Spelt Biscotti

Spelt and Walnut Biscotti

Biscotti are so easy to make. I don’t know why more people don’t bake their own. They are always nice to have with coffee, tea or a cold glass of milk. These aren’t too sweet, so biscotti make a nice breakfast. They also stay crisp for a long time, if stored in an air tight container.

Biscotti are twice baked. First in a loaf shape, then they are sliced and baked again. Most recipes will tell you to bake the slices half way, then turn them over to finish baking. A little time saving trick- just place a cooling rack on the baking sheet, then place the sliced biscotti on the rack. That way, they get crisp on both sides at once and there is no need to turn them.

These biscotti are made with spelt flour. Spelt is an ancient grain that is very closely related to wheat. It does contain gluten, so not an option for people with wheat allergies or Celiac, but a nice way to add a whole grain to your menu if you do eat wheat. Unlike whole wheat flour, which tends to be heavy in baking, spelt has a lighter texture and acts more like white flour. I used it to make these  biscotti and they are crisp, light and very tasty.

Spelt Biscotti – with Walnuts

 1 ¼ c. spelt flour*

⅓ c. sugar

1 t. baking powder

¼ t. salt

½ c. walnuts

¼ c. golden raisins- I often use dried cranberries or other dried fruit

2 eggs

1 t. vanilla

Combine dry ingredients with nuts and raisins in medium mixing bowl. In small bowl combine eggs and vanilla and add to dry ingredients. Stir together to make a slightly sticky dough. With oiled hands shape into loaf (2”x11”) on oiled sheet. Bake at 350-degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Slice the loaf thin using a serrated knife and place slices on a rack on a baking sheet then return to oven, reduce heat to 300-degrees bake 25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container to retain crunch. Makes about 16.

* If you can’t find spelt flour you can use 3/4 c. all purpose flour and 1/2 c. whole wheat flour instead or substitute the entire amount of flour with whole wheat pastry flour.

Lemon Cheesecake Squares

Lemon Cheesecake Squares

We made these cheesecake squares in cooking class the other night. It had been awhile since I had them. I forgot just how good they are. Between the crust and lemon cheesecake topping there is a layer of raspberry jam. They are just so good. As an added bonus, they are also very easy to make.

This is a slightly non-traditional cheesecake. For starters, the crust is oatmeal-based not graham cracker. This cheesecake is also not baked in a spring form pan, but in a 9×13 inch pan.

Like other cheesecakes, they can be frozen.

So here is the recipe. Enjoy!!

Lemon Cheesecake Squares


¾ c. butter

1/3 c. brown sugar

1¼ c. flour

1 c. oatmeal, old-fashioned or quick cooking

¼ t. salt


½ c. raspberry jam

2 (8oz.) packages cream cheese, softened

¾ c. sugar

2 T. flour

2 eggs

3 T. lemon juice

2 t. grated lemon peel

Heat oven to 350-degrees. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan. Beat together butter and brown sugar then stir in rest of crust ingredients. Press into bottom of prepared pan and bake 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Crust should be golden around the edges. Spread jam over hot crust. As the jam warms it get easier to spread. Beat cream cheese sugar and flour until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in juice and peel. Pour over jam and bake for 25 minutes, or until set. Cool then chill. Store covered in fridge.  Makes 24 squares.   

Spread jam over warm crust
Top jam with lemon cheesecake batter
Right out of the oven

Frozen Mocha Cheesecake

Frozen Mocha Cheesecake

If you want a really tasty dessert that requires no baking, this one just might do it for you. Rather than being baked, this cheesecake is prepared, then frozen. Because it is made ahead of time and frozen, you can keep it on hand for when you need a dessert.

You can make one large cheesecake, or you could also make smaller, individual serving cheesecakes, in ramekins.

It also pairs chocolate with coffee- a classic combination. The crust is normally made with chocolate cookies- I used chocolate graham crackers for the crust. They worked great.

Great dessert for hot weather. Who am I kidding? I would want this even if there was a blizzard.

I taught a cheesecake class last night and served this cheesecake to the class. Everyone loved it. It has a rich, creamy texture and plenty of flavor.

