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Just finished Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Almost a page turner. When one uses the phrase “coming of age,” it usually means (I think) love and loss/boyfriend/girlfriend, and in this case it’s somewhat that way. When Ethan, a 17-year old boy and his mother come home unexpectedly to find dad and his young secretary in a compromising position, all hell breaks loose. Separation happens instantly and just as his father moves out, his mother has to go take care of her aging mother. Ethan’s too young to be left in the NYC apartment alone, so Mom sends son to the father who is escaping from the world in Wyoming, living in a primitive A-frame house, and continuing his daily 20+ mile running journeys. Ethan and his father are barely speaking. They live in the middle of nowhere. Ethan feels betrayed by his father in every possible way, and somewhat by his mother for forcing him to live with his father for a temporary period. Then his father doesn’t return one day from his run. The authorities do a cursory search, but they are under the impression the dad wants to “get lost” on purpose. Ethan, although he thinks he doesn’t care, really does. What happens next is best left to you reading this book. Very interesting people (kind of loners) enter the picture and off they go to search. So worth reading.

The Girl With No Name by Diney Costelhoe. What a good book. Perhaps you’ve read before about the huge numbers of German refugee children who were sent to England before Hitler closed down any exits. This is a novel about one particular young girl, who is devastated when her mother puts her on one of the boats. She ends up in London, in an orphanage kind of place, and is eventually placed with a childless couple. She speaks no English. They speak no German, but they manage soon enough. Lisa (who eventually becomes Charlotte) is so homesick. She’s bullied at school, because most people and children don’t want any Germans there. A boy steps up to protect her, and as she grows up, she’s attracted to him. She shouldn’t be – he’s also German and from her own home town. He’s not a good match for her. You live with her through the blitz during all those war years and during one attack, she’s badly injured and loses her memory (and no ID on her). Through a series of mishaps she ends up in a village far from London, with a spinster woman who does eventually come to love her very much – they name her Charlotte and Charlotte she becomes. She goes to school there, still longing, though, for her mother and brother and her London foster family too. Then when she’s 16 she returns to London to help at the orphanage where she was originally placed and tries to find her foster parents. The story goes on from there, with the boy/man who “wants” her, the bad boy, and a good boy/man she befriends in the village in the country. Eventually she regains her memory. SUCH a good read.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee. If you, like me, know little about North Korea and how it came to be what it is today, you’ve got to read this book. It’s a memoir written by a young woman who escaped from North Korea about 9 years ago. Her journey – and I mean JOURNEY – is harrowing, frightening, amazing, heart-rendering all at the same time. She chronicles the lives of the Kims (Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il to current Kim Jong Un), shares the strict propaganda that surrounds every North Korean citizen, the poverty and hunger, as well as the underground black market for food and goods. It took her awhile to get from North Korea, to China and eventually to South Korea, where she currently lives. She’s well educated and speaks English quite well. She was invited to be a speaker at a TED talk – you know about those, right? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” I listen to them as  podcasts now and then. Always very educational, if sometimes over my head when it gets very technical. She works diligently for human rights now, doing her best to help other North Koreans escape. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Another WOW book. I’ve always liked the author – many years ago I read his book, Midwives and really liked it. Don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read, The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas that I reviewed recently. I think we read it in one of my book groups. He’s a brilliant writer, and this one has a lot of characters and twists. It’s a novel, but based on a lot of truth regarding the Armenian genocide. Most of the book takes place in Aleppo, Syria with some good Samaritan folk trying to help rescue people (mostly children) following the forced long marches the Turks made prodding the Turkish Armenians to exit their country. But it also jumps to near present day as a family member is trying to piece together obscure parts of her grandparents’ former lives there. She uncovers some hidden truths (many survivors of the genocide never-ever-ever wanted to talk about it) and a bit more about her Armenian heritage. A riveting book – I could hardly put it down. Lots to discuss for a book club read. I simply must read more of Bohjalian’s books (he’s written many).

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.


Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Desserts, on March 20th, 2018.


Do you like rhubarb? Gosh, I sure do, and here in SoCal, it’s hard to find sometimes. When I see it at any of my local markets, I buy some.

There aren’t many rhubarb recipes here on my blog. Mostly because over the years I was married to my DH, as a Type 1 diabetic, rhubarb was a dangerous fruit for him because it requires so much sugar to make it edible. I was never successful using artificial sweeteners with rhubarb. But I grew up knowing and eating rhubarb. My mother used to make a simple rhubarb sauce and that would be dessert whenever the big patch of rhubarb in our back yard was bearing fruit. My mother did make rhubarb pie now and then too.

rhubarb_in_shell_rawDid you read my last post about the new pie crust I made? That has a bit of cornstarch added into the dough? This one – see the lovely flaky-looking edge – I’ll just tell you even those edges were tender and oh-so flaky – I ate every bite of my slice.

First the raw rhubarb was trimmed and cut up into 1/2” slices. Easy to do. They were piled into the crust. Meanwhile, I’d made an egg and sour cream mixture (plus a tetch of flour and salt), added some vanilla and poured it onto the rhubarb. It took a minute or so for the viscous fluid to sink down in, but it did.

rhubarb_pie_raw_filling_addedInto the oven the pie went, first at a high temp, then after 10 minutes the temp is reduced to 350°F and baked about another 30 minutes.

