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The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This book was offered as a bargain book from Bookbub, and something about the description resonated with me – maybe because of my Old Testament readings regarding the lives of shepherds back in ancient days. I utterly loved this book. It might not suit everyone – it’s a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being about attending further education and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. He bickers with his father, eventually moves out. One night in a pub with his blokes (friends) he enters some kind of a contest in the pub and realizes he has a lot more knowledge than he thought he did. In time he applies to get what I’d call here in the U.S. a G.E.D (high school diploma), which he does, and then he applies to Oxford, on a whim. And gets in. He graduates. He applies his knowledge to his rural life. He marries, has children, but still, his day to day life is all about his Herdwick sheep although he does have a day job too working for UNESCO. You’ll learn more about sheep than you might have wanted to know. I absolutely loved, LOVED this book. If you are interested, James Rebanks has a Twitter feed, called @herdyshepherd1, and you can sign up to get updates from him about his farm and his sheep. I don’t do Twitter or I would.

Moloka’i: A Novel by Alan Brennert. A riveting book about the early days of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) in Hawaii, and the stigma attached to the victims AND their families. I could hardly put it down. It chronicles the story of a young woman, diagnosed almost as a child, and ostracized from her family, subsequently learning to live alone and remote. You yearn to hug her, comfort her. Yet she finds eventually happiness and peace. A beautiful book worth reading. Was a book club read.

House by the Fjord by Rosalind Laker. What a darling story. From amazon: A touching and atmospheric love story – When Anna Harvik travels to Norway in 1946 in order to visit the family of her late husband, the country is only just recovering from five cruel years of Nazi occupation. So it is with surprise that she finds in this cold and bitter country the capacity for new love and perhaps even a new home. I just loved this book – could hardly put it down; yet it’s not a mystery. You’ll come away with a desire to find that house by the fjord. I want to go there and have some coffee with the Anna, who was a Brit, yet fell head over heels in love with Norway.

Running Blind (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child. A Jack Reacher mystery. From amazon: Across the country, women are being murdered, victims of a disciplined and clever killer who leaves no trace evidence, no fatal wounds, no signs of struggle, and no clues to an apparent motive. They are, truly, perfect crimes. Until Jack Reacher gets in the middle of it. A page turner, as are all of the Jack Reacher stories.

Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde. If you like Hyde’s novels, for the month of September many of her books are available on Kindle at a very reduced price ($1.99 and $.99 each). Go grab them while they’re available. I just purchased 6 of her books. This story, which takes place in a kind of Texas backwater, sets a town into an angry mess when two young boys, one white, one black, become friends, something most folks don’t like. At all. There’s a dog involved, the father of the black boy, the father of the white boy plus a woman who lives in the town and does her best to avoid people altogether. But they all get fused. Wonderful story.

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart. A sweet book, true story, of the author and her friend, during one summer in the midst of their college years, going by train to NYC and ultimately getting a job of Tiffany’s. This took place in the 40s, and at the time no women were ever seen on the showroom floors, but these two pretty young women were the harbinger of equality, though none of that comes into play here. They were “runners,” who whisked orders and money to and fro from the salesMEN to the office. They stood in silence near the elevators on the ground floor and waited for a sale to take place. They lived in cramped quarters. They enjoyed everything NYC had to offer them at the time, and they were wowed by an occasional celebrity sighting. Cute read.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. You might think what a stretch – what does an Indian (Native American) tribe have to do with the FBI. Read and you’ll find out. This is back in time, 50s I think, and a number of murders have taken place on the Osage Reservation. No one can seem to solve them, and those who try also get caught in the crossfire. Finally a man is brought in from back East. That’s where the inception of the FBI comes into play, though there was no FBI then. This is a very interesting read, probably sufficient info to do a book club read. A book everyone should read if you know little (or a lot) about the abominable treatment given to the Native Americans over the last several hundred years. A wake up call, even for today.

Oh wow. Just finished reading David Guterson’s book, East of the Mountains. You know this author from his most well known book, Snow Falling on Cedars. I loved the Cedars book when I read it years ago, and assumed I’d like this other book (not new) as well. Have you learned to trust my judgment when I tell you, you HAVE to read a book? When I tell you the story line, I can already hear you thinking . . . oh no, I don’t want to read this kind of a book. Please trust me. You’ll come away from it being glad you did. It tells the tale of a 70ish man, a widower, who has been diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. He’s a retired physician, knows the scenario of death by cancer, and doesn’t want to do it. He decides he’s going to take a bird hunting trip, east of the mountains in Washington State (Guterson writes a lot about his part of the world), with his two dogs, and he’ll commit suicide. He sets up an elaborate ruse with his children and grandchildren, and heads out. All of this, so far, takes place in the first 10 pages of the book. First he has an accident in his car, and that sets off a cavalcade of incidents. You’ll learn a whole lot about flora and fauna (one of Guterson’s writing attributes). You’ll learn a lot about apple and pear orchards, which abound in eastern Washington (I’ve been there, it’s beautiful, pastoral and full of fruit). Flashbacks of his life story are interspersed throughout, his growing up on an apple farm, meeting his wife, his service in WWII, their reuniting after the war and the life they had. You’ll learn some about his cancer pain, the grief of his wife’s death 5 years prior, and about his resolve to end it all. Please don’t NOT read this because  you’ll think it’s depressing. It is and it isn’t. It’s so much more for the better. And I just read, this book is being made into a movie.

A fabulous read – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s newest book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? I marvel sometimes about how authors ever come up with the ideas they do, to create the premise for a novel. And this one is right up there at the top of the list. Raymond, a youngster, an older teenager, who has a big lack of self-confidence and feels like an odd duck sometimes, reluctantly (at first) befriends an elderly woman in the apartment building where he lives with his mother and step-father. He discovers she’s blind and needs some help, which he gives her. Then he discovers that there is a lot more to know and understand about this elderly little lady down the hall and he begins a journey to try to find someone for her, the Luis Velez of the title. If you want to use coming-of-age to describe this, that’s partly true. He learns all about himself, the abilities he didn’t know he had, the kindness that lives within him that he never realized was there, and the friends he makes along the way who make some life-changing differences in his young life. He discovers he has some gifts that he can give to others, something most teenagers don’t understand. I can’t recommend this book highly enough – it’s a bit of a tear-jerker, but for every good reason and moral character trait described in the book. It’s there.

Kristin Hannah is quite an author. She’s written upwards of 20 books, I think. This one, Magic Hour: A Novel is another very mesmerizing read. I could hardly put it down. A young, 6-year old child is found in a small town on the Olympic Peninsula. She’s mute and frightened beyond reason. And she seems not to understand English. A psychiatrist is brought to town to try to unravel the mystery and to “reach” the child. I don’t want to spoil the story, but know that the whole subject of nature (biology) vs. nurture comes into play and will keep you hanging onto your seat until the last few pages.

