11 November

Tomato Basil Bread

November 17: National Homemade Bread Day

We were saddened that, after 23 years, our bread machine—one of the first purchases we made with our wedding gift money—died. It served us well, although some years we baked more bread than in other years. It was a nostalgic newlywed toy.

For an early 24th anniversary gift this year, we bought a new bread machine. We hope it lasts a long time, too. At first, we goofed on some of the recipes. But we have tweaked a few things and have gotten better results with our loaves. We still use the same old recipe book that we bought along with our first bread machine, making adjustments for the new one. It is easy to just layer the ingredients in the well and let the machine take care of the rest—from kneading to rising to baking. It sounds like we are lazy to bake bread from scratch in the traditional way. But we save time doing the manual work in favor of spending time with each other!

Below is a tomato basil bread that we made in our new bread machine. This was a good excuse to try it for National Homemade Bread Day.


(Adapted from More Electric Bread)

Ingredients (for a large loaf)

  • 1 ¼ cup water
  • 3 cups white bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons powdered milk
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 ½ tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
  • 3 teaspoons active dry yeast (or 2 teaspoons fast rise yeast)


In the well of the bread machine loaf pan, place the water, flour, milk and sugar.

Add the salt, olive oil, tomato paste, Italian seasoning and garlic.

Make a little well in the middle and add the yeast. Place the pan in the bread machine. Set it for large 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.


  • Although the title of this bread is tomato basil, there are no fresh tomatoes and basil in this recipe. The flavoring comes from tomato paste and Italian seasoning, which includes the dried herb basil.
  • Search our blog for more homemade bread recipes—traditional method or bread machine.

Election 2020 Cookies

November 3: Election Day 2020

Family Circle has discontinued its Presidential Cookie Poll (which began in 1992) because the magazine itself ceased to exist (2019). While it was a fun food event, it was outdated and inaccurate in predicting the winners of the White House.

We had a request this year to make election cookies again—something sweet in a not-so-sweet year. We have made them for Islander’s brother’s student prayer group for the past three presidential elections. Social gatherings have been cancelled because of COVID-19 so we made—and mailed—the cookies just for his religious community. They won’t have any students gathering with them in 2020 to pray for America and to vote on the cookies. But the nine priests and brothers can still enjoy a little Election Day dessert.

We already had First Lady of the United States Melania Trump’s cookie recipe (posted on our blog in 2016). But we could not find any official cookie recipe from former Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden (her guilty pleasure is French fries, according to Parade). The only mention of cookies in any interview was on the U.S. World Herald where she shared about her Italian-American upbringing. She stated, “My grandfather had a saying, ‘Finire a tarallucci e vino’—to finish with little cookies with wine. It essentially means, no matter our differences during dinner, we finish as a family.”

With that only hint for a cookie, we made Italian taralli with Marsala vino, olive oil and a light lemon glaze to represent Team Biden. We also baked star-shaped sour cream sugar cookies again to represent Team Trump. Put the cookies on a patriotic platter and exercise your right to vote for your favorite election cookie and candidate!


(Adapted from Martha Stewart)

For the taralli cookies

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspon salt
  • ½ cup sugar, granulated white
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup extra virgin olilve oil
  • ½ cup Marsala vino (wine)

For the icing (optional but recommended)

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg with the sugar. Stir in the olive oil and Marsala.

Gradually add the flour mixture and blend well until a dough comes together. Turn out dough onto a clean, dry surface. Pinch out pieces of dough and roll into half-inch thick ropes. Cut into 6-inch pieces and form into a loop.

Press the dough ends to seal into a circle. Place each cookie onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack.

Make the glaze by combining in a small bowl the powdered sugar, milk and lemon juice. Stir until thick and smooth. Dip the top of the cookie in the glaze and let dry. Serve with some wine.

For Trump’s Star-Shaped Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

(Please see our 2016 blog post for the recipe.)

Sugar Skulls

(Calaveras de Azúcar)

November 1-2: Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos)

We admire the colorful artistry of decorated sugar skulls that we see displayed on the ofrendas (altars) at this time of the year.

Islander and her Mexican cake club friends in San Antonio, Texas, had planned on making sugar skulls together but, ironically, life got in the way of the Day of the Dead festivities. So she went ahead and took a hands-on class when visiting a museum in Houston, Texas, one year.

Now Islander enjoys demonstrating the creative and spiritual process with others (library culinary club, church family life ministries, ESL students, etc.). Making sugar skulls has become part of our respectful observation of the Day of the Dead and we hope it is a sweet activity for all who try it, too.



  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon meringue powder
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • Royal icing
  • Gel paste colors


In a large bowl, combine the sugar, meringue powder and water. Mix until it feels like wet sand.

Pack the skulls mold with the sugar mixture. Level off with a bench scraper. Invert the sugar skull onto cardboard or plate. Let dry for at least 24 hours.

Stir royal icing until it is pipeable consistency. Place in decorating bags using tips 1 and 2 (alternatively, snip a small hole from the end of the bag).

Decorate the skulls with colorful royal icing. Let dry for another 24 hours.


  • Muchas gracias (thank you very much) to Margarita F. for giving us the sugar skulls mold.
  • For another festive food for Day of the Day, try making sugar skulls cookies.

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