11 November


Smoky Almond Bread

November 17: National Homemade Bread Day

A bread machine was one of the first appliances we bought as newlyweds with our wedding gift money. This favorite kitchen “toy” allowed us to indulge in homemade bread once in a while without too much work. And it made our tiny one-bedroom apartment smell like a bakery! More than two decades—and five homes and moves later (so far)—we still use that bread machine, along with an old cookbook that provided a variety of recipes for us to try over the years. As Highlander had an extra snack pack of smoky almonds, he decided to use them in one of the recipes in the book. Making smoky almond bread in our bread machine is an easy way to celebrate National Homemade Bread Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from More Electric Bread)

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup water, lukewarm
  • 2 1/3 cups white bread flour
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • ½ cup smoked almonds, crushed or chopped finely
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • ¼ teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1 teaspoon yeast (fast rise) OR 1 ¾ teaspoon yeast (active dry)

Directions

In the well of the bread machine, place the water, flour, sugar and salt.

Add the butter, almonds, extract and yeast.

Next add the liquid smoke. Place the well into the bread machine. Set it for regular size loaf and medium crust setting. Press start and allow the machine to knead, rise and bake the bread. When the cycle is done, carefully remove the hot well from the machine. Take the bread out of the well. Allow to cool on a wire rack. Slice and serve fresh or toasted with butter.

Empire Biscuits

November 16: Feast Day of St. Margaret of Scotland

Highlander’s fellow clanswoman, Margaret G., won a shortbread-baking contest at one of the Highland games. Her recipe is versatile so we adapted it into empire biscuits in honor of two other strong Scottish women—the fictitious Princess Merida of the Disney Empire and a real saint, Queen Margaret of Wessex /Scotland.

Empire biscuits are a favorite of Princess Merida’s naughty young triplet brothers that they are seen in the movie trying to steal a plate of them any chance they get. This comic relief is part of the serious story line about a “Brave” young royal who is determined to “choose her own fate”.

Another strong Scottish woman was Queen Margaret. A very pious woman, she followed Christ’s examples of helping the poor and encouraging everyone to pray. She was the mother of eight children (six sons and two daughters), three of whom became kings of Scotland and one became Queen Consort of England. She raised them to become “just and holy rulers”.

Empire biscuits are basically traditional Scottish shortbread cookies with icing crowned with a colorful red cherry in the middle. They resemble tiny tam o’shanters (Scottish caps). As we have mentioned two royal ladies above, Princess Merida and St./Queen Margaret, we are also providing two types of empire biscuits—one as a mound shape (like the ones in the Disney movie) and the other as a sandwich cookie (like the ones sold at Highland games nowadays).

Thanks to our fellow clanswoman, also named Margaret, for sharing her award-winning shortbread cookie recipe so we could make empire biscuits for the Feast Day of St. Margaret of Scotland. 

Recipe

(Adapted from Margaret G.)

For the shortbread biscuits

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup of sugar (super fine is best), plus extra for sprinkling on top
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon cream

For the glaze and garnish

  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • 2+ teaspoons water
  • glace cherries

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter. Add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Stir in flour a cup at a time. Add egg yolk and cream. Mix well.

Scoop a mound of dough and drop them on a lightly greased cookie sheet about two-inches apart. Bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees F for 22-25 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven. Cool completely.

While the biscuits are cooling, prepare the glaze by mixing the powdered sugar with the almond extract and water. Add a little more water if the glaze is too thick. Add a little more powdered sugar if the glaze is too thin and runny. Dip the top of each biscuit into the glaze. Top with a cherry before the glaze sets.

For the sandwich-style cookies

Roll out the dough to ¼ inch thickness and cut with round cookie cutters. Place on greased baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees F for 15-20 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Spread jam (cherry, strawberry or raspberry) between two cookies and press together into a sandwich. Frost the tops with the white glaze. Top with a cherry before the glaze sets.

NOTES 

  • Do not overwork the cookie dough. Just mix thoroughly until the ingredients are well incorporated.
  • Maraschino cherries may be substituted for the glace ones. Drain well and cut in half.
  • Empire biscuits are terrific for tea time and royal watch parties.
  • Search our blog for other Scottish recipes.

