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Monday, April 24, 2017

Husband Cooks - Garlic Caramelized Broccoli Side Kicker Recipe

I am lucky to have a husband who also cooks in the house.  In fact, we both love food and working in the kitchen so much, we end up debating who can out cook the other.  He works with food all day, so he has a little bit of an unfair advantage, but I still think I am a worthy sparing partner.

Several weeks ago, I went to Philadelphia for a conference.  I stopped at the Reading Terminal Market and picked up some lovely cuts of meat at a butcher stand.  One special cut of meat was Osso Bucco! I wanted to make something special with this Ox tail, but did not have the time.  Rob decided to make a special meal with it a couple days ago.  I will be posting the Osso Bucco recipe in a day or two.  Today, we will focus on the side dish...

Garlic Caramelized Broccoli!

Doesn't that just sound amazing and not terribly difficult? How can you go wrong with garlic and caramelized anything?

Here's what you'll need:


3 tablespoons olive oil
2 heads of broccoli (cut the heads and half lengthwise)
1/2 cup water
3 garlic cloves, diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil (keep 1 tablesppoon aside for later). 
  • Add the broccoli, cut side down, cover and cook over moderate heat until richly browned on the bottom, about 8 minutes. 
  • Add the water, cover and cook until the broccoli is just tender and the water has evaporated, about 7 minutes. 
  • Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil along with the garlic and cook uncovered until the garlic is golden brown, about 3 minutes. 
  • Season the broccoli with salt and black pepper, drizzle with the lemon juice.

Check back soon for the Osso Bucco recipe and cheese risotto!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sweet and Easy Recipe for Easter Paska Bread

My sister Carol is a lover of tradition and history.  As a result, Easter is a favorite time for her.  She LOVES cooking and baking traditional foods from Europe.  She also is engrossed in the little traditions that make this religious holiday special.

One such tradition our family has partially engaged in is the Easter Paska bread.  I say partially because we never made the bread, we simply bought it.  

This year, Carol said she wanted to make the bread but didn't have time.  I decided to try my hand at it alone at home before announcing it to the family.  I didn't want to bring a hockey puck to dinner.  Armed with a recipe, I started baking.  I had a BLAST!!! It was so much fun baking this bread.  Especially doing the braids on top. 

Even though Easter is over, try this bread recipe and have some fun making the prettiest bread on the block! 


1/2 cup warm water
1 tablespoon quick rise instant or dry active yeast
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
1 cup scalded milk
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
4 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
1 small egg
1 tablespoon water

Turn your oven on to 350 (or so) and let the oven begin to heat up for 5 minutes then turn the oven off. Now you have a great place for warming the bread.  You do not need to do this step if you have a warm place or if you are baking other items and the top of the stove is nice and warm.

In a small pot over medium-high heat, scald the milk. Add 1/4 cup sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the pot from the heat and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add water, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and yeast. Stir gently until yeast is combined and then let mixture sit for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, your yeast mixture should have grown and become frothy. If not, either your water was too hot or the yeast is old.  I used yeast from over a year ago and it still worked.  

** Frothy Water and Yeast looks like this.

In a small bowl, lightly whisk 2 large eggs. Add oil and melted butter and mix until combined. Add the egg mixture to the milk mixture.

To the yeast mixture add 4 cups of flour and the salt. Use the dough hook attachment.  Turn mixer on low unless you want to shower the kitchen with flour. Increase speed to medium/low and mix until dough is well combined. 

Continue mixing for several minutes. Your dough should begin to pull away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is too sticky and does not pull away from the sides, add an additional 1/4 cup of flour at a time until it begins to pull away.  Be careful here.  The more flour you add, the heavier the bread will be.  You do not want the dough very sticky so you cannot handle it, but you don't want it heavy.  Add additional flour in small increments.

