Maple Walnut Biscotti with a Maple Glaze

Maple Walnut 1

The traveling circus just returned from our final road trip of the summer. We did not escape occurring any medical bills on this trip and we also lost a tooth in the parking lot of the spaceship diner in Niagara Falls, but a good time was had by all…and a few lessons learned.

1. Fresh cheese curds from gas stations are not as bad as you think.

2. Always wear shoes. (This is where the medical bills come in.)

3. If you walk in a rainbow all your wishes will come true.

4. You can purchase firewood by the armload.

5. Do not ask children if they need to use the bathroom EVERY time you see a roadside rest stop or exit with a Sheetz. (Some of us already knew this one.)

And of course there were questions posed to us along the way. One of our favorites was, “Why do you need a receipt when you pay for the food you eat? You can’t take it back.”

Along the way we also attended a shotgun wedding, complete with ceremony, first dance, first kiss, and reception. On August 16th Pink Monkey (a.k.a. Molly) married Alex. Our daughter set the date months ago and was not going to forget it. Yet we did, until my husband and I remembered the night before. So it was a last-minute scramble and we surprised her with a special stop at Sideling Hill on route 68 in western Maryland along the first leg of our road trip. The wedding cake (blueberry muffin) was purchase from the ice rink where our son played hockey that morning. The cake topper and wedding certificate were printed out and assembled the night before. The gown (scarf) and tie (metallic shoe string) were thrown in the car at the last-minute. Vows were exchanged amid the sounds from the freeway below and the two are now officially married and sure to live happily ever after.

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On our trip we stayed with family and friends in Pennsylvania and spent time in Canada, which as many of you probably know is well-known for maple flavored EVERYTHING! As we drove south on the QEW from Toronto to Niagara Falls, we saw signs for a distillery. A vacation can’t be all about the kids, right? So we thought we’d check out the tour, which apparently ended only 30 minutes before we walked in the door. But we did leave with some whiskey and maple liqueur, which is perfect for spicing up your coffee and dunking your biscotti.

Maple Walnut Biscotti with a Maple Glaze

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

½ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 eggs, plus one for the brushing on the logs

2 teaspoons maple extract

1 ½ cups walnuts, roasted and roughly chopped

Icing

¼ cup powdered sugar

3 tablespoons maple syrup

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1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

2.  In a large flat-bottomed bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, baking powder, and salt.

3.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs and maple extract.

4.  With a rubber spatula, stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until the dough just starts to come together.  Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough in the bowl until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is tacky.

5.  Add the walnuts. Knead the dough until incorporated, about 10 – 20 times.

6.  Separate the dough into thirds.  Form three logs, approximately 2 inches wide and 1 inch high on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Leave several inches between the logs, the dough will spread as it bakes.

7.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the tops begin to crack or split.  Transfer logs to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

8.  Transfer biscotti logs to a cutting board.  Slice the biscotti on a diagonal and place cut side down on the same parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for an additional 20 minutes, turning the biscotti once halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

9. To make the icing, combine the powdered sugar and maple syrup. Drizzle over the cooled biscotti with a spoon.

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What to do with the ends #81: Crumble and throw the ends at your next roadside wedding instead of rice.

 

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Amaretto Almond Biscotti

amaretto 7

“Mom, what are butt boosting jeans?” The first of many questions that our kids asked me as we found ourselves lost in the Bronx. There were countless others that followed throughout our time in New York.

“Why does she have ‘I heart NY’ on her butt?”

“How does he get his hair to stick straight up like that?”

And perhaps my favorite I overheard in the back seat. ”WOW! Look at that cool playground.” To which our daughter replied, “Buddy, that’s not a playground. That’s a fire escape.”

These little conversations are important ones, the ones we’ll remember and laugh at for years to come. I often find myself wishing I carried a tape recorder or wrote down their words more often than I do.  Yet, seeing things or a place through a child’s eye makes me realize how much of our understanding of the world we take for granted.

