Sunday, December 21, 2008

|last minute Christmas gifts?|

Did you know it's ridiculously easy to make biscotti? I always thought it was probably a giant pain until I made it myself. These make a great little Christmas gift to give to those people who give you a present and then you're like, uh oh. (P.S. I also give these to people because I planned to, so if you've gotten them from me in the past, it's not necessarily because I forgot you!).

Here's the method...you can pick and choose whatever flavors you'd like to add as indicated:

T.L.B.s (tasty little biscottis)
3/4 cups nuts (I used pecans today - almonds are excellent, too)
5 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 light butter, softened (the stick kind, that's 1 1/2 sticks, to save you the math)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3 large eggs, plus 2 egg whites
3 teaspoons citrus zest (I used clementines today, but you can use orange, lemon, whatever citrus you have on hand...also, give the fruit a squeeze into the bowl after for extra zing)
2 teaspoons extract or liqueur (I used whiskey today, but almond extract, rum, vanilla, anything is good)
2 more egg whites

  1. Crush up your nuts. I do this by putting them in a plastic baggie and then hitting them with a can. Put them on a baking sheet and stick them in an oven at 350. Toss after 5 minutes, then put in for another 2 minutes. Take out to let them cool. Kick your oven up to 375.
  2. While that's all happening, mix together your flower and baking powder in a smallish bowl.
  3. Then cream together your softened butter and sugar using a hand or stand mixer. Add in the 3 eggs and 2 egg whites one at a time and beat in.
  4. Add in the flour mixture a little at a time. Lots and lots of stirring. Once you've got it all in, mix in your nuts. Reserve about 1/8 cup of the nuts for later.
  5. Get out two greased cookie sheets. Divide your dough into three equal parts and plop them down onto the sheets. Press them down until they are about 1/2-1 inch thick and are a big oval shape. Press a little of the remaining nuts into the top of each mound.
  6. In a clean bowl, beat your last two egg whites until they are fluffy. Brush the egg whites onto each of your three dough mounds.
  7. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes until they start to get golden brown. Take out and let cool for about an hour.
  8. Cut into a total of 72 pieces with a knife. Spread out on your cookie sheets with the cut sides up for toasting. Bake 10 minutes at 325 and you're done.
Each biscotti has only 70 calories and 2 grams of fat. Not too bad. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

|boundless love for soup|

There are many things I love about soup. Many, many things. One of the things I love the most is how you don't really need a recipe to make it. Once you have the method down, you're good to go. In the past few weeks I've created three soups with no real recipes...a vegetarian tortilla soup, a white bean soup, and a creamy broccoli soup. So good.

Here are some tips for getting you started:

  • Begin by sauteing some aromatics and herbs in some olive oil. Stuff like onions, garlic, leeks, celery, carrots are all good at this point.
  • After they start to get softened, add in your broth. I just use veggie stock in a can. Find one you like. Beer/wine are good, too.
  • Then if you want to add other veggies, beans, potatoes, pasta, you can. If you're using something like potatoes, you're going to want to parboil them somewhere else. This is also a good time to add other flavors to the stock, like some tomato paste, if you're into that.
  • To finish, you'll want to check the salt/pepper. And if you want a creamy soup, add some evaporated milk. Cheese would go in here, too.
  • And you're done!
CREAM OF BROCCOLI w/ a TOUCH of CHEESE
  • Saute onions,garlic, celery, carrots in a bit of olive oil until softened. While sauteing, add in some curry, pepper, red pepper flakes, and freshly ground nutmeg.
  • Add a couple cups of veggie broth. Bring to a boil and add freshly cut broccoli. You can use the stems, too. Let it boil just a couple minutes until the broccoli is bright green, but don't let it go too long!
  • Remove from heat and let it cook down a bit. Take some of the broccoli out and put it aside. Puree the rest in a blender (or with a stick thing). Be careful - if it's too hot or if you get your blender too full you'll have a mess.
  • Put it back in the soup pot and add in the reserved broccoli. Add in about a cup of evaporated milk (make sure you're not boiling at this point or ever again or you'll curdle).
  • Bring it back up to heat. Add salt/pepper. And if you want, add a few slices of American cheese. Enjoy!

|oatmeal "cookies"|

I have to give credit where credit is due on this one and say that I got it out of a Weight Watchers mini cookbook thing. But if you're looking for a filling, warm winter treat, mix up a packet of flavored oatmeal with some boiling water. Use a little less than directed on the package. Let it sit while your oven is heating up to about 350. Then drop the oats into about 5-6 blobs on a greased cookie sheet (or a silpat, of course!). Bake about 8-10 minutes and let cool.

They definitely aren't like real oatmeal cookies, but they're a fun alternative to eating oatmeal in the evening. And...after you're done with the oven you can leave it open and bask in the heat. Yeah!

|caramel love|

You know those delicious tubs of caramel you can buy by the apples in the grocery store? I always get the fat free kind because, even fat free caramel is quite bad enough for me, thank you, and because it still tastes good (unlike fat free dressing and fat free cheese). Anyway, if you have any of it hanging out in your fridge, I'd like to suggest to you two lovely uses for it....

CARAMEL YOGURT
Stir in about a tablespoon of the caramel sauce to some plain or vanilla yogurt. Mmmm, mmmm.

CARAMEL APPLE OATMEAL
Dice up half an apple and put it in a bowl with quick-cook oats and the appropriate amount of water. Microwave, then stir in about a tablespoon of the caramel. Nuts are a good option, too. This is so wonderful and delicious.