Easter Egg Biscotti

Easter Egg Biscotti

I get so many requests for this recipe, I decided to post it again. This is a treat from my childhood. Rose Dieglio was the mother of my best friend, Debbi. Rose made these every year, and I loved them. Years later, she was kind enough to share her recipe with me.  I always make a bunch to hand out to friends and family. It is a tradition I enjoy very much.

 

The dough is a type of cookie. You roll the dough out in pieces about the size of eggs. Make an indent in the dough and press in a tinted egg. The egg does not have to be cooked- it will cook when the biscotti bakes.

The dough is a little sticky. Just add a little flour to your fingers when shaping the dough, if needed.

The original recipe calls for shortening. I make them with butter, instead. If you use butter in the dough- chill it before baking.

Once baked, the biscotti can be topped with a powdered sugar glaze and sprinkles, if you like.

Easter Egg Biscotti

1 c. shortening or butter- I use butter*

1 ½ c. sugar

4 eggs

5 t. baking powder

1 t. salt

2 t. vanilla

1 c. milk

6 c. flour

24-30 eggs, plain or dyed

Powdered sugar glaze

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter or shortening and sugar. Beat in eggs. Add next 4 ingredients and blend until smooth. Stir in flour 2 cups at a time. Dough should be pliable. If dough is too sticky add a little more flour. Take a piece of dough about the size of a large egg and place on a greased baking sheet. Indent middle slightly and then place an egg in the center, pressing down slightly. It should look like a nest. Continue with remaining dough allowing about 2-3 inches in between as they spread when baking. You can fit 6-8 on a large baking sheet. Bake 20 –25 minutes or until browned on the bottom. Cool on wire rack before drizzling with frosting. Makes 24-30. Store in fridge.

* If using butter- chill dough a couple of hours before baking.

Sugar glaze

2 c. powdered sugar

2-3 T. milk or orange juice

1 t. vanilla

Food coloring, if desired

Mix together until smooth and of drizzling consistency.

Cooling down

Lemon Squares

Lemon Squares

For me, Lemon Squares are a blast from the past. They were a treat I remember making with my mother when I was a kid. A crisp, tender crust, topped with a lemon custard. Just the right balance of sweet and tart.

I decided to make them for a dinner with my cousin and her husband. They loved them.

I forgot just how much I loved them, too. I also forgot how easy they are to make. These are a great dessert any time of the year, but I think especially nice for Spring. They also would make a wonderful dessert for Easter.

Lemon squares are baked in two steps. The crust is pressed into the pan and baked. Then the crust is topped with the egg/lemon mixture and returned to the oven for the second bake. So simple- and so good.

I did make a couple of changes from the original recipe. I was very happy with how they came out.

 

Here is the recipe. Enjoy!!

 

Lemon Squares

1 c. flour

½ c. butter

¼ c. powdered sugar

3 eggs

1 c. sugar

2 T. lemon juice

2 t. lemon zest

½ t. baking powder

¼ t. salt

 

Mix together flour, butter and powdered sugar and press into the bottom of an 8×8-inch pan. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes. Beat together remaining ingredients and pour over baked crust. Return to oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden and puffed. Cool. Cut. Makes 16 squares.

Cranberry Orange Scones

Cranberry Orange Scones

I make scones pretty often. There is nothing quite like the taste of fresh baked scones. Plus, baking them makes the house smell wonderful.

I taught a British cooking class recently , and we made scones in class. Someone asked me what scones are. I told her I think of scones as biscuits for company. Maybe biscuits with extra stuff in them is also a good definition.

The procedure for making both scones and biscuits is the same. You just put more fun ingredients in scones. Although scones can be plain, they often contain fruits, nuts and spices.

These scones are shaped by pressing the dough in a round cake pan, then cut into wedges before baking.

They come out looking great and tasting great, too. If you don’t have buttermilk just add a little lemon juice to regular milk. I actually used half and half instead of milk, and added 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to the half and half. It worked great.

Perfect breakfast for this weekend. Serve warm with butter and jam.

