Adaptable Recipes, Food Glorious Food, Makeover Monday Meals

Makeover Monday Meal- Breakfast Edition

 

Breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day. So, instead of grabbing a fast-food breakfast sandwich, why not have a lightly sweet scone to enjoy with your tea or coffee instead.

These recipes come together fairly quickly and you can make the dough ahead of time and refrigerate it for up to two days. These recipes have been adapted for vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and low sugar diets. The substitutions are in the parenthesis next to each ingredient.

A Taste of Ireland recipe for Irish scones adapted by Chamein Canton

Makes 7 large scones  and 10 small scones

(225gr / 2 cups) plain all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend, sorghum, white rice, or brown rice flour)

2 heaped teaspoons (2 ¾ US tsp) baking powder

Large pinch salt

1 US level tablespoon) castor sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, monk fruit sweetener granulated, coconut, turbinado, or raw cane sugar, pulsed fine)

2oz (50gr / ½ a stick of butter) chilled unsalted butter (vegan butter)

(280ml / 2 fl. oz / ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons US cups) milk approximately” (dairy: whole, 2$) (non-dairy almond, rice, soy, or light coconut milk)

Beaten egg & sugar to glaze (2 tablespoons Aquafaba or 1 tablespoon soy lecithin)

Preheat the oven to Gas 8 / 450F / 230C

Sift all the dry ingredients together. Rub in the chilled butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Make a well in the center and add most of the milk. Mix to a soft dough adding all of the milk if required.
Turn out onto a floured surface and knead lightly. Roll out to about 1 inch (2 ½ cm) thickness. Dip the cutter into flour and cut the dough into rounds of 1 ½ inch (4cm).
Place scones on a floured baking tray, glaze with the beaten egg, and put immediately into the hot oven. In 15 minutes approximately, the scones should have risen and had a golden top. Enjoy with Irish butter and homemade jam!

  • The amount of milk added is determined by where you live and your house. If you’re in a drier area, you may need to add more milk so the dough begins to come together. Be sure not to overwork the dough. If you live in a humid climate, it may take less milk. Use your judgment.

Mini Chocolate Chip scones by Sugar Spun Run adapted by Chamein

2 cups all-purpose flour (465g) gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend, sorghum, white rice, or brown rice flour)

1/4 cup granulated sugar (100g) (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, monk fruit granulated sweetener, golden sugar, coconut, turbinado, or raw cane sugar pulsed finely)
2 teaspoon baking powder (18g)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup very cold unsalted butter frozen is better (226g) (vegan unsalted butter)
1/2 cup heavy cream (237ml) (full-fat coconut milk or 3 tablespoons almond milk with 2 tablespoons melted unsalted vegan butter, cooled. With a stand or hand mixer, mix the butter into the almond milk, then add )
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Glaze
1/2 -1 ½ cups powdered sugar (110g+) (Swerve confectioner’s sugar substitute, organic or vegan confectioner’s sugar)
1 Tablespoon milk (30ml) (dairy: whole, 2%, fat-free) (non-dairy: almond, rice, soy, or light coconut milk)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract optional

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 F (190C) and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

Thoroughly cut in butter (I prefer to freeze the butter, grate it using a box grater, and then cut it in that way. This method yields the flakiest scones, but is not mandatory — you can use cold butter cut in with a pastry cutter).

Measure out the heavy cream in a measuring cup and add vanilla extract. Stir gently.

Carefully stir heavy cream/vanilla mixture into flour mixture. You do not want to over-mix, but due to the number of dry ingredients, it may be tricky to well incorporate the liquid and the dry mixes. You may briefly use a KitchenAid or electric mixer on a low setting to help coax the dough to cling together.

Once the dough is beginning to cling together, add chocolate chips, stir briefly, and then transfer to a very lightly floured surface

lightly knead the dough and chocolate chips together until you are able to form a ball.

Break the dough into 4 even pieces and round each one out into a disk about 5″ wide.

Cut each into 8 wedges and transfer to cookie sheet.

Bake at 375F (190C) for 14-16 minutes.

While the scones cool, prepare your glaze by whisking together milk, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar. Start with 1 cup powdered sugar, and if it still seems too runny you may increase the sugar amount.

Once scones are cooled, dip, drizzle, or spoon the glaze lightly over the top of each scone. Allow it to sit and harden before serving.

 

To learn more about Irish Cooking check out A Taste of Ireland on Recipe TV

https://recipe.tv/

Food Glorious Food

Thursday Treat- Cannoli

Crisp, sweet and delicious homemade cannoli

There is a lot of talk about the generations. The Greatest Generation, Silent Generation, Boomers, Gen-X, Xennials, Millennials, Gen-Z, and the Alpha generations. There’s a vast difference in terms of what it meant to grow up in each, but all the generations have a lot in common.