Transfer the dough to a large bowl, lightly coated with oil. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and place in the preheated oven. Do not turn the oven back on. Insert a wooden spoon or similar object in the oven door to prevent it from closing all the way. This will allow a small amount of the heat to escape. You don’t want to cook the dough yet, just warm it enough for it to rise. Let the dough rise for 45 minutes or until it has doubled in size. Once it has risen, punch it down, and cover it with a tea towel and place it back in the oven to repeat the process.

**I have this awesome pastry board that I use for anything that requires rolling.  Once done, I simply clean the pastry board and there is very little cleanup on the counters!**

Once the dough has risen a second time, punch the dough back down. Cut off four golf ball sized pieces and use those to make the braids. Using lightly floured hands, roll each ball into a strip about 10 inches in length. Cross two strips over each other and pinch at the top and bottom to form a braid. Repeat with the other two strips.

Transfer the ball of dough to a well-greased dutch oven or oven safe pot. Place one of the braids over the dough ball, tucking the ends under the ball, pinching if necessary. Place the second braid in a cross pattern over the first, tucking and pinching if necessary. Cover the dough with a tea towel and let it rise and rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

While dough is resting, whisk together 1 small egg and 1 tablespoon of water to make an egg wash. Once dough has rested, use a pastry brush to brush the top of the dough with the egg wash. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the bread is golden brown and your kitchen smells like Heaven. Remove from the oven and let cool before removing it from the pan.

Once removed, bring to Easter dinner and enjoy!!!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Chocolate Chip Walnut Coffee Cake

It's no secret that I love cookbooks.  I think I recently mentioned that quite extensively.  My sister informed me that I should post photos of my actual cookbook stash.  Well I could not fit them all in one photo, but here is my one bookcase of books.  I have a few more shelves dedicated to Christmas and cookies only.  I Also took a picture of my coveted Gooseberry Patch Books. 

Over the Easter weekend I baked and cooked A LOT of new things. I'll be posting them throughout the week.  

For Monday, the first day after a 3 day weekend, I though I would post coffee cake... Chocolate Chip Walnut Coffee Cake to be precise.  It can be hard to get moving after a longer weekend, especially when that long weekend was packed with running around, cooking, cleaning, and family get togethers.  In other words, the Monday when you are anything but rested but you had every intention of taking the holiday "slow" or "easy" this year.  Yup, we all have been there and failed.  
My suggestion, add one more thing to your crazy weekend. 
Seriously, add baking this coffee cake to your Sunday night and Monday morning will feel... a little less soul crushing. 

This recipe comes from my stash of Gooseberry Patch books I keep in my living room for easy access.  I like to read them as novels on a slow night.  

"Country Baking" is a personal favorite and the home to today's recipe. 

The recipe itself is super easy.  Follow the above and enjoy! 

A few tips: 
- I used mini Bundt pans for individual portions.  If you want to do the same, you will need to reduce the baking time.  Mine needed about 20-25 minutes.  You can also do muffin pans.  If you do, you will need about 25-30 minutes.  The key is to choose less time and check it often.

- Have berries handy.  My sister Carol took the finished product photo below.  Shew as smart to include some berries.  The tart and sweet berries compliment the cake very well. 

Okay, now that you baked this lovely item the night before, you now have a special treat to enjoy Monday morning with your coffee. 

Enjoy everyone!  I hope your Monday back to work after the Easter weekend is now a little bit sweeter!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Cookbook Overload!

I have over 200 cookbooks.  The 200 cookbooks I have are the contenders after I purged about 250 other cookbooks.

Let that sink in... I owned about 450 cookbooks at the same time! 

I love cookbooks of all kinds! Old cookbooks with strange recipes I would NEVER try are like novels to read and enjoy.  Christmas cookbooks with ideas on how to spruce of the holiday cheer with a spicy hot cocoa are amazing and spectacular to read while drinking that same spiced cocoa! I have countless Julia Child cookbooks that are written with a narrative dialogue.  As a result, I feel like I'm hearing that famous woman speak to me about aspics and cornish hens.  My particular favorite kind of cookbooks are baking cookbooks.  I have all sorts of baking cookbooks, with themes ranging from gluten free (which I am anything but), to cupcakes, tea sweets, European, cookies, bake sales, and more! 