The crumb topping is kind of standard (sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon and butter) and mixed up well with a fork. When the pie comes out of the oven at this point, the crumb topping was added and the pie was baked for an additional 15 minutes.

sour_cream_rhubarb_pie_streusel_crust_out_of_ovenI had to leave the house at the exact moment this pie was finished, so if I’d wanted to add another 5 minutes of baking I couldn’t have done it. I was concerned, though, as the center was still looking a little bit jiggly, but it had completely set by the time the pie cooled and it was served.

Results? Every one raved about it – me included. Fortunately everyone in my group that night liked rhubarb. I thought the sour cream aspect of it added a lot of mellowing flavor. The recipe came from The Splendid Table, and it’s a keeper.

What’s GOOD: everything about it was good – the pie crust, the filling, the topping, etc. I served it with vanilla ice cream, and then the leftovers were served with whipped cream instead. Both were good. This recipe is a keeper.

What’s NOT: nary a thing. I’d definitely make this again.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Sour Cream Rhubarb Pie

Recipe By: The Splendid Table
Serving Size: 8

1 1/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups rhubarb — (fresh or frozen), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup butter — softened

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream and vanilla, then add to the flour mixture.
3. Place the rhubarb in the prepared pie shell. Pour the egg and flour mixture evenly over the top.
4. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for 30 minutes more.
5. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the crumb topping and mix with a fork until crumbly.
6. Remove the pie from the oven and sprinkle the crumb topping over the top. Return to the oven to bake for another 15 minutes or until the topping is lightly browned.
7. Remove from the oven again and allow the pie to cool slightly before slicing. Pie can be frozen at this point. Once it is defrosted and warmed slightly in a 200°F oven, you would never know it had ever been frozen.
Per Serving: 326 Calories; 13g Fat (35.8% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 50g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 81mg Cholesterol; 294mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on March 16th, 2018.


One might think there couldn’t be anything “new” regarding pie crusts. But lo, behold, there is a pie crust that’s very easy, has a bunch of butter, but also cornstarch. Amazing.

If someone had given me a recipe for a new pie crust, well, maybe I’d have smiled, said thank you, and promptly set it aside and not even looked at it. But this one, oh gosh, what a mistake to not try it! This one came from Christopher Kimball, from his new venture, Milk Street. And there was a very big write-up about it in the magazine, so I input the recipe into my MasterCook software and didn’t think about it for awhile. I don’t make many pies.

But the other day, needing a dessert for my weekly bible study group, I was going through to-try recipes, and it just so happened I had rhubarb in the refrigerator. That led to a recipe, and that led to my needing a pie crust.

If you’ve followed my blog for awhile (it’s been nearly 11  years now I’ve been blogging) you likely have gone to my recipe index. It’s prodigious. I’m not bragging, truly I’m not. But sometimes when I’m actually writing in the additions to the index, I’m kind of blown away by how MANY recipes I have on this site. And I was particularly amazed at how many cakes are there. Obviously I love baking. And I use any occasion as an excuse to try something new. Occasionally I go back to a tried and true recipe (like my mother’s Crisp Apple Pudding that I made recently and used both apples and pears) but because I write a blog, well, one must keep truckin’ and try new recipes.

My next post will be the pie filling part – but today we’re just talkin’ about the crust. I’m not often lured into making pie crusts. They just seem like so much work. More work than I want to do. I’m not fond of making a pre-baked crust – more work with digging out the pie weights, getting them cleanly out of the shell, etc. In this case the sour cream-rhubarb filling was put into the raw crust and baked together (easier!).

The crust isn’t difficult, although you do have to briefly cook the cornstarch with water in the microwave until it’s hot and set. It gets cooled some, then stuffed in the freezer for 10 minutes to cool off. Then it’s added to the usual dry ingredients (flour, sugar and salt) in the food processor and pulsed until that mixture is smooth. Then you add the sour cream (only 2 tablespoons) and 10 tablespoons of butter. Once pulsed for a bit, it all comes together into a ball. It’s flattened into a 4-inch flat disk, wrapped in plastic wrap and chilled for an hour (or longer). I was on a time schedule, so I did 60 minutes.pie_crust_w_cornstarch_sideview

But now, the crust – when I took it out of the refrigerator and began rolling it, it had a definite texture difference. It was supple and soft and the amount was perfect for my 9-inch pie plate. It didn’t roll out into that magical perfect circle that one would like (darn) but when I patched the dough in a couple of places, it adhered and was very easy to finish rolling. I rolled it up onto the rolling pin and gently let it down into the dish. It was easy to move, because, of course, I hadn’t centered it correctly, but the dough allowed me to do that without tearing or stretching it. Yea! I trimmed some of the edges off, then folded the 1/2 inch outer edges under and crimped with my fingers and the crust was DONE! It was easier than I thought. I didn’t freeze the dough-filled plate (as you would do if you wanted to blind bake it) and the finished pie was just fine – not overly browned even though I baked the pie at a different temperature than the suggested for a blind bake.

