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Day 30!!!!

November 30th, 2008 | 4 Comments »

Oh. My. GOSH!!!

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I covered food holidays for the entire month of November, without fail for National Blog Posting Month. I researched, planned, experimented, baked, whipped, mixed, chilled, cooked, sampled and wrote my way through the month and let you know the results EVERY DAY! I faithfully sat down with my trusty computer and calendar every day and wrote whatever came out the tips of my fingers. Some days it just shone, other days it kinda fell flat. I misunderstood Scrapple and nearly started a war- Amy hon, thanks for lovingly and passionately setting me straight- and stared down a few recipes for a day or two before deciding I wasn’t interested in making them, preferring instead to just talking about them. I even toted my computer with me to church this morning and plopped myself into a WiFi hot spot afterward just to finish the month.

So today is National Mousse Day. I didn’t make mousse, although I could have but I have seriously- I kid you not-  spent the past four days cooking, baking and creating for Thanksgiving and then two family events happening over the past weekend, and quite frankly, I am really tired of being in the kitchen. I’ve basically exhausted my reserves for making food of any kind be it sweet, savory, tart or moussed and am really looking forward to a break. So are my stomach and thighs. I think they are happy that I didn’t whip together a large batch of rich chocolate-y velvet-like dessert. Whoever set up this last week of food holidays in November did not take into account arranging all that decadence- two pies, cake, french toast and mousse-  around the biggest food fest of the entire year.

But…..*sigh*…. I am DONE with my goal of completing the 30 Days of NaBloPoMo in food holiday fashion. It was really, really fun and I learned a lot. I also think I found some new blogging friends to hang out with in the big world of the Internets. I send ’round a big hearty ‘Thank You’ for coming to visit, make the nice comments that you all have and keep me motivated to continue. It wasn’t hard, but there were days that my fingers felt too idle for the goal, my brain too thick and unwilling to offer up its usual creative prose. But I did it. And it was great fun.

I’ll be idle for a while as I recover and re-group for December. See you soon!!

Day 29- Winding down NaBloPoMo

November 29th, 2008 | 4 Comments »

This last week of NaBloPoMo has been a sweet one- literally. We’ve had Cake Day, French Toast Day, Bavarian Cream Pie Day and now…… National Lemon Cream Pie Day. Oh, and it’s also National Chocolates Day. You have TWO excuses to indulge in the sweet life, not to mention my enthusiastic permission.

With all the Thanksgiving festivities going on and getting everything together for that, I wondered just how much I wanted to prepare a few scratch pie recipes and I naturally took a ‘Bye’ on the Bavarian Cream, but curiosity won out for this Lemon Cream recipe, as lemon is one of my favorite dessert flavors. The only problem for this lactose intolerant kind of gal was the heavy cream. I wasn’t going to sub; I just wouldn’t be able to fully indulge.

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The finished pie wasn’t as firm as I wished (nor was the picture so stellar); I likely could have whipped the cream tighter but it had grown late on Wednesday evening after we all got into Bourdain’s ‘No Reservations’ from Netflix and I was tired and unwilling to get too involved in cream beating at such a late hour. For me, a new recipe will either end up fine or it won’t and I usually don’t stress. Once I understand how it will work, I can tweak it on the next go-round to make it better, and I knew my siblings would love it no matter what as they never get something like this, ever.

The lemon curd was simple and quick, and oh so very tart. But one little swipe across my tongue and I wished to turn my back on the whipped cream just to indulge in the curd. It was really amazing. I know it will be something I make again because I could envision it spread over muffins, or scones or on the French Toast I made for breakfast yesterday morning, or drizzled over waffles, sampled with a tiny little spoon…..you get the picture. I kept thinking about Lime Curd too and what a summertime treat that would be with fresh fruit.

The pie, like I said, was softer than it could have been, but the finished product with the fresh cream folded into the curd and mingled with a scratch graham cracker crumb crust was really a delight. Just seeing the looks on my siblings faces as they enjoyed their messy pieces was enough for me. I took a few bites to try it out, unwilling as I was to subject myself to a middle of the night stomachache from the dairy and I must say, it was divine. I can totally see Lemon Curd in my future. A lot.

