Tag Archives: children

Hazelnut Tea Cookies

Sometimes you just need a little something sweet.  Friends or neighbors stopping by?  Late night and no dessert in the house?  Feels like a milk-and-cookies afternoon?  These cookies have you covered.  They’re quick to make, but try to let them cool for a few minutes after they come out of the oven.  You’ll be rewarded with a crispy edge to contrast with the rich, chewy, nut-studded center.

You can choose to add a bit of chopped bittersweet chocolate to this dough, of course.  And chocolate is always good in chocolate’s own way, but omitting the chocolate really lets the hazelnut flavor shine.  Or–go crazy–make them with another nut, your favorite.  (What IS your favorite?  I have a hard time deciding.)  Whatever you choose, you’ll want to use good nuts here, so taste them before you buy them if possible.  Here in Seattle, I buy Holmquist Orchards Dry Roasted Hazelnuts at my farmers’ market.  They’re also available at the Pike Place Market (every day except Tuesdays) and by mail.

Continue reading Hazelnut Tea Cookies (click for recipe)

Savory Bread Pudding with Peppers, Mushrooms, Chard, and Feta

I love savory bread puddings for so many reasons.  This one is packed full of vegetables and has all four food groups in one baking dish (you know how I love a casserole).  You can make it ahead of time and have it cooling on your stovetop when your brunch guests arrive.  The texture contrast between the crisp browned top and the savory custard within is lovely.  And it’s a thrifty way to use up bread that’s past its prime.  Actually, let’s just call that bread that’s in its bread pudding prime.

This is not a terribly pudding-y bread pudding.  It’s hearty fare, not a delicately quivering cream custard (those make good bread puddings too, but you’ll need a different recipe for that).  As always, you can vary the ingredients here, but I think the essential thing is to make sure that the eggs and vegetables are well-seasoned with salt and pepper and/or herbs, since a plain bread adds more texture than flavor to the finished dish.  (Or you can use your leftover beer bread, as I did, or another strongly-flavored bread, in which case it adds a flavor of its own.) Continue reading Savory Bread Pudding (click for recipe)

How to Cook White Beans

Having already discussed the many reasons to cook your own dried beans (they’re tasty, healthy, and inexpensive) and how easy it is, I won’t go into that again here.  What I will say is this: although you can further embellish these beans or use them in other recipes, these basic white beans are so good that I also like to just serve them with a spoon.  They are gently aromatic, tender, wholesome, and delicious.

You can cook any white beans following this recipe. Cannellini beans, flageolets, Great Northerns, navy beans, even chickpeas.  Larger beans will take longer to cook, that’s all. Continue reading How to Cook White Beans (click for recipe)

Brown Rice Pudding with Golden Raisins

The other day I came across this list of common cooking mistakes, several of which apply specifically to healthy cooking techniques.  Guess which ones I make?  I’ll give you a clue: most of them have to do with trying to speed through the cooking process when a bit of patience is warranted.  Like here.  See tip No. 7: overheating milk can cause it to curdle.  So take it slow when you make this rice pudding.  Or use cream.

And in another classic do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do move, I’m going to advise you to reheat any leftovers of this dish gently for breakfast, thinning with a little milk if necessary. But then I will admit to you that I couldn’t wait and just scooped a bowl cold from the fridge, and that wasn’t half bad either. Continue reading Brown Rice Pudding with Golden Raisins (click for recipe)

Easy Beer Bread with Sweet and Savory Variations

I don’t want to get too personal here, but I have something to admit: if I had to pick only beer or wine to drink for the rest of my life, I think I’d pick beer.  So beer bread appeals to me for its flavor and slight bitterness–prominent at first, but barely there once it’s toasted and slathered in butter and honey–as well as for the seasonal fact that you may find yourself with a stray can of Guinness in the back of your fridge after St. Patrick’s Day is gone.  And a stout makes a very nice beer bread, especially with a few embellishments that we’ll discuss below.

