Food & Drink

Biscotti For All Seasons!

This week we received sad news. Steve, who inspired me to go into the biscotti business back in 2002 and partnered in the launch, passed away. At that time the business was poised to do well, however, getting the required venture capital funding did not happen and after one year the business came to a close. We had one impressive account, some fun times and a wild ride on the learning curve of being an entrepreneur, for sure!

As a tribute to Steve and in memory of those days, I’m sharing 4 biscotti recipes, the most popular from each seasonal group we sold at that time through Dean and DeLuca, an upscale grocery store in St. Helena, CA. The concept is American style biscotti, and therefore the cookies reflect the American palate of flavors.

For ALL – Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Fall – Gingerbread

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • ¼ stick of salted butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1-tablespoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • 1-teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1-teaspoon lemon flavoring
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups of All Purpose Flour plus a cup on the side
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder

Winter – Peppermint Chocolate Chip

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ stick of salted butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons of pure peppermint flavoring
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla flavoring
  • 1-cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups of All Purpose Flour plus a cup on the side
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda

Spring – Cherry Blossom

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ stick of salted butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoon pure vanilla flavoring
  • 1 ½ teaspoon orange Flavoring
  • ½ cup dried chopped Bing cherries
  • ½ cup whole almonds chopped
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups of All Purpose Flour plus a cup on the side
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder

Summer – Lemon Poppy Seed

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ stick of salted butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon flavoring
  • 2 teaspoons of poppy seed
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups of All Purpose Flour plus a cup on the side
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder

Apply to all the recipes

  • In a mixer, whisk sugar and butter.
  • Then add eggs one at a time, until each one is incorporated.
  • Add remaining ingredients.
  • The dough should be stiff but workable. Add more flour if needed.
  • Dust a board or counter surface with flour. Divide the dough into 4 equal parts.
  • Roll each one into a long log to fit your cookie sheet.
  • Spray the cookie sheet with Pam.
  • Place each log on the cookie sheet. 
  • Slightly press each log down the center so each log is about 2″ wide. 
  • Place in pre-heated oven. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove from oven.
  • Depending on your oven and where you live you might have to cook it less or more.
  • Reduce heat to 325 degrees.
  • Let cookies rest for 5 minutes.
  • Using a serrated knife, either cut straight, one inch wide, for bite size biscotti OR cut diagonally for a larger cookie.
  • Separate so there is breathing space between cookies. (I don’t lay the biscotti on their sides.)
  • Place back in the oven for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes
  • OPTION: Before the 2nd bake, you can brush lightly with milk and sprinkle granulated sugar. OR after the second bake, when the biscotti cools, drizzle with white or dark chocolate.

The biscotti are great to store in the freezer. They also make great gifts. Mygirlfriendshouse.com has the best cellophane self-sealing printed bags for all seasons that I use (flat, self-sealing, 6.25 x 12) and the bags are awesome for keeping the biscotti fresh and crisp!

Gluten-Free option – you can substitute APF with Pamela’s All Purpose Gluten-Free or Cup-4-Cup. I do find the consistency is not as good as the regular APF and haven’t yet found a solution.

Salute to you, Steve! Remembering your enthusiasm, laughter, and the quick OMG whisper when a famous person would come into the store!

Buon Appetito!!

 

Food & Drink

Summer Sizzle – Refreshing Drinks and Quick Appetizers!

 

A HOT summer, like the one we are having, is a perfect opportunity for an impromptu get-together! We live in a community without fences. The backyards are all open. Late afternoons we look forward to relaxing outdoors, my husband smoking his cigar while I appreciate a refreshing glass of chilled Sauv Blanc. We love when neighbors walk by and join us because a connected community is a thriving community! What is the best way to prepare for unexpected but welcomed guests?

There are a few simple food and drink staples we always have on hand. Fortunately, we have a Sam’s Club that recently opened close to our home. Like Costco, there is an abundance of refreshing beverages to choose from, nice wines, as well as prepared dips (Raspberry Chipotle Dip is incredible!!) and appetizer trays, making life summer simple!! Most local grocery stores also carry prepared foods to go. When I don’t have time to shop, I can count on basic drinks and a few ready-to-prepare food items stocked in my fridge and pantry.

Below is my inventory listing for drinks as well as simple prep and serve appetizers. Serving a variety of 2-3 work well. So far, no one has ever complained about the same drink or appetizer menu served at our home. Click Quick Summer Appetizers for some of our favorite recipes.

