Tag Archives: baking

Snow Patrol

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We got snowed in and I couldn’t be happier.

I love snow; always have. I grew up next door to a small park that is probably a whole lot bigger in my memory than it actually is, but memories do that as we get older, don’t they?

It was big enough to have a basketball court, a small playground, a Little League-sized baseball field tucked into one of the corners and a large hill that was just perfect for sledding down. It was pretty steep and if you got enough momentum going, it was entirely possible to end up down in the middle of the park, between the basketball court and the slide.

And it was right next door to the house. True, I probably would have preferred living next door to the local library, but since I had a tendency to be on the, ahem, chunky side as a kid, I was probably better off living next door to Woodland Park.

It was always great fun to have school cancelled, drag the sled out of the garage and take it next door for a couple of hours. And it was always more fun to come back home, get out of the wet stuff and into dry clothes. With some hot chocolate and cookies, natch.

Here in Philly, we ended up with around two feet of snow. Of course, now when it snows I have to make sure we have enough cat food and people food and baking supplies and tea. I remember when wine and cigarettes were on that list, but no more.

But the makings for lasagna and apricot linzer torte bars were. And cookies are always good, blizzard or no blizzard.


I found this recipe on the Betty Crocker website when I was craving thumbprint cookies. You know those; you usually see recipes for them around the holidays. They’re a butter cookie that’s dipped in beaten egg white and then rolled around in finely chopped nuts. Then you take your thumb, make an indentation and fill it with jam before you bake them. They’re beautiful to look at and absolutely delicious, but a bit of a “do” to make. I’ve made them for the holidays and I’ll be honest; the older I get, the less fuss I want to deal with, cookies included.

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Tea, anyone?

I make mine just a bit differently from the recipe though (of course I do). For some reason, there’s no salt in the cookie base part of the recipe and you need salt to bring out the subtle flavors of the butter and ground nuts. And I like less “base” and more topping too, so mine’s more like a filled cookie bar.

The only other suggestion I’d make is to use a really good jam or fruit spread for the filling, and warm it up a bit before you spread it on the base. Sprinkle a bit of confectioner’s sugar on top if you’d like, and you’re ready for tea.

Apricot Shortbread Cookies

  • 1 cup of unbleached white flour
  • 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 cup ground walnuts
  • ¼ tsp of salt
  • 1/2 cup of unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup of fruit jam, preserves, conserves or spread (please promise me you won’t use grape)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix everything but the jam together until it looks like coarse crumbs. You can use a fork, two knives or a pastry cutter, but your fingers work best for this. Besides, it’s fun!
  3. Put half of the mixture into a 9”x9” pan. Press it evenly  into the bottom of the pan and then press down into the corners to make sure it’s nice and firm.
  4. Warm up the jam a bit in the microwave. Spread it over the base evenly and out to the corners. Sprinkle the rest of the cookie mixture evenly and lightly press into the fruit filling.
  5. Let it bake for about 25 minutes or until it’s nice and golden. Let it cool completely before you cut into these; the filling is crazy hot.
  6. Enjoy!

“Mind Your Own Biscuits And Life Will Be Gravy”

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So one week from today I’ll be in my hospital bed at Temple University Hospital, recovering from my aneurysm clipping surgery. And, touching wood and turning around three times and spitting for good luck, I may even be back home by now. Hopefully this will be my last big surgery for a very, very long time, if not forever.

Since this really is brain surgery, I’m going to be hanging around the house for quite awhile. The Brain Guy said recovery time for a craniotomy is about a month and that I should be taking it easy for at least that, if not longer. If you’re a regular reader of this little blog o’ mine, you already know “me” and “taking it easy” don’t really belong in the same sentence. I adore a really good afternoon nap and there’s not too much I love more than hanging around the house in a flannel shirt and some yoga pants, but I’m an antsy little thing.

So I thought (ha!) it would be a fine idea to pull out some of the knitting I put aside when I started learning how to tote up debits and credits back in September. It seems that I’ve got half of one sock done, another sock that needs its mate, a fingerless mitt that needs its partner as well as its thumb, a ridiculous amount of yarn for two sweaters and a duster as well as a pullover I started in June with high hopes of wearing it in, umm, October.

Which was two months ago. Hey, yarn doesn’t go bad.

And it was in that spirit that I decided (ha!) I needed two more projects to keep me amused while my noggin’s healing. I’ve been doing a fair amount of yapping about crocheting and knitting afghans for awhile now, so I figured it would be a good time to put up or shut up and get started, already.

My other justification for buying more yarn…I mean, starting two new projects is this: I need simple stuff to work on. None of my current projects really qualify as “simple”. I love the complicated cables and colorwork and little tiny DPNs and skinny sock yarn. I mean, love. In reality, what I’m really going to need are things that I don’t really have to think about too much.

So here’s the crocheted afghan pattern and it’s a beauty. I’m using Berroco Vintage worsted in all the colors since I think I’m going for a millefiore inspiration with this. I have a vague memory of someone in my family collecting millefiore paperweights when I was a kid and I was fascinated with them. This is going to be for our queen-sized bed and each triangle motif is about six inches across, so I’m going to need a whole boatload of these. I have no idea how many exactly or what colors I’ll be using yet. I’m making this up as I go along.

