Scottish Shortbread Better than Best

Better than Best Scottish Shortbread
Meyer Lemon Zest and Rosemary Optional

Never believe you have the best recipe. I thought my earlier blogpost recipe on lemon and rosemary shortbread was very good. It made great use of Hammock ingredients to one-up your basic butter, flour and sugar recipe for the same and it was fairly simple to prepare as well as tasty. The best? That is always a matter of opinion.

I get daily email reminders of National Days in the United States. It started as a fun way to keep in touch with past clients if it was appropriate. It so happens that January 6th of 2020 was National Shortbread Day. I had a lot on my plate that day (pun intended) and didn’t have the time to pull out another oldie but goodie recipe in my collection. In fact, this entire week wasn’t looking good with more than the average number of work and social commitments. I decided I could mix them up this morning, and bake them this afternoon after Floor Duty at my Real Estate office, touring a new in-house listing and before meeting friends for dinner before the ballet.

Weeell, my day didn’t quite work out like that. Dressed and ready to go, I reached down for the plastic wrap for the shortbread dough and I couldn’t get up. I should’ve known not to move our dining table by myself yesterday, but it was only about a 10-inch push. Drat! All work and social commitments canceled and two hours of on-and-off icing down of my painful back and I felt ready to stand up for a few minutes and cut out my shortbread.

Last week, on a stroll around our Hammock neighborhood, we spotted the Meyer Lemon tree on the still undeveloped vacant lot a couple of blocks away. I took a few and left many for the possible owner or other amblers. Still, those babies are big and I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to do with all of them.

It turns out that our potted Rosemary bush also needed a prune. Top that with a unique gift from one of my sisters along with the inspiration of this week’s National Shortbread Day and I was ready to bake, photograph and serve.

I give you the following recipe that came from my British husband’s British Columbian Aunt Gertrude. Why is it better than best? One entire pound of butter is probably the answer! You need to be aware that this recipe makes a lot of shortbread cookies. The 3-foot serving platter holds less than half the recipe.

A really long serving tray with half a recipe of
Aunt Gertrude’s Scottish Shortbread

Aunt Gertrude’s Scottish Shortbread

Ingredients:

1 pound butter, I use unsalted.
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup rice flour
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind (Meyer or other optional)
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary (optional)

Instructions:

Cream the butter and sugar well. Add the all-purpose and the rice flour, grated lemon zest and rosemary if using and knead by hand or on the slow speed of a large mixer. At this point, I divide the dough in half as it is easier to roll out. You may also freeze half to bake at a later date. Roll out to about 1/8 inch and cut into shapes. Decorate with holes from the tines of a fork. Place on baking sheets lined with silicone mats or parchment paper. Bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool on the baking sheet.

Move over Walkers Shortbread. These are a contender!

Come Cruise with me to Greece and Italy

Every cruise has to begin somewhere. Ours departed from Civitavecchia, the port of Rome Italy. It is located appoximately 40 minutes from the Fiumicino Airport, by car.

Civitavecchia

Civitavecchia Port of Rome, Italy

I have always said to friends and relatives that there is nothing wrong with Italy. That sounds like a backhanded compliment, but you name it: coffee, ice-cream, wine, pastries, pasta, history, scenery, clothing, style–Italy has it all in spades. A night and a morning to hangout before our cruise departure was a joy in this small seaside town.

Before you get too far along, I have to give a shout out to the camera on my Samsung Galaxy 10+ phone. The photos on my videos are unedited and all used the ambient light. Gotta love Samsung!

Jewel of the Seas

Our Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship–Jewel of the Seas

I had been on a Carnival Cruise of the Bahamas a few years ago. Hands down, no comparison. This ship was first class all the way. I think the photos do it justice. What do you think?

Crete

After a day and a half at sea we arrived at the island of Crete. Our docking was not immediate. In fact, our booked tours were delayed by an hour. This was no fault of our captain. Our tour guide told us that the ship that had been in our berth was short 6 passengers. After an hour, it finally left Crete with 4 of those passengers. The other 2 would have to find their own way to Athens, Greece! Note to self and others: Always carry your passport and credit card!

Crete, Greece our first Port of Call

In my opinion, this is an island worth visiting for more than an afternoon. The tour I booked with the ship was called The Treasures of Cretan Culture.

We visited a family business that used recipes from their grandmother to make organic soaps and creams from olive oil. You will have to check back in a few months to see if the Anti-wrinkle Olive and Rose Cream I bought has worked.

