Posts Tagged "nuts"

chocolate cranberry nut biscotti

Posted by on Apr 5, 2013 | 2 comments

Today I don’t have much to say. I just don’t.

Oh wait. That’s not entirely true. I have to let you know about these “biscotti delights”, as my aunt calls them.


They are true delights indeed, as they encompass complex flavors of orange, pistachio, almond, dried cranberries, and dark chocolate. The bright and intense spectrum of colors—green, orange, deep red, and dark brown—will doubtlessly make your heart sing and your taste buds crave several bites.


So don’t hold back. Dip, lightly soak, and enjoy. Enjoy every single bite of these biscotti delights.






[easyrecipe id=”2428″ n=”0″]

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fried baklava with honey cinnamon cream

Posted by on Feb 3, 2013 | 4 comments

DSC_0381 copy

Two words for you: Fried Baklava. I’ll let the pictures say the rest.

But really, this recipe is simple to execute and super gratifying to taste. It’s magnificently light and crispy on the outside while being decadently rich on the inside. The blend of honey, cinnamon, dates, and nut flavors will keep you coming back for more. More good news? Once the baklava are assembled, you are bound to enjoy them in a matter of seconds, as this baklava is…fried.


On another note, today is February 3, 2013. For me it’s just another regular Sunday, but for  a multitude of other people, today is the Super Bowl, an event that in my opinion holds just as much power as a holiday.


Over the years, I have never watched the Super Bowl. I know nothing about the sport of football. Like really….. nothing. Oh wait, I guess I do know that people tend to enjoy chips and salsa, chili, various types of dips, an assortment of precut veggies, and of course….lots and lots of booze. And then there’s the other stuff. This year for example, Beyoncé will perform during half time. And those commercials…aren’t they good? See? I know a thing or two.


I have zero emotional connection to this sport, so instead of watching the Ravens and the 49ers fight over the Super Bowl trophy, I am keeping myself busy by reviewing this recipe I wrote a few days ago and bringing it to you. I hope you enjoy this as much as you may or may not enjoy the Super Bowl!

Yield: About 24 pieces. Serve immediately.

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Ingredients for Baklava Filling:

3/4 C dates, roughly chopped

1/2 cup walnuts

1/4 cup pecans

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons honey

small pinch of salt

Recipe for Baklava Filling:

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until mixture is finely grounded and comes together to form a paste. Set aside for later use.


Ingredients for Honey Cinnamon Cream:

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup honey

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Recipe for Honey Cinnamon Cream:

1. Combine heavy cream, honey, and cinnamon in bowl. Whisk until cream thickens and stiff peaks form. Refrigerate and set aside for later use.

Ingredients for Fried Baklava:

phyllo dough

baklava filling

egg wash

vegetable oil for deep frying

honey cinnamon cream


walnuts, toasted and finely chopped

Recipe for Fried Baklava:

1. Stack three sheets of phyllo dough over a cutting board. Make 2″ marks along the bottom edge of stack. Cut vertically along each mark to create 2″ strips.


2. Lightly apply eggwash along the strip of phyllo dough with a pastry brush.

3. Scoop about 1 teaspoon of baklava filling. Form the filling into a ball with your hands and form the ball into a cylinder.

4. Place the cylinder at the bottom of each strip of phyllo dough.


5. Roll phyllo dough over the filling and keep rolling until the dough has gone around the filling and it reaches the end of the strip. Cut across the phyllo dough to separate the roll. Place roll on a dish with seam side down. Repeat steps 1-5 until all of the filling has been used.


6. Heat up vegetable oil in a small sauce pan over low-medium heat and fry until golden brown. This happens fairly quickly, about 8-10 seconds.

7. Place fried baklava over a napkin to soak up excess oil.

8. Meanwhile, place honey cinnamon cream in a piping bag that has a #3 plain tip. Pipe spirals of cream on a serving plate. Place baklava over cream. Finish with a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of finely chopped toasted walnuts.


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sticky buns

Posted by on Dec 30, 2012 | 2 comments

sticky buns

So what do you do when you receive a notification saying that you have won a copy of Martha Stewart’s new recipe book? Oh, a signed copy nonetheless of Martha’s American Food: A Celebration of Our Nation’s Most Treasured Dishes, from Coast to Coast.


sticky buns

You may be a gullible dreamer just like I am and believe the good news momentarily without asking any questions…because when luck is on your side, sometimes it’s better to avoid asking questions. Well yes, I have won a recipe book signed by the one and only Martha Stewart, thank you very much. Of course I have. Why wouldn’t I?