We posed for pictures in Grand Central Station, saw the Statue of Liberty from Battery Park, rode the Staten Island Ferry, browsed the books at The Strand, grazed the food trucks parked on Union Square, and spent plenty of time on the subway, which also provided plenty of opportunities for questions.

“What if someone gets sick on the subway? Do they have doctor’s down here?”

“What if I fall through that hole?”

And after hearing the public announcement about reporting sexual assaults witnessed or experienced on the train, our daughter turns to me and asks, “What’s an assault?”  The women next to me, who had been listening to their barrage of questions, smiled and says,” I want to hear you explain that one.”

So I explained that assault is very similar to being bullied. If you see someone being bullied or see someone getting hurt, you should always tell an adult. The same thing is true on the train.

The women next to me smiled again and offered up a “very well done,” which gave me a boost of confidence to get through the remainder of the day and know that I could safely return us to our beds that night, unscathed but with stories to tell. Now that I’d answered those questions, I only had to worry about getting us all off the train without one of them dropping through that little hole between the train and the platform that they each found so fascinating.

The little things like the silly putty that our friends gave us during our visit (thanks Patrick!), which kept the kids occupied for hours but are now a petri dish for every conceivable germ known to man, or our new favorite road tripping song, “Say Hey (I Love you)” by Michael Franti & Spearhead, which our son is still singing to himself, surely made the trip memorable.

The little things are important. Little things like almonds for example. Have I mentioned I love almonds? They are my comfort food of sorts. So after a long few days on the road, I was happy to find myself alone in the kitchen and whipped up one of my favorite combinations, Amaretto Almond Biscotti. It’s a classic combination and won’t disappoint!

Amaretto Almond Biscotti

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs and 1 egg white

1 teaspoon almond extract

½ cup Amaretto

½ cup whole almonds

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1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

2.  In a large flat bottomed bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

3.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg white, almond extract, and Amaretto.

4.  With a rubber spatula, stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until the dough just starts to come together.  Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough in the bowl until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is tacky.

5.  Add the almonds. Knead the dough until incorporated, about 10 – 20 times.

6.  Separate the dough in half.  Form two logs, approximately 3 inches wide and 1 inch high on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Leave several inches between the logs, the dough will spread as it bakes.

7.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops begin to crack or split.  Transfer logs to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

8.  Transfer biscotti logs to a cutting board.  Slice the biscotti on a diagonal and place cut side down on the same parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for an additional 20 minutes, turning the biscotti once halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

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What to do with the ends #80: Pretend the ends are microphones while singing along on your next roadtrip.

 

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And we have a winner!

It’s that time of year again…the county fair.

We spent days talking about what each of the kids wanted to enter. Our son started with a cake, then was certain he wanted to enter biscotti, before finally settling on cookies. Our daughter wanted to enter fudge, but decided on brownies.

I was going to submit biscotti. I couldn’t decide what kind. My husband said to pick something I’ve made before that I know is good. Probably sage advice, but I didn’t follow it. As I looked at the Biscotti Bin, I noticed quite a few orange flavored items I’ve been waiting to try. I settled on Orange Pistachio Biscotti.

So early Saturday morning my daughter, my son, and I got a glimpse of the county fair before the gates even opened as we submitted our baked goods to be evaluated. They were equally exited about the rides…the yo-yo or those swings that make me dizzy just by looking at them, the freefall ride that I’ve always associated with the Demon Drop at Cedar Point in Ohio which I’ve never ridden only wondered how crazy you had to be to get on it, and the ferris wheel, which exacerbates my very slight fear of heights.  Anyone who knows me knows I despise amusement parks.

We returned to the fair Sunday to check out the livestock, tractors, and of course find out if any of us had ribbons on our entries. We had the “we are all winners” conversation as we got out of the car and walked through the gates. And we had the “it doesn’t matter if we win or not, we had fun doing it” conversation. Yet, all our son kept saying was “I hope I won the fair!” I have to admit I was a bit nervous walking into the building that housed all the baked goods, not quite sure how all of this was going to play out.

