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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Orange Fig Cocoa Biscotti

Orange Fig Coca Biscotti 3

It was one of those rare evenings that we had no place to be and no homework to do. “Who wants to make biscotti?” I was met with a chorus of “I do!”

As little hands helped transport the ingredients via step ladders that were somehow turned into makeshift carts, we talked about how long it had been since we’d made biscotti. We’ve been busy. Perhaps too busy. We talked about how this year, our daughter’s first year in school, has been a learning experience in time management for all of us. We are looking forward to slowing things down a bit. For the first time I heard our daughter say, “I just haven’t had time to do it.”

In our culture we view time as a commodity. We can spend time, save time, and waste time. Lately we spend our time running from one activity to another, hurrying our way through the day. Lately we try to save time by dividing and conquering, trying to get an extra hour or two out of the day. Although I wrestle with the idea of wasted time, I’m not sure we’ve wasted any lately.

Time is precious. And what better to do with precious time than spend it in the kitchen with our little bakers.

A jar of fig and cocoa spread was sitting on our counter for quite some time, so we used it as our inspiration. We ran out of dark cocoa powder, so I used some regular cocoa powder. However, if you really enjoy chocolate hunt for a good quality dark cocoa powder. We used cocoa nibs in these for the same reason. While there was some debate about the figs, apparently our daughter loves them and our son refuses to try them, and some debate about adding the orange extract, we comprised (actually I just finally decided otherwise we’d be baking until midnight before an amicable agreement could have been reached) and added both. Rather than dunking these Orange Fig Cocoa Biscotti, we slathered them with fig and cocoa spread. Delicious!

As they always do, the two of them wanted to make their own biscotti. Our son wanted to make a starfish. We shaped five little balls, rolled them out, and then pieced them together in the middle.

starfish

Our daughter wanted to make a three-dimensional figure, which the rest of us immediately thought looked like a pile of dog poop. To each her own. It is her masterpiece and she is quite proud of it. However, she hasn’t eaten it yet.

poop

We have 15 days of school left. We are looking forward to a little more free time, which means more time for biscotti! And other things of course.

 

Orange Fig Cocoa Biscotti

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

¼ cup cocoa powder

2 eggs and 2 egg whites, save the egg yolks for the topping

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon orange extract

zest of 1 orange

15 dried mission figs or about 1 cup chopped

¼ cup cocoa nibs

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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 cocoa.

3.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg whites, extracts, and orange 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 figs and cocoa nibs. 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. In a small bowl, whisk together the two remaining eff yolks and brush on the top of each log. Sprinkle a generous amount of sugar on the top of each log.

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 #77: Use the ends to create a sundial to tell time.

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Indian Candy Coated Fennel Biscotti

candy coated fennel seed 4

This month marks the ten year anniversary of our Semester at Sea voyage. I worked on-board and my husband took a relaxing 4 month leave of absence from work. We circumvented the globe with over 700 college students, explored 12 ports of call, and made some amazing memories. One of the places that really touched us on our voyage was India.

While docked in India, my husband and I served as field trip leaders for 40 students on a five day tour of four cities, Chennai, Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. In those five days we traveled by ship, plane, rickshaw, elephant, train, and bus. Despite an six-hour cockroach infested train ride, water leaking on our heads from somewhere on the airplane, and many near death collisions with other vehicles as our bus speed down narrow congested roads, we managed to keep everyone together. After traveling for several days without showering, we arrived back to port only to realize that since the ship was unable to take on clean water, the water was simply shut off. We were a smelly bunch.

While we traveled, my husband kept a daily journal. His personal highlight was cutting the grass at the Taj Mahal with an ox and cart. In his journal he wrote:

“0400 wake up in Delhi. Then we took a two and a half hour train ride to Agra…I was watching two men with cows mow the grass at the Taj and I asked if I could take their picture. They did better! They let me up on the mower and I actually cut the grass for the Taj Mahal!”

While we traveled, we were also encouraged to find a “toothbrush person,” someone you would remember daily as your brush your teeth, realizing how connected you are to the world. I found my toothbrush person in India. I never spoke to her and saw her for only a second as we whizzed past in our bus. She was no older than seven and wore an over-sized brilliant sapphire dress that was dusty from the dirt road. Her hair was a wild dark black tangled mess that probably made her look half a foot taller than she really was. In her bare feet she teetered on the curb and stared inside our bus as we drove by. Her eyes were heavily outlined with dark makeup and her face did not bear a smile. There was something about her that was jolting, yet mesmerizing, and I could only imagine what her story might be.

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We loved India, the experiences, the people, and the food. While we don’t have the opportunity to experience India in the same way, we are fortunate to have some great Indian restaurants and groceries close by.

These Indian Candy Coated Fennel Biscotti were inspired by the bowl of these treats that we find at the door of most Indian restaurants. Intended to freshen your breath and cleanse your palate, these candy coated fennel seeds are the perfect combination of sweet and savory. The Sambuca adds a hint more of fennel or anise flavor to an already delightful treat.

 

Indian Candy Coated Fennel Biscotti

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar, additional for the topping

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs and 1 egg white

¼ cup Sambuca, additional for the topping

1/3 cup candy coated fennel seeds

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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, and Sambuca.

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 candy coated fennel seeds. 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.  Drizzle the top of each log with Sambuca and spread with your fingers. Sprinkle the top of each log with a healthy coating 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 #76: Find your own “biscotti being” and think of them every time you eat the ends.

 

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Hibiscus Biscotti

hibiscus 4

Have you eaten any flowers today?

On most days, we could swiftly answer “no.” But today would be a different story. While perusing the isles at our local Wegman’s, we found these candied hibiscus flowers. We were intrigued, but couldn’t be sure how they would taste. They looked like miniature scarlet jellyfish. We thought they might be good in biscotti, so we added them to the cart.

Hibiscus comes in many forms, wild hibiscus flowers in syrup for cocktails, hibiscus flower powder for baking, and dried hibiscus leaves for tea. Hibiscus are also showing up in recipes like hibiscus flower enchiladas, Moroccan mint tea and hibiscus flower granita, and strawberry hibiscus champagne jam.

These Hibiscus Biscotti were simply inspired by one gocery store find. We added a few healthy ingredients to even out the sugary coating on the hibiscus flowers and were pleasantly surprised. Our miniature jellyfish tasted fantastic dunked in some hibiscus tea.

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Since we were baking with hibiscus, we thought we’d plant a hibiscus tree this spring. The flowers are beautiful, but what we are really wondering is if we can eat them.

 

Hibiscus Biscotti 

YIELD: approximately two dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup packed light brown sugar, additional for the topping

3 tablespoons honey powder

½ cup almond meal

2 tablespoons chai seeds

3 tablespoons flaxmeal

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

zest of one lemon

½ cup roasted and salted pumpkin seeds

½ cup almonds

¾ cup chopped candied hibiscus flowers

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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, honey powder, almond meal, chai seeds, flaxmeal, baking powder, and salt.

3.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract, 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 pumpkin seeds and 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. Coat the top of each log with light brown 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 #75: Use the ends to evenly space your seeds when planting your vegetable garden.

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