Ever heard of Barbara Pym? I knew the name, but hadn’t ever read any of her work. She was an English author (deceased now), having penned several books. I think she was an inveterate spinster, and in this book, Excellent Women she wrote about a small village community in England with the humdrum, day to day life, but she wrote with such interesting detail. I thought I might be bored to tears reading it, as it describes a 31-year old woman, considered a spinster in the time (1950s), and the book is about her rather boring life with new neighbors who move into her small home (2 units, sharing a bathroom), the local vicar, his sister, and a myriad of other ladies of the parish. Yet you get caught up in the very minor intrigue of the deteriorating marriage of the couple in the building, the love life of the vicar, and the annual planning for a jumble sale at the local church. This book is considered Pym’s best. I loved the book. I highlighted a bunch of phrases and sentences (I will be doing a book review in one of my book clubs). It wasn’t boring at all, and was entertaining right up to the last page!

Did you ever watch Sandra Lee on the Food Network? This was in the early days of the network, and I did watch her some, although her cooking style didn’t mesh much with mine, since I’m a bit of a make-things-from-scratch kind of girl. But then, I don’t make my own mayo, or jam anymore. And I understand her philosophy, making it easier for busy women to feed their families and juggle a busy life. I’d never thought about reading her memoir. But then, a friend highly recommended I do so. I found a used copy online, and read Made From Scratch: A Memoir. She had a very, very hard young life. Her mother? Well, she shouldn’t have even been a mother. Sandra was the eldest and from a very early age she took care of all of her younger siblings. She was badly mistreated and nearly raped by a family member. Her grandmother Lorraine was her favorite person from the get-go and Sandra took care of her grandmother in her waning years. Once Sandra was old enough she left home and went to college for 3 years, then her entrepreneurial spirit just took over. She learned by doing in every job she’s ever had, and I have to admire her tremendously for her accomplishments. She made money, then lost it, found another niche, made money, then lost it. Yet she’s got the kind of grit that we should all emulate. There are 2 recipes in the book. Sandra is a Christian, and a paragraph that really gripped me was at the very end: “Grace has become one of my favorite words. To me it means learning to balance the good days with the bad. Grace is about being proud of yourself, your actions, your life, what you stand for, and the way you give back [Sandra is a huge philanthropist]. Its’ being generous when someone hurts you; it’s knowing when and how to react. It’s knowing that someone you’re not fond of today might turn out to be the only person who puts his or her hand out tomorrow just when you’re about to step in front of a moving bus. Grace is offering understanding and acceptance when the rest of the world does not.” This book isn’t great literature; yet I’m very glad I read it. She is an inspiration.

The book Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee had been recommended to me by several friends. Finally got around to reading it. It’s a novel about a family of Koreans living in Japan and covers several decades, beginning in the 1940s, I believe. They’re poor. Dirt poor, yet the women just get themselves back up and work. The husbands in the story have problems, health and otherwise. But what you see here is work, and work and more work just to keep above water. You’ve probably read about how poorly Koreans are treated in Japan – they’re kind of thought of as scum of the earth. I don’t know if this phenomena is still true today, but it apparently was even up until a couple of decades ago. As  you read this book, you’ll find yourself rooting for various family members as they progress in life. A fateful decision is made by one that reverberates throughout her life and those of her children. Pachinko (the machines and the gaming economy that runs because of it) is thought of as part of the underbelly of Japanese culture. I remember seeing the pachinko machines when I visited Japan back in the 1960s. So the book infers, much of pachinko is even controlled by a kind of Japanese mafia and certainly has no status if you work in the pachinko arena. Wealth, yes. Status, no. Very worth reading, even though it’s tough going part of the way. This isn’t a “happy” book. But still worth knowing and reading about the subject. Reading the author’s afterword at the end was very revealing and interesting.

Also read An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones. The book is set in the south with a young, well-educated, middle-class couple and suddenly the husband is accused and convicted of rape (that he didn’t commit). The book is not about the justice system or his wrongful conviction. Not at all. It’s about the relationship, the husband, wife, and then the 3rd person who inserts himself into the mix. Much of this story is told through the letters that Roy and Celestial write each other during and after his incarceration. Jones recreates the couple’s grief, despair and anger until they finally work their way to acceptance, but maybe not how you would expect it. This is complicated emotional territory navigated with succinctness and precision, making what isn’t said as haunting as the letters themselves.  Some of the above (italics) came from the New York Times’ book review.

Recently finished Sally Field’s memoir (autobiography) called In Pieces. I’ve always admired her and her acting, but never knew much about her. I remember when she was involved with Burt Reynolds, but knew nothing about her dysfunctional coming of age. I think she’s a consummate actress, and was awed by her performance in Norma Rae, and also with her role as Abraham Lincoln’s wife.  She wrote this book herself, with help from a writer’s workshop and with some good advice from various other writers. It’s very well written. She spends a lot of time discussing the very young years and her perverted step-father. But the over-arching person in her life was her mother, be what she may as far as being a good/bad mother. I really liked the book; really enjoyed reading about how Sally throws herself into her tv and film roles over her life. And what a defining moment Norma Rae was in her career. Well worth reading if you enjoy movie star memoirs.

If you want grit, well, read Kristen Hannah’s newest book, The Great Alone: A Novel. It’s a gripping novel about a young girl whose family moves to Alaska when her father is gifted a small plot of land with a ramshackle cabin on it that’s barely fit for habitation. The family survives only because some of the townspeople offer to help them learn how to live through an Alaskan winter, which is not easy. The girl’s father is a tyrant and a wife-beater as well. Some pages were hard to read. Surviving on the land with nearly no funds is an arduous task in the best of times, but doubly so when you’re dealing with an Alaskan winter which lasts about 9 months of the year. I don’t want to spoil the story by telling you too many details. The book touches on some very current social issues and is so worth reading. Although difficult at times, as I said. But I’m very glad I did. I think it would make for a good book club read – lots of survival issues to discuss, let alone the other social problems that ensue. But there’s also love, which makes it worth the read.

Recently finished reading a book for one of my book clubs. I’m interested to find out who in that group recommended this book, Tangerine: A Novel by Christine Mangan. Had it not been selected for my club, I wouldn’t ever have picked it up. Most of it takes place in Tangiers, in the 1950s. Alice and John have moved there, newlyweds, when Lucy Mason shows up. Lucy is Alice’s former college roommate. Lucy simply moves in. There’s bad blood between them following the death of Alice’s beau during their college years. Lucy, who might appear as a very sensible woman, has a dark physical and mental obsession with her “friend.” Is it horror? Not really by strict definition. Is it a mystery? Not quite, although there are several murders that take place. Chapters jump between Alice’s voice and Lucy’s voice and you understand the mental fragility of Alice, and this consuming obsession Lucy has for her friend. I’m NOT recommending this book, but I did finish it just because of my book club choosing this very strange book.

