Friday, January 28, 2011

Apricot-Almond Biscotti

I've made several biscotti recipes, but this one is hands-down my favorite! I sometimes dip them in white chocolate when I'm done, sometimes I don't. They are delicious either way!
Start out by mixing the dry ingredients in a bowl, and the wet ingredients in a food processor.

Make a well in the flour, and add the wet ingredients.

Mix thoroughly, but don't go crazy and overmix.
Shape into loaves and refrigerate.
Bake. I like using the non-stick baking pads called Silpats, though you can also butter and flour your baking sheets and that tried and true method works also.
After baking the loaves, cut horizontally and lay them on their sides back on the baking sheets.

Flip them and bake again. This is what biscotti actually means: "twice baked."
Plan a coffee/biscotti morning with your friends, and prepare to be tackled for the rest of them before they all leave!

  • 2 ¼ c. all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ c. sugar
  • ½ c. unslated butter, chillded, cut into pieces
  • 2 ½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ginger, ground
  • c. white chocolate chips
  • 1 ⅔ c. blanched, slivered almonds, toasted
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ + 1 tbsp. cup apricot brandy
  • 2 tbsp. almond extract
  • 1 ½ c. dried apricots, diced

  • Combine flour, sugar, butter baking powder, salt and ginger in a food processor and process until a fine meal forms -- about 30 sec. Add chips and process until finely chopped, about 30 sec. Add almonds and chop coarsely, about 15 sec.

    Beat eggs, brandy, and extract in a large bowl until blended. Add flour mixture and apricots and stir until a moist dough forms.

    Line a cookie sheet with foil. Butter and flour foil (or use Silpat). Divide dough into thirds and place on the cookie sheet in three 12-inch strips. Moisten fingers and shape dough into 2 inch wide biscotti shaped logs. REFRIGERATE 30 MIN.

    Bake at 350 degrees for 35 min. Remove logs from the oven and cool. Cut each log into 3/4 in. slices and place each slice on its side on the baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 12 min. Turn biscotti and bake for an additional 12 min.

    Makes 4 dozen.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Jury duty turned cooking class....

Really. It was my first year of teaching high school in Beaverton, OR and low and behold, I was “summoned” to serve on jury duty. When you are called to the jury in Portland, you have to sit there all day, whether you are chosen for a case or not! I was newly married and had no idea how to cook. It was the perfect opportunity. I bought a copy of “The New Basics”cookbook, which is as big as a Bible, and I read it cover to cover. These two ladies schooled me in everything from pureeing soups to identifying beef cuts to whipping up a chocolate mousse. This new world fascinated me. How could there be so much information aboutCOOKING?

I call this experience my domestic “awakening.” I opened that book and have never looked back. Since then, I have been a diligent student of cooking, crafts, gardening, and decorating. These are some of my “passions,” and I’m happy to say that my family mostly benefits from them.

It can sometimes feel like there is no time to explore new areas of interest. We barely keep up on the day to day (believe me, I can relate to this)! However, growth enriches our lives and keeps us energized. My new area of interest is photography. I've been talking for a while about learning more about it. It's time for a plan! Is there an area you would like to explore but haven’t had the time? or is there an area you would like to explore in greater depth?

Create an action plan below:

1. Identify on a piece of paper 1-3 areas you'd like to explore.

2. Find the "leading" books on these topics and order a couple. Websites like Amazon are wonderful for buying used books, and the reviews are helpful when making your selections.

3. Set aside time to learn about this new area. It could be an hour a week on a Saturday, or once a month. You may even luck out and get called to jury duty! If you do, you'll be ready! :)

4. Get some accountability! Find a friend who wants to explore the same area, or who will ask you about your progress.

TO-GO Burritos

  • My sister swears by homemade burritos, and I finally wised up and got on the band-wagon! These are super handy to have around. I make a bunch of them, freeze, and then place in a ziplock. My husband and kids pull them out for lunches, work, or for a heavy snack in between games.

  • 2 lb ground turkey
  • 2-3 c. pinto beans
  • 3 c. shredded cheddar cheese
  • Refried Beans
  • ¼ c. chicken broth
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 onion
  • 1 jalepeno
  • ½ tsp. cumin
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp. cilantro leaves
  • 2 tsp. lime juice

Step 1: Soak the beans overnight, and then cook in the crock pot or on the stove for 2-6 hours until soft (or just get them from the can). When using a crock pot, I cook them in chicken broth with a couple of garlic cloves thrown in. After the beans are soft, puree 3/4 of the beans in a food processor with the broth, ground cumin, salt, onion, garlic, cilantro, and lime juice (and jalepeno if you like it spicy). Transfer to a bowl and add the rest of the beans to give it some texture.