We next spent an enjoyable hour at an olive and wine producer:
https://anoskeli.gr/ . We sampled their olive oil and honey with generous tastings of the delicious wines. While verifying the link to their site I discovered that World Market carries the olive oil! Cretan olive oil is said to be the best in the world together with their thyme honey. I, of course bought some of both. Due to restrictions about bringing alcohol onto the cruise ship, I didn’t purchase any of the wine. It was quite the best wine I had throughout the cruise. It looks to be available in the US for a reasonable price. I will have to do more research.

Mykonos

I was relieved to be back on my normal early rising schedule the next day when we made port at Mykonos. A quick trip on the Seabus from our cruiseship birth took me directly to the end of the harbor closest to Little Venice. The early morning light combined with most tourists still asleep gave me the opportunity to take some delightful photos. By the time the shops opened I was full speed ahead to start my search for a version of the leather sandals I had bought in Greece some 40 years ago.

I found the sandals and celebrated with my first real Greek yogurt. It was light, creamy and flavorful. Made of full fat milk from goat, sheep and cow’s milk. Oh, yes, it was really, really good!

The harbor front became very busy by mid-day but I was ready for my first ouzo in Greece, some grilled sardines and a chance to relax in the shade next to the water.

I experimented with the ship’s alcohol policy by purchasing a 200 ml bottle of ouzo in decorative packaging. It made it! I really did purchase it to bring home and not consume on-board. I just didn’t want to deal with claiming my bounty before our 6 am departure for the airport on the last morning. I added 3 more bottles before the cruise ended.

Rhodes

As we drew into port I was wishing that my husband were with me. He has read so much about the Knights Templar and this was their stronghold. I was gifted with another early morning docking. I managed to get lost a couple of times, try my hand at making a REALTOR video and follow some people to the morning market outside the city walls. I also got to have some more of that delicious Greek yogurt when it was time for a rest.

Later, while looking for a place to have lunch, I was greeted in German. In all fairness, being tall and blond, I can pass. I also speak German so carried on in that language of choice, asking for a restaurant recommendation. I was taken to Yannis restaurant and had their special of the day a slow cooked lamb casserole.

Rhodes, Greece–Land of the Knights Templar

Santorini

What is blue and white and very crowded? The picturesque Santorini village of Oia (pronounced Ia). There is only one spot to get the iconic photos and crowds of tourists wait to get them. I got them.

This had always been my mother’s favorite travel destination. Of course, she was there some 50 years ago, before the age of the whole world’s bucket lists.

I was told that if it was very windy that you would not be allowed to leave your ship. We were able to but the next day they were not. Enjoy the photos in case your ship is one of those, one of these days.

The Iconic Blue Domes of Santorini

Athens

The Acropolis of Athens is another place that had more than its share of tourists, especially compared with 40 years ago. Being tall allowed me to get the photos that I missed all those years ago when taking photos and looking like a tourist was not cool–along with not wearing tennis shoes. At least I was glad that this time I had on some chunky but gripping TEVA sandals. It was pretty dangerous walking up and around the Acropolis while all of the cruise ships were in.

The Plaka was still enjoyable and a good place to get in my last ouzo and a piece of Baklava.

Athens, Greece Then and Now

Naples, Last Port of Call

It was the last port, but the options of where to go once you got there were endless. Pompei? The Amalfi Coast? Capri? All sounded familiar and some of them were, from my youthful travels. This time I decided on something a bit off the normal cruise passenger path. I went to the Island of Ischia. The city of San Angelo is known as the Positano of Ischia. My real reason was to visit the volcanic thermal baths. My husband and I had thoroughly enjoyed the thermal springs of Papallacta in Ecuador a few years back and I was looking forward to a similar experience. These were different. Some 28 pools of different temperatures. Of course, the first one I chose was the hottest at 40 degrees Celsius, yikes! A freezing cold pool was right next to it and there were several others of different temperatures up and down the mountainside. There was even a sauna, as if you needed it! In case you didn’t bring a baseball cap to contain your hair of any length, those charming swim caps were provided.

Remember we were back in Italy so the food was outstanding–a plate of 5 different mozzarellas and oh, oh, oh: Don’t miss the Delizia al Limone and a perfect cappuccino.

I wish you your own Bon Voyage!

Why Ecuador?

“Why Ecuador?” That’s what everyone asks. We first visited Ecuador 6 years ago. Not that I have a bucket list, but Ecuador probably wouldn’t have been on it at that time. It’s not a country that people talk about much. Sandwiched between the pre-Colombian ruins of Peru and the newsworthy drug cartels and the long-advertised mountain grown coffee of Colombia, not much had been said to me about Ecuador other than Darwin’s adventures and discoveries on the Galapagos Islands.