Frozen Mocha Cheesecake

1 ¼ c. chocolate cookie crumbs

¼ c. sugar

¼ c. butter, softened

8 oz. cream cheese

1 (14oz.) can sweetened condensed milk

2/3 c. chocolate syrup

2 T. instant coffee crystals

1 t. hot water

1 c. whipping cream, whipped

Combine crumbs, sugar and butter and press into 9-inch springform pan. Chill. Beat cheese until fluffy and beat in milk. Stir in syrup and dissolve coffee in water. Add to cheese mixture and fold in whipped cream. Pour into prepared crust and freeze until solid, at least 6 hours. Garnish with additional cookie crumbs if you like or with shaved chocolate. Keep leftovers frozen and use within a few weeks for best flavor.

Whole Wheat Bread

A lot of us want to eat more whole grains, but are unhappy when we try to make 100% whole wheat bread at home. There is a secret to baking whole wheat bread that is both tender, and slices easily.

Whole wheat flour, high in gluten, also is high in fibers, which make it harder to get the gluten to that stretchy state. If you knead whole wheat bread dough for 5- 10 minutes, like white bread dough, you’ll have a dough that is far from elastic.

The secret? Knead it longer. I knead my whole wheat bread dough about 20 minutes. That is easy if you have it in a stand mixer. Just set it on low and let the dough hook do the work. Not so easy if you are kneading by hand. When kneading for 20 minutes by hand, more and more flour gets added to the dough, to keep it from sticking. The extra flour results in a heavy dough, and a loaf of  bread that is best used as a door stop.  If you have to knead by hand- knead on a wet surface. The dough won’t stick to your hands or the board and you can knead it long enough to get a properly worked dough. How do you know your dough has been worked long enough? Hold the dough up to light and pull it. It should stretch thin enough so that you can see the light through it, without tearing. Here is one of several recipes I have for 100% whole wheat bread. I love it and I think you will, too.

100% Whole Wheat Bread

2 packets active dry yeast
2 2/3 c. warm water
½ c. oil
½ c. honey, molasses or maple syrup
6 ½ -7 c. whole wheat flour
½ c. non fat dry milk
2½ t. salt

Combine first 4 ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir in 3 cups of the flour, the dry milk and the salt. Beat with electric mixer for 3 minutes. Stir in enough flour for mixture to form a thick batter and continue mixing on low in mixer for 15-20 minutes. Dough takes time to become elastic. Add extra flour slowly until dough comes away from the sides of the work bowl, but not too soon. Note: if you must do this by hand add flour until dough starts to come away from the sides of the bowl and knead with wet hands on wet work surface for 15-20 minutes. Transfer dough to lightly greased bowl and cover, allowing to rise until puffy, about 1 hour. Punch dough down and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Divide in half and shape each half into a loaf. Place in a lightly greased 9×5 – inch pan. Brush top with oil and place a piece of plastic wrap over the top. Allow to rise until doubled. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. Tent with foil after 20 minutes to prevent over browning of the top. Test for doneness by removing bread from pan and thumping on the bottom. Bread should sound hollow. Makes 2.

Mint Butter Cookies

Mint Butter Cookies

These cookies can be made with fresh or dried mint. You could use frozen mint as well. They have a delicate, almost cake-like texture. The mint adds a subtle flavor. I used a little lemon extract- mint extract would give them a more intense mint flavor.

We made these in an herb cooking class the other night. Everyone enjoyed to cookies. It is also a great way to use mint. If you grow mint, you know it can be a bit invasive.

Mint Butter Cookies

1 c. butter

½ c. sugar

½ c. brown sugar

1 egg

1-t. almond or lemon extract – you could also use mint

2 ¼ c. flour

¼ c. dried mint leaves or ¾ c. loosely packed fresh mint leaves, chopped fine

1 t. baking powder

1 t. cream of tartar

¼ t. salt

Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in egg and extract. Stir in dry ingredients until well mixed. Chill dough 30 minutes. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls on ungreased baking sheet 2- inches apart. Bake at 375 for 7-9 minutes. Makes about 6 dozen.

Roasted Beet Salad

Roasted Beet Salad

I  picked up a couple of bunches of beets the other day. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with them at the time. They just looked so fresh. I decided to roast some, and then go from there.

To roast beets: just wash them and trim off the greens- leaving about an inch of the stems to reduce bleeding. The beet greens could be added to the salad.

Place beets in a roasting pan and drizzle with a little oil. I used avocado oil. Cover pan and place in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes. Smaller beets will be cooked in less time- about 35 minutes. Really large beets could take up to an hour. I always check by poking one of the beets with a fork. Let the beets cool a little and then remove the peels. I use a knife to do this. They come off quite easily.