Why, no, I haven’t really thought about putting them all together yet. One challenge at a time, ‘kay?

And here’s the knitted afghan project for the couch. In my knitting world, this qualifies as “simple” because that sucker’s 20 pattern repeats across. I can live with a few “purl through the back loop” every fifteen rows or so, even though those words usually make me twitch.

I’m also going to get some special, luxe yarn to take with to the hospital with me so I can start a pair of very simple socks. If the yarn is beautiful, you don’t need to do much with it to bring out the best in it. I’m going to be recovering from big, icky surgery and I have every intention of being very, very, good to myself.


 

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Pass the butter, please.

So here’s something I’ve been making for ages. They’re from one of my favorite cookbooks of all time (“Moosewood Restaurant New Classics“). They’re great with a bowl of soup or stew and the kitchens smells like heaven while they’re in the oven. The only drawback with these beauties? They’re scones, so they only last for one day. That problem is easily solved, though. Just eat two.

Rosemary Garlic Scones 

  • 2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary (you can use 1/2 tsp of dried, but they’re so, so much better if you use the fresh)
  • 2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 Tbsp cold unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Line the bottom of a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly oil it.
  2. In a small skillet, heat 2 Tbsp of the oil. Add the garlic, pepper and rosemary. Simmer for about 1 minute (do not let the garlic burn) and remove from the heat.
  3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Using a pastry cutter, two knives or your fingers (which is what I do), quickly cut the butter into the flour until it’s evenly distributed. Add the seasoned oil mixture and mix well. Quickly stir in the buttermilk to form a a soft (but sticky) dough.
  4. On a lightly floured board, lightly knead the dough so it holds together. Lightly pat it into a 6″ circle and cut it into 6 wedges. Place them on the prepared baking sheet and lightly brush the tops of the scones with the remaining 1/2 tsp of olive oil. I always forget this step.
  5. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the scones are golden brown. Don’t over bake these suckers or they’ll be dense and dry.
  6. Enjoy!

 

 

 

“C Is For Cookie And That’s Good Enough For Me”

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Every once in awhile, I get obsessed with something.

It might be a particular kind of yarn (no surprise there, I’m sure), the perfect crocheted afghan pattern (which I’ve finally found) or an old cookbook I remember from the 1980’s. And I have to be careful since I’ve got the kind of personality that doesn’t let go of things like this easily. I know all too well what happens; I fall down into the rabbit hole of the Intertubes, never to been seen or heard from again.

This time it was a cookie. A chocolate chip cookie to be exact, and it was a recipe that my mom made for Christmas when I was in the fifth or sixth grade. They weren’t the typical, thin, crisp cookie, either. These were thicker, a little lumpy looking, and she used the mini-chocolate chips instead of the usual Nestle suspects. She stored them in those old-fashioned cookie tins and they were hidden in the coat closet in the basement. Of course I found them when I was poking around looking for my gifts.

I hope she’s not reading this.

Anyway, they were delicious. They weren’t Toll House cookies, they was something a little different going on there. To this day, I don’t know what recipe she used and every time I see a recipe for chocolate chip cookies I’m absolutely compelled to see if it might, just might, be The One I’ve been looking for. I still haven’t found it, but you can be sure I’m still searching for them.

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Nom nom nom.

In the meantime though, I made these a few weekends ago. This is one of those recipes that I’d been looking at for years, always saying, “You know, I have to make these.” There is a lot going on here that’s different. There’s whole wheat pastry flour along with regular white flour and dark brown sugar instead of the usual mix of white and light brown. And they’re not thin and crisp; they’re thick and hefty and a little bit chewy. If you like a soft-baked cookie, you’ll go nuts over these.


 

Big  Chocolate Chip  Cookies 

 

  • ¾ cup of unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used Earth Balance)
  • 1 ½ cups dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups unbleached white flour
  • ¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsps pure vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (I used chocolate chunks)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts and/or raisins (I didn’t)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. Beat in the eggs until well blended.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda and salt.
  4. Stir in the flour into the butter mixture, mixing well. Add the vanilla and the water and stir in the chocolate chips.
  5. Add the nuts and raisins if you’re using.
  6. Drop the batter by ¼ cup measures onto the baking sheet (this will make 3” cookies), leaving about 2” in between each.
  7. Bake for about 10 minutes, but check them around 8 minutes in. When they’re done, let them cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then put them on a cooling rack to finish.
  8. Enjoy! These are really, really good.

“Only The Beginning”

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And, it’s all over.

Done. Fini. The best contract job I’ve ever had is in the books.

Strangely enough, I’m fine with that. Okay, I won’t have a regular paycheck for a while but I’m looking forward to a new challenge. And no, brain surgery doesn’t count.

