Sunday, April 20, 2014

pistachio lime shortbread sandwich cookies {#BakeForACure}

My very favorite food blogger, Joanne Bruno of Eats Well With Others, asked me and a bunch of other food bloggers to join her in a cookie fund raising project for cancer research.

Each of us are making a batch of delicious cookies and offering them for sale, highest bidder takes the batch.

Mine are these refreshing shortbread cookies with lime filling. Perfect for a spring picnic, if you don't eat them all out of the box.

Check out the yummy treats up for bid on her website: Bake to Cure Cancer.

Bidding starts Monday, April 21 and ends Wednesday, April 23.

Have your sweets and put your money toward a good cause at the same time. Can't beat that!

Pistachio Lime Shortbread Sandwich Cookies
Makes about 20 cookies, adapted from Epicurious

Cookie Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup natural unsalted pistachios, ground
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
 Filling Ingredients
  •  1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 powdered sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Zest of 1/4 lime
Cookie Instructions
  1. Mix flour, powdered sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add butter, pistachios, and vanilla. Using on/off turns, mix until moist ball forms. Transfer dough to work surface. 
  2. Flatten dough on a wooden cutting board to about 1/4 inch thick. Use a cookie cutter to make shapes. Please on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for one hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  4. Bake shortbread until barely golden, about 18 minutes. Cool shortbread on baking sheets.
Filling Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Spread between cookies.

Friday, April 18, 2014

hot cross buns

My family is really bad at keeping traditions.

Birthdays pass forgotten, anniversaries are barely ever mentioned, even Christmas is almost a wink of the eye.

So it is nothing short of a miracle that I am posting Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday, the day they are traditionally eaten. Must be my son's Catholic school rubbing off.

And I am so glad I did. These little buns are so heavenly! How did I live a whole life and never have any? Such a shame.

I plan to make up for the loss by eating the entire tray of them solo (just kidding - I am having some willing helpers) and making this a family tradition - Hot Cross Buns every Good Friday, and maybe some bad Fridays, too.

Hot Cross Buns
Makes 18-22 buns, adapted from Tasty Kitchen

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cups canola oil
  • 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 package (1 1/8 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cups (additional) flour
  • 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Spices: cardamom, nutmeg, allspice (optional)
  • ½ cups mixed dried berries and pepitas (any dried berries will do)
  • 1 egg white
  • Splash of milk
Icing Ingredients
  • 1 egg white
  • Powdered sugar
  • Splash of milk

  1. Combine 1 cup milk, canola oil, and 1/4 cup sugar in a saucepan. Stir and heat until very warm but not boiling. Turn off the heat and allow to cool until mixture is still warm, but not hot–about 30 minutes. Sprinkle yeast over mixture.
  2. Add 4 cups of flour and stir to combine. Mixture will be very sticky. Cover with a towel and set aside for 1 hour.Add 1/2 cup flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir till combined.
  3. Combine 1/4 cup sugar with cinnamon and whatever other spices you want to use. Lightly flour surface. Press to slightly flatten dough.
  4. Sprinkle a couple tablespoons of the sugar/cinnamon mixture. Sprinkle on about a third of the berries. Then fold the dough over on itself and flatten again so the berries and spices are not visible. Repeat the sugar/berry process, then fold the dough again. Repeat a third time until all the berries are used. (You won’t use all the sugar/cinnamon mixture.)
  5. Pinch off ping pong or golf ball-size bunches of dough. With floured hands, quickly roll it into a ball, then turn the edges under themselves slightly to create nice rounded balls. Place on a parchment covered cookie sheet. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for at least 30 minutes to an hour or more until balls have risen twice their size. Once risen you can cut a cross into the tops with a small serrated knife. I didn't have much luck with this - the knife I have is not deal and the little buns deflated, so I only did half of them this way.
  6. Meanwhile preheat oven to 400 degrees
  7. Mix the glaze by combining one egg white with a splash of milk. Brush onto each roll.
    Bake for 20 minutes, give or take, or until tops of buns have turned nice and golden brown. Remove from pan and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack.
  8. You can eat these without the icing - they are that good - but for the traditional recipe add the icing crosses. Mix the icing by combining one egg white with enough sifted powdered sugar for icing to be very thick. (I didn't add enough sugar for a very thick icing, but it was alright, although a bit runny.) Splash in milk as needed for consistency.
  9. Add icing to a small Ziploc bag and snip the corner. Make icing crosses on each roll, making sure they’re completely cooled first. Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

grape tomato, kale pesto and goat cheese pizza

The sweet tomatoes blend nicely with this spin on a traditional pesto and the creamy goat cheese mounds. A perfect way to welcome spring.

Being called to jury duty was never so complicated. I thought I was smart postponing it until my son's Easter break, but then what if I am on a ury that lasts more than a week? Who will take him to school then?

Being allowed to postpone a second time didn't make things any easier. Between school, a planned visit form the in-laws and going up to our country house, never mind working in year end inventory at my job, it has become problematic.

And I generally like jury duty.

So, I will see how it pans out in June, when I am now scheduled to serve. At least I wont have to worry about ferrying my son around before I go.

Here is a way to lighten your dinner in expectation of warmer weather - it will be here eventually, right?

The pizza dough recipe has never failed me. Not once. It is the best thing around and after reading this article, about how pizza is so easy, no one should be buying it out, especially at Roberta's, where a 12 inch pie can set you back $17, plus tip and tax.

