Lenox Almond Biscotti


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If you're like me, you drink a lot more hot beverages when it's cold outside than when it's warm, and you also like the occasional sweet treat with your beverage.  I have made these almond biscotti twice now, and each time I made them around Christmas and gave some as presents.  They make great homemade gifts, and are ideal for any time you have a cup of coffee or tea in hand.  In fact, I'd love to have one right now.

Because the biscotti have almond extract in them, they tend to taste sweeter- I'd say make them as suggested first and adjust the recipe accordingly.  The pungency of almond is nicely counterbalanced with the cornmeal, giving the biscotti a really interesting and crumbly texture.  The recipe also makes a good number of biscotti- an entire baking pan full, so you'll have plenty to eat and plenty to share!  They keep wrapped up and at room temp. about a week.  I have never frozen them because they never last that long.

This recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan's book Baking: From My Home To Yours, and I was unbelieveably lucky to find it at Ross for $10 several years back.  You can of course find it online or in book stores, and if you like to bake, I'd highly recommend this book!

Lenox Almond Biscotti
from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home To Yours

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
3/4 cup sliced almonds, blanched or unblanched

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add the cornmeal and whisk again to blend.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed for 3 minutes, until very smooth. Add the eggs and continue to beat, scraping down the bowl as needed, for another 2 minutes, or until the mixture is light, smooth and creamy. Beat in the almond extract. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. You'll have a soft, stick-to-your-fingers dough that will ball up around the paddle or beaters. Scrape down the paddle and bowl, toss in the almonds and mix just to blend.

Scrape half the dough onto one side of the baking sheet. Using your fingers and a rubber spatula or scraper, work the dough into a log about 12 inches long and 1 1¿2 inches wide. The log will be more rectangular than domed, and bumpy, rough and uneven. Form a second log with the remaining dough on the other side of the baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until the logs are lightly golden but still soft and springy to the touch.

Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and cool the logs on the baking sheet for 30 minutes.

If you turned off the oven, bring it back up to 350 degrees F.

Using a wide metal spatula, transfer the logs to a cutting board and, with a long serrated knife, trim the ends and cut the logs into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Return the slices to the baking sheet — this time standing them up like a marching band — and slide the sheet back into the oven.

Bake the biscotti for another 15 minutes, or until they are golden and firm. Transfer them to racks and cool to room temperature.


  • I have only ever made two biscotti recipes, but numerous cookie recipes, and this is the wettest, stickiest dough yet.  You're not doing anything wrong if it almost feels like thick muffin batter.
  • Bread knives work great for slicing the biscotti.
  • I used stone ground, yellow corn meal from House Autry, available at my local Wal-Mart.

Quinoa and Kale Cakes


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Our recipe collection at the Givens house is pretty varied- you've got the all-out, no good for any part of you except your soul sweets and the salads, all in one place.  Today's post is on the healthier end of things.  They're vegetarian, but not vegan, and if you're looking to vary your vegetarian offerings, here's one for you.

When I first made and tried them, I didn't think they'd make it to a post, because they weren't that good, but something happened when they sat around for a few minutes and we ate them topped with avocado and salsa.  They were good.  Really good.  Four of us ate every last cake.  They're easy and come together farily quickly, and they're also affordable.  You'd be hard pressed to find many "not affordable" options on this site.  Ain't nobody got time for that. 

Due to ingredient substitutions, I'll post the way I made the cakes, but I'll link to the blog where I got the recipe, which I pinned on Pinterest.  Just click the recipe title if you want to see the original blog post.

Quinoa and Kale Cakes
adapted from Yummy Supper blog

2.5 cups cooked quinoa or 1 cup uncooked quinoa
4 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup finely diced onions
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup steamed kale, chopped
1 cup plain bread crumbs
2 Tb olive oil

If not using already cooked quinoa, rinse 1 cup quinoa and place in a saucepan with one cup water and a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a rapid simmer.  Cover and let cook approx. 15 minutes or until quinoa is soft and fluffy.  Let cool.

