Biscotti blues

Last week I made my first biscotti. I followed a Cook’s Illustrated recipe because it used melted butter. I’m all about the melted butter recipes these days – mostly because I never plan ahead and get butter to room temperature in time to bake. And when you melt the butter, and happen to forget to check it, it turns even better! It becomes brown butter. Deep, nutty flavored magic. Laziness pays off here – don’t tell my kids. The recipe also used classic flavors like citrus and almond, how bad could it be? That night we were meeting some friends for dinner so I boxed my new creations and proudly presented them. This is the text I got later that night…

Umm what?? 4 out of 10?? Now, to be fair I asked for an honest, critical review since it was my first time making them. But when I said honest I didn’t mean honest…geez. Ok fine, I’ll never use citrus again. I wish citrus was dead. But even with no zest I’d only get a 6 out 10! Still a fail! A fail!

So I did what any normal person would do – I read 1,000 biscotti recipes and reviews and planned my revenge. Revenge for what you ask? All he did was tell the truth. So I guess revenge for honesty. That’ll teach him.

So today was round 2.

I adapted my recipe using both the Cook’s recipe with King Arthur’s American Vanilla Biscotti recipe. But I didn’t leave it to that – nope – I messed with it further with my very own twist. That’s right bitches. I browned the butter. Boom.

Ok here’s the bastardized version… I’m making two versions from one dough. Classic Almond and chocolate chip.

  • 1 stick of salted butter (this is the kind we have. If you have unsalted use that and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the dry mix)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 cups of AP flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup sliced toasted almonds (you can use whole and just chop up)
  • Preheat oven to 350

Brown that stick of butter on medium heat. This is what it’ll look like when ready.

Remove from heat add the sugar right into the brown butter

Add the vanilla and almond extracts (are these not the cutest measuring spoons ever?? Thank you Marcela!)

It’ll look nice and smooth and bonus – it helps to cool down the butter so you can add the eggs right in. But buyer beware, once the egg goes in stir stir stir! It’s still a warm mix and you don’t want scrambled egg biscotti!

Combine the flour and baking powder with your buttery mix and you’ll get a very wet dough. You’ll now doubt the dough and think you’ve made a mistake. You haven’t. Leave it alone for 10 min. Which is exactly the time you need to toast your almonds!

I did them at 300 degrees and checked them every other minute. Why? Because I’m a notorious nut burner. I’ve burned almost every level ever toasted. From pine to peanut – burnt them all.

This is the color you want. Not any darker.

Go back to your dough, which should be manageable but still sticky. Cut in half and add the chips and almonds.

Bake for 25 minutes

My loaves are wider than I wanted – but so are my thighs – nothing’s perfect.

For the second bake reduce the temperature to 325

I cut my logs in half because they were too big. I like a two bite biscotti. If you’re ok with a gigantic one – don’t cut it in half.

This time they go in for 30 min. But after 15, it’s important to not only turn the pan, but also flip each biscotti – which is a pain in the ass but worth it!

And viola! Here are two different ways I wanted to end this post. I couldn’t pick so included both.

Ending 1) Now box them up and give them to everyone but the dude who told you the truth… just kidding just kidding.

Ending 2) So here they are – revenge biscotti! Like regular biscotti but baked with bitterness and anger. Just kidding. Just kidding.

East Should Not Meet West!

STOP THE MADNESS! Somewhere I think Sophia Loren is turning in her grave.

I know, I know – lots of things wrong with that statement. First of all, Sofia Loren isn’t dead. But you know she would be horrified. Second of all, stop the madness!

Turmeric is good. Agreed. Not arguing that. Before all the “woke” people in the world found it, my parents were pushing it like they were herbal pimps. It played a huge part in my life – just ask the drawer full of stained Tupperware in mom’s house.

But why… WHY…do we have to go off the deep end??

Pasta with turmeric?? Who is this for? Are there pasta lovers that refuse to eat foods that normally have turmeric?? They can’t just have chicken tikka masala once a month like normal people? What’s next? Pasta with adobo? Pasta with sumac?