 

Cranberry-Orange Scones

2 c. flour

4 T. sugar

2 t. baking powder

1 t. baking soda

1 t. grated orange peel

½ t. salt

¼ c. butter

1 c. dried cranberries

2/3 c. buttermilk

1 egg

Extra milk and sugar, for topping

 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and lightly grease a baking sheet. Combine dry ingredients in medium bowl and cut in butter to resemble coarse crumbs. Stir in cranberries. Beat together milk and egg and add to flour mixture, stirring with fork until just coming together. Turn onto floured surface and knead 5-6 strokes or until ball of dough holds together. Transfer dough to prepared sheet and with floured hands, press dough into an eight-inch circle. I place dough in floured 8-inch cake pan, then invert onto the baking sheet- for a nice, even circle. With a sharp, floured knife cut dough into 8 wedges. Brush top of dough with a little extra milk, then sprinkle tops with a bit of sugar.  Bake 14-16 minutes. Makes 8.

 

Dough can also be patted out on work surface and cut into circles or pressed into a square and cut into smaller squares.

 

 

Asian Turnip Cakes

Turnip Cake

I first had turnip cakes at a local Asian restaurant. I loved them, and was intrigued at how to make them. They were little squares, lightly crisped on the outside, smooth and creamy in the middle.

When I first heard turnip cake- I was thinking of the purple and white turnips I knew. That is not what these turnip cakes are made from.

It helped a lot when I realized the “turnip” cake was actually made from Daikon radish. Daikon radishes are also called Chinese turnips. They are really big, white radishes. They are available at Asian grocery stores and other grocery stores. Now that I knew the ingredient I needed, I had to find a recipe.

I searched the internet and found a lot of different variations for how to make them.

The first recipe I tried was more like a potato pancake. Shredded radish paired with eggs and bread crumbs. They were good, but not what I had at the restaurant. The turnip cake I had enjoyed was smooth and sort of starchy. Plus, it was a neat square shape.

I found several recipes that included the steaming step. This enabled the cakes to be set up with a starch, cooled and sliced before the final frying step. This was what I wanted!!

The most promising recipe included rice flour- but I was out of rice flour, so I improvised with cornstarch and a little wheat flour. It worked really well.

Most recipes included shrimp or Chinese sausage and sometimes green onions. I decided, this time, to make them vegetarian. That worked well, but you certainly could add meat or shrimp to yours.

I shredded the daikon pretty fine, but you could still discern the radish in the final dish. I liked that a lot. I did not grate them as some recipes suggested.

So here is my version of turnip cakes. They sound like a bit of work, but it really is worth the time. I also like that all the prep can be done a day or two ahead of time, then just slice and fry when you want them.

 

Turnip Cakes

 

1 large Daikon radish- about 1¼  lbs., give or take

1 c. water

½ c. minced onion

1 t. salt

½ t. white pepper

½ c. cornstarch

2 T. flour

Oil for frying

Oyster sauce for dipping, optional

 

Peel and shred radish. I used a fine shredding blade. Squeeze out some of the liquid from the radish. Place shredded radish in bowl with the water and onion and steam in microwave for 4-5 minutes- you can also place radish and onion in saucepan with water and simmer 4-5 minutes. Set aside to cool.  Combine the radish mixture with the cornstarch, flour salt and pepper. Oil an 8×4-inch loaf pan. Place the radish mixture in the prepared pan and steam for 50 minutes.* I placed plastic wrap over the pan to prevent water from dripping into the pan. Remove pan from steamer and cool down for at least 30 minutes. . At this point you can finish preparing the turnip cakes- or place in fridge until ready to make them. When ready to fry the turnip cakes, remove from the pan and cut into slices- about ¾ -inch thick. Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Cook cakes in oil on both sides until golden brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels. Serve with oyster sauce- or whatever dipping sauce you prefer. Makes about 10.

* To steam the mixture- I just used a large stock pot with a cooling rack in it. I brought about 2 inches of water to a boil, placed the pan on the rack and covered the pan. You could also steam in the oven with a roasting pan, with an inch of boiling water in it and covered with foil.

Slicing the turnip cakes before frying

Ready to serve

 

Ham and Asparagus Quiche

Ham and Asparagus Quiche

I had some fresh asparagus and wanted to make something special with it. I decided to make a quiche. I also had some ham, so combining the two ingredients in a quiche seemed like a good idea.

It was a very good decision.

 

Quiches are so versatile. You can fill them with almost any ingredients. They can be served for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. You can also bake it right away, or freeze it for later. I often make two quiches, just so I can freeze one for later use.