Kotlety (Котлеты)

(Ukrainian Ground Meat Patties)

November 12: Feast Day of St. Josaphat Kuntsevych

When we used to live in Illinois, we met our friend Olga W.’s parents while they were visiting the United States from Ukraine for the first time. As they did not understand or speak English, Olga joked that her mouth was getting tired and her voice was getting hoarse from translating for everyone in our culturally diverse group. Then her mother cooked us a typical Ukrainian dinner of ground meat patties and served them with potatoes, brown gravy and a dilly tomato-cucumber-onion salad. “Mmmmm” needs no translation! All together at the dinner table, we graciously shared a common human need and love for food.

Ukrainian-born St. Josaphat Kutsevych (Йосафат Кунцевич), a Polish-Lithuanian monk and Orthodox archbishop, believed in bringing people together in the Christian faith. He was martyred on November 12, 1623, because he wanted to unite Christians (Orthodox, Catholics and Protestants).  Read the reflection of what St. Josaphat’s life mission was about at the Franciscan Media website.

Like edible ecumenism, in this Ukrainian style meat patties recipe, ground pork is often mixed with another ground meat (beef, chicken or turkey). There are many variations to this recipe but the result is still the same deliciousness! So in honor of this bold Ukrainian saint and his idea to mix things together, we were inspired to cook kotlety for his feast day. Mmmmm!

Recipe

Adapted from Olga W.’s Mom

Ingredients

  • ½ pound ground pork
  • ½ pound ground beef, chicken or turkey (we used beef)
  • 1 egg
  • ½ small onion, grated
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • oil for frying

Directions

In a bowl, combine the ground meats with the egg. Grate the onion and add it to the mixure.

Sprinkle the garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Add the bread crumbs. Mix well. Use a large ice cream scoop to make balls. Flatten lightly into patties.

Heat a little oil on the bottom of a skillet. Fry the patties until browned on both sides and cooked through in the middle. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot.

Notes

Barbara Bush Cookies

November 6:Election Day 2018

We have been making cookies for Election Day events for some time now, using the presidential bake-off recipes from “Family Circle” magazine. These chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, submitted by former FLOTUS Barbara Bush, were among the first to be included in the publication’s inaugural cookie contest back in 1992. Although her recipe “lost” and her husband, George H.W. Bush, did not get re-elected, according to the magazine’s mythical prediction, Barbara Bush’s cookies have remained popular ever since the Houstonian Hotel asked her permission to put them on the Olivette restaurant’s menu.

On April 17, 2018, Barbara Bush passed away. As a respectful tribute to the late First Lady, we baked a batch of her cookies, which are also suitable to serve at social gatherings during the midterm elections.

Recipe

Adapted from the Houstonian Hotel

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup sugar, granulated white
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup quick cooking oats (not instant)
  • 6 ounces (half a bag) of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

In a bowl, sift together the flour, slat and baking soda. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with the white and brown sugar. Beat in the egg. Gradually add the flour mixture and blend well.

Stir in the vanilla. Fold in the oats and chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoonsful onto a lightly greased cookie sheet about two-inches apart to allow for spreading.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 12-15 minutes or until the middle of the cookies have set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the cookie sheet for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container. Yield: Approximately 3 dozen.

Notes

  • We photographed our final food photo with a red rose, white pearls and a blue background for a patriotic color palette. Barbara Bush’s favorite color was blue and she was famous for her fashionable accessory (pearls) so we placed a strand of Islander’s beads around the cookies in the late First Lady’s honor.
  • We visited the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas, where Barbara Bush is laid to eternal rest.
  • Try our other Election Day cookie recipes from the presidential bake-off (2012 and 2016). These include both the political parties’ candidates’ Democrat and Republic recipes.
  • Search our blog for other recipes for Election Day (see the Patriotic listing under Theme Menus).

