Monthly Archives: August 2012

Lemon Poppy Seed Biscotti

When I was a child, I thought as a child.  Cookies were always chocolate chip and always dipped into ice cold milk.  As an adult, I still think like a child.  But, I have managed to expand my cookie repertoire to include the ever adult biscotti.  A cookie for those who don’t need the comfort of the soft, chewy and chocolaty.  A cookie for those who can understand the comfort of sturdy and stable without being overly sweet.

While I usually reserve biscotti to the colder months, I felt compelled to create a summery version of a favorite treat.  I’m glad I did.  Lemon really adds a spark and the addition of poppy seeds do not go unnoticed.  I thought the crunch of the biscotti would make the poppy seeds invalid.  Not the case.  I love this twist on a flavor combination that’s usually reserved for muffins.

Lemon Poppy Seed Biscotti

adapted from here via Smitten Kitchen


  • 3  1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1/3 t salt
  • 1  1/2 cup sugar
  • 1  1/4 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • 2 T lemon juice (usually it’s the juice of one small lemon)
  • zest of 1 small lemon
  • 1/4 cup poppy seeds


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
  2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Mix sugar, melted butter, eggs, vanilla extract, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a large bowl.
  4. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
  5. By hand, not using an electric mixer, incorporate the flour mixture in three batches into the sugar/butter mixture.
  6. Incorporate until everything is blended and smooth.
  7. Add poppy seeds to cookie dough and mix to incorporate.
  8. Divide dough in half and shape into two logs onto the parchment-lined baking sheet.
  9. Make each dough into a 13-inch-long and 2-inch-high log.
  10. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  11. Remove from oven, but do not turn off oven.  Or, if you have to turn off the oven, note that you must have the oven back at 350 F when you re-bake the cookies.
  12. Cool completely.
  13. Once cool, transport the cookies (holding onto the parchment) to a cutting board.
  14. Cut each log into 1/2 wide slices.
  15. Lay each slice back on the cookie sheet with cut sides facing down.
  16. Bake for 12 minutes.
  17. Turn the cookies over and bake for another 8 minutes.
  18. Remove from oven and cool on a cooling rack.



Filed under Cookies, Desserts

Cinnamon Toast

As my family spent the weekend telling stories and sharing memories a year later, nostalgia was on the menu.  As children, my mother made cinnamon toast often on weekends.  A cross between toast and a cookie, my sister and I looked forward to these mornings served with a cold glass of milk.  My dad on the other hand, sat at the edge of the table, paying bills and having tea with his toast.  He would listen to my sister and I entertain each other with ridiculous stories, and we would watch him meticulously write his checks and gather materials for our first outing of the weekend – the bank.  Happening almost like clock work, the only variable was the breakfast and lately, I’ve had cinnamon toast on my mind.

While my mom used regular white bread, which is commonly used, I switched out for a loaf of wheat french bread that I had on hand.  Again, I really am giving you a how-to as opposed to a real recipe, but this is one of my all-time favorite foods.  Simple and easy to make, it’s perfect for anyone and everyone.  I mean, who wouldn’t enjoy a piece of bread laden with cinnamon and sugar?

Cinnamon Toast


  • 8 slices of bread (if using French bread, cut into 1/2 inch slices)
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of nutmeg


  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg.
  • Spread butter on each slice of bread.
  • Sprinkle liberally with cinnamon sugar mix.
  • Place on cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes until it’s golden brown.


Filed under Bread, Breakfast

Roasted Broccoli

Broccoli is one of my favorite vegetables that I don’t eat nearly as often as I should or would like.  I prefer it plain with a dash of salt.  As I’m more comfortable using my oven than attempting to steam something into mush, roasting is my favorite way to cook this beautiful vegetable. In addition to being easy, the flavor is just outstanding.  Hit with a bit of kosher salt and olive oil, this has become a go-to side dish to pair with many types of cuisines.

I know this is not a complicated recipe or really even a recipe for that matter as much as it a how-to on a basic dish.  But, sometimes we just have to be reminded that the simplest things are usually what makes it into the weekly menu rotation.  Easily modified and adapted to whatever main course you are preparing, this is a great base recipe.

Roasted Broccoli
adapted from Ina Garten


  • 1 bunch of broccoli, cut into florets (I also keep the stems)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt


  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Toss the broccoli with the olive oil.
  3. Lay out an even layer on a cookie sheet.
  4. Sprinkle with kosher salt.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, until the florets are tender and some may have browned edges.


