My mom is visiting this week and being a huge help with the kids while Ben is gone. Along with her lovely self she brought a couple of recipes with her that she thought we could try together. This biscotti is one of those and I am so very glad that we made them! These are delicious.
Almond is one of the flavors that I think of when I think of my mother. That and pears. She adores pears. These biscotti have sliced almonds and cherries that have been soaked in amaretto which makes the almond flavor even more present and the cherries nice and plump. I wonder how these would be with dried pears…
The prep and cooking method for these is similar to most biscotti I have made. One of the things that is different is on the second bake. Instead of baking the sliced biscotti directly on the baking sheet you place them on wire racks in the oven to bake which I think crisps them up more evenly. I’ll be doing this again for future biscotti. Try these as an accompaniment to your morning or afternoon coffee. Or crumble them up over some ice cream. Or just eat them, that’s the way my 2 year old seems to like them best.
Cherry Almond Biscotti
From a page torn from some Martha Stewart magazine Ingredients
1 3/4 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup amaretto liquor
3 cups flour (more for dusting)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs (3 for the cookies and 1 for brushing)
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup sliced almonds
raw sugar for sprinkling on the tops
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Mix cherries and amaretto in a small saucepan and heat over medium low for about 5 minutes. Liquid should just simmer. Drain and reserve the liquid.
Sift flour, salt and baking powder and set aside.
Beat butter and sugar until thoroughly mixed, about 2 minutes. Add in eggs, one at a time, mixing after each. Mix in 2 tablespoons of cherry juice and vanilla.
Add in the flour and mix just to combine, then add in cherries and almonds and mix to combine.
Flour a work surface and turn dough out. Divide in half and shape into two logs, about 12 inches long and 2 inches thick.
Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Pat logs down to about 3/4 inch thickness, about 4 inches wide and 12-14 inches long.
Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for 25-30 minutes. The logs will be dark, but shouldn’t be burned. Check the bottom of the logs at 25 minutes and remove from the oven if they seem dark. Transfer to wire racks to cool for 20 minutes.
Slice logs at an angle to the thickness you like, 15-20 slices per log. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.
Transfer biscotti back to the rack and lay the slices on their sides. You will have to do this in 2 batches. Place the rack on a baking sheet and bake for 5-7 minutes, flip biscotti over and bake for another 5-7 minutes. Cook longer for a crispier biscotti and less for a softer one. Let cool. Store in an airtight container for a few days or freeze to enjoy later.
This challenge couldn’t have come at a better time! July is my birthday month. Having to bake a special cake for the Daring Bakers was the perfect excuse to bake myself a birthday cake. For the July Daring Baker’s Challenge, Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to bake a cake. But not just any cake; she asked us to add in a special surprise for our eyes as well as our taste buds! When I saw this challenge I immediately got on Amazon and bought the Surprise Inside Cakes cookbook, which is amazing. But after looking through it I decided I couldn’t commit to one of her cakes right now. I figured I’d fail at the first attempt and have to try again (or a dozen times) to get it right. And I just couldn’t justify taking the time and energy to make multiple cakes when most of my time and energy has to go toward my kids. So I opted to make something a little simpler, and something I’d seen before and been anxious to try. This checkerboard cake is impressive without being quite as involved as something like this. Amazing, right?! And something I’d like to try someday, just not today. A lot of these kinds of cakes involve baking cake, crumbling it up and mixing it with icing, carving into other baked cake layers and then filling to space with the cake-frosting mixture. I wasn’t even going to pretend I was brave enough to try that. This cake just involves some cutting and layering. I could handle that. I used cake mix for this challenge because if it didn’t turn out I did not want to throw a scratch cake away, and, let’s face it, scratch cake is easier and always reliable. Start by baking two boxes of cake mix into 8-inch rounds. I used a dark chocolate and funfetti cause it’s my birthday! Wrap them in plastic and chill them in the fridge for at least a couple hours or overnight. Now you want to level them to all the same height. I used one of these. It’s a favorite cake tool of mine. You can also use a