My husband still thinks I have too many cookbooks, but let me tell you... letting those other 250 go was like losing so many opportunities!  I never cracked many of those books open.  I find a thrift store, yard sale, or library clearance, and just buy buy buy all the cookbooks I can find.  I sometimes buy a book I already have... To me, that means that book MUST be a keeper, because I wanted it twice! 

I know with Pinterest and google, cookbooks are not needed as much.  You can find a thousands of brownie recipes with a single google search.  Heck, an entire Italian menu can be planned from the internet without spending the time matching dishes together.  

Even with those time savers, I still think there is nothing like a cookbook.  Cookbooks in your hand, perusing indexes, and looking at pictures, get my mind racing with ideas.  Even if I don't have time to make that double chocolate chip cake today, I'll make a mental note that someday, I MUST bake that cake.  

There is also so much room to grow with cookbooks. With the internet, you are limited.  I know that makes no sense at first, but hear me out.  The internet requires you to punch in a keyword when searching for a recipe.  You must tell the search engine "Italian"..."cookies"...."Chicken and Rice"... etc.  Pinterest also requires some guidance.  It is not until you spend a lot of time pinning recipes that your home feed starts suggesting many recipes without prompting.  In other words, you must tell the internet what you are looking for.  This is fine, but it takes away a certain level of spontaneity.   With cookbooks, you open an index to "B" for brownies... as you look down the list you see "Banana Foster".... "Black Joe Cake".... "Blueberry Pie".... "Brownies".... "Brownies, Peanut Butter"..... Brownies, Marshmallow"... and the list goes on! 

You only wanted a recipe for Brownies, but now you brain is saying... "Hmmmm.... a Blueberry Pie for the bake sale next week sounds like a good idea... something most people wouldn't make!" You start thinking "What is Black Joe Cake?" You flip through the pages of the cookbook and find a recipe you never would have known existed! You discover Black Joe Cake is a coffee chocolate cake with smooth peanut butter icing.  Your taste buds tell you that a Black Joe Cake sounds infinitely better than brownies. And your baking experience is broadened.  This can happen online, but it is far less likely in my opinion. 

Cookbooks, when coupled with fantastic photos, have the tendency to grab your creative side of the brain and not let go.  I see a picture of some amazing pork chops and I am halfway out the door to buy pork chops!  The internet does not have the same effect on me. 

I am trying to keep myself from buying anymore cookbooks for the time being... but I cannot make any promises.  Each book is a wealth of possibilities and a kind of new world to explore... much like novels. 

What is your favorite cookbook or cookbooks? Do you like the internet better than printed books? 

Another day I will let you in on another cookbook obsession of mine... Gooseberry Patch... 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Almond Horn Cookies - Small Batch and Heavenly

I recently went to Philadelphia for a continuing education course.  I spent the night and woke up extremely early in order to visit the Reading Terminal Market before the course.  When there, I found a bakery selling amazing baked treats.  Among my purchase was an Almond Horn.  To say the least, I fell in love instantly.  The cookie was crispy but had a chewy inside.  The almond flavoring with chocolate dipped tips were to die for.  I had a second one for my mom, and it took all my power not to eat it myself. 

I set out to find a recipe for Almond horns.  I was surprised to find that almost every recipe yielded a very small number of horns.  The recipe I settled on was supposed to make 6 cookies.  I was able to make 10 cookies from the recipe.  I was satisfied with the size, and am planning to make the cookies again.  