Drinks – Something for everyone!

  • Ice-tea or Sweet-tea
  • Bottled water and coconut water
  • 12-pack of light beer
  • Wines – Light wines are available in white, rose and reds. Here is a LINK found online listing 2017 summer wines to pair with your summer appetizers.
  • 12-pack of diet soda

Appetizers

  • HummusBush’s Hummus packets, cans of garbanzo beans and black beans. Love this! No longer am I throwing out hummus that has gone bad. We make it, as we need it!! So simple!!
  • Smoked Salmon Dip – lemon juice, cream cheese, mayo, dried Italian herb seasoning. You can serve with capers, diced red onions and mini bagels. Big hit whenever I serve this.
  • Skewers – cucumber, cherry tomatoes, fresh plain or marinated mozzarella balls, sliced prosciutto (or sliced Genoa Italian salami). Quick to pull together. Option – Put the mozzarella balls in a bowl, ditto with cherry tomatoes and roll lunch meat on a plate. Put out toothpicks and let guests help themselves!
  • Crackers with sliced cheese – I always have a few boxes of Gluten- Free crackers in the pantry and an assortment of cheeses in the fridge.
  • Tortilla Chips and jar salsa
  • Cans of artichoke hearts
  • Peanuts, cashews or pistachios
  • Brazi Bites & Tostitos Cheese Sauce

When serving and consuming alcohol, always have snacks to slow absorption. Hot weather can compound the effects of alcohol on an empty stomach causing dizziness, weakness, and mood change. The best way to keep guests safe (as well as yourself) is for snacks to be protein rich. This article found online provides an informative and wise listing anytime you are hosting a gathering. HINTS FOR SENSIBLE, MODERATE, AND RESPONSIBLE ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION AND PARTY HOSTING, Adapted from Engs, R.C. Alcohol and Other Drugs: Self Responsibility. Tichenor Publishing Company, Bloomington, IN, 1987

The best get-togethers at our home have been impromptu, when the focus is on guests and not menu or gourmet dining perfection. This means, stress, is not a barrier to a joy-filled experience. Be prepared for welcomed yet unexpected guests and stock your fridge and pantry with drinks and appetizer staples that all can enjoy. Make summer sizzle and be ready to celebrate this hot season with your friends, family and neighbors!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food & Drink

4th of July BBQ BEST!

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Are you prepared for your 4th of July BBQ best? This recipe for BBQ Beef Tenderloin sandwiches has never been shared, until now! It was created many years ago, searching for a unique school auction donation that would bring in $$$ paired with a round of golf at our local course. Well, the sandwiches became a huge hit and enjoyed throughout many school auction years. These sandwiches also became awesome bagged lunches for my husband’s corporate golf events. And, now, this unique and tasty BBQ dish can be yours!

You may already have your traditional BBQ planned for Tuesday. But, if you don’t, this hyperlinked Recipe, Beef Tenderloin and Salad with GF options will help you get there.

Beef Tenderloin

The marinade is amazing!! This recipe shows both whole tenderloin or grilling individual tenderloin rounds (filet mignon) for sandwiches.

Vegans

Recommend using large and thick Portobello mushrooms, which do not need to be marinated overnight. Reserve some of the prepared marinade to heat up as a glaze for after grilling. Prepare mushrooms 1-hour before grilling with a slight brush of olive oil and sprinkle tops with garlic and onion powder. DO NOT use salt, which dries out mushrooms.

Gluten Free

The tenderloin prepared as a sandwich requires a strong, sturdy, old-fashioned French roll. I have yet to try a gluten free option that works. You can enjoy it without bread. This LINK, however, brings you to top rated Gluten Free hamburger buns, and some that are listed look as if they could work. You will need to use GF soy sauce/Tamari to make this dish gluten-free.

The salad recipe included is an all-time-favorite from my California days. It pairs well with the BBQ Tenderloin and Portobello mushrooms.

Freedom becomes more precious to me as we prepare to celebrate 4th of July, when daily news covers a concerning international political climate that appears to worsen with each passing year. So…celebrate freedom in true American style – BBQs fired-up across our country – like a unified toast to America. Enjoy the holiday commemorating all from our historical past and those currently serving who sacrifice much to keep us free!

The next blog posting, because of the long 4th of July weekend, will be Thursday, July 6th, 2017. Have fun and be safe!

