Anisette Cookies

Growing up we had these cookies at every family dinner, every holiday, every single time there was an excuse to bake.  My Nonnie and her sister used to make these all the time, only instead of calling them Anisette cookies, they called them Biscotti.  I’ve asked around and no one seems to know why.  Another un-known is why both women pronounced the “c” as a “g”.  So these are my Nonnie’s “Bis-Gotti” cookies.  I made 1 batch and split the dough in half.  One half I flavored as listed below, but the other half I made for those people who aren’t really into anise flavoring.  Those cookies are lemon flavored: 1tsp lemon extract and 1 1 /2 Tbsp lemon zest to replace the anise seed.  Wonderful.  I’m sharing my Nonnie’s recipe because she isn’t here to do it herself.  And I’m sharing it with you as part of Farmer’s Daughter’s Cookie Swap!  Enjoy!


Nonnie’s Anisette Cookies
  • 1 c. Crisco
  • 1 1/2 c. Sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c. Sour Cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbsp. Anise Seed
  • 4 c. Flour

Cream together the first 3 ingredients.  Add in the sour cream, the baking powder, soda, salt, vanilla and anise seed.  Finally, mix in the flour half a cup at a time.  You are wanting a relatively stiff batter, so if you need to, feel free to add more flour.  Drop by the Tablespoon full onto a lined cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.  When the cookies are cooled, ice with a simple icing of powdered sugar and water (beat until the consistency you’d like).  These cookies store well for a week as long as they are sealed. 

The stickiest buns

I made these sticky buns with Liam the night before Thanksgiving.  They were wonderful and gooey and the perfect accompaniment to our annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade watching!  Liam thoroughly enjoyed participating and as a result of all our recent kitchen exploits, he now drags a chair over to the counter every time he thinks I need help.

This recipe was super easy to make and as long as you follow the directions, you’re set.  By that I mean, when Ree says to wait an hour before adding the yeast, she means it.  If you don’t, you’ll kill the yeast and then have dough the texture of leather.  Ahem.  I was especially grateful that these buns turned out well, because they were the last thing I’ve been able to cook in my kitchen since Wednesday.  My oven blew up on Saturday morning so we are now in the midst of the kitchen remodel that is happening about 6 months ahead of schedule.  Which I suppose is better in the long run, who wants all that hassle with a new baby and a toddler?  Right now, I just have to convince Liam that Daddy doesn’t really need his help.

Spicy, spicy!

If you are making Lola fries, you can’t eat them without spicy ketchup.  Trust me.  There is something the way rosemary and salt blend together with the spice in the ketchup, you’d be a sad person to miss it.  Unless you can’t handle spice.  Then, I’d recommend simply cutting the spices in half and seeing how that works for you.  This ketchup works well not only with potatoes, but also with meat.  Michael Symon has a recipe for barbecue sauce in his book that uses his spicy ketchup as the base.  I’ll be trying it tonight with the roast duck we’re having.  Regardless of how it turns out, I’m just looking forward to how my house is going to smell!
Spicy Ketchup (Mansfield style)
  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, diced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. Adobo paste (I used this instead of the Fresno chilies and Ancho Chilies, not really because I was trying to change his recipe, but as the title suggests, I live in Mansfield… we don’t have those specialty peppers in stock… ever.)
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 6-ounce can of tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

In a 2-quart saucepan, sweat the onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat.  Add in a “three finger pinch” of kosher salt.  Cook until translucent, about 2 minutes.  Add the adobo paste and crushed red pepper flakes.  Cook for about a minute or so before adding in the brown sugar, cumin, cinnamon stick, tomato paste, mustard and vinegar.  Stir to combine and then let it cook for 10 minutes, watching so that it doesn’t splatter.  In the first 5 minutes of cooking, add in 1 cup of water.  Allow the sauce to combine and then add another cup.  Wait about 15 minutes before adding a final cup of water.  Stir so that the thick sauce from the bottom of the pan mixes in with the water.  Cover and allow to simmer for 2 hours.  Make sure you check the sauce and stir regularly during that time.  At the end of 2 hours, remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.  Remove the cinnamon stick.  You can either puree the mixture to get rid of the chunks of onion and garlic (and peppers if you choose to use them) or leave them in.  I chose to  leave them in because I loved the bits of onion on my fry!  When the ketchup is completely cool, cover it and store in the fridge for up to a month. 

