edible gifts

Zucchini Bread

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When we were first married, Ed promised me 50 years. That was in 1969. We were young and 50 years seemed like a REALLY REALLY long time.

Grandparent stuff.

But here we are. A few months short of 50.

Wasn’t it yesterday that I fit into that long white dress?

We wanted to celebrate with two other couples, all close friends, who are also at 50.

But we didn’t want to have a big party. Not even an intimate dinner party for six. Although those are lovely, it seemed like the same-old, same-old. 50 years deserved something special.

So we decided to have a 150th Anniversary Afternoon Tea.

It was festive, fun and celebratory.

We started with champagne and tea sandwiches.

Then: scones, clotted cream and jams.

Finally, dessert: several kinds of cookies, Lemon Buttermilk Cake, Pumpkin Spice Cake and this: Zucchini Bread, (made with zucchinis from my garden!).

Just us 6. It was a good day.

We all talked about how amazing it is at how quickly 50 years go by.

Zucchini Bread

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda

  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1/2 cup applesauce

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 2 cups grated fresh zucchini

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9”x5”x3” loaf pan. Place the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl and whisk the ingredients until they are evenly distributed. Place the brown sugar, sugar, eggs, applesauce and vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer (or use a hand mixer) and beat at medium speed for 2-3 minutes, until thoroughly blended. Add the flour mixture and stir just until blended. Fold in the zucchini. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert the muffins onto the rack to cool completely.

Makes one loaf

Fruit Roll Cookies

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Our family doesn’t celebrate Christmas, but we do celebrate cookies, which are as ubiquitous during the Christmas season as doughnuts during Hanukkah and matzo balls during Passover.

Every December I make a load of cookies. I give most of them away as gifts, but of course, keep (in the freezer) a container or two of family favorites for us.

Depending on how much time I have, I make these oldies but goodies: Fannies, Grand Finale cookies, Dutch butter-almond cookies, peanut butter cookies, lemon bars, cheesecake cookies, Chinese cookies and Orange Marmalade cookies.

Last year I added these Fruit Roll cookies, based on my mother’s wonderful “frozen dough” nut roll. They were a big hit, so I’m going to make them again this year.

Fruit Roll Cookies

Dough:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour

  • 1/2 pound butter, cut into chunks

  • 1 cup dairy sour cream

Filling:

  • 2 cups mixed diced dried or candied fruit (such as cherries, pineapple, orange peel, cranberries, apricots, dates, figs

  • 1 cup raisins

  • 3/4 cup chopped nuts

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 cup orange marmalade

To make the dough: place the flour in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the butter and beat at low speed for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture is crumbly (you may also do this by hand or using the pulse feature of a food processor). Add the sour cream and mix it in to make a smooth, uniform and slightly sticky dough. Dust the dough with flour, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

To make the filling: Place the dried fruit, raisins, nuts, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and toss the ingredients to distribute them evenly. Add the marmalade and mix it in to coat all the fruit.

To assemble: Lightly grease a baking sheet. Cut the dough into 5 pieces. Working separately with each piece of dough, roll the dough on a floured surface to a rectangle about 12-inches by 6-inches. Place 1/5 of the filling on each rectangle, forming the mixture into a strip along one of the long sides and to within 1/2-inch from the ends of the two short sides. Roll the dough and place each roll, seam side down, on the baking sheet. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Score each roll along the top with a sharp knife at 1-inch intervals. Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven, let cool, then cut along the score lines.

Makes about 60

 

Orange-Vanilla Flavored Cheese Stuffed Dates

Sometimes I think life is a bunch of holidays with not much in between. Except for the entire month of January.

I suppose that's a good thing, because holidays are happy and celebratory.

Also, there's the food. Except for Yom Kippur, every holiday has food. And even when it comes to Yom Kippur, there's the break-the-fast when it's all over and the break-the-fast is all about food. 

As far as holidays go, at this point of the year, we've just finished Thanksgiving. So what’s next up?

Hanukkah!

Hanukkah is a really delicious holiday. Lots of fried stuff like latkes and doughnuts.

It's also a dairy holiday because of the story of Judith, which you can read about it here

For our family, in honor of Judith, I make lots of dairy items in addition to the usual potato latkes and doughnuts. I have served cheese latkes and potato latkes with a yogurt based sauce laced with lemongrass. And also Potato Galette with Caramelized Onions and Cheese and Almond Crusted Winter Squash and Noodle Kugel (actually that one’s a favorite). 

Desserts? Maybe Meyer Lemon Yogurt Pie (you can use regular lemons) or Baked Goat Cheese with Honey Sauce and Cranberries. Maybe even cheesecake. Or some fabulous cheesecake cookies!

And also these stuffed dates! Easy to make, not too sweet (no added sugar), these little morsels are perfect for the holiday. If you don't want to use almonds for garnish, crushed, toasted coconut will do nicely.

