Lemon & Lavender Shortbread Cookies

Lemon & Lavender Shortbread Cookies

Lemon & Lavender Shortbread Cookies

For years I have been making Lemon, Lime & Basil Shortbread Cookies, which I find refreshing with a glass of iced tea on a sultry summer afternoon.  I acquired some culinary lavender not long ago, and had been anxious to give it a spin.  I incorporated some into the Green Sun Tea with Lavender, Lemon, Honey & Basil with success, but I wanted a sweet, baked good to add it to.  Shortbread cookies seemed the perfect vehicle, and the resulting product far exceeded my expectations!  The first bite of this cookie starts with a lemony sweetness; the lavender is a mere whisper in the background, sort of saying "who do you think I am?".  Far from a bite of lavender potpourri, which I feared a bit, this is a well-balanced, lovely cookie, perfect for a tea, or with a dish of sorbet or ice cream.  Culinary lavender is easily obtained online.  Give this a try, you will be pleasantly surprised!

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon dried culinary lavender buds

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

4 ounces (1 stick, 1/2 cup) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes

1 Tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice

Sugar, regular or sanding, for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375-degrees.  Line a large sheet pan with parchment or a Silpat (silicon mat). 

Into the bowl of a food processor, add the first 5 ingredients and pulse about 8 times to chop the lavender a bit and combine the ingredients well.  Remove the lid and add the butter evenly over the top of the ingredients, then sprinkle the lemon juice over all.  Replace the lid and pulse until the mixture forms large, moist clumps.  Dump the mixture onto a very lightly floured board and roll into an approximately 10-inch log with lightly-floured hands.  Cut the dough into 16 equal pieces (Cut in half, then in quarters, into eighths, then into 16 pieces.  Much easier than trying to start at one end and cutting to the other end!)  Roll each piece into a ball and place on the baking sheet.

Put some powdered sugar into a small plate.  Using a flat-bottomed 1/2 cup metal measuring cup dipped into the sugar, flatten each ball evenly to about 2 1/2-inches across.  Repeat until all are flattened.  If you like, sprinkle sugar over the top of the cookies.

Place the cookies in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, just until the edges are brown.  (Mine were done in 18 minutes.)  Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

Print Friendly and PDF

Red, White, & Blue Salsa

Red, White & Blue Salsa

Red, White & Blue Salsa

This is the perfect salad/salsa/side for the July holidays.  Sweet strawberries and blueberries combine with crunchy jicama, green onions, cilantro, and a citrus vinaigrette for a sweet-tart, lip-smacking good dish.  Scoop it with a tortilla, as it's a refreshing change from tomato-based salsas. It's great served alongside grilled meats as its brightness is a great counterpoint to their smokiness and richness. Or, just eat it with a spoon, as a tasty little side.  And can you think of anything more red, white, and blue than this?  Give it a try this 4th of July!  Serves 4, may easily be doubled or tripled.

1 cup 1/2-inch diced, peeled jicama

1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed and dried

1 cup fresh clean strawberries, cut into 1/2-inch dice (measure the diced strawberries)

1/4 cup thinly-sliced scallions

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon honey

2 Tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil

pinch of dried, ground chipotle pepper (more if you like things spicy!)

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Place the first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl.  Whisk together the remaining ingredients, then toss with the berries, jicama, scallions, and cilantro.  Cover and refrigerate for an hour to allow the flavors to marry.  This salsa is best eaten the day it's made.

Print Friendly and PDF

Red, White & Blue Cobbler

This is a perfect dessert for the 4th of July, for several reasons.  First, berries are coming into season, and are available at reasonable prices.  Second, obviously, it's red, white, and blue! And lastly, it is the quickest cobbler you'll ever make.  I had doubts when I first discovered this recipe, as the ingredients gave me pause-would this work?  I decided to try it out, and I am so glad that I did. I made a few adjustments, but you'll simply rinse and dry the berries, then whisk together 4 (yes I said 4) ingredients.  Drop the berries over the batter, sprinkle with sugar, bake, and voila, a dessert fit for company.  And don't forget the ice cream, it is a must!  Serves 8   (Adapted from Cook's Country.  You'll probably want to print this without pics, to save paper!)

