Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Coconut Cardamom Macaroons

3 cups shredded unsweetened coconut (small shred)
1 cup sugar less 2 T.
1 tsp. ground cardamom
teeny pinch of salt
3 egg whites, lightly beaten w/ a fork
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Mix ingredients, drop by round Tablespoonsful onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Bake at 350° 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges.
Cool completely, then dip the bottoms in melted semi-sweet chocolate. Place on parchment sheet and place in freezer for 5 minutes to harden the chocolate.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Chinese Almond Cookies

When I was a kid, we went out to eat only once a year, to a Chinese restaurant near my father's printing shop in downtown Philadelphia. We thought that wonton soup, sweet and sour pork, and cashew chicken were rare and exotic, and we loved to watch the wontons being made in one of the booths of the restaurant near the kitchen - the workers' fingers flew so fast we couldn't believe it. After dinner we were allowed to have almond cookies from the glass case by the cash register. These cookies were dark, crunchy, sweet and full of almond flavor, with a blanched almond pressed into the center.

This is adapted from a recipe in Family Fun magazine, and they remind me of those cookies from my childhood.


1 stick of butter
1/3 cup vegetable oil plus 1 T.
1 cup sugar (or 1/2 c. ea. white and brown sugar)
2 tsp. almond extract (this sounds like a lot but that's what it takes)
1 egg
2 & 1/2 cups flour
(I have made these with gluten free flour, oat & rice, with ok results)
1/2 tsp salt
1 & 1/2 tsp baking powder

for topping:
1 egg yolk
2 tsp. water
approx. 1 cup blanched almonds, whole or half*

Using a mixer or food processor, mix the butter and sugar; then add the oil.

Add the egg and almond extract and mix until blended.

Add the flour and baking soda a little at a time, until dough forms, don't over mix.

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Using a round Tablespoon measure, or a scoop, make cookies by pressing dough into the spoon (or form a 1.5" ball with your hands).

Lay the cookies 2" apart on an ungreased or a parchment covered cookie sheet.

Put a few almonds on each cookie ball and press them in with the bottom of a glass. The cookie should now be about 1/3" thick.

Brush the cookies with 1 egg yolk mixed with 2 tsp. water. If desired, you could also sprinkle the cookies with sugar.

Bake for 12 minutes.

Cool on a rack.

*I used little "almond seeds" (sometimes also called "South" or "North" almonds) I found at an Asian market. They are tiny, with a wonderful strong almond flavor and a crunchy texture. I toasted them first on a sheet pan in the oven.
- note - heh heh, I discovered on Cook's Thesaurus on the internets that these "Chinese Almonds" are called "hang yen" and "aren't really almonds at all, but apricot kernels", and "mildly toxic if eaten raw, so they should always be roasted or blanched before using."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Impromptu Wedding Cake

I arrived Friday night to my nephew's destination wedding weekend (at a vacation rental), and they had just found out that the person who was going to bake the cake had cancelled, so the bride asked me if I would help her make the cake.

I told her I would, and I also told her that no bride should be making her own wedding cake on her wedding day, so I would do it. Yikes!

The bride, naturally, had very specific ideas about what kind of a cake she wanted: four layers, white cake flavored with lavender, lemon curd between the layers, whipped cream frosting, decorated with flowers. The couple wanted a cake topper that was "a mushroom with a leaf stuck to it" (from a poem that was part of their ceremony.) She had brought the needed ingredients and supplies with her, but there were some significant omissions, and of course I am pretty particular about what I need to cook and bake. And I refuse to serve anything that isn't wonderful.

OMG! Bake a wedding cake in a few hours, without any notice or preparation, in a strange kitchen with no control over the equipment, supplies, & ingredients needed, or ability to go to a store, for a kind of cake I have zero experience or familiarity with!! HOLY COW. THIS IS NUTS!

I got up at dawn and could not find a mixer, cake flour, baking powder, or a bunch of other things, and I was freaking out. But my niece helped me, we creamed all that butter & sugar, found some corn starch to create cake flour, found the baking powder, and whisked all those egg whites by hand. Steeped lavender in milk, made lemon curd, and beat mountains of whipped cream.

We did it! a four-layer lavender-flavored white cake, with lemon curd in between. Held the layers together with bamboo skewers (saw that on Martha Stewart once). Slathered the whole thing with vanilla whipped cream, and decorated with wildflowers. Topped it with a marshmallow mushroom with a leaf stuck to it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


I love the way the peas line up in a straight row, until you open the pod and then they separate alternately to each side:

more "what I ate"

homemade yogurt with red currants and tart red cherries:

Tiny pies:

Mushroom Meatloaf with garden veg:

Saturday, July 30, 2011

what i ate cont'd:



with garden lettuce and arugula:


Slaw with mint, rose petals, sage blossoms, red currants:

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Homemade peanut butter cups

Are dangerously easy to make!

Melt some chocolate in a heavy saucepan. I used TJ's semi-sweet callets, about 6 oz for 6 peanut butter cups. Use low heat - don't burn it! Remove from the heat as soon as it is mostly melted, then stir it off the heat to continue the melting. Add approx. 1 T butter.

Mix up some peanut butter with a little honey, about 1/2 cup PB with 1 - 2 T honey. Add a little salt. The first time I made peanut butter cups, I didn't sweeten the peanut butter, nor did I add butter to the chocolate, and they were just fine. They were great, actually. In fact, I think I prefer them with out the sweetening. But all the recipes on the internet said to sweeten the peanut butter, so I tried it this time.

I used silicone muffin cups. I was ready to get rid of my silicone muffin cups, which I had bought mostly just because they are red. I discovered that they are terrible for muffins - the muffins stick anyway, and they're a mess to clean. But they are PERFECT for making homemade peanut butter cups! Put a spoonful (about 1 T.) of melted chocolate into each cup:

Then put a spoonful of the peanut butter on top of the chocolate. Don't worry if it looks too lumpy or high - it will smooth down.

I put a little sprinkle of seasalt atop the peanut butter (for layering flavor in the mouth):

Then put the top spoonful of chocolate on and smooth it out a little:

Put the peanut butter cups in the fridge for a few hours. They will pop right out of the silicone cups, and they will look exactly like "real" peanut butter cups, only better!