Saying goodbye to the place that became my second home for seven months wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. I was leaving work a few weeks ago and I really thought I was going to be a blubbering, sloppy mess on my last day. I pictured myself sobbing and driving home with mascara streaming down my face because I wasn’t going to ever see these people ever again.

I’ll see one of my former managers at a professional event next week and a few of my co-workers and I connected on LinkedIn and Facebook. Man, I love social media.

Besides, I’ve got a really sneaky feeling that I’ll be back there. It’s a nagging feeling that I just can’t explain, but I can’t shake the hunch that I’ll be seeing everyone again. It may be wishful thinking on my part, too. Time will tell.

But for now, I’ve got a little over two weeks before it’ll be time to get up at quarter to dark and take the drive up to Temple University Hospital in North Philly to get my brain clipped. I’ve got things to do before then and I’m a little alarmed at how quickly my dance card is filling up. I was thinking and hoping (and wishing and praying) that I’d have a couple of days where I could just mooch around, you know? A used bookstore, my friend Lisa’s yarn shop. Christmas shopping, for goddess’ sake.

This week it’s the event that my former manager is hosting and before I can go there, I need business networking cards, a new suit because the old one doesn’t fit my post-cancer body and a trip to have something done to this hair. I have to get a couple of quick holiday gifts for my mom and her boyfriend since we’re going up there next weekend to celebrate Christmas three weeks early. I also said I’d bring up dessert, so somewhere along the line I have to bake a coffee cake.

I have to get my transcripts sent to Villanova University so I can start the evaluation process, finish up my last problem set for my accounting class and figure out when I’m going to take the final. And that’s just this week.

That sound you just heard was my DayRunner exploding.

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One of the things that I absolutely, positively, must do before I have this brain thing done is stock up the freezer with things that just need to be warmed up on top of the stove or in the oven. To me, that means soups, stews and casseroles. I’ve already got a head (ha!) start, too. There’s some eggplant lasagna in there, veggie stew and some cream of tomato soup. I’m going to make a pot of lentil soup, so a freezer bag of that will be a welcome sight when I’m recovering and no one’s in the mood to cook and we’re both sick of pizza.

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Hello, gorgeous.

I’m also going to make a loaf or two of this bread. It comes from the same cookbook that the Three Grain Bread For Roy comes from and it follows the same wet-dough-no-knead method that recipe does. It’s a softer, sweeter loaf from the white flour, oats and molasses in it. It also keeps a little longer than the three grain bread does. 


 

Oatmeal Molasses Bread

  • ¾ cup of hot water
  • ¾ cup of whole milk
  • ¼ cup of dark molasses
  • 4 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 ½ cups unbleached white flour
  • ¾ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rolled (not quick and definitely not instant) oats, plus more for top of the loaf
  • 2 Tbsp cornmeal, plus more for the baking pan
  • 2 Tbsp neutral oil (I like sunflower)
  1. In a large bowl, combine the water, milk, molasses, yeast and salt. Whisk it all together and let it sit until it’s nice and frothy. If it doesn’t get all frothy in about 15 minutes, toss it and start over.
  2. In a smaller bowl, combine the flours, oats and cornmeal. Run a whisk through it to combine it and get rid of the lumps.
  3. Add half of the dry ingredients to the milk mixture and whisk it together. Add the oil and mix well. Now add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix the dough together with a heavy spoon. Make sure everything’s combined well.
  4. Place a towel over the bowl and let it rise and collapse upon itself. This is going to take a couple of hours, so be patient.
  5. When it’s ready to be shaped, preheat your oven to 375°. Sprinkle some cornmeal on a baking sheet; this will create a crunchy bottom crust and keep the bread from sticking. Wet your hands with cold water and scoop the dough out of the bowl. Quickly shape it into a ball and place it on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the top of the ball with some oats and lightly press it into the dough. Cover it again and let it rise until it’s about doubled in size, about half an hour or so.
  6. At this point, you can put a pan of water in the oven to create some steam so the bread gets a crisper crust. I don’t bother since I prefer a softer, chewier crust, so it’s entirely up to you.
  7. Let it bake for about 55 minutes. You can check it with the old toothpick test (stick it in the top of the loaf and if it comes out clean, it’s done) or tap the bottom of the loaf to see if it sounds hollow (if it does, it’s done).
  8. Let it cool on a rack. This is great for sandwiches, especially grilled cheese. Yum.
  9. Enjoy!

“If I Only Had A Brain…”

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So as of this past Wednesday, I have three weeks left on my work contract. And six weeks until I have my surgery to fix that brain thing of mine, for those of you playing along at home.

And I’d be lying if I said all of it wasn’t starting to affect me just a little bit. Okay, a lot. I’m exhausted, tired, and more than a little bit cranky, in constant need of a cup of tea and a long nap. I went through something very similar right before my cancer surgery last year. It’s a combination of the anticipation (if it can be called that), a good old-fashioned case of the jitters (Brain surgery! Eep!) and keeping overly busy to avoid dealing with both of them.

Clearly, I’m very well-versed in avoidance techniques.