Please. Stop mixing shit up. Leave something alone…I’m begging you! You know what I expect from my box of 99 cent Ronzoni? Literally nothing. I expect no nutrients. I expect mostly empty carb calories. It’s fine. Leave. It. Alone. Go ruin something else.

Pandemic schmandemic

When this first started it was scary and jolting and downright horror movie-like. Many things about 2020 still are. Hundreds of thousands of people dead, businesses shuttered, jobs lost, all awful. I know it’s serious. I am not making light of that at all. I know this is no joking matter…but humor is how I deal. If I’m not laughing, I’m crying. Which I think is the definition of a psycho or a clown. I’m one of those for sure. Or both.

Anyway there were/are some small, happy turn of events in all this madness. Things that were little spots of joy, and I’m not talking about sourdough starters.

1) Plans got cancelled. Really important things got cancelled like weddings and birthdays and baby showers – which is awful. But I have to be honest. I was overextended. Weekends booked for months on out, a calendar full of plans (all good stuff). It simply evaporated. Poof. Gone. Once I got over the initial sting, it was all ok. There was no FOMO (fear of missing out) because nothing was happening. We were all finally in the same boat. Home. Isolated. I know it wasn’t good for everyone. I know I was lucky to be baking and cooking and puzzling, while others struggled. I do know that. I’m just so grateful for my time. It was surreal and odd, but also kinda great.

2) Masks are fine with me. I’m gonna tell you a secret. People are fucking disgusting. They snort, they sneeze, they walk around with pneumonia with not a care in the world. People are DIRTY. They just are. I know, I know, not you! Never you! But other people. They don’t wash their hands. They don’t cover their mouths. They are walking geysers of germs. Exploding at every turn. We needed a good dose of hand sanitizer in our lives. Some more than others.

3) Outdoor restaurants with people seated 6 feet away from you. Genius! Let’s never go back! I never want to be in a packed bar or restaurant again. Ever. I want all of them to do well but I don’t want to ever feel like a sardine again. No reservation, no service? I’m in!

4) Teens and kids with minimal places to go. I don’t know about you, but my family had more family meals together in March and April then we’ve had for years! Sometimes we had MULTIPLE meals together at the table. WTF!

5) Office time productivity was always a scam. Someone put that on a pillow. We never needed to commute!! Grrrrr! All those hours on the train for what? So we could be in person for meetings that should have been emails?? Or commute in so you could sit at your desk on calls all day? As god is my witness I’m never doing that again… I mean until they make me…then of course I’ll do it again.

6) We cooked. A lot. I love to cook but this much cooking was next level. And we baked. And by “we”’I don’t mean my family. I mean me and the collective universe. We cooked and baked a lot. I think I made 1 million egg sandwiches. I also made eggplant bolognese, Thanksgiving turkey in April, cookies, cakes, and on and on. Not all of it was good, r.i.p vegetarian matzo ball soup, but most was. Just ask my pre-Covid pants.

7) Pods!! Pods!! We have a pod. A group of people who we have been lucky enough to live next to that has saved our sanity! We are safe. We don’t travel. We wear masks. It’s not perfect but it’s kept me happy. Backyard get togethers, front yard get togethers… thank goodness for these times with friends who became family.

When this comes to an end (come on vaccine!) I hope we continue some pandemic traditions. Not too many people in the store, zoom calls from near and far, free weekends, and disinfectant everywhere… that was enjoyable.

What helped you? What got you through? I’d love to know. We are almost there…

Scenes from a pandemic…

One of 8 puzzles we did March – May
Zoom, zoom, zoom
Masks on! They love it when I show people this pic
Pod!
Food for the pod !
Dessert for the pod!

Always go to bed angry and other sage pieces of advice

I met my husband when I was 19. It was my 3rd week at college. I had just had cream cheese for the first time in my life the week before (true story, on a NYC bagel). It was a good month. We started dating and married a year after I graduated.

To say we were unprepared was and is an understatement. This was pre-internet and pre-therapy being a cool thing. We were on our own. All I had was Cosmo magazine and Oprah to help me.

My husband and I are opposites. Two very different people. Like super different. I’m glass half full, he’s glass… someone stole his glass! I usually think things are going to work out, and he routinely plans for disaster.