And oh, my. Is this crust tender! Even those tall, thick finger-crimped edges were as tender as could be. Sometimes when you make a wet kind of pie filling (like the sour cream rhubarb one I did) it makes the bottom crust soggy. Not this one. Why, I don’t know. I may just be making this pie crust anytime I need one in the future. The recipe says to make two and freeze one of the disks, which would be a great idea – just use within a month, though. You can also make the dough a couple of days ahead and keep chilled.

What’s GOOD: everything about this crust is a good thing! Easy to make. Easy to roll out. Easy to get into the pie plate. Baked perfectly. Bottom crust stayed a crust and wasn’t soggy. Easy to cut and get out of the pie dish too. Sometimes that first slice is a bummer. Not with this one, anyway. A day later when I had a leftover slice that had been refrigerated, the bottom crust was still firm and not soggy, and the chilled crust was tasty and flaky. Truly, this pie crust is a bit of a miracle for me!

What’s NOT: nothing at all – just one extra step to cook the cornstarch and water before starting and cooling it in the freezer for 10 minutes. You should chill the dough, too, so do plan a few hours ahead.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Single-Crust Pie Dough with Cornstarch

Recipe By: Milk Street, 2016
Serving Size: 8

3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
159 grams all purpose flour — (equals 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
10 tablespoons butter — WITH SALT, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
2 tablespoons sour cream

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the water and cornstarch. Microwave until set, 30 to 40 seconds, stirring halfway through. Chill in the freezer for 10 minutes.
2. Once the cornstarch mixture has chilled, in a food processor, combine the flour, sugar and salt and process until mixed, about 5 seconds. Add the chilled cornstarch mixture and pulse until uniformly ground, about 5 pulses.
3. Add the butter and sour cream and process until the dough comes together and begins to collect around the blade, 20 to 30 seconds.
4. Pat the dough into a 4-inch disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 48 hours.
5. When ready to bake, heat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the middle position.
6. On a well-floured counter, roll the dough into a 12-inch circle.
7. Hang the dough over the rolling pin and transfer to a 9-inch pie pan. Gently ease the dough into the pan by lifting the edges while pressing down into the corners of the pan.
8. Trim the edges, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang, then tuck the overhang under itself so the dough is flush with the rim of the pan.
9. Crimp the dough with your fingers or the tines of a fork, then chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.
10. To blind bake, line the chilled crust with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake until the edges are light golden brown, about 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.
11. Remove the foil and weights and bake until the bottom of the crust just begins to color, another 5 to 7 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 1 hour before filling.
12. Once baked and cooled, the crust can be wrapped in plastic wrap and kept at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Tip: Don’t skip the sour cream; it’s key for a tender crust. And don’t skimp on the pie weights; use enough to come 3/4 of the way up the sides.
Per Serving: 214 Calories; 15g Fat (64.1% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 40mg Cholesterol; 216mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on March 12th, 2018.


That may not look like much – I’ve mentioned it here before – brown food doesn’t look very appetizing. But, oh, you’d be wrong about the flavor!

Often my bible study group meets at my home, but we pass around the duties of hosting, and of providing some kind of dessert. One of our members is 95 years old (young). There is almost nothing Dottie won’t do – she still travels often in countries around the world. She walks, she studies, she’s often busy all day long with various activities. Her husband passed away many years ago, but Dottie is such a trooper. We all admire her immensely and only hope we’ll be as agile and sharp as she is when we reach 95.

Recently she was supposed to keep one leg elevated, but was willing to host our group, so I offered to take the dessert. I didn’t think I had anything much at home, but I did have some aging bananas. I looked into my to-try recipe file, and sure enough there was this one, and I’d even marked it “MUST MAKE.” That’s a signal I put on some recipes so I might try them sooner rather than later.

The recipe came from David Lebovitz’s blog. Years ago he developed this recipe for a diet type magazine, apparently, and it became a favorite of his. And what a great use of a bunch of bananas – there are supposed to be 3 bananas that dot the bottom of the pan (which becomes the top once you up-end it) and a few more in the cake batter. As it happened I didn’t have as many bananas as he suggested, so I skimped on the number you’d see and put in the right amount (a cup) in the batter. I didn’t follow all the diet ingredients, but did use butter, and 2 eggs, rather than an egg and an egg white. If you want to make this as he did, just click onto the link above and you can see it all there. Along with the funny story he wrote about the bananas.

banana_cc_upside_down_cake_wholeThis cake is very easy to make – truly it is. You do make a little sauce that becomes the kind of caramel top, then the bananas (the recipe calls for about 5 bananas) are sliced decoratively, in overlapping rows, into the sauce. This is made in an 8-inch square pan – NOT a 9 inch one. It’s not a thick cake to begin with, so do not make the mistake of making it in a 9-inch pan.

You can see there that I didn’t have enough bananas to really make the pretty, decorative overlapping rows, but hey, it all worked out – nobody knew there was supposed to be oodles more bananas. A cup of mashed bananas is needed for the cake batter, and once made you stir in some chocolate chips (about 1/2 cup). The chocolate is not prominent in this cake, yet you know it’s got something else in there besides bananas.

banana_cc_upside_down_cake_whole_sideviewWe served it with vanilla ice cream, which was really good with it. Whipped cream would work too. I sent all the leftovers home with one couple in our group, so I wouldn’t end up snacking on it for days.