 

The mix of ham, asparagus and Havarti cheese worked well together. You could use any number of cheeses that you like. Swiss would be nice, Gruyere or even a sharp cheddar would also work.

 

I use a homemade crust, but you can use a store bought crust, if you prefer.

 

 

 

Ham and Asparagus Quiche

 

1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust

1½ c. shredded cheese – I used Havarti

4 t. flour

1½ c. diced cooked ham

12 oz. asparagus, trimmed, cut in ½- inch pieces and steamed 3 minutes

4 eggs

1 c. milk or half and half

2 T. fresh chopped parsley or 2 teaspoons dried

¼ t. salt

1T. Dijon mustard

1 t.  hot sauce

 

Toss cheese with flour in a bowl and place in pie crust. Sprinkle the ham and asparagus over the cheese and set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl beating well to combine. Pour over the ham and asparagus mixture and bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 15 minutes. Turn down heat to 350-degrees and bake until knife inserted off-center comes out clean, about 30 minutes more. Makes 1.

 

Note: This quiche freezes well. After adding the fillings just wrap in heavy foil and freeze solid until ready to bake. When ready to bake unwrap and allow to sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes. Bake as with the fresh version, but add another 10-15 minutes to the baking time. If you don’t want to freeze the pie pan, you can line the pie pan with foil before you add the crust. Once it is frozen you can remove the frozen quiche from the pie pan and wrap, returning to freezer. When ready to use unwrap and put the quiche back in the pie pan before baking. Or, if you are planning on freezing it, you can use a foil pie pan.

10 Plants You Might Not Know You Can Eat

A lot of people don’t realize how many common plants they can eat. I thought it might be fun to share a few of them with you. Some of these are plants we grow as landscape/ornamental plants. Others are more often thought of as “weeds”. All have one thing in common. They are edible.

Some you may already know. I hope I might show you a few edibles you didn’t know about before.

I tried to stick to plants that were easy to identify. If you are not sure what it is – don’t eat it. Don’t eat plants where pesticides have been sprayed, either.

 

With any luck, you have at least a few of these in your yard.

 

violetViolets: Violet flowers are edible and used to decorate pastries and to make jelly. Did you know you can also eat the leaves? They are mild flavored- especially when young- and are a great addition to salads. Violet leaves are also high in vitamin C.

 

 

purslanePurslane: The thick, fleshy leaves of purslane are easy to identify. Many vegetable gardeners make every effort to keep them out of their yards. Truth is, purslane is grown as a vegetable in many parts of the world. The leaves can be eaten raw in salads, can be cooked in a stir fry or just steamed as a fresh veggie. They can also be pickled. I make a salsa out of purslane leaves. They are crunchy with a slightly citrus flavor.

 

lambsquartersLambsquarters: Lambsquarters are one of my favorites. They sprout all over my yard and in pots as soon as the weather warms up in the Spring. The leaves can be eaten raw when young or cooked as they mature. They taste just like spinach and are even better for you. Plants can get quite large and provide an easy harvest of nutritious greens.

 

dandelionDandelions: We spend so much money trying to kill them. Sad because they are really a tasty green. Dandelions were brought to America by European immigrants as a vegetable. Their bitter greens can be an acquired taste. By combining the greens with certain foods you make them taste less bitter. Starchy foods like breads or potatoes, dairy products, tomatoes and vinegars all seem to tame the bitterness.  Dandelion greens can be eaten cooked or raw. Flowers are used to make jelly and wine and can be added to baked goods.

hosta11Hosta: If you can get to them before the deer do, you will be pleasantly surprised. Hosta leaves are quite mild flavored, similar to Bibb lettuce. I add them to salads and even serve them with dips. The older leaves get tough so pick young leaves.

 

 

 

sweetpotato11Sweet Potato Leaves: A friend from Hawaii first told me about eating  sweet potato leaves. The leaves are pretty mild flavored. I normally eat them cooked although I have friends that eat them raw as well. You can eat the leaves of all sweet potatoes, including ornamental types.

 

 

lilac11Lilac: Lilac flowers are fragrant and edible. I use them every year to make lilac infused vinegar. They have a nice spicy taste that works well in the vinegar. Blossoms can be added to salads, too. This year I also made lilac jelly.

