple syrup. (We used both: A little maple syrup and then a little cream.) Top with a couple of tablespoons of the nut topping, if desired.

While the oatmeal bakes, prepare the nut topping: 
In a saute pan, melt the butter over medium low heat. Add the almonds and pecans, stirring frequently. After a minute, reduce the heat to low, keep stirring, and allow the almonds to turn a very pale golden brown, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the cayenne and ginger and toss well. Serve over individual servings of the oatmeal.

Serves 4 - 5 generously.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Traditional Italian Christmas Cookie: Pizzelles

I just want to say that I love pizzelles. There are many, many recipes for them, and I have tried a good many myself. But I keep coming back to one that I was introduced to decades ago: a traditional recipe, made with butter instead of oil (as many modern variations seem to do) and anise seed instead of anise extract or oil. The resulting pizzelle is tender and subtly flavored, perfect with tea, coffee, or a glass of dessert wine. 

Tender Traditional Italian Pizzelles

6 eggs, room temperature 
1 1/2 cups cup sugar
1 cup butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract 
2 tsp. anise seed
3 1/2 cups flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat your pizzelle iron/maker and follow the mfrs. directions for preparing the grids.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar. Add the cooled butter,
vanilla, and anise seed. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and add to the egg mixture, mixing until very thick and smooth. (Batter will be slightly glossy.)

The batter should be stiff enough to be dropped by a scant tablespoon into the center of a preheated pizzelle iron/maker. Close and clamp the lid; bake until steaming abates, about 30 to 45 seconds. Cookies should be very pale golden or barely browned at all.  Remove carefully to a wire rack; cool completely before storing. 

This cookie is somewhat fragile, so handle with care. Store in a tightly covered tin with waxed paper between layers. The flavor improves overnight. An excellent make-ahead cookie that keeps well for a week to ten days.

NOTE: The batter can be covered tightly and refrigerated to be used up to 24 hrs. later, if desired. 

Makes about six dozen.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Cape Breton Memory: Oatcakes

While touring the Cabot Trail on gorgeous Cape Breton, Nova Scotia this past September, we stopped along the roadside at a little bakery that advertised coffee and baked goods. Inside the case was a treat labeled 'oatcakes $1.50'.  Since I wanted something to go with the coffee, I bought a couple of them, and they turned out to be one of the culinary highlights of the whole trip! Determined to find a recipe for them when I returned home, I scoured all of my cookbooks first. Lo and behold, The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion held exactly what I was looking for: A slightly sweet, nutty flavored shortbread-inspired oatcake recipe that is very like the confection I sampled on Cape Breton. This is our new favorite cookie to have with hot tea on cold nights.

Sweet Oatcakes
from: The King Arthur Cookie Companion

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar (7 ounces)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup (3 1/2 ounces) rolled oats, coarsely ground in a small food processor (do NOT use quick oats)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Farenheit.  Lightly grease two 9 inch round cake pans (I also line mine with parchment paper rounds)

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, salt, brown sugar, and the vanilla. Beat in the baking soda, flour, and oats.
Divide the dough in half and press each half into the prepared pans, smoothing the surface with your fingers. Prick the dough with a fork in an attractive pattern.
Bake the shortbread for 35 to 45 minutes, until it's golden brown around the edges. Remove it from the oven and loosen the edges with a table knife. Wait 5 minutes, then carefully turn the shortbread out onto a clean work surface, all in one piece.  Using a pizza wheel or a sharp knife, cut each round into 12 wedges. (Do this while the shortbread is warm; if you wait until it cools, it won't cut easily.)  Transfer the wedges to a rack to cool.

Makes 2 dozen shortbread wedges.

Store in a cookie tin for up to a week.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Claire's Black River Apple Salad

Claire scored a home run a few days ago with a flirtation into the salad realm. She was so excited about the results that she shared them immediately. So before I lose this altogether, I better get it into the blog. The name is derived from the blue cheese that she used in it: It is a variety made in Wisconsin, by the Black River.