However, there are some things that have changed drastically, and that has to do with bakeries. The generations born before the 1990s have a unique perspective when it comes to hometown bakeries. We had several fantastic bakeries where I grew up on Long Island. There was a German bakery that specialized in strudel and black forest cakes, a French bakery with baguettes, eclairs, Napoleons, and petit fours, then there was an Italian bakery with an amazing assortment of sesame cookies, biscotti, ricotta cookies, and Florentine lace cookies. One of my favorites was cannoli. A simple crisp cookie filled with luscious ricotta. Whether it was dipped in chocolate chips or not, it was always a perfect bite.

Many of the old bakeries are gone now. Those that are still around have changed owners, and much of what tasted so good, doesn’t taste the same anymore. It’s still good, but not as good as I remember,

Since being in the kitchen is a part of my creative process when I write, I enjoy tackling recipes that stretch my baking chops. It’s taken me some time to perfect my cannoli making, and now I am sharing it here thanks to the website Delish.

Their recipe was straightforward and if you have the opportunity to make it for your family, you won’t regret it. All you need is the molds which can be found at Michaels Craft store, Walmart, or you can order them online. They come in a variety of sizes.

This recipe has been adapted for the following dietary requirements:

  • Vegetarian/Vegan
  • Gluten-Free
  • Low Sugar

I’ve included a recipe to help make vegan ricotta by the Plant Based School

Homemade Cannoli

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE FILLING:

1 (16-oz.) container ricotta xc (Vegan tofu ricotta) * If you can’t find it, a recipe is below

1/2 cup mascarpone cheese (vegan cream cheese)

1/2 cup powdered sugar, divided (Swerve confectioner’s sugar substitute, organic confectioner’s sugar)

3/4 cup heavy cream (full-fat coconut milk or almond milk)

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 tsp. orange zest

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, for garnish 

FOR THE SHELLS:

2 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for surface (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1  gluten-free baking blend, sorghum, white rice, or brown rice flour)

1/4 cup granulated sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, monk fruit sweetener granulated, raw cane, coconut, or turbinado sugar, pulsed fine)

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

4 tbsp. cold butter, cut into cubes (vegan butter)

6 tbsp. white wine

1 large egg (2 tablespoons Aquafaba, ¼ cup silken tofu pureed with 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, 1 flaxseed or chia seed egg, vegan egg replacer)

1 egg white, for brushing (3 tablespoons Aquafaba, 1 tablespoon soy lecithin)

Vegetable oil, for frying 

DIRECTIONS

MAKE FILLING:

 Drain ricotta by placing it a fine mesh strainer set over a large bowl. Let drain in refrigerator for at least an hour and up to overnight. 

In a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat heavy cream and 1/4 cup powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. 

In another large bowl, combine ricotta, mascarpone, remaining 1/4 cup powdered sugar, vanilla, orange zest, and salt. Fold in whipped cream. Refrigerate until ready to fill cannoli, at least 1 hour.

MAKE SHELLS:

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Cut butter into flour mixture with your hands or pastry cutter until pea-sized. Add wine and egg and mix until a dough forms. Knead a few times in bowl to help dough come together. Pat into a flat circle, then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to overnight. 

On a lightly floured surface, divide dough in half. Roll one half out to ⅛” thick. Use a 4” circle cookie cutter to cut out dough. Repeat with remaining dough. Re-roll scraps to cut a few extra circles. 

Wrap dough around cannoli molds and brush egg whites where the dough will meet to seal together. 

FOR FRYING:

In a large pot over medium heat, heat about 2″ of oil to 360°. Working in batches, add cannoli molds to oil and fry, turning occasionally, until golden, about 4 minutes. Remove from oil and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Let cool slightly. 

When cool enough to handle or using a kitchen towel to hold, gently twist shells off of molds to remove. 

Place filling in a pastry bag fitted with an open star tip. Pipe filling into shells, then dip ends in mini chocolate chips. 

FOR AIR FRYER:

Working in batches, place molds in basket of air fryer and cook at 350° for 12 minutes, or until golden. 

When cool enough to handle or using a kitchen towel to hold, gently remove twist shells off of molds. 

Place filling in a pastry bag fitted with an open star tip. Pipe filling into shells, then dip ends in mini chocolate chips. 