It is the Middle of the World, but after you’ve been there, done that, then what?

Good friends of ours said they had booked a tour to Ecuador for that summer of 2013. “Going to the Galapagos?, I asked. “No”, they replied. Why Ecuador?, I thought at the time. Then they told me the cost of their Gate 1 Tour. My next question was, “Can we come with? I don’t think we can afford to stay home at that price!”

Our first visit to Ecuador was very enjoyable. The cost of the tour aside, I finally got to visit the Otavalo market that I had read about since I was 12 years old but never thought I would see myself. It was my 3rd visit to the Amazon Basin, a watery world and rain forest that I never tire of. The Andes, the youngest and longest mountain range in the world did not reach quite the same altitude as locations I had visited in Peru that caused me to succumb to “el soroche”, a very unpleasant altitude sickness.

But still, you ask, “Why Ecuador?”

Volcanoes–Ecuador including the Galapagos has 33 potentially active volcanoes. The northern part of the Ecuadorian Andes was formed by volcanos, the southern part by shifting tectonic plates. Who doesn’t need a little excitement in their life?

Chimborazo Volcano

Roses–Ecuador is the third largest exporting country. They purport that theirs are larger than those of Colombia and the Netherlands.

Preparing for Export
When roses are $3 per dozen locally

Waterfalls–Devil’s Cauldron was the scene of Russell Crowe’s jump in the movie Proof of Life with Meg Ryan.

Cost of prescription drugs and no prescription required–My eardrop prescription with insurance in the US costs $260. In Ecuador, they cost $8 for twice the volume. I bought two.

Worth the cost of the trip

Organic chocolate–A visit to the Cacao plantation was enlightening. Natural fallen fruits of other tropical plants create the fertilizer. The producer provides the cacao for Pacari Chocolate that has won numerous International awards. He also packages some of his own. I bought unsweetened cocoa powder and chocolate discs for baking. Check back later for some of the recipes that I will try them out in.

Mountain and Amazon grown coffee beans–So good, we brought some back to gift, but oh well, you will have to receive a brewed cupful when you visit us. #toogoodtogiveaway.

Eduardo Vega Ceramist–We bought cups and saucers of his design. You can have your cupful of coffee in one of them!

Indigenous markets–The photos say it all, We didn’t visit any this last trip, but saw these in 2013.

Crafts are also sold in the Mercado Artesanal La Mariscal and by indigenous ladies near the cathedral in Quito. I managed to find just a few (ha! ha! my husband says) things to buy.

Jewelry and Textiles–Wonderful quality and selection at great prices.

Just a small display of jewelry and textiles

The Amazon Basin–Like out of a novel or a movie, whether Peru, Brazil or Ecuador, I have enjoyed them all. A return to Punto Ahuano on the Napo River and Casa del Suizo was anticipated and not disappointing. This time around we skipped the 2 hours rain forest hike with chair zipline and balsa raft float down the river. We opted for a swim at the pool, a pina colada, reclining in the hammock and time for photographing tropical plants.

Hotel Image
Hotel Image
Hotel Image
Hotel Image

Hummingbirds

Iguanas–So many and so big in the park across from our hotel.

Iguanas in Guayaquil

Ceviche–We tried Ecuador’s renowned ceviche for lunch. Theirs is different as the fish or seafood is precooked and has clam broth added. Helpful for those squeamish of eating raw fish. It is even served on breakfast buffets.

Octopus Ceviche

Thermal Springs–Papallacta has thermal pools right outside your room and also larger pools and spa with eucalyptus waterfall steam baths.

Termas de Papallacta

US Dollar as currency–This is great for tourists as you won’t get exchange rate charges on your ATM or credit cards. It is not equally great for Ecuadorians as they are not able to devalue their currency to make their export products more competitively priced.

History–How about Simon Bolivar’s last residence before arriving to liberate Quito? (Simon, that is, not us)

Hacienda La Andaluza–Can you see that I was there?

Gate 1 Tours–There are many tour companies, but quality for the price it would be hard to beat Gate 1. A National Geographic tour participant made the comment to me at our hotel bar that NG only used the best hotels–HELLO–we were at the same hotel!

All I have left to say is, “Why Not Ecuador?”

Meyer Lemon Love

Meyer Lemons with 1 Persian Lime

My love for Meyer lemons was not instantaneous. In fact, other than seeing them in Hammock yards, I wasn’t impressed. As they were so abundant, my only thought was that they must be like a weed tree since no one seemed to be picking them.