You’ve got to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book – Take Me With You. What a story.  From Amazon’s description: August Shroeder, a burned-out teacher, has been sober since his nineteen-year-old son died. Every year he’s spent the summer on the road, but making it to Yellowstone this year means everything. The plan had been to travel there with his son, but now August is making the trip with Philip’s ashes instead. An unexpected twist of fate lands August with two extra passengers for his journey, two half-orphans with nowhere else to go. What none of them could have known was how transformative both the trip—and the bonds that develop between them—would prove, driving each to create a new destiny together. Have a tissue handy at the end. It’s such a charming, sweet story. You’ll fall in love with the young boys, and fall in love with them again 10 years later.

One of my book clubs occasionally reads a kind of edgy book. This is one of them. By Mohsin Hamid, Exit West: A Novel is a book set in an age not dissimilar to our own and in current time, but something bad has happened in the world. Something never divulged, although symptoms of a civil war are mentioned. A unmarried couple, Nadia and Saeed, are given the opportunity (as others are, as well) to go through a door (this is the exit part of the title) and to another place in the world – it takes but a second – to go through the special door. They go to England (London), to a palatial mansion. Sometimes the power grid is sketchy. Another door. And yet another. And finally to Marin County (north of San Francisco). You follow along with the ups and downs of the chaste relationship of the two, this couple from a house to living on the streets. And the eventual dissolution of the relationship too. I wasn’t enamored with the book, but after listening to the review of it and hearing others talk about it, I suppose there’s more to this story than it might appear. Hope is the word that comes to mind. The book is strange, but it won the Los Angeles Times book award in 2017. It’s received lots of press. It made for some very interesting discussion at our book club meeting.

The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes. Story: Jennifer Stirling wakes up in hospital, having had a traumatic car accident. She’s introduced to her husband, of whom she has no recollection, and is sent home with him eventually, to a life she neither remembers or embraces readily. But this is the life she was raised to have, so surely it must be worth living, underneath the strange, muted tones of her daily existence. Jennifer goes through the motions, accepts what she is told is her life and all seems to bob along well enough, except when she finds a letter that isn’t her husband’s handwriting, and is clearly a link to someone she has been involved with, but whom? London, France, Africa and America all come into play in this story of a woman piecing back together her life in effort to understand what she has lost, and what she threw away. There is a bit of a time-hop from 1964 to 2003. . . from a reviewer on amazon.  I loved this book from page one to the end. There’s some bit of mystery and you so get into the head of Jennifer Stirling. I could hardly put it down. Great read.

Francine Rivers, an author relatively new to me, but much admired, is most known for this: Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3) It’s a trilogy. The first 2 books are about Hadassah, a young woman in the time of the Roman Empire. When Jerusalem was overrun and destroyed, the Christians still alive were sent off and away, separated and derided and abused. Hadassah was one of them. She’s a slave to a wealthy family and it takes 2 of the books to read before the son of the family finally realizes that he’s in love with Hadassah. If  you’re a Christian, you’ll learn a whole lot more about the time following Christ’s crucifixion, about the lot of the struggling Christian community. The 3rd book in the trilogy is about a gladiator who is part of book 1 and 2, but not a main character. You’ll learn about his life too, after he regains his freedom from the fighting ring and the battle of his soul. These books are a fabulous read. Can’t say enough good things about them all. I’ve never been a huge fan of old-world Roman Empire reading, but this one was altogether different. Very worth reading.

Amy Belding Brown wrote this book: Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America, a true accounting in 1676, of Mary Rowlandson, a woman who was captured by Native Americans.  Even before she was captured on a winter day of violence and terror, she sometimes found herself in conflict with her rigid Puritan community. Now, her home destroyed, her children lost to her, she has been sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, made a pawn in the ongoing bloody struggle between English settlers and native people. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, Mary witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness. To her confused surprise, she is drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life, a feeling further complicated by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native known as James Printer. The story is riveting, and perplexing once she is traded back to her home. You’ll see a different side to the Indian problem back then and find yourself conflicted. An excellent read.

Taylor Caldwell was a prolific writer, and one I read when I was younger. She died in 1980, and this book, her last, Answer As a Man certainly delivers as her others did. All his life, Jason Garrity has had to battle intolerance and injustice in his quest for power, money, and love. His new hotel will give him financial security, the means to support a loving family and become an upstanding citizen. When family secrets and financial greed combine to destroy his dreams, his rigid moral convictions are suddenly brought into question. . . from Goodreads. Caldwell believed the banking industry was way too powerful, and often took aim at it, as she did in this book. It chronicles the life of a very poor, impoverished Irish immigrant to the U.S. He was an upstanding citizen, God-fearing, but maybe naive in some respects. Good book if you enjoy very deep character study.

Another book by Diney Costeloe, Miss Mary’s Daughter. When a young women is suddenly left with no family and no job or income, she’s astounded to learn that she’s actually a granddaughter of a “grand” family in Ye Olde England. She’s very independent (at least I thought so, for the time period), but is willing to investigate this new family of hers. There are many twists and turns – is she going to inherit the family home – or is the man who has been caring for the home and his daughter the logical inheritors. There’s a villain who nearly sweeps her off her feet, much intrigue from many characters. Well developed plot with a happy ending. A good read.

Celeste Ng is a hot new author. I read another of her books (see below) but this time I read Little Fires Everywhere. There are so many various characters and plots in this book, as in her others. This book focuses on a Chinese baby abandoned at a fire station and the subsequent court battle when the single mother surfaces six months later to try to reclaim her daughter from the family in the process of adopting her. Emotions well up, waxing and waning on both sides of the issue. You may even find yourself changing your own mind about the right or wrong of a child raised with a natural-born mother (albeit late to the raising) or the mother the child has known since near birth. Ng likes to write books with lots of grit and thorny issues. Although a good read, I liked Everything I Never Told You better than this one.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright. Oh my. This book has so many layers: (1) the young, impoverished couple and their infant son who live, literally, in a dump in Cambodia and about the precarious structure, if you can even call it that, that comprises their “house” in the midst and perched on top of trash; (2) the woman who collects the rent (hence the title and yes, people have to PAY to live there); (3) the young son’s chronic illness; (4) how they make a living out of collecting and selling trash; and (4) the life saving grace and wisdom imparted by characters in the book as the young mother begins to learn to read. If you decide to read this book, please don’t stop at about page 15-20, thinking you just don’t know if you want to read about this. Please continue. It’s so worth it. Have a highlighter pen in your hand because you’ll find so many quotes you will want to remember. Believe it or not, there is also quite a bit in this about literature.

