Whole Wheat Pistachio and Dried Cherry Biscotti

I love biscotti as an afternoon or after dinner snack, especially with a latte or a glass of almond milk. I went through a phase when I lived in New York where I ate biscotti on pretty much a daily basis. Trader Joe’s makes a tasty chocolate dipped variety, and almost every coffee shop sells biscotti. But I had never made my own until this weekend.

Whole Wheat Pistachio and Dried Cherry Biscotti

Whole Wheat Pistachio and Dried Cherry Biscotti

Biscotti are twice-baked cookies. If you sample them after the first phase of baking, they taste just like a typical crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside cookie. The second phase of baking makes them super crunchy and perfect for dipping.

Slicing the log after the first phase of baking

Slicing the log after the first phase of baking

As part of my New Year’s Resolution to learn more about the ingredients I use, my first rule is “no assumptions.” I will not assume I know about an ingredient, but rather, I will research all key ingredients to really learn about them.

For example, I know that pistachios are those little green nuts that typically come in shells (unless you have bulk bins that sell them already shelled!), and are lower in fat than other nuts. But how do they grow? What vitamins and minerals do they contain?

Pistachios

Lovely pistachios

Pistachio: Cultivated in California, Turkey, Italy, and Iran, pistachios are an important culinary nut that has been used for thousands of years, as far back as 6750 BC. In the U.S, pistachios have been cultivated as a commercial crop since the 1930s. The pistachio nuts we eat are the seed of the plant, contained within the hard, whitish/beige shell of the fruit. When the fruit ripens, it splits open, revealing the seed. Compared to other nuts, pistachios have one of the highest amounts of protein and fiber. They also contain important vitamins and minerals including copper, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, Vitamin A, thiamine, and Vitamin B-6.

cherries

Chewy cherries

Dried Cherry: The cherry tree was named after the Turkish town of Cesarus, and is said to date back to 300 BC. Cherries come in two varieties: sweet and sour, both of which can be dried and eaten as a snack or used in baked goods. The red pigment in cherries, anthocyanin, is being studied for its antioxidant properties.

A perfect pair

A perfect pair

I was surprised to see that Culinary Artistry does not list cherries and pistachios as a common flavor pairing. In my opinion, they are quite a complimentary pair.

In addition to the lovely flavor combination of pistachios and cherries, these biscotti have a hint of orange due to a little bit of zest added to the batter. I love the subtle complexity that this hint of citrus provides. It keeps the biscotti feeling light and refreshing, while the whole wheat flour and oats also ensure that they are slightly heartier and more filling than the average baked good.

biscotti

Ready to be baked again!

Whole Wheat Pistachio and Dried Cherry Biscotti

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Makes about 4 dozen

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1  cup organic cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 2 Tablespoons orange zest (I used clementines)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup raw, unsalted, shelled pistachios
Biscotti!

Biscotti!

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with  parchment paper. Combine first 6 ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted  with a paddle. Blend on low speed for 30 seconds. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl,  whisk together eggs and next 3 ingredients. Add egg mixture to flour mixture;  beat on low speed until combined, about 1 1/2 minutes. Fold in cherries and  pistachios.
  • Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface; divide in half.  Using floured hands, shape each dough half into a 16″-long log. Brush off excess  flour; transfer logs to prepared sheet, spaced 5″ apart. Flatten each log into a  2″-wide strip. Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until browned and set,  about 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack; let cool for 15 minutes. Reduce oven to  250° and arrange 1 rack in top third of oven and 1 rack in bottom  third.
  • Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer  biscotti to a work surface. Using a serrated knife, cut each strip diagonally  into 2/3″-thick slices. Arrange slices, cut side down, on baking  sheets.
  • Bake biscotti, rotating baking sheets halfway through, until crisp, about 40 minutes. Transfer baking sheets to racks; let cool.
Tasty treats

Tasty treats

My only complaint against homemade biscotti is that they have to bake for quite a long time, so you have to plan ahead when making them. However, the hands on work is simple, so they’re perfect for making on a lazy Saturday afternoon. I’ll be making more soon, potentially dipped in chocolate ;-).

Do you like biscotti? Any favorite flavors or drinks to dip them into?

-L

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Grown Up Comfort Food: Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese

Grilled Cheese, please!

Grilled Cheese, please!

Regardless of how long I am in the air, when I fly, my body gets really confused. I get hungry at odd hours, and despite an overwhelming feeling of lethargy, I have trouble sleeping. Today, I was determined to avoid this lull. I woke up with plenty of time to make a good breakfast before packing, had a nice salad right before my flight, and tried (without success, unfortunately) to sleep on the plane.

I felt abnormally good when I landed, but I randomly had a very strong craving for grilled cheese! I’ve always loved the combination of grilled cheese and tomato soup, so…

Taadaa!

Taadaa!

I halved a recipe for Roasted-Tomato Soup, with a few minor adjustments. I skipped the Parmesan Wafers, used a little extra oregano, and a little less sugar than called for.