Pregnancy Cravings

I find it amazing how my tastes can change so quickly.  Last night, I wanted a roast chicken for supper.  And I was going to make a rice dish… but then, somehow… my mind wandered to potatoes and I thought I’d make mashed potatoes… or baked… or broiled… or oh!  I could make the Lola fries!  Ever since having them this summer, I’ve been meaning to make them, but hadn’t got up the gumption to deal with frying potatoes.  Since we are getting the family into the kitchen as much as possible now, I thought it would be something fun to do with Liam running around.  We ran 6 potatoes over my mandoline’s julienne cutter and I will tell you that it made far too many for just the 3 of us.  Didn’t stop me from eating them though!

Liam was convinced that the julienned potatoes were cheese and kept reaching for handfuls to try.  I lost count of how many he sampled before get gave up and believed us that they were potatoes, not cheese.  I had read a report once that the main “vegetable” consumption of children in Liam’s age group was the french fry.  I have really tried hard to not let him have too many potatoes, but when it’s literally my favorite comfort food, regardless of preparation, I just felt bad.  So, we’ve varied the preparations of potatoes in this house and Liam loves them all.  These fries were the perfect size for his sweet little hands to grab hold of.  Instead of throwing whole pieces of rosemary on the fries, I ground dried rosemary up and mixed it in with the salt.  I made far too much of the salt mixture, but it was a hit with both of my boys, so I’ll keep it on hand and try it with other things.

Michael says that it’s best to fry the potatoes once at 275, drain, rinse, pat dry and fry again at 350.  Perhaps this is something you do when you have time.  Not only did I decide to do fries right before the chicken was done, I have a toddler.  He wasn’t up for waiting for the second frying.  However, they were shear perfection and regardless of how we chose to prepare our potatoes from now on, I’ll be adding some rosemary to the seasoning!  Stay tuned tomorrow for my adaptation of his spicy ketchup!

Stocked for winter, planning for the Spring



How did your canning go this year?  I had bigger goals, I must admit, but I will tell you that I am still really pleased every time I open the cabinet and see the products of my hard work.  I get a similar feeling when I see the neatly arranged piles of vegetables and fruit I prepared and froze.  This summer, I read through the Little House Series for the first time in year and years.  One thing that struck me was how prepared both the Ingalls and Wilder families were.  I wanted to be that prepared, but maybe another year.  Salt pork isn’t my thing.  I worked like mad over the tomatoes and came away with sauce, salsa and diced tomatoes.  I baked and then froze almost 100 ears of corn.  There are a few bushels of green beans in my freezer as well.  My little boy is loving all the applesauce I made and I’m literally hiding the peaches from him, they’re so wonderful!  I had wanted to do a few tutorials this year, but time got away from me… so they’ll be there for next year.

Next year’s garden isn’t going to be very large considering I’m due right in the middle of the planting season and since we’ve been working on the house so much we haven’t even really talked about the actual site of our future garden.  I think what will wind up happening is that I will plant a few things close to the house and then the kids and I will go up to the farmer’s market and purchase what I need to can.  They provide me with the most beautiful tomatoes every year, so I shouldn’t have any trouble getting what I need.  This upcoming season will teach me how to cooperate with my friends more than ever.  Several of us are all having babies in the late spring and early summer, so I’m looking forward to getting together with our little ones and heating up that canner!

Soup for a dreary day

Today is the first day we really had seasonal weather.  It’s cold, rainy and generally dreary out.  I just wanted to stay inside all day and have been craving hot chocolate since about 9 this morning.  I did brave the elements to make a quick trip to the butcher’s so I could have some chicken for this soup.  I’m glad I did.  This soup was comforting enough to warm us up at supper, but bright enough to cheer us up for the evening’s play time.  I served it with a baguette of multigrain bread and a warm cheese dip.  The Christmas music in the background only made it all the cozier!


Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup
  • 1lb bone-less, skin-less chicken breast (If you are using legs/thighs, use about 6 total.)
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 4-6 cups water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup parsley, minced
Begin with a stockpot heated to medium heat and add in either a splash of olive oil or a pat of butter.  Add the onions and celery and saute until tender.  Season the chicken on both sides and then place in the pan with the onions and celery.  Sear the chicken on both sides and then add the lemon juice.  Cook for 1 minute to let the juice flash flavor the chicken before adding 4 cups of water.  Cook until the chicken is done through.  Then, remove the chicken and shred or dice it.  Return the chicken to the soup and add the orzo and peas.  When the orzo is done, you may need to add more water depending on how puffy your orzo got.  Do a taste test for flavor and adjust accordingly.  Sprinkle with the parsley right before serving.

I made this cheese dip by making a quick roux out of butter, flour and milk.  Then, I added 2 cups of freshly shredded mozzarella and provolone.  I seasoned it quickly with pepper and smoked paprika.  There are some leftovers, so I’m excited to use it tomorrow on cheese toasts to go with tomato soup!

Homemade Applesauce

Does your toddler love applesauce?  Mine does!  Oh my, I have to actually hide the jar in my fridge or he’ll cry if he doesn’t see it going on his plate.  No joke.  I did some calculations and realized I’d be saving myself a boatload if I just made it at home rather than paying money for someone else to cook and smash apples.  Seriously.  Half a bushel of apples made me roughly 6 quarts/12 pints of applesauce.  I had a fun time making this over the weekend and am looking forward to serving it to a very excited little boy this winter!
  • 1/2 bushel apples – use a variety so you can get lots of different flavors and colors.  For this batch, I used Goldens, Jona-Golds, Macintosh, and a few sad-looking Honeycrisps.
Traditionally, you would peel your apples first and then cook them down into a sauce, but I chose to do the opposite.  I cut the apples into eighths and then threw them stems, cores, peels and all into my crockpot.  I cooked them on high until they were soft (about an hour) and then put them through the Kitchenaid mixer attachment for straining.  Once they were pureed, seed and skin free, I put the sauce back into the crockpot to hold until I was ready to can.  I did it this way so I wasn’t using any of the burners on my gimpy stove.  I have 2 crockpots so I had them both running with batches of apples.  It was fun to see how each batch was effected by the skin color of the apples.  I had one that was reddish, one that was almost brown and another that was almost white!  Once all the sauce was done, I got my jars, rings and lids sterilized and filled them with the hot applesauce.  I filled 5 quart jars and the rest got eaten.  The jars were then processed in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.

Total I now have 18 pints and 5 quarts of applesauce to take us through the winter.  I’m doubtful that it will actually last unless Liam decides that he’s found something else he’s in love with, but I know better for next year.  Next year, I’ll have 2 babies… so maybe I’ll do 2 bushels?

From pickets to paper

This is part of the Healthy Child Blog Carnival– an effort by Healthy Child Healthy World to help inspire a movement to protect children from harmful chemicals
When I was in college, I was bold.  I was nervy.  And I carried the banner for every unheard voice I could find.  I stood around with my picket signs and I had “Students for a Free Tibet” on every water bottle, notebook and available surface.  I waded around in creek beds picking up trash and litter.  I passed out information and wanted to talk to those people who could make a change.  Upon graduation, I suddenly found that my time was now spent working, commuting and being with my family.  I no longer had whole weekends to advocate for the animal shelter.  I also found that in my community at that time, there were few opportunities to participate.
A few years ago, I wrote letters to each of the 14 nearby school districts to ask them to revaluate their food choices.  Only one school responded and the letter was rather nasty to tell the truth.  10 years ago, this might not have bothered me, but this time it did.  So I changed my approach and started writing to senators, representatives, heads of school boards, newspaper editors, and the mayor of our town.  

To date, the only real success I have seen was an article in our local paper about a year after my letters began inundating the local offices.  The director mentioned in the article received a phone call from me to follow up with my letter.  I didn’t get to speak with him, but the person who I did talk to was receptive and kind.  I can’t say it was my phone call that made the difference, but it was nice to see someone took all those letters that I’m certain other people submitted and made a choice.

