Archive | May, 2009

For the Birds {recipe: nut and seed biscotti}

28 May

Recently, Rocky has really become quite the watchdog. We have a picnic table in the backyard and he takes the liberty to sit on top of it. From there, he can see into a few of our neighbors’ yards and also moniter all bird activity in a 100-yard radius. Oh, how he would love to snag a bird. I even got a birdhouse that Jon put up in the back yard to entice the birds to come into the back yard and entertain him.

It is all very cute.The bridge here is that this biscotti is maybe a little like bird food. It is full of toasted nuts and seeds and whole wheat flour.I like to say that this is a biscotti for the tea drinkers. It’s not heavy and doesn’t need the sweetness that normal biscotti does to hold its own against bitter coffee. This biscotti is perfect with a cup of herbal tea. I am going to recommend something like a tarragon lemon tea. Yes that would be perfect.

Nut and Seed Biscotti

This is totally not my recipe at all. It came from Heidi at 101 Cookbooks. Her site is full of recipes and fabulous.

makes about 15 pieces.
1 1/3 cups white whole wheat flour
2 cups mixed nuts and seeds (I used a combo of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sliced almonds, and pistacios)
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup natural cane sugar, fine grain
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 300F degrees. Rack in the middle. Lightly butter or oil a 1-pound loaf pan and line with parchment paper.

If you are using any whole nute, place them in a plastic bag or between two sheets of waxed paper. Bang them with a meat tenderizer or a wooden spoon or rolling pin to get them into smaller pieces.

Combine the flour, nuts and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. In a separate large bowl whisk together eggs and sugar. Add the flour-nut mixture to the egg mixture and stir until combined. The dough will be quite thick. Scoop into the prepared pan and press the dough into place using damp fingertips. You want to be sure everything is nice and compact, level on top, with no air bubbles hiding in there. Bake for 45-50 minutes – or until the loaf tests done. If you under-cook the loaf at this stage, it makes slicing difficult. Remove loaf from the oven, and turn the oven up to 425F.

Immediately run a sharp knife around the perimeter of the loaf, remove it from pan, and set the loaf upside down on a cutting board. Using a thin serrated knife (or the thinnest, sharpest knife you have), slice the loaf into 1/4-inch thick slices. Place the slices on a baking sheet. brush tops with a bit of olive oil and bake for 3-4 minutes or until the bottoms are a touch golden and toasty. Pull them out of the oven, flip each one, and brush the other side with olive oil. Bake for another 4-5 minutes or until nice and crisp. Let cool.

Here are some pics of the other animals, you know, so they don’t get jealous.


Not Cooking Tonight {recipe: loaded texas queso}

20 May

Sometimes, you have to leave Texas. Sometimes, like now,  you have to realize that there is a recession and you need to go home. Which is ok. Other times, you choose to leave Texas, like my brother who skipped out to move for school to upstate New York where I hear it is cold and lacking in the queso department. Or a dear friend, a fantastic writer, who followed her heart to Minnesota. Or another, who is now tucked away in the northwest, close to family. And then there’s another old acquaintaince who I blog-stock (because come on, their kiddo is really, really cute).

Well, this recipe is for all of you.

You may need to have some of your new never-been-south friends over and treat them to this processed cheese delight. You also may need to drown your homesick-ness in a big bowl of queso at some point in time. It didn’t keep you in Texas, but it will keep you coming back. The beef makes this very filling…so if we start with queso, I usually don’t even make dinner 🙂

From Queso

Loaded Texas Queso

1 pound ground beef

2 T. cumin

1 T. chili powder

1 14-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 14-oz. can Rotel (can’t find Rotel? Use 1 can diced tomatoes and 1 4-oz. can diced green chiles

14-oz.Velveeta (which is half of a package. I use the 2% milk kind, you know, to keep it healthy), cut into 8 pieces

few T. milk

1 avocado, diced (see how to dice an avocado)

Tortilla Chips

In a large, nonstick pan, brown the ground beef with the cumin and chili powder. When beef is browned, add in the tomatoes and beans. Then, add in the cheese and stir until melted. Add in milk if you want it a bit thinner, stir, and pour into a bowl. Top with diced avocado.