Notes

From The Plant Based School – this ricotta is good for both sweet and savory dishes

Unflavored and unsweetened Soy milk:  4 cups

2 ½ tablespoons of apple cider or

4 tablespoons of lemon juice
First, bring the soy milk to a boil then immediately transfer it to a bowl and quickly add the vinegar or lemon juice. Stir with a spoon for 1 minute and you will see the milk begin to curdle. Now wait for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, place a strainer over a large bowl/pot, then cover it with a piece of cheese cloth or a clean kitchen towel, but one that doesn’t taste like detergent.

After the 10 minutes, pour the curdled soy milk into the strainer, wrap it in the cheese cloth, put a weight on top and let it drain for at least 1 hour. Makes approximately 2 cups of ricotta

I put a bowl full of water over the milk to drain to add a little weight and get a nice firm ricotta within 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Once the milk has been drained the ricotta is ready to be used for both sweet (such as cannoli or pies) and savory (such as lasagna, ravioli, cannelloni) dishes. 

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Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

Take A Deep Breath and Exhale, You’re Ready For Your Second Act

There was a time in life when being a teacher, postal worker, secretary, or any other occupation or job was enough. People put their time into a company, school, state or federal government agencies with the view towards retiring with a pension and in some cases, a gold watch.

This was the generational ideal for many years. It only began to crack when the Silent Generation gave way to Baby Boomers and post-war America. The fifties are seen as an idealized time portraying life with a mother, father, and children. Dad works and mom stays home to take care of the children and the house. People liked Ike and Pat Boone was an acceptable rock star. This staid atmosphere led to changing ideas of gender, family, and sexuality underwent. The idea of women being more than just a wife, mother, to complement a man took hold. Boomers ushered in a sense of freedom young women responded to. It opened the doors to male dominated careers.

Even though boomers are now in their sixties and seventies, the legacy of pushing the envelope and challenging the status quo is a part of Gen-X and still very much alive. Women over forty and fifty are changing careers or turning hobbies or side hustles into a full-blown business.

Changing lanes career-wise

Whether they’ve enjoyed a long career as a teacher, professor, engineer, architect, or lawyer, more women are changing careers to pursue long-held passions. You’ll find former lawyers and paralegals becoming writers or chefs. There are engineers and architects who decide to use their attention to detail to become pastry chefs, painters, or fashion designers. Some go back to school or intern to get educated for their career change. It may take time, but the bottom line is pursuing a passion is fulfilling and satisfying.

Feeding the Fires of the Entrepreneurial Spirit

Starting a business to do something you love ensures that you will never work a day in your life thereafter. It sounds corny but it’s true. Many women are using the skills someone else paid them for and are using them as the foundation to build an empire. Women over 50 are the top demographic worldwide who are starting businesses. So, you’re in good company.

Thinking about a career change? Here are some things you need to consider

  • If you know that you want to make a change, but aren’t sure what you want to do, look into taking a self-assessment to help crystallize your interests and what careers are best suited for your personality
  • Think about your skillset in terms of transferrable skills. These are the talents and abilities you have acquired from doing one type of work that you can use in another. For some careers, you may even be able to substitute your transferable skills for formal training.
  • When deciding between a career that requires additional schooling and one for which you can use your transferable skills, you may decide to choose the latter. It will allow you to transition more quickly and with less effort, at an age when you may want to limit your expenditure of time, energy, or money. 
  • In addition to learning what the educational qualifications are for a new career, look into the job or industry forecast in terms of economics. What’s the median salary? What’s the expectation for growth in the field or industry?
  • Beyond the salary, what type of benefits are offered? Is there a 401K? If you’re in your early forties, is there a possibility of becoming vested within ten years? Health benefit dollars are important, how much does your employer cover, and how much are you responsible for?
  • Even though this is a second-act career, how much paid vacation time is offered. If you still have school-age children or senior parents, how much personal and sick time will you receive if they get sick?

Things to consider before diving into entrepreneurship

  • Just as with a career change, one of the most important things you can bring to a new business venture is experience. Do you have the experience that relates to your business?
  • Where will the money come from? You must have a cushion. Tapping into your IRA isn’t what you should do. You’ll need it down the road.
  • Get educated for free. Take advantage of SCORE, a partner of the Small Business Administration. They provide free business mentoring and education for those looking for experienced help from experienced entrepreneurs.
  • Look at the market and see what you have to contribute that no one else is doing. Then, do the job first. It’s one thing to cook or bake for the holidays or parties, it’s another to do it every day. Working with a caterer or at a bakery will give you an idea of what you can expect a workday to look and feel like.

In the end, follow your heart

The one thing age teaches us is that time is fleeting. It seems like one minute you’re bringing your new baby home from the hospital, then you’re dropping them off at college. It all goes by too fast. We seem to go from twenty to forty in a heartbeat. Therefore making the most of our time is important. Whatever you do, follow your heart and make it happen. The only thing better than doing something you love is knowing that tomorrow, you get to do it again.