We came across the “ethnic cookie” category first. I shared with you the outcome of my county fair entry last year. This year was perhaps even more comical. I again entered my biscotti in the “ethnic cookie” category. No ribbon. Not earth shattering and I realized I set a good precedence for whatever was to come as a result of our kids entries. While I got a hug from our daughter and an “it’s okay mom.” I was somewhat relieved and curious at the same time. As I looked at the other four entries, I realized each of them had gotten a ribbon. My biscotti came in last place. But the best part is that someone’s Italian Oatmeal Biscotti actually won first prize! My husband and I were laughing so hard we could barely read the tags to find the kids’ entries.

We found our daughter’s brownie container. No ribbon.

Then we found our son’s cookie container. A blue first place ribbon was attached to the top. I’ve never seen him more excited! Out of all the 5-11 year old entries in the “hand-formed cookie” category, he won first place. We congratulated him, took pictures, and shared a round of hugs.

He made these cookies all by himself. While I told him what to do, he got out the ingredients, measured, mixed, and hand-rolled each cookie. He whisked the frosting, dipped the cookies, and gave each a healthy sprinkle of nonpareils. Way to go my man!

We picked up our boxes and walked to the exit, only to be stopped by the baked good police who were shouting at us as if we were trying to smuggle a newborn out of the maternity ward. Apparently all entries need to remain at the fair until the final day. Who knew!

We quietly replaced the boxes and explained to a rather frustrated little guy that he had to wait to take the ribbon home. We promised to find a prominent place in the kitchen for him to display his award…when we finally get to bring it home. He is my big kitchen helper.

Rocco Ribbon

While I could share my recipe for my entry, Orange Pistachio Biscotti, the real show stopper is our son’s Lemon Ricotta Cookies. We make these during the holidays and although there are several steps involved, they are perfect cookies for little hands. There are plenty of recipes for ricotta cookies online and in Italian cookbooks. The cookie recipes are relatively the same, but the frosting recipes can vary greatly. We used a family recipe that has been handed down through the generations and wanted to share it with you here.  

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

½ pound of butter, softened

2 cups granulated sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 pound ricotta cheese

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

zest of 1 lemon

4 ½ cups of all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

nonpareils

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1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugar, and salt.

3. Add the eggs, ricotta cheese, and lemon zest.

4. In another large bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, and baking powder.

5. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.

6. Dip your hands into a bowl of cold water and shape small, no bigger than golf-ball sized balls, and place on parchment lined cookie sheets.

7. Bake for 10 minutes of until the edges are lightly browned. Let the cookies cool completely.

8. Dip the dome of each cookie upside-down into the frosting, and let all of the extra frosting drizzle off.

9. Immediately sprinkle each cookie with nonpareils.

Frosting

5 tablespoons milk

1 ½ cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon almond extract

1. Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.

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Lemon Dill Biscotti with Almonds

lemon dill 3

A work in progress. That is how I often describe us and the myriad of unfinished projects we have around the house. Whether it’s a home improvement project, a decorating project, or some kind of craft project, you can generally find us in the middle of something. We are either contemplating how to finish it, evaluating our options, or debating how it should be done.

There is one project that our daughter has been “reminding” me we have not finished and questioning exactly when we are going to get to it.

For the last month my sewing machine has been taunting me from our dining room table. I’m not a sewer.

My mother taught both my brother and I the basics of how to sew and read a pattern while we each made our names out of letter pillows. Although I can’t remember what fabric I used, I remembered I loved them. After I got married my mother bought me a sewing machine. I’ve taken it out of the box now and again over the years, but it is generally an exercise in frustration. The bobbin doesn’t wind properly, the needle breaks, or the tension is off.

Last summer I told our daughter we could make aprons. I took her to the fabric store and we found a “Sew Easy” pattern (that is a misnomer…there is nothing easy about it), picked out fabric, and some ribbons for embellishments. We took our supplies home, cut out the patterns pieces, and dug out the sewing machine from it’s box in the basement. And there it sat, mocking me like a schoolyard bully every time I walked past it. When I was finally determined to start sewing, the tension was off and I couldn’t fix it. I promised our daughter that I would get to it.