Food & Drink

Healthy & Confident… Eating with Celiac Disease

 

Grateful for all the support received on Tuesday’s posting, Medical Mayhem. The popularity of the article led to this writing, how to eat Gluten-Free (GF). If you are in pain and bloated after eating, I find ice cubes or popsicles help the discomfort along with taking Gas-X. Chamomile tea soothes once the pain begins to subside. Some people experience intense pain leading an ER visit. Gluten reactions differ so best to have a conversation about symptom management with your physician.

Dining Out & Travel

I’ve received numerous responses about challenges dining at restaurants. Strongly feel that the “gluten-free trend” has hurt more than helped those who suffer from Celiac Disease and gluten sensitivity. We have become confused with a trending population on the receiving end of eye rolling and TV satire humor, too!! How can you rise above this response when dining out?

Gluten-Free restaurant cards are available. Attached is one I have had for many years, PDF document Celiac Disease Medical Alert Cards that prints on business card stock. Mentioning “food allergy” for some reason triggers a higher level of seriousness with restaurants rather than saying “gluten-free”. When ordering you can state to the waiter “Gluten-Free for medical reasons” and hand the waiter this card, or, simply say, “Gluten-Free Food Allergy”. DO CHECK when your meal or that of your GF child is brought to the table. This past Saturday while dining out, after clearly indicating Gluten-Free for medical reasons, my salmon dinner was served with orzo on the plate!! Orzo (often used alone or in rice pilaf) is gluten/wheat pasta not rice.

GF bread is not always available at deli counters or restaurants. Sometimes I’ll bring my own bread in a plastic baggie. FYI…a Deli will put everything on a plate for you to assemble your own sandwich.

Below is a listing of online resources (hyperlinked), which includes another option for GF cards and information available in many languages to use when traveling. I have found Europe to be far more GF accommodating than the USA. The European symbol for gluten-free is known as the cross grain symbol, shown on the blog photo.

Gluten-Free at Home

What about cooking and baking at home? Being GF offers a great opportunity to cut back on carbs. At one time my diet was carb focused, but it isn’t now and I have become accustomed to this lifestyle. Below, however, is a listing of my favorite cereal, crackers and breads. Most listed are available at major grocery chains, Target, and Wal-Mart.

Breads

  • Glutino (usually in grocery store freezer)
  • B-Free Wheat & Gluten-Free (non-GMO)
  • Chebe (awesome pizza crust)
  • Canyon Bakehouse Gluten-Free Breads (awesome rye and cinnamon raisin!!)
  • Barilla Gluten-Free Pasta (BEST!!!)

Baking Breads, Cakes, and Cookies

Flour – Pamela’s All-Purpose Gluten Free Flour or Cup-4-Cup. (Already contains Xanthium gum – binding agent).

Any of your favorite baking recipes can be followed. Consider using ½ to 1 cup less flour and check the consistency of the batter or dough before adding the remaining flour, as needed. Also suggest adding one teaspoon of baking powder to the recipe to lighten the density of gluten-free breads and cakes. Practice recipes until you are happy with the result. Baking at different altitudes makes a difference so I always feel the need to tweak the amount of flour at high altitude.

Pillsbury and Betty Crocker offer great cake mixes. Check my blog Flavor Your Summer, using extracts and flavorings to add a twist of exciting flavor to your cake and cookie mixes.

Bread machine with a GF setting makes amazing bread! The machine I use at home is Zojirushi BB-PAC20.

FYI…anything pickled (including pickles!) contains gluten. Imitation crab also contains gluten and is found almost always in sushi at grocery stores and restaurants. Ditto with soy sauce. Be careful. Sometimes foods we would never consider to have gluten…DO! When purchasing vitamins (including fish oil!) check for the GF certified label. You can be mindful of meeting daily vitamin requirements through the foods you eat.

Eating Gluten-Free for Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity is far easier now than ever before. It is important, because of GF popularity, to take the lead and distinguish yourself from the trending masses by making meal prep requests clear to your restaurant waiter when dining out or host when eating at someone’s home. Consider using available GF instruction cards if you feel comfortable doing so, and check the meal when it’s served. Look for the certified GF label when grocery shopping or use a phone app to scan bar codes for GF status and GF accommodating restaurants. Gluten – Free Living is an excellent resource for current Celiac Disease news and gluten-free eating. The world isn’t over if you have a Celiac Disease diagnosis! A simple internet search brings up numerous sites about this autoimmune disease. A new world of many opportunities is yours to explore for healthy eating and confident living!