In three weeks the work will be over and it’ll be Thanksgiving and then I’ll have some time to catch my breath. I’ll finish up my accounting class and get some knitting in. I’ll fill up the freezer with soups and stews and pasta sauce and some lasagna so my wonderful P won’t have to worry about cooking anything while I’m on the mend.

Man and woman can’t live on pizza alone. I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, you understand.

But if I’ve learned anything from the whole cancer recovery experience, it’s that it’s much, much better to be over prepared than under-prepared. Especially when one half of the couple is snoozing away on the couch, drooling into her mug of Darjeeling, stomach growling.  And the other half hates to cook.

Of course, I’m also stocking up on yarn for the afghan, since the plan is to get as much crocheting in as possible. I’m not counting on getting a whole afghan done, but hey, you never know.

I’ll have things to read, but I’m not sure if I’ll want to get a jump on my spring semester reading or not. Macroeconomics doesn’t exactly sound like a lightweight subject, so I think I’ll stick to something that I don’t have to think about. A co-worker gave me a whole box full of knitting books and patterns and magazines she no longer wants.

Which will be absolutely perfect, especially if all I feel like doing is looking at the pretty pictures.

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Last weekend I made a loaf (okay, two small loaves) of three grain bread. I put the pictures out on the Intertubes and my Twitter friend Roy asked me for the recipe. So I sent the poor guy over here on a wild goose chase because I was pretty sure that I’d shared it at one point last year and was really surprised to discover that nope, I hadn’t. And then I remembered (or conveniently…forgot) that this time last year I was still on the semi-liquid diet and wasn’t able to eat anything that wasn’t tapioca pudding or instant breakfast. 

Voila!

Voila!

Shudder.

Anyways, I’m making up for lost time this year. This comes from “Love Soup” and is one of those great wet-dough-no-knead-technique bread recipes which are pretty perfect to start with if you’re new to baking bread. There’s a lot of liquid and a whole lot of yeast and what you end up with is a very heavy, wet dough that, ta-daah!, doesn’t have to be kneaded. At all. You just mix it and let it rise. Then you shape it and let it rise again. You bake it and you have bread.

See? That’s about as easy as it gets.

This is a very rustic loaf of bread; it’s not fine-grained and it’s even a bit crumbly. But it’s delicious.


Three Grain Bread for Roy

  • 1 ½ cups very warm water (about 100° F or so; it should feel like very warm bathwater)
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp dry active yeast (do not use fast-rising yeast)
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup rye flour
  • 2 Tbsp cornmeal, plus more for the baking sheet
  • 2 Tbsp neutral-tasting oil (I use sunflower)
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the water, honey, salt and the yeast. Let it sit until the yeast dissolves and gets foamy, about 10 to 15 minutes or so. If the mixture doesn’t get foamy, you’ll have to start over.
  2. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the flours and the cornmeal to mix them.
  3. Whisk in half of the flour mixture into the yeast mixture and give it a really good stir until it’s all dissolved. Whisk in the oil. Now, with a good, heavy wooden or hotel spoon, add the rest of the flour mixture. It’s going to be heavy and thick and really tough to stir. Keep at it until it’s all mixed.
  4. Now put a towel over it and let it rise until it’s doubled and collapses on itself. This will take a good couple of hours, so just be patient. Go and knit something or make some soup. The bread doesn’t need you right now.
  5. When it’s ready to be shaped, preheat your oven to 375° F. Take some cornmeal and cover the bottom of a baking sheet with it. Not a lot; you don’t want it to burn. Just enough so the bread doesn’t stick to the bottom. It’ll give you a nice, crunchy crust.
  6. Now, wet your hands and take the dough out of the bowl. Very quickly (it’s going to be very, very sticky) shape it into a ball. Place it, seam side down, on the baking sheet. Flatten it just a bit and cover it. Let it rise again until it’s about doubled.
  7. The recipe says that you should put a roasted pan of water in right about now to make the oven all steamy and to help create a crust. Since I always manage to spill the water all over the place, I never do this but you can if you like.
  8. When your loaf has risen, put it in the oven and let it bake for about an hour. You know your oven better than anyone, so you’ll have to adjust the time accordingly. I like to turn the bread around about halfway through just so it bakes evenly.
  9. About 5 minutes before your timer goes off (you are timing this, right?), take it out and off the baking sheet. Tap the bottom and see if it sounds hollow. If it does, it’s done. If not, give it another few minutes and then place it on a baking rack to cool. I like to take it out a few minutes short of when I think it’ll be done so it doesn’t overbake. Don’t forget, it’s still baking when it first comes out of the oven.
  10. Let it cool a bit and dig in. This also freezes really well. Just let it cool completely, put it in a freezer bag, get all the air out of it and toss it in there.
  11. Enjoy!

“I Sure Do Like Those Christmas Cookies, Sugar”

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When my boyfriend and I got together ten years ago, we thought it would be a fun idea to make a whole bunch of cookies for Christmas.

It made sense. We both liked to bake and since we weren’t going to spend the holiday together (sob!), we could “share the wealth” with our families and friends. Besides, everyone likes cookies.