Claire's Black River Apple Salad

2-3 granny smith apples, medium-diced,
2-3 tbsp. each:
  • chopped cilantro
  • blue cheese crumbles
  • chopped toasted walnuts
  • shredded carrot
  • paper-thin sliced celery
  • plain aioli (or mayo);
1/4 tsp. jalapeno, very finely minced
pinch of sugar
squeeze of lime juice
salt + pepper to taste

Toss all together and allow the flavors to marry for at least a couple of hours in the refrigerator. Excellent with a heavy dish that needs a bit of brightening, like braised beef short ribs, garlic stuffed pork loin roast or the like.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Raiding the Mom Archive

My Mom has a really good recipe for french onion soup. She no longer cooks,  but while tidying up her recipe drawer, I came across her tattered recipe, which I know I have, but don't know exactly where. This time it won't escape: The blog captures all.

As everyone who makes french onion soup knows, the secret to great flavor depth  is to brown the onions low and slow, allowing them to carmelize properly. One of my tweaks is to add a bay leaf to the stock when  heating it for even more flavor depth. My sister-in-law has her own twist as well: Instead of beer, she uses Taylor port. I can vouch for the sensational results. No matter how you tweak it, it's an easy, basic, and excellent recipe.

Marian's French Onion Soup

2 very large Spanish onions
3 TBLSP. butter
1 TBLSP. extra virgin olive oil
12 ounces of beer
3 TBLSP. flour
32 ounces (4 cups) beef stock or beef broth
one can of beef consomme -or- consomme Madrilienne
a baguette of good french bread, sliced to the desired thickness and allowed to dry out for several hours -or-
use day old french bread
 8 slices provolone cheese and/or good swiss cheese

Cut up the onions in rings and separate. In a very large frying pan, melt the butter then add the olive oil. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, over low heat until tender, golden brown and carmelized. This takes some time, so be forewarned. Add the flour and continue to cook, stirring, for five to ten more minutes.

In a 4 quart saucepan, stir together the beef stock, consomme and beer. Heat thoroughly. Ladle out a few cups and pour over the onions, stirring until all the brown bits are incorporated. Pour the onion mixture into the 4 quart saucepan into the remaining stock mixture and stir until well blended. Adjust the seaoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat oven to 400F. Place 8  individual ovenproof soup dishes on a rimmed cookie sheet. Place some of the onions in the bottom of each soup bowl, add a baguette slice, add the remaining onions, and then fill each 3/4 full with stock..  Add a slice of your preferred cheese (or two!) cheese on top. Carefully place the cookie sheet on the center oven rack and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

Makes 8 servings.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Traditional July Treat with a Twist

July ushers in a host of fresh produce all over the country. In our area, July means fresh blueberries. Which means fresh blueberry pie, pancakes, coffee cake, and of course, MUFFINS. This could be the best blueberry muffin recipe ever. 

Blueberry Muffins

2 cups fresh blueberries, picked over, washed and dried
1 1/8 cups sugar plus 1 teaspoon 
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 cup), melted and slightly cool
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Lemon Sugar Topping:
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh zest of a lemon 
Mix together the sugar and lemon zest and set aside until ready to bake muffins.

For the muffins: Adjust the oven rack to the upper middle position and preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Line a 12 muffin tin with muffin papers or spray with non-stick baking spray. 

Bring 1 cup of the blueberries and 1 teaspoon of the sugar to simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, mashing berries with spoon several times, stirring frequently, until berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to 1/4 cup, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and cool to room temperature (takes about 15 minutes).

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large mixing bowl. 

Whisk remaining 1 1/8 cups sugar and eggs together in a medium bowl until thick well blended, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in butter and oil until combined. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla until combined. Use a rubber spatula and fold the egg mixture and remaining cup of blueberries into the flour mixture JUST until moistened. (Batter will be lumpy - don't overmix). 

Spoon batter into paper muffin cups, completely filling cups.  Place 1 teaspoon of the cooked berry mixture into the center of each batter-filled muffin cup, and swirl into the batter with a skewer, spreading the berry flavor throughout. Sprinkle lemon zest/sugar mixture over each muffin. Bake until muffin tops are golden brown and just firm, 17 to 19 minutes, rotating muffin tin front to back halfway through baking time. Cool muffins in the tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool 5 additional minutes before serving. 

Makes 12. 

Picnic Cakes

Need a cake for a crowd, picnic, reunion or other summer event? Sheet cakes are the answer. Here's one from my friend Nancy in Houston:

Mom's Chocolate Cake
from The Houston Chronicle

For the cake:
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup vegetable oil 
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup buttermilk mixed with 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix flour, salt, and sugar in large bowl. In a saucepan, combine butter, oil cocoa and water; bring to a boil, remove from heat. Pour the boiled mixture over the dry ingredients and mix. Add buttermilk and stir just until blended. Add eggs, cinnamon, and vanilla. Beat well and pour into a greased and floured 9 x 13 pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until at toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool.