I first learned of beer bread from a fellow preschool mom, who said she made it all the time with her kids by mixing 3 ingredients right in the bread pan before popping it in the oven (3 c. self-rising flour, 1/4 c. sugar, 12 oz. beer, in case you’re wondering–but it’s still only 5 ingredients if you add the baking powder and salt to the flour by yourself).  So you see why that appealed to me–one minute to make the bread plus 45 to bake it means you go from the idea to the reality of of a crusty, piping-hot homemade loaf in 46 minutes.  Genius.I’ve made a few refinements since then, like mixing the batter in a separate bowl because it’s easier to incorporate all the flour.  And I’ve experimented with different beers (each lends its own flavor, so keep that in mind; an IPA is pretty hoppy while a wheat beer, lager or stout can be milder).  And I wouldn’t feed a whole loaf to the preschool set, because contrary to popular belief, the USDA says that alcohol doesn’t evaporate entirely when cooked or baked.

One of the beautiful things about baking your own bread is that you can add any savory or sweet flavors you like.  Herbs, onions, garlic, cheese.  Orange zest, honey, dried fruit, chocolate.  Of the five loaves I made this week, my two favorites were both made with stout beer.  One was savory, with sharp cheddar cheese and dill.  The other was sweet, with chocolate chunks and vanilla.  These variations are included below, but feel free to tinker with the basic recipe to your heart’s content.

Continue reading Easy Beer Bread with Sweet and Savory Variations (click for recipe)

Granola with Pistachios, Dried Apricots, and Cardamom

Today I had a now-rare opportunity to visit my old life.  A meeting on a high-up floor of a downtown law firm with views across the city.  A conference table, a catered lunch, a laptop open in front of me, moving through bullet points on an agenda.  I was there for a good cause, a volunteer gig for an organization I love, and with some right smart and good-hearted women, but still…I was glad to leave.  I miss a some things about working (adult conversation! feeling competent! having a secretary!), and I will be glad to do it again when the time is right.  But today I just wanted to get home, snuggle my family, and make granola.

The NY Times article that accompanied this recipe was the first I ever read about making granola with olive oil.  The article is dated 2009 so, yeah, I’ve been meaning to try it for a while.  I made another olive oil granola recently that I loved, and this one was great as well.  This is a sweet granola, and you can reduce the sugar a bit if you like, but I think it’s pretty great stirred into a bowl of yogurt as is. Continue reading Granola with Pistachios, Dried Apricots, and Cardamom (click for recipe)

Vegetarian Black Bean Tacos

This might have been my favorite meal growing up. We inventively called it “Tortillas, Cheese, and Beans.”  If the tortilla was a big flour tortilla, we rolled it up and you might have recognized the dish as a “burrito.”  If the tortillas were smaller corn tortillas, we folded them into what are commonly known as “tacos.”  But we called any variation “Tortillas, Cheese, and Beans.”  And in this era of Korean-Hawaiian-Fusion-Tacos, perhaps that clarity is helpful.  Call it what you will, if you have some seasoned black beans around, this meal can be on the table in a few minutes.  And if you don’t, a can of refried beans will take you back to my childhood.

Continue reading Vegetarian Black Bean Tacos (click for recipe)

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

First off, before we go any further, I want you to know that I do not delude myself into thinking that a sugar-filled, buttery, chocolate-laden cookie becomes health food when I make it with whole wheat flour.  And I will also tell you something else: these cookies are good.  The whole wheat flour gives them a nutty flavor and deep color.  The butter gives them a crispy edge.  And the chocolate chips anchor them firmly in the realm of kid-friendly cookies.

I had never made a bar cookie before tonight but I think they have won my heart.  No rolling, no cutting, no shaping, no scooping, no baking of multiple batches because I had to spread the cookies out on multiple cookie sheets.  This is pure, streamlined cookie production.  The only downside is that the bars in the middle of the pan don’t have a crisp edge, so if you are an edge person you may want to take that into consideration and shape cookies instead.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars: In a medium bowl, combine 3 c. whole wheat flour (I used Nash’s soft white whole wheat flour, but I have also used regular whole wheat flour, which comes out tasting a little whole-wheat-ier; I like both), 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. baking soda, and 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt.  In a mixer, combine 2 sticks cold butter cut into 1/2 inch pieces with 1 c. dark brown sugar and 3/4 c. granulated sugar* and mix on low speed for a minute or two to integrate the butter and sugar.  Mix in two eggs and 2 tsp. vanilla, then add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Mix in a cup and a half of semisweet chocolate chips (or 8 oz. chopped bittersweet chocolate, see below).  Butter a large rimmed baking sheet (mine is 12×17) and spread the dough evenly across it.  Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes until the center is just set.  Remove from oven and allow the tray to cool completely, then cut the cookies into bars.