Roasting the tomatoes and garlic

Roasting the tomatoes and garlic

The tomatoes had to roast for an hour, and later simmered in broth for 20 minutes, so it was not an especially quick meal to make. It was worth the wait though! The garlic flavor was pretty strong, but tasted wonderful with the tomato and oregano. The soup was strained after being pureed, so it was pretty thin. It was a great balance with the hearty sandwich.

Simmering the veggies and broth

Simmering the veggies and broth

For the sandwich, I placed Goat’s Brie and some fresh basil on multi-grain bread, and toasted it in a skillet for about 2 minutes per side. It was so good!

Grilled Brie Sandwich

Do you have any comfort foods? We’d love to hear about them!

Happy Eating!

-C

Massaged Kale Salad with Carrots, Raisins, and Walnuts

Back home in Charlottesville, but not yet back to work, I took advantage of my afternoon at home and planned a lovely lunch recipe to share.

Love my kale!

Love my kale!

This simple salad featured kale, carrots, walnuts, and raisins. The dressing included (among other things) turmeric and Himalayan pink sea salt. As part of my New Year’s resolution to really learn about the foods I eat, today I decided to focus on walnuts, turmeric, and salt.

I perused The New Food Lover’s Companion for basic information on each of these ingredients, and then turned to Google for additional information.

pink salt

Himalayan Pink Sea Salt

Himalayan Pink Sea Salt contains 84 minerals and trace elements (including magnesium, calcium and potassium). “It is an unrefined, unprocessed “raw” salt that’s hand-mined from abundant salt caves that were formed 250 million years ago as ocean salt settled in certain geologic pockets around the earth.” (Source)

Ground Turmeric

Ground Turmeric

Turmeric comes from a tropical root that is similar to ginger. Ayurvedic science hails this spice for its natural antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, and blood cleansing properties. It is used to give American-style mustard its distinctive yellow color.

Walnuts

Walnuts

Walnuts are the fruit of the walnut tree. Among all nuts, walnuts pack significantly higher amount omega-3 fatty acids, and are also rich in fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, and antioxidants such as Vitamin E (Source). Black walnuts and American walnuts are the most common varieties. Once shelled, walnuts keep best in the refrigerator, for up to 6 months.

These ingredients gave my salad a lovely flavor, as well as added nutrition.

Yum!

Yum!

Massaged Kale Salad with Carrot, Raisins, and Walnuts

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • ~5 leaves of curly kale, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled into ribbons
  • 1 Tablespoon raisins
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup avocado oil
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon agave
  • 1/8 teaspoon Himalayan Pink Sea Salt

Method

Combine kale and carrot in a large bowl; set aside. Mix remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Massage about 3 Tablespoons of the dressing into the  kale and carrot, until the kale leaves soften and turn a darker green, about 2 minutes. Add more dressing if desired. Top with raisins and walnuts.

Lunch is served!

Lunch is served!

The tanginess of the dressing is off-set but the sweet raisins, and the walnuts provide a nice “crunch”. While I enjoyed this salad for lunch with some pita chips, it would also be great as a side dish for dinner, perhaps with some grilled chicken (I’m making myself hungry just imagining this meal…).

Enjoy!

-L

WIAW–What I Ate Over the Holidays

While Lindsey and I were on hiatus for the holidays, I was shockingly lazy.  In a week and a half, my only exercise was one (ONE!) walk.  My usual physical activity was replaced by lots of kitchen activity!  For this WIAW post, I’m sharing some of the best dishes I made and ate while on vacation.

After my matinee performance on Christmas Eve, I hopped on a plane to Southern California to spend Christmas with my aunt, uncle, and parents.  Shortly after walking in the door, my uncle handed me a Cranberry, Gingerly cocktail.  YUM!  I have a bit of a ginger obsession, so this delightful concoction with ginger beer, ground ginger, and a garnish of crystallized ginger was right up my alley.  It was also a fun, festive shade of red.

Great way to kick off the break!

Great way to kick off the break!

Christmas morning began with coffee and mimosas.  After opening presents, we sat down for an delicious brunch.  My mom and aunt had prepared a Sausage, Fontina, and Bell Pepper Strata the night before, so we just had to pull it out of the refrigerator and bake it in the morning.  The creamy fontina cheese balanced the spicy Italian sausage wonderfully.  It was a delicious, savory dish.

Sausage Strata

Sausage Strata

We can’t have savory without sweet, so we also prepared Maple-Poached Pears with Ricotta and Pistachios.  These tasty pears could be served as a dessert as well.  They were so good!  The crunch of the pistachios was a nice contrast to the soft pears, and the ricotta kept the dish from being too sweet.  I will definitely make these again.

Poached Pears

Poached Pears

With beautiful food and beautiful weather, our table for Christmas Brunch looked lovely!

The table

The table

My main contribution to Christmas Dinner was a Gingerbread Layer Cake with Candied Kumquats.  I think I may need to bake this cake annually.  It looked great, and tasted even better.  The cake was moist and full of flavor.  The spices came through nicely.  The cream cheese frosting included a bit of caramel, so it ended up being a lovely cream color.  It was a sweet and creamy,  and complemented the ginger and molasses flavor of the cake well.  The candied kumquats were difficult to prepare (Thanks Mom and Aunt Kris!), but were delicious!  We used the leftover kumquats to top off a fruit salad the following morning.