For the frosting:
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup cocoa or 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 tablespoons buttermilk
16 ounce box confectioner's sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine butter, chocolate or cocoa and buttermilk in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Add the powered sugar a little at a time, beating well between additions; add salt and blend well. Add vanilla and mix. Frost cake after it has cooled completely.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Everything's Better With Bacon: Pear and Spinach Salad

We're just getting started on a long, hot summer, so here's another salad recipe that keeps the heat out of the kitchen during the hottest part of the day. Make-ahead salads are great when you've had all the energy sucked out of you by just such a hot day. Enjoy with a nice, long glass of iced tea, or some other icy beverage.

Pear and Spinach Salad

for the dressing:
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup (4 ounces) very fine olive oil

Whisk together the honey, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and mustard. In a thin stream, whisk in the olive oil until all of it is incorporated and the dressing emulsified. Season with a little salt and pepper, cover, and refrigerate. 

for the salad:
2 quarts fresh baby spinach
1 pound chilled Bartlett pears, pealed and sliced lengthwise -or- a chilled 16 ounce can of pear halves, sliced, drained
a chilled 8 ounce can of crushed pineapple, drained
12 ounces of smoked bacon, fried crisp, drained, blotted with paper towels, and either chopped or broken into bits.

Arrange the spinach on a large platter. Top evenly with the fruit, then sprinkle all over with the bacon. Drizzle the dressing over all. 

Makes 8 to 10 side salad servings, or 4-5 entree servings.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Hands down, one of our absolute favorite desserts. It's Australia's national dessert, much like apple pie is our American national dessert. 

Even people who *say* they don't like desserts love this. It's beautiful and looks impressive. It has a deep, dark secret, too: It looks like it took hours to make, but actually it's very easy and takes very little time. 

Angela's Pavlova

6 egg whites
pinch of salt
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 pint (16 ounces) heavy cream

A pint of fresh red raspberries
A pint of fresh blueberries
A pint of fresh blackberries
2 cups fresh sliced and sugared peaches
Note: this is the fruit I use; you may substitute your own fresh favorites.

Beat egg whites intil foamy; add the salt, then add the sugar gradually. Mix in vinegar, then add the vanilla last. Beat until stiff but not dry peaks have formed.

Cover a LARGE rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper, and lightly butter the parchment paper.  Pile the meringue into an 8" mound in the center, making an indentation in the top. (It should look like a volcano crater with it's top blown off.) The meringue will spread out a lot while baking, so be sure to make the meringue very tall and the indent quite deep. 

Bake for 40 to 43 minutes at 300 degrees, --do not peek!-- then turn off the oven and leave the meringue in it for an additional 40 minutes longer, making sure not to open the oven door. Remove from oven to cool completely. Very carefully remove the pavlova shell to a very large round serving platter.

At serving time:
Whip the heavy cream until stiff, and mound the whipped cream into the center crater of the meringue. Top the whipped cream with the fresh fruit; not all of it will fit onto the top of the pavlova. Slice into generous wedges and add additional fruit to each serving. 


Serves 8 to 10 with generous slices and lots of fruit

Any leftover pavlova can be refrigerated overnight, loosely covered. It must be eaten within 24 hours; the whipped cream is fairly fragile. 

Summer Meals: Tortellini Salad with Grilled Chicken

Sometimes it's just too hot. Salads of all kinds are the mainstay of a lot of my summer meals. Salads that are the meal.

Tortellini Salad with Grilled Chicken
this is a fine salad even without the grilled chicken, so don't hesitate to enjoy it that way

3 packages refrigerated cheese tortellini
1 zucchini, blanched, then plunged into ice water
1 yellow squash, blanched, then plunged into ice water
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
2 red bell peppers, cut into fine strips
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced celery
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill

2-3 cups  washed, dried, and chilled fresh baby spinach

1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 cup very fine olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

shredded parmesan cheese
pint package of fresh grape tomatos, washed, dried, and chilled

2 or 3 boneless chicken breast halves, washed and patted dry
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Cook the tortellini per package directions for aldente pasta. Drain, then rinse immediately under very cold running water. Drain very well, then place in a very large mixing bowl  (I use a stock pot). Remove the zucchini and yellow squash from the ice water and slice into very thin wheels. Cut the wheels in half, then add to the pasta. Add the red onion, red bell pepper, celery, and dill toss the mixture to blend well.