But eventually the sewing machine made it’s way back into the box in the basement. The patterns and fabric made it’s way into a plastic bag that was stowed in the box with the sewing machine. And for a while it was all forgotten.

For a while she was distracted by other projects and goings on. But soon again the “reminders” to finished the apron surfaced and after a year I realized that if we didn’t get her done, it would probably be too small for her when he did. So this past weekend, I finished it.

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And while she loves it, I know that the stitches aren’t even. If you look closely you’ll find plenty of mistakes and lose strings. I didn’t follow the pattern exactly. I basted when I should have hemmed. I folded instead of surged. But overall, it at least looks like an apron. I make everything with a bit of “character” as I like to call it. Nothing ever comes out perfectly. It is a sign that it has been handmade…at least that it what I tell myself.

In order to commensurate the completion of such a monumental task, our daughter suggested we make biscotti. She desperately wanted to wear her smock, as she calls it. So, we decided on Lemon Dill Biscotti with Almonds. The dill is from our garden. We left it out to dry on the counter overnight before adding it. We used an Asian lemon oil, which would also work well with basil rather than dill if you prefer one over the other.

As we were mixing and kneading, our daughter looked down at her apron and then up at me. “Can I get it dirty?” she asked. I laughed. “Of course. That is the sign of a good cook!” I think it will be used a lot.

The pattern was for matching aprons. Luckily she hasn’t asked yet when I am going to finish mine.

Lemon Dill Biscotti with Almonds

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for the topping

1 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 heaping tablespoon chopped dried dill

2 eggs and 2 egg whites

1 teaspoon lemon oil

zest of one lemon

½ cup roasted and salted almonds, chopped

lemoncello

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1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

2.  In a large flat-bottomed bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and dill.

3.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg whites, lemon oil, and lemon zest.

4.  With a rubber spatula, stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until the dough just starts to come together.  Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough in the bowl until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is tacky.

5.  Add the almonds. Sprinkle your hands with lemoncello and knead the dough until incorporated, about 10 – 20 times.

6.  Separate the dough in thirds.  Form three logs, approximately 2 inches wide and 1 inch high on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Leave several inches between the logs, the dough will spread as it bakes.

7.  Sprinkle to top of each log with a generous helping of sugar.

8.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops begin to crack or split.  Transfer logs to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

9.  Transfer biscotti logs to a cutting board.  Slice the biscotti on a diagonal and place cut side down on the same parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for an additional 20 minutes, turning the biscotti once halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

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What to do with the ends #79: Use the ends to help hold your fabric in place on your next sewing project.

 

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Spree-ilicious Biscotti

Spree 1

I affectionately refer to us as the traveling circus, you never quite know what you are going to get. Our kids are usually ready to pack a bag and pile in the car at a moments notice. We love a good road trip and boy do we seem to have the stories to go with them.

I’ve always loved hitting the road. On college road trips I developed a love of Sprees. Those round brightly colored little disks of sugar made me over the top happy or at least set me off on a sugar high. It’s hilarious what can transpire in a car with four people who have been in close proximity for way too long, so it’s hard to tell sometimes if it’s the candy or the company, or a combination of both. I don’t enjoy the newfangled chewy kind, but the old school hard almost chalky kind you find in the long slim silver wrapped package at most convenience stores. I would always try to pace myself so I didn’t eat the entire sleeve at one time, but it hardly ever worked. 

Later in life, when my husband and I hit the road to visit family or head to the beach, I still craved Sprees. I was often taunted about my obsession. Yet when sent in for snacks, on the rare occasion that I didn’t actually need to use the restroom, my husband knew my weakness and would always walk out the doors with a smile on his face and a sleeve of Sprees in his hand. 

My tastes haven’t changed and although I don’t indulge in them much, and when I do I now have to share, I get giddy when I find them in the store.

We have a tradition of going to the beach for a week in the spring, before the masses hit the beaches, it gets too hot, and it gets too expensive. We’ve gone to the beach every year except one.