Here is the recipe.  Look below for step by step photo instructions with tips and tricks!
8 ounces (about 3/4 cup) almond paste (not marzipan - VERY IMPORTANT marzipan has a different consistency)
2 egg whites, lightly beaten in a small dish
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
3 tablespoons almond meal or almond flour** 
1 cup sliced almonds
** You can make your own almond flour by blending blanched almonds in a food processor. (if You don't have blanched almonds you have take raw almonds and blanch them in the oven)
Chocolate Glaze:

2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons corn syrup
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (or chips)


1. Line one baking sheet with silicone mats; set aside. I used silicone baking pans. You can also used parchment sheets (but I find them cumbersome).  If you need some good silicone mats, Amazon is a great place to shop. 
2. In a bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, break almond paste into almond-sized chunks. Mine were the size of large chick peas.  
TIP:  Don't skip this step.  It may seem like a waste of time breaking up the almond paste into these little balls.  It is necessary because if you skip this step, the paste won't easily mix with the egg whites and sugar.  You won't have a nice even dough.  If the dough isn't even, the cookies won't bake evenly.

3. You will need to whisk the egg whites LIGHTLY.  You are not trying to make meringue.  You are just trying to get some foam in the egg whites.  I use a nifty spring whisk.  It make this step extremely easy.

** If you are looking to buy a spring whisk you can once again go to the amazing Amazon to buy one at a reasonable price.  I bought mine in the Pennsylvania Macaroni Italian Store in Pittsburgh, PA's Strip District. 

Spring Whisk -- Great Gift for a baker or coffee lover!
4. Next, add sugar and 3 tablespoons of beaten egg white mixture and mix on medium-low speed until a sticky dough is formed and no large chunks remain. Add almond flour and mix until combined.

5. Whisk 1 tablespoon of water into the remaining tablespoon or so of egg white and set aside. (you will use to brush over cookies later)
6. Pour sliced almonds onto a shallow dish or plate. Divide dough into even balls.  

I used a cookie dough scoop.  My original recipe said I could make 6 cookies.  I decided to make 10 cookies.  The key is to make the cookies even.  The smaller the cookies, the shorter the baking time.  Be mindful of that when you decide how big or small to make you dough balls. 

7.  Drop one ball onto the sliced almonds. Roll, using the almonds to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands, into a 4-inch log. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet, and gently shape into a crescent, pressing down to flatten slightly. Repeat with remaining dough.

8.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Let cookies sit, uncovered, for 30 minutes, then brush with egg white mixture. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool on cookie sheet while you prepare the glaze.

** See above I used a pastry brush to brush the cookies.  This gives the eggs a nice color when baked.  If you skip this step the cookies will look more white and they will not have the appealing sheen to them.  I also think this binds the cookies together better.  So don't skip this step! If you don't have a pastry brush use a spoon to spoon over the liquid.
8.  In a small saucepan, combine cream, butter, and corn syrup. Stir over medium-low heat until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and add chopped chocolate; the residual heat should be enough to fully melt the chocolate. If not, return to low heat for a minute at a time until mixture is smooth.  
** DO NOT have the heat on too high or too long.  If you do, you may burn the glaze, and that will create chunks in the glaze you cannot get out.  You will have to start over, and that is not fun. 

9.  Remove from heat and quickly dip cooled cookies into glaze. 
Okay, back to the cookies! 
10.  Before taking out the cookies, check to see if the sides of the cookies are slightly golden brown.  If they are take the cookies out.  If not, put them back in the oven for another minute or two.  Stay in the kitchen and watch them.  This is not the time to check on the laundry.  
Once the cookies are done.  Take them out and let them sit for at least 15-30 minutes to cool.  You do not want to dip them into the chocolate now.  If you do, the chocolate will melt and pool onto the silicone mats and not at all on your cookies!
11.  Once cool, you now are ready to dip the cookie tips into your amazing chocolate sauce. You can either dip one half or both sides.  I did both sides because that is how they did it in the Reading Terminal Market. Return to baking sheet and let sit for 30 minutes until glaze is set. .

I had a lot of glaze let over.  I at it with my husband over ice cream.  It's so good you can make the sauce one day just for a quick and upscale topping for a weeknight dessert.  

** These cookies should last up to a week in an airtight container... but honestly, you will eat them all before that!