 

 

 

pigweed11Redroot/Pigweed: This member of the amaranth family is distinguished by a reddish color to its roots. It has a spinach like flavor and can be cooked and used like spinach is any recipe. The plants can get several feet tall and often show up in places where the soil has been tilled.

 

 

tulipsTulips: Tulips are more than pretty, they are also quite tasty. The petals taste like a mild flavored lettuce and can add a beautiful touch to salads. The bulbs are also edible but we rarely eat them because to do so would destroy the plant. The petals, however, can be harvested and eaten year after year without harming the plant.

 

roses11Roses:  Rose petals have been used to make fragrances for a very long time. The petals are also edible and can be added to salads and used to make jelly, syrup and of course, rose water. The hips are also quite edible. Rose hips are the round balls that are left after the bloom is spent. They are full of vitamin C and can be cooked and used to make tea and jelly.

 

This is far from a complete list. Just a few things from my yard that I thought you might have, too.

 

 

Lemon Lover’s Tart

Lemon Tart

I wasn’t sure what to call this dessert. It started out as one thing, but sort of ended up somewhere else. I finally decided to just call it a tart. Let me explain.

I was leaning towards making a cheesecake. I needed to make dessert for a dinner. Everybody loves cheesecake, right?  I already had cookie crumbs, I could use for the crust. Then, I discovered I only had one box of cream cheese. Not enough for a cheesecake.

While searching my fridge for cream cheese, I found a couple of lemons.

I suppose I could have made a lemon pie, but I decided to just make something up with what I had, including the cream cheese.

What I ended up with is a sweet/tart lemon dessert. Really nice, actually.

Before I get to the actual recipe, let me talk about the lemons, and including fresh lemon juice in recipe directions.

Recipes will often list the “juice of a lemon” in the ingredients. There is about the same amount of lemon juice in all lemons, so that a little difference, one way or the other, is no big deal. The amount is anywhere from 2-3 tablespoons of juice in a lemon. You might get 4 tablespoons, if the lemon is really big. I have used that phrase in recipes myself.

Sometimes, however, you have to recognize when you have lemons that aren’t “average”.

The two lemons I had on hand were big, really big. When I juiced them, I ended up with 2/3 of a cup of lemon juice. So, in this recipe I used the actual measurement of the juice, rather than saying, “the juice of 2 lemons.” Three or four average sized lemons should give you 2/3 cup of juice.

So here is the recipe for my lemon tart, the happy end result of using what I had, and making it work.

 

Lemon Tart

Crust:

1½ c. crushed vanilla cookies

4 T. melted butter

Filling:

1 (8oz.) container cream cheese, softened

½ c. sugar

2/3 c. lemon juice

Zest of two lemons

3 eggs

¼ c. cornstarch

 

Combine crust ingredients in medium bowl. Press crumb mixture into a 9 –inch springform or tart pan. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. While the crust is baking, make the filling. In mixing bowl combine the cream cheese with the sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the lemon juice and zest and beat well. Add the eggs and cornstarch and beat until smooth. Pour filling over the baked crust and return to oven. Bake for 35 minutes, or until golden on top. Center will be soft, but firms as the tart cools. Cool, then refrigerate until ready to serve. You can dust with powdered sugar, if you like.

Herb Gardening Program

Lovage

I will be giving a talk tomorrow evening, on Herb Gardening at the Solon Library. After the recent snow- it might be nice to think about warmer days ahead.

This is a free program, open to the public. If you want to learn more about growing your own herb garden- please plan on coming.

Here are the details.

 

 

Herb: Spice Up Your Garden program on Monday, April 1 at 7pm at the Solon Library.  The branch address is 34125 Portz Parkway, Solon, OH 44139

 

I have a few more programs coming up at other branches, in case you can’t make it tomorrow.

 

Easter Cupcakes

Trio of Easter Cupcakes

These cupcakes would make a great dessert for Easter- or any spring time party. They are also a fun dessert for kids to make.

I started out by making a double batch of my classic white cupcakes- recipe follows.

I also made a double batch of white chocolate frosting. You could certainly make a vanilla buttercream, if you prefer.

To add a little color to the cupcakes, I divided the batter into three bowls and tinted each of them a different pastel color.