 

 

Food & Drink

Flavor Your Summer

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Get creative with your baking this summer using extracts and flavoring oils! Just because a recipe calls for Pure Vanilla shouldn’t stop you from trying something new. This summer give your favorite baking recipes a fresh twist and substitute vanilla on the ingredient list with exciting combinations!!

Need a few flavor examples you can try with your favorite sugar or butter cookies? See the listing below. You might also consider flavorings when using a box cake mix, which can spice up your easy bake cake. Add an awesome glaze for a perfect warm summer evening dessert. Other ideas? If using a Bundt pan, fill the center with fruit that compliments your cake flavor. For instance, a lemon-flavored cake would work well with blueberries in the center. A raspberry almond flavored cake would be awesome with fresh raspberries in the center drizzled with dark chocolate. Rum flavored cake would pair well with bananas, drizzled with white chocolate. Yum!! Gluten Free (GF) readers, Pillsbury and Betty Crocker have GF cake mixes that are good.

Flavoring ideas

The amount of vanilla flavoring noted on your favorite recipe apply the same quantity to the idea options (or your own flavoring ideas) noted below. Example: 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract could be ½ tablespoon lemon extract and ½ tablespoon pure almond flavoring.

  • ½ lemon and ½ pure almond
  • lemon with poppy seeds
  • ½ raspberry and ½ almond
  • ½ raspberry and ½ lemon
  • ½ rum and ½ almond
  • pure orange with a teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • ½ almond and ½ anise with a teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • pumpkin spice with a teaspoon of ground cinnamon (Great fall idea but who says you can’t have pumpkin in the summer!)

My favorite glaze on cookies or cake (Ultimate Cookie Collection – Taste of Home, page 147)

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup (At most you can add 1/8 teaspoon of the same flavoring that is already in your cookie/cake or if using a combo, choose one, i.e., raspberry and almond you might select the almond to add to the glaze.)

Combine ingredients until smooth. Place in a plastic bag, snip the bottom tip and drizzle. Let cool until the glaze hardens.

Nestle Toll House is the best chocolate chip cookie recipe for our family. Of course, I tweaked the recipe (BOLD font below) and this is how these cookies roll in our home. For Nestle’s ORIGINAL complete mix and baking instructions…LINK.

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (GLUTEN FREE OPTION – Cup-4-Cup or Pamela’s All Purpose Flour that already contains Xanthium gum)
  • 1-teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1-teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.)  NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Summer baking can be fun and delicious by recreating your favorite recipes (including winter baking bests) using off the grocery shelf extracts/flavorings for refreshing summer sweets! Enjoy!!

 

 

 

Food & Drink

Simple Summer Slow Cooking

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Slow cookers (crock-pots!) remind me of hot and savory dinner dishes served in the winter. But, why not use slow cookers in the summer??

The other day my husband asked about cooking a seasoned Tri-Tip roast, which I had purchased at Costco last week and placed in the freezer. So, I moved the Tri-Tip to thaw in the fridge. Yesterday he wondered if we could slow cook it in the crock-pot. Really?? Not BBQ?

A quick Internet search turned up a few ways to slow cook Tri-Tip, which I had to modify, not having every ingredient in the pantry. Below is my recipe. By afternoon our home had the most magnificent aroma permeating throughout. All we wanted to do is eat!! (It’s like traveling and staying in a hotel room next to an amazing bakery and by 5 AM you are wide awake and ready for breakfast, anything!!)

Slow-Cook Tri-Tip – serving for 4

  • 1 1.6 lb seasoned Tri-Tip (Costco)
  • 1 cup low fat milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 packet dried onion soup mix
  • 2 large russet potatoes thick sliced and quartered
  • 3 cups sliced portabella mushrooms (or more…optional)
  • 2 cups sliced carrots or your favorite root vegetable

I used the LOW setting and the meal cooked in 4 hours. Reminder, be sure your slow cooker is working the way it should, especially if it hasn’t been used in a while. The dinner was incredible!!!

We are excited about using the slow cooker this summer, especially as temps rise! Searched online “Summer Slow Cook Recipes” just to see what would pop up and found many recipe sites specifically for summer. WOW! Surprised! There must be a demand for this “drop and go” summer meal prep. Recommend you search and find recipes that satisfy your palate. Here are a few I found …Cooking Light LINK , Southern Living LINK  and Delish, LINK.