Filed under Side Dish

Hot and Spicy Tofu Stir Fry

This is hard to say but I’m turning into my mother.

Whenever we take her out to eat, albeit rarely, she always says, “We should learn how to make this” or “We can make this at home.”  My father would entertain her requests and they would cook meals together to replicate restaurant foods.  (I can’t wait to share my mother’s Southwestern egg rolls with you all one day.)  Without a doubt, my mother takes more joy out of copying a recipe and making it at home than have someone cook, serve and clean up for her.  During her last trip to Whole Foods, she asked the kind staff to let her try what seemed like all of the deli foods only to have the little Indian lady thank them and walk away.  Afterwards, she tells me “We can make that at home.”

I used to be the opposite of that.  As I’ve gotten older and more courageous in the kitchen, I find myself refusing to purchase items because I tell myself that with the right ingredients, I can put it together at home.  I still will not buy any prepared food items from grocery stores just because I think I can do it myself.  Don’t even get me started on the bakery items.

We have a favorite Chinese restaurant that we frequent often.  However, as going there as often as we do is not really an option for the long-term, it was time that I buckled down and found a way to recreate the dish I love at home.  I’m a fan of tofu.  Binks is not, but is coming around – slowly but surely.  I love the texture and its versatility.  Especially for saucy dishes, the ability for tofu to soak up and marinade itself in whatever it simmers in is just one of the many reasons why I choose to use this as a protein source.  After some tweaking, I created a dish that competes well with the one I order almost exclusively at the restaurant.  You really can change the vegetables based on what you have on hand.  I love eating it alone, but the sauce would be perfect draped over hot steamed rice.

Hot and Spicy Tofu


  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound extra firm tofu, cubed
  • 1 cup carrots, julienned
  • 1 white onion, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 small red jalapenos, chopped – adjust to taste
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ginger, grated
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tsp corn starch
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp chili in oil or red pepper flakes, adjust to taste


  1. Heat half of the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add tofu to the oil and brown on all sides.  Set aside.
  2. In the same pot, heat the remainder of the olive oil and heat.  Add the carrots until softened a bit, approximately 5-7 minutes.  Add the sliced onions and cook for another 5-7 minutes, until the onions are wilted.  Add the bell peppers, jalapenos, garlic and ginger and stir until the peppers are softened, approximately 5-7 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the water, vinegar, soy sauce, corn starch, brown sugar and chili sauce.  Pour over the vegetables and stir to incorporate.  Add the tofu and stir carefully to mix into the sauce, but don’t over mix that you crumble the tofu.  Cook over medium heat until the sauce has thickened a bit, which should take another 10 minutes.


Filed under Asian, Chinese, Main Dish, Vegan, Vegetarian

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Growing up, desserts were not readily available in my house.  Rather, my mom’s versions of dessert consisted of digestive cookies, cake rusk, or the Goya Maria cookies.  For fear of her children getting diabetes or other health problems, warm chocolate-y sugar-y baked goods never came out of the oven.  In fact, our oven was where my mom store her pots/pans.  No joke.  Even today, the only other purpose my mom’s oven serves is to keep food warm when she has company.

I, on the other hand, am the extreme opposite.  Once a week, I bake something sweet.  And, I see my mom at least once a week.  Whenever she sees the sweets, she always has a comment.  You know – the mom comments.  But, after about 15 minutes, she relents and has a piece.  She usually fits in another comment as she finishes off her piece and thinks about reaching for another.  And this is our routine.

So, here and there, I offer sweets with healthy alternatives.  This time, I changed up the flour.  Usually, I reserve my whole wheat flour for breads and chapatis, I wanted to lend the nutty flavor to a cookie – none better than one studded with chocolate chunks.