Look at me. I am all Southern with my Red Velvet Cake and Texas Queso.

Check out a great blog from the cowgirl-turned-city Homesick Texan. She will keep you company on the months and years to come with Texas recipes straight from New York.

From Queso

Original post at

The Beauty Queen of Cakes {recipe: red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting}

13 May
From Blake’s Last Day

I am not a huge red velvet cake fan. I just don’t get it. It’s chocolate-but-not-really, and I say, if you’re only going to do a half-job on something (especially chocolate) then maybe you shouldn’t do anything at all.  Also, red velvet cake seems hard to perfect, it’s often too dry and crunbly, yet still greasy.

However, I was swayed by the deep, red color of a red velvet cake to make one. It is so pretty. I saw a red velvet cake in a bakery recently and forgot that I thought the recipe was ridiculous. I was swayed by it’s beauty. That and the cream cheese frosting. I thought, if my red velvet cake is not great, at least I have a vehicle for the cream cheese frosting, because I have been known to just love the frosting.

From Blake’s Last Day

Ok, ok. So it was also a hard cake to make because I made it for one of the girls who is leaving the office. Blake has been an intern for two semesters now, and I have really just gotten the joy of knowing her over the past three months. Blake is fantastic. Witty, smart and adept in all things melinnial, she will surely be missed this summer as she heads back to Atlanta after graduation this weekend.

I made this recipe into mini-bundt cakes by simply pouring the batter into mini-bundt pans. The cakes held their shape well. Sometimes, softer cakes will crack or stick awkwardly to the pan, but this cake stayed firm and intact. It would be a great cake to cut into different shapes, if you wanted to use a sharp serrated knife and cut a shape into  a heart, or a letter, etc.

Side note:  I also just read that instead of using red food coloring to color your red velvet cake, you can use beets. That gives a whole new meaning to dirt cakes.

From Blake’s Last Day

Red Velvet Cake

from the The New York Times

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3½ cups cake flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa (not Dutch process)
1½ teaspoons salt
2 cups canola oil
2¼ cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) red food coloring
1½ teaspoons vanilla
1¼ cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking soda
2½ teaspoons white vinegar.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place teaspoon of butter in each of 3 round 9-inch layer cake pans and place pans in oven for a few minutes until butter melts. Remove pans from oven, brush interior bottom and sides of each with butter and line bottoms with parchment.

Whisk cake flour, cocoa and salt in a bowl.

Place oil and sugar in bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until well-blended. Beat in eggs one at a time. With machine on low, very slowly add red food coloring. (Take care: it may splash.) Add vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in two batches. Scrape down bowl and beat just long enough to combine.

Place baking soda in a small dish, stir in vinegar and add to batter with machine running. Beat for 10 seconds.

Divide batter among pans, place in oven and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pans 20 minutes. Then remove from pans, flip layers over and peel off parchment. Cool completely before frosting.

Yield: 3 cake layers.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature

4 oz (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Beat butter with an electric mixer unti light and fluffy. Add in cream cheese, beat until combined. Add powdered sugar in 1-cup increments, beat until creamy. Frosting can e refrigerated for up to two weeks.

Blake’s last happy hour. Blake, Deirdre, Emilie, and myself.

Coming in the next few posts: Baby Showers

Weddings and Driving and Julie and Julia {recipe: cake mix cookies}

4 May

I only ever post pictures of food! Guess what? I have a video!

Well, it is not my video, but it is  a video of something I think is fantastic.

Ok, so in 2006 I was planning my wedding. Wedding planning for me involved countless  decisions, lovely showers and parties, many attempts of i-will-do-an-hour-of-yoga-everyday-until-the-wedding but then never even unrolling my mat, a last-minute shrunken wedding dress (that’s for another day), and lots of miles on my car. I lived in Austin and we got married outside of Houston, so probably three of four weekends a month, I drove the 6-hour round-trip to H-town for planning bonanzas for a few months.

Let’s just say I listened to a lot of books on tape. In four months I listened to probably four times as many books on tape as books I have actually read in the past four years. Pathetic.