As I filled the pans, I just added a spoonful of each of the tinted batters in them. They came out really nice. I made three different cupcakes: bunnies, chicks and nests.

Details on how to make each of them are listed below.

 

 

Classic White (Vanilla)  Cupcakes

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with 12 paper liners. In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Finally stir in the milk until batter is smooth. Pour or spoon batter into the prepared pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cupcakes are done when they springs back to the touch. Makes 12.

White Chocolate Frosting

6 oz. white chocolate – if using bars, chop before melting
1 stick (4 oz.) cold butter, cut into cubes
1-2 c. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla

Melt chocolate. I just melt mine in a microwave safe dish, but you can use a double boiler. Let chocolate cool down a little. Beat butter into the melted chocolate. Beat until smooth and then beat in the powdered sugar and vanilla. Whip until frosting is smooth and fluffy. I normally beat for 5 minutes or longer. If too thick, add a few drops of water or milk. For this recipe, I made a double batch of frosting.

 

Bunnies

extra white chocolate

food coloring- pink or red

chocolate chips

pastel ( pink) M&M’s

Make bunny ears by melting some white chocolate and putting it in a piping bag or bottle. On wax paper, make outline of the ears in white chocolate and allow to cool/harden. Place a drop or two of pink or red food coloring in a microwave safe bowl and add some white chocolate. Melt in microwave, being careful not to burn the chocolate and stir until it turns pink. Pipe the pink chocolate into the middle of the ears. Allow to harden before peeling off of the was paper. Using a star tip, pipe frosting on cupcake. I made three layers – to add height to the cupcake. place ears on cupcake and add chips/candy for eyes and mouth.

Chicks

Frosting tinted yellow and green

mini chocolate chips

fruit roll up

Using star tip, pipe the chick’s body onto the cupcake in yellow frosting. Pipe on head and wings. Pipe green frosting  around chick to form a nest. Use mini chips for eyes and cut fruit roll up for beak.

 

Nests

Frosting tinted green

egg shapes malted milk balls- or you could use jelly beans

Pipe green frosting on cupcakes to make nests. Add three, or more, candies in the middle for eggs.

 

Piping pink filling in ears

Piping pink filling in ears

rainbow cupcake

rainbow cupcake

bunnies

bunnies

Chick cupcake

Chick cupcake

 

 

 

 

 

 

The nest cupcake

The nest cupcake

 

 

 

Really Good Crab Cakes

Crab Cakes

Crab cakes are one of those foods I save for special occasions. I had good  friends over for dinner last night. I wanted to make something special- so I made them crab cakes. They loved them.

Both friends said they had not been big crab cake fans before. Past experiences had been less than amazing. They loved mine- said they were “really good.”

The secret to crab cakes it adding just enough ingredients to hold the crab meat together, without  losing the beautiful texture of the crab in the process. These crab cakes did all that.

I used a little sour cream to help hold them together and to add moisture. I know many who prefer mayo as a binder. Either works, I just like sour cream.

I have pan-fried them in the past, but decided to bake these in the oven. Either method works. It just comes down to what you prefer. By baking them, I had more time to get the rest of the dinner together. We ate our shrimp and corn chowder while the crab cakes baked.

We had them with fresh asparagus with hollandaise , coleslaw and croissants. It was a truly special meal.

 

Really Good Crab Cakes

 

2 eggs

2 T. sour cream or Greek yogurt

1 t. thyme

1 t. lemon juice

½ t. cayenne pepper

½ t. dry mustard

Salt to taste

¼ c. fresh chopped parsley

¼ c. fresh chopped green onions or chives

About ½ c. breadcrumbs

1 lb. lump crab meat

Olive oil

 

Mix all the ingredients together, except oil. Start with about ¼ cup of the breadcrumbs and add just enough to hold the mixture together. Mixture will be crumbly. Form into patties- you can make 4 large or 8 small.

You can cook them one of two ways.

To bake: Place the crab cakes on a lightly oiled baking sheet and brush the cakes with a little more oil. Bake in a preheated 450- degree oven for 15 – 18 minutes, for small cakes. Bake 20-24 minutes for large cakes. Turn them once during baking to brown both sides.

To pan fry: Heat skillet to medium hot. Add oil and gently add the cakes. Cook for 4-5 minutes per side, or until golden brown and crispy. Turn once, carefully, to brown on both sides.