For more resources:

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/career-change-at-40-4152909

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/06/25/here-are-seven-tips-for-starting-a-business-in-your-50s-and-beyond.html

Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

Writing and Baking to find my creative Zen place

https://stillachicklit.com/2021/01/29/when-stuck-behind-a-creative-gate-this-writer-loves-to-laminate/

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

President Harry S. Truman

President Truman seemed like the kind of man who liked to take charge. He believed the buck stopped with him. While it might seem like a bit of a stretch to relate this philosophy with creativity, it’s worked for me, in the reverse. When I find my brain is short-circuiting while I’m in the midst of writing, I go into the kitchen to re-wire my thinking, and my first inclination is to bake.

For many people, baking is mysterious and difficult. Cooking allows chefs and home chefs to think outside of the box and add a little of this, or a pinch of that. Whereas baking is a science. The formula is set in the recipe. There is no deviating. It’s that sense of order that calms me. Artists tend to live in their heads, and that’s truly seen in writers. The thought process involved in creating characters, plots, and dialogue, mixed with outside research, could drive anyone bonkers. So, it’s important to find something that aids you in this process. It doesn’t have to be cooking, baking, or anything in the kitchen. Just do something that works for you. It also works wonders if you have a presentation or report due for school or work.

I’m currently working on a novel and a couple of cookbooks. I have a few other fictional works in my queue, but I only work on one novel at a time. Doing more than that, is a recipe for disaster and it’s biting off way more than I can chew. I have begun the process of putting slides together for the cookbook and I hope to have another test kitchen to take photos for the illustrations. It’s why lamination was the way to go for me. The busy work of all the components for puff pastry keeps my hands busy and my mind focused. I figured out the layout I wanted and my family had fresh turnovers for breakfast. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Puff Pastry recipe by Dessert for Two adapted by me

Ingredients

2 cups (125 grams) all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend)

1/4 teaspoon fine salt

20 tablespoons high-quality unsalted butter (5 ounces), cold (vegan butter)

2/3 cup ice cold water

Instructions

In a medium bowl, add the flour and salt. Stir to mix.

Next, cube the butter and then add it to the flour bowl. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the dough. It will be very crumbly, and you’re done when the butter is in uniform pieces all about the size of peas.

Next, make a hole in the center of the dough and pour in all of the water. Using a fork, stir to combine the dough.

Flour a cutting board, and add the dough. Pat it into a rough square. You will still see chunks of butter and it will seem too dry, but do not add extra water. The dough will come together with each roll.

Flour the rolling pin, and roll the dough out in front of you into a rectangle about 10″ long. No need to be too precise here.

Fold the bottom third of the dough over the middle of the dough. Fold the upper third of the dough on top of the middle too. Rotate the dough one-quarter turn, and repeat. Use additional flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking.

Roll out, fold, and turn the dough at least 6 or 7 times.

When done, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour, or overnight. Dough may be frozen, too.

Roll out with flour for desired puff pastry use.

Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

When Stuck behind a creative gate, this writer loves to laminate

Zen with pastry

For as long as I can remember I loved to write. My paternal grandmother, was an avid and voracious reader. She went through about three books a week. She was a big Sidney Sheldon fan. The cover for the Other Side Of Midnight still sticks out in my mind. Grandma Salley, my maternal grandmother loved to read, but she was also an epic letter writer. She corresponded with friends and family weekly, and never seemed to run out of things to write about.

Thankfully, as a professional writer and author, I have never been at a loss when it comes to things to write about. Writer’s block is real thing and feel paralyzing. Conversely, the overabundance of ideas can easily result in choice overload, making it difficult for writers to narrow the choices and make a decision. I tend to fall into the latter situation, and heading into the kitchen helps me get over the hump.

I make the most of the tactile nature of cooking and baking to take my mind off the choices and focus it on another task. Nine times out of ten, I figure out my next steps through baking. However, when I’m not sure what I should do next, I take out the big guns and delve into more complicated recipes for pastries, like croissants.

Cooking something that is a bit more complex like paella or a Bolognese sauce, can work, but it’s the order found in baking that’s more effective for me. In cooking, as long as you stick to the basics of techniques, you can adjust seasoning, add more or less of an ingredient, or even omit something. That’s not the case in baking, it’s a science. You cannot add more leaveners like baking powder, baking soda, or yeast. Eggs are important for structure. Milk and butter add to tenderness and texture. Even in gluten-free and vegan baking, the substitutions must do the same thing, which is a challenge, but can be accomplished. The order in baking works for my writing process and channels stress.