When we first got together, we fought all the time. It was nuts. And I read all the magazines and did all the quizzes. He’s a Cancer, I’m a Gemini – it’ll never work out! He’s emotional, I’m abrupt – it’ll never work out! I’d listen to all the couples on Oprah and all the advice Dr. Phil (before he was Dr. Phil) would dish out. I tried it all. I made him try it all. Some of it worked. Most didn’t.

Know what works for us? Going to bed pissed. Yes. If you’re having a huge fight and you’re at your wits end – go to bed! It’s fine. Sometimes we go to bed pissed for like 2 nights – maybe 3. It’s ok. Tensions ease. We slowly forget what we were so passionate about. Not everything can or needs to be resolved all the time. There are many arguments that have been forgotten rather than resolved. I’m no therapist, and I’m guessing some crap will come back to haunt us and it’s probably not healthy – but you aren’t here for health right? Anyway try it – it’s worked for us for 28 years and counting. Instead of counting sheep, count grievances. Lol.

Here’s something else. Ours is not a 50/50 relationship. It never was. It never will be. We are not equal partners. Now, before you lose your undies over that statement let me explain. I’m not talking just about money. And I’m certainly not talking about someone being subservient or less than. I’m talking about ebbs and flows of a long relationship where one person bares the brunt of what it takes to keep us going. It can be emotional. And it can be physical. After I had my daughter, at a very young age, I fell into what I thought was a funk. But now I know that it was postpartum depression. Nothing too serious but I was having a moment… a moment that lasted about 7 months. I was lonely in New York City, where most gals my age were still single and partying. I had just decide to quit my job and stay home full time, which was such a luxury but only added to my isolation. During that time I was useless. I took care of our baby girl but nothing else. No laundry. No cooking. Nothing. He did it all. He worked. He paid all the bills, shopped for grocery’s etc. He let me get through it. When I had my son 5 years later, I quit my job again and stayed home. This time I was full of energy and creativity and decided to start my own wedding planning company. He was commuting 2 hours a day to a job he hated, but he let me do it. We begged and borrowed help with the kids and I planned weddings. We have never ever “counted” who does what. Who makes what. Who did what. We don’t do it because it’s not even-steven. We don’t do it because there will always be a winner and a loser. It’s certainly not fair, but who said it would be?

One more … we do a lot of stuff without each other, or we used to atleast – before Covid. Now we’re attached at the hip, god help us. In all seriousness we have never been a couple that couldn’t do things alone. Part of this is that my job involves travel – or it used to. Beautiful, solitary, airport-bar filled travel. He’s used to me being away and I’m used to me being away too. Absence and hotel rooms make a heart grow fonder. It’s true.

We are still a work in progress. Still have lots to figure out. I’m not gonna lie, it was and is hard. But there was a no escape route. We never had one and we never wanted one. We may be very different in many ways, but the fundamental things we are totally agreed on. How we want to live. Who we want around us. What we want for our kids. There’s never been confusion there. Here’s something else we’ve known since day one, he is my person and I am his. I’m the lid to his pot. The cream cheese to his NYC bagel.

Not following advice since circa 1991

Toasty soup for a toasty day

It’s not exactly sweater weather this weekend. It’s been warm and sunny and beautiful in PA. But way back on Tuesday – when it was chilly, I bought some butternut squash in hopes of making a soup. I googled a couple of recipes for a chilled soup but decided to do my usual. It’s so easy and so good.

Start by roasting the squash with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes. Maybe 15 minutes considering I scorched mine.

Once the butternut squash is done sauté a small onion until translucent and add some ginger if you have it. I’ve now reverted to buying chopped garlic and ginger. I know fresh is better. I don’t care. I blame 2020.

Once the onions are done, add the squash.

You can snack on the bits that burnt to the pan and act like you meant to do that.

Add 2 cups of vegetable stock and bring to a boil.

Once it comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and blend.

Add a little heat (you know I can’t help myself)

Now add a little honey for sweetness. Look at my cute little honey jar. My husband’s beloved aunt made them. She’s so stinking talented. Every time we go to visit her I wander in her studio and somehow beg my way to several pieces. I’m shameless. One day everyone will be able to order from Kathy Gray Clay (if I can help it).