C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel). I just love Box’s novels. They take place in present day semi-wild west, and chronicle the fish and game warden, Joe Pickett, as he unravels another crime in his territory. A woman has disappeared, and the governor has asked him to figure it out. He does, but the tale meanders  through multiple layers of intriguing story. His books are riveting. Men and women enjoy his books – so if you have a fellow in your life or family that would enjoy an intriguing book (this is not espionage) then gift him one of Box’s books.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Rivers is a prodigious writer of Christian fiction, and I’d never read anything by her until now. As I write this, I’ve already read this, another one (below) and just purchased the Kindle trilogy called Mark of the Lion (Vol 1-3) that I haven’t yet started. (Two of my friends have said the trilogy is her best.) Redeeming Love details the fictional story of a godly man, Michael Hosea, forging his way in the era of the Gold Rush. He’s “driven” to rescue a beautiful prostitute who lives and works her trade in a nearby town. The entire book is about the story, the rescue, and it parallels a bit of scripture about Hosea who rescues a prostitute names Gomer. You get into the heads of both Hosea and the prostitute, named Angel. We read this for one of my book groups. A great read.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. A

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. W

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively.

 

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 Breads, on February 4th, 2019.

2_ingred_bagels

A recipe from Sara

2_ingred_toppingsThis is an alternative to yeast breads that takes no time to make and has 10-11 grams protein per serving!  It’s my new favorite. I make this in double batches and my family goes through them within a few days. Always a good sign the recipe is enjoyed. 2_ingred_dough

The only negative is the self-rising flour, as it’s not something I normally use, so I had to buy some specifically for this recipe. And now I have to find a permanent home in my baking drawer!

Notes from Carolyn: you can make your own self-rising flour and store it that way, but if you don’t have self-rising flour and don’t want to have to buy it or store it, use this adaptation: for every 1 cup of all-purpose flour add 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

bagels_raw

In writing up this recipe for Sara, and going online to verify instructions, I discovered this gem is now in a Weight Watchers recipe frenzy. “Everybody” is making it – you can make all kinds of things with it: bagels (Sara’s favorite), calzones, pizza dough, pretzels, bread sticks, and even cinnamon rolls. Sara had difficulty making pretzel shapes with the dough (it’s very sticky). If you’re interested, go online and search for “2 ingredient (insert type)” and you’ll find many websites with the same recipe and perhaps more instructions for making the other varieties.Sara used the recipe from a website called Recipe Diaries. You might want to go there and check out some of Jenna’s hints about handling the dough (refrigerate it before shaping). The complete recipe (4 servings) amounts to 11 WW points, in case you’re following their nutrition/diet style.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

2 Ingredient Dough

Recipe By: Recipe Diaries blog (follows Weight Watcher’s)
Serving Size: 4

1 cup Greek yogurt, fat-free
1 cup self-rising flour
1 egg — for wash

1. Mix flour and yogurt together in bowl. Either spray Pam on your hands or dust hands with more flour as dough is sticky. Knead dough until smooth.
2. Divide into 4ths and shape into whatever you want. (I’ve made sandwich rolls, bagels – my preference – pizza crust, hotdog buns…)
3. Place on parchment paper on baking sheet. Whisk egg and brush onto dough. Then sprinkle with whatever topping sounds good. I love the Everything Seasoning from Trader Joe’s or Costco. I’ve also sprinkled mini chocolate chips, herbs and parmesan…. be creative!
4. Bake at 350°F for 22 minutes.
Per Serving: 160 Calories; 2g Fat (8.9% calories from fat); 10g Protein; 26g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 53mg Cholesterol; 437mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, lectin-free, on December 21st, 2018.

LF_GF_bishops_bread

Most of you won’t appreciate what a masterpiece I think this is. Those of you who are willing to eat wheat and lectins, etc. can disregard this post.

It’s only been in the last 4-6 weeks that I’ve been feeling a frustration with my Plant Paradox diet, the one that doesn’t allow beans, rice, potatoes, winter squashes, bread, corn, tortillas, peas, corn, wheat flour of any kind, etc. For about 8 months I’ve been following the Stephen Gundry diet, and it’s still working, albeit very slowly. But as Christmas was approaching, I was feeling a lot of sadness that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my favorite Bishop’s Bread since it contains a flour-based batter. I decided I was going to “fix” that. I began researching online at several websites that offer recommendations about how to adapt a recipe to GF or LF (lectin-free) or both.

Initially I began with creating a combination of alternate “flours.” It’s 2:1:1 of almond flour, coconut flour and cassava flour (the latter is a flour made from yuca, a tuber, which also produces tapioca). These flours are readily available now at some mainstream grocery stores. I buy the almond flour at Costco, and the other two I bought locally, but have also purchased on amazon. I also purchased xanthan gum, an ingredient you’ll often find in GF foods – it’s not a requirement, but it helps hold things together – baked goods mostly. I also learned that it’s best to double the amount of leavening – in this case it was baking powder, since the rising agent has to work harder in GF mixtures to accomplish the same amount of lift.

With trepidation I began mixing up my bread. First I mixed up my alternative sugar too – I used half Swerve and half regular sugar – with eggs. You don’t get the same kind of lemony smooth texture from Swerve, but I mixed them well enough. I’d added the xanthan gum and baking powder to the flour mixture. And just before combining everything I tossed in the halved maraschino cherries, chocolate chips (Ghiradelli dark) and chopped walnuts into the flour mixture. Technically I shouldn’t have sugar, the sweetened cherries or any chocolate less than 90% cacao. But to enjoy this treat, I figured I wouldn’t be using all that much of it. Or eating all that much of it.

The batter was scraped into a bread pan – I used a 9” loaf pan, but next time I might try to use one of my narrower pans instead as this loaf isn’t as high as usual. In the photo at top, those are 2 slices of the bread you can see, each about 1 1/2 inches high. I baked the loaf for 45 minutes and it was almost over done, but it seemed good as it cooled. I couldn’t wait to upend it and slice off a piece. I waited about an hour and was just thrilled when I took my first bite. Oh, heaven!

When I make this again, I will increase the amount of batter, but leave the additions the same, which will take longer to bake, of course. But I’m a happy camper enjoying a narrow slice of this every other day or so. I mixed up a bigger batch of the alternative flours so I can try it in some other recipe, maybe for a biscuit kind of thing.

What’s GOOD: this means I can enjoy this treat during December after all, although I should be limited on how much. I’m rationing it out to myself so it won’t be gone by Christmas. The bread tastes every bit as good as the regular version and I was happy with the light crumb of the bread/batter aspect. It’s not heavy at all.

What’s NOT: only the acquiring of the oddball alternative flours. Otherwise, this was a cinch.