Laminating dough creates thin layers of dough and butter through the process of rolling and folding. It’s tedious, but something about it works for me. With each turn, my mind clears and I find the clarity needed to decide what’s next in my manuscript, whether it’s adding another character, or fleshing another character further to add dimension for the reader. Is the dialogue snappy or too smart or overly witty for witty’s sake. Naturally, this is my process, and every writer is different. Some go running or take a walk. Others go to their favorite diner or park to watch people. A long drive is a good option too. The fact is anything that brings you peace will inspire and break your writer’s block or illuminate the path to making the right choice to move your story forward. Admittedly, if you work it out in the kitchen, both you and the people around you receive a very tasty benefit. In my case today, they get croissants. There’s nothing wrong with that.

King Arthur Baker’s Croissant recipe adaptation by me

Ingredients

Dough

2 large eggs + enough warm water to make 2 cups (454g) of liquid (6 tablespoons Aquafaba or ½ cup silken tofu pureed with ¼ teaspoon baking soda) **

1/4 cup (50g) sugar, divided

5 1/2 to 6 cups (659g to 723g) (gluten-free all-purpose flour or 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend flour)**

2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (1 packet) 

2 tablespoons (28g) salted butter, melted (vegan butter) **

1/2 cup (56g) Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk, optional

1 scant tablespoon (16g) table salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional; for sweet pastry)

Butter Layer

30 tablespoons (425g) unsalted butter, cool to the touch (vegan butter)**

3/4 teaspoon table salt or ½ teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup (60g) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour or 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend flour)**

Instructions

For the dough: Put the eggs and water in a large mixing bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the sugar, 3 cups (362g) of the flour, and the yeast. Mix until well blended; set aside to let the sponge work.

For the butter: Cut the butter into 1˝ chunks and combine with the salt and flour at low speed in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment just until smooth, with no lumps. Be careful not to beat too much; you don’t want to incorporate any air. My tip, while the stand mixer with the paddle attachment works well, you do run the risk of add air to the butter. I used my pastry cutter and worked the flour and butter into pea-size clumps, then turned it out onto parchment paper, put another sheet of parchment over and rolled the butter until I had the shape I wanted. Then in the fridge it went.

Spread the butter on a piece of plastic wrap and shape into an 8˝ square. Wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Finish the dough: Add the melted butter to the sponge. Whisk together the remaining sugar, 2 1/2 cups (298g) of the flour, the dry milk, and salt and add to the sponge. Mix until the dough forms. Knead for 5 minutes; touch the dough lightly with your finger. If it’s still sticky, add the remaining flour 2 tablespoons at a time until the dough is the desired consistency. Once the dough is smooth and elastic, pat it into a 9˝ square, then wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To laminate the dough: Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and gently roll it to a 12″ square.

  1. Unwrap the butter square and place it in the center of the dough at a 45° angle, so it looks like a diamond in a square. Pull the corners of the dough into the center of the butter diamond. Moisten the edges with a little water and pinch the seams together well to enclose the butter. Dust the top with flour and turn the packet over.
  2. Tap the dough all over with a rolling pin, encouraging it into a rectangular shape. Once it’s pliable, roll it to a 20˝ x 10˝ rectangle, picking it up and dusting lightly with flour as needed.
  3. When you’ve reached the proper size, use a dry brush to sweep off any excess flour and fold the dough in thirds, like a business letter. Take care to keep the edges straight and line them up directly over each other. If the dough slides around, use a little water at the corners to tack them in place. This is your first turn.
  4. Rotate the dough out so it looks like a book about to be opened. Roll the dough out once more to 20˝ x 10˝ and fold it as before. This is the second turn. Wrap the dough and refrigerate it for 30 minutes to allow the gluten in the dough to relax.
  5. Give the dough two more turns after its rest, then wrap the dough well and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight before using. You can also freeze the dough at this point.

To shape the croissants: Cut the packet of dough in half. Wrap and refrigerate or freeze one half.

  1. Roll the other half to a 13˝ x 18˝ rectangle. Trim the edges about 1/4˝ all the way around with a ruler and pizza cutter. This removes the folded edges that would inhibit the dough’s rise.
  2. Cut the dough in thirds lengthwise and in half down the center. This will give you six 4˝ x 9˝ pieces. Cut these pieces in half diagonally and arrange them so the points are facing away from you. Stretch them gently to make them a little longer, then cut a 1˝ notch in the center of the base of each triangle.
  3. Take the two inside corners of the notch and roll them up toward you, building a curved shape as you roll the base of the dough toward the tip. Make sure the tip ends up under the bottom of the croissant. Place the shaped pastry on a parchment-lined baking sheet, curving the ends toward each other. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Take the croissants out of the refrigerator, and let them warm and rise for 60 to 90 minutes at room temperature. They should expand noticeably, and when you gently press one with your finger, the indentation should remain.
  5. Towards the end of the rise time, preheat the oven to 425°F. Brush each croissant with an egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven’s temperature to 350°F and bake for 10 to 15 minutes more, until deep golden brown and no raw dough is visible where the layers overlap. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan on a rack for 20 minutes before serving.