Ok back to the recipe… add about a 1/3 cup of heavy cream. I bought light by mistake but it’s fine. Either one works. I bet even coconut cream would work.

And viola! Serve in your beautiful Kathy Gray Clay bowls and you’re ready for a rocking Sunday night.

PSA for freaks like me

This is a 50 cent vanilla cone from Burger King. It’s my favorite treat. I saw a toddler order it once and I’ve followed suit ever since.

I’m going to make a bold statement that literally no one but my mother agrees with – ice cream servings are too big. Yep, I said it. They’re too much. It’s like… a whole pint of ice cream swirled on top of my cone. Please. Enough.

This is not a popular opinion. I’ve told other people about this and they all give me the same response,” ummm ok…” before they hang up the phone or walk away from me.

When I discovered this cone I was elated. I think because it’s so cheap they give you a smaller, stunted cone. Truth is, I’d pay double for this perfect amount. No more leaning tower of ice cream! And, bonus, if you have lactose issues like me, no worries because a) this is probably not real ice cream anyway and b) it’s such a small amount it probably won’t bother you. How perfect is that?

I’m not sure why I’m thinking about ice cream at 7am but here we are.

We are a country of over the top everything aren’t we? You like this new home improvement show? Here’s 1,000 shows just like it. You want coffee? How big? Grande big enough? No, how about Venti, or go even bigger with Trenta. And don’t even get me started on the Big Gulp! Which is my husband’s fav btw. Who needs to be this hydrated? Know what I like? A small cup of coffee. You know what’s also good? A sliver of cake.

Bigger issues in the world I know. But someone out there must agree with me? No? I’m crazy? Ok.

Hope you all have a perfectly proportioned day.

Yesterday

Here’s what I did in an effort to not watch the news…

I baked a cake. Alison Roman’s Sticky Apple cake. Google the recipe – it’s so good. I know lots of people don’t like her now. She was a popular NYT food writer and had a ton of cooking demos on YouTube. Then she started getting popular and said something snarky about Chrissy Teigen in a magazine article. Chrissy responded. The internet blew up and long social media story short – Alison was “cancelled”. She lost followers. Lost her job. Had to write a public apology. Then had to write another because the first was deemed not sorry enough. Then people started accusing her of appropriating recipes, for example her very popular The Stew, which people thought was really just an Americanized version of an Indian dish called Chana Masala. Was it? Kind of. But I didn’t agree completely. There’s no coconut milk in Chana Masala. And her recipe didn’t have the one main thing that makes Chana Masala Chana Masala – garam masala! The combo of spices that makes it smell and taste like the Indian dish. It did have turmeric – but so what? Do Indians own turmeric? Don’t answer that. So now she’s a pariah and had to work her way back quietly into the world. It’s all too much. I like her. I like her chickpea stew. And I really love this apple cake so apologies for spending so much time on Chana Masala.

Then I got my hair did.

I had taken half the day off from work just so I could be trapped in a salon, covering my greys for two hours. This is the first time in my adult life that I have a hair dresser. A woman who I consistently go to and who I can call my own. For years I bopped from one salon to the next. There were also years were I went to one of those fast food type hair places – you know what I mean. $18 cut. You might get Shirly who has done hair for 20 years, or you might get Wendy who just got her license last night. I’ve also gone to the places in NYC where no less than 5 people “work” on different parts of your haircut. I’m happy to never go to either of those places ever again. All in all it was a good visit until the end. She said, in her cute Mexican accent, “I’m going to put a little extra hairspray at the back because you have fine hair”. Fine hair? Excuse me? Ummm no. No I don’t. I have thick, healthy hair. All my life hair dressers have commented on how very thick and healthy my hair is. I’m from a culture that sells hair to the entire world. That’s what I wanted to say, but I didn’t. I just smiled and died inside. Fine hair. Ok ok, it’s just a comment. Nothing to obsesses about. No big deal. I immediately drove from the salon to CVS to get these hair vitamins. Sigh.