Lemon Cream Pie

6 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1 prepared crumb crust  (see notes)

Combine the eggs, sugar, and lemon zest in a heavy medium-size saucepan and whisk the mixture until it is smooth. Add the lemon juice and butter and cook the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it is thickened, 7 to 9 minutes. Do not allow the mixture to come to a boil.

Pour the lemon curd through a fine mesh strainer into a glass bowl. Cover the surface with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the lemon curd until it is cold and thick, at least 3 hours and up to 3 days.

In a medium-size mixing bowl using an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the lemon curd and scrape the filling into the prepared pie shell. Cover the pie with plastic wrap and refrigerate it until the filling is completely set, at least 6 hours and up to 1 day.

KATE’S NOTES:
Make a scratch graham crust by whizzing one package of graham crackers in the food processor with up to 1/2 c. of sugar depending on how sweet you like it. Melt about 4-6 T. of butter (again, depending on your desired level of firmness) and mix with crumb/sugar mix. Press into a pie plate and refrigerate. Skip the sugar if you want; the crust will still taste fine.

Strain the curd well as you will get some cooked egg pieces. You will need to press the curd through the strainer with a spoon and scrape off the outside. Although I can’t prove it scientifically, where the recipe calls for the cream to be whipped to soft peaks, I think it should be whipped a bit firmer. The pie chilled for more than 24 hours and still was rather soft. Reduce the zest if you wish to have less tart curd.

Nothing French about this Toast

November 28th, 2008 | 2 Comments »

Endless speculation abounds about why battered and fried bread slices are called ‘French’ toast, but never is there an appropriate response to the question ‘Why is it called French Toast?’ What’s french about it??

Yes, it’s National French Toast Day. So let’s lay waste to the ongoing debate about the French-ness of French Toast.

The earliest understanding of how this dish came to be is to look as far back as the northern French Normans who created a dish called ‘tostees dorees‘  that was a battered and fried bread. It was similar to a popular dish in England in the Middle Ages that was named suppe dorate, and is considered a knock-off of the Normandy dish. Ironically, in France and Belgium currently, you can get Pain Perdu, loosely translated as ‘lost bread’. The egg mixure that is allowed to soak into the slices is a way of reclaiming old, stale bread, or lost bread and making it edible. So the Normans from France did apparently create a similar dish to the current manner of French Toast, but are they really the ones who should be credited with the discovery? According to many sources, the initial documentation of the dish is known to be at the time of Henry the V of England (1413-1422). Definitely NOT French.

There are dozens- I mean, dozens- of variations of this dish in all countries around the world:

  • Austria: Pavese (a medieval type of shield whose shape resembles a slice of bread)
  • England: suppe dorate (Italian for “gilded sippets”)
  • France: pain perdu (literally, “lost bread”)
  • Germany: Armer Ritter (literally, “poor knight”; the name is sometimes meant to originate from poor knights in Medieval times, having not enough gold to pay for meat, and thus eating old bread slices, coated with egg and fried )
  • Hungary: bundás kenyér (literally, “coated bread” or “bread with fur”) [<— mmmm, yummy]
  • Portugal: rabanadas or fatias douradas (literally, “golden slices of bread”)
  • Yugoslavia and some successor republics: прженицеprženice
  • Croatia: pohani kruh
  • Lebanon: pain perdu
  • Catalonia: torrades o croquetes de Santa Teresa (literally, “toasts or croquettes of Saint Theresa”)

And then there are so so many more that it seems silly to post them. It’s not French and barely can claim any French origin. But it is delicious. Especially with homemade lemon curd.

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I had a loaf of sourdough bread that I chopped up for croutons to put in my Thanksgiving stuffing and there were four good-sized slices left over that were just crying out to be made in Egg Bread. (hehehe- I’m not calling it by that name) The lemon curd-which you’ll have to come back tomorrow to read about- was just a perfect topping for the warm slices sprinkled liberally with powdered sugar.