This book was my favorite. It’s about a girl who’s over her crappy desk job and decides to cook through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, one recipe at a time. She has to boil live lobsters and search Manhattan to find parts of pigs that I have never heard of to include in recipes, and she and her husband sometimes don’t eat dinner until 1am because it really just took that long. There are a lot of cuss words through her trials…but in a stick-it-to-the-man kind of way, that makes you want to read (listen?) more.

Here’s the trailer, I hear it opens August 7.

Oh, yes and a recipe. Well, to contrast Julia’s time-intensive recipes, I have the easiest cookie recipe ever.

From Easiest Cookies

Cake Mix Cookies

makes 24 cookies.

1 cake mix (any kind)

2 eggs

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 1/2 cup mix-ins (optional, see below)

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix ingerdients.

Drop dough by spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet.

Bake 8-10 minutes.

Ideas for cake mixes and mix-ins:

  • yellow cake with chocolate chips (pictured)
  • carrot cake with pecans and coconut
  • red velvet cake with white chocolate chips
  • chocolate cake with mint chips
  • white cake with butterscotch chips and walnuts
  • pineapple cake with orange peel
From Easiest Cookies

Early Hours {recipe: morning glory muffins}

1 May
From Morning Glory Muffins

I have always been a morning person. Growing up with early-morning practices, I became accustomed to being up and alert hours before even the earliest bird. When I was swimming in the mornings, the sun would rise just at the end of a two-hour practice. We would be almost through a four-mile workout and my stomach would be wrenching for something to replenish the calories I had just expended. I would go home, shower, get ready for school, eat breakfast, drive across town for second period, park, get into the school and into class all before the 9am bell. I love the  mornings.

Now, talk to me at 11am and I was getting pretty tired. And by 8pm? Spent. I still would rather get up and going as early as possible, to make sure that everything gets done, and then rest at the end of the day if there is time. At least our friends know this already. Don’t call after 11 because we’re probably asleep and don’t invite us to go to any movies that start after 7:30 because we will surely be snoozing by the end of them. But, you need someone to help you set out things for your garage sale that is 30 minutes away and at 6:30 am? We can help! We will bring coffee and breakfast too! I will come at 6:30 am full of exclaimation marks! Really!

I like morning runs because if I get up and going quickly enough, I don’t have time to reason with myself that I really don’t feel like running. I also like early-morning meetings. Starting the day with crisp morning air, a nice cup of coffee, and challenging conversation is great. Friday mornings, I have coffee with a friend who I love dearly. We explore variuos coffee shops around Austin and meet to catch up on life, talk about what’s great and what is hard, we encourage each other to be better wives, daughters, sisters, co-workers and friends.

We’ve been to our fair share of coffee shops, and I can tell you for a fact that the reviews are right, Caffe Medici has the best coffee in town. And, after much tasting, Sweetish Hill has the best Morning Glory muffins. Go there, if just for the muffins. You will find many other things there to suit your fancy. Say, a ham and cheese croissant, or a giant decorated sugar cookie, or carrot cake, or a homemade yogurt cup. Just go.

I can’t go everyday, so I tried to re-create their Morning Glory muffins at home. My first go was pretty good for muffins and super-healthy, but not quite the same as the ones I am used to purchasing. Next time I try them I will probably increase all of the fruits and veggies by 50%, double the almonds, and add in a few tablespoons of orange zest and I think I will be closer to Sweetish Hill’s i-like-to-call-it-heaven-in-a-muffin Morning Glory muffins.

These are worth getting up early for.

From Morning Glory Muffins

Morning Glory Muffins

makes 48 muffins

2 cups white flour

2 cups whole wheat flour

2 cups oat bran

2 1/2 cups sugar+ some for sprinkling

4 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

4 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups grated carrot (about 3 carrots)

2 cups grated zucchini (about 2 zucchini)

1 cup raisins

1 cup slivered almonds

1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

2 green apples, grated

6 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease muffin cups or use muffin tin liners.

Mix the flours, oats, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

Stir in oil, eggs buttermilk, and vanilla.

Stir in the carrot, zucchini, almonds, raisins, coconut, and apples.

Spoon the batter into greased or lined cups.

Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 12 to 18 minutes or until springy to the touch.

Let muffins cool in tins and turn them onto a wire rack.