At least I’m predictable. I’ll let you know if they work. Good news – during all that time I was getting my hair done and getting emotionally wounded by my hair dresser, I was…..drumroll…not watching the news!

I worked the polls! It was my first ever civic-minded volunteerism. I liked it. I didn’t love it. I mean it was a bit….disorganized…they could have used a project manager or an admin or something. I was there for 3 hours trying to help people who were actually just fine. They just wanted to get in and out and back to their lives. But I tried right? More importantly, it was 3 hours that I wasn’t watching the news!

After all that – at the end of the day, I did watch the news. We went to a neighbor’s house (someone we’ve been in a quarantine pod with) and watched some of the live action, ate some food and had some booze. It was just what the doctor ordered. I did want to share something funny I noticed as we were watching the results.

Do you know the app Calm? It’s pretty cool. It’s a meditation and stress relief app that I’ve been using since last year. It has everything from quick breathing techniques to bedtime stories that are peaceful and…for lack of a better word, calming. Anyway as I was watching the “countdown” to our country’s finale, I caught this. Calm sponsored that portion of the night. Genius! Give that marketing department a raise.

We didn’t stay long. That night my husband sent me this picture he’d taken earlier of the sun setting behind our house. I had spent the whole day avoiding being here because I thought it would cause me stress and anxiety. But looking at this picture gave me the most peaceful feeling I’d had all day. Dorky but true.

So that’s what I did yesterday.

Today was another day. Back to work. Back to life. Back to stress, and back to the news.

Civil unrest? I’ve got a mask for that…

I’m not trying to make light of things. I know next week is the election. I know people are on edge and this is no joking matter. I’m with you. I get it.

I don’t know if next week will be a big nothing burger and I should make my doctor’s appointment or wait to see if riots break out. Strange times. That’s why today I’ll give you a historic lesson on voting in America…not! The only voting I can fully explain is how an American Idol is picked.

Here’s what I can do. I can make you think about frivolity for just 5 minutes. Join me in a little distraction why don’t you. A little respite from reality. Not at a Kardashian level (that was crazy, did you see it? Private island! Holograms of dead dads! Nuts).

If you are like me, you’ve done a lot of online shopping during the past few months. I’ve done more than usual. And I buy all kinds of crap. In the documentary, The Social Dilemma (did you see this? Even scarier than the Kardashians fiddling away while Rome burns). Anyway one of the creators of Instagram says that social media is now just a mall. She’s so right. It’s just so easy. And there’s been nothing to do, and nowhere to go.

One of my best qualities is that I don’t discriminate where I buy clothes from. Did you know Costco sells dresses? I do. I’ve worn one to a big meeting at work. I’ve worn Walmart pjs as a dress too (no one knew). I have no shame. Online is no different. I’ll buy from Bergdorf’s, QVC, China – I don’t care. I’ll buy it all. It’s the same with beauty products. I’ll buy almost anything from almost anywhere.

So here’s what I’ve gotten recently and my two cents on it:

I’ll start with my favorite. My son Jack gave this to me as a birthday present back in May and I used it up in just a few weeks. I’m on bottle number 3 now. It’s so so good – exfoliates, makes your skin brighter, tingles a bit and smells like pumpkin! Very on brand for this time of year. Get yourself some asap. Worth all $60.

This stuff is AMAZING. Quai pronounced KAY? QWAY? QWO? I dunno. But it’s so good. Rose hair and body oil that I also use on my face. I’m like an oil slick at night. It’s attractive. This was like $16 – and a little goes a long way. It smells lightly of rose and sinks right into your skin and hair. Heaven. If heaven was a rose oil.

This next purchase happened because I follow Goop on Instagram. The first 1,000 times they advertised it I looked away. Then I gave in and got it. It’s $55 for a big fat tub. The ads had these really crunchy women in short shorts lathering on huge amounts. They seemed really moisturized. I am still using it, but it’s just meh. Just ok. I wouldn’t spend the money. My search for a good all body moisturizer continues. I’ll keep you posted.