I know that everyone has their own manner of making Egg Bread and what goes into the batter but I’ll just tell you my version anyway. Eggs and milk (vanilla soy milk- ooooh yummy like a milkshake) and a tablespoon or two of cinnamon sugar and some fresh ground nutmeg. The sugar crystals in the batter help with caramelization. I have also made my batter from vanilla or banana yogurt with excellent results. I’m not really a syrup girl but I do like honey drizzled over the slices, or I spread them with fresh fruit, jam, apple butter or simply a little melted butter.

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Well there’s TWO days left of National Blog Posting Month and my November desk calendar is criss-crossed with hash marks as I have methodically checked off the days and their corresponding food holiday. It’s been a great deal of fun with plenty of good learning but I’ll tell ya, I am looking forward to stepping away from the computer for a while and re-grouping before getting back into something of a more normal blogging routine. For those of you who have stuck with me through this adventure, I thank you profusely and hope you continue visiting.

Be Thankful

November 27th, 2008 | 3 Comments »

Today is National Bavarian Cream Pie Day. Melt a decadent and allow to chill; fold in whipped cream -please, use the real stuff- and then fill a graham cracker pie crust, or shell of choice. Chill again and enjoy.

Is the origin Bavarian? How does a rich cream pie get that name? Bavaria is a region in SE Germany in the area around Munich and Nuremberg. It borders Austria, the Czech Republic and Switzerland. The area is well known for their beer consumption, especially during Oktoberfest.

But a cream pie? That’s odd. How did this prosperous region in Germany, known for lederhosen, dirndl and beer become synonymous with cream pie? It seemed bizarre to me that I couldn’t find any information on the origin of this dessert. And to make it even more confusing, when I looked up recipes for this dessert I found some that used chocolate and some that didn’t, but I think a true Bavarian Cream is simply a rich custard chilled in a shell and topped with chocolate curls. Add chocolate and you get a Chocolate Cream Pie.

So any way it rolls, and it likely is one of those dishes that is totally open to interpretation, I am thankful today that I am not a stickler for such details, and that I can make a short and simple post about the true meaning of this holiday.

Thanksgiving is quickly becoming one of my favorite excuses to cook. Like I need one, right? But when I haul my huge 22# turkey onto the grill in a few hours and smell the cherry wood smoke that billows out of it as it cooks, I get a little giddy. When I catch a whiff of the yams as they bake in the oven, or see the pillowy mounds of potato, the golden roasted carrots and the richly colored cranberries, it all serves to remind me that I have so much and am blessed with such abundance, and I don’t always make the time to remember what that is, and for that I need to be a lot more careful. Nothing is promised in this world, and given the current state of the economy, it teeters ever more precariously than ever before. We are healthy and strong and we manage- sometimes with a lot of prayer but we manage- and when I swiped my debit card at the grocer and packed up my bounty, I said a prayer of thanks for the fact that, for one more year, I can enjoy the harvest (figuratively….) and sit down to the repast that speaks of all the work that’s been done this year. My husband works so hard for us and I am so thankful that his business is prosperous and his hands are full, sometimes too full but he manages the best he can. I’m very thankful for the opportunities I have had this past year to utilize my skills and look forward to where that will take me. Our son is very healthy and strong, he’s really doing well in his first year of high school and he’s happy with life. Our families- God has blessed us so abundantly in that regard- our wonderful, loving and generous families continue to bring us so much joy and laughter. There is a lot going on in the next month with them and I look forward to it all.

So be thankful for a moment, whether your life is exactly where you feel it should be or you seem a little off track, take a moment and just say ‘Thank You’- for the fact that you can see, draw in a deep breath, and hear your heart beating.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Taking a necessary food holiday break

November 26th, 2008 | 2 Comments »

Today is National Cake Day. I’m no cake scrooge, really- I love me a good rich decadent slice of cake. Or two.

It’s just that tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I’m full up of plans to make my regular feast and I just feel like I should take a minute to inhale deeeeeply, stare down the end of NaBloPoMo and steer away from this holiday to be thankful and reverent for a moment about that holiday.

Plus I didn’t make a cake. Not for today, but recently I did make this one, and this one and they were stellar so they may have to do for now.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I mentioned that, right? Are you ready?? I’m getting there. Organization is the key for me to make this a fun and enjoyable holiday with the littlest of stress, so today I am tackling a To-Do list and getting myself together. I do many things to make it easier on myself because even with pretty good cooking skills, it doesn’t mean I want to be chained to the stove, my knives or vegetable peeler while my family sits around, wine glasses in hand and laughter rising ever higher. No- I want to be getting in the thick of that sibling love.