serrated knife. Now cut each layer using a 5-inch circle and a 3-inch circle. I tried to center them perfectly but they weren’t quite perfect. It turned out fine. Also, as you can see below, I had my knife at a slight angle when I cut the first circle. Try to keep it straight, but know that if you have the same problem as I did, it will still work out. Then do the same with the chocolate layers. Be very careful when moving the rings! They become very fragile. Now would be a good time to chill or freeze the layers. I didn’t and wish I had. They would’ve been easier to move if they were cold. Whip up a batch of frosting, I used this one. Place one large vanilla ring on a cake plate. Spread some frosting around the inside of the ring. Place a chocolate ring inside of this one. Frost the inside of this ring and then place a small vanilla circle in the center. NOTE: Your icing is going to get full of chocolate crumbs. Try to keep the big bowl of frosting relatively crumb free. I scooped frosting into a smaller bowl as I needed it. Top this layer with frosting. Then repeat with the rest of the cake layers, alternating chocolate, vanilla, chocolate. Frost the entire cake with a crumb coat and put in the fridge to set, at least a couple hours. Now you may need to make another batch of frosting, depending on how much you made the first time around. Finish off the cake with the final coat of frosting. Place the cake in the fridge until you’re ready to cut in to it. These kinds of cakes cut more cleanly when cold. Stick some candles in and celebrate!
I have three of the best sisters on the planet. I was lucky enough to have two of them down to visit a couple weeks ago. We are all different, but we all share an interest in food and cooking. When a holiday or party is coming up we often menu plan together. Lindsey and Sarah found this recipe for an orzo salad while they were visiting and it was the perfect side dish for the steak Ben grilled for dinner. I made it again the following weekend when my parents were in town and it was a hit yet again! This salad is simple and delicious and a great choice for a summer side dish.
This salad comes together quickly, can be prepared ahead, and can be served room temperature or cold, making it a really convenient dish. You can adjust the ingredients to your liking. I used a lot of tomatoes and herbs, with a small amount of dressing and feta. You can serve more dressing and feta on the side for guests who want more of it. You could leave out the chickpeas if you don’t care for them, but I probably wouldn’t add anymore than the can called for. The chickpea to orzo ratio seemed just about perfect.
The basil and mint combination make this salad bright and refreshing, the feta is a great flavor addition, the chickpeas are a nice texture surprise and the tomatoes provide lovely flavor and color.
The first time my sister made the dressing I was almost out of red wine vinegar so she subbed in some balsamic to make up the difference. The next time I made it I used all red wine vinegar and it definitely changes the dish. I think I preferred it with a little balsamic, but both ways are quite good.
I hope this makes its way to your table this summer! You will not be disappointed.
Orzo Salad with Chickpeas, Tomatoes, Herbs and Feta
From Giada DeLaurentiis
1 1/2 cups orzo
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 to 2 cups cherry, grape or other small tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on their size
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
4-6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper to taste
Red Wine Vinaigrette
1/2 cup red wine vinegar (can sub in half for balsamic)
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
Whisk vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper together in a bowl. While whisking, drizzle in the oil. Set aside. Note: You won’t use all the dressing. Save what’s left in the fridge to use on a green salad.
Cook orzo in boiling water according to package instructions, until al dente. Drain, then transfer to a serving bowl, toss and let cool.
Toss orzo with the beans, tomatoes, onions and herbs.
Drizzle with some of the dressing, taste and add more until you’re pleased with the flavor.
Toss in the feta if serving right away, otherwise cover and chill until ready to serve. Toss in the feta right before serving.
A dear friend gave me her copy of “Deceptively Delicious” , the cookbook by Jessica Seinfeld, when I complained about my kids not eating certain foods. Vegetables being our main problem. While perusing the cookbook I came across some really yummy looking recipes. The great thing is that almost every one sneaks veggies into foods that kids love (macaroni and cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, chicken nugget, etc .) I came across a chocolate chip cookie recipe that has an entire can of chickpeas in it. Well, we all know what I had to do that very day.