For the dressing, mix together the white wine vinegar, mayonnaise, and mustard in a deep bowl. Whisk in the olive oil very slowly in a thin stream until it is completely incorporated and emulsified. Season the dressing with salt and pepper to taste.

In another bowl, add the spinach and toss with a very small amount of the dressing, just enough to barely coat it. Sprinkle with a tablespoon or so of the shredded parmesan cheese. Arrange the spinach along the bottom and sides of a large shallow serving bowl/dish.

Set aside a 2-3 tablespoons of dressing. Toss the tortellini salad with the remaining dressing, adding an ounce or so of the shredded parmesan. Refrigerate, covered, for six hours or overnight.

Prepare the chicken: On a very hot grill, cook the chicken breasts that have been seasoned with salt and pepper for 8 to 10 minutes per side. Remove from grill to a dish, then sprinkle with the lemon juice and set aside, covered, for 10 minutes or so. Slice the chicken against the grain into thin slices.

To serve as an entree: Spoon entree-sized portions into individual serving bowls or plates and top the salad with the slices of the warm grilled chicken. Garnish  with some of the grape tomatoes,  drizzling with some of the reserved dressing. Garnish with more parmesan, and finely chopped dill,  if desired.

To serve as a side salad: Garnish the top of the salad with grape tomatoes, and a little finely chopped dill and parmesan, if desired. I usually do not add grilled chicken when I make this as a side. It's a great picnic salad for a crowd.

Serves 6 or so as an entree, or 12-15 as a side salad.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Cake Among Cakes

Hard to believe this recipe hasn't made it up here yet! Thanks to Claire, it's finally getting its place of honor.  I tried a lot of carrot cake recipes, and slowly evolved my own over time. This one, if I do say so myself, is perfect. We've been making it for a couple of decades now. It's a darn big cake, so it's a good recipe to use for a big birthday party or family gathering.


Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Grease and flour 3  8" round cake pans

combine and set aside for 30 minutes or so:
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel (fresh orange zest is best, but dried peel can be used)

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil (Wesson!)
4 eggs

sift together:
2 1/2 cups flour (I use King Arthur All Purpose flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg OR mace
pinch of ginger
pinch of cloves
pinch of allspice
1 1/4 teaspoons salt

2 1/2 cups grated carrots
3/4 cup shredded coconut
3/4 cup finely cut or chopped walnuts
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Beat together the sugars and oil until well blended. Add eggs, one at at time, beating well after each addition. SLOWLY  add sifted ingredients and beat well. Add soaked orange peel and any remaining juice, then the carrots, coconut, walnuts, and vanilla.  

Pour into the greased and floured pans, and stagger the pans on the same middle rack of a preheated 325 degree oven. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the center is not sticky. Remover from oven, cool 7 minutes (no more!) then remove from pans and finish cooling on a rack.


one 8 ounce brick of cream cheese PLUS one 3 ounce brick of cream cheese
1 1/2 pounds (24 ounces) confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks butter (6 ounces), melted and room temp
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Beat the cream cheese bars together well, then add the confectioners sugar and salt slowly on very low speed. Gradually increase speed and combine well. Add the melted butter very slowly, incorporating the butter as you go, and then add the vanilla. Beat the frosting on high speed for several minutes until smooth and creamy, then spread between the cooled cake layers and on top and sides of cake. 

Makes a large 3 layer 8" cake, serving at least 12

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Notes from the Groaning Board

We're still recovering from another Thanksgiving dinner. You know the symptoms: glassy eyes, lethargy, the feeling that you'll never want another bite of food for the rest of your life. But it doesn't last as long as we think it lasts, and before you know it, we're sniffing around the kitchen again to appease the hunger gods.

Here's a recipe for that mother-of-all-leftovers, turkey (or in some cases, chicken). It's homey, good, and very satisfying on a cold late autumn day. The leftovers of this are wonderful rewarmed with a little additional sauce added to compensate for the sauce the dumplings soak up.

Turkey (or Chicken) and Dumplings
A good recipe for using up odds and ends of vegetables, if you have any: peas, carrots, mushrooms, leeks, summer squash, what-have-you. Saute them until soft before adding to the recipe.