Some of these recipes look amazing and are perfect for summer gatherings! In fact, Friday is our first TGIF Summer Nites neighborhood get-together that I blogged about on April 25th. Timing is perfect because now I have exciting slow cook appetizers to consider and share on Friday evening. When summer days are too warm for cooking, you can look forward to a refreshing beverage, cocktail, or your favorite wine instead of standing over a hot stove or grill. Let the pot do the work! When dinnertime arrives, serve and Bon Appetit!!

Food & Drink

It’s All About The Chicken!!

 

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Everyone today seems to be BUSY, whether it’s demanding work and travel schedules, driving through horrific commute traffic, parenting children and/or assuming responsibility for aging parents while trying to fit in a social life and needed alone and family down time. Often, when dinner time arrives, my husband and I look at each other with that surprised and concerned look on our face…”dinner?”!

Moving to Colorado we discovered an awesome lifesaver in the deli section of our local grocery store…Roasted/Rotisserie Savory Shredded Chicken. As you can see from the photo, it comes in plastic containers. There are two types…deli chicken or roasted/rotisserie chicken. Read the label. You want ROASTED/ROTISSERIE. The deli chicken is a combination of chicken and “other” stuff, which you might want to avoid.

The slick idea behind these golden little containers, is all the possibilities to pull together a pretty good dinner without too much effort. What if your grocery store doesn’t carry shredded chicken in plastic containers? You can take a screen shot of the photos shown on this blog, speak to your local grocery store manager, share the idea showing the pic and suggest this would be a great way to profit by repurposing the roasted or rotisserie whole chicken that didn’t sell that day! Or…you can purchase a few rotisserie chickens, have the legs, thighs and wings for dinner one night and freeze the pulled breast meat to use when needed.

Since we discovered shredded chicken we purchase 3-4 containers at a time and freeze. When needed, even if it’s late in the day, we remove the chicken from the plastic container and place on a microwave safe plate. Using the defrost microwave setting, thaw it out to soften. Here are some of the quick dishes we enjoy.

Chicken Soup – Coarsely chop the shredded chicken and add to 2 containers of chicken broth (pantry staple), handful of roughly chopped cilantro, sliced mushrooms, chopped carrots and celery, little garlic, onion powder, dash of cayenne pepper, salt, ground pepper and bring it all to a boil until carrots soften. Add rice or pasta noodles, based on preference. It’s also awesome in chicken tortilla soup.

Chicken Salad – Chop up the chicken, add diced scallion onions, olives (optional), sliced celery, chopped parsley, dash of salt and pepper, 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard and add to your favorite bread with a tomato slice and you are good to go! Or, for a salad topping you can internet search chicken salad and your chicken is ready for any of the recipes listed. I LOVE using this chicken for Waldorf salad. Recipe LINK

Polenta Or Pasta With Chicken – Using your favorite pasta sauce, either store bought or homemade, toss in pieces of chicken and serve on top of polenta or pasta as shown in the photo. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Easy Chicken Tacos or Enchiladas – All you have to do is layer the chicken with your favorite recipe.

Enchilada Casserole – Shown in the picture with a completed layer and after being cooked, using corn tortillas, but use what works best for you.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps – Watching your carbs or simply want a tasty Asian Fusion alternative, internet search chicken lettuce wraps and whip up a tasty dinner using the shredded chicken! Texture might be different from the traditional use of chicken in this recipe. Haven’t tried this option yet, but looking forward to adding lettuce wraps to yummy ideas.

The shredded chicken offers so many uses to pull together quick dinners. Also great for toddlers to eat as is! Wonderful as a light pan sauté to serve over rice with veggies for a healthy dinner. One IMPORTANT note…do not shred and serve in your dog’s food bowl. Whether roasted or rotisserie, this chicken is made with seasonings, some of which includes BBQ sauce, onions, garlic and others that could be harmful to your dog’s digestive system. Even though the shredded chicken breast looks free of seasoning, they have cooked through the chicken.

Be creative and use the chicken with any of your favorite recipes. If your local grocer doesn’t currently offer this convenient alternative to buying a whole chicken, ask if they can. It sure is handy in our home, especially when we get an unexpected snowstorm like we did this past Wednesday and our freezer becomes a treasure chest for what we will be having for dinner!!