So we bought butter and sugar and chocolate and I brought down my food processor. We ground nuts and creamed butter and dipped and spooned and flattened balls of dough. We both dug out recipes we loved and it seemed every time we turned around one of us was saying, “Oh! We have to make these. They’re just too good.”

And we baked and baked and baked some more. We had cooling racks on every empty horizontal spot in the apartment. We bought way, way too many zippered storage bags.

Finally, after a couple of weekends of doing this, we took a count of how many cookies we had.

536.

Yes, you read that right. 536 cookies, And that’s not counting the ones we ate along the way.

We gave away a lot of cookies that year. We had our own stash of cookies until March. Let me repeat that. March.

We had cookies until Easter. Easter, people.

And we still love cookies. I don’t eat a lot of sweets, but I will never, ever turn down a homemade cookie. One of the many (ahem) cookies we made that Christmas were these linzer torte bars. Bar cookies are great for when you want cookies but don’t feel like futzing around too much. And these are basically thumbprint cookies without all that faffing around.

Cuppa?

Cuppa?

Two things, though. The recipe doesn’t call for salt and the dough definitely needs a pinch of it. I know, you don’t think about salt in cookies, but most recipes do call for a tiny smidge of it. You could probably go all hipster and add a very small sprinkle of Himalayan pink salt to the top, but it’s just easier to add maybe an eighth of a teaspoon to the dough itself and not get that huge salt hit on your tongue, which I don’t particularly care for.

And it goes without saying that they’ll only be as good as your jam or fruit spread is. I used Bonne Maman’s apricot preserves in this and it worked beautifully. They’re perfect with a cup of tea.

And I had a stubborn craving for these almond cookies this week, which are also great with a brew. I haven’t made them in forever and once I pulled the recipe out, I remembered why. The recipe, as written, calls for “solid vegetable shortening”, or Crisco.

Eww. I don’t use Crisco. Actually, most almond cookie recipes call for lard, which as you can figure out, has no place in my vegetarian kitchen. So I’ll hold off on making these until I can find a substitute for the solid vegetable shortening. Yes, I can use butter, but butter isn’t used in Asian cooking. Hmm.

Clearly more research is needed. Time to fire up the Kitchen Aid.


Almond Cookies (from Martin Yan’s “Chinese Cooking For Dummies”)

  • 1 ¾ cups of all-purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup solid vegetable shortening
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • ½ cup chopped blanched almonds
  • 32 almond halves
  1. Sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda into a bowl.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the shortening, sugar, brown sugar and salt with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and almond extracts; beat until blended. Add the flour mixture and beat until fully incorporated.
  3. Add the chopped almonds and stir to mix well. Shape the dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to two days.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°. Roll about a tablespoon of the dough into a ball and place the balls (ahem) 2 to 3 inches apart on a baking sheet. Press and almond half into the center of each ball.
  5. Bake until golden brown, 14 – 16 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 7 minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
  6. Enjoy!

“Fall In Philadelphia”

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I’m two weeks ahead of my accounting class syllabus.

I’d forgotten what a swotty little thing I am. And it’s a good thing, too. The Powerpoint lecture presentation for the second chapter? Fifty two slides and I took six pages of notes. The chapter is sixty-four pages in my e-textbook. Twelve pages of notes.

Will you still need me, will you still read me, when I’m 64?

Bean Counting 101

Bean Counting 101

And it’s all content-heavy stuff. Definitions and formulas and balance sheets, oh my.

I’m still finding my legs with all of the back-to-school stuff, too. It’s not as tough as I thought it would be, but it’s a new routine. An entirely new routine. I’m used to filling up my spare time with sticks and string and now it’s learning about which accounts get credited, which ones get debited and when to use solvency ratios.

It’s a four day weekend for me and I’m probably done with the numbers for now. I will play around with my sticks and pretty string and do some cooking and take a couple of naps. More likely than not I’ll do some questions and play around with creating some financial statements because I am, after all, a swotty little thing.

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Earlier this week one of my friends mentioned on Twitter that she was all comfy and ready to watch the latest episode of “The Great British Bake-Off”. I tweeted back that I was jealous since our summer’s television programming here in the States has mostly consisted of really bad sci-fi shows and “America’s Got Talent”. And that I really liked Mary Berry and Delia Smith.

I remembered a recipe of Delia’s for vegetable goulash from “Complete Cookery”  that I hadn’t made in years and decided to pull it out to make this weekend. And while I was at it, there was a recipe in “The New Vegetarian Epicure” for apple pudding that I’d always wanted to bake but, for some reason, never did.wpid-goulash.jpg

So I bought a couple of bagfuls of summer veggies and early crop Honeycrisp apples at the farmer’s market yesterday and came home and got to work.

The goulash was terrific and, most surprisingly, light. Even with the sour cream served over egg noodles, it wasn’t heavy at all. There’s not a lot of seasoning in it: sweet and hot paprika, salt and freshly ground black pepper. I think the next time I make it I might throw in some veggie broth and wine to replace the water and tomato paste called for in the original recipe. And maybe a little smoked paprika, too. I’ll let you know how that works or if you decide to play around with it, be sure to tell me.