First and foremost, to make my oven as accessible as possible, I started doing my turkey on our gas grill about three or four years ago and I have never looked back. I use the indirect heat method, a double layer of disposable roasting pan and tin foil to cover the bird. I chop apples and onions and stuff the cavity along with pushing copious amounts of sage butter under the skin. I baste occasionally, but generally leave it be. Additions of mixed cherry and apple wood for smoking make the meat so succulent and flavorful that my siblings eyes roll back in their heads. And if I don’t make a HUGE turkey for plenty of leftovers, I am always disappointed because they eat like they’ve starved for a week to get ready. What’s a Thanksgiving dinner without leftovers??

Then there’s mashed potatoes. My family loves them, and the one year that I decided to roast them instead of mashing them, you would have thought I asked them to eat glass. They looked really ticked about it. So I make mashed because I really can’t stand to see them sad that way, although sometimes I just want to say ‘Ya know what?? You’re an adult! Deal with it!’. And yeah, it’s pretty easy to make them mashed. I plan to peel and cook the spuds today, then mash them and reheat them in the oven tomorrow.

For my vegetable, I am roasting garnet yams and carrots. Then I plan to mash those with chopped pears, shredded gouda, chopped nuts-probably pepitas- and then bake it off tomorrow as well. I use pear juice to flavor it, and may add in chopped craisins or currants. This is one of my favorite and easiest vegetable dishes. I do most of it today. It’s super delicious and healthy too.

Dessert will be a bowl of my famous Chocolate Pudding, and maybe a Lemon Cream Pie.

So that’s my holiday meal in a nutshell- pretty straightforward and uncomplicated. I love that the food nurtures my family, and the atmosphere in our house is so festive and fun when they’re here. I really look forward to it. I very thankful for them; that their health is good and they’re close by, and that we all enjoy our time together. I’m thankful for work to keep us busy and the love of our big huge loving family to keep our hearts full. I very thankful for all my wonderful friends, both here in town and those who lately I have rediscovered through the magic of the Internet (and Facebook). I hope your Thanksgiving holiday brings you many blessings of good food and wonderful family.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!! May your turkey be moist and your smiles bright!

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Where a Parfait gets its day

November 25th, 2008 | 2 Comments »

What’s the difference between a Sundae and a Parfait?? Anybody know??

Today is National Parfait Day. And no, don’t call it a Sundae. There’s a very fundamental difference and you should know what it is so the lovely Parfait doesn’t get its feelings hurt. That’s why there is a National Sundae Day- which we’ve already talked about, so let’s move on -AND a National Parfait Day.

A Parfait is layered. That’s the difference right there. While a Sundae has it’s delicious additions on top and is almost always made with ice cream, a Parfait is designed to have layers of goodies between whatever medium you wish- yogurt, pudding, custard or ice cream- along with some of them on top and in my mind, when you get to have both with endless variations, you’re the rockstar of the dessert world. It’s only fitting that Parfait is French for ‘PERFECT’.

Like this…….

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NaBloPoMo is winding down quickly and I’ve managed to make a rather decent post every day about each food holiday that the month of November celebrates. I’ve learned a lot and I hope you have as well, and that you keep returning to my corner of the blogging world to check out what will be going on after I recover and cut the chains to my laptop so I can live normally again.

That being said, I had all sorts of good intentions to make a whole bunch of delicious recipes to celebrate the end of the month, the end of my first successful NaBloPoMo- we’ve got Cake Day, a few cool Pies to celebrate, French Toast and MOUSSE!- but…….ah, I don’t know. If I don’t get around to it what with all the manic cooking for that big food holiday coming up, please forgive me. I still plan to talk about them and honor them happily. I just may not have a recipe. Don’t be mad.