I used three small beets to make this salad for lunch. I shared it with a neighbor.

Roasted Beet Salad

1 small head Bibb lettuce, washed and sliced into thin slices

2 c. spinach, torn into bite sized pieces

1/4 c. olive oil

3 T. red wine vinegar

2 t. sugar, optional

3 small roasted beets, peeled

1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese

1/4 c. hulled pumpkin seeds, toasted

1/4 c. dried cherries

coarse sea salt- I used pink salt

Place lettuce in a mixing bowl. Combine olive oil with vinegar and sugar, if using. Add salt and pepper to taste and toss over the greens. Slice beets. Divide greens on 2 salad plates. Arrange half of the beets on each salad and top with the rest of the ingredients. Sprinkle with a few grains of the sea salt and serve. Makes 2 luncheon salads.

Cheddar Cheese Soup

Cheddar Cheese Soup

We made this soup in class a few days ago. Cheddar cheese soup is so simple to make and so tasty. Everyone loved it. One hint is to add the cheese slowly, to get a creamy, not grainy texture.

The soup is great on its own, but you can also add all sorts of other fun ingredients. It can be topped with croutons for some added crunch. Veggies like broccoli, potatoes, asparagus, carrots or Brussels sprouts would all be nice add ins. Mushrooms or caramelized onions could also be added along with fresh herbs.

Even if you leave this soup just as it is, people will love its creamy texture and great flavor.

Here is the recipe.

Cheddar Cheese Soup

¼ c. butter

2 c. chopped onion

2 ribs celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ c. flour

½ t. paprika

¼ t. cayenne pepper

4 c. chicken stock, low salt preferred

1 ½ c. evaporated milk, or half-and-half

10 oz. grated cheddar cheese, mild or sharp

dash of hot pepper sauce

¼ c. chopped fresh parsley

Cook vegetables and garlic in butter until tender.  Stir in flour, paprika and cayenne, stirring until smooth. Stir in stock slowly and heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, 15 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup or you can just live with the chunky bits. Add milk and heat through. Add cheese ½ cup at a time, allowing to melt between additions. Add hot sauce and parsley and serve.  Makes 6 servings

Crock Pot Lamsquarters Quiche

Quiche in the crock pot

This recipe was inspired by a friend baking a pecan pie in crock pot.  I was intrigued. It certainly would be cooler than turning on the oven. If it worked for pie, would it work for a quiche? I had to find out. I followed his directions as best I remembered them.

I started by spraying the inside of the crock pot with non- stick baking spray. I am sure I could have oiled it instead, or maybe rubbed it with butter. Then I placed the pie crust in- trying to fit it as best I could. It was pretty easy. I added the fillings like I normally would. I put on the lid and set it on high. I let the quiche bake for 90 minutes- then gave it a look. It was set, but the crust needed a little more time so I let it go another 30 minutes.

It worked!! A perfectly “baked” quiche in the crock pot.

OK- I can hear the question you want to ask-how do you get it out? We had errands to run so I turned it off and left it in the crock pot, uncovered, for an hour or so. It was still warm. I loosened the edges of the quiche. Then I removed the crock from the base. I placed my hand on the top of the quiche and turned the crock over. It came out right into my hand and I placed it on a serving plate. A little of the crust crumbled- but it mostly held together. Next time I might try 2 spatulas.  I suppose I could have just sliced it right in the crock pot, too. Hindsight….

I made my quiche from lambsquarters. It’s a common weed, and tastes a lot like spinach. It is also growing all over my yard. I like the idea of harvesting a volunteer veggie from my yard. You could certainly use spinach instead.

Lambsquarters Quiche

1 unbaked pie crust

3 c. shredded cheese, divided

2 T. flour

1 leek, white part only, sliced and sauteed in oil until tender

4-5 cups lambsquarters leaves, washed and steamed until wilted

3 eggs

1 c. milk or half and half

salt and pepper to taste

hot sauce to taste

For conventional cooking preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place crust in a 9-inch deep dish pie pan. Toss 2 cups of the cheese with the flour and place in pie crust. Add the leeks and lambsquarters. Combine eggs with milk and seasonings, beat until smooth  and pour over the ingredients in the pie crust. Top with remaining cheese.  Place on a baking sheet and bake 45 minutes to an hour. Check quiche for doneness by inserting a knife off center. If it is clean quiche is done. Serve 4-5.