In a large bowl, mix together cooked quinoa, eggs, Parm, onions, garlic, salt, steamed kale, and breadcrumbs. Let everything sit for a few minutes to absorb the liquid. You want the batter to be moist, but not runny. Form patties and get your pan ready for cookin'.

Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium to medium-low heat. Cook up to 6 patties at at time (don't overcrowd the pan). Cover the pan and let the cuties cook for 7-10 minutes until the underbellies are a deep rich brown. Flip and cook the other side for another 7-10 minutes until both sides are nice and brown. Let patties rest on a cooling rack while you finish the next batch.

Serve warm or at room temperature, topped with salsa, avocado, sauteed onions and peppers, and black beans (or, you know, whatever you want). 

Rustic Artisan Bread Loaf


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Have you tried making your own bread yet?

If you haven't, what's your biggest reason?  Too difficult?  Too tricky?  Too time consuming?

This particular recipe dispels all those concerns.

I don't make bread often, but love homemade bread when I can get it.  There's just something about the feeling of accomplishment when you pull out a loaf from the oven, hot and crackly, nicely bronzed and smelling like perfection.  Homemade bread doesn't always yield perfect results, especially in smaller, home ovens, but with a few techniques, you can get closer to that thick, crispy crust encasing fluffy, soft bread.  It's also a huge savings over store bought bread.  I haven't personally done the math, but I know that 6 cups bread flour costs less than $1, and yeast is probably $.10 when purchased in bulk (if not, it's still about 1/5 of a packet).  That's less than $1 total for a huge loaf that would likely cost $5 in a bakery or even grocery store. 

I saw this recipe on Pinterest, and tried it over the long weekend.  It worked well, and was easy and maintenance free.  Love that!  I am linking to the original pinned site.  To see all I've pinned, click here!

No-Knead Artisan Bread
adapted from Jim Lahey

6 cups bread flour (recommended) or all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1/2 t. instant or active-dry yeast
2 1/2 t. salt
2 2/3 c. cool water

In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, and salt. Add the water and stir until all the ingredients are well incorporated; the dough should be wet and sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest 12-18 hours on the counter at room temperature. When surface of the risen dough has darkened slightly, smells yeasty, and is dotted with bubbles, it is ready.

Lightly flour your hands and a work surface. Place dough on work surface and sprinkle with more flour. Fold the dough over on itself once or twice and, using floured fingers, tuck the dough underneath to form a rough ball.

Generously dust a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with enough flour, cornmeal, or wheat bran to prevent the dough from sticking to the towel as it rises; place dough seam side down on the towel and dust with more flour, cornmeal, or wheat bran. Cover with the edges or a second cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours, until it has doubled in size.

After about 1 1/2 hours, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place a 6-8 quart heavy covered pot, such as a cast-iron Dutch oven, in the oven as it heats. When the dough has fully risen, carefully remove pot from oven. Remove top towel from dough and slide your hand under the bottom towel; flip the dough over into pot, seam side up. Shake pan once or twice if dough looks unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.

Cover and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and continue baking for 10-15 more minutes, until the crust is a deep chestnut brown. The internal temperature of the bread should be around 200 degrees. You can check this with a meat thermometer, if desired.

Remove the bread from the pot and let it cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

  • I used the stretch and fold method a little on the dough after the initial rise, but am not sure that I really needed to. 
  • This was such a huge loaf!  I cut it into four wedges and froze 3/4 of it. 
  • This technique of using a dutch oven will likely work with any round loaf you want to try.  Pizza stones are also great!
  • Bread flour is a very high protein flour and is pretty widely available, but if you don't want to purchase bread flour, just add 2 Tb per cup more flour.  So, for 6 cups of bread flour, you'd use 6 cups of all purpose flour plus 12 Tb (or 3/4 cup).  

Silky Cauliflower Soup


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Do you ever find yourself attached to a certain food, and seemingly out of nowhere, too?  For some reason I'm on a cauliflower kick, and I have been for a while now.  I suppose there are worse things.  I'll find myself buying it and then not being really sure what to do with it, apart from just eating it raw.  In an effort to incorporate it in more inventive ways, I began an internet and cookbook/magazine search, and this recipe really hits the mark. 

