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Coconut-Macadamia Nut Biscotti

It took me a long time to appreciate the flavor of vanilla. As a child, and most of my adulthood, I equated anything vanilla flavored as being plain flavored. You might have just asked me if I wanted chocolate or plain flavored ice cream. Of course I’d choose chocolate. I couldn’t fathom why anyone would pick plain.

And then there was the scent of vanilla. Vanilla candles, vanilla body washes, vanilla room spray. I just didn’t get it. What was so darn intriguing about the scent of vanilla?? At one point during my early teenage years, I joined my mom at a gathering with her girlfriends. They would meet at one or another’s house each week to watch the show Thirty-Something. They’d ooh and aah over the leading males characters and talk girl-talk. I felt shy. Then, at one point, someone took out a bottle of vanilla extract, unscrewed the top, and passed it around the room for all to smell. I’m pretty sure they told me I wouldn’t understand, when I questioned this odd ritual. I wanted to go home. From then on, vanilla was not only plain to me; it was weird too.

I avoided vanilla for most of my life. Given the choice, I’d always pick the chocolate option. And then my life was changed at the Starbucks inside my local Target. I’d stopped by to pick up a Grande Nonfat Iced Peppermint Mocha for myself, my drink of choice. For the kids, I grabbed a couple biscotti, a considerably less messy option than the giant chocolate chip cookies. I picked up one double chocolate biscotti for my oldest and a vanilla-almond for the younger. I broke off a piece of the vanilla almond for myself, since I knew the baby wouldn’t give me any slack about it.

And that’s when my world was forever changed. It was in that bite of Starbucks Vanilla Almond Biscotti that my perception of vanilla was altered. It was no longer the plain flavor. It was good. It was amazing. I must have eaten 10 of those biscotti in the first week after my earth-shattering discovery. Vanilla tastes good. Only took me 30 or so years to figure it out.

I owe many thanks to my mother-in-law for a multitude of generosity, including traveling out from Ohio yet again to watch our little men while we head down to NYC for our weekend of food and fashion fun, courtesy of Bertolli. I wanted to bake a little something as a welcome and thank you gift. After a bit of brainstorming, I decided this was as good a time as any to try my hand at vanilla biscotti. For good measure, I decided to throw in a few macadamia nuts and a handful of shredded coconut. The result was quite good. Quite cook indeed. Sweet, crunchy, and perfectly dip-worthy.

Coconut Macadamia Nut Biscotti

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 1/4 tsp Baking Powder
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 2 1/4 cups Flour
  • 1/2 cup Macadamia Nut, slightly chopped
  • 1/2 cup Shredded, Sweetened Coconut

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper. In a bowl, mix together the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, baking powder, and vanilla extract. Add in the flour, nuts and coconut. Stir to combine. The batter will be soft and sticky. Coat your hands with flour, then gather the dough from the bowl. On a well-floured surface, knead the dough a few times. Divide the dough in half. Roll each half into a log with a diameter of about 2 inches. Place the logs on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Use a serrated knife to cut 1/2 inch slices. Stand the slices up on the baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes more.

Peppermint Chocolate Chip Oreo Ice Cream

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Gotta show the ice cream maker a little love. We don’t want it to become angry again.

I asked my visiting niece what her favorite ice cream flavor was. Mint Chocolate Chip was her reply. For good measure, we decided to throw in some crumbled Oreo cookies too. Hard to go wrong with that combination!

All of the kids enjoyed mixing up this tasty batch of homemade ice cream. My niece was especially intrigued. She intently watched the ice cream churn for several minutes before finally asking when it would turn green. She was visibly disappointed when I explained that it would not be turning green. So, we added a few drops of food coloring. The ice cream turned a lovely pale green, which delighted my niece. The color was lost after we added the cookies, but by that point, the color didn’t seem to matter as much.

All of the kids enjoyed taste testing the ice cream. They were also quite willing to take care of the extra cookies. Our labrosaurus rex would’ve helped too, if given the chance.

Peppermint Chocolate Chip Oreo Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup Milk
  • 1 1/2 cup Light Cream
  • 2/3 cup Sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp Peppermint Extract
  • 1/2 cup Mini Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 10 Oreo Cookies, crushed

Directions

Combine milk and sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add cream and peppermint extract. Stir. Pour into your frozen ice cream bowl and freeze according to your machine’s directions. Once the ice cream begins to thicken, add the chocolate chips and cookies. Allow the ice cream to continue mixing in the ice cream maker until the chocolate and cookies are well blended and the ice cream is thick.

The Best Oatmeal Cookies

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One of my best friends in the whole world is getting married this weekend. I am bursting out of my skin with excitement. We met at our college orientation and became instant friends. Many memories later, I am so excited to be celebrating this happy occasion with her! It is certain to be a blast.

Her special day will bring me home to Long Island for the weekend. Bagel sandwiches, here I come! I’ve decided to bring some cookies home with me. Everyone loves to receive cookies, especially my grandparents, and I’m happy to bake them. I’m making one of my favorite cookies recipes. I could easily devour an entire batch of these and wouldn’t even regret the resulting bellyache. To me, they’re the perfect oatmeal cookie; crunchy on the edges, chewy in the center, with just a hint of noticeable saltiness. Throw out the typical raisins in exchange for chocolate chips and dried apricot and you’ve got yourself a fantastic oatmeal cookie. I’ve made these cookies many times and people are always asking for the recipe. So, here you go!