Mmmm...breakfast?

Mmmm…breakfast?

The apple pudding is definitely going into the rotation for the fall and winter months. I used some leftover challah I had in the freezer for the bread cubes, but I’m going to try a whole grain bread the next time because I think this would be dynamite for breakfast and because I love whole grains. Instead of raisins, maybe diced apricots or dates. There’s a lot of room to play with here.

Vegetable Goulash

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 scant Tbsp. unbleached white flour
  • 1 heaping Tbsp. sweet paprika
  • a couple pinches of hot paprika (if you don’t have it, use cayenne or hot red pepper flakes)
  • 14 oz. can Italian tomatoes
  • 10 fl. oz. hot water, mixed with 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 8 oz. cauliflower flowerets
  • 8 oz. carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 8 oz. zucchini, cut into chunks
  • 8 oz. new potatoes, cut into chunks or halved if they’re really small
  • 1 small green pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • About ½ cup of sour cream
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.
  2. Start by heating the oil in a flameproof casserole (I used my LeCrueset French oven for this). Add the onions and fry until they’re softened.
  3. Add the flour and paprika and give it a good stir. Cook for about a minute or so.
  4. Now add the tomatoes and the tomato water. Bring it up to a boil (keep stirring) and then add all the veggies.
  5. Add some salt, some freshly ground pepper and give it a good stir. Put the lid on and put it in the oven. Let it bake for about 30 minutes.
  6. After 30 minutes, take it out of the oven and carefully take the lid off (seriously…steam burns are no fun) and check to see if the veggies are done. If they are, dinner’s ready. If not, put the lid back on and give it another 5 or 10 minutes. You don’t want the veggies to turn into mush.
  7. When the veggies are done, stir in the sour cream and add more salt and pepper if you’d like.
  8. Enjoy!

Apple Pudding

As written, the original recipe feeds 10-15 people. Which would be great for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but not so much for two people on Labor Day weekend. I’ve halved it here.

  • 2 lbs. cooking apples (I used Honeycrisp, but please use whatever’s in season and local to your area)
  • 1 ¼ cups water
  • ¼ – ⅓ cup of sugar, depending on how sweet your apples are
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg
  • ¼ lb. cubed bread (I used challah, but croissants or French bread would be fine)
  • 3 Tbsp. melted unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup of raisins (or any dried fruit of your choice)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla
  • ⅓ cup of chopped nuts (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  1. Peel and core the apples, quarter them and cut the quarters crosswise into thick slices.
  2. In a heavy pot, combine the apples, water, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Give everything a good stir and bring it up to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and let it simmer away, stirring often, until the liquid mostly cooks away. Some of the apples will turn into a thick sauce. This is good.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the bread cubes in a large bowl and pour the melted butter over the cubes. Toss them around with your hands to coat the cubes and spread them out on a baking sheet. Toast them for about 10 minutes or until they’re golden brown. Keep an eye on these beauties since they’ll go from golden brown to burnt in a blink of an eye.
  4. Lower the oven to 350°. Return the bread cubes to the bowl. Add the cooked apples and the raisins and give it a good stir.
  5. Mix together the eggs, milk and vanilla. Add the custard to the apple/bread mix and give it a good stir. Spoon it into a buttered 9-inch baking dish (I used my faithful glass Pyrex one) and sprinkle the nuts and brown sugar on top.
  6. Bake for about 40 minutes. I promise you, this bread pudding lovely and moist.
  7. Enjoy!

“On Blueberry Hill”

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So about a week ago I started feeling a little tired. And then a little bit more, then really blitzed and finally into a full-blown case of into-your-bones deep exhaustion. I haven’t felt like that since I finished radiation and chemo back in January.

It scared the hell out of me, but it’s nothing to be concerned about, really. I just had check-ups at Fox Chase and both my surgeon and chemo oncologist said I was good for another 25,000 miles. It’s just been a couple of very, very busy weeks and I’m a little crispy around the edges. I honestly forget where all this busy-ness came from, but it was somewhere in between finishing up the first work project in early June, starting the current one and ending with the car blowing up

on me a few weeks back.

I keep forgetting (conveniently, I’m sure) that healing doesn’t always mean the physical kind. While I feel well and look pretty good, I’m a champ at ignoring the signs of needing to slow down. I really am my mother’s daughter when I say, “Oh, I just need another cup of coffee” and get a move on with whatever it was I was doing. I should be awarded a gold medal for all the times I do just one more thing because I can and not because it needs to be taken care of right at that moment. I was at my desk last week and I couldn’t focus on the task at hand because I couldn’t turn my brain off. It wasn’t coffee I needed; a snooze would have really done the trick.

My self-prescribed medicine this weekend is to take it easy and be good to myself; needless to say, lots of yarn will be involved. I also promised myself I wasn’t going to do a lot of cooking and damn it, for once I’m going to take my own advice. It’s going to be hot anyway and the last thing I need to be doing is spending a couple of hours in a steamy kitchen on some marathon bread baking session. We can buy bread this week. Other people do it all the time. Sheesh.