Yiaourtopita

(Orange Greek Yogurt Cake)

November 9: National Greek Yogurt Day

There is a hilarious scene in one of our favorite movies, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, in which the bride and groom’s families meet for the very first time. The American groom’s mother presented a bundt cake to the Greek bride’s mother to be served after dinner as a dessert (and decorated with a flower pot in the middle of the “cake with a hole in it”).

Perhaps the Greek mother would have found it easier to pronounce yiaourtopita than bundt. And it is easier for us non-Greeks to call the following recipe Orange Greek Yogurt Cake (although lemons could be substituted). It could be baked in a loaf or round pan, but as a nod to the movie we baked the cake in a mini bundt pan.

This Orange Greek Yogurt Cake is terrific for teatime and also on National Greek Yogurt Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Voskos)

Ingredients

  • 2 oranges, zested and juiced (about ¼ cup liquid)
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla or orange extract
  • 1 ½ cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup canola or vegetable oil

Directions

Wash and dry the oranges. Zest the rind and squeeze the juice. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the Greek yogurt with sugar, egg, and juice.

Add the zest extract. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually mix this in to the wet ingredients. Add the oil and mix into a smooth batter.

Pour the batter in a well-greased mini bundt pan, loaf pan or round cake pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes (mini bundts) and 30-45 minutes for the loaf or round cake pan, testing for doneness. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with a cup of tea (optional).

Notes

  • As an intermarried couple ourselves, of course we loved the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”! There are many other films focusing on intercultural and interracial relationships. See the list here
  • We used full fat and whole milk Greek yogurt so the cake would be moist and not too dry.
  • National Bundt (Pan) Day is coming up in a few days on November 15.
  • Search our blog for other Greek recipes.

Day of the Dead

(Día de los Muertos) Cookies

November 2: All Souls Day

Having lived among Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in South Texas, we came to know many as our friends and learned about their holiday traditions and customs. Around Halloween leading up to All Souls Day (Day of the Dead/Día de los Muertos), we have seen several homes, churches and other significant cultural places set up colorful ofrendas (altars) as tributes to loved ones who have passed away. Displayed on these altars are framed photos of the dead, cut paper banners, flowers (marigolds), candles and/or incense, religious symbols and icons, food and other toys/trinkets. Some communities have lively parades with people dressed in skeleton costumes. Some families visit the gravesite of the deceased, decorate it and have a feast there.

At first, outside observers find the festivities excessive and even creepy. But in time we have come to appreciate the Mexican rituals that celebrate the lives of the dearly departed so that they are never forgotten! How nice it is to be remembered in a fond and fun way!

We are grateful that our amigos have taught us a little more about the Day of the Dead and invited us to participate in some of their family activities. Learn more about this Mexican holiday from the Inside Mexico website. And celebrate life (not death) with these chocolate cookies decorated with colorful fondant cutouts!

Recipe

(Adapted from Southern Living Incredible Cookies)

For the chocolate cookies

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder or cayenne pepper
  • 1 ½ cups butter, softened
  • 2 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (we used Mexican vainilla)

Directions

In a bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, salt, ground cinnamon and chili powder or cayenne pepper. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the powdered sugar. Beat in the eggs. Add the vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture into the butter mixture.

Mix until a sticky dough is formed. Roll the dough into a large ball, divide in half or thirds, cover and refrigerate until firm (about an hour). Roll out dough ¼-inch thick in between two sheets of waxed paper.

Cut out shapes with a skull-shaped cookie cutter. Place on a lightly greased baking pan. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes to firm up the dough. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for five minutes before transferring the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely and become crisp.

For the decorations

  • Powdered sugar
  • White fondant
  • Red fondant
  • Other different colored fondant
  • Colorful edible markers

Directions

On a clean surface dusted with powdered sugar, roll out the white fondant to 1/8 inch thick. Cut out enough skull shapes for all the cookies. Set aside in a covered container so the fondant does not dry out. Lightly brush the chocolate cookie with a little water and position the white skull-shaped fondant over it. Smooth out the edges.

Roll out the red fondant and cut out a tiny heart shape using the mini heart plunger tool. Dab a little water on the red heard and position it upside down in the center of the white skull-shaped fondant. Use different shaped flower cutters on different colored fondant to make the eye layers.