One year, when I was seven months pregnant with our son and our daughter was a toddler (a potty training toddler), we decided that rather take a her to the beach (we envisioned disaster) we should drive through the state of Tennessee…Knoxville, Nashville, and Memphis. So you have a toddler that figured out if she said she had to use the bathroom, we would stop immediately. She was telling us every 15 minutes she had to pee, a game neither my husband or I found particularly funny. We eventually didn’t know when to believe her or not.  And then there was a seven month pregnant women who really did have to pee every 15 minutes and was just praying on those long stretches of empty highway that she wouldn’t go into labor and deliver her child on the side of the road by herself, since her husband faints at the site of blood. And a driver who was reexamining our idea of a vacation. In fact I think his last words were, “Next year we aren’t going anywhere. We are putting a tent up in the backyard!” Overall it was a very memorable trip. We drove through the Smokey Mountains. We ate some great BBQ. And, we stood on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. However, pink monkey was dragged by the stroller through the mud on the bank of the Mississippi River, which required us to promptly locate a laundromat. We stayed in a shady hotel along the way and saw some shady stuff, but made it back on one piece with some great stories.

Over the years we had some wildly entertaining times on the road and a series of rather unfortunate events as well, from ambulances, hospital stays, vomit in purses, and speeding tickets that cost more than our hotel room. Yet they all make for good stories. This year our trip to Myrtle Beach was no different. As we were packing up on the last night, a hail storm like we’ve never seen before, with hail the size of baseballs, severely dinged up our car, which has been held hostage for four weeks now by the collision company.

Sprees are hard colorful candies made by the Willy Wonka Candy Company, which produces a large selection of widely distributed sweet treats. Yet, I had a hard time finding Sprees. After searching two big box stores and several grocery stores, my husband found them on a recent road trip to Richmond at a Sheetz, which is like mecca for my husband. Every time we drive through Breezewood on the way to see our families in western Pennsylvania, we stop at the Sheetz. I’ve recently found out we even have a frequent buyer card of some sort! It is like a cult following. I’ve also been told they have the best hot dogs in the world.

While one of our little bakers can usually use a meat tenderizer to pulverize any ingredients safely tucked inside a plastic storage bag, we found that the only way to get the finely ground consistency we were looking for was with a food processor. You might want to cover with a damp kitchen towel when you grind them in the food processor because they create quite a large bit of dust, which we found out the hard way. But we wanted to be sure those sweet fruit flavors were in every bite. And in case you were wondering, the red is cherry, orange is of course orange, yellow is lemon, green is apple (although I don’t get that at all!), and purple is grape.

Although a young baker suggested that we grind up the other package of Sprees and mix them with some whipped topping to dip the biscotti in, we couldn’t resist just eating them. But we will most certainly try that next time!

Spree 4 Spree 3

Spree-ilicious Biscotti

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

¾ cup crushed hard Spree candies or a 5 ounce box (You’ve got to go old school and stick with the hard candies, not the chewy ones!)

2 eggs and 1 egg white

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

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1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

2.  In a large flat-bottomed bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and Sprees.

3.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg white, and vanilla extract.

4.  With a rubber spatula, stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until the dough just starts to come together.  Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough in the bowl until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is tacky.

5.  Separate the dough in half.  Form two logs, approximately 3 inches wide and 1 inch high on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Leave several inches between the logs, the dough will spread as it bakes.

6.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops begin to crack or split.  Transfer logs to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

7.  Transfer biscotti logs to a cutting board.  Slice the biscotti on a diagonal and place cut side down on the same parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for an additional 20 minutes, turning the biscotti once halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

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What to do with the ends #78: Write the number “1″ on one side and the number “2″ on the other. Use the end on your next road trip as you would a coin for heads or tails, to solve any disputes emanating loudly from the backseat…like which CD to listen to for the 32nd time, whose turn it is to use the tiny computer, or whose pink money gets to be strapped into the middle seat. I’m sure you get the idea.

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