A 4 or 5 qt. dutch oven with tight fitting lid
Oven 350 degrees

1/3 cup (2/3 stick) butter
1 small onion, roughly chopped

Saute the onion (and if you plan on using some oddball veggies, those, too) in the dutch oven in the butter.
Remove when soft, draining excess butter back into the pot.

1/2 cup flour
4 cups turkey or chicken stock, or a combination of stock and leftover gravy
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Add the flour to the remaining butter in the dutch oven; cook to make a roux over low heat for about 10 minutes, or until the roux is pale golden. Add the stock 1/2 cup at  a time, whisking into the roux to prevent lumps. When all the stock/gravy is added, add seasonings. Simmer the sauce for 10 minutes, then add meat and vegetables.

4 cups diced cooked turkey or chicken
2 1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
the sauted onion, and whatever other veggies you are adding

Bring the filling to a simmer, stirring gently, then add the dumplings to the top, and pop into a 350 degree oven for 1 1/4 hours.

1 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
a tablespoon of chopped chives (fresh or dried)
a tablespoon of chopped parsley (fresh or dried)
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the herbs, if using. Cover and refrigerate at this point if you are not baking the dish immediately. Otherwise, soldier on.
Whisk the egg into the buttermilk, then add to the flour mixture until just blended together, no more. Don't overmix! It looks kind of wet and shaggy. Scoop large spoonfuls of the dumpling mixture over the hot filling to cover the top. Bake immediately as directed above.
NOTE: The steam from the sauce helps to keep the dumplings tender, so don't peek at them while they're baking.  Your patience will be rewarded with lighter, fluffier dumplings.

Makes 6 generous servings.

If you have leftovers, cover tightly and refrigerate up to three days. Add a bit more stock to the pot before reheating in the oven for 30 - 45 mins. at 350. Or you could do what we do in a pinch: Place serving size portions in soup plates and microwave them, covered, for 3 to 4 minutes each.

Monday, October 15, 2012

You Know It's Fall When ....

... apples, squash and pumpkins are in abundance at the farmers markets and orchard stands. Here is our Fall favorite:

Marlboro Crisp

preheat oven to 350 degrees
8 x 8, or 7 x 11 pan, well buttered 

3 to 4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1 TBLSP. flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. (or so) cinnamon
2 or 3 TBLSP. butter

Mix the dry ingredients together, add apples and stir together. Pour into prepared pan. Dot the top with the butter, broken up into bits.

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
2/3 cup flour
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted

A good quality vanilla ice cream

Stir together the dry ingredients, then add the butter and mix thoroughly with a large spoon. Spoon over the apples, but do not press the topping down. It will settle as it bakes. 
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes; increase heat to 375 degrees and bake 10 to 15 minutes longer; topping will be sizzly and golden brown. Let stand at least a half hour before serving. Serve in individual bowls with a scoop of ice cream on top.

A deeply delicious dessert for 6.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Birthday-Worthy Brownies

Liz asked for the recipe for Cream Cheese Brownies to make as a birthday cake substitute for a friend. These are truly a worthy, gooey stand in, and they take no time at all.


butter a 7 x 11 or 9 x 9 pan
preheat oven to 325 degrees

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

1/3 cup butter
3 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a saucepan over very low heat, then turn off the burner.
Then add in order given, beating after each addition:
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix well by hand until combined. Spoon half the brownie batter into the prepared pan, then make the cream cheese filling:
8 oz. bar of cream cheese at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/8 tsp. salt

In a mixing bowl, cream together the cream cheese and sugar, beating well, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and salt and blend until well mixed and creamy. Spread over the mixture in the pan, then top with the remaining brownie batter. Swirl through the batters with a knife. 

Bake in a 325 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Don't overbake!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bright, Brilliant Flavors: Citrus Cake

Last night at WiNKS, my local knitting group, we were asked to list which cake we loved most for our personal birthday celebrations. The list included, no surprise, many that simply said "chocolate anything!". And while I love chocolate cake (obviously, since it's part of the title of the blog), my favorite cake for my March birthday is Citrus Cake. It's luscious orange and lemon notes are perfect just when the weather can't get much worse and the days more dreary. It's bright flavors and cheery color are the perfect antidote to winter and more pedestrian cakes. This is one cake that benefits from being made a day in advance. Overnight, the orange and lemon juices and zests work their magic to infuse the cake so that it bursts with brilliant flavor.