I fully expected to hate this cookie.  Whether it would be too bready from the flour or not sweet enough, I anticipated a shed load of problems that would render this an experiment never again to be repeated.    The exact opposite.  This cookie will be made for years to come.  I can pretty much guarantee that this will be a staple in our household.  The whole wheat shines in all the right ways.  Beautifully nutty and dark, the flour is sturdy enough to hold up against the dark chocolate without compromising the cookie texture.  After eating this cookie, I fear that going back to the all-purpose chocolate chip cookies might leave me wanting something a bit more complex, like this.  As the cookie is not overly sweet, I know my mom will be less hesitant to take one.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

adapted from  Good to the Grain via Orangette
yields about 24 cookies, using a heaping tablespoon scoop


  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 kosher salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 oz bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Line cookies with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl.  Set aside.
  3. Cream together the butter, brown sugar and white granulated sugar.
  4. Once creamed, add the eggs and vanilla extract.
  5. Add the flour mixture in two parts, mixing well between each addition on low-speed.  Scrape down the bowl as you go to ensure even combination.
  6. Mix in the chocolate by hand.
  7. Using a cookie scoop, place cookie dough scoops on cookie sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes rotating the sheets half-way through.  Remove from the oven and move the cookies on the parchment paper to a rack to cool.




Filed under Cookies, Desserts

Pesto Macaroni and Goat Cheese with Roasted Red Peppers

We all have our happy places, don’t we?  It’s slipping into your favorite pajamas and socks after a long day’s work and just planting it in front of the TV.  Or, the spot between my puppy’s neck and shoulder that seems to be the best place for a nuzzle.  Lately, watching my kid belly laugh while I ‘gobble up’ his feet.  And, a big bowl of macaroni and cheese.

I’m quite picky about my macaroni and cheese.  So many people make it incorrectly, don’t you think?  Sometimes it’s too watery (the worst) or too dry (big no no).  The best mac and cheese has cheese – and, a lot of it.  Not just cheese sauce, but the cheese blend that coats each nook and cranny of a macaroni.

While I have only enjoyed the traditional macaroni and cheese, with my new pesto stash, I wanted to experiment and give one of my favorite dishes a different flavor profile without sacrificing the creamy-cheesy foundation of the dish.  And, while I wanted to stop at several steps ahead, proclaiming it’s perfect, keep going.  Adding the roasted red bell pepper and the crunchy buttery topping will only build upon the flavors.  But, for some reason if you didn’t have the ingredients or didn’t want to mix in the red peppers or the Panko crust, just know that it’s delicious on its own, as well.

Pesto Macaroni and Goat Cheese with Roasted Red Peppers

loosely adapted from Aida Mollenkamp


  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp basil pesto
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 3 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 8 ounces goat cheese
  • 2 cups Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup basil pesto
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 4 roasted red bell peppers, drained and diced (recipe below)


  1. Heat a large dutch oven over low heat.  Once melted, add the shallow and garlic and cook until softened, about 4 minutes.  Stir in the 1 tbsp of pesto, red pepper flakes, bread crumbs and 3 tbsp of Parmesan and mix to combine.  Place the crumb mixture in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. In a large pot of heavily salted water, cook the pasta according to the package instructions.  Drain and reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water.
  3. Using the same pan, add the half and half and bring to a simmer on the same low heat.  You want the mixture to simmer, thicken and reduce, about 5 minutes.  Add the shredded mozzarella.  Whisk until the cheese has melted and no clumps remain.  Add the goat cheese to the cheese mixture and whisk until smooth.  Stir in the remaining Parmesan cheese and whisk until melted.
  4. Add the cooked pasta to the cheese mixture and stir until incorporated.  Mix in the 1/2 cup basil pesto, pasta water, salt and pepper.  Mix gently to ensure it is evenly distributed and coated.  Add additional salt and pepper if you need.
  5. Gently stir in the roasted peppers until evenly distributed.
  6. Top with the crumb mixture.
  7. Place under the dutch oven broiler for no more than 2 minutes until the crust has browned.   (If you haven’t been using a dutch oven, just transfer the pasta to a baking dish and place in the oven.)  Remove from broiler and let it cool about 5 minutes before serving.

Roasted Red Bell Peppers

adapted from Ina Garten


  • 4 red bell peppers
  • 3 tbsp olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 500F.
  2. Arrange bell peppers on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, until skin is charred and wrinkled.  Turn them twice during cooking.
  4. Remove from the oven and immediately place in a large bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap.
  5. Let it sit for about 30 minutes, or until the peppers are cool enough to handle.
  6. Once cooled, remove the stem, seeds and skin, and place the peppers in a bowl with any juices.  Pour the oil over the peppers and store in the refrigerator.