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LF GF Bishops Bread

Recipe By: my own recipe, 2018
Serving Size: 14

FLOUR SUBSTITUTE MIX:
1 cup almond flour
1/2 cup cassava flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
BREAD:
3/4 cup flour substitute (above)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar — scant
1/4 cup Swerve — scant
1 cup walnuts — chopped
1/2 cup Maraschino cherries — halved, drained
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips

FLOUR SUBSTITUTES: Combine in a bowl the almond, cassava and coconut flours. Mix well so there are no lumps. Store unused flour at room temp.
1. Combine in a bowl the 3/4 cup of the substitute flour mix, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt. Use a whisk or your hands to mix this well. Set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 325°F. Prepare bread pan by placing a piece of cut-to-fit waxed paper in the bottom. Use an 8″ bread pan if you have one.
3. Using a mixer, combine the eggs, Swerve and sugar. Mix well. Using Swerve won’t give you the same consistency as you’re used to with eggs/sugar. Just mix it well.
4. Add the maraschino cherries to the bowl of flour and toss so the wet cherries are coated in the flour mixture. Add walnuts and chocolate chips and mix thoroughly. Pour the egg mixture into the flour/fruit mixture and stir well to combine, making sure there are no lumps of flour.
5. Scrape into a bread pan, smooth top and bake for about 40-45 minutes. When the sides of the bread turn golden brown, the bread is done. Remove to cool on a rack for about 30-45 minutes, then invert and set back right side up to cool completely. Wrap in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. Use 1/4″ or slightly thicker slices to serve. Using a serrated knife may be useful.
Per Serving (not quite accurate as the alternate flours aren’t included): 147 Calories; 9g Fat (47.9% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 19g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 30mg Cholesterol; 144mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, Breads, on September 12th, 2018.

cheesy_shrimp_garlic_bread

Oh my, garlic bread, but on steroids. This is ciabatta bread, sliced in half horizontally, piled with a bunch of cheeses, tomatoes and shrimp. With a bunch of other flavor enhancers added in too.

Having had this at a cooking class, my friend Cherrie and I decided that after having had the watermelon blueberry drink, then this garlic bread, that could have been our “dinner,” and we’d have happily gone home. Not really, but we were somewhat full when we got done with this. (Although, I didn’t eat any of the bread – – the topping was wonderful, just sayin’.)

If you’re ever wanting to have some amped up kind of garlic bread – this is it – and you could serve this without the shrimp as a bread to go with a bowl of soup. If it was fish soup, then the shrimp would be fine there! You could also cut this up into much smaller squares and put it out on a buffet table.

What it is is delicious. Unctuous in my book. All that cheesy stuff going on. Shrimp is cooked through barely, then you add in chopped tomatoes and garlic. Then you chop up the shrimp a bit (or do it ahead of time, which might be easier) and add mayo, lemon juice, mozzarella and Parm. That gets piled onto the top of the ciabatta bread, sprinkled with more cheese (plus some Fontina there also), baked for 18-20 minutes, and garnish with chopped parsley. Phillis Carey made this at a class, and she happened to have bacon fat in a frying pan because she’d cooked up a bunch of bacon for a salad, so she cooked the shrimp in the bacon grease. Which might have made this even more tasty.

You can do all of the work ahead of time, except for piling the mixture on top of the bread – then you bake it. Easy peasy.

What’s GOOD: all the cheesy flavors are wonderful. Gooey deliciousness. The shrimp add something different – bet you’ve never had garlic bread with shrimp on the top, have you?

What’s not: nothing that I can think of. Really good dish.

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Cheesy Shrimp Garlic Bread

Recipe By: Cooking class, Phillis Carey, 2018
Serving Size: 6 (I think more than that)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 packages shrimp — cleaned, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2 tomatoes — diced
3 cloves garlic — minced
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese — grated
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated
1 small ciabatta loaf — halved horizontally, lengthwise
TOPPING:
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese — grated
1/4 cup Fontina cheese — grated
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated
1/4 cup fresh parsley — chopped

NOTE: Buy a thin ciabbatta loaf if possible, i.e. you do not want height with this as it will be too bready.
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter (if you have bacon fat on hand, use that). Add chopped shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Cook until pink and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes, then stir in tomatoes and garlic and cook until fragrant, about one more minute. Remove from heat and cool.
2. Transfer shrimp to a bowl and mix with mayo, lemon juice, zest mozzarella and Parm. Season with more salt and pepper.
3. Spread shrimp mixture onto bread and add toppings: more Mozzarella, Fontina, Parm. Bake until bread is crispy and cheese is bubbly and golden on top, 18-20 minutes. Remove from oven and add parsley immediately (so it sticks to the bubbly cheese). Cool for 2-4 minutes only, then cut into stick-sized portions and serve.
Per Serving: 393 Calories; 20g Fat (46.1% calories from fat); 13g Protein; 41g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 38mg Cholesterol; 548mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, on August 29th, 2018.

pumpkin_cr_cheese_muffins_tin

(A post from Sara) These very tasty muffins are great to stuff in my son’s lunches or for snacks. Full of flavor and warm fall spices.

pumpkin_cr_cheese_muffin_batterMy 18-year old H.S. senior son plays football. And he eats a LOT. When my husband and I recently went on Weight Watcher’s, my son lost weight he didn’t need to. Although he says he’s fine at his new, lower weight, he needs tons of calories (and carbs) during football season. That’s like NOW. So, even though I’m not baking much these days, I still need to make things for John.

My mom, Carolyn, was visiting over the weekend, so we made these muffins. ‘Tis the season for pumpkin, and I knew John would like the combination of pumpkin and cream cheese. The recipe is supposed to be a copycat of Starbuck’s version. I found it at Genius Kitchen, but as my mom and I read all the comments (many) we decided to change the recipe some. And after we had made half of them we decided to change it a little bit more.

cr_cheese_fillingThere was cocoa in the recipe, and although we used it, we both decided it didn’t add anything. You couldn’t taste chocolate, so why bother, right? We were glad we didn’t add molasses, but we did up the spices a lot. It called for 1 1/4 cups of oil – we decided to use 3/4 cup of buttermilk and 1/2 cup of oil instead (suggested in one of the comments). These were still very moist and tender. And the biggest tweak we did was, for each muffin cup, to pour 2/3 of the batter in first (instead of half which was the instruction in the original recipe), then spoon the cream cheese filling (a brick of cream cheese, an egg, some sugar and vanilla) across the middle, then we spooned the remaining batter on top, but left some of the cream cheese portion visible. We thought it made these much more interesting to look at.

So, there was a little bit of quality control going on that day – my mom had a couple of bites – and I ate a little bit too. Even though a muffin isn’t on either of our diets. But we needed to tell you these were good, right? And they were. I’d definitely make these again (when I’m off a low carb diet!). All the muffins are safely stored in my freezer to be pulled out as needed.

What’s GOOD: the warm fall spices were the best part, I think. And the look of the top – the cream cheese peeking through. Loved the pumpkin flavor, of course. We thought next time we might use more nuts on top – we were very stingy with them. Be generous.