It's smooth, creamy, and satisfying, while remaining light.  It's easy to prepare and quick, and only takes a few ingredients.  In case you haven't been reading long, those are my criteria for a winner recipe.  If it's cold where you are, this soup will warm you right up, and paired with a salad and bread, it's a perfect lighter meal. 

Silky Cauliflower Soup
from Dave Lieberman via Smitten Kitchen
serves 4 generously (seconds!) or 6 modestly (1 bowl each)

1 head cauliflower
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Remove the leaves and thick core from the cauliflower, coarsely chop, and reserve.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or soup pot over medium heat and add the onion and garlic. Cook until softened, but not browned, about 5 minutes.

Add the cauliflower and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until the cauliflower is very soft and falling apart, about 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and, using a hand held immersion blender, puree the soup, or puree in small batches in a blender and return it to the pot.

Add the Parmesan and stir until smooth.  Season, to taste, with salt and black pepper. Keep warm until ready to serve.

  • The soup on its own is good, but it will be out of this world with the following additions/garnishes:
    • Black pepper
    • Olive Oil
    • Croutons
  • I don't have an immersion blender, so I used my single serving blender (think offbrand Bullet).  If your blender isn't tip top, then cutting the cauliflower into small pieces is important to attain absolute smoothness.

Chicken and Noodles


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I got two cookbooks for Christmas that made me very excited and want to start cooking immediately.  This recipe came from one of them,  The Pioneer Woman Cooks.  I had intended to make her shepherd's pie, but first Drew got stuffy, and then I got stuffy, and the chicken and noodles just seemed...I don't know...more appropriate.

The first thing you'll want to know is that this isn't the same thing as chicken noodle soup.  It's very similar, but thicker, like chicken and dumplings, but with noodles. 

The second thing you'll want to know is that this is delicious, hearty and yet light, and warms you to your toes. 

The third thing you'll want to know is that this make enough for maybe 11-12 servings.  A 6 or 7 quart pot full.  I didn't test this, but I bet it's a great freezer meal. 

The fourth thing-wow, this list is getting long- is that it's economical and easy. 

Chicken and Noodles
from The Pioneer Woman

1 whole chicken, cut up into pieces
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp. white or black pepper
1/4 tsp thyme
2 tsp. dried parsley flakes
16 oz. by weight egg noodles
3 Tb. all purpose flour

Cover chicken in 4 quarts water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove chicken from pot with a slotted spoon. With two forks, remove as much meat from the bones as you can, slightly shredding meat in the process.

Return bones to broth and simmer on low, covered, for 45 minutes.

Remove bones from broth with a slotted spoon, making sure to get any small bones that might have detached.

Add the carrots and celery (and onions, if using) to the pot, followed by the herbs and spices. Stir to combine and simmer for ten minutes to meld flavors.

Increase heat and add frozen egg noodles and chicken. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes.

Mix flour and a little water. Stir until smooth. Pour into soup, stir to combine, and simmer for another 5 minutes, or until broth thickens a bit. Test and adjust seasonings as needed.

Givens Notes
  • I copied this recipe from the website, and in the process noted that the recipe differs ever so slightly.  I didn't use any parsley, and definitely no chicken base.
  • I'll increase the vegetable content next time
  • I used some dried, not frozen spatzele noodles I purchased at Aldi and they seem to be close to what she used.

Vegetarian Fajitas


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I just knew I had posted this before, because we eat them so often but I hadn't; so here you go!  I am probably not setting your world on fire or anything with this one, but vegetarian fajitas are a favorite of the Givens household.  We eat them in all seasons, and it's one of the few dishes Drew requests.  Simple and healthy, vegetarian fajitas are a great make at home meal, and with at least the first part of January being all about resolutions and eating lighter, this is a meal that feels heavier but won't weigh you down.  Are we all cliched out yet?

These veggie fajitas are great for the Meatless Monday challengers, vegans, meat eaters who want to still eat hearty, and anyone who will eat a vegetable.  Serve with salsa, guacamole, refried beans, and if you want to get wild, tortillas.  They're extremely adaptable, allowing for substituting or altogether adding/omitting various vegetables

Word to the wise- use your grill or turn on that hood fan! 