Filed under Pasta, Side Dish, Uncategorized

Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza

I’ve mentioned several times that pizza is a staple in this house.  Whether we go out for it or make it at home, pizza makes a repeat appearance here.  While I love the crisp thin crust pizzas, there is a very special place in my heart and palate for the rich and saucy deep dish pizza.  I experienced deep dish pizza for the first time while I visited Chicago with Binks while we were dating.  As he had lived there for three years, he had always raved about Gino’s East.  After the first bite, talk about a revelation.

A heavy baking dish full of crust, cheese and sauce, perfectly proportioned.  Eaten with a fork and knife, I loved the flaky cornmeal crust, full-bodied sauce and hearty cheese.  I have been searching for a great recipe since my last visit.  That was about 5 years ago.  I decided to take another crack at it to see if I could somehow relive that experience.  Binks was quite happy to participate in my experiment.

Before I begin, I’ll throw in the towel.  No pizza will rival Gino’s (well let’s forget the Giordano’s debate for the purposes of this post).  I accept that.  However, this homemade version was very delicious.  This pizza was highlighted exactly as it should be – the crust and sauce.  First, let’s discuss crust.  Almost akin to puff pastry, this crust was wonderfully flaky and baked crisp without being too doughy. Second, the sauce is near perfection.  I’m a huge sauce fan and I understand the sauce for deep dish is different from for a thin crust.  Here, the sauce needs to be chunkier to complement the thick layer of mozzarella.  All in all, welcome the new member of the pizza family in rotation in our house.  We are quite smitten.

Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza
recipe from Cook’s Illustrated via Annie’s Eats
yields one 9-inch pizza


For the dough:

  • 1½ cups plus 2 tbsp. (8 1/8 oz.) all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup (1 3/8 oz.) yellow cornmeal
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1/8 tsp. instant yeast
  • ½ cup plus 2 tbsp. (5 oz.) water, at room temperature
  • 1½ tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

For the sauce:

  • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp. grated onion
  • Pinch of dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 2 tbsp. fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1½ tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Ground black pepper

For toppings:

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 8 oz. mozzarella, shredded (about 2 cups)
  • ¼ oz. Parmesan cheese, grated (about 2 tbsp.)


  1. Mix flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, and yeast in bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook on low speed until incorporated, about 1 minute.  Add water and melted butter, and mix on low speed until fully combined, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping sides and bottom of bowl occasionally.  Increase speed to medium and knead until dough is glossy and smooth, and pulls away from sides of bowl, 4 to 5 minutes.  You know it’s ready when the ball of dough pulls away complete from the sides of the mixer.  Coat a large bowl with 1 teaspoon olive oil, rubbing excess oil from fingers onto blade of rubber spatula. Transfer the dough to the bowl, turning once to oil top; cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Let the dough rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in volume, which should take between 45 to 60 minutes.
  2. While dough rises, prepare the sauce.  Heat butter in medium saucepan over medium heat until melted.  Add onion, oregano, and ½ teaspoon salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated and onion is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and sugar, increase heat to high and bring to simmer.  Lower heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced to 2½ cups, which takes about 25 to 30 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir in basil and oil, then season with salt and pepper.
  3. To laminate the dough, turn the dough out onto dry work surface and roll into a 8- by 6-inch rectangle. Using offset spatula, spread softened butter over surface of dough. Leaving ½-inch border along edges. Starting at short end, roll dough into tight cylinder.  With the seam side down, flatten cylinder into an 9- by 3-inch rectangle.  Cut rectangle in half crosswise. Working with one half, fold into thirds like a letter; pinch seams together to form ball. Repeat with remaining half. Return balls to oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in refrigerator until nearly doubled in volume, between 40 to 50 minutes.
  4. At this point, preheat the oven to 425F.  To assemble, coat a 9-inch round cake pans with 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Transfer the dough ball to a dry work surface and roll out into a 13-inch disk about ¼-inch thick.  Transfer the dough to the pan.  Lightly press the dough into the pan, working into the corners and 1 inch up the sides.  If the dough resists stretching, let rest 5 minutes before trying again.
  5. Sprinkle 2 cups mozzarella evenly over surface of dough.  Spread the tomato sauce over cheese and sprinkle 2 tablespoons  Parmesan over sauce.  Bake until crust is golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove pizza from oven and let rest 10 minutes before slicing and serving.


Filed under Main Dish, Pizza, Uncategorized