Amazingly, I have never put it here on the blog! So it's time to remedy that.


Grease and flour 2 9" round cake pans; set aside.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temp
4 eggs
the zests of 1 lemon and 1 orange
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour ~or~ 2 3/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk

Cream butter and sugar in large mixing bowl on medium low speed. Add eggs one at a time; beat well until blended in. Add the zests of the lemon and orange, stirring to blend. Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl, and add alternately with the buttermilk, mixing well. Pour into prepared pans, and bake on a lower middle rack of the oven at 350 degrees for 30 - 35 minutes, just until a wooden pick inserted in the center is clean. After removing from oven, run a knife around the edges of the cake layers, and prick the layers with a fork all over. Immediately pour the Infusion Glaze over the layers. Cool for 5 minutes, then turn cakes out of pans onto waxed paper and allow to cool completely. Frost top, sides and middle with Citrus Buttercream Frosting. Best if flavors can marry overnight, but don't feel bad if you just can't wait. (Confession: I usually can't wait!)

Infusion Glaze:
juice of 1 LARGE lemon
juice of 1 LARGE orange
1 cup sugar
a smidge of salt

Combine juices in a small saucepan over medium low heat and bring almost to a boil; add sugar and salt, and stir well just until sugar disappears into the juices. Remove from heat. Refer to recipe for use, which is immediately after cake comes from the oven.

Citrus Buttercream Frosting
zest and juice of 1 large lemon and 1 large orange
1 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp. salt
10X (confectioners) sugar - (4 to 5 cups)

Zest the lemon and orange, then juice them; set aside. In large mixing bowl, cream butter and  salt, beating at medium speed until very light and fluffy. Add 2 cups of 10X sugar and beat for several minutes. Slowly add the juices and zest, and beat with additional confectioners sugar until the consistency is right for frosting and filling the cake, which is usually  2 to 3 more cups of the 10X sugar. Beat three to five additional minutes  after reaching desired consistency.   Place a cake layer, glazed side up, on a cake plate and use 1 1/2 cups or so of the frosting to fill the cake. Place the other cake layer, glazed side down, over the frosting and frost the cake sides and top, swirling the frosting into lavish curls. If possible, keep in a cake safe overnight. If you just can't wait, enjoy!

Makes 10 to 12 generous slices.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Just in Time for Christmas: Jennifer's Orange Salad

Knitting friend Jennifer Ashworth made this delicious Orange Salad for the WiNKS Christmas Party and Beedle's Open House last Saturday. Fresh and clean tasting, it's a perfect foil for heavier fare. What a great dish for Christmas dinner!

•4 ripe medium oranges, peeled
•1 small red onion, sliced very thin
•2 tablespoons sherry vinegar [Jennifer used pear vinegar]
•6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil [Jennifer thinks that's a bit too much - see what you think]
•1/2 teaspoon mild smoked paprika
•Sea salt and black pepper to taste [don't be shy]
•3 tablespoons golden raisins, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, then drained
•15 to 20 black olives, pitted
•2 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts [toasted in the oven in a baking dish]
•2 tablespoons blanched almonds [optional]
•Fresh parsley and mint, chopped


1. Remove pith from oranges and slice into 1/4-inch rounds. Arrange on a serving platter and scatter very thinly sliced red onion on top. [Jennifer built her triple recipe in - you guessed it - triple layers.]
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, paprika, salt, and pepper. Spoon over the onion and oranges.
3. Sprinkle with raisins, olives, chopped walnuts, and almonds. Garnish with parsley and mint.

Chill a couple of hours - serve with a flourish
The tripled recipe will serve a large group, 10-12

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Simple Chicken Supper

My knitting group had a lovely, lovely holiday-themed gathering last night at the beautiful home of Beedle Hinely (of biscotti fame!). As my contribution to the goodies, I made my favorite chicken dish that's super easy. If you have a houseful of guests or family,or need something to take to a potluck,  this recipe can be doubled or tripled without any problem ... or time!
It's delectable, super-simple, and has the taste of something you've slaved over all day to make. My kind of recipe!

this recipe was given to me by my mother's late lifelong best friend and partner in decades of crime, Clara Albrecht. She was a treasure!

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 slices Swiss cheese

Place boneless breasts in a well buttered 7 X 11 baking pan/casserole and top with the Swiss cheese slices.