Tips from King Arthur Bakers

Bubbles and leaks: It’s not unusual to have air trapped inside your laminated dough. If this happens, simply pop the bubble with a toothpick and press the dough down to lie flat. If there’s a bare spot where butter is coming through, dust the leak with flour, pressing down lightly so it sticks, and continue on with the fold. Refrigerate the dough as soon as the fold is done, to firm it up.

As you work, keep the dough, work surface, and your rolling pin well dusted with flour. Turn over the dough from time to time. As you roll, you tend to expand the top layers more than the bottom. By flipping the dough over, you’ll even that out. Before folding the dough over on itself, use your pastry brush to sweep off excess flour. This will help the dough stick to itself after folding, so the layers don’t slide around.

When rolling the dough, especially for the first time, be sure the dough and butter are at the same consistency; this will make rolling much smoother and the layers will be more even.

Vegan/non-dairy adaptation tips

** For most vegan bakes that have less than three eggs, I usually list flaxseed or chia seed eggs and egg replacer. We tried that in the test kitchen and both substitutions don’t work as well, it’s too dry even with additional liquid added. To keep the recipe as close to the original as possible the Aquafaba and silken tofu eggs worked beautifully.

** I also normally list more gluten-free flour alternatives, but we found that gluten-free all purpose and the baking blend worked exceedingly well

** Vegan butter is the best alternative. Margarine is too oily and you won’t get the same flaking as you get with butter

Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

Fighting for my right to write in peace

Whether it was life before Covid-19, most of us probably had some issues carving out time for ourselves. Although, I am very sure that men have as much responsibility and pressures as women, when dad sets aside time and he doesn’t want to be bothered, people listen. As a daughter, girlfriend, significant other, and fiancée I tried and still try not to bother the man in my life when he needs to work, write, or watch football, NCAA basketball, or the PGA,

I have found that as a woman I have a harder time setting those boundaries, but I won’t blame all of it on everyone else. I’ve been at my mother’s (whom I refer to as her mothership) and she tends to walk in while I’m writing and start talking or telling me about something that she wants me to do. Instead of telling her to please give me a moment, I am an oldest child. Most firstborns are what I like to call starter children. We are the kids parents get to practice on until they figure out their parenting style. Traditional, bohemian, militant, or a combination thereof. We are the ones who weather the trial period. That is not to say that we don’t have a right to ask for a little time to ourselves as adults, but it can get a little tricky.

All of that aside, writing is a part of my life every day. Even when I don’t have a pen and paper in hand, I’m thinking about different topics, memories, or funny stories I’d like to incorporate in a blog post or as a part of a novel, or the cookbook I’m working on about my grandmothers’ and their cooking.

More than that, writing is more than just thoughts on paper, it’s the way I can redirect nervous energy when I’m worried. It’s also the way I’ve been able to deal with MS for the past twenty-five years. Chronic diseases and conditions like MS can engulf your life. It can dominate every corner if you let it. My dad told me when I was first hit with the diagnosis, that as long as I had MS, it could never have me. I’ve lived by that creed ever since and it has served me well, in addition to saving me from going into a self-pity hole.

That is why I believe that it’s important to fight for your right to write. If you’re a writer, it’s a part of who you are, which is an artist. And artists over many different mediums from paint to clay to, cameras to musical instruments and more need to exercise that right to keep it strong. Whatever moves you to write, scope out the place and set the time aside for yourself.

Part of my right to writer includes being in the kitchen, which includes going into the test kitchen to work on recipes. I love to work on adaptations of recipes to be sure it’s tasty enough to pass muster. To that end, I am posting a recipe for shepherd’s pie with meat and vegan ground meat. This is a recipe I came across in my Google feed, I’ve tweaked it a bit.