I changed a few things about the recipe, using butter instead of tub margarine, one egg and one egg white instead of two egg whites, and white whole wheat flour instead of all purpose. I also mashed up the chickpeas instead of adding them whole, just to avoid biting into a big ol’ chickpea, which didn’t sound super appealing.
The results were not bad! You can’t taste the chickpeas. Ben actually took one off of the cooling rack when he got home, ate it and declared it good before I told him they were semi-healthy. I didn’t even tell him about the chickpeas. He’s finding out now via the blog…
The cookies are cakey and bake up in mounds with very little spreading. I left some in mounds and flattened others. You can flatten them with your hand, the bottom of a glass or the back of a fork. Eaten the same day they’re baked they are really tasty. After storing them in a container for a day they stick together a bit and are very soft. BUT still quite delicious.
I used milk chocolate chips, but I think semi sweet or dark would be better. The raisins are optional, but I really liked them in these cookies. I used pecans, because that’s what I had. But, and I know this is out of character, I think walnuts would be better. I don’t think the white whole wheat flour made much of a difference in these since they’re already very hearty in texture, I used it because I had some and it made me feel like I was making these even healthier! Healthier cookies means I can eat more of them! And I feel better about giving them to the kids. Both of the big kids, almost 4 and almost 2, really liked these. So while I won’t be making these cookies every time I want chocolate chip cookies, I will be making these again.
After having a baby (2 weeks and 3 days ago) I am anxious to have a semi-predictable life again and get back to some of the things I was doing before he was born, like baking, cooking and blogging. And sleeping, that’d be nice. However, I have been consistently reminded that life with kids, and especially life with a newborn, is anything but predictable. I tried and failed to make some coffee cake muffins earlier this week. I blame sleep depravity, the speed at which I tried to put everything together, not totally thinking through my plan, and holding a screaming baby while filling muffin cups with batter and streusel! Thankfully they only looked ugly but tasted delicious!
I was frustrated with myself. But I realize my expectations for getting back to blogging were set a little high. It’s just not going to happen like it used to, at least not for now. I am no longer guaranteed a time in the afternoon where all the sweet children are tucked away in their beds and I can cook, bake, take pictures and type away. So I’m going to be a little more realistic with blogging and be happy with whatever I can manage for the next couple of months! And remember to cherish this time with the babies, like so many people who have kids that are now grown, tell me to. After all, the days are long but the years are short.
This morning I found myself up at 7am with my two older kids while the little man slept in until almost 9:30! I took advantage of the time and baked up some super simple scones. This recipe sits right next to the coffee cake recipe I attempted yesterday and is in the ATK Family Cookbook. I figured it was a sign.
It took me less than 20 minutes to mix these up and get them in the oven. They’re done baking in 15 minutes and ready to eat in 10. The ingredient list couldn’t be simpler which yields a simple and satisfying scone with nothing extra to take away from the hearty oats and rich butter.
Eat these plain, warm or at room temperature. Spread with a little extra butter and jam. Have one for breakfast, one for mid-morning snack and one in the afternoon with some tea or coffee for a little pick-me-up. The scones aren’t too sweet, which is nice. They’re almost like a biscuit, just with more texture and a bit more dense.
I am so glad I stumbled across this recipe, and thankful for the cooperative children who made this blog post possible!
Toasted Oat Scones
From ATK Family Cookbook
1 1/2 cups oats, old fashioned or quick cooking
1/2 cup half and half (plus 1 tablespoon for brushing on the scones)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar (plus extra for sprinkling on the scones)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons butter, cold, cut into chunks
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Spread oats out onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment. Toast the oats for about 8 minutes, just as they begin to brown. Let cool.
Increase oven to 450°F.
In a small bowl, whisk half and half, the egg and vanilla together and set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder and pulse a few times.
Add in the butter and pulse until butter is in pieces no larger than the size of a pea.
Pour flour mixture into a large bowl and fold in the milk mixture until it just comes together. Flour your hands and bring the dough together in the bowl.
Turn out onto a floured surface and pat into a round about 1 inch thick. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet and cut into 8 wedges.
Brush the tops with half and half, then sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden. Cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.