Use the end of a large round tip to make the eyeballs. Attach “eyes and eyeball” layers with a little water. Roll out different colored fondant and cut a small daisy shape. Position part of the daisy shape on top of the skull.

Trim off the three petal parts on top and save this to position on the chin as a decoration, attaching both with a brush of water. Use different color edible markers to draw the facial decorations (we used dots, stitches and swirls). Be as colorful and creative as possible. Arrange on a platter and serve.

Notes

  • We got our skull-shaped cookie cutter at the gift shop in the National Museum of Funeral History in Houston, Texas. As morbid as the experience seemed to be, the exhibits and historical information were presented very well. Everything was fascinating and well worth the trip and visit.
  • Pan de muerto (sweet “bread of the dead”) and sugar skulls are foods related to Día de los Muertos. We hope to feature these recipes in upcoming blog posts.
  • Vanilla sugar cookies may be substituted in this recipe. But because chocolate originated in Mexico and has a nice color contrast to the white fondant, we baked dark chocolate cookies instead. We also used fondant to decorate them because we still have not mastered icing (outlining and flooding) our cookies!
  • Search our blog for more Mexican, Tex-Mex and Halloween recipes.

Election 2016 Cookies

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November 8: Election Day 2016

After several months of crazy campaigning, Donald Trump won the U.S. presidency. But Hillary Clinton’s cookie recipe won by a landslide—for the third time since Family Circle magazine began its election bake-off in 1992.

A few months before Election Day, the magazine prints the favorite cookie recipes shared by spouses of the candidates (back then, Hillary’s husband, Bill Clinton, ran for president). Then the readers vote on which cookie they prefer best. The winning recipe supposedly is a predictor of who becomes the next president.

Since its inaugural year, Family Circle’s track record was accurate. But in 2008, Cindy McCain’s cookie recipe won over Michelle Obama’s (but Barack Obama won the presidency). In 2012, Michelle’s new cookie recipe won over that of Ann Romney, and Barack went on to serve his second term. This year, Bill Clinton re-used his wife’s cookie recipe, which won over Melania Trump’s. But Donald was voted as president.

We baked both the Clinton family cookie recipe and Melania’s cookie recipe for Islander’s brother’s student ministry again this year (our third time during a presidential election). It was a fun food activity for everyone, regardless of age, nationality, race, party affiliation, etc. Despite differences of opinions, this cookie election has brought everyone together. God bless America!

Recipes

(Adapted from Family Circle)

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For the Clinton Family’s Chocolate Chip-Oatmeal Cookies

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not the quick-cooking oats)
  • 1 package (12 ounces) chocolate chips

Directions

In a small bowl, combine the flour with the baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream the vegetable shortening with the brown and white sugars until smooth. Beat in the eggs.

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Add the vanilla extract. Gradually add the flour mixture and the rolled oats, alternating ingredients during the mix-in. Stir in the chocolate chips.

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Scoop a tablespoon onto greased baking sheets 2-3 inches apart to allow for spreading. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for five minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Yield: Approximately 4-5 dozen cookies.

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For Melania Trump’s Star-Shaped Sugar Cookies

  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (we used European-style butter because of Melania Trump’s Slovenian heritage)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream

Directions

In a small bowl, combine the flour with the baking soda. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the powdered sugar until smooth. Beat in the whole egg and egg yolk.

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Mix in the sour cream. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat until cookie dough is formed. Roll into a large ball. Then divide dough into two balls.

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Flatten into a disk between two sheets of lightly-floured waxed paper. Roll out to 1/8-inch thick. Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, line baking sheets with waxed paper. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Peel away the waxed paper. Use a 2 ½ – inch star-shaped cookie cutter to cut out shapes, re-rolling the dough scraps as necessary. Place star cookies about 1-2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Refrigerate the whole sheet for another 10 minutes or until the dough firms up again so when the cookies bake, the shape is retained.

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Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for five minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Yield: Approximately 3 dozen cookies.

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Notes

 

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