Btw, these make a nice tidbit for New Year’s, either as hors d’oeuvre or late night snack. 

 

Orange-Vanilla Flavored Cheese Stuffed Dates

  • 12 medjool dates

  • 1/2 cup cream cheese (4 ounces)

  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt

  • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel

  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 3 tablespoons crushed toasted almonds (or pistachios or crushed, toasted coconut)

Cut the dates through the center, but not all the way through to the bottom. Remove the pit and spread the date slightly to form a hollow for filling. Mix the cream cheese, yogurt, orange peel and vanilla extract in a small bowl until the mixture is smooth and soft. Fill the dates with the cheese mixture. Sprinkle with the nuts.

Makes 12 

Cherry Muffins

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Today is George Washington's actual birthday (also my grandmother's) and when I was a kid, we used to celebrate on this day. It was always when we ate something with cherries because, well, as far as Washington was concerned, everyone knows the story about the cherry tree and all. And also my grandma loved cherry-vanilla ice cream.

I just happened to have a jar of cherries in the house so I figured I'd make something with it to wish happy birthday to my grandmother and also our first president.

These muffins.

Fortunately Purim is only a few days away, so I can give them away for mishloach manot. Otherwise I might eat all of them and that wouldn't be very good.

 

Cherry Muffins

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1- 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt or dairy sour cream or buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup fruit juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cherries

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease 12 muffin tins. Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon peel in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix the eggs, melted, cooled butter, yogurt, juice and vanilla extract. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ones and mix to combine ingredients. Fold in the cherries. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes 12

Banana Fruit Cake

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I don't celebrate Christmas but I do love Christmas fruitcake. You know, the kind everyone makes fun of and laughs about.

So sue me. I like fruitcake. The kind that those in the know bake around Thanksgiving time, wrap in cheesecloth and soak in booze so it will mellow and be ready at Christmas.

My friend Vaughan Mitchell, z"l gave me one of the best fruitcake recipes ever. It was one of his family treasured recipes, from his Grandmother Sue. He and I used to tinker with her recipe every year, add a little of this or that, change the alcohol, add a new fruit or something and then exchange our yearly version every December.

I miss him, our correspondence and the fruitcakes.

I don't make fruitcake anymore because, with the exception of my son-in-law Greg, I am the only person who eats it. 

So this year I decided that, rather than make a fruitcake for just two of us, I would use the best of what I love about fruitcake -- the dried and candied fruit and the booze -- and combine it with banana bread, which everyone likes. And I'll see how it all goes down.

Here's the recipe. The only problem is that I can't eat it because I am allergic to bananas.

So maybe next year maybe I will bake a half recipe of my standard fruitcake plus this. 

Banana Fruit cake

  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups diced dried and/or candied fruit
  • bourbon or brandy, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch (8-cup) bundt pan. Mix the flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking soda together in a bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium speed, beat the shortening and sugar until well blended. Add the bananas and blend in thoroughly. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat well. Add the flour mixture and beat until batter is well blended. Fold in the dried/candied fruit. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 55-60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and, if desired, brush the surface with 2-3 tablespoons of bourbon or brandy. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove to a cake rack to cool completely.

Makes one cake, serving 16-18

 

Swiss Chocolate Almond Cookies

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I know it's latke season and doughnut season. But in the larger world out there it's also cookie season.

Well, actually, for me it is always cookie season. When I was a kid my Mom baked cookies all the time and when we got home from school we had milk and cookies every day. That was the snack -- before the days of chips (potato, kale or otherwise in little bags) and frozen pizza.

My brothers taught me how to dunk.

So when cookie season comes around I feel nostalgic. Sure, I make the old family favorites. Fannies. Peanut butter cookies. Chocolate Chunk Grand Finale cookies

But occasionally I try something new. I'm not always happy with the results and most often I discard the recipe.

But these were wonderful. And also perfect for dunking.

 

Swiss Chocolate Almond Cookies

  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups finely ground almonds (8 ounces)
  • 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons sugar for rolling
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1/2 teaspoon orange extract)

In a food processor, pulse the chocolate until almost ground. Add the cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt and cloves and process on pulse to incorporate the ingredients until finely ground and well mixed. Place the mixture into a bowl, add the ground almonds and mix to blend the ingredients thoroughly.

In the bowl of an electric beater, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the 3/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold in the extract and the chocolate-almond mixture.

Sprinkle a sheet of parchment paper with the 2 tablespoons sugar. Place the dough on top of the sugar. Place another piece of parchment paper on top. Roll or press the dough to a thickness of about 1/4 to 3/8 inch. Remove the top piece of parchment paper. Let the unbaked cookies air dry for at least 1-1/2 hours. 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Cut out circles or shapes with a cookie cutter. Place the cut out cookies on the parchment paper, leaving room between each cookie for them to spread. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Let cookies cool on the sheet for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 36 cookies

 

 

Pumpkin Raisin Muffins

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A few days ago someone on social media alerted the world to Oscar Mayer Pumpkin Spice Bologna.