Each year I would receive a small bag from a friend of a neighbor and gradually use them up in the way of regular lemons: salad dressing and chicken marinades. This year was different. My own grown from seed Ponderosa lemon tree had its best year ever with 32 lemons! Unfortunately, as it is on the edge of the road, passers-by took off with half of them. I complained to a colleague about this taking-without-asking and was rewarded with a bag of his Meyer lemons. I mixed them with a couple of my Ponderosas and made up a batch of Limoncello and some preserved lemons for my Moroccan recipes and salads. Hmm, pretty good.

Preserved Lemons

Ingredients
Cut and Squeezed
Salted and Preserved 

A couple of days later, my husband and I took a walk in the Hammock and came upon a freshly cleared lot. At the back were a couple of fruit trees with fruit half on the ground. Lo and behold it was a Meyer Lemon tree and a Persian Lime tree. We waited a day or two then went back to see if the owners had claimed their bounty. More lemons had found their way to the ground. Joy! We picked two grocery bags full.

My Mom’s Lemon Bars

I made up a batch of My Mom’s Lemon Bars. Most of you probably have your own recipe so I won’t include it here, even though these are the best I have tasted. If you need the recipe just let me know.

When I got up yesterday I realized that I had a refrigerator full of those yellow orbs that weren’t getting any fresher. I also had a half cup of yogurt that needed to be used up or tossed. To my memory came a lemon yogurt cake recipe of an English friend. When our boys were little I used to bake this cake every week, or a version of it with chocolate or vanilla. When you see how easy it is you will be baking it yourself.

Meyer Lemon Yogurt Cake

This recipe was originally made using a small yogurt cup as the measure, thus the 5/8 Cup amount. You can use a half cup and just round it up a bit. I’m also going to admit that I was short on the yogurt and used some low-fat sour cream to make up the 5/8 Cup yogurt measure.

Ingredients

5/8 Cup low-fat yogurt
5/8 Cup canola or other vegetable oil
2 Cups self-raising flour
1 1/4 Cup sugar
3 eggs
grated rind of 1 or 2 Meyer or other lemons

Just throw all of the ingredients into a bowl and stir them up with a wooden spoon. Pour them into a really well-greased bundt pan and bake it at 375 degrees F. for about 35 minutes. Remove and poke it through with a long skewer. Pour over a glaze made of 1/4 Cup of the Meyer lemon juice and 1/2 Cup of sugar that were warmed to dissolve the sugar. Cool and then turn it out. Yum!

The refrigerator, in addition to the remaining lemons, now contained several lemons with their zest removed. I squeezed up a nice batch of lemonade. Perfect with a slice of lemon cake.

My mother-in-law would often say of me that I never wasted anything. That comment reminded me of one of her tricks. She had a large collection of decorative English brass ornaments that she only ever used lemon juice and salt to clean. Aha! Zested and squeezed lemons with a further purpose. It also gave me a rewarding if a longer-than-expected activity of cleaning our heavy gauge copper wine cooler.

Ready to polish
After and Before Polishing with lemon and salt
All polished

Truthfully, you can use Meyer lemons just about anywhere that you would use regular lemons. However, because Meyers have such a small amount of white pith, you can make use of the whole lemon minus the seeds in my most recent hankering.

Meyer Lemon Gremolata Sauce

This is super tasty on cheese, steak, sandwiches, chicken, stirred into warm pasta or on the side of just about anything else you can think of. Caution, it is moreish (British term for wanting more). Let me know how you like it best.

Ingredients

1 clove garlic, finely chopped (may substitute a small shallot)
1 1/2 Tablespoons good vinegar: champagne, infused garlic, basil, etc.
1 bunch fresh basil or parsley, finely chopped (may use a food processor)
11/2 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons small capers rinsed well and chopped finely
1 Meyer lemon, sliced thinly then cut into small triangles, discard seeds
1/2 Cup good olive oil

Stir all ingredients together. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to one week. It never lasts that long at our house.

Key West Krawl


US Hwy 1 begins or ends, as the case may be, in Key West.

It may have been Carl Hiassen, or if not then another Florida writer, who wrote something like: “People come to Florida to reinvent themselves–people from Florida go to Key West.”

Key West is definitely one of our happy places. It never fails that we discover something new each time we visit. Perhaps we are not reinventing but rather finding our carefree selves of old that encourages new experiences while retaining our love of the known ones.


