Yearly Archives: 2015
Post by Alison Hein.
My husband’s firm conducts charitable activities each year during the month of November. The company comes up with different ideas to get people to donate money to various charities. Lo and behold, last week they decided to hold a bake sale in the office to benefit City Harvest, a New York-based food rescue organization which we support. Kevin asked me if I wanted to provide something tempting for the sale.
And so I baked. Benne Wafers, Green Tea Macadamia Cookies, and Pistachio Biscotti. Only one tiny problem – I didn’t have any pistachio nuts. I did, however, have a nice fat bag of crunchy, plump hazelnuts. And, a couple of tiles of bittersweet chocolate mixed into the batter added rich depth and a lovely tan color to the cookies.
The toughest part of baking biscotti is slicing them into strips after the first baking. They tend to crumble if not cooled enough, or if overcooled and too crispy. After a little practice (all mistakes are deliciously edible!), you will have it down to a science.
So, you should add Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti to your cooking repertoire – whether you are baking to support your favorite charity or to serve your favorite person a charitable breakfast in bed.
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 ounces baking chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
2½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup hazelnuts
Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Beat butter and sugar together until fluffy. Stir in eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly each time. Mix in vanilla and melted chocolate. Stir in flour, baking powder, salt and hazelnuts. Dough should be thick and moldable.
Wet or flour hands, split dough in half, and shape into two long, mounded loaves (approximately 8 inches long by 3½ inches wide). Place loaves on prepared baking sheets and bake for about 30 minutes, until lightly golden. Transfer to wire racks and let cool at least 15 minutes.
When cool enough to handle, slice loaves into roughly ¾-inch slices. Place slices cut-side down on parchment paper and bake for another 30 minutes or so, turning biscotti once during baking, until golden brown. Remove to wire rack and cool.
Makes about 20 to 25 biscotti.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett
The imaginative universe known as Discworld is vast, varied, magical and hilarious. Terry Pratchett’s creation has developed quite an adoring following since the first novel was published in 1983. In 2001 he wrote his first novel for young adults. Naturally, that’s when I finally became interested. In all, Pratchett wrote six young adult novels which is only a fraction of the 41 novels overall. Five of these are about the young witch of the Chalk, Tiffany Aching, and her horde of tiny, blue, crude fae folk, the Nac Mac Feegles. Dressed in kilts and always ready for a fight, a drink, or preferably both, the Feegles are sworn to protect the “Wee Big Hag” and are always nearby, if unseen.
In I Shall Wear Midnight Tiffany Aching is now all of 15 years old and officially the witch of the land. Although the people rely on her and she helps them with all manner of problems, once in a while a sentiment of fear and suspicion arises in the villages and witches are seen as a threat more than anything. Unfortunately this is where Tiffany finds herself now. Even the baron distrusts her, although she has been his friend since she freed him from the Fairy Queen when she was nine years old. It’s trying time for all the witches.
Terry Pratchett had a particular knack for striking a tone between silly, insightful, and touching all at once. This book is no exception, though it is a little more touching than the earlier Tiffany Aching novels. Maybe that’s because we are also watching this little girl (who was already awesome and tough at nine) grow up into a young woman, full of self-confidence but also doubt, frustration, and confusion as she learns how to navigate the world as an almost grown-up. This series of books has been a great companion to me and I highly recommend it to any fans of fantasy, YA lit, or just great storytelling.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
When I was a kid, Friday nights was a sacred time. After the glittery disco spectacular that was Solid Gold (I only ever got to see the end credits, but that was enough to captivate me) came the greatest half hour of television. It was time for The Muppet Show. When Scooter pops his head through the door and announces, “Elton John? 15 seconds to curtain, Elton John!” (or whoever the guest of the week was) you knew everything would be fine for the next thirty minutes. The intro still fills me with the childlike glee I felt as a kid. And what better way to end a long day than with Muppets, music, and comedy? The Muppets was the best bedtime viewing imaginable.
Now I am passing on that great experience to my son. Granted, a lot of it is extremely dated—I’m not sure he’s ever seen a variety show outside of the Muppet version—but the humor is still hilarious and Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Beeker and the rest are as popular today as ever. We picked up season 2 from the library and started with Peter Sellers, one of my favorites. Taking his Dr. Strangelove character and bringing it into the world of Muppets is a mash-up I won’t be forgetting.
If you aren’t into the old-fashioned stuff, I hear ABC is currently airing a new version, set in the world of late-night talk shows. I haven’t see it yet but if you have, please let me know how it is! I’m quite happy to watch the old Pigs in Space and Veterinarian’s Hospital. So if you are in the mood for a blast from the past and like to end your days with classic, timeless humor, you can’t do much better than some Muppet Show in bed.
Post by Tracy Kaler.
When it comes to sleeping, a comfortable temperature in the bedroom is almost as important as a comfortable mattress on the bed. If you find that you’re often waking during the night, you could be too warm.
Body temperature shouldn’t rise when you get in the sack. In fact, to fall asleep and stay asleep, your overall temperature should remain cool. So if you feel warm in bed, heed these six suggestions so you can chill out when it’s time to snooze.
1. Stick your sheets and pillowcases into a plastic bag and place in the freezer for a few minutes just before you hit the hay.
2. Wear cotton or silk bedclothes. Both fibers are breathable and more likely to keep you cooler than polyester.
3. Take a cool shower before you crawl in bed. Even a quick rinse might be enough to lower your body temperature.
4. Avoid spicy food too close to bedtime. For medical reasons, it’s also not a good idea to eat too late in the evening, but hot and spicy dishes could leave you feeling a tad warmer than you should.
5. Try a cooling pillow, which can help regulate your head and face temperature so you don’t get overheated and wake up before the alarm sounds.
6. Purchase a tabletop fan. Although many bedrooms come with ceiling fans, an additional fan on a nightstand or table can circulate enough air to keep you cool as a cucumber until morning.
by: Alison Hein
It’s so easy to make prepared hot cocoa – just stir a packet of mix into a mug of hot water and pop it into the microwave – you may wonder why I suggest you make your own.
Well, truth be told, it’s not too much harder than the method just described. Yes, you have to dirty a pot and make a few measurements, maybe wait 5 minutes longer for the final product. But trust me, the end result is more than worth this tiny bit of extra fuss.
This recipe mirrors the classic Hershey’s instructions printed on the side of the little brown box of hot cocoa mix. I’ve just added a little oomph by topping with whipped cream and cinnamon. Don’t stop here though. This recipe is merely the basic pattern for finding your very own hot cocoa mix, tailored just for you. Try using different types of chocolate – there is now a wide variety of cocoa offerings in every store. White cocoa is lovely, and you dark chocolate addicts can even shave a bit of your chocolate bar right into the milk before warming.
I like cinnamon, but nutmeg, mace or allspice add a little punch, or you can even try a sprinkling of sea salt or a tiny dash of cayenne pepper for some serious spice! Sweeten the cocoa with brown sugar, honey, or caramel sauce. On special days, pour in a finger of whiskey, brandy or Bailey’s Irish Cream.
Make a big pot of steaming hot cocoa for a large group (simply multiply the recipe times the number of people) or just treat yourself to a little something special. Homemade Hot Cocoa – so right for these fleeting autumn days, so right for breakfast in bed.
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla
A pinch of salt
2 tablespoons whipped cream
Dash of cinnamon
Pour milk into small, heavy saucepan. Whisk in cocoa powder, sugar, vanilla and salt. Heat over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until smooth and thoroughly warmed. Pour into mug. Top with whipped cream and a sprinkling of cinnamon.
Makes 1 serving.