What’s GOOD: loved the flavor – the caramely top with the slightly caramelized bananas is really good, and the cake itself with the hint of chocolate is also delicious. Definitely I’d make this again, but I’d be sure to have 5+ bananas to start with!

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Banana Chocolate Chip Upside Down Cake

Recipe By: David Lebovitz
Serving Size : 9

1/3 cup dark brown sugar — packed, PLUS 2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons butter — or water (if butter, warm to room temp)
3 bananas — ripe, medium sized
A few drops of lemon juice
1 1/2 cups flour — (210 g)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup granulated sugar — (150 g)
2 tablespoons melted butter — (30 g) salted or unsalted
1 large egg
1 large egg white — or use 2 large eggs total
1 cup bananas — (250 g) pureed (about 2 bananas)
1/2 cup sour cream — (120 g) regular or low-fat
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips — (80 g) or chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

1. TOPPING: place the brown sugar and water or butter in an 8-inch (20 cm) square cake pan. Warm the pan directly on the stovetop over low heat, stirring until the sugar is thoroughly moistened. If using water, simmer the mixture for about 45 seconds. If using butter, stir just until the sugar is moist and bubbling, then remove from heat. (It won’t melt completely smooth, and there may be a few bare spots, which is normal.) Let cool to room temperature.
2. Peel and slice the bananas in 1/4-inch (1 cm) slices. Arrange them in slightly overlapping rows over the melted brown sugar. Sprinkle with a few drops of lemon juice.
3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
4. CAKE BATTER: Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl, making sure there are no lumps. Mix in the granulated sugar.
5. In a small bowl, mix together the butter, egg, egg white, banana puree, sour cream, and vanilla.
6. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients until almost combined. Do not overmix. Gently fold in the chocolate pieces.
7. Scrape the batter into the pan over the bananas, then use a spatula to carefully spread the batter over the sliced fruit.
8. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the cake feels just set in the center when you touch it.
9. Cool the cake for about 20 minutes, then run a knife along the edges of the cake to help it release from the pan. Serving: The cake is best served warm with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or by itself as a snack. If made an hour or so in advance, it can be inverted on the serving platter, and left with the cake pan over it, to keep it warm. Otherwise is can be rewarmed in a low over, covered with foil. Or enjoy at room temperature. Storage: The cake can be made up to two days in advance, although it is best the day it’s made. To freeze, wrap it securely in plastic wrap; it can be frozen for one to two months. Invert the cake onto a serving platter.
Per Serving: 374 Calories; 13g Fat (28.9% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 65g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 43mg Cholesterol; 321mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, on March 8th, 2018.


These tasty morsels go so well with soup, or a stew, or heck, with just about anything.

Making biscuits is really so very easy, and they’re a special treat when you have guests. I don’t suppose I’d make them just for myself – I’d eat more than one, and that would not be a good thing (for me, anyway)! This recipe came from a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter, and she served them alongside a salmon entrée (recipe up soon). I thought I would want butter on them, but none was served, and really, I didn’t miss the butter. It might have been the “frosting” on the cake to have had butter, but healthier without.

These biscuits are rich – for 16 biscuits, the mixture contains a cube of butter and 5 ounces of soft goat cheese. I can’t say that I could actually taste the goat cheese in them, although there likely was a kind of savory-ness to them, that little bit of bitter (goat cheese  bitter). The parsley gave them good color (see the flecks throughout), and using buttermilk, well, you’ll be assured of a tender biscuit whenever you use buttermilk. Altogether a good recipe, and I’ll be making them next time I need biscuits to serve with dinner. Just remember when you cut the biscuits, don’t twist the cutter (can prevent the biscuits from rising properly as twisting kind of “seals” the low profile of the dough), but press straight down. Or cut square ones with a knife. Either way works!

What’s GOOD: the tender, flaky texture, and the overall taste. A really good, tasty biscuit. And yes, I’ll definitely be making them.

What’s NOT: might need to plan ahead – I don’t always have buttermilk on hand (I’m not crazy about the powdered type) and I don’t always have soft goat cheese on hand either. Everything else – yes.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Goat Cheese and Black Pepper Biscuits

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking instructor, 2018
Serving Size: 16

2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter — cut into 1/2″ cubes
5 ounces goat cheese — soft, log type, crumbled
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons Italian parsley — coarsely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Place dry ingredients in food processor and pulse. Add butter, parsley and goat cheese. Pulse again. Add buttermilk and pulse just to combine.
3. Pat dough out on a lighty floured surface to a 3/4″ thickness into a rounded shape. Using a floured 2″ diameter cutter, cut biscuits. Gather scraps and pat out again, cutting additional biscuits. Arrange on prepared sheets and bake 6 minutes. Turn sheets around and bake until golden brown, about another 8 minutes. Cool biscuits on a rack.
Per Serving: 129 Calories; 6g Fat (44.2% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 17mg Cholesterol; 203mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on March 4th, 2018.