No questions asked…at least for the first couple seconds.

sticky buns

Then my brain, which is practically stubborn by nature, starts to ponder the obvious questions that would run through the mind of anyone who has never ever won anything in her life. Well, that sounds negative and hopeless, doesn’t it? Let me clarify…I have won several crucial things in my life that I will never take for granted: the opportunity to be blessed with a great family, a sweet and caring soulmate, a dual citizenship, a few splendid friends, etc, etc. But that’s not what I meant.

sticky buns

What I meant is that I have never won a vacation to some island in the Caribbean. I have never won the lottery. I have never won a free movie ticket. I have never won a free cupcake. And I certainly have never won a signed book. Oh wait. Once I did win a seat exchange from second class to first class on a British Airways flight.


sticky buns

So after doubting my luck and ability to actually win something and after asking “why me?,” several times, I responded to the email. Martha Stewart’s Social Media Content Director, informed me that Martha had chosen her winner of the day for sharing her recipes online and that the winner would receive a free signed book. But the story didn’t end there. He then added that he was coordinating with other book winners and would possibly do an entry on Martha’s blog on great completed projects/recipes by book winners. He suggested that I keep him informed, that I take pictures of the preparation, and most importantly…that I have fun. And that’s exactly what I did!

sticky buns

It was difficult to choose a recipe from the book and I must have bookmarked over a dozen recipes with sticky notes, but as soon as I glanced over pages 126-127, it was decided. It was basically love at first sight and these sticky buns had me at hello. I simply had to recreate these magnificent, sticky, doughy, tender, and sweet creations. After having tasted them, I can fully say that I am so thankful I did!

sticky buns

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did…but I’m pretty certain you will. I mean look at those beauties…how could you not?

sticky buns

*Yield: 12*

Backstory: Eating a freshly baked sticky bun is a hands-on experience, whether you prefer to bite into it whole or peel apart the gooey spiral and eat one piece at a time. The sugary treat, now standard fare in coffee shops and malls nationwide, comes to us via the Pennsylvania Dutch, who are famous for their sweet yeasted breads and other pastries. Today, you can visit Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County to sample authentic Amish sticky buns—or use this recipe, chock-full of brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecans, to bake your own.

sticky buns


2 packages active dry yeast (each 1 scant tablespoon)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm milk (about 110 F)

6 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons salt

4 large eggs

1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted buter, cut into small pieces and softened, plus more for pan

3 1/3 cups pecans (about 14 ounces)

2 1/4 cups light corn syrup

1 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar

1 1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons sour cream

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon


1. Sprinkle yeast over the milk; stir to dissolve yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. With an electric mixer on low speed, beat flour, granulated sugar, and salt to combine. Mix in yeast mixture and eggs until combined.

sticky buns

2. Increase speed to high and add the butter, several pieces at a time; continue mixing the dough until it is smooth and shiny, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a parchment-lined 13-by-18-inch baking pan; use your hands to spread dough to fit the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to overnight.

sticky buns

sticky buns

3. Preheat oven to 350 F. Generously butter a standar 12-cup muffin tin. Chop 2 cups pecans; break the remaining 1 1/3 cups pecans in half lengthwise. Pour 3 tablespoons corn syrup into each prepared cup; top with about 1 tablespoon brown sugar and 2 tablespoons halved pecans.

sticky buns

sticky buns

sticky buns

sticky buns

sticky buns

4. Remove dough from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature until slightly softened, about 15 minutes. Roll out dough lengthwise to form a 15-by-20 inch rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Using a spatula, spread sour cream evenly over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Dust sour cream with cinnamon and sprinkle with 2/3 cup brown sugar. Top evenly with chopped pecans and roll the dough up lengthwise to form a log, about 3 inches in diameter. Trim ends so log is 18 inches.

sticky buns

sticky buns

5. Using a sharp knife, slice log into 1 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Place one in each prepared cup. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until dough is 1/2 inch above cups, 20-30 minutes. Transfer to oven, placing a baking sheet on the rack below to catch any drips. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until dark golden brown, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven, and immediately turn out buns onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Replace any pecans that may have fallen off. Let cool on a wire rack before serving; best enjoyed the same day.

sticky buns

sticky buns

sticky buns

Recipe and recipe backstory is courtesy of Martha’s American Food: A Celebration of Our Nation’s Most Treasure Dishes, From Coast to Coast.