Regardless of whether or not my voice is the one that gets listened to, I will advocate the use of healthy products and local food choices through my own lifestyle.  The best way to do this is to actually feed people a meal and wait for them to love it.  Inevitably, they ask about your ingredients and preparations and you then have an open door to talk about what’s important to you.  Above all else, remember: You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.  A pound cake made of all local ingredients goes a long way when you are trying to convince someone that a 100-mile diet is do-able!

The flavor of Fall


I planted my first Sugar baby pie pumpkins this year.  I could hardly wait to see all the little gems that were sure to come off those vines!  Sadly, I only harvested one pumpkin and I sacrificed it to make my dad a pumpkin pie for his birthday.  A good cause, right?  I was content with the thought that I would have to buy my pumpkins again this year and resort to the occasional canned gloop when I saw I sign at the farmer’s market that pumpkins were going to be scarce this year (reason unknown, but it did make me feel better about my less than productive vines) and I was struck with an insane urgency to stock up.  That day, I bought 10 pie pumpkins.  This weekend, I finally finished putting them up for the winter.  I should be sitting back and enjoying my work, but I think I’m going to have to buy more.  Pumpkin seems to be Liam’s new favorite flavor and I’m more than willing to oblige.

My mother used to make her own pumpkin puree by halving the pumpkins, scooping out the seeds and roasting them until tender in a 350 degree oven.  When they were cool enough to handle, she would scoop out the flesh and take it for a spin in the food processor before either baking it into something or freezing it.  I must admit that when I first had my own home and did my baking, I just bought the cans from the supermarket… until I learned that those cans of “pumpkin” aren’t 100% pumpkin, but a mixture of squashes.  Cue my obsession with hoarding pumpkins every Fall.  This year, I tried a new method of handling the pumpkins and I think I’ll be repeating it yearly.  I washed the pumpkins and then cut each one into 8 pieces.  I then removed the seeds and placed the pieces in my crock pot.  When the crock pot was full, I sprinkled a little cinnamon and sugar over the top and then let them cook on low for about 2 hours or until I could pierce the shell with a fork.  Then, I let them cool a bit before scooping out the flesh.  This is where I had some fun.  I chose to puree my pumpkin with an immersion blender.  It worked out well for me this time around because I was still working on the pumpkins tonight after Liam went to bed and it’s so much quieter than any of my other options.  Also, there was only 1 piece to clean up!  I then froze the pumpkin in bags measured out to 2 cups.  2 cups seems to be about the norm for all my recipe requirements.  I actually season the pumpkin once it’s in the batter for whatever I’m working on, but the sugar and cinnamon the pumpkin was baked with helps to soften and tenderize the pumpkin and I like it so much better this way!  For reference, I got 7 2-cup bags of puree from 4 average sized pie pumpkins.  That’s lot of baking potential!

Cheddar-stuffed Burgers

Are your Fall weekends still nice?  Mine are.  The weather has been nice enough out that we could even still eat on the porch if we wanted.  The trees are changing and I love being surrounded by color all the time.  With the weather still like this and dozens of projects to do around the house, it’s nice to still be able to grill out.  My husband is in  charge of the grill.  I also have given him charge of what goes on it.  He saw an idea about cheese-stuffed burgers and after many attemps, has finally mastered it.  So far, the favorite is a simple ground beef burger, stuffed with cheddar cheese and topped classically.  I like it and it was Liam’s first burger.  And now Liam loves burgers.  He’s his father’s son.

After much trial and error, Matt has decided that the best method for making these burgers and not having a huge mess all over your grill is to make 2 separate beef patties, 3oz each.  These are fairly thin patties, but once you add the cheese in the middle and they cook, they are the perfect size for a burger.  In the center of 1 patty, place a piece of cheese, about 2 oz worth and big enough to fill the center of the patty.  Top with the other patty and press the edges together.  Don’t be slack in this step or you will have a very cheesy mess all over your grill.  Finally, grill until they are the doneness you desire.  Top as usual and enjoy this nifty change to your average cook out!