Roosters abound in Key West

Years ago when we had first moved to the Hammock, Damian, the original owner of the Hammock Wine and Cheese Shoppe, said that she had to go to Key West to get new sandals. I wondered why on earth she needed to go all that way. And so began my own unremitting love of Key West Kino Sandals. My colleagues at work will confirm that I am not making that up. Every time they see me I seem to be sporting a different color of my beloved Kinos.

Kino Sandals

Our krawl, therefore, had to begin at Kino Plaza. What a tragedy! Their machine had broken down and they didn’t have my favorite style in the 2 colors I wanted. I wasn’t even able to cajole them into custom making them when it was due to be up and running the next day. Time to try a different style in the one color. I vowed to check back each day of our visit to see if they might have made the other color that I wanted in my size.

Oh, oh, not my size or color
I bought the green ones, not my customary style

Just in time for the sunset at Mallory Square.

After a predawn rain, we were able to see that our top floor hotel room actually had a pretty decent view.

Crowne Plaza La Concha

We also discovered that our hotel, the Crowne Plaza La Concha,had the best happy hour food in town, no kidding. Dishes delicious at 3 times the price with free hotel drink coupons for 2 brought our dinner bill to $13!

Hemingway Rum Company

Time for another discovery–of the alcoholic type. Hemingway Rum Company’s charming tasting room and divine sipping rum. Of course, we bought a bottle. I finally have a use for our brandy snifters as I only use brandy to cook. Anecdotally, I investigated their bathrooms when I overheard a customer come back to the hostess and remark on how nice and clean they were! You can also take a distillery tour here. We had been on the tour at the St. Augustine Distillery numerous times so we didn’t partake.

Hemingway Rum Company Bar
Rum Pilar named after Hem’s boat

I was reminded of Florida Distillery laws when purchasing a bottle to take home. You are required to give your phone number as you are only allowed 12 bottles per person per year of a given type. You may only purchase 6 at a time. Don’t worry, you can buy as many as you like at the liquor store. Total Wine in Palm Daytona Beach carries it.

Petronia Street

Across from Mam’s Best Food

Krawling on, we made our way to the Bahama Village. We found handsome ladies shops and you will also find the Blue Heaven Restaurant a few blocks off Duval on Petronia Street. We had eaten there before and enjoyed it, but we were looking for somewhere a little out of the Key West ordinary of fancy cocktails and brunch items.

Mam’s Best Food

We certainly found a different sort of place. If I had an Israeli mother or grandmother I can only imagine she would be like the proprietor of Mam’s Best Food. Pinching our cheeks, feigning misunderstanding, alternately scolding us while squeezing our shoulders she delivered delicious middle eastern cuisine in an open-air family setting complete with fabric patterned tablecloths and plastic utensils. We agreed it was one of our favorite Key West experiences.

Cuban Coffee–It is Cayo Hueso after all.

Cafe Cubano also called Colada

Key West, originally named Cayo Hueso by the Spanish, is only 90 miles from Cuba. It was named for the bones of the Calusa Indians found there and Key West is what it sounded like to English ears. Our visit to Key West is never complete without our favorite “colada” that we always get at the Floridita Bar of El Meson de Pepe just off Mallory Square.

La Floridita
El Meson de Pepe

Back at our hotel happy hour, we met the man who makes most of the ubiquitous t-shirts and caps that we all buy in Key West. He let us in on a local Cuban coffee favorite called 5 Brothers. It is about 9 blocks up Southard Street from Duval. One good thing is that it opens at 6:30 am as we are usually up with the roosters. The price is also right at $1.70 for a perfect cup of cafe con leche.

5 Brothers Grocery and Sandwich Shop

The bench outside was complete with Conchs (locals) who had sat there most mornings for the last 30 years. A fellow visitor posed the question about the old homes and whether they were built to withstand hurricanes. From my realtor’s perspective, the response was especially interesting. Since the wooden frame homes were all built without insulation, the homes can breathe. Therefore when the pressure changes the houses do not blow off their roofs, but rather they let the air pass through.

Talk of work made me realize that it was time for our krawl to end. It also meant going back to the beginning with a return to Kino’s. Success! They had managed to make the light brown sandals in my size!

Kinos at home and ready to krawl

Calico Scallop Cookies

If you think you have seen these before on my blog, you are right! I brightened them up with 12 drops of red food color to resemble my favorite Calico Scallop seashell. My original recipe can be found at Cookie Stamps of Approval

I have loved the Calico Scallop since I found a pendant in a St Augustine shop about 10 years ago. I had always admired a similar pendant that a friend had bought in the Southwest, not a real shell but a real beauty done up in turquoise, coral and silver.