Quick and easy soup that has all the flavors of lasagna, but instead of tediously making a layered casserole, it’s combined into a soup. I cooked the noodles separately rather than cooking them IN the soup as the original recipe suggested. If you do cook them in the soup, it’s a one-pot soup dinner.

Two soups in a row . . . sorry about that, but couldn’t wait to share this recipe with you. You may have seen it on pinterest (I think that’s where I found it first) but then clicked through to find the recipe and blog at I just about never make lasagna anymore – sometimes because of the work, sometimes because it’s so carb-centric. But in this recipe, I could control the carbs (used much less lasagna noodles) but it still had all the fabulous flavors of traditional lasagna.

A good friend was visiting me – Lynn’s wife Sue was enjoying an Hawaiian holiday with a girlfriend, so Lynn flew to SoCal and stayed with me as he visited people all over the area (hey used to live here). Lynn also was SO very gracious to take care of a bunch of honey-do items for me. He was a whirlwind of busy-ness during his stay and got all the jobs done! I owe him many thanks! I’ve visited them in Colorado a couple of times, and there are Sue-recipes here on my blog, as she’s a really good cook.

Anyway, since Lynn was here, I decided to invite some mutual friends, 3 widowers, actually, (we all know each other from our church choir) for dinner. I knew they’d enjoy seeing Lynn and visiting. I knew all of their wives well, and all of us (except Lynn) commiserate about being widow(er)s. Anyway, I thought this sounded like a good dinner option for the evening, and oh, was it ever.

Since I doubled the recipe, it wouldn’t fit in my instant pot – so I made it in my big slow cooker. I cooked the pasta separately just before serving. If you’re going to eat all the soup at the first sitting, you can cook the noodles in the soup (and might have to add a bit more chicken broth to the mixture), but if leftovers are in the plan, cook the noodles separately so they don’t get mushy when the soup is reheated.

As it happened, I didn’t have any Italian sausage, so I substituted ground pork and added the seasonings that are used for Italian sausage (specifically fennel). The original recipe called for ground beef, but you could likely use ground turkey too or a mixture. The onion and meat are cooked through, then you begin adding ingredients. That’s the beauty of this dish – once the onion and meat are cooked, you just pile in all the stuff (herbs and spices, garlic, marinara sauce [or your choice of spaghetti sauce], tomatoes, tomato paste, a dash of balsamic, a dash of sugar [to counteract the acidity of all the tomato products], some cream at the end, and then the pasta is added.

A bunch of toppings are prepared – I used shredded Mozzarella, Pecorino-Romano, Italian parsley, fresh sliced basil and a good spoonful of whole milk ricotta cheese. I served the soup in the kitchen and each person added what they wanted of the toppings. Two of the fellows went back for seconds, and we had enough for another dinner for two.

What’s GOOD: the flavor is just super. So very easy to make. Quick! Tastes just like lasagna. I liked everything about it, and will definitely be making it again. I’d double it again, and freeze half, but wouldn’t add the cream to it to freeze.

What’s NOT: can’t think of a thing.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Easy Lasagna Soup

Recipe By: adapted from Carlsbad Cravings (blog)
Serving Size: 6

1 pound ground pork — or Italian sausage or chicken Italian sausage
1 yellow onion — diced
4 garlic cloves — minced (4 to 5)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes — or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano — crushed between your palms
24 ounces marinara sauce — (see notes below)
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth — divided (or more if desired)
14 ounces crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 whole bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt — optional
1/2 teaspoon pepper — optional
1 1/2 cups lasagna noodles — dry, broken into approx. 1-2 inch pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream — optional
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated
2/3 cup ricotta cheese — whole milk type
1/3 cup Italian parsley — chopped
1/3 cup fresh basil — sliced

NOTES: For a double recipe – for the jarred sauce, I used a bottle of Lucini Marinara sauce, and a bottle of Rao’s Vodka sauce. You can use your own homemade, or bottled. Original recipe called for Prego. If you’re going to eat it all at the first sitting, you cook the pasta in the soup. If not, cook the pasta separately and add it to each bowl – this way the pasta won’t be overcooked for the leftover servings.
1. Heat large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add meat and onion and cook, stirring occasionally until meat is browned. Add garlic, dried basil, oregano and red pepper flakes and saute for 30 seconds. Drain off any excess fat.
2. Add red sauce, half the chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt and simmer lasagna noodles (or other noodles of your choice) until just al dente. Drain.
3. Discard bay leaf and stir in heavy cream (optional) and more chicken broth to reach desired consistency. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Spoon a few lasagna noodles into each bowl and add soup on top. Garnish individual servings with desired amount of cheeses, fresh basil, fresh Italian parsley and a dollop of ricotta cheese.
Per Serving: 587 Calories; 36g Fat (52.7% calories from fat); 34g Protein; 39g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 112mg Cholesterol; 1137mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on February 28th, 2018.


Don’t we all like EASY now and then? Me, too. And this soup met all the criteria for ease and for taste.