Crock pot directions: Coat the inside of the crock pot with non- stick baking spray, butter or oil. Roll out pie crust and place in crock pot- crust should be at least 1-inch up the sides of the crock pot. Toss 2 cups of the cheese with the flour and place in pie crust. Add the leeks and lambsquarters. Combine eggs with milk and seasonings, beat until smooth  and pour over the ingredients in the pie crust. Top with remaining cheese. Put the lid on the crock pot and set it on high. Let the quiche bake for 2 hours. Leave it in longer, if the crust is not brown enough.

Finished quiche, plated

Mom’s Peach Pie

Cinnamon Vanilla Peach Pie

Sometimes, pie is more than just pie. Sometimes it is a memory and a tribute. We had a couple of peach trees at my parent’s house. One year there were so many peaches, my dad had to prop up the branches to keep them from breaking under the weight of the fruit. I remember the peach pie my mom made with some of them. It was bliss.

I have a handwritten copy of the peach pie recipe from my Mom. Well, maybe a partial recipe is a better description. What I have is a list, with the filling ingredients and the words “350-45-50”. No directions for how the ingredients are prepped or assembled. There was no recipe for the crust, but I knew the recipe she used, so that was not a problem. Her original recipe also did not have any cinnamon or vanilla, but I think she would have approved of their addition. I thought of her when I made this pie. Sweet memories, indeed.

Here is her recipe, as best I could figure it out.

Cinnamon-Vanilla Peach Pie

1 recipe pie crust- enough for two crusts- recipe follows

10 peaches

2 T. lemon juice

2 t. vanilla

1 c. sugar

1/3 c. flour

¼ c. butter

2 t. cinnamon

1 egg

2 T. cinnamon sugar*

Roll out 1 crust and place in a 9-inch pie pan. Set aside. Peel, pit and slice the peaches. Place in a bowl and toss with the lemon juice and the vanilla- set aside. In small bowl, combine sugar with flour, butter and cinnamon until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Place about a third of the flour mixture in pie crust. Top with half of the peaches. Add another third of the flour mixture and then the rest of the peaches. Sprinkle remaining flour mixture on top of the peaches. Roll out and cut the remaining pie dough into strips and place in a lattice design on top of the pie. Trim off excess crust and crimp edges to seal. Combine egg with a tablespoon of water and mix well. Brush egg wash on lattice top and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45-50 minutes. When I placed the pie in the oven, I put a baking sheet on the rack below the pie to catch drips.  If edges start to get too brown, cover with foil.  Makes 1 pie.

*Combine 1 teaspoon of cinnamon with 2 T. sugar

Flaky Pie Crust

2 c. flour

1 t. salt

3/4 c. lard, butter, shortening or coconut oil, chilled

1 T. cider vinegar

4-5 T. cold water

Combine flour and salt and cut in fat of your choice. Toss in vinegar and water 1 tablespoon at a time until dough holds together. Use a fork to toss the ingredients together and as soon as the mixture holds together stop adding water. Makes 2. Chill well before using.

Ready for the oven

Classic Basil Pesto

Pasta with Classic Basil Pesto

In class last night we were cooking with herbs. One of the dishes we made was pasta with pesto. There are reasons this dish is such a classic. The flavor is all about summer to me.

With cold weather on the horizon, I find myself wanting to enjoy fresh basil even more, while I can. Pesto is one of my favorite basil dishes. Pesto is most often made with basil, but there are a lot of variations out there. Pesto can be made from parsley, sun dried tomatoes, spinach or mint.

I must admit to being a big fan of the original.

I make pesto often when I have fresh basil. I also freeze basil with olive oil, so I can make it all year long. Pesto can be tossed with pasta, rice, potatoes or other veggies. I also like pesto on chicken.

Basil Pesto Sauce

1 c. tightly packed basil leaves
1/4 c. olive oil, or more as needed
3-4 cloves garlic
Salt to taste
1/2 c. pine nuts, sunflower seeds, pecans or walnuts- I like to toast the nuts first
1 c. fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Combine all ingredients, except the cheese, in a blender and mix until smooth. Stir in the cheese and toss over hot, cooked pasta or use as a sauce on meat and poultry. Sauce will keep a few days in the fridge and makes about 1 1/2 cups, enough for 1 lb. of cooked pasta.

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