Same with pizza dough. I saw a recipe last night for a stuffed bread that’s filled with potatoes, spinach and feta cheese. It sounds wonderful and delicious but it’s an Anna Thomas recipe. I love her recipes, but they’re a bit chef-fy. My supermarket sells pizza dough. We’ll get by, somehow.

I am, however, going to make another pan of blueberry cornbread. When I first got my hands on “The New England Cookbook”, I remember seeing this recipe and thinking, “Oh! That sounds really good.” And I’ve been doing that for the past four years. I look at it and think, “Yeah. Have to make that” and then I move along to whatever it is I was looking for.

Pass the butter.

Pass the butter.

This isn’t a traditional cornbread. The batter starts out like a typical creamed cake batter preparation and finishes up like a fruited quick bread. It’s not too sweet, but you could definitely have this with a cup of tea for breakfast or a snack. It would probably be fabulous toasted and slathered with butter or Earth Balance. 

Tell you what. You go make the cornbread and the tea. I’m going to put my feet up for a few and grab my knitting and rest.


Blueberry Cornbread

  • 1 ½ cups + 2 Tbsp. unbleached white flour
  • ¾ cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter or Earth Balance, softened
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk (lowfat is fine)
  • ¾ cup fresh or frozen (gasp!) blueberries
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Grease a 9” baking pan.
  2. Combine 1 ¼ cups of the flour, the cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Run a whisk through to get the lumps out and to blend the dry ingredients.
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar in another bowl until smooth. Beat in the eggs, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary, until well blended. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the milk, and beat until just blended.
  4. Toss the blueberries with the remaining 2 tablespoons of the flour and fold them into the batter. Scrape into the prepared dish, smoothing the top.
  5. Bake until pale golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Start checking for doneness at 25 minutes, though.
  6. Let the bread rest for 5 minutes before cutting into squares and serving hot or warm. It’s also pretty good at room temperature and it ain’t half bad cold straight out of the fridge, either.
  7. Enjoy!

I love a Blueberry. I hug a Blueberry. I love a Blueberry.

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A couple of summers ago the BF and I were living in the southern half of New Jersey (that’s “South Jersey” in the proper Philadelphia vernacular) and it was one of those summers that started right after Easter and ran through the first few weeks of football season. It was ridiculously, crazy hot for about four months.

And everyone’s garden was loving it. When it got so humid that the air couldn’t hold any more water, it teemed down like you’ve never seen it rain before. South Jersey became a rainforest that summer.

I came home one day to find a big, long, striped green…something…on the steps.  It was the largest zucchini I’d ever seen and I grew up with an Italian stepfather who used to grow cucuzza

Why you callin' a googotz, huh?

Why you callin’ a googotz, huh?

(“googoots” in Calabrian vernacular) in our side garden. This monster was over a foot long and nine inches around (yes, I did measure it) and quite frankly, I was a little scared of it.

I’d just been zucchinied. A hit-and-run, no less.

There isn’t much you can do with a summer squash that big, you know. The skin’s usually too tough to eat and there’s a ton of seeds. And on top of that, they’re usually bitter and woody, so my idea for making soup or a huge pot of ratatouille went right out the window.

Which is exactly what I was ready to do with this beast, but I really hate waste. And since our landlord was the person who gave it to us…well, I really couldn’t put it back outside for the raccoons. So I peeled and seeded and grated and made two loaves of really terrific zucchini bread. I was appalled at the full cup of oil and don’t-ask-don’t-tell amount of sugar that went into it, but it was really good with a schmear of cream cheese.

Dig in!

Dig in!

A couple of weeks later, I found myself with a bit of a blueberry glut and decided to try a recipe I’d seen in one of my cookbooks for blueberry lemon bread. One of the things I remembered liking about the recipe was that there wasn’t a huge amount of fat or sugar in it when compared to that zucchini cake…er, bread…that I made. Throw in the fact that it looked simple to make and I was pretty much sold.

I subbed out the white flour called for in the recipe with whole wheat pastry flour; it’s an 1:1 substitution, so you can go either way with it. White flour will give you a tenderer crumb while the pastry flour gives it just a touch more heft, which I like. Either way, this will keep for a couple of days, but it’s really at it’s best if you eat it within a day or two of baking it.


Blueberry Cornmeal Bread

  • Oil/butter/cooking spray for the baking pan
  • 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour (or unbleached white flour)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp mild oil (I used sunflower)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp buttermilk
  • Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup blueberries, picked over and rinsed
  • 2 to 4 Tbsp walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats (also called “old-fashioned”, but not “instant”)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease an 8″x 4″ loaf pan.
  2. Put the flour, baking powder and soda together into a large bowl. Add the cornmeal, sugar and salt and run a whisk through it to remove the lumps. Yes, you can sift it, but this is quicker and easier.
  3. In a second bowl, beat together the oil, eggs, buttermilk and lemon rind until well combined.
  4. Combine the blueberries, walnuts if you’re using them, and rolled oats in a third bowl and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the flour-cornmeal mixture over them. Gently stir to combine.
  5. l stir the egg mixture into the flour-cornmeal mixture, using as few strokes as possible. Gently stir in the blueberry mixture The batter should be stiff.
  6. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, turning the pan around about 30 minutes in so the top browns evenly. If it’s starting to get too dark, cover the top very lightly with foil.
  7. Let the baked bread cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then run a knife aournd the edge of the pan and turn it out onto a rack.
  8. Enjoy!