And that Parfait deal we’re talking about? Let’s get another shot, shall we?parfaits-006

Making up this cute little dessert yesterday, I got to thinking about Trifles- you know, the humongo layered dessert of pudding, fruit, cookies or cake cubes or however your creativity drives you, and I realized that the Trifle is just a Parfait on steroids. It’s the Parfait with an ego, the diva of Parfaits. So what came first- the Parfait or the Trifle? Good question- it’s the Parfait, I’m certain of it.

My cute little Parfait consisted of vanilla yogurt (soy based), chopped almonds and a crunchy concoction from the natural foods store called Chocolate Heaven Granola. I think. It should be because it’s hands down one of the best granola’s that my mouth has ever known. I would never sully it by covering it with milk though- it’s best shoved by the handful between your willing lips. Like popcorn, there is no dignity is consuming this divine pleasure- no nibbling, no bit by bit snacking, no,  this one is an all-out let’s get the job done and enjoy it food item.

But a close second is to stir it into yogurt with a handful of nuts. And add a chocolate mint pirouette. And then offer to share it with your husband but as he settles into a phone call and shuts his office door, you suddenly don’t feel like sharing and you consume the whole thing, shamelessly and when he asks you about it, you just shrug and make an adorable innocent face that he simply can’t resist.

This is how I celebrated Parfait Day.

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An oily little fish AND an award

November 24th, 2008 | 5 Comments »

It’s always a surprise to me when someone passes on one of those very thoughtful and kind blog awards. I’m a tiny and insignificant little fish in the big food blogging world so when someone thinks well enough of me for one of these, it really is an honor.

This Kreativ Blogger award came from Susan at Food Blogga. Thank you Susan, your blog inspires me a great deal and your recipes are always creative and delicious, with the added edge of good nutrition.

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Of course, the rules state that you may pass it on to five bloggers of your choosing. This part is always hard for me because I want to give it to everyone, but after careful consideration, here are my choices:

My (real life) friend Angela at Angela’s Gluten and Dairy Free Kitchen.

Adam from Baking with Dynamite.

Robin from Caviar and Codfish.

Katie of Thyme for Cooking.

Kian’s of Red Cook’s Chinese Kitchen.

All of these bloggers inspire me in some form and give me a push to reach deeper in my own kitchen. Really, there are tons more of them who do that very thing so it truly was hard to choose. You five know what to do now.

And as for today’s food holiday, well it’s really not that exciting; It’s National Sardines Day.

Ugh.

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I can’t help the ‘Ugh’. I’m pretty biased against them, as my sister and I discussed over the weekend. When we were little, our dad used to make sardine sandwiches and we would watch, often in fascinated horror as he would slowly unroll the top of the thin can to reveal the smelly little fishes inside, then press them between bread and take a big satisfactory bite. It was like a wreck on the road- you don’t want to watch but you can’t tear your eyes away. The smell of them still is with me; I can’t even begin to think I could eat them, no matter what you did with them or how you prepared them. Still, I would love to hear of success stories with sardines. It might give me something more pleasant to think about than my odoriferous memories.

Sardines, or Pilchards, are small oily fishes in the same family as Herring. There is some debate over what constitutes one or the other; some say that if the fish is less than 4″ long, it’s a sardine (considered a young European Pilchard), if it’s longer than 4″ it’s a Pilchard. The canned version that I remember are almost always Sprats, or Brisling Sardines, which are also known as Round Herring. Good quality canned sardines, by whatever name they are, should have the heads and fins removed and be properly eviscerated. Fresh Sardines are a favorite food in some cultures of India, and fried Sardines are an especially sought-after delicacy. Sardines are very important to Portugese culture as well, and tradition has it that on June 13th, which is Saint Anthony’s Day, the most popular festival food is grilled sardines, which is a huge summertime treat all throughout the country. The tiny fish is very healthy; it’s chock full of beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids and is typically referred to as ‘brain food’. They are also an excellent source of calcium, B12, protein and Vitamin D. They are generally very low in mercury.

But none of this health information is ever going to steer me into the fan club of Sardines.

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{{{sardine photo courtesy of Seattle Weekly}}}

Double your food holiday fun

November 23rd, 2008 | 1 Comment »

One odd fact that I came across while reading up on food holidays was that National Cranberry Month is in October, but National Cranberry Day is today, November 23rd. I suppose the month of October celebrates when the fruit comes to harvest, but this day, and this day alone sanctifies all that mouth puckering, fruit popping goodness of cranberries.

