Pignoli Cookies

My dad’s all time favorite cookies. We only make them during the holidays and the yearly wait is well worth it.

I hope you enjoy this simple, yummy recipe. If you run out of pine nuts like I usually do, chop another nut up and use that instead (pistachios are great).

Pignoli Cookies

  • Servings: a lot
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs almond paste (3 boxes)
  • 1 1/2 cups raw sugar
  • 1 cup raw powdered sugar
  • 4 egg white
  • 3 cups pine nuts (if you don’t have enough, another nut like pistachios or almonds will be yummy too)

Directions

  1. Preheat an oven to 350 F. Line 2 pans with parchment paper
  2. Combine all ingredients except the pine nuts in a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix until thoroughly combined.
  3. Roll tablespoon sized balls. Place the pine nuts and in a bowl and roll the balls of dough around on the pine nuts until coated.
  4. Space the cookies at least 3 inches a part and baked for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden around the edges.
  5. Allow the cookies to cool on a rack once out of the oven.

Chai Concentrate

This recipe makes 8 quarts and takes a while to make BUT it is well worth the time and effort. Give concentrate to your friends or hide it in beer growlers in your garage during the winter months. I won’t judge either way.

Chai Concentrate

  • Servings: 8 quarts
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 7.5 ounces black tea leaves
  • 30 grams whole peppercorns
  • 10 grams white peppercorns
  • 50 grams whole cloves
  • 80-100 grams fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 80 cardamom pods
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 7 cups demerara sugar
  • 200 grams honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Toast ya spices.
  2. Bring 8 quarts of water to a boil. Brew black tea, strain
  3. Add spices and simmer for one hour. Strain spices.
  4. Add sugar and vanilla. Mix until dissolved.
  5. Cool and bottle.
  6. Serve 1:1 chai concentrate and milk of choice

Sweet Potato Peanut Butter Brownies

My favorite brownies. Your whole house will smell like peanut butter too.

Sweet Potato Brownies

  • Servings: 9 brownies
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup apple sauce
  • 3/4 cup salted peanut butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup sweet potato
  • 3-4 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • flake sea salt for topping brownies

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Like a 9×5 inch pan with oil, and parchment paper.
  2. Blend apple sauce, 2/3 cup peanut butter, sweet potato flesh, and maple syrup.
  3. In a large pot, add the blended apple sauce mixture and dark chocolate. Heat until the chocolate is melted.
  4. To the pot, add the cocoa powder, almond flour, and baking soda. Mix until fully blended.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan (batter will be thick). Top with the remaining peanut butter and flake sea salt.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes until set.

Tahini Chocolate Chunk Cookies

My love of baking started with chocolate chip cookies.

In these chocolate chip cookies butter is replaced FULLY by tahini, which gives these cookies a slightly nutty and delicious change that the original chocolate chip cookie was needing all these years. I found a version of this recipe on Food52 a few years ago and was intrigued ever since. I tweaked it a little bit and never turned back.

My favorite tahini brand is Soom Tahini, based in Philadelphia. It is a woman owned company and has some of the best tahini I have ever had. If you can get your hands on a jar I highly recommend supporting this company and enjoying their creamy product in these cookies (and on its own!)

Tahini Chocolate Chunk Cookies

  • Servings: 20-24 cookies
  • Print

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups soft wheat or spelt flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup tahini
  • 2/3 cup raw cane sugar
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two pans with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt together.
  3. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and brown sugar together, about 3-4minutes on medium to medium-high speed.
  4. Add the egg, water, and vanilla extract. Mix for an additional minute.
  5. Add the flour in two batches, mixing on low until just incorporated.
  6. Add the chocolate chunks. Mix until just incorporated.
  7. Scoop overflowing tablespoon sized cookies onto the prepared pans, making sure they are about 2-3inches apart. Using a wet hand, slightly flatten the cookies.
  8. Bake for 10-12 minutes until slightly golden on the outside and barely set on the inside.

Butternut Spice Loaf

Use butternut squash instead of store-bought pumpkin puree for an upgrade on a seasonal favorite!

The batter in it’s loaf pan and (almost) ready for the oven.
Don’t forget to top with nuts!