Veggie Fajitas
serves 2 very good eaters

1 onion, thinly sliced
2 bell peppers, any color, thinly sliced
4 oz sliced mushrooms
1 zucchini, halved lengthwise and then thinly sliced
3-4 Tb vegetable oil
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Heat two large skillets over medium-high heat.  Pour 1-2 Tb vegetable oil in each pan (enough to cover the bottom).  Divide vegetables between skillet,sprinkle with salt and pepper, and saute until tender, about 15 minutes.  Serve with salsa, guacamole, refried beans, and rice.  Enjoy!

Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Mix


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I am no help if you've made a resolution to lose weight/be healthier.  My first post of the year is for hot chocolate mix?!  Fortunately for the non weight watchers/health nuts, I make no such resolutions.

I debated on sharing this with you because I don't feel it's quite ready yet- I think some tweaking is in order, but for the time, this is still a killer hot chocolate mix.  If you've tried the salted caramel hot chocolate or the salted caramel mocha at Starbucks and enjoyed it, this one is for you.  This mix works well as a hot chocolate, and works as a coffee flavoring, too.  I'd like to experiment with adding instant mocha in the mix, but that's another post. 

I made this on Christmas Eve and gave it away as presents, and so far everyone who has tried it has enjoyed it.  This takes a few steps, but trust me that it's worth it.  It also makes a huge amount, so I had to process the ingredients in batches and stir it all together with a whisk in a large bowl.  Huge amount translates to lower cost per serving.  Yay!

This mix is great for gifts, and with winter really setting in in NC, it's good for those who need a warm drink. 

Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Mix
from pennies on a platter

makes 32 servings

2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups good quality Dutch cocoa powder
1 to 3 tablespoons fleur de sel or good sea salt (My preference is 1-tbsp)
1 cup dry milk powder
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
10 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate or chocolate chips

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Heat the 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar in a large heavy pan, over medium heat, without stirring. When the sugar begins to melt, take the handle of the pan and swirl it to melt without burning. The sugar might seem to crystallize, but it will eventually melt to a deep amber color. (Can take 15-20 minutes, so be patient.)

Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the vanilla. Whisk the caramel until smooth again, then immediately pour it onto the lined baking sheet. Allow it to spread without touching it. Set aside and let the caramel harden, at least 1 hour.

When ready to make the mix, use the back of a large spoon to tap the caramel several times into small broken pieces that can fit into the feeding tube of a large food processor. Turn the processor on, and while running, feed the caramel pieces into the tube so the processor pulverizes the caramel into a fine powder. Continue to add the pieces, a few at a time, until it is completely powder (a cloud of caramel dust will float out of the tube). Turn the processor off and follow the next steps to complete the mix.

Add the rest of the ingredients, except the chocolate, into the food processor with the caramel powder. Replace the lid and process until smooth. Add the chocolate to the bowl and process again until the mixture is a fine powder.

Store in an airtight container, in a cool, dry place for up to one month. To serve, stir 3 tablespoons mix into 1 cup hot milk.
  • I never thought I'd give this warning, but be careful when cleaning the pot in which you cooked the sugar.  Drew actually cut himself on some of the sugar
  • I made this on a rainy day and it still caramelized
  • I used 1 Tb. Fleur de Sel.  I'd likely add more next time.  I didn't feel the salt or caramel came through well in every cup I tried, so either more salt or better mixing is in order...
    • A note on Fleur de Sel.  If you live in an area where gourmet foods are sold, you could possibly buy or order this without much problem.  If not, follow the alternative directions and use a good quality sea salt or other gourmet salt.  This isn't really the time for table salt.
  • The more dutched your cocoa, the better because the more cocoa butter it has.  I can't buy dutched cocoa in stores near me and think it's sort of overkill to order specialty food items off the internet, so I used Hershey's Special Dark cocoa.  I would have also used Trader Joe's cocoa, which I believe is mostly dutched.
  • I gave this away in 8 oz Mason jars.  They hold four servings (12 Tb) perfectly.