I so think cranberries get a bad rap, and have really been shoved to the back of the superfood lineup what with the pomegranate, acai and other fabulous nutritional (and likely fickle) findings as of late. Cranberries are amazing little powerhouses that become so abundant this time of year that my market sells them off for less than $2 a pound. Being that this fruit freezes better than anything I’ve seen- well over six months is not at all unusual and 9-12 months is considered standard- it isn’t a stretch for me to stock my freezer all through the winter, and still be enjoying these bursting little orbs in the spring and summer. A nice roasted pork loin covered with cranberry and apples in the Fall is just as good as one grilled in the heat of summer and topped with chilled cranberry compote. Vanilla yogurt tastes divine with a scoop of cranberries stirred inside, and ice cream has the perfect palette to the tart and jeweled colors of the fruit. Just because the classic turkey and cranberry feast is almost upon us is no reason to abandon the cranberries once Thanksgiving is over.

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For just a tad bit of history on our humble little star today- Cranberries are part of the evergreen family and grow on low creeping shrubs in moist acidic bogs in parts of the Northern Hemisphere. They are pollinated by the domestic honey bee and also go by the name mossberry and fenberry. Contrary to popular belief, and not in any deference to those Ocean Spray commercials, but cranberry bogs are not kept flooded during the growing season; they are only flooded at harvest time to facilitate removal of the fruit, and often during the winter to protect the vines, yes, even in chilly climates like Minnesota and Wisonsin where cranberries are a major crop. Nearly 95% of the crop is processed into juices, sauce and other packaged items; only 5% make it to US markets as fresh fruit. Cranberries have moderate levels of vitamin C, fiber and the essential minerals like manganese, as well as a balanced profile of other essential micronutrients. They also inhibit the growth of bacteria in the urinary tract, making them an excellent defense against infections. The tannins have anti-clogging properties and can help ward off dental plaque and gingivitis; they also help strengthen the immune and cardiovascular system and fight arterial plaque.

To make that fabulous looking cranberry compote, mix together one package of fresh cranberries (they can be added to cooking direct from the frozen state), one cup of dried cranberries, 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar, 1 cup of water, a teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg and (optional) 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes. I have subbed in honey for some of the sweetener with excellent results. The vinegar gives it a nice depth and added tartness- like you need it- and you can cut back on the sugar for more tart. Brown sugar gives the compote a deeper and richer flavor than white. Sub in white if you want but start with less and add in more if you prefer a sweeter flavor. I think a balance of sweet and tart is best for cranberries, after all, that’s what they’re all about.

And sharing the day with the glorious cranberry is Espresso- It’s National Espresso Day. We did a cappucino day at the beginning of the month, so I’m just going to step away from the keyboard and let this recipe shine.

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Espresso Biscotti

1/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups pastry flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 egg white, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper.

Cream together butter and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Sift together the flour, cinnamon, and baking powder in a separate bowl. Mix dry ingredients into the egg mixture. Stir in the espresso powder, orange zest, chocolate chips, dried apricots, dried cranberries and almonds.

Shape dough into two equal logs approximately 12 inches long by 2 inches diameter. Place logs on baking sheet, and flatten out to about 1 inch thickness. Brush the log with egg wash. Bake in the preheated oven until edges are golden and the center is firm, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven to cool on the pans. When loaves are cool enough to handle, use a serrated knife to slice the loaves diagonally into 1/2 inch thick slices. Return the slices to the baking sheet.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Bake until they start turning light brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool completely, and store in an airtight container at room temperature.

KATE’S NOTES: I did not use either the orange zest or the dried fruit in this recipe; it’s a personal thing for me, and I imagine if it’s your thing it will be delicious. It just isn’t mine.

I added chopped dark chocolate to these. I don’t like to put whole chips in biscotti as they tend to snap out when you slice them so I took my chef’s knife to the chocolate to break it up. Big mistake- dark chocolate has far less moisture than any other chocolate, and that coupled with the dry November air meant there were little shards of chocolate ALL over my kitchen. And me. Chocolate that defied being cleaned up and simply fluttered every place I tried to wipe, sweep or brush. And if you use a wet rag, it just smears. Suffice to say I was cleaning up chocolate the entire time the cookies baked for the first step. The. Entire. Time. And I found it in lots of odd places for the rest of the afternoon. But oh, these cookies were delicious. SO well worth it!