What’s NOT: only that you do have to make 2 batters, but really, the cream cheese one isn’t difficult in the least. My muffin tin is a bit on the small side, so we got more muffins from this recipe than it indicated. If you have larger muffin tins, of course, you’ll yield fewer. Just so you know . . .

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Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

Serving Size: 32
Recipe By: Adapted from Genius Kitchen

FILLING:
8 ounces cream cheese — softened
1 large egg
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
MUFFINS:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups canned pumpkin
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
chopped pecans for topping

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Mix cream cheese with one egg and 3 tablespoons of sugar. Set aside.
3. Combine all the dry ingredients (not the nuts) in a medium mixing bowl and use a whisk to mix everything together well. In another large bowl combine eggs, pumpkin, buttermilk and oil, and use a whisk to mix thoroughly. Pour dry mixture into the liquid mixture and stir until all lumps are gone.
6. Fill muffin tins (greased or paper cups) two-thirds full.
7. Spoon cream cheese cross-wise in the middle with some reaching to the outside edge. Spoon remaining one-third muffin batter on top, allowing some of the cream cheese filling to show, if possible. Sprinkle pecans (or other nuts of your choice) on top.
8. Bake for 18- 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean from the muffin (do not test in the cream cheese part).
9. Let cool in pans for 5 minutes, then remove to racks to cool completely. Do not touch the cream cheese until it cools.
Per Serving: 168 Calories; 7g Fat (36.5% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 24g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 41mg Cholesterol; 145mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, Brunch, on April 13th, 2018.

budapest_coffeecake_slice

Lovely, tasty coffeecake with a cinnamon and nut filling, made in a Bundt pan.

It’s been years now, I’ve been on a quest. A friend and I went on a Los Angeles gourmet crawl of some kind. It was daytime, and we visited a variety of restaurants and food emporiums. When we paused at a catering place in Santa Monica (I think it was) they served us each a little slice of a Hungarian coffee cake. I was smitten. I asked if they’d share the recipe. Uh, NO. That coffeecake didn’t look like this coffeecake, I’m sorry to say – it was much darker colored batter/cake. It was made in either a Bundt or a tube pan and it had cinnamon in it, some nuts too. It was just so divine. Ever since (and this has been 25 or more years ago) I’ve looked in cookbooks at the library, on the internet, etc. to try to find a recipe for a dark battered coffee cake. But when I looked at THIS recipe I thought well, definitely not a dark batter, but it sounded good nonetheless.

budapest_coffeecake_wholeThe recipe came from Food52, and is credited to Maida Heatter, that diva of all things sweet, and comes from a 1999 cookbook she published. I followed the recipe to a T; however, I’ve made one little change in the directions. When served, as I cut my fork into the cake, it toppled over right where the filling was – because the filling was dry and unto itself. So I’ve added one step – running a knife through the batter and filling layer to help adhere the cake and filling together. Obviously I didn’t do that with the one I made, but it’s such a minor change, you might not even be aware of it. Hopefully, the cake will hold together better.

The filling consists of cinnamon, cocoa, nuts, dark brown sugar and some chopped up raisins. As you layer the sour cream rich batter in the greased Bundt pan, you sprinkle on the filling. Just run your knife through as you add each layer of filling. I didn’t use quite all of the dry filling. It’s baked for 50-60 minutes (I’d lean toward 60 if you make this yourself). I used the toothpick test, but found when I served it that the cake toward the center was still quite wet – I took my cake out of the oven at 50 minutes. Anyway, the cake is cooled, then plated and drizzled with an easy icing.

What’s GOOD: my favorite part was the filling, and the raisins in it. They add a special bit of sweetness. It’s a nice batter – not overly moist, actually, considering there’s 2 cups of sour cream in the batter. The cake part is relatively nondescript, as it’s the filling that makes it.

What’s NOT: nothing really.

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Maida Heatter’s Budapest Coffee Cake

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts, 1999
Serving Size: 12

NUT FILLING:
3/4 cup dark brown sugar — firmly packed
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
3 tablespoons raisins — coarsely chopped (dark or golden)
1 cup toasted walnuts — finely chopped
CAKE BATTER:
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ounces butter — (1 1/2 sticks) at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs — at room temperature
2 cups sour cream — at room temperature
ICING:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons hot milk — (2 to 3)
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. NUT FILLING: In a small bowl, mix together all of the ingredients. Set aside.
2. CAKE: Preheat the oven to 350° F and butter a 10-inch Bundt pan.
3. Into a large bowl, sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Using a paddle attachment of a stand mixer, cream the butter. Add 2 teaspoons of the vanilla and the sugar and beat on medium speed for a minute or two.
4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating each until just incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl, as necessary, to keep mixture smooth. Beat at high speed until mixture is light and creamy, about 1 minute.
5. Turn mixer to low speed. Add dry ingredients in three additions and sour cream in two additions, beating only until smooth after each addition.
6. Spread a thin layer of batter in bottom of prepared pan. Sometimes it’s easier to use a small spoon to drop some batter into pan, and then to smooth it together. Top with 1/3 of nut mixture. Run a knife, zigzagging slightly through the batter. Repeat until you have 4 layers of batter into pan and smooth it together. Use a knife to zigzag once with each layer of filling. Top layer will be batter and it’s not necessary to run the knife through that layer.
7. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until cake tester inserted in center of cake comes clean. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes, then turn out and re-invert on a rack.
8. Combine confectioners’ sugar, hot milk, and remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in a small bowl. Mix well. Mixture should have the consistency of a thick cream sauce. Place a sheet of wax paper underneath a cooling rack. Pour glaze over cake, letting it run down the sides, while still hot. When glaze is set, transfer cake to a serving plate. Serve cake warm or at room temp.
Per Serving: 611 Calories; 27g Fat (39.1% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 86g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 101mg Cholesterol; 470mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, on March 8th, 2018.

goat_ch_pepper_biscuits

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.

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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 Breads, Brunch, on February 24th, 2018.

ban_choc_walnut_coffeecake

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.

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Banana Chocolate Walnut Coffeecake

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

BANANA BATTER:
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
TOPPING:
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 Breads, Brunch, on January 4th, 2018.

black_pepper_biscuits_closeup

Who would think that just regular rich buttery biscuits could be so much better with the addition of pepper?