*The original recipe, from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain cookbook, calls for 1 c. granulated sugar and bittersweet instead of semisweet chocolate.  I used what I had, but if you have bittersweet chocolate I think it would be great, and you might choose to use the larger measure of sugar with it.

If you prefer to have a few freshly-baked cookies at a time, I’ve had good luck rolling the dough into balls and freezing them on a tray, then moving them to a freezer bag once they are frozen solid.  Bake them without defrosting; it will take a minute or two longer than usual.

French Toast with Vanilla and Orange Zest

I hope that you have some loaves of challah in the oven or the bread box, because you are going to want to make this French toast this weekend.  Lots of the recipes I have posted here are old favorites, but this one is a new favorite.  It’s Ina Garten’s recipe but Sonia made it for me recently, and then I made it again, and frankly, it’s the reason we’ll be baking challah again tomorrow.

Vanilla.  Orange Zest.  Crisp, buttery edges.  Custardy centers.   A drizzle of pure maple syrup, a tumble of fruit, a steaming mug of coffee.  Weekend mornings don’t get better than this.

French Toast with Vanilla and Orange Zest:  In a wide bowl or pan, whisk 6 eggs with 1 1/2 c. milk, 1 Tb. honey, 1/2 tsp. vanilla, 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, and the zest of one orange.  Soak 3/4 inch slices of challah for 5 minutes, turning once.  Cook in plenty of butter over medium heat until nicely browned on each side (meanwhile, get the next batch of bread soaking in the egg mixture).  Transfer to a 250 degree oven while you cook the remaining slices.  Serve with maple syrup and fruit.

Baking Challah

I always like to bake  bread, but I have to admit that I have special enthusiasm for the project when it’s my three year old who looks at me brightly on a Friday morning and suggests, “Mama, let’s make challah!” Yes, let’s.

I use Claudia Roden’s recipe from The Book of Jewish Food, which I like best of the challah (or “hallah”) recipes I’ve tried. The recipe as written makes four huge loaves, which seems perfectly reasonable once we devour one warm from the oven, set one or two aside to make weekend French toast, and are left with one to eat for the next week’s toast or, more generously, to give away.

Four loaves of Challah: Dissolve 2 Tbsp. dry yeast in 2 1/4 c. warm water with 1 tsp. sugar and set aside 10 minutes, or until it bubbles up.  In your biggest bowl, beat 4 eggs, then add 1 Tbsp. salt, 1/2 c. sugar, and 1/2 c. vegetable oil and beat again.  Then add the yeast mixture and beat one more time.  Gradually add enough flour for the dough to come together, 9-10 cups in all, first mixing in your bowl and then turning out on a floured surface and kneading.  Knead for about 15 minutes, having your three-year-old sprinkle the counter and dough with more flour as needed to keep the dough from getting sticky.  Stop adding flour when the dough becomes un-sticky and smooth and very enjoyable to knead.  Oil your bowl and replace the dough ball, flipping once so both sides are oiled, then cover bowl and set aside to rise for 2-3 hours, until doubled.  Punch down and knead again, then divide into 4 sections (each will become a loaf).  If you’d like to add raisins to some of your loaves, knead in a few handfuls now.  Next, shape the loaves: you can braid them (make three ropes, set them side by side, then braid outward in each direction from the middle), or you can make a round challah by rolling out a long rope and spiraling it around itself like a snail.  Move loaves to well-oiled baking sheets and leave to rise for 1 more hour, until they have doubled again.  Brush loaves gently with a bit of beaten egg, sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds (or cinnamon sugar!) if you like, and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes until well-browned and hollow-sounding when you tap the bottoms of the loaves.