This recipe is basically an adaptation of the Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookie recipe found on the inside cover of a canister of Quaker Oats. Specifically, I increase the vanilla and cinnamon, omit the raisins, and add chocolate chips and dried apricot. I also eliminate the margarine alternative, because frankly, I don’t really understand what margarine is and it freaks me out a little. But, if you’re a fan of margarine, it is listed as an alternative in the original recipe. So, go ahead and use it. I promise I won’t judge!

Don’t feel too guilty eating all these cookies. Oats are good for you, right?? It says so on the canister.

Oatmeal Chocolate-Chip Apricot Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 2 sticks Salted Butter, softened
  • 1 cup Light Brown Sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup White Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
  • 3 cups Quaker Oats
  • 1 cup Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1/2 cup Dried Apricots, chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside. In another large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy. Add the vanilla and eggs to the butter mixture. Blend until well combined. Gradually add the flour mixture to the bowl and blend. Stir in the oats, chocolate chips, and apricots. Form into small balls, about 1 inch diameter, and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for about 14 minutes, until the edges begin to brown and the center appears cooked. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for a minute before transferring to a cooling rack.

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen


Recipe adapted from the Quaker Oats recipe for Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Father’s Day Ice Cream Pizza

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Earlier in the week, I asked my three year old if he’d like to make something special for his daddy on Father’s Day. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when his response was Ice Cream Pizza!

Here’s the version of Ice Cream Pizza we came up with…

First, we crushed vanilla wafer cookies.

To make our pizza crust, we combined 2 cups of vanilla wafer crumbs with 1 stick of melted butter. Then, we pressed the mixture into a tart pan and placed it in the refrigerator.

We softened ice cream and spread it onto the cookie crust, then placed it in the freezer.  Once frozen, we spread a layer of strawberry sundae topping on the ice cream as our pizza sauce.

We sprinkled shredded coconut cheese onto the sauce.

We topped our pizza with fudge and candy pepperoni.

Slice and enjoy!

Woolverton Inn Lemon-Almond Biscotti

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I can’t remember how I fell upon the Woolverton Inn.  It may have been during my online search for a wedding venue. I’m not exactly sure, but I do know that I fell in love with it instantly. A wedding at the Woolverton would have been beyond-words lovely.  Though we chose to have our wedding at a beautiful historic house closer to our home, I never forgot about the Woolverton Inn. Many times, I visited their website and daydreamed about spending some time there. We finally had the opportunity in September, 2006. It was our first wedding anniversary. I was newly pregnant with our first son.  We had just announced our pregnancy at a surprise birthday party for my father. We had so much to celebrate. And the Woolverton Inn couldn’t have been a more perfect place to celebrate.

The Woolverton Inn in Stockton, NJ

Set in the midst of rolling hills, along the Delaware River, the Woolverton Inn was a tranquil escape from the rush of day to day life. The main building is a beautiful 1792 stone manor house, comfortably situated on 10 acres of land. A handful of private cottages are steps away. The grounds are peppered with beautiful gardens, frog filled ponds, and large open pastures with grazing sheep.

Tranquility

We stayed in one of the cottages, the Sojourn Loft, which featured a fireplace and a second level with jacuzzi tub and hammock. The featherbed on the mattress was so amazingly comfortable, that my husband later contacted the inn to order me one as a birthday gift.  My husband got an in-room massage on the first day and we spent another day strolling around nearby New Hope.  The surrounding area is full of interesting things to do, including wine tours, antiquing, hiking, and hot-air ballooning.  The inn even offers a package, which includes a bike rental and gourmet picnic lunch. There are many wonderful dining options in the surrounding towns and breakfast at the inn is indescribable. Seriously, you have to visit this place! I’d go back in a heartbeat.

Upstairs in the Sojourn Loft

I have so many wonderful memories from our short stay at the Woolverton. But one of the things which left an indelible impression on me was the biscotti! To be honest, I have no memories of tasting biscotti before the Woolverton.  I’m not certain if it’s that I never had it before then or whether their biscotti was just so delicious that it erased any other memory. (I’m inclined to believe it is the latter.) They kept a jar full of the fresh, sweet treat in the dining room at all times. I lost count on the number of biscotti I consumed during our time there. I apologize to the other guests for taking more than my fair share. I couldn’t help it.

As I was watching my son eat a biscotti the other day, I was instantly drawn back to the Woolverton Inn. I thought about the biscotti for a few days. Then, I started looking up biscotti recipes. Finally, I decided to send the inn a message to see if they’d be willing to share their recipe with me.  And, they were!! I am very delighted to share this wonderful recipe with you!

Lemon Almond Biscotti

The Woolverton Inn’s Lemon-Almond Biscotti

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½  teaspoons lemon extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup whole blanched almonds

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Combine first 7 ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to blend.

