Friday, March 23, 2012

Upside to the Down Economy/ The Best Biscotti

My Aunt Josie celebrated her birthday Monday. She is ninety-two. There aren't a lot of things a 92 year old needs, so I have gotten into the habit of making her biscotti. I have been making this biscotti, for various occasions, at least ten years and I have to say, they are delicious. Even my husband Zeke, who doesn't care for biscotti (too hard) loves them. I make them for special occasions and for special people, because they are a labor intensive cookie to make. I read an article once in the Food section, about a guy who made this fabulous applesauce for his friends for Christmas. He choose the apples with care and added apple brandy, nuts, spices, cooking it all to a perfect blend and then jarred them up for gifts. He said the people who said "Thanks for the jar of applesauce" were scratched off his list for the next year. This applesauce was sacred and deserved respect. Those who appreciated it for the labor of love it was, got gifted the next year. My biscotti are like that- reserved for special people. My Aunt Josie, my mom, my friend Martha and her family and, a recent convert- Mirella La Salle. I gave some to this beautiful Italian lady for Christmas last year and the next time I saw her she wanted to know where I bought the delicious biscotti. When I told her I made them, she couldn't believe it and so she is now on my list of people I will give my biscotti to. I don't often give out the recipe- not because I am a recipe hoarder, but because it takes a while to make. But if you have the time, energy and love to make these biscotti- here is the recipe, clipped from The Miami Herald many moons ago.

Almond-Orange Biscotti

1 1/2 cups whole almonds (blanched or not)

3 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup butter, softened (10 2/3 Tablespoons)

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs, room temperature

Grated peel of one large orange

Grated peel of one lemon

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread almonds in a pan and bake until lightly toasted. Chop into coarse chunks and set aside. Combine flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric mixer. Beat on medium high speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, and beat well after each addition. Mix in orange and lemon peel and almond extract. Add flour mixture and mix at low speed until all ingredients are well incorporated. Mix in almonds.

Put flour down on surface and place dough on floured surface, dividing evenly in half. Form into 2 logs, approximately 12 inches long, flattening tops gently with palm of hand. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet, as far apart as possible. Bake 25 minutes, or until tips are firm. Do not under cook or over cook, otherwise they will not slice smoothly. Remove from oven and place on rack. Cool 10 minutes.

With a large, sharp knife, cut logs into diagonal slices, about 1/2 inch wide. Line them up, cut side down, and bake another 10 minute on the other, or until they are lightly golden. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

"Nobody sees a flower, really; it is so small. We haven't time, and to see takes time- like to have a friend takes time." Georgia O' Keefe

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Begin It!


Most of us tend to make resolutions for the new year, many times forgotten by the time the Groundhog pokes his head out at the beginning of February. I am thinking about goals because my son Brad sent me his list of immediate goals. He also made a five year plan and actually set goals all the way till he turns 60 (he's 32). I was thinking this was a good idea and thinking about my own goals- that I should write them down and start pursuing them. Then, the next day my daughter A.J. told me that she recently thought about her goals and wrote them down. She said a Harvard study on students that wrote down their goals while in college were 80% more likely to accomplish them, than those who didn't. Writing down goals makes them concrete and looking at them every day reminds us of where we are aiming and what we need to do to get there. So many times, days go by and we have accomplished little putting-out-fires things, but nothing towards our goals. I read somewhere that you should do something every day to bring you closer to your goals. It could be something small, like reading an article about a career you are pursuing or choosing a piece of fruit over a cookie. We all know how time flies by and here it is March already (actually the middle of March), so I think this is a good time to assess or re-assess your goals, write them down and commit to making them happen. This way, when 2012 is over, you will feel satisfied that you have either achieved or at least, come closer to achieving your goals. As for me I want to make a film with my Flip camera, write a spec script for The Middle, learn Spanish and convert my pool to saltwater.

"Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it." Johann von Goethe

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Stuff Those Shells with Love

My Go-To Dinner to deliver to people that are sick or recovering is Cheese Stuffed Shells. Easy, homey, simple and delicious. I don't know why this has become what I make, but it has. I usually put a little Sandra Lee semi-homemade spin on it, as either the stuffed shells or the tomato sauce is usually store bought. If I have homemade sauce (my Grandmother's recipe), I buy the stuffed shells in the freezer section. If I don't make the sauce, I make the shells myself. The sauce, which I used today, reminds me of my grandmother's sauce. It is Sunday Marinara by Del Grosso. While it's somewhat more expensive than the normal Classico, they sometimes have BOBO offers, which makes it more reasonable. Also, $6 is a small price to pay for a sauce that usually takes hours to make and leaves me smelling like salt pork! I made the stuffed shells today for dinner for Frances, my friend who is recovering from surgery for a brain tumor. Luckily, she is doing as well as can be expected. As I beat the eggs, grated nutmeg and Locattelli cheese, picked parsley from my garden and chopped it up and stirred it all into the ricotta cheese with fresh grated mozzarella, I thought of Frances. Every shell I stuffed was filled with love. Another plus about this recipe is #1 It freezes well #2 There is usually enough to make two pans, so I have a pan left for my family. To round out the meal, I bought garlic bread, Caesar salad in a bag, gelato and cookies. Mamma Mia! Mangia!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ You Never Know

I always host the Valentine's Dinner for our supper club. This year was the fourth year. Last year, while planning my Wine Tasting Valentine's Dinner I got a little exasperated and discouraged about the whole thing and was ready to quit it. You know- same people, same thing, same old, same old. This year, however, I had a different attitude. Although I've had four dinners, no two has been the same and it's never been the same exact couples participating. On the first year (which actually fell on Valentine's Day) one of our couple got engaged. Last year, they were newlyweds and won the Newlywed Game. This year we asked the same guest couple as the first year. They came and had fun, but since the first time, his Dad had passed away, a big loss. One of the women in our supper club's father had also recently passed away (like a couple weeks before), and another one's Dad died a couple years ago, unexpectedly. Zeke (my husband) also lost his Dad last year, so I was thinking even if you have the same couples attending, in a way they are no longer the same because things change in our lives. So, when we were all sitting on the couch laughing loudly at a joke, I felt happy and grateful to know that we were all able to gather together, at this place and time. And now I just found out, that the wife of one of our regular couples has a brain tumor and is going to be operated on today. I am saying prayers for Frances, her surgery and speedy recovery and more than ever grateful that we go on with these traditions together, because you never know.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Upside to the Down Economy/ Bahn Mi Sandwiches

Chicken breasts, the staple of all dieters, can get extremely boring. Here is an exciting (and healthy) sandwich that explodes with flavors and incorporates veggies and chicken breast. The original calls for baguettes for the bread (which I'm sure is delicious), but in a bid to be healthier, I use whole wheat pitas.

Banh Mi-Style Chicken Sandwiches

4 mini whole wheat pitas

1/4 cup light mayo

2 Tbl sriracha

2 cooked chicken breasts, sliced

1 jalapeno, thinly sliced (pickled will do)

2/3 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced

Mint and cilantro leaves

2 cups shredded lettuce

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1 Tbl seasoned rice wine vinegar

Mix mayo and sriracha together. Spread on both sides of the the inside of the pita. Arrange chicken in pita. Add jalapenos, cucumber and herbs. Toss the lettuce and carrots with the vinegar, add to the sandwiches. Enjoy with napkins, as this is a messy sandwich.

Unfortunately, my photos of the sandwich didn't turn out, but a note about the sriracha, which has been popping up more and more in restaurants. Number one, get the one with the rooster on it. According to my son Christopher, it's the best one. Number two, it can be used on many foods, not just Asian. My daughter A.J. puts it on everything. According to the bottle it is good in "soups, sauces, pasta, pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers,or on anything to add a spicy, delicious taste. Number three, at 5 calories for 1 teaspoon, you get a lot of spicy bang for your (calorie) bucks.