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 1/4 cups (6 ounces) self-rising flour

1/2 cup whole milk

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

6 ounces each of blueberries and raspberries (2 1/2 cups total), gently rinsed and dried with paper towel

1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar

Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees.  Grease a 13 X 9-inch baking dish and set aside.

Whisk together the first 4 ingredients in a bowl, then pour into the prepared baking dish.  Evenly sprinkle the berries over the top.  Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the top of the cobbler.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a deep golden brown.  Cook on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, then serve topped with ice cream. 

Print Friendly and PDF

Buttercream Frosting

Tulips piped using buttercream and Russian piping tips.

Tulips piped using buttercream and Russian piping tips.

1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) vegetable shortening, at room temperature

1/2 cup (4 ounces) butte,r at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla, almond, or butter flavor extract

2 tablespoons milk

4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

Beat the shortening and butter together until smooth.  Bea in the extracts and milk.  With the mixer on medium, beat in the sugar, one cup at a time until well combined.  Continue to beat for 7-10 minutes until light, smooth, and creamy.

Will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.  Makes about 3 cups.

Print Friendly and PDF

Favorite Banana Bread

A loaf of my favorite banana bread, cooling before being devoured!

A loaf of my favorite banana bread, cooling before being devoured!

Banana bread is probably the most frequently-made quick bread, and there are a zillion versions out there.   I've tried more than my fair share of recipes, but this is my favorite, first because it is utterly delicious, and second, because you mix it all up by hand in a flash.  It is one of those recipes that always performs.  It is good warm, which not every banana bread can boast, and it keeps and freezes well (if it isn't all eaten the first day). You will love this recipe!  Makes one 9X5-inch loaf.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup toasted, chopped pecans

3 very ripe bananas, very soft with dark speckles, mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)

1/4 cup plain yogurt

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

6 Tablespoons (3 ounces) melted butter, cooled

1 teaspoon vanilla

Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350-degrees.

If using a regular (not non-stick) loaf pan (9X5-inches), grease the bottom only.  If using a non-stick pan, grease and flour the entire pan, as this gives the batter something to cling to and allow it to rise more.  Set aside.

Combine the first five ingredients in a large bowl; set aside.

Mix the mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla with a wooden spoon in a medium bowl.  Lightly fold the banana mixture into the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula until just combined with no streaks of dry ingredients.  (Over-mixing will result in a tougher bread.)  The batter will be thick and chunky.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out.  Bake until the loaf is a golden brown and a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean, about 45-55 minutes. 

Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Print Friendly and PDF

Asparagus, Cucumber & Rice Salad

This is a most unusual, and delicious, salad!  I once served it to a group of Japanese businessmen at a luncheon I catered, and they gave it rave reviews!  That was the litmus test for me, and this salad was on my catering menu from that day forward. This is a great summer salad, cool, yet satisfying.  A cup of chilled soup, piece of grilled chicken or salmon, and a serving of this salad makes for a perfect hot weather dinner. Serves 6

1 3/4 cups water

1 cup long-grained rice

1 pound of asparagus, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 1/2 cups diced English cucumber

3 green onions, chopped

2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons sugar

1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

2 1/2 Tablespoon vegetable oil

1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

Colorful lettuce and fresh dill sprigs

Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add the rice, return to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.  Fluff with a fork; transfer to a bowl.

Cook the asparagus in salted boiling water until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water until cool, drain well, and pat dry with a paper towel.

Add the asparagus, cucumbers, and green onions to the rice in the bowl.

Combine the Dijon, sugar, vinegar and dry mustard in a small bowl.  Gradually whisk in the oil.  Add the chopped dill. (The salad can be made up to this point and refrigerated separately and held for up to one day.). 