Butternut Spice Loaf

  • Servings: 8 thick slices
  • Print

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups soft wheat or spelt flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups butternut flesh
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 3/4cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup walnuts chopped and toasted, plus 3 tablespoon walnuts, chopped and untoasted

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×5 pan with oil.
  2. Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices together.
  3. Blend the squash, apple sauce, oil, and maple syrup together.
  4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the wet mixture. Mix until just combined.
  5. Add the toasted walnuts and raisins to the batter and fold until everything is evenly distributed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and top with 3 tablespoons of the untoasted walnuts.
  6. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the top is lightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the loaf comes out clean.

Drying Herbs

Drying herbs is a simple way to preserve your favorite fresh herbs all winter long. I recently dried copious amounts of rosemary, sage, mint, oregano, and thyme. Once completely dry, these herbs will last for a few years. I mostly use these herbs for cooking, but mint can be use to make your own tea too. Drying your own herbs is an easy way to preserve your herbs at the end of the season, and aid in your cooking all winter (year) long. 

The oldest technique to drying herbs is taking a small bunch, tying it with a string, and hanging it upside down for 1-3 weeks until the herbs have lost all moisture. I hung mine under the stairs/on a shelf and they were all dry about 2 weeks later. 

How to dry your own herbs:

  1. Pick herbs.
  2. Once you are home, wash the herbs and dry them throughly with towels.
  3. Take twine, and a nickel sized bunch of the herb and tie them together at the top.
  4. Leave extra string so you can then tie the herb bundle on a shelf or any spot where it can hang freely.
  5. Allow the herbs to dry for 1-3 weeks until fully dry.
  6. Remove the herbs from the stems and store whole or crushed in a jar with a lid or a bag.
Rosemary after drying for 2.5 weeks.
Rosemary removed from the stem and ready to be stored in a jar.

Castle Valley Mill Sweet Potato Skillet Cornbread

My favorite flours and cornmeals are sourced from Castle Valley Mill. This mill is based in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and began milling grain on the land in 1730. I order their flour in bulk so I can use it for all my cooking needs. My favorite of their flours is the bolted hard whole wheat.

During the colder seasons, I crave my favorite cornbread recipe to bake and share with family and friends. This cornbread has sweet potato in it to add moisture, along with other simple ingredients you are sure to already have on hand. I usually use leftover sweet potato or squash from a prior meal for this recipe. My cornbread is best when I use Castle Vally Mill cornmeal and flour! Hopefully you find as much joy and cosiness making this cornbread as I do.

I usually pre-measure the dry ingredients so I always have them on hand.

Before the oven.
After the oven.

Sweet Potato Skillet Cornbread

Ingredients 

  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 3/4- 2 cups milk (non-dairy or dairy)
  • 1 heaping cup of sweet potato flesh
  • 3-4 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 1/2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Mix the cornmeal, flour, baking soda, salt, and sugar together.  Set aside.
  3. Blend the apple cider vinegar, milk, maple syrup, sweet potato, and oil together.
  4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the wet mixture.  Mix until just combined. If the dough looks too dry, add a tablespoon more milk at a time until all the flour has combined and the dough looks moist.
  5. Pour the batter into either a 9-10 inch cast iron skillet or a 9×9 square baking pan.
  6. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the top is lightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the cornbread comes out clean.

This recipe is extremely forgiving to those who bake it. Enjoy!

Matriark Foods – Anna Hammond Interview

2020-10-01 Anna photographed by Kay Hickman

Matriark Foods: Woman Owned, Upcycled, Vegetable Broth Company

About four months ago I was involved in a case study about Matriark Foods with Drexel University and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. It was there that I met Anna Hammond via Zoom and learned about her business, Matriark Foods.  They have been working towards scaling access to healthy food for the benefit of people and the environment for almost three years. Their primary product is an upcycled vegetable broth concentrate that is dense in flavor, low in sodium, and made from vegetable remnants. By working with farmers and food service providers, their broth makes use of the 40% of the vegetables that would otherwise go to waste. 

Q:  So how did you become aware and interested in food waste?

A: I built a healthy eating program for youths and families living in public housing in New York City, in all five boroughs and an educational program at a farm Upstate…I was working with youths and families who had an enormous desire to eat healthy food, but had no access because of food deserts… the beginning of Matriark was developing a business that could utilize large scale amounts of surplus which then became also additionally, upstream waste streams into healthy, affordable products. Affordable is key for lots of people.

Q: What are obstacles that come with working with food waste? And what obstacles have you faced specifically?