A few weeks ago a group of us got together for a breakfast at my friend Cherrie’s house. Some in the group have been meeting for about 35 years, others a shorter time. Usually, in December, one of us hosts the group for breakfast and we share Christmas gifts with one another. Cherrie made a lovely breakfast for us (a potato casserole, sausage and gravy – along with the biscuits I made – fresh fruit, OJ or Prosecco and OJ, and a cranberry coffeecake and coffee, of course). It was all sumptuous.

breakfast_group_Xmas_2017

There we are in Cherrie’s living room about to open our presents. She’s doing an Olde English Christmas this year (see one of the Queen’s adapted mottos at the left – it says “Keep Calm and Feast On” – and the London 2-decker bus back behind the table – it’s mounted on the mirrored wall, but looks like it’s in the frame). She has Scottish charger plates and runners and she’s been collecting Nutcrackers for years, though you can’t see any of them in the picture. Cherrie does a theme every Christmas – last year it was Hawaiian. And just as an aside. Kathy’s grandson, Zach, has just been accepted at the University of Hawaii with a FULL football scholarship. Their family is floating on Cloud 9. Zach was offered scholarships at 9 colleges or universities. Obviously he’s a star player!

Back to the biscuits: since we meet early, I cheated and made the biscuits the night before and stuck them (raw) in the freezer, then popped them in Cherrie’s oven once I got there. The tops of the biscuits had been slathered with buttermilk, then black pepper sprinkled on top. Black pepper biscuits are definitely a southern tradition, but I’d never had them (nor made them) before. The recipe is a fairly traditional rich (butter) biscuit but it has a bunch of fresh ground black pepper in the mixture, and then on top too. Photo below is before I baked them.

black_pepper_biscuits_ready2bakeIF I were to make these again, I wouldn’t freeze them – only because they didn’t brown evenly (see photo), but that was really not a problem with the taste, just the appearance. Or, the option would be to freeze them, but not slather the buttermilk and pepper on top until just before you bake them. The buttermilk had been absorbed by the biscuit dough, although the pepper certainly did stick well enough.

There were raves around the table, mine included. You know, we here in the U.S. and Canada, and likely England as well, use black pepper as our tableside condiment. In many other countries, they use other things like spicy paprika in Hungary and other countries in that region. And in some South American countries they use a spicy dried pepper (not peppercorns). But for us, black pepper became the standard. And I certainly use a lot of it – did you also know that as we age, our taste buds lose their ability to taste as well, so it’s not uncommon for people to use more salt or pepper?

I thought these biscuits were superlative! With the sausage gravy on top – oh my goodness was that ever good. Loved it. And yes, I’ll be making them again.

What’s GOOD: the addition of black pepper does make the biscuit spicy/hot – use less if you’re sensitive to heat. It made a very different tasting biscuit, and it was well liked by everyone at the breakfast. Cherrie kept most of the leftover ones and is going to make sausage gravy again and serve it over those biscuits.

What’s NOT: only if you don’t like black pepper . . . I thought these were scrumptious.

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Black Pepper Biscuits

Recipe By: Bobby Flay
Serving Size: 8-12

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder — plus 1 teaspoon
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper — plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter — cubed and chilled
2 cups cold buttermilk — plus more for brushing

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F and line a baking sheet with parchment. In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons of pepper and baking soda. Scatter the cubed butter over the dry ingredients and, using your fingers, pinch the butter into the flour to form small sheets of butter, with some of the butter about the size of peas. Stir in the 2 cups of buttermilk just until a dry, shaggy dough forms.
2. Turn the dough out onto a work surface sprinkled lightly with flour and knead gently, folding the dough over itself 2 or 3 times to form a layered dough. Pat the dough out to a 1-inch-thick rectangle. Using a large, sharp knife, cut out as many 3-inch-square biscuits as you can. Gently press the scraps together and cut out more biscuits. [I used a 2 1/2″ square cutter, so this recipe made about 13 biscuits.] Biscuits may be frozen at this point, then sealed into a plastic bag. Use within 2 weeks.
3. Arrange the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with buttermilk and sprinkle with coarsely ground black pepper. Bake for about 15-16 minutes, until golden brown. If baking them from a frozen state, still do the buttermilk brushing and added pepper just before baking, but the biscuits may take 2-3 more minutes to reach that golden brown.
Per Serving: 432 Calories; 21g Fat (44.4% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 51g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 56mg Cholesterol; 879mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, Breads, on November 25th, 2017.

seeded_cheddar_triangles_crackers

Really easy home made crackers, brimming with cheese flavor (cheddar) and topped with a variety of seeds.

It was a couple of years ago I was at my friends, Joan and Tom’s for dinner, and Joan served these cute-as-buttons cheese triangle crackers. I was smitten with them, and intended to make them pronto. But time moved on and I just hadn’t gotten around to it. I had an event at my house recently – the group of 10 of us watched A Man Called Ove, on Amazon Prime, based on the book by Backman. Then, we all sat down in my dining room and had lunch (soup – a recipe that’s already here on my blog, but I updated it and will post soon – plus seeded bread from Whole Foods and a scrumptious apple dessert made by my co-hostess Linda). During the movie, I served these crackers, fresh out of the oven, and they were gobbled up in no time.

I started the crackers the day before – it’s mixed up in the food processor (EASY!). You  have the option of chilling the dough if you want to, or making them immediately. I wanted to do it ahead, but bake them just before we watched the movie. So, I pressed the dough into two flat rounds, slipped them into a plastic bag and chilled them. I took them out of the refrigerator about an hour ahead of when I wanted to bake them. They’re rolled out into sort of circles, then you brush on some egg white and the seeds are pressed into the top. Then cut them into triangles and into a 350°F oven they went and baked for about 16 minutes. I cooled them about 3-4 minutes before serving them still warm. The recipe came from Southern Living in 2010.

What’s GOOD: how easy they are to make, how wonderful they taste!! The recipe says it serves 16. Well, my group of 10 devoured them in about 30 minutes. I baked each round separately, so I served them about 20 minutes apart. SO, you might want to double the recipe!

What’s NOT: really nothing – these are so easy to do, especially if you’ve made the dough ahead of time.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Four-Seed Cheddar Triangles (Crackers)

Recipe By: From Southern Living, 12/2010
Serving Size: 16

10 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese — shredded
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter — cut into 4 pieces and softened
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons half and half
SEASONINGS:
1 whole egg white
1 teaspoon water
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, roasted — salted
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
2 tablespoons sesame seeds — toasted
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

1. Pulse first 5 ingredients in a food processor at 5-second intervals until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add half-and-half, and process 10 seconds or until dough forms a ball. If it’s too dry, add about a teaspoon of the half and half and pulse again until the dough forms a ball. Divide in half.
2. Dough may be wrapped in plastic wrap, sealed in a zip-top plastic freezer bag, and chilled up to 3 days.
3. Preheat oven to 350°F.
4. If you chilled the dough, leave it out for about an hour before trying to roll it out. Roll each half into a 9- to 10-inch round. Transfer rounds to parchment paper-lined baking sheets.
5. Whisk together 1 egg white and 1 tsp. water just until foamy. Stir together pumpkin seeds, sunflower kernels, sesame seeds, and black sesame seeds. Brush rounds with egg white mixture, and sprinkle with seed mixture and press lightly so the seeds stick to the dough. Cut each round into wedges of random sizes, using a fluted pastry wheel. Separate wedges about 1 inch apart onto the baking sheets.
6. Bake 16 to 18 minutes; cool on baking sheets on wire racks for 10-30 minutes.
Per Serving: 199 Calories; 14g Fat (64.8% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 35mg Cholesterol; 233mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, Brunch, Desserts, on August 21st, 2017.

almond_puff_slice

Almond Puff Loaf. Oh gosh. Love this.