This. THIS. Have you used it? Do you hate it? This came from my daughter’s stash. She tried it once and had to remove it immediately. It burned too much. If you know me, you know this was music to my ears. Burned you say? Like a layer of skin off? Sign me up! And she’s right. It’s highly uncomfortable. I love it. Reviews all agree with Kera. No one likes it. I’ll definitely be buying it again. $15. Go get it. I dare you.

We were late to this game. I know many of you already knew about this but I’d never heard of Dr. Bronner’s! Holy moly it’s good. Is it scary that I can use it as a body soap and then use it to remove soap scum in the shower? Why yes it is! But as stated above, if it’s tingly…it’s for me. Buy the bottle for your reading pleasure alone. A giant bottle is $10. I’ve been using this one since May. No joke

Last but not least. These cooling water eye patches are the best. And I’ve tried many. These are the best. They cool. They calm. I love them so much I put them on to write this blog.

Happy weekend everyone. Deep breaths. xoxo

Pasta not so fagioli

Hello friends. So I feel like in the past I’ve shared a ton of meat/poultry based recipes, and there’s nothing wrong with that, except for the teeny weeny fact that I don’t actually eat any of them. I’m a total vegetarian (Not vegan. Never vegan). But since I married a carnivore and then gave birth to little carni’s – most of what I make is non-veg (like the Desi’s call it).

But I do cook for myself too and I think going forward I’ll share that more. Although it might get boring. I’m not exactly making culinary delights for myself because, well, I’m pretty easy to please.

During Covid I was trying to make more Indian food, and I even tried some Thai recipes. But can we be honest about ethnic recipes? They’re a giant pain in ass. Ok not all of them. I guess making nachos is easy if you count that as ethnic (I don’t but you might). The recipes that I grew up eating are not exactly… speedy. I mean I’m starting with dried beans for gods sake.

Here’s another reason I tend not to cook too many Indian recipes. My kitchen is outdated. Sounds like an excuse right? I already see judging fingers typing a text to me about dirt huts in India with an open fire, etc. Take it easy. Let me explain why a dirt hut and open fire would be easier than cooking this in my kitchen…

I have no ventilation. None. I have an el fako vent thing on top of my microwave. Allegedly it “purifies” what it sucks up before releasing it right back into the room. Guess what? That’s a bunch of BS and it does nothing. And because our kitchen big and wide – the entire house basically smells like whatever I’m cooking. I love the smell of garlic and ginger… when I’m cooking and eating. I don’t love it while I’m trying to fall asleep or watching Netflix. It’s like lightening a vindaloo candle in the house. I’m not into it. Shoot me.

All that said, I do promise to share more Indian food. Just not today. Today I’m sharing Bon Appetit’s Chickpea Pasta, which is more like a soup because it’s made with a tomato broth (and you now know how I feel about a good broth). This is so easy and good.

I’m sorry for this long long preamble. There’s nothing more annoying than having to get through all this crap to get to the recipe. I didn’t plan on it. I just haven’t talked to you in so long so I’ve got shit to say, you know? For instance, I love rosemary. The herb. I hardly ever get to cook with it, which is why this recipe was even more appealing to me. It packs a rosemary punch. Hope you try it and like it!

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 half small onion, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained, rinsed
  • 1 cup whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 6 oz. orecchiette or other short pasta
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley
  • 3 Tbsp. finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Easy peasy ingredients
Olive oil, onions and garlic go first
Chickpeas drained and crushed red pepper go in once onions are translucent
After about 5 min, add in an entire stalk of rosemary and crush some of the chickpeas
Can of tomatoes goes in next – crushed by hand. Cook on medium for 10 min. Add 4 cups water
Add pasta – I used Campanella so the chickpeas would have a place to bury themselves into
Pasta will cook directly in broth in about 10 min and everything will reduce down
Once finished I added more red pepper… because, well, I’m me

It’s so good. Some notes:

  • Use a whole onion. I hate recipes that say 1/2 an onion. Use the whole thing
  • I have been using tubed garlic in the past few months… I think it’s fine but if you’re offended, use the real stuff
  • Salt as you go! Forgot to say that
  • I didn’t have any parsley so I skipped it
  • I did add fresh parm before serving and drizzled it with good olive oil
  • I skipped the black pepper in lieu of more red. Do what your heart tells you to

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