Sometimes when the word “easy” is used in recipe descriptions, I’m leery – too easy and a dish won’t have much taste. With soup, you want layers of flavor and texture. Something about this recipe got me interested, and I thought it could be done in the Instant Pot. I didn’t end up doing that – only because I spent a week in Palm Desert last month and I didn’t feel like lugging the IP in my car. As it was, it makes itself just fine in a regular pot/pan, and indeed, it was quick, but also super-tasty.

All of you who read my blog know that I so believe in Penzey’s chicken stock base, and I did take THAT to Palm Desert, so I can perhaps attribute some of the fine flavor to that.

My friend Ann (who lives in Idaho) flew down for us to enjoy the warmth in Palm Desert (it was in the 80s every day we were there), and I made this one night with the remains of a rotisserie chicken. It was perfect for that, as it calls for 2 cups of left over chicken. The recipe makes plenty – enough for Ann and me to have dinner twice, and a lunch once, and there was still enough that once home I had enough for another dinner and lunch. I could have frozen it, but I didn’t mind having it that many days. It tasted just as good 6 days later as it did the first night – and maybe even better. I may not have put all the rice in – I thought the soup was already carb-centric enough with the corn, so I skimped a bit, but I enjoyed the bit of rice.

There’s not all that much to making it – onion, oil, oregano, canned tomatoes (diced), frozen corn, a little bit of rice, the chicken, good broth, and then all the fun toppings – fresh cilantro, sour cream, shredded cheese and a lime wedge. We bought a package of small (street taco size) flour tortillas, and enjoyed those alongside the soup. Sublime. The recipe came from Simply Recipes.

What’s GOOD: if the flavor wasn’t there, it would’t be here on my blog. It was very flavorful, and I loved all the varied textures (tomatoes, corn, rice, then the toppings). And for sure, it was EASY! And I mean that. It couldn’t have taken me more than 30 minutes to start and finish. That makes it a winner.

What’s NOT: uhm, nothing that I can think of.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Easy Mexican Chicken and Rice Soup

Recipe By: Adapted a little from Simply Recipes (blog)
Serving Size: 5

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large garlic clove — minced
1 medium onion — diced
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt — or to taste
1/8 teaspoon black pepper — or to taste
15 ounces diced tomatoes — canned, fire-roasted, undrained
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups frozen corn kernels — or fresh
1/3 cup rice
2 cups cooked chicken — chopped
1 cup fresh cilantro — chopped
1 whole lime — quartered, for garnish (1 to 2)
5 tablespoons sour cream
3/4 cup cheddar cheese — shredded
Corn or flour tortillas to serve alongside

1. In a large pot over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onion and oregano. Cook, stirring often for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the onion begins to soften. Add in garlic, then stir in the salt and pepper and continue to cook for about a minute. Do not let the garlic or onion brown.
2. Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, corn, and rice. Bring to a boil over high heat. Turn down the heat and simmer for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender. (Don’t over cook.)
3. Add the chicken and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the chicken is hot. Taste, and season with more salt and pepper, if you like.
4. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve hot with a dollop of sour cream on top, then the cilantro and lime wedges on top, and warm tortillas on the side. You could also garnish this with some shredded cheese (cheddar or Jack) and some crisp tortilla chips (crushed). Don’t serve tortillas on the side if you use the chips.
Per Serving: 416 Calories; 21g Fat (38.5% calories from fat); 39g Protein; 34g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 72mg Cholesterol; 324mg Sodium.

Posted in Miscellaneous, on February 27th, 2018.

As you know if you’ve been reading my blog for the last 4-5 months, you’ve seen several sheetpan dinners. I make them often, and often I just wing-it on some weeknights – looking to see what I have in my refrigerator, and what kind of protein (if any) I might use with it.

Every time I’d wing-it, though, I’d have to go hunt for information about how much time each vegetable takes. So, I’ve written up a chart. And a separate row for the meat. As best I know, this chart is accurate, although depending on how big you chunk up some of them, you may find your Brussels sprouts might not be done in x minutes, but x + 2 minutes, for instance. Sheetpan dinners aren’t an exact science.

And if you use chicken breasts, I explain here (on the chart) that sometimes they’re problematical as some are thinner than others. I opt, always, to cut chicken breast meat into larger sizes because I definitely do not want to overcook them. Test the meat more frequently with an instant read thermometer and remove the meat if it’s reached temp. Ideally, use chicken thigh meat as it’s more forgiving.

HERE’s the PDF you can stick inside your kitchen cupboard (that’s where mine is now).

Carolyn’s CheatSheet on SheetPan Dinners (this is a pdf)

Posted in Breads, Brunch, on February 24th, 2018.


Oh, dear, do I overuse the word “yummy?” I hope not. This is a time to use the word. I try to use different descriptors for my blog food, so you get a sense of how it tastes. This recipe is a keeper.

One of my book groups was meeting here at my house, and I reviewed the book, The Last Midwife, a wonderful historical novel about the 1880s in a small mining town in the Colorado Rockies. About Gracy, an older woman who has been a midwife since she was 10 years old. A crime rocks the town and Gracy is blamed (she isn’t guilty, but only the reader knows that). Currently, the book is written up on my sidebar if you want more info, but it will disappear from there in a month or two as I add newer books to my “currently reading” section. It’s a great book and with lots to talk about – the hardships of mountain, pioneer life. Many  interesting characters to discuss too.