A: What obstacles have we not? Supply chain, paperwork, sourcing, getting things from one place to another intact storage against production, failures of the production facility, getting product to market distribution. And literally every challenge that there is practically in creating a product or getting something to market, including the volatility of the product itself… we’ve met those challenges and scaled those walls. I think that why we’ve been able to be successful is that there is a zeitgeist right now around the urgency to do something about the environment. And food waste is one of the most kind of accessible, or seemingly accessible, ways to do that.

Q: What are your goals for Matriark in the future? And what do you think you can accomplish? 

A:  Our vision is to become a multi-channel business that really works on these three, in these three ways. To upcycle as much vegetable waste as we can, and create a variety of types of affordable, healthy food to large numbers of people. 

Q: What do you think an individual person or consumer could do to actually create an impact in their own food waste?

A: Well, one of the largest contributors to food waste is home waste. So being much more careful about planning your meals ahead, to reduce food waste, but also to think about what you’re buying….people need to understand that the littlest action that they take cumulatively will have a very big effect, you know, either through the cumulative effect of the action, or because their action inspires someone else, also to act. On that note, I say, everyone should vote.

Cranberry Apple Sauce

Cranberry sauce from the can has always been an obligatory purchase on my family’s Thanksgiving table. My odd uncle would be the only one out of dozens of guests to dig his knife in it, because quite frankly, it is gross. Because of this, I was made to believe that I did not like cranberries. The jiggling cylinder of overly sweet mixture cranberry juice and high fructose corn syrup is always thrown away at the end of the night, yet reappears each year without fail. 

My opinion of cranberry sauce changed the day I decided to make my own. Finally, the cranberry sauce was a star on the table, and none of it ended up in the trash. My recipe is non-traditional in that it contains more than just cranberries and sugar. I decided to cut the tartness of the cranberries by adding apples and honey. I then toss in some warming spices, orange zest, and ginger for good measure. My mom visited a cranberry bog last year, and we are still using the stash of cranberries she brought back from Pine Barren Native Fruits

Curious if I was alone in my feelings toward cranberry sauce, I sent out a google survey, and received 71 of responses regarding other’s opinions on cranberry sauce. My survey asked the respondents if they like canned, homemade, both, or neither. It then asked for reasoning towards their choice. 

From my survey, the highest percentage of people liked homemade cranberry sauce. Seven percent of all who responded (5 out of 71 people) preferred canned. I received comments such as “I love fresh, homemade cranberry sauce with orange in it. We also buy a can of cranberry sauce, and it goes to waste!” and “I don’t care for the sweet gelatinous canned stuff from my childhood in the 1970s, when there was no other option served.  The variations for homemade cranberry sauce can be interesting too.” What I found most interesting, was those that chose that they like both the canned and homemade sauce, further stated, “Homemade is what I really like, but grew up with the canned stuff so it’s “traditional” and “Nostalgia for the canned and fresh for creativity and flavor”. 71.2% (52 out of 71 people) responded they like homemade, or both homemade and canned cranberry sauce. But, many of the people who responded they like both homemade and canned addressed their reasoning for liking both is the nostalgic feeling canned sauce brings. With these responses, I am concluding that the majority of people prefer homemade, but agree that the canned cranberry sauce is ‘nostalgic’, so they feel like they need it on the table too. Let’s start making homemade cranberry sauce ‘nostalgic’!

Cranberry sauce that I made and will freeze until my Thanksgiving dinner next week. 

Cranberry Apple Sauce

  • Servings: 6 cups
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 24 ounces cranberries
  • 5-6 apples, diced
  • 1 orange, zested
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 inch chunk of ginger, grated
  • 1/4-1/2 cup honey (depending on preferred sweetness/tartness level)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients to a pot.
  2. Cook over medium to medium-low heat for 30-40 minutes until the cranberries and apples are broken down.

Sweet Potato Pecan Casserole

My favorite technique for cooking sweet potatoes is slow roasting. My recipe for this you can find here. Once you cook the sweet potatoes, you can utilize the following recipe for my sweet potato casserole.

Sweet Potato Pecan Casserole

  • Servings: 8
  • Print

Ingredients

  • flesh of 8 sweet potatos
  • 1 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy)

Directions

  1. Add the sweet potato flesh, spices, and milk to a blender and blend until very creamy
  2. Spread the creamy sweet potatoes in a casserole dish.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Top the creamy sweet potatoes with maple nuts (see recipe in other blog post) and bake the casserole for 30 minutes until hot.