The Calico Scallop is actually fished along the coast of our Eastern Atlantic Florida shores. I have never found an intact shell, but another type of shell should work just as well as a cookie mold for you–just dust the shell well with flour. Or, you can read my earlier blog to find out where to purchase stamps. Or, there is always our friend, Google.

I have to admit that these cookies look much better than my original ones without the added food coloring. I believe they needed the extra liquid to help the dough stamp and even hold their design better.

Pre-baked design

This recipe couldn’t be easier as all of the ingredients are just added to the food processor this time and baked using a silicone liner on your baking sheet. Here it is again with the addition of food coloring.

Calico Scallop Cookies based on Three Churches Shortbread Cookies
PREHEAT OVEN TO 325 F
• CREAM TOGETHER in a food processor
1 cup butter
1/2 cup icing sugar
• ADD
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup corn starch
1 tsp. pure almond extract
12 drops red food coloring

Baking Instructions
Use a 1 1/2 inch ice-cream scoop to form into 1 1/2″ balls and place 2″ apart on a silicone lined cookie sheet. Dust cookie stamp in a saucer of flour, then press the cookie ball, leaving a clear impression. Repeat, remembering to flour the stamp each time. Bake at 325 F for 20-25 min.  Makes approximately 2 dozen.

I managed to get mine baked in time for Valentines Day, but there is nothing stopping you baking them any time of the year since the Calico Scallop is always a happy reminder of Florida whether you live here or just wish that you did!

How about a Honeybell Biscotti, Honey?

After a successful whirlwind week of showing properties to my sister and brother-in-law, I am ready to unwind with a little baking. My freezer is also saying “yes, please” as we managed to get through the fruitcake scones, potato scones, cherry scones and the sourdough English muffins. Oh, and the anis cookies, pfeffernusse, almond bars and the Dutch speculas which filled in the gaps between meals. With two half Danish sisters in the same house, it is a dead cert that baked goods are on the menu. We also made a dent on the sourdough rye-bread, rosemary sourdough French bread and a sourdough boule.

Welcome to Honeybell orange season in Florida. Now that winter in Florida (January) has come and gone, the honeybells are here. Their season always seems to be even shorter than our winter–and a lot more enjoyable. If your Florida friends tell you not to visit in January, heed them. The one month that you don’t prefer being outside here leaves us all challenged as to what there is to do. Fortunately for us, we were busy househunting in Palm Coast and Ponte Vedra. Palm Coast provided the winning entry and next year my sister will not be visiting us in Florida, but living here!

The Honeybell is also known as a Minneola Tangelo. A cross between a Darcy Tangerine and a Duncan Grapefruit, it is a mixture of sweet and sour with juicy flesh and a loose peel. What’s not to like?

Honeybells otherwise known as Minneola Tangelos

If I were to choose an orange to eat, this would be it. However, I tend to use it more for its beautiful orange zest in recipes as diverse as baklava, orange and carrot soup, orange liqueur and my offering for today–Orange and Almond Biscotti. You can find my recipe for orange liqueur first mentioned as Limoncello with a lemon variation in my post: Can’t Stop Those Lemons

I’ll include it again here as it will make an awesome treat combination with the Honeybell Biscotti recipe that will follow.

Orange Liqueur Recipe

Oranges, vodka and sugar—that’s all it takes!

4 oranges, Honeybells will give the best color (and flavor, in my opinion)
3 Cups Vodka
1 ½ Cups sugar

  1. Use a carrot peeler to remove the zest from 4 oranges.  Pat the zest with paper towels.
  2. Place the zest into a large, wide-mouthed plastic or glass jar.
  3. Pour over 2 Cups of really inexpensive vodka.  Seal and leave in a dark place for 3 to 4 days.
  4. Remove and dispose of the zest.
  5. Add 1 ½ Cups sugar to the vodka.  Stir well to dissolve as much as possible.  Stir in 1 more Cup of vodka.
  6. Leave in a dark place for 1 week, checking daily to dissolve any remaining sugar.
  7. Put in decorative bottles, label if desired and place in your liquor cabinet.  Lasts until it is gone.  I like to keep a bottle in the freezer or you can pour it over ice cubes to enjoy. This is also the perfect liqueur to use in your Margaritas.