Anyway, I made this coffeecake for the group, and oh gosh, was it ever good. It has 2 banana batter layers and 2 walnut/chocolate layers – as you can kind-a see in the photo. Sorry my photo was a little blurry on the bottom . . .I was in a hurry! It was very easy to make. According to my notes, it was from an old Gourmet magazine back in 2008. The riper the bananas, the better the flavor. Mine weren’t as ripe as I would have liked, but at least they weren’t green!

The cake took longer than expected to bake – the recipe said 35-40 minutes, but it took 50 minutes for me. I used my instant read thermometer to make sure – once it reaches 190°F it’s done sufficiently. I let it cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, but then I HAD to cut it into squares to serve it. It was still quite warm, but once out on a pretty platter it cooled enough for everyone to eat. I heard lots of uhmmmms and ahhhs. Including my own murmuring.

What’s GOOD: the banana flavor is certainly there. Which is good – it has that kind of speckled look (as in banana bread, you know what I mean). Loved the scent of cinnamon, and the crunchy walnuts and of course, the chocolate, which isn’t predominant, but you definitely know it’s got chocolate in it. Altogether delicious. I’d definitely make it again.

What’s NOT: only that you do dirty a few bowls in the making of it. None of the steps is hard or time consuming.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 (click link to open recipe)

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Banana Chocolate Walnut Coffeecake

Recipe By: Gourmet Mag, Feb. 2008
Serving Size: 12

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter — softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups bananas — mashed very ripe (about 3 medium)
2/3 cup yogurt — full fat
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted and cooled
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate — 70%-cacao, coarsely chopped [I used bittersweet chocolate chips]
1 cup walnuts — toasted, cooled, and coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Butter a 9-inch square cake pan. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
2. Beat together softened butter (1 stick) and 3/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in eggs 1 at a time until blended. Beat in bananas, yogurt, and vanilla (mixture will look curdled).
3. With mixer at low speed, add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.
4. Toss together chocolate, nuts, cinnamon, melted butter, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a small bowl. Spread half of banana batter in cake pan and sprinkle with half of chocolate mixture. Spread remaining batter evenly over filling and sprinkle remaining chocolate mixture on top pressing slightly to adhere the topping to the batter.
5. Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 40 – 50 minutes or until the cake reaches an internal temp fo 195°F. Cool cake in pan on a rack 30 minutes, then turn out onto rack and cool completely, right side up. When you upend the coffeecake some of the topping may fall off. Cut into small squares.
Per Serving: 391 Calories; 22g Fat (48.7% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 45g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 63mg Cholesterol; 215mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on February 20th, 2018.


If you have to eat GF, then these may float your boat. Or if you like meringue cookies in general, they might float your boat as well.

As you’ve read here many times, my cousin Gary is wheat intolerant, so I always try to make him a batch of cookies when he comes to visit over the holidays. I gave him several choices, and these were the ones he chose. I’m not altogether sure he loved them (maybe he’ll leave a comment here?) – he ate most of them, at least, but he forgot to take the remainder home with him (though I think it was an oversight). They weren’t my favorites – meringues generally are too sweet for me, but that’s just my preference. You know meringue cookies will be sweet in any case since they always are. I have changed the recipe below from 1 cup sugar to 7/8 cup of sugar to make them a bit less sweet.

I’m including the post here because some of my readers are GF, and they may want an opinion about them if they haven’t ever made them. The original recipe came from a Saveur magazine one in 2014 and came from Iceland.

They’re very easy to make – egg whites are whipped up well, sugar added in slowly, then you fold in the chopped chocolate, cornflakes and vanilla. That’s it. Scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, about 1” apart, and bake for 20 minutes.

What’s good: well, they’re GF. That’s a good thing for some. They’re a bit different because of the crunchy cornflake addition (liked that). Like the chocolate (I almost never turn down chocolate). They’re really sweet, as I mentioned (though I reduced the sugar in the recipe below to make them less so). They’re also lower in calorie (though not sugar carbs) than some cookies.

What’s NOT: if you need to eat GF, then you’ll definitely like them, I would guess! GF cookies in general, are not the easiest thing to make. Meringue cookies aren’t one of my favorite kind of cookies, but don’t take that as a true-negative about these – I’m just not partial to meringue cookies.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Chocolate-Cornflake Meringue Cookies GF

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Saveur magazine, 12/2014
Serving Size: 24

4 large egg whites
7/8 cup sugar
4 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate — roughly chopped
3 cups corn flakes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

NOTE: do not use chocolate chips as they’re too heavy – they’ll sink to the bottom. Instead use chocolate squares chopped finely with a knife.
1. Heat oven to 300°. Using an electric hand mixer, beat whites while slowly adding sugar until stiff peaks form.
2. Fold in chocolate, cornflakes, and vanilla. Space tablespoon-size amounts of batter 1″ apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets; bake until crisp, about 20 minutes. Store in an airtight tin or ziploc bag. Will keep for about a week; otherwise, freeze and defrost as needed.
Per Serving: 70 Calories; 2g Fat (19.6% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 47mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on February 16th, 2018.