Mix the dressing into the salad.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Line a large bowl with the lettuce and mound the salad in the bowl.  Garnish with sprigs of fresh dill.

Print Friendly and PDF

Chicken, Broccoli, & Mushroom Skillet Penne

Chicken, Broccoli, & Mushroom Skillet Penne

Chicken, Broccoli, & Mushroom Skillet Penne

I really think I could eat pasta every day. This recipe for a delicious version came about because I needed to use up some ingredients I had on hand, the way some of my best recipes have been developed! Assembling all of the ingredients before starting to cook will make the process a snap.  I love that once it is all assembled it just gets broiled, not baked, a real time saver. This pasta recipe is a keeper, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

4 ounces grated Fontina (use whatever cheese you have on hand, as long as it melts well)

2 ounces finely grated Parmesan, or other hard cheese

2 Tablespoons olive oil

12 ounces cubed, uncooked chicken breast

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

1 small yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

6 ounces sliced mushrooms, cremini or white button work

3 Tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon dried mustard

3 cups low-fat milk

1 Tablespoon minced fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

8 ounces penne pasta, cooked and drained according to package directions

4 cups small broccoli florets, cooked with the pasta during the last minute of the pasta's cooking time

Combine the cheeses and set aside.  Combine the flour and dry mustard and set aside.

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a high-sided 12-inch skillet that is broiler-proof.  Salt the chicken liberally, then add to the skillet.  Sear quickly on all sides, then remove to a plate and keep warm. 

Reduce the heat to medium, add the butter and melt.  Add the onions and cook until softened, about 3 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and cook until they release their liquid and comes to a simmer, cook until the liquid is reduced, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.  Add the flour and dry mustard, stir to coat well, and cook for about a minute.  Slowly stream in the milk while whisking.  Whisk in the thyme, salt, and red pepper.  Continue whisking until the mixture starts to bubble and thicken, about 3 minutes. 

Remove from the heat.  Stir in 3/4 of the cheese mixture until smooth.  Then stir in the chicken, pasta and broccoli. 

Preheat the broiler.  (The surface of the food should be 4-6 inches from the heat source.)

Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of the pasta.  Place the skillet on the broiler rack and broil until lightly browned and bubbling, about 5 minutes.  (Protect any wooden or plastic handles on the skillet by sticking it out from under the broiler!) 

Cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

Print Friendly and PDF

Deep Chocolate Biscotti with Coffee Flour

I recently discovered coffee flour and will admit that it has fascinated me.  According to an article in Medical Daily, the product is derived from the fruit of the coffee plants, contains 50 percent more protein per gram than whole wheat flour, and five times the fiber. Moreover, coffee flour contains three times the iron content than fresh spinach, twice the potassium of a banana, and 84 percent less fat than coconut flour, possibly becoming next year’s superfood. Considering all of that, I felt compelled to not only share this information, (and encourage you to do your own homework!) but also to create a recipe that utilizes this unique product.  How fitting to create biscotti, the perfect accompaniment to coffee with this flour!  Coffee flour is available online, and at Trader Joe's, but no doubt will be showing up on grocer's shelves soon.  This biscotti is delicious, and now a little bit healthier!  Makes about 30 biscotti   (I suggest printing this recipe without the photos!)

1 3/4 cups + 1 Tablespoons unbleached flour

3 Tablespoons coffee flour

1/2 unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup almonds or walnuts, chopped fairly fine

3/4 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips

6 Tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, very soft

1 cup granulated sugar

2 extra-large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 Tablespoon confectioners' sugar

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees.  Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a bowl whisk together the flour, coffee flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add the nuts and chocolate chips and mix well.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs and beat until well combined.  Beat in the vanilla.  With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients and mix until a stiff dough forms. 

With floured hands divide the dough into equal halves (weigh to be exact).  On one of the prepared pans shape one portion of the dough into a 12-inch long log, approximately 2 inches wide.  Repeat with the second portion of dough, placing on the same pan with about 2-inches between the logs.  Sprinkle liberally with the powdered sugar.