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crunchy nutty choco toffee

Posted by on Dec 7, 2012 | 0 comments



I love FaceTime. Thank you Steve Jobs for making your Apple/Mac products so…just so damn good.



Because of FaceTime I get to see my 6-month-old niece who lives in Austin chew her sock and smile at my feeble attempt to make her giggle. Hearing her giggle is the best sound in this world by the way.



Because of FaceTime I get to see Mark when he’s away on tour with his band Periphery. “So where in Europe are you today again? Oh, Prague, of course. How beautiful. I wish I was there too.”



And because of FaceTime I get to see my wonderful mother who lives in Spain. I always tell her that I love her and that I can’t wait to see her. And then she’ll say, “I know. I can’t wait to hold you, but isn’t it great that we can at least see each other so often through FaceTime?” Yes, it is mom.



Yesterday I was in the middle of making this recipe when mom called me on FaceTime. I pretended I had everything under control, but I still had to get my mise en place in order so that everything was ready to be added to the toffee when it reached the correct temperature.





However, I knew I didn’t have the situation completely under control: the sugar was already cooking and the butter still had to be cubed, the pecans still needed to be chopped, the baking soda and vanilla had to be measured out, the candy thermometer had to be placed on the side of the pot, a few recipe adjustments had to be marked down on my recipe book before they evaporated from my memory, etc. But when mom calls, everything can wait.



“What are you doing? You seem busy…” she stated (in Spanish, of course) as she heard the clanking of pans and sheet trays and saw how I turned my back on her a few times to check what was going on in the stove. I told her that I was in the middle of making toffee. “I can call back later or we can just talk tomorrow…”

“No! It’s okay. I can multitask…I swear!”



I told her a few things about my day. She told me a few things about hers. And through it all, I managed to show her how to finish the recipe. “Oh shit! Hold on mom! The sugar has reached 305 F and I have to add a few things to it before I pour it….”

“Really, we can talk at another time if you want to. You seem like you have a lot going on…Mmmmmmm…that looks delicious,” she stated as I poured the toffee over the chocolate and graham crackers.



And just like that, I got to feel extremely close to my mom. I always, always do, no matter how physically apart we are. But that moment was pretty special and magical. I never thought I would be able to share a such a spontaneous moment that involved doing something I love with all my heart (cooking/baking) with a person I love with all my heart while being thousands of miles away. I guess I’m just extremely thankful for it. That’s it.

Oh yeah, and I’m also very thankful for these delicious crunchy nutty choco toffee treats!




12 graham crackers (or 24 if they’re cut down the perforated line–as long as the dimensions of the rectangle you build is about 7.5″ x 9″).

3/4 C dark chocolate chips

4 oz (1/2 cup) sugar

1 oz (2 tablespoons) water

2 teaspoons honey

4 oz (1/2 cup) butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/8 teaspoon baking soda, about a small pinch

1 1/2 cup pecans

sea salt

*Yield: Anywhere from 12-24 pieces, depending on how you cut/break up the toffee. Cover toffee in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.*


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cover cookie sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick silicon baking mat (ie: silpat).

2. Place graham crackers on parchment paper or on silpat in rows and of 4 x 3 to end up with the dimensions of 9″ x 7.5″

3. Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over graham crackers and bake for about 10 minutes, until chocolate softens and becomes spreadable.


4. Remove cookie sheet from oven and gently spread the melted chocolate chips over graham crackers with an offset spatula, trying your best to not knock the graham crackers out of place. The melted chocolate should cover entire surface of graham crackers. Refrigerate so that chocolate cools down and firms up.


5. Meanwhile, toast pecans at 325 F until they become toasted all throughout. Allow pecans to cool. Roughly chop pecans and set them aside for later use.

6. Cook sugar and water over medium heat and add honey when sugar and water mixture looses its murky appearance and it becomes clear, after about a minute or so.

7. Add butter and continue cooking until it reaches a temperature of 300 F–305 F (hard crack stage).

8. Remove from heat and add vanilla, baking soda, and toasted pecans. Stir and pour mixture over the prepared chocolate and graham crackers. Spread toffee gently over chocolate/graham crackers so that it reaches every edge and corner of the rectangle. Allow toffee to completely cool before cutting/breaking it up in pieces. Sprinkle sea salt over toffee. Enjoy!


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pear and dulce de leche bread pudding • accepting praise

Posted by on Oct 8, 2012 | 0 comments

Do you know how to take a compliment?

When someone comments on their fascination with your choice of wardrobe for the evening, how do you feel? Most of the time I just think to myself, “it’s just clothes.” I know fashion gurus might want to bite my head off for having such a horrific thought.