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News about Cashews

November 22nd, 2008 | 3 Comments »

cashewsIt’s National Cashew Day. Today will be informative, but brief.

The cashew is a tree in the flowering plant family Anacardiaceae, and it’s native to northeastern Brazil. The name derives from the Portugese name for the fruit of the cashew tree, caju, which in turn derives from an indigenous name, acajú, so it’s a derivative of a derivative. In Indonesia it’s named  “Jambu Monyet”, because the cashewnut apparently looks like a monkey hanging on something. The tree is now cultivated in many regions where there is sufficient warmth and humidity for proper growth. Vietnam, NIgeria, India and Brazil produce 90% of the world’s crop of cashews.

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The actually nut produced from the tree is a secondary fruit that forms at the end of the cashew apple, known as a pseudofruit, a thin skinned fruit also known as a maranon. The pulp is sweet and juicy but the skin of the fruit breaks easily making  it unsuitable for transport. The single seed is grown inside a double shell that contains the same potent skin toxin as poison ivy and often creates an allergic reaction in some to the cashew. Although we see it as a nut, a cashew is really a seed.

Cashews are rich in copper, magnesium and zinc- all containing antioxidant properties, but a serving of 18 nuts has 12 grams of fat containing 2.5 grams saturated. Yes, they are delicious and decadent. This is one of those items where the phrase ‘Everything in moderation’ really does apply. They figure prominently in Thai and Chinese cuisine, and are primarily ground for sauces in Indian cuisine. They can be used in a vegan diet as a substitute for cheese.

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{{{ photo courtesies: The Nut Factory (top), Wikipedia (center) Information from this post found on Wiki }}}

The glory of Gingerbread

November 21st, 2008 | 3 Comments »

It’s another great food holiday today, if you’re me that is; it’s National Gingerbread Day! I love gingerbread.

Again, it’s a Mom thing as is nearly all of my baking love; something I got from having a mom who loved Gingersnap cookies and would make them regularly when I was little. That molasses tang, the bite of ginger- I couldn’t wait until the first batch came out of the oven. Although we always (always) had an ongoing debate over the merits of a firm crispy cookie versus a chewy moist one, I didn’t really care when Gingersnaps were on the docket. Chewy or crisp, I loved them madly and could eat them any day.

I still love making my mom’s Gingersnaps and Griffin and I have pooled our willingness to get them from batter to oven to hand on several occasions. I roll out the dough balls and he takes care of the sugar coating. Then, like me and my mom did, we wait in eager anticipation for the first batch to be cool enough so we don’t burn our mouths.

Griffin loves Gingerbread as well, and when I was taking the pan out of the oven, his eyes glazed over in delight. This is the second, or maybe third showing of this recipe and it’s so perfect that I have no desire to look anywhere else. It’s dark, rich and loaded with molasses and ginger, perfect next to ice cream or vanilla yogurt and amazing with a scoop of warm cranberry compote on top.

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Ginger Spice Cake
(anonymous food network star)

2 c. AP flour
1 t. baking soda
1 T. ground ginger
2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. allspice
1 egg
1/2 c. molasses
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted
1 c. buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 and coat a 8″ square pan with cooking spray.

Stir together dry ingredients. With electric mixer, blend egg, molasses, sugar and melted butter until thick and very smooth. Gradually mix in dry ingredients, alternating with buttermilk, mixing each addition thoroughly. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake center comes out clean.

KATE’S NOTES:
I had some soy eggnog on hand and used that instead of the buttermilk, giving the finished cake a nice richness. And since I tend to be slightly forgetful in the kitchen sometimes, I overbaked this a bit and the edges got rather firm. It did not alter the taste of the product at all, in fact, the firm edge stood up so well to the moistness of yogurt and ice cream that it was almost beneficial.

And the cranberries?? Well, that’s coming up on Sunday so venture back then for all things Cranberry!

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