Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Almond Biscotti

I love to bake. I love the process of it, from the measuring to the mixing. I love watching the ingredients come together and take shape as something completely different. I love the smell that permeates the house as it bakes, and I love turning on the oven light to watch it rise and turn golden. It's fascinating.
For several years I've daydreamed about owning a bakery (I even have a name picked out). It's fun to dream about, but in all likelihood, it's not something I will be able to do. From time to time, I ponder the idea of setting up a booth at our local farmer's market to sell cakes, cookies, muffins, granola and the like. I think that's doable. I'd have to be very disciplined to get up so early on a Saturday. Then there's the question of when would I do the baking -- the night before? Something to think about.
For now, I enjoy baking for the pure fun of it. Last week I made these almond biscotti. It was only the second time I've made biscotti (the first was to make these pistachio chocolate biscotti), so I'm still working on perfecting the technique. The dough for this almond biscotti recipe became very, very sticky. Rather than add more flour (which this article suggests), I struggled to shape the dough into two logs. It was very frustrating! Here's a tip: flour your hands or coat them with cooking spray to make it easier. I wasn't sure how the final product would turn out, but the biscotti are very tasty and very crunchy -- delicious with coffee, hot chocolate or cold milk. Enjoy!

Almond Biscotti

2-1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted (I used sliced almonds instead)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Using an electric mixer, beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Add almonds and beat until combined.
2. Divide dough in half and transfer to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Form each half into a 2-1/2" wide, 3/4-inch tall log. Bake until dough is firm but gives slightly when pressed, about 20 to 25 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through. Let cool on sheet on a wire rack for 20 minutes.
3. With a serrated knife, cut logs into 1/4-inch slices on the diagonal and arrange, cut side down, on two parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets. Bake until biscotti are crisp and golden, about 15 minutes, rotating sheets and flipping biscotti halfway through. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Store in an airtight container, up to two days, or freeze for up to three months.

Serving size (2 cookies): 150 calories, 4 g fat (1 g saturated), 4 g protein, 23 g carbs, 1 g fiber.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Curried Lentil, Garbanzo Bean and Swiss Chard Stew

Here is another of my very favorite stews. It's fresh, healthy and totally satisfying. Cook up a pot of it and enjoy by the fire or by candlelight with a glass of sweet white wine such as Riesling or Gewurztraminer.

Curried Lentil, Garbanzo Bean and Swiss Chard Stew

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
5 teaspoons curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 14-ounce cans vegetable broth
1 large bunch or 2 small bunches Swiss chard, tough stalks removed, leaves coarsely chopped (about 12 cups)
1 pound red lentils (about 2-1/4 cups), picked through and rinsed
1 can (15.5 oz.) garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium to medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until golden, about 10 minutes. Add curry and cayenne and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add vegetable broth and Swiss chard. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Add lentils and garbanzo beans; reduce heat to medium. Cover; simmer, stirring twice, until lentils are tender, about 10 minutes. Serve topped with a dollop of low-fat sour cream or plain yogurt, if desired.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Birthday Flowers

A few days before my birthday, which was last weekend, my husband sent me these gorgeous flowers. Aren't the colors beautiful? Orchids -- one of my favorite flowers -- always look so dramatic in an arrangement. The hydrangeas have quite an impact too. I think the pale green flowers are a type of hydrangea, but I'm not sure. The florist he uses does such amazing work. 

I had a great birthday this year. I started the day by going to the gym. Instead of making New Year's resolutions, I like to make birthday resolutions, and getting more exercise is at the top of my list. After my workout, my hubby and I went to the movies -- a small, independent theater that serves beer and wine (we enjoyed a couple of Newcastles with our popcorn -- so much for the workout!). The movie we saw was "Silver Linings Playbook." It was very good. 