Honeybell Biscotti

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 Tablespoon grated Honeybell orange zest
1 1/2 Cups sugar, plus 1 Tablespoon for sprinkling
3 large eggs
3 Cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 Cup whole almonds, lightly toasted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t have silicone baking mats which I highly recommend that you order today, then butter and flour a large baking sheet.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and orange zest until well blended. Gradually beat in 1 1/2 Cups sugar. Beat in 2 of the eggs, one at a time.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add them to the mixer and stir until well blended. Use your hands to knead in the whole almonds.

Divide the dough in half and shape into 2 logs 15″ x 2.5″. Beat the 3rd egg and brush it over each log. Sprinkle the logs with the remaining Tablespoon of sugar. This is what they will look like when ready to hit the oven.

Unbaked Biscotti

Remember that “biscotti” means twice baked. You will bake the logs for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees then remove the tray from the oven and allow them to cool for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees before the second baking.

After first bake

Now you need to move the warm logs to a cutting board and cut them on the diagonal with a serrated knife in about 3/4 inch thick slices. Arrange the slices flat side down for the second baking. at 325 degrees for 8 minutes. Then you have to flip them over and bake them a third time for 5 to 8 minutes. I am not Italian, so don’t write to ask me why they are called twice baked when they are actually baked 3 times. You may, however, write me about anything else!

This recipe makes about 40 cookies. I keep them in a glass jar or in the freezer until I need them.

Right now I’m going to enjoy a couple with some Honeybell Orange Liqueur.

Potato and Cherry Scones to the Rescue

If you are like me, the New Year finds you back on a diet. For me, it’s The Flat Belly Diet that I mentioned in some of my earlier posts. So what do I do when I love to bake? I get prepared for our Florida visiting friends and relatives with my ready-to-bake scones tucked away in the freezer.

Who isn’t a fan of the Great British Baking Show? I have been baking scones since I lived in England for 5 years. What might be surprising is that my potato scone recipe, that also holds a place in one of my family cookbooks, is from the newest presenter to that TV series, Prue Leith. Prue was the Martha Stewart of the UK during my years there. My adjustment to her recipe is to turn her level teaspoon measurement into a rounded teaspoon. English teaspoons are 1.2 times the size of American ones.

Image result for prue leith


Potato Scones

Digital Kitchen Scale Food Multifunction Accuracy Scale LCD display 11LB 5KG Digital Weight Touch (Stainless Steel) By Moss And Stone

You will need a food scale for this recipe as some of the ingredients are by weight. I have one that I love by Oneida. It doesn’t seem to be available anymore but here is what the digital ones look like. I love that I can convert from ounces and pounds to grams and kilos.

 

 

12 ounces plain flour (I like to use White Lily for scones and biscuits)
1 teaspoon salt
6 rounded teaspoons baking powder
4 ounces chilled butter (this is 1/2 stick)
3 ounces sugar
8 ounces left-over mashed potato (chilled from the refrigerator is fine)
8 Tablespoons milk to mix 

Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl.  Cut in the butter until pea-sized.  You can also do this in a food processor.  Just don’t overmix.  Stir in the sugar and rub in the cold mashed potato.  Add enough milk to mix.  I like to cut these out with a round 2 1/2 inch cutter.  Traditional English scones are round.  You may make them smaller or larger.  Be sure to cut the sides sharply, don’t twist the cutter.  If using a knife, cut straight down.  This size will yield 12.  Bake them on a greased or parchment or silicone lined baking sheet at 425 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.   

If you want to freeze the dough ready to bake for those friends and family that come to visit, freeze the cutout shapes on a baking sheet and when frozen transfer them to a Ziploc bag for freezer storage.  Bake from frozen for a couple of minutes longer.

These are nice served with jam and whipped cream if you are feeling decadent.

Several years ago, I read a novel called Bread Alone by Judith Ryan Hendricks. Not only is the recipe for Cherry Scones from her book but also the neat trick for freezing the prepared dough that I gave you in the Potato Scone recipe. Her recipe uses dried cranberries not cherries otherwise it is the same. I just happen to adore dried cherries. The truth is, you can substitute any dried fruit. This year I even made some with leftover fruitcake mix fruit soaked in cranberry juice instead of orange juice. They were quite delicious, as well. The texture of these is perfect and you may cut them into triangles (as it is an American recipe).

Bread Alone: A Novel
Bread Alone

Cherry Scones

3 Cups plain flour
1/2 Cup sugar
5 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 Cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut in small pieces
1/2 Cup dried cherries (or cranberries or other dried fruit) soaked in orange juice or cranberry juice for 10 minutes
1/2 Cup lightly toasted and chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 Cup milk
1 egg
zest of one orange or lemon

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter until dough is in pea-size crumbs. Drain the dried fruit and add to the dough along with the nuts. Whisk the milk, egg and orange zest in a small bowl or measuring cup. Add to the dry ingredients and mix just until the dough clumps together in a ball.