When someone expresses their deep infatuation with the way you have decorated your apartment what do you do? You may simply say a polite “thank you”, right? Or perhaps not.

What about when a close friend or relative comments on their great satisfaction with a dessert you have made? What do you do then? Do you take the compliment and awkwardly say a quiet “thank you” while clenching your top and bottom teeth together?

That’s what I do.

Sometimes I don’t know how to accept a compliment when it comes to a dessert…or to anything. I might have to play it off the best I can and pretend that I am so grateful to hear praise for a simple (or not so simple) accomplishment, which I definitely am.  I do enjoy hearing praise, don’t get me wrong. I appreciate hearing praise and compliments to the maximum actually, but somehow my body has an interesting reaction to praise. That was kind of apparent when I served this pear & dulce de leche bread pudding to my family just a few days ago.

I served my mom, sister, aunt, and cousin each a piece of this dessert I had written the recipe for a few days earlier. As they each took a bite, each one started to say positive comments about it. And there I was sitting in my chair, nibbling on the bread pudding quietly while hearing the praise, smiling ungracefully and not saying a word while listening…looking and feeling as stiff as a board.

“I’m glad you find it to be tasty,” was my plain and mechanical reply to the compliments. I guess my family sensed my strange and hesitant reaction as well as my closed body language, because my cousin was quick to exclaim, “Vane, we are telling you that this is way good!”

I eventually fully accepted their compliments without further hesitation, especially when they all asked for seconds and some for thirds!

Well, I hope you find this pear and dulce de leche bread pudding to be tasty too!

Ingredients for Dulce de Leche:

1 can of condensed milk (a small can that weights about 397 g)

Recipe for Dulce de Leche:

1. Remove the label from the can.

2. Place the can of condensed can in a pot. Fill the pot with enough water so that it comes up to about 1″ from the top of the can. It will be necessary to add more water during the cooking process so that the water never goes below that level.

3. Place pot on stove and and cook on medium-high until water comes to a simmer. Continue to cook on on low-medium heat for about 3.5 hours.

(Note: Some recipes recommend that you pierce two holes in the can with a can opener on opposite sides so that there is less danger of the can exploding while it simmers. Every time I have made dulce de leche, I haven’t pierced any holes and no explosions have occurred. Choose whichever method you prefer–holes or no holes if you’re feeling risky). 

Ingredients for Bread Pudding:

1 C walnuts

2 T dark brown sugar

about 4 pears (2 C of diced pears & about 2 C of thinly sliced pears or about 27 thin pear slices)

7 C stale rustic bread, cubed and crusts trimmed

3.5 C milk

1 vanilla bean

5 eggs

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/4 tsp cinnamon

1 1/4 C dulce  de leche (3/4 C used in custard and 1/2 C used for bread pudding topping)

Recipe for Bread Pudding:

1. Preheat over to 325 F and toast walnuts so that they become toasted all through the center, about 10 minutes. Finely chop toasted walnuts and set them aside for later use.

2. Grease the bottom and sides of an 11″ x 7″ rectangular baking pan with butter. Sprinkle dark brown sugar all over the bottom of the pan. Arrange pear slices over the dark brown sugar.

3. Arrange bread pieces into pan. Combine toasted walnuts and 2 C of diced pears with bread. Toss bread, walnuts, and diced pears gently to combine. Set pan aside.

4. Pour milk into a pot. Cut vanilla bean in half from top to bottom and scrape seeds. Drop the seeds and pod into the pot and bring milk to a simmer. Turn off heat when milk comes to a simmer and cover pot. Infuse milk with the vanilla for about 15 minutes. Discard pod when infusion time is over.

5. Combine eggs, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl and whisk to break up the eggs and combine all ingredients. Pour milk slowly over the eggs while whisking continuously to create a custard.

6. Add 3/4 C of dulce de leche to the custard and combine well with a hand blender.

7. Pour custard over bread without covering the tips of the slices of bread and wait for bread to absorb more of the custard. Repeat pouring until bread is completely saturated and it doesn’t seem to absorb anymore custard. Allow bread to rest for about 15 minutes until bread absorbs the custard. Do not pour all of the custard from the bowl at this point.

8. Pour the remaining of the custard over the bread.

9. Use the remaining 1/2 C dulce de leche and drop small amounts of it evenly over the top of the bread pudding.

10. Bake at 300 F about 1–1.5 hours, until a toothpick that has been inserted in the bread pudding comes out clean.

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