Grape Tomato, Kale Pesto and Goat Cheese Pizza
Makes one 10 inch thin crust pizza pie, dough recipe from Smitten Kitchen

Dough Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups flour (can replace up to half of this with whole wheat flour)
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water (may need up to 1 or 2 tablespoons more)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
Kale Pesto Ingredients
  • 8 fresh kale leave, torn to small bits
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt, to taste
Pesto Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor until well blended. Taste frequently and add more of what is needed.
 Dough Instructions
  1. Stir dry ingredients, including yeast, in a large bowl. Add water and olive oil, stirring mixture into as close to a ball as you can. Knead everything into a homogeneous ball, incorporating all bits in the bowl.
  2. Knead it for just a minute or two, inside the bowl. Lightly oil the bowl, turn the dough over so all sides are coated, cover bowl in plastic wrap and an opaque towel and leave it undisturbed for an hour or two, until it has doubled in size.
  3. Dump it on a lightly floured counter and gently press the air out of the dough with the palm of your hands, beginning in the center and working your way out to the edge. Fold the piece into an approximate ball shape, and let it sit under the same plastic wrap for 20 more minutes.
  4. Sprinkle a pizza stone or baking sheet with cornmeal and preheat your oven to its top temperature. Roll out the pizza, toss on whatever topping and seasonings you like. I like my pizza cheesy so I tend to go heavy on the cheese. This can make the dough more soggy, so be careful about putting too much stuff on top.
  5. Bake it for about 10 minutes until it’s lightly blistered.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

peanut butter banana bread

Well, wasn't expecting snow this morning, that's for sure. Were you?

I've never been very good at checking the weather. I am always the one without an umbrella when it is pouring. Or the one who is wearing shear stocking and a skirt when it is snowing. You'd think I'd learn!

This banana bread will warming you up on those unexpected snow shower days. Or cool you down when it is 80 and you're in your parka. It works both ways. Like magic!

Peanut Butter Banana Bread
Makes on 5x9 inch loaf, adapted from Joy the Baker
  • 2 mashed ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek
  • 1/3 cup chunky all-natural peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed meal
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan.  Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, flaxseed meal, baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon and ground allspice.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together  mashed bananas, yogurt, peanut butter, rum and melted butter.  Whisk in eggs and sugars.  Blend mixture until no sugar lumps remain.
  4. Pour the wet mixture into the larger bowl with the dry ingredients.  Fold together with a spatula until no more flour bits remain.  Fold in the chocolate chips as well.  Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and cake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 20 minutes before running a butter knife along the edges of the pan and inverting the bread onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. This bread lasts, well wrapped at room temperature,for up to 4 days.  It is also great to store, well wrapped, in the freezer. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Last weekend was glorious! When the trees start to flower my mood lightens. I am a true Spring baby!

I organized an Easter Egg Hunt for a bunch of my son's friends and their families and was granted perfect weather.

I made several paper-mâché eggs from plastic egg templates, so that we had twice the amount I'd bought. I ended up with about 5 eggs per child and that worked out just fine.

I used this tutorial to make the eggs. It worked out pretty well, except I made them extra thick and therefore the eggs took a lot longer to dry than I'd anticipated. If you're planning to try this, leave at least two days for the paper to dry out. I used washi tape to hold them together, instead of bow and ribbons.

I hope you have an egg-ful, happy, springy Easter!

Note: The cat in the plastic bag was her idea, not mine... I couldn't resist snapping her picture in there. No animals were harmed in the making of this post.

Monday, April 14, 2014

green bean fritters and homemade mayo

After making macarons a question is bound to come up.

What do I do with all those extra egg yolks?

I asked a friend and she said she always makes mayonnaise.

The image that came to my mind was that gloppy white substance that is the ubiquitous in American fridges and never found in ours.

But, when I decided to try out her recipe, what I got was a fabulously rich, creamy, flavorful sauce that perfectly complimented my green bean fritters. I imagine it would go well on any number of vegetable dishes, especially roasted asparagus.

So don't turn away out of hand. Check it out. It may the best thing you've had in a long time.

Green Bean Fritters
Makes 8-9 fritters, adapted from Nikki's Yum

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 4-5 dried sage leaves, crushed
  • 3 cups green beans, steamed and finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup goat cheese, finely crumbled
  • 2/3 cup bread crumbs (I used the leftovers from a cumin bread I made prior - it added a nice flavor to the fritters)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin powder (optional)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  1. Saute onion in oil until fragrant and slightly wilted.
  2. Make sure all the water has been squeezed out of the green beans. I wrapped it in a cloth towel and squeezed out all the excess water.
  3. Once onion is cooled a bit mix all ingredients in a bowl. Scoop out in ice cream scooper or similar spoon into a hot non stick pan or add oil to a regular pan and fry the fritters.
  4. Cook for 5 minutes on each side. Until they are golden brown.
Homemade Mayo

  • 3 egg yolks
  • Olive oil
  • Mustard, to taste
  1.  Whisk the egg yolk until creamy. Whisk in oil until the consistency you like. Add mustard to taste.

Friday, April 11, 2014

mint mango salad

While waiting for the doctor, and trying to read my book, my attention was diverted to the Rachel Ray Show that was playing on the waiting room TV. Ever watch Rachel Ray? This was my first time. I was impressed by how she whipped up that recipe in no time flat. It explained why she was interviewing people in a set that was basically a kitchen.

She made a Thai Chicken dish which she garnished with a cucumber mixture of salt, sugar and cucumbers. So simple and yet full of potential. I knew I was bound to repeat it. And repeat it I did. I made it that very night.

I added it to this mango salad. Delicious.

Mint Mango Salad
Serves 1-2

  • 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced into match sticks
  • Dash salt
  • Dash fine granulated sugar
  • 2 ripe mangoes, peeled and sliced
  • 10-15 mint leaves, larger ones sliced
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  1. Toss cucumber slices with sugar and salt. Set aside.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients. Toss again and serve. 
  3. Time adds flavor. Keep refrigerated over night.