Bake for 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for 5-6 minutes. 

On a cutting board, cut the logs on the diagonal into 3/4-inch slices, approximately 15 per log.

Place on two baking sheets and bake until crisp, about 10 minutes.  Cool biscotti on a rack.

Keep in an airtight container for up to a week, or in the freezer for a month.

Print Friendly and PDF

"Old Glory" Roasted Potato Salad

Old Glory Potato Salad is red, white, and blue and a bright note on the menu!

Old Glory Potato Salad is red, white, and blue and a bright note on the menu!

It might seem a bit unusual to make a French-style potato salad for an American holiday, but I wanted a salad with colors that would shine through the dressing. I chose to roast the potatoes to retain their color (as a purple potato turns gray when boiled).  The oil and vinegar dressing, far from creamy and heavy, is bright and acidic, pairing beautifully with the richness of the bacon in the salad, making it a great counterpoint to grilled meats and barbecue.  It's best made a day ahead so that the flavors have time to mellow; allow it to come up to room temperature before serving.  4 servings

6 ounces each purple, red, and white potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1" pieces

Kosher Salt

1/4 pound bacon

1/4 cup finely-minced shallots

3 Tablespoons olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/4 cup chopped red onion

1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Place the potatoes in a large bowl and set aside. Preheat the oven to 425-degrees.

Chop the bacon and saute in a small skillet over medium-low heat until the fat has rendered out and the bacon is crisp.  Remove the bacon and set aside.

Add the shallots and olive oil to the skillet and stir to combine.  Pour over the potatoes in the bowl and toss until well combined and the potatoes are coated with the fat. Spread onto a rimmed baking sheet that has been coated with non-stick spray.  Sprinkle liberally with kosher salt and black pepper.  Roast for 20 minutes, turn the potatoes over with a spatula and return to the oven to roast for 5-10 more minutes, or until tender.

Place the roasted potatoes in a bowl, drizzle the vinegar over the potatoes and toss well.  Allow to cool to room temperature, then stir in the red onion and parsley, tasting and adjusting the salt and pepper.  Cover and refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavors to marry.  Remove from the refrigerate an hour or two before serving to allow to come up to room temperature. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper, adding more oil if it seems dry, more vinegar if it needs more acid.

Print Friendly and PDF

Lemon-Pistachio Biscotti

Lemon-Pistachio Biscotti

Lemon-Pistachio Biscotti

Sometime, a little nibble is all that is needed to get through the afternoon.  Biscotti and a cup of tea or coffee is one of my favorite afternoon treats, and these are excellent.  Low in fat and really dense and crisp, these biscotti will hold up to a dip in in any hot beverage!

3 large (not extra-large) eggs

1 teaspoon lemon extract

1 Tablespoon finely-grated lemon zest

2 cups flour

3/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup pistachio nuts, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 300-degrees and put the racks in the center of the oven.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mats.

In a small bowl beat the eggs, lemon extract, and lemon zest until very well combined.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, mixing well.  Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and, starting with a spatula or spoon, combine the ingredients.  Use your hands to finish mixing, as this is a very stiff dough.

Divide the dough in half (weigh to be exact), and on a floured board shape each half into an even log, 12-inches long.  Place the logs on one of the baking sheets, leaving plenty of space between, and place in the preheated oven.  Bake for 50 minutes.

Remove from the oven, and using a very long spatula, place each log on a rack and allow to cool for 5 minutes.  Slice each log into 1/2-inch slices and place them on the baking sheets (this time it will require 2 sheets).  Reduce the oven temperature to 275-degrees.  Place the biscotti in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown and almost crisp throughout.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool and dry.  (For extra-crisp biscotti, leave on the baking sheets to cool.)

Biscotti keeps well in an air-tight container for up to a month.

Print Friendly and PDF