It had been decades since I’d last made this. I used to make it back in the 1960s – I’d found a recipe in one of my homespun cookbooks. Then one time I made it and it failed completely, and I had no idea why. The 2nd layer kind of spread out all over everywhere (now I know what happened) but after that failure, I thought oh well, I won’t try that again. Then it was featured recently on King Arthur Flour’s blog, and I was reminded about my previous love of it, then distress of it. As I read, I discovered that you must use large eggs, not extra large. I used to buy extra large all the time, but then about 10-15 years ago I read that bakers use ONLY large eggs because they’re more consistent with the normal size used in almost all baked things. And it was mentioned that if you use extra large eggs, this baked goodie might fail. Ah-ha! That must have been it. If you go the blog write-up then go to the recipe itself at King Arthur Flour, you’ll read all the details, if you’re interested. They actually mention how much one large egg weighs. One website says an average large egg weighs (just the egg part) 50 grams.

I served it at one of my book club meetings recently, held here at my house. The recipe is Danish in origin, and I wanted to make Danish goodies because the group was reviewing The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living. We had such an interesting discussion of the book because I invited my friend Janet to come and talk about her experiences in Denmark. Her son lives there with his wife and children, and Janet and Dick visit them regularly. She shared some stories about celebrating Christmas in Denmark (many different traditions), and she also brought a beautiful candle (candles are really, really important in Denmark, and NOT scented) with an unusual glass surround with pine boughs. My meeting was held in my family room – I lit about a dozen candles, had lights on (low) wherever I could (and had it not been mid-summer and hot, I would have lit the fireplace [fireplaces are big deal for hygge]).

almond_puff_fullAnyway, this Danish – well, it’s NOT like a “real” Danish (as we in American might call it), the kind you’d buy at a bakery. This is a pretty easy one to make at home. It has a bottom layer (look at the photo up at the top to see the layers), a top layer that’s like cream puff batter which rises quite a bit in the baking because of the eggs in it, then once baked (it takes an hour) you spread warm jam (I’m quite enamored with Trader Joe’s Peach Bellini jam) on top, then sprinkle on some toasted almonds, then drizzle with a simple powdered sugar icing.  There are a bunch of steps, but none is difficult in the least. A bit of stirring, mixing, melting, spreading, etc. After doing all the layering, I cut it into slices about 1 1/2” wide, 3” long (across). The photo above is of one of the finished loaves – it’s about 10” long and 3-4” wide. The puff was still warm when I put it onto a serving plate and invited my friends to grab a piece, along with coffee (another integral part of Danish life) and makes for a lot of hygge (HOO-GAH). We laughed a lot about how much difficulty we have pronouncing it.

What’s GOOD: this is altogether delicious – it has crunch, almost like croissant flakiness in the middle (but it isn’t, it’s cream-puff flakiness), the jam and almonds adding a nice mouth-feel. There were some pieces left over and I invited my friends to take them home – there was none left after that. Now that I’ve figured out about only using LARGE eggs, I’ll be making this again someday. And then, I love almond anything, so that was an added bonus for me.

What’s NOT: If you don’t like managing all the different layers, maybe this isn’t for you, but it’s not difficult in the least. You do need to start about 1 1/2 hours ahead since it must bake nearly an hour. And it really should cool for 10-15 minutes before serving (I didn’t because I’d run out of time!).

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Almond Puff Loaf

Recipe By: King Arthur Flour (but this is an old-old recipe I’ve had for decades)
Serving Size: 16

FIRST LAYER:
1/2 cup butter — cut into pats or 1/2-inch cubes, (8 tablespoons)*
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup water
*If you’re using unsalted butter add 1/4 tsp salt
SECOND LAYER:
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter — (8 tablespoons)*
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
3 large eggs — at room temperature; warm them, in the shell, in hot tap water for 10 minutes if they’re cold from the fridge
1 teaspoon almond extract
*If you’re using unsalted butter add 1/4 tsp salt
TOPPING:
2/3 cup jam — or preserves (preferably apricot or peach)
2/3 cup sliced almonds — toasted in a 350F oven for about 7 to 10 minutes, or until they’re a light, golden brown
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar — or glazing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 teaspoons milk — or water (approximately)

NOTE: Be sure to use only LARGE eggs.
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) a large cookie sheet.
2. First layer: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the butter, flour, and salt (if you’re using it), working the butter into the flour with a pastry blender or fork, your fingers, or a mixer. Mix until everything is crumbly, then stir in the water. The dough will become cohesive, though not smooth.
3. Divide the dough in half; if you’re using a scale, each half will weigh about 4 5/8 – 5 ounces. Wet your hands, and shape each piece of this wet dough into a rough log. Pat the logs into 10″ x 3″ rectangles on the sheet, leaving at least 4″ (but preferably 6″) between them, and 2″ on each side. These puff up in the oven (hence the name), and you need to leave them room for expansion.
4. Second layer: In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the water and butter to a boil. Stir until the butter melts, then add the flour (and salt, if you’re using it) all at once. Stir the mixture with a spoon till it thickens, begins to steam, and leaves the sides of the pan; this will happen very quickly. Transfer the stiff batter to a mixing bowl, or the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat it at medium speed for 30 seconds to 1 minute, just to cool it down a bit.
5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; beat until the batter loses its slippery look, and each egg is totally absorbed. Mix in the almond extract.
6. Divide the batter in half. Spread half the batter over one of the dough strips on the pan, covering it completely to the outer edges. Repeat with the remaining batter on the 2nd and dough. With a spatula (or your wet fingers) spread the batter until it completely covers the entire bottom layer of dough. Smooth it out as best you can.
7. Bake the pastry for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until it’s a deep golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and transfer each pastry to a wire rack.
8. Topping: Spread each warm pastry with about 1/3 cup of jam or preserves.
9. Sprinkle the toasted almonds atop the jam. By this time, your beautifully puffed pastries are probably starting to sink; don’t worry, this is all part of the plan.
10. Icing: Stir together the sugar, vanilla, and enough milk or water to form a thick but “drizzlable” icing.
Drizzle the icing atop the pastries. Cut into squares or strips to serve.
Per Serving: 257 Calories; 16g Fat (54.4% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 26g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 71mg Cholesterol; 138mg Sodium.
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