Add the flour and almonds and stir until a dough forms.

Turn out onto floured surface and knead a few times; dough will be soft.

Divide in two and roll each into a log about 2 inches in diameter.

Transfer logs to sheet pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes. Remove and cool for 10 minutes.

Carefully cut into 1/2 inch slices with a serrated knife.

Place slices on pan and bake again for another 20 minutes.

These keep nicely in a cookie jar.

Biscotti Dough

Rolled Biscotti Log

Biscotti after first baking

Sliced biscotti

Biscotti after second baking

Watch out for sneaky babies.

A note about blanched almonds…

This recipe calls for 1 cup of whole blanched almonds. Blanched almonds are simply almonds with the skin removed. I searched online and found the same procedure for blanching almonds outlined in several places. Place shelled almonds in a bowl. Pour boiling water over the almonds.  Allow them to sit for a minute. Drain.  Rinse. Pinch the skins off with your fingers. Sounded easy enough. In actuality, it was a much more time-consuming process than I’d anticipated.  On my first attempt, the skins did not slip off at all.  I repeated the process, allowing them to sit in boiling water for another minute.  This time, some of the skins slipped off easily, others came off with a little effort, and some skins remained stubbornly in place.  I am not sure if the freshness of the shelled almonds has anything to do with it. For curiosity’s sake, I’ll probably try blanching almonds again to experiment with freshly shelled almonds and alternate procedures. But, in the mean time, most grocery stores carry blanched almonds slivers, which will work wonderfully for this recipe!

Enjoy!

Balance

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It’s all about balance.

I like to eat healthy. But, I’ve got a thing for ice cream and cookies. I like to eat clean, avoid preservatives and choose organic ingredients. But, I also enjoy the occasional Big Mac and fries. I feed my children fresh, nutritious foods.  But, they also eat candy. I cook most nights. But, we also have take-out. I spend countless hours lying on the couch watching television.  But, I also run several miles a week.

It’s all about balance.

I ate too much and ran too little this week. I am off balance.

Salad for dinner tonight.

Long run tomorrow.

The Thin Mint Predicament

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Upon waking this morning, I thought, “Man, I could really go for a Thin Mint cookie right about now.”  (Seriously, that’s the kind of stuff I wake up thinking about.) So, I strolled downstairs and opened the freezer to retrieve a cool, crisp Thin Mint cookie. But, wait! Where were my Thin Mints? Had my freezer been burgled in the night? Perhaps someone was just playing a cruel trick on a sleep-deprived mother? I couldn’t possibly have eaten all of the Thin Mints. Or had I?

Oh, no!

I had.

No, no, no! And that’s how it begins…the hunger anger reaction.  I could feel my pulse quickening.  Dizziness set in.  I rushed to the front door, threw it open and shouted, “GIRL SCOUTS!”  No response.  I tried whistling.  No response.  I tried singing, Make new friends but keep the old… My voice nervously cracked. One is silver… Nothing. And the other is gold?

No girl scouts appeared at my door.  No. Thin. Mints.

Unless…

Yes, that’s it! I could make my own.  I mean, I was a girl scout many ages ago.  I should be able to figure it out. So, I promptly threw on my old green uniform, sash and all, and decided to give it a try.

Thin Mint Cookies

Ingredients

For the Cookies:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) Butter, softened
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 tsp Peppermint Extract
  • 1 cup Flour
  • 1/2 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Salt

For the Glaze:

  • 2 cups Semisweet Chocolate Chips
  • 8 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • 1 tsp Peppermint Extract

Mise En Place

Directions

For the Cookies: Beat softened butter and sugar, until creamy. Add egg and peppermint extract and beat to combine.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, and salt.  Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture and beat until blended.

Divide the dough in half. Roll each half into a cylinder on a lightly floured surface. The cylinders should have a diameter of about 1.5 inches. Wrap each cylinder in wax paper and refrigerate for a few hours.  About 30 minutes before baking, put the wrapped dough into the freezer.

When the dough is well chilled and firm, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the cylinders into thin slices (between 1/8 inch and 1/4 inch thick).  Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 9-11 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

For the glaze: Melt 1 cup of the Chocolate Chips with 4 Tbsp of butter  and 1/2 tsp of Peppermint Extract in the microwave for about 30 seconds.  Stir.  Heat for another few seconds if necessary until smooth.  Dip both sides of each cookie into the glaze.  Put the glazed cookies on a cooling rack, set over a piece of parchment paper. Repeat with the other cup of chips and remaining butter until all cookies are glazed. Refrigerate until the glaze has completely set.

Thin Mints

Enjoy your homemade Thin Mint cookies!

** This recipe is an adaptation of the recipe found here, modified based on comments made in the recipe reviews. Initially, I chose to use a mix of semisweet chocolate and mint chips for the glaze, based on comments that the cookies weren’t minty enough.  Personally, I feel that the mint chips make  the glaze a bit too sweet. The flavor just didn’t seem right to me, so I tried the glaze again, using semisweet chocolate with a bit of peppermint extract.  Perfect!!  I edited the recipe to include the new and improved glaze.  Enjoy!

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