No.

Just no. Just absolutely no.

Pumpkin spice doesn't belong in bologna. It doesn't even belong in the same sentence.

In fact, there is way too much "pumpkin spice" out there, in everything. 

However, pumpkin spice in muffins is a pretty good idea. It is pumpkin season, after all. And spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice do give the batter a welcome warmth and fragrance.

So, instead of even thinking about that terrible idea of pumpkin spice bologna, try these muffins, which are quite wonderful.

Btw, there really is no such thing as Oscar Mayer Pumpkin Spice Bologna. It's baloney! Watch out for the real #fakenews. (http://www.wusa9.com/news/local/verify/verify-pumpkin-spice-products-whats-real-and-whats-not/481457725)

 

Pumpkin Raisin Muffins

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1-1/4 cups mashed pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins

 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 10 muffin tins. Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice together into a bowl. Beat the sugar, eggs, vegetable oil and mashed pumpkin together in an electric mixer set at medium for 2-3 minutes or until thoroughly blended and smooth. Add the flour mixture and beat at low speed for one minute to blend ingredients. Fold in the raisins. Pour the batter into the prepared tins. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes 10

 

Carrot Bread with Raisins for Rosh Hashanah

Somehow Labor Day is over and the food thoughts in my head go straight from tomato salad and grilled chicken to pumpkin soup and baked apples

Of course there's still time to enjoy the last of the summer fruits and vegetables, still time for outdoor-cooked grilled, marinated steak

But I'm thinking forward. It's almost a new season and -- yikes! -- the High Holiday season is only two weeks away.

Which leads toady's food thoughts to: carrots, because carrots are traditional during Rosh Hashanah. I usually cook them in soup -- one version or another. But last year I decided to experiment with a few recipes for carrot quick bread.

This is the one we like best. It's moist and sweet, so it can be dessert, and because it is parve, it is a good choice after a traditional holiday meat meal.

But also makes a good snack either by itself or smeared with cream cheese (softened is best and maybe even mixed with some lemon juice).

CARROT BREAD(P)

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1-1/2 cups grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-1/2”x4-1/2” loaf pan. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into a bowl. Set aside. Beat the brown sugar, white sugar and vegetable oil in the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium speed for 2-3 minutes, or until well blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in the lemon juice and peel. Add the dry ingredients and blend them into the egg mixture. Fold in the carrots and raisins. Pour the batter into the loaf pan. Bake for about 50 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a rack to cool completely. 

Makes one loaf  

Ah! Summer Blueberries!

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It's impossible to lose weight during the summer. Not when there is so much glorious fruit around and it tastes so good just out-of-hand but SO SO delicious in crisps, pies, muffins, galettes and quickbreads.

Like this blueberry bread. Spiked with orange.

A nice snack all by itself. Sliced for sandwiches smeared with cream cheese. Dessert when topped with ice cream.

Blueberry Bread

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9”x5” loaf pan. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, orange peel and vanilla powder together into a bowl. Add the coconut oil in chunks and cut it into the dry ingredients with your fingers or a pastry blender. If you use an electric mixer, set it at low-medium speed. In a second bowl, beat the egg and orange juice together until well blended (if you use vanilla extract, add it here). Add to the flour mixture and stir to blend ingredients. Fold in the blueberries. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes one loaf

Banana Bread with Dates and Figs

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Every Purim I try new hamantaschen from different bakeries. I've also made my own hamantaschen using a variety of recipes.

But so far, after years and years of buying this one and that one, my favorites are the (parve) ones I get at The Bakery, in Plainview, NY. For me, they are the enduring treats of childhood, never failing to please, never changing, even in a world where innovation is honored.

And so -- I will buy my hamantaschen this year. Old fashioned flavors: prune and apricot. At The Bakery.

Which means that for Purim, instead of creating a completely new hamantaschen recipe or even trying a new pastry recipe with old fashioned filling, I am going to bake banana bread as mishloach manot gifts.

I have a zillion recipes for banana bread. Some with streusel. Some dairy-free. Some loaded with chocolate chips, some with coconut. Some all chocolate-y. Some spicy. And on and on.

This is my most recent banana bread recipe, one I came up with while revising my mother's date-nut bread recipe. 

 

Banana Bread with Figs, Dates and Nuts

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 large very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup chopped dried figs
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried dates
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-cup bundt pan. Mix the flour, salt, cinnamon and baking soda together in a bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium speed, beat the shortening and sugar until well blended. Add the bananas and beat them in thoroughly. Add the eggs and beat them in thoroughly. Add the flour mixture and beat for a minute or so until the batter is well blended. Fold in the figs, dates and nuts. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about one hour or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a cake rack to cool completely.

Makes one bread, serving 16-18