Shepherd’s Pie

Meat Filling:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chopped yellow onion

1 lb. 90% lean ground beef -or ground lamb

2 teaspoons dried parsley leaves

2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 garlic cloves -minced

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose or 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend)

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup beef broth

1 cup frozen mixed peas & carrots*

1/2 cup frozen corn kernels

Vegan Meat Filling

1 pound or package of Vegan ground meat Impossible Burger Ground, Farmland Protein Starters, Good and Gather Ground, Gardein The Ultimate Beefless Ground

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chopped yellow onion

2 teaspoons dried parsley leaves

2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon Vegan Worcestershire sauce

2 garlic cloves -minced

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup vegetable broth

1 cup frozen mixed peas & carrots*

1/2 cup frozen corn kernels

Potato Topping:

1 1/2 – 2 lb. russet potatoes -about 2 large potatoes peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes

8 tablespoons unsalted butter -1 stick (vegan butter, margarine)

1/3 cup half & half (rice or soy milk)

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 cup parmesan cheese (Thrive Vegan Parmesan-Style Cheese Alternative, Follow Your Heart Dairy-Free Shredded Parmesan, Vegan Soy Free Grated Parmesan Style Topping)

Instructions

Make the Meat or Vegan Meat Filling.

Add the oil to a large skillet and place it over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the onions. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the ground beef (or ground lamb or vegan ground) to the skillet and break it apart with a wooden spoon. Add the parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper. Stir well. Cook for 6-8 minutes, until the meat is browned, stirring occasionally.

Add the Worcestershire sauce and garlic. Stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute.

Add the flour and tomato paste. Stir until well incorporated and no clumps of tomato paste remain.

Add the broth, frozen peas and carrots, and frozen corn. Bring the liquid to a boil then reduce to simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Set the meat mixture aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Make the potato topping.

Place the potatoes in a large pot. Cover the potatoes with water. Bring the water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are fork tender, 10-15 minutes.

Drain the potatoes in a colander. Return the potatoes to the hot pot. Let the potatoes rest in the hot pot for 1 minute to evaporate any remaining liquid.

Add butter, half & half, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Mash the potatoes and stir until all the ingredients are mixed together.

Add the parmesan cheese to the potatoes. Stir until well combined.

Assemble the casserole.

Pour the meat mixture into a 9×9 (or 7×11) inch baking dish. Spread it out into an even layer. Spoon the mashed potatoes on top of the meat. Carefully spread into an even layer.

If the baking dish looks very full, place it on a rimmed baking sheet so that the filling doesn’t bubble over into your oven. Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes.** Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Notes

*You could use 1/2 cup frozen peas and 1/2 cup frozen sliced carrots.

Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

Baking, blogging, and writing. Using the pan in pandemic to keep up with both sides of a professional literary life.

It’s the last Tuesday of 2020 and I don’t think 2021 could arrive any sooner for everyone at this point. Although, there is no need to state the obvious, it’s been an overall rough year for everyone. Everything most of us took for granted like having the choice between getting a cup of coffee or a burger to go, or to stay, for a stretch of time this year, wasn’t even an option. Then there was the change of working from home that required far more adjustment than anyone ever thought it would. Kids, pets, and life at home made it hard for many to stay in work mode. As it turns out, working can be stressful in the office and at home, which was a shock to some people, not me. However, the effects of Covid-19 on an industry like publishing, where socializing in person is just as, if not more important, than emails and posts, it’s been an adjustment. It’s the last Tuesday of 2020 and I don’t think 2021 could arrive any sooner for everyone at this point. Although, there is no need to state the obvious, it’s been an overall rough year for everyone. Everything most of us took for granted like having the choice between getting a cup of coffee or a burger to go, or to stay, for a stretch of time this year, wasn’t even an option. Then there was the change of working from home that required far more adjustment than anyone ever thought it would. Kids, pets, and life at home made it hard for many to stay in work mode. As it turns out, working can be stressful in the office and at home, which was a shock to some people, not me. However, the effects of Covid-19 on an industry like publishing, where socializing in person is just as, if not more important, than emails and posts, it’s been an adjustment.

I’ve been working from home for some time. I have a very small literary agency with a handful of clients. Being a part of the publishing industry, I spend time reviewing the latest signings and deals happening with the Big-Four publishers (it was five, but Random just bought the venerable Simon and Schuster), independent, and boutique publishers. I read Publisher’s Weekly, The New York Times Book Review, to keep up with the industry. I live on Long Island and I spend time in Bethel, Connecticut with my sister’s family where I am Auntie Mimi. In New York I am a part of the otherhood (mothers with adult children, in my case sons)

I’m also a writer and author myself. I’ve been in the publishing industry for close to twenty years. I understand the publishing industry from both sides of the table. Editors, senior and assistant, along with editorial directors and acquisitions editors spend a great deal of time in meetings that aren’t in a conference room. They meet literary agents and authors for coffee, lunch, and cocktails. There are industry dinners where they have an opportunity to talk with other publishing professionals about projects and trends. Agents like having the opportunity to pitch clients in person and to find out what types of projects editors are seeking. We think using the #mswl, is terrific, but have you seen most people’s let alone agent’s Twitter or Facebooks threads, it’s easily lost in a plethora of other tweets, posts, or updates. We were just getting the hang of the new digital submission, when Covid-19 took the social scene away. Now we had to Zoom, and for some editors living in an NYC apartment with children, zooming from their closets was a close to an office situation as they could get.