Next, we stopped by our favorite wine shop for a tasting and light lunch. That evening, we had dinner at a Greek restaurant and enjoyed the most wonderful crepes for dessert. We order ours with Nutella and sliced banana -- heavenly! I was also treated to phone calls from my best friend and my niece, her husband and their 3-year-old son, who sang "Happy Birthday" to me. To top it off, my husband gave me two wonderful presents: a pair of earrings by my favorite jeweler, and a cuddly pullover top by Merrell. It was a terrific birthday all around!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Smoked Salmon for Breakfast

Every once in a while, I treat myself to some smoked salmon. I like it paired with cream cheese on toasted whole grain bread for breakfast. My husband doesn't care for smoked salmon, so I have the whole package to myself. If you've been following my blog, you know that I eat a mostly vegetarian diet, with some fish occasionally. I grew up eating smoked salmon, and it's a taste I enjoy. However, sometimes the texture is a bit fleshy for my liking, and I can only eat a small amount at a time. Any leftover salmon goes to the pooches.

If you like the taste of smoked salmon, I highly recommend a recipe for bow-tie pasta with smoked salmon and cream cheese from Everyday Food. Capers, fresh dill and red onion round out the flavors in this entree. Delicious! 

Did you hear that Everyday Food magazine, a Martha Stewart publication, is no longer being printed? I was very sad when I read the news on Facebook. I've been a subscriber since the first issue in 2003, and I have all 98 magazines, which I use constantly. It's been my favorite publication all these years, and I'm really sorry to see it go.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Knitting a New Scarf

When I first learned to knit years ago, my very first project was a charcoal grey wool scarf. Naturally, because I was just learning to knit, there were some mistakes in it. But I loved that scarf nevertheless and wore it all the time. It had great sentimental value to me. Sadly, I lost it last year. It must have dropped to the floor in a restaurant or something. I just hope someone kept it, and that it didn't end up in a dumpster. While I'll never be able to duplicate that "first" handmade scarf, I can make another one that looks like it. I found an extra skein of the same yarn in my knitting bag, so I'm busy working on "charcoal grey scarf number two."

In my post about knitting two years ago, I mentioned that I wanted to learn the purl stitch. Well, one evening after Christmas, I finally took the time to watch some videos online and learned how to purl. It took a little time to get the hang of it, but it's not hard at all. I've been practicing with some knit/purl combos and am excited to start a simple project using the two stitches. Knitting is a relaxing pastime, especially in the winter months, and the results are so worthwhile. Recently, two people have told me they still wear the scarves I knitted for them years ago. I was very touched by this. Any fellow knitters out there? Let me know what projects you're currently working on.

On another note ... here's my buddy, Henry, who was hanging out next to me while I took some photos of my scarf-in-progress. Henry follows me wherever I go and is usually by my side as I photograph things for My Little Bungalow. He tends to be camera shy, though, and will look away when I turn the camera on him. This day, however, he was a little too sleepy to care, so I was able to photograph him as he enjoyed the warm winter sun. What a sweet boy he is! We're so happy he's part of our family.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year's Eve Snack: Zucchini-Ricotta Dip

Happy New Year! How did you celebrate the end of 2012 and the start of 2013? Did you party it up with a group of friends, or spend it quietly at home? My husband and I usually stay home and enjoy snacks and wine, maybe watch a movie, and open a bottle of bubbly around midnight. This year, on New Year's eve day, we took the dogs to the lake and enjoyed a chilly 3-mile hike. There weren't many people on the trail, just a few bikers, runners, and fellow dog-walkers.

Later that evening I made this zucchini-ricotta dip and served it with water crackers and celery sticks alongside cheddar and Parrano cheeses and pimiento-stuffed olives. We poured some Kumbaya, our favorite "house" red wine (a blend of Cabernet Sauvingnon, Syrah, Merlot and Zinfandel), lit a bunch of candles and turned on the Christmas tree lights (we typically wait until January 6 to take the tree down). All in all, it was a relaxing way to spend New Year's eve. I hope yours was enjoyable too. Here's wishing you a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2013!

Zucchini-Ricotta Dip

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium zucchini, grated on the large holes of a box grater
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup ricotta
1 to 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (from 1/2 a lemon)
lemon zest of one lemon

1) In a medium nonstick skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add grated zucchini, minced garlic and dried thyme. Season with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until zucchini is tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool to room temperature.

2) Add the ricotta to the zucchini along with lemon juice and zest; stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with crackers, vegetable sticks or toasted baguette slices.

from Everyday Food
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