Over Christmas I visited my good friend Linda, who lives in Carlsbad, a very sweet town north of San Diego. My cousin Gary was with me, and we couldn’t stay long. But, she served coffee and these gems. (Isn’t her mug the cutest thing? As you might guess, she’s a Scrabble fan.)

There are a number of recipes here on my blog from my friend Linda. Like her Bombay Chicken, Neva Tee’s Carrot Cake and  Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup. Oh, and a great lower-calorie dish (though you’d not know it), Chicken Madeira. OH, forgot her Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo, too. She’s a terrific cook, and loves to entertain and serve not one but two or three things for us. We were only there for about 30 minutes, I think. I gobbled these down like there was no tomorrow. I think I had two (both dunked into my cup of coffee), but I wanted another one (I didn’t – but I think she gave me two to take home – yea). She’d also baked a loaf cake, but she wasn’t thrilled with it, so that won’t get posted here. But these cookies – oh  yes. I’ll be making them. Linda even gave me a little bitty container of Sambuca, that anise flavored liqueur which is an addition to these cookies since I don’t have any in my liquor pantry. I offered to let Linda write the blog post, but she just didn’t think she had the writing skill (she does!) to write as I do. . . oh well. She thinks I have some special writing skill. I don’t think I do – though I like to write, but I write like I’m talking to each and every one of you. It’s just a conversation we’re having, right? The other day I clicked a link to someone’s blog and it was just a recipe. That was it. Not a word of comment, yea or nay. Nothing. Why do that? What’s the use if you don’t have the person’s perspective on the recipe – was it good or not?

Image result for sambuca

I don’t suppose you would HAVE to use Sambuca, but it does add good flavor to these biscotti. There are many brands out there – the photo at left is just one example. I had a friend, Doreen (who actually introduced me to my DH, Dave, back in 1981) who was Italian and her mother made anise biscotti – this would have been the mid-70s. I fell in love with biscotti way back then, and have made her recipe many times over the years. Guess I haven’t made them since I started writing this blog in 2007, as I’ve not posted that recipe.

This original recipe comes from America’s Test Kitchen, and is an alteration from it, slightly. After making them once, Linda decided that the flavor needed to be amped up, so she added more anise and Sambuca. Normally the biscotti would be just almond, or anise, not both, but she decided to try it this way. I liked the combo.

There are more steps than the usual biscotti – you may want to read the recipe through before doing it. This is no last-minute quick cookie to make. But no steps are difficult or all that time consuming – well, other than having to draw a specific sized rectangle on the parchment paper so you get exact-sized finished biscotti. Thank you, Linda, for a great recipe. (And no, Linda, don’t buy me a Scrabble coffee mug – much as you might want to – I drink my coffee, always, out of smaller cups.)

What’s GOOD: the flavor, first and foremost! Loved the combination of anise AND almond, and the anise flavor is subtle – even though you use both anise seed and Sambuca. If you’re used to more-traditional anise biscotti, this won’t qualify, as the anise flavor is light, but noticeable.

What’s NOT: maybe the extra steps required, but not all that difficult in the big scheme of things for biscotti. These types of cookie always require double baking.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 (click link to open recipe)

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Almond Anise Biscotti

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from America’s Test Kitchen cookbook
Serving Size: 30

1 1/4 cups whole almonds — lightly toasted
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon anise seed
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted and cooled
1 tablespoon Sambuca
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
vegetable spray
1 large egg white — whisked with a little bit of water

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325°F. Using ruler and pencil, draw two 8×3″ rectangles, spaced 4″ apart on a piece of parchment paper. Grease baking sheet and place parchment on it.
2. Pulse 1 cup of the almonds in food processor until coarsely chopped, 8-10 pulses; transfer to bowl and set aside. Process remaining 1/4 cup almonds in food processor until finely ground, about 45 seconds. Add flour, baking powder, anise seed and salt, process to combine, about 15 seconds. Transfer flour mixture to second bowl. Process eggs in now empty food processor until lightened in color and almost doubled in volume, about 3 minutes. With processor running, slowly add sugar until thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds. Add melted butter, Sambuca and vanilla and process about 10 seconds. Transfer egg mixture to medium bowl. Sprinkle half of the flour mixture over egg mixture and using spatula, gently fold until just combined. Add remaining flour mixture and chopped almonds and gently fold until just combined.
3. Divide batter in half. Using floured hands, form each half into 8×3″ rectangles, using lines on parchment as a guide. Spray each loaf lightly with oil spray. Using rubber spatula lightly coated with oil spray, smooth tops and sides of rectangles. Gently brush tops of loaves with egg white wash.
4. Bake loaves until golden and just beginning to crack on top, 25-30 minutes, rotating pan halfway through.
5. Let loaves cool on baking sheet for 30 minutes. Transfer loaves to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, slice each loaf on slight bias into 1/2″ thick slices. Lay slices, cut side down about 1/4″ apart on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Bake until crisp and golden brown on both sides, about 35 minutes. flipping slices halfway through baking. Let cool completely before serving. Biscotti can be stored in airtight container for up to a month.
Per Serving: 130 Calories; 7g Fat (47.7% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 18mg Cholesterol; 58mg Sodium.

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