Step 2: Cook the ground turkey and set aside.

Step 3: Shred the cheese in a food processor. I do not like the pre-shredded cheese at all. The food companies have to put emulsifiers in the pre-shredded to keep it separated and it changes the composition of the cheese. I HIGHLY encourage you to shred your own! It makes a big difference.

Step 4: Cook the tortillas as directed, or heat pre-made tortillas in the oven.

Step 5: Assemble the tortillas. Place the filling in the middle and wrap. Place each in a section of plastic wrap and place on a baking sheet. Freeze until firm. Transfer to a ziplock bag.

Step 6: These go straight from the bag to the microwave. Place them on high for 3 minutes and they are ready! You could also wrap them in foil (remove the plastic wrap) and heat in the oven.

My Favorite Simple Greek Salad

I first had Greek Salad in Athens when I was studying abroad in college and we traveled to Greece. I still remember the darling, open-air cafe where I sat admiring the white washed buildings around me as my friend and I ate lunch. I LOVED it and have ever since. The store-bought Greek salad always leaves much to be desired, however. It is so easy to make, and to me, the simpler the better.

Step 1: Seed cucumbers by halving and then scraping the middle out with a spoon. The seeds are what create all of the water in these vegetables, so taking them out will save your salad from drowning!

Step 2: Halve and seed the tomatoes with a spoon also.

Step 3: Add the feta cheese. I like the Greek feta that they now sell at Costco. Cut it up into small pieces and it will naturally crumble.

Step 4: Add the kalmata olives. Most companies now sell them pitted so be sure you get those kind. You don't have to halve the olives, but I like to.

3 cucumbers
5 roma tomatoes
1/2 block feta
15-20 kalamata olives
Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil over the salad
Salt and pepper to taste

These amounts are very subjective.
Add or subtract according to your own taste and preferences!

The skinny on cooking group

I once thought that once- a-month cooking meant one thing: casseroles! I am not a casserole kind of girl, and I thought that's what cooking groups made. Not so! Our version of "cooking group" makes incredible marinades, delicious, healthy sauces, and even gluten-free dishes! The time spent cooking together not only serves our families, but it builds our friendships, and saves us money to boot....lots of money! You just wouldn't believe how economical it is to cook this way! There are several ways to organize this kind of a group, but let me walk you through how we do ours:

1. Pick a group of 4-6 people who you enjoy being with and who like to cook -- or who at least want to learn to cook!
2. Designate a "buyer" for the month. In our group of 6, we shop in teams of 2. In my sister's group of 4, they plan and buy individually. The buyer(s) picks 10-12 recipes, then buys all of the ingredients for all of the families. In our group, we times each ingredient in each recipe by 6. The math takes some concentration, so I highly recommend you leave the kids at home, unless they are walking calculators! Usually the people planning also host the group that month at their house.
TIP: Costco will shop for you with a very detailed list if the order is over $500. This has been really helpful for me!
3. Pick a place in your house where you can organize all of the ingredients. For me, I use our dining room. I tape each recipe to the wall or to a chair, then I place the ingredients that go with that meal underneath the recipe. Common ingredients like olive oil, onions, salt, garlic, vinegar, etc. go on the middle table for all to use.

4. Each cook comes prepared with an apron, a cooler, a knife, cutting board, and mixing bowl (if needed). My sister's group cooks during the day while the kids are in school. My group starts cooking at 6pm. We line up our coolers on the front porch or in the garage.

5. Each cook takes a recipe from the wall or chair, and goes to work! The meals are either bagged in ziplocks or placed in aluminum pans. We label them with a Sharpe pen then place a meal in each cooler.

6. We pay the person who bought all of the groceries, then we go home with our coolers, 12 meals, and a sheet that lists each meal and the directions for cooking. I like to post this on my freezer where I store my meals so it doesn't get misplaced.

That's it! I HIGHLY encourage you to give this kind of cooking a try! We have to cook for our families anyway, why not make it fast, economical, and fun to do!