Gingerbread Layer Cake

Gingerbread Layer Cake

Fruit Salad with leftover Kumquats

Fruit Salad with leftover Kumquats

My parents and I came home to Texas a few days after Christmas, and were later met by my sisters and their husbands.  Before they arrived, I met some old friends for a coffee date.  Someday I want to be able to make latte art that looks this good!  Props to the baristas at Buon Giorno for making this lovely latte.

Soy Latte

Soy Latte

The first morning the whole family was home, we did Christmas Round 2, complete with another Christmas brunch.  We prepared another strata, this time using broccoli, red pepper, mushrooms, and bacon.  We served a fruit salad and sweet breads with it.  Lindsey and I each prepared a bread the evening before.  She made Banana Bread, and I made Spiced Pumpkin Bread, which I modified to make a bundt instead of 2 loaves.

Our breads: Pumpkin Bundt and Banana Loaf

Our breads: Pumpkin Bundt and Banana Loaf

That evening we had a blast at our annual holiday party.  As usual, we prepared Caprese Sticks for our guests to munch on.

Platter of Caprese Sticks

Platter of Caprese Sticks

The full spread for the party

The full spread for the party

We enjoyed leftovers and what Lindsey referred to as “the obligatory Mexican meal” for the next couple days.  The last night the sisters were in town, we had a special New Year’s Eve dinner.  Lindsey made a delicious Roasted Parsnip Soup with Walnut Pesto for the first course.

Walnut Pesto

Walnut Pesto

We also ate roasted chicken with mushroom gravy, roasted vegetables, and a potato medley with rosemary.

First course

First course

I had so much fun with my family, and loved having the opportunity to cook together again!  It was the perfect way to wrap up the rollercoaster year of 2012.  I look forward to sharing more good food with good friends in 2013!

Cheers!

Cheers!

Happy Eating and Happy New Year!

-C

Happy New Year! (Thank You, Blog World #8)

Happy New Year!

I hope your holidays have been full of good food, quality time with friends and family, and plenty of rest. After spending 5 lovely days in western Virginia with my in-laws for Christmas (where my phone does not get reception, and I more or less stayed off of the internet), my husband and I ventured to Texas for 4 days with my side of the family. Two Christmases, two parties, and countless football games later, I feel incredibly blessed at the amount of love that has been shared in the past two weeks.

And we have not gone hungry! Casey will be sharing some of our delicious meals tomorrow, so stay tuned.

Nicoise Salad

As we do on the first day of each month, it is my turn to say Thank You. First, I have to say thank you to all of you, our readers. We have been blogging for about 8 months now, and it has been such fun to share our stories and our food, and to have the support of all of you who read our little blog. Thank you for visiting, reading, and commenting.

Here are a few of the bloggers who have inspired me in the past month. Since it is January, the time of new year’s resolutions, my “thank you”s come with goals for myself.

Thank You, Blog World…

…for reconnecting me with the written word.

In the past two weeks, I have read 3 books, two of which have been written by bloggers!

WrittenTogetherCover_REVISED_sidebar

Shanna’s book was incredible. I couldn’t wait to read it once I purchased it (as in, I had to force myself to do work because all I wanted to do was read). I love her writing style, the recipes she shared, and of course, her story.

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My brother-in-law gave me Jenna’s book for Christmas, and I read the whole thing on the plane from Virginia to Texas! I have always toyed with the idea of going to culinary school one day, so I loved hearing about Jenna’s experience. When I got home, my mom had already been planning to bake banana bread, and I just had to try Jenna’s recipe, which included blackstrap molasses, an ingredient with which I am currently infatuated (more on this later).

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Husband approved, I will be making this bread again!

When I was in elementary school, I used to dream of being an author when I grew up. I have always loved to read and write, but I have not done nearly enough of either in recent years. My new years resolution is to read and write more often. Maybe one day I will write a memoir of my own… but for now, journaling will suffice. I often “write” in my head, but this year, I am going to make an effort to get my thoughts down on paper when the “writing mood” hits me.

…for teaching me about the nutritional value of ingredients.

I used to think that “nutrition facts” meant the amount of calories, fats, carbohydrates, or protein in a certain food. Sarah and Gena have shown me that nutrition is really so much more.

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Casey and I scouted out some not-so-typical ingredients so we could enjoy Sarah’s Superfood Haute Chocolate together yesterday. I really love the way she explains the health benefits of the ingredients. This was my first time tasting Maca Powder, and I can’t wait to find more creative uses for it.

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From Gena, I recently learned about the iron-packed goodness of blackstrap molasses (which I used in my gingerbread cookies!). I can’t wait to try her Raisin Almond Balls.

My new years resolution is to take time to learn more about the ingredients I use when I cook. Sarah’s library will be a great starting point, and I already have an Ayeurvedic cookbook and a “Food Dictionary” to consult. I hope you will enjoy learning about ingredients, too, as I share what I am learning with you in my posts.

You can check out our past 7 months of Thank You posts at these links:

Hope your 2013 is starting off well! What New Years Resolutions have you made for this year?

-L