“Even in The Quietest Moment”

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This is not a blog entry.

Really. It isn’t and it’s not. This isn’t my usual words-with-recipes-and-purty-pictures thing that I’ve been trying to do every week since last July, but seem to have been failing miserably at since I haven’t posted anything since, what, April?

Something like that. Anyway.

I am going to get back to that, and soon. I really do miss writing and sharing my creations here, but life happens. One week I was a cancer patient finishing up her lymphedema physical therapy treatments and the week after that I was settling into a new job. I haven’t been in a classroom in well over ten years; in late August I’ll be firing up the laptop and re-starting my college career.

And the knitting, of course. There’s always the knitting.

Some things never change.


Here’s a recipe for a rye bread with an easy sourdough starter that you begin the night before. And you use it all, so you won’t have to worry about reserving a cup of it and feeding it every few days or so.

I always think of Audrey II; “feed me”.

Anyway, this is a mild rye bread, not the typical strong rye bread you might find in an East Coast deli. I thought it was a bit mild for my taste (I like a really pronounced rye flavor), but it’s a great loaf of bread. It’s from the late Sheila Lukins’ “USA Cookbook”.

Sourdough Rye Bread

Sourdough starter:

  • ¼ tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 ½ cups unbleached white flour
  • ½ cup rye flour

Dough:

  • 2 tsps. active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. caraway seeds
  • 2 ½ cups unbleached white flour (I used half white, half wheat)
  • 1 ½ cups rye flour, more if needed
  • Yellow cornmeal, for the baking sheet
  1. Make the starter the day before you plan to make the bread: Stir the yeast into the warm water in a medium-sized bowl. Set it aside to proof, about 5 minutes. Add both flours, mix them into the yeast mixture until it’s all incorporated. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm place overnight.
  2. The next day, make the dough: Stir the yeast into the warm water in a large bowl and set it aside until foamy, 5 minutes or so. Then add the starter and stir to dissolve. Add the salt, 2 Tbsp of the oil, sugar and caraway seeds and mix well. Gradually add the all-purpose flour and 1 ½ cups of the rye flour, mixing it with your hands until a stiff dough is formed.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, and knead until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, adding additional rye flour as necessary.
  4. Generously grease a large bowl with the 1 remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil. Scrape the dough into a ball and add it to the bowl, rolling the dough around to coat. cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap, and set it aside in a warm place until the dough has doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
  5. Turn the dough onto a work surface and divide it in half. Shape each half into an elongated loaf, about 8 inches long, pushing the dough away from you and tapering the ends.
  6. Sprinkle a large baking sheet with the cornmeal. Place the 2 loaves on the sheet and cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Set it aside in a warm place until the loaves have doubled in volume, about 30 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F. Fifteen minutes before the loaves go in, fill and 8-inch square baking pan with boiling water and place it on the bottom oven rack to create steam.
  8. Oh, about that. Make sure your oven is clean before you do this, otherwise you’ll set off every smoke alarm in the house. Ask me how I know.
  9. Using a razor blade or a very sharp knife, slash the loaves diagonally, about ¼ inch deep, in 4 places. Bake the loaves in the center of the oven until a deep golden brown, 40 minutes.
    Cover the loaves with foil if they’re getting a little too brown. When they’re done, they’ll sound hollow on the bottom when tapped. Cool on a wire rack. They freeze beautifully and I think they’d make fabulous rolls, but I haven’t tried that yet. I will.

And they might go really, really well with some chilled cucumber yogurt soup, don’t you think?

This is from Moosewood’s “Daily Special”, and I really thought I’d posted this recipe last summer. Now it’s yours and it’s great for the really doggy days of summer when it’s just too freakin’ hot to cook.

It’s also really easy. I’m giving amounts here, but you can just eyeball those after you make it a few times. I also swap out the regular cukes called for in the original recipe for the much easier, unwaxed European cukes so this way there’s no peeling or seeding.

Cucumber Yogurt Soup

  • 3 large European seedless cukes, chopped
  • 2 cups plain, low-fat yogurt (Dannon is great. Try to use something without any gelatin or other weird thickening agents)
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives (I use the green parts of fresh scallions)
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
  • 2 Tbsps. chopped fresh mint
  • 1 Tbsp. sunflower or other vegetable oil
  • 2 tsps. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsps. honey
  • 3/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  1. Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl. Working in batches, puree it in a blender. Taste and add additional seasoning as necesary.
  2. Serve really, really cold. Taste it again for seasoning before serving.
  3. Enjoy!