Roll out on a floured surface to 3/4 inch thick. Cut into your desired shape, and freeze or bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit until golden brown, about 20 minutes. It may take a little longer if frozen.

These scones don’t need anything on them. Of course there is always butter or whipped cream for those who might think otherwise.

I Dreamt I was a Dragon

I dreamt I was a dragon in my hammock by the sea,

An Eastern not a Western one for frightening others wasn’t me.

A sign perhaps to let me know,

That future ventures were to grow.

Auspicious dreams can sometimes be,

A winding path that sets us free.

But dream I dreamt so off we go,

And gracious be there is no snow!

For dragons like a fire you know.

So search I must I can’t be slow,

Your dream won’t last foretold the crow,

Make haste to find the fire’s glow.

I’ll try I cried, it must be red,

This one?

Not this one,

nor this one, I said.

I found a fancy fire pit ,

but darn, I thought, this isn’t it.

Aha!  What’s this? My future home?

Just make it hot and I won’t roam.

I dreamt I was a dragon in my hammock by the sea.

Of fires hot and garden plot my dream is telling me,

Make bread

 

and scones

 

and flowers grow,

For Florida it has no snow.

Take inside out to bake your dough,

Whether oven hot… or not, you’ll give the world a show.

Inspiration, many times, comes from different places.  In this instance it was a plush dragon toy from IKEA that was sitting with our Christmas decorations, under the television and destined for Toys for Tots.  You know how some things just capture your heart?  Well, I couldn’t let this one go without securing it a lasting place in my memory.

The Night Pelican–A Story

Image result for pelican chick

I was the last nestling chick of my aging mother pelican.  She was almost 30 years old,  a near record and she knew she wouldn’t be around to see me mature.  Sadly, she was quite sure that I wouldn’t.  You see, my mother had stowed away on a ship that went to a country where some pretty serious chemicals are still used to spray for mosquitoes and other insect pests.  It doesn’t kill pelicans but it did cause my shell to be very weak and it got a little crushed before I was born.

My mother thanked goodness that the one wish that is granted to all of Mother Nature’s creatures was still waiting to be used.  Her life had been one of adventure and she had never wanted for anything.   That is until I came along.  I guess I was lucky but it doesn’t always feel like it.  To be truthful, her wish may not have turned out the way she had thought it would.  Since I was so much weaker than other pelicans, she only wished that I would live a protected life.  She knew that raucous camaraderie might spell the end of me.

Oh boy, am I protected.  I am also very lonely.  You would be too if the only time you were allowed to venture out was at night when all of your would be friends or mates are out in the marshes sleeping off the day’s adventures.

Understand, I love to look out at the garden of the home in the Hammock where I am propped, but to be cast in stone, unable to move while all around me does is as frustrating as it comes.

Yes, I am as I look–a stone pelican by day.  My life begins at sunset.

When the waking world heads off to sleep, I begin to feel my feathers soften ready for the safety of the dark.  This is when I find my way to the sea along the moonlit Hammock roads.

Full moon nights are the best.  I can pretend that it is daytime.  Sometimes I see a pelican or two taking advantage of the moonlight for a little extra fishing time.Image result for full moon flagler beach

Mostly I am alone.

On warm summer nights from April to October I often see sea turtles making their way ashore to lay their eggs.

Image result for loggerhead sea turtle nesting

Sometimes I see the sea turtle hatchlings struggling to make their way to the sea before being gobbled up by other birds and crabs that also make their homes on the beach.  I feel an affinity for them even though they surely could not be the recipients of Mother Nature’s only granted wish.  With each mother turtle laying  50 to 100 eggs you know that the wish a mother might have used to protect one of her young was used up long, long ago.

Nighttime, as you can see, is not a safe time for all of Nature’s creatures.  There will always be hunters and the hunted.  I understand it is the way of the world.  My own Hammock home is a good place to stay away from in the dark.

           

Some are not as wise or as fortunate to be graced with their mother’s wish and must learn the hard way where not to play.  Their punishment?  A banishment to a distant park far from their family and friends.

I see the moon begin to lower in the west, a sign that I must make my way back to my Hammock home–a refuge for the Night Pelican.

The white variegated shefflera and bromeliads light the turn to my daytime residence.

The beauty of the rising sun is not for the likes of me.

For I, the Night Pelican, am safely home.