1 cup sour cream
1/2 to 3/4 cup sherry wine
1 can cream of chicken soup

Whisk together the sour cream, wine and soup and pour over the breasts.

1 1/2 cups Pepperidge Farm Herb Stuffing crumbs
6 tblsp. butter, melted

Blend crumbs and butter well and sprinkle densely over the soup mixture.
Bake at 350 degrees for an hour.

That's it. Honest. This takes all of 10 minutes to prepare! You have plenty of time to whip up an impressive dessert, or make an elaborate salad and veggie dish.

Doubled, make in a 9 X 13 pan.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

New Holiday Classic: The Best Biscotti!

Love a dry cookie for dipping in coffee or enjoying with tea? My friend Beedle bakes up this biscotti recipe each holiday season, and with good reason: It's not too sweet, but still satisfying, with overtones of caramel complimented by a buttery rich toasty pecan flavor. This is destined to become one of our favorites, too, I predict.

Beedle’s Pecan Biscotti

Carmelize Pecans:

2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
¾ cup chopped pecans

In a heavy skillet, melt butter over low heat and stir in dark brown sugar, cooking very slowly for a couple of minutes. Add pecans, stir, and turn up heat slightly, shaking and stirring pecans in skillet often, allowing butter and sugar to coat nuts completely and to caramelize. Remove from heat, and spread nuts on a sheet of foil or parchment paper to cool.

For Biscotti Dough:

1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 oz.) butter, room temperature
¾ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla, blend well, then add eggs one at a time, mixing between additions.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a separate bowl. Add to creamed mixture, mixing until just blended. Gently stir in carmelized pecans.

Divide dough in half. Grease and flour a baking sheet, and pat out two logs, 1 1/2 inches wide,  ½ inch high and 14 inches long at least 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 5 minutes, then slice logs at a 45 degree angle into 3/8” slices. Lay slices flat on the baking sheet, and return to the oven for 10 minutes, turning them over once, to dry slightly. Remove from oven and cool on racks completely, at least an hour. Store in airtight containers.

Makes 3 ½ to 4 dozen biscotti 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Holiday Classics: Pizzelles, Butterballs, Peanut Butter Blossoms

Now that it's December, officially holiday season, it's time to post some of the other requisite Christmas cookies we make each year, as requested by my eldest daughter, Julia. My sister-in-law, Debbie, makes the BEST pizzelles, and we use her recipe as our standard. We also never fail to make my mom's Butterball recipe, sometimes as balls and sometimes as crescents. And who doesn't love the peanut butter cookie with the  chocolate kisses in them?


6 eggs
1 cup Wesson vegetable oil or Mazola corn oil
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 cups flour
1 tblsp. anise seed
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together; set aside. 

Beat the oil and sugar together, and then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add dry ingredients gradually, then anise seed and vanilla. Bake in preheated pizzelle iron until pale golden or until steaming dies down ( matter of 30 seconds =/-). Makes 4 dozen. 


not one Christmas in my lifetime has passed without these!

1 cup butter (2 sticks, or 8 oz.), room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. water, room temp
2 cups flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans
powdered sugar for coating cookies (about 2 cups)

Cream the butter and sugar, add water and vanilla nad beat well. Add flour and blend well. Add pecans, mix until just incorporated. Shape into small balls or roll into small logs with tapered ends and bend into crescents, and bake on ungreased cookie sheets at 325 degrees for 20 about 20 minutes. Bottoms should be pale golden. Cool slightly, then roll in powdered sugar until well coated, and place on racks to cool completely. 
Makes 4 dozen crescents or 5 dozen balls.


from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion book

1/2 cup (1 stick, or 4 oz.) unsalted butter
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup sugar, plus additional for coating dough
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tblsp. milk (2% or whole, not nonfat!)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
7 ounces (48) chocolate kisses, unwrapped 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In mixing bowl, beat butter and peanut butter together until well blended. Add the sugars, and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg, milk, baking soda, salt and vanilla and beat well. Gradually add the flour on low speed, mixing well to incorporate. 
Shape the dough into 1" balls and roll them in granulated sugar. Place the balls on the baking sheets.  
Bake for 10 mins. or until a very pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and IMMEDIATELY press a chocolate kiss into each cookie. Work quickly! Cool slightly, then transfer to a rack to finish cooling. Makes 48 cookies.