Saturday, February 18, 2006

Freezing Saturday Morning

I met my friends A and D Saturday morning for breakfast. We hadn't talked in months and we scheduled some time for breakfast, shopping, and catching up. It was freezing, the high temperature forecasted was 32 degrees but with the wind blowing non-stop felt much colder. I am the only one living in Virginia and they both live in Maryland, so I came up with the idea of meeting them at Ikea in Maryland, have breakfast, and then find some good deals at the store. There is always something interesting (and cheap) to buy at Ikea. We met around 10 am, I had a cinnamon roll, they had scrambled eggs and bacon. We talked for over an hour and headed to the store. I lost track of time, when we got to the register it was almost 2 pm! I bought two beautiful plants, a small orchid and a tall plant for my living room, two clear rectangular flower vases, and some kitchen accessories.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Biscotti and Cappuccino

Still snowing... After an unusually warm January, a major snow storm pounded the Washington DC area, dumping between 8 and 20 inches of snow (reported by the Washington Post).

We had Biscotti and Cappuccino for breakfast today. Both homemade by the way! Last year I bought a Coffee & Espresso Machine for Mark, he loves it. The machine also steams milk for Cappuccino, I love it. We are big coffee drinkers. Last night I made Mark's favorite kind of Biscotti, Cinnamon Biscotti, some of them plain, some half-covered with chocolate.

Making Biscotti is easier than it sounds. The Italians use the term biscotti to refer to any type of cookie. In North America, biscotti is used to describe a long, hard, twice-baked cookie with a curved top and flat bottom. Biscotti pairs perfectly with wine or coffee. Biscotti and Vin Santo are a perfect way to end a meal, either replacing the dessert of after dessert. Coffee and Biscotti are a perfect way to start your day.
Here is my recipe:

Cinnamon Biscotti

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons stick margarine, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Parchment Paper
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 lb good-quality semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 325°F.
Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture. Combine eggs, margarine, and vanilla; stir with a whisk. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead lightly 10 times. Shape dough into a 16-inch-long roll. Place roll on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; flatten to a 3/4-inch thickness. Combine 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon; sprinkle over dough.

Bake at 325°F for 30 minutes. Remove roll from baking sheet; let cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Cut roll diagonally into 24 (1/2-inch) slices. Place, cut sides down, on a baking sheet. Bake at 325°F for 10 minutes. Turn cookies over; bake an additional 10 minutes (cookies will be slightly soft in center but will harden as they cool). Remove from baking sheet; let cool completely on a wire rack.

Optional: Place chopped chocolate in a clean stainless-steel bowl set over a saucepan of very hot or gently simmering (not boiling) water. Stir frequently until melted. Dip cooled biscotti half-way in chocolate and set on parchment paper to cool and harden.

Yield: 24 biscotti

Let it snow... Let's cook!

Friday morning the weather forecast was calling for snow. I went grocery shopping after work on Friday and I got everything I needed to stay in this weekend. Strawberries were on sale, I bought 2 lbs. They are not as sweet as Summer picked strawberry but they go nicely with chocolate.

Making Chocolate Covered Strawberry is so easy, and they taste and look great. First wash the strawberries in cold water. Pat dry with paper towels. Don't remove the stems. To avoid overheating, always melt chocolate slowly over indirect heat. Place chopped semi-sweet chocolate (1 lb for 2 lbs of strawberries, my favorite is Belgium chocolate but Hershey's Milk Chocolate works too) in a stainless steel bowl over a saucepan with boiling water. Stir constantly until the chocolate is melted. Remove from the boiling water, keep stirring until chocolate cools down (between 83F-85F, if you don't have a thermometer, put a small amount on your chin, it should feel warm not hot). Hold strawberries by the stem, dip in chocolate, place in a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Put the baking sheet in the fridge for about 20 minutes. Serve at room temperature.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Super Bowl Sunday

I'm not a big futball fan but I can't deny that Super Bowl Sunday is a great day to eat junk food and relax with friends. Our friends (M and A) invited us to a party at their house. I was told I didn't need to bring anything but if I really wanted I could bring something healthy. It was the hardest assignment of all. How healthy snacks can compete with all the yummy junk food? So, I put a platter together with carrots, celery, asparagus, Winsconsin cheddar cheese, green grapes, hummus, and pita chips.

It was a big hit. We had plenty of good food but we kept our peace of mind munching on healthy foods.

We were 5 couples and each of us brought something homemade. We had a delicious chilli (honors of our host M), chicken wings, cheesecake, cupcakes, a cheesy dip (I want this recipe!), salsa, tortillas.

Again, I stayed up late. The party was so much fun, nobody wanted to leave. I came home with a big container of chilli, aparently our host made enough chilli to feed a huge crowd.

Saturday dinner in a lovely home

My husband and I had dinner with a couple of friends (C and M) on Saturday night. It was our first time visiting their home. It was lovely. We felt very welcome. We got lost going to their house, even though it was just a few miles away. We ended up coming back home and getting directions. We were 30 minutes late for dinner - how embarrassing. C made baked salmon, broccoli, pasta with prosciutto and chicken, and a very good juice - I think it was a blend of cranberry and orange - which she served in two tall pitchers, one on each side of the table. The best was still to come, for dessert she made individual size chocolate cakes with melted chocolate inside served with ice cream.
After a very good meal, the four of us, me, my husband mark, C and her husband M moved to the living room where we talked for hours. We were still sipping the delicious and refreshing juice she made. I couldn't believe it when we left, it was almost midnight.
Other highlights of their house was a very large and impressive mirror in the dining room and fresh flowers all over the house. They were very nice hosts.