Combining this with the number of changes that have occurred since the first of my ten books (1 nonfiction, 9 novels) was published in 1998 through the last book in 2015, it’s night and day. The Internet was in its toddler stage in the late nineties and still somewhat of a novelty. Publishers still accepted hard-copy submissions through the mail. You could call and editor or the art department direct without hitting a menu-option. Now it’s all email and pressing phone options if you call. Neither guarantees you’ll get through. In the nineties through the early 2000s, being traditionally published by the aforementioned publishers, was the only way to go. Any other means of publication like hybrid and self-publishing were looked down on as an inferior way to be published or as vanity-publishing adjacent. Now, there’s a self-publishing section in PW. Some of the major traditional publishers, have a waded into self-publishing offering services for people looking to publish their books. A blogger with a large social media following is more likely to get a publishing deal than a previously published author with proven sales and readership. Getting on social media to develop a platform is a little easier for boomers and gen-xers who were always techies or gamers. For some like me, changing from the analog to the digital has been a bit tougher. I believe conversation is an art, and there are things that simply cannot be conveyed through a text or post, unless you’re scream (all-caps) tweeting or texting. Still, I don’t have much choice but to try to figure my way through the maze. There are plenty of bloggers who have developed a lucrative platform and are willing to help you. Some want a lot of money, others don’t want as much, but the problem is how do you know if what they’re going to teach will actually work for you. It’s a lot to process.

To deal with the new world, I head to the kitchen. It’s my personal ashram where I find a way to quiet my thoughts so that I’m able to think without the white noise of our online lives. It allows me to work through professional and personal issues. Writer’s block is a condition no writers wants for any extended period. Novelists, songwriters, television and screenwriters, anyone who depends on words for their livelihood/career. It was the kitchen that made this past year a little easier to cope with and from the number of banana bread posts I saw at the beginning of the lockdown in March, others have discovered what a tasty oasis the kitchen is. Covid-19 also stands for the average number of pounds gained (if it was more, I won’t tell). Being in the kitchen helped me figure out different ways to pitch my clients’ work to publishers. As an added benefit, it helped me tighten up three fiction manuscripts of mine. I was able to compile the recipes for two cookbooks, one of which celebrates my family’s traditions in the kitchen.

I’ve also taken on the daunting task of trying to build an online presence. While I love all of these great articles interviewing people who had blogs, then got a publishing deal for cooking or a memoir or something else, I can’t dwell there. I am having a time figuring all of the ancillary things out. I don’t have time to ponder or mope over why I haven’t been discovered. I was never one for a diary, which is weird because I always loved writing, but I preferred writing stories centered around what did or is happening in my life and around me. I start with a pen and paper, before I type anything into Word. There is something about connecting to the paper that helps writing flow for me. More often than not, I don’t use much of what I wrote by hand, it’s just the runway and taxiing. When I begin typing, my mind takes flight, the words come. That is not to say that I don’t edit and change it extensively. Words have life. They breathe, contract, and change shape.

I find that baking helps the most when I’m writing fiction. There are no bounds to what I can write, but baking is science. It’s orderly. You can’t deviate and add just a pinch more yeast or baking powder. The measurements are precise, there is no free-styling. Somehow, all of it allows my creativity to flow freely. I’ve figured out more plot lines and characters just by sifting, measuring, stirring, and kneading. It’s what works for me in my literary life and has made it possible for me to blog and keep up with my website.

For others it might be painting, drawing, or another form of art that helps their creative juices get going. Physical activity like working out, running, walking, or yoga is helpful for some people. I enjoy doing yoga in the mornings to help center my thoughts and stretch my limbs. It helps with the every day pain of having MS, but it’s baking and writing that sets me free of the condition, even if it’s just for a little while.

Now that there are vaccines available, I believe the world will return to a new normal. I am quite sure that pre-pandemic life won’t return as we knew it. Time is going to be the key for the industries that were affected and that may not be enough to resurrect many businesses. I suppose hope springs eternal for writers, as much as I prefer to bake my own treats, I’m looking forward to having sitting in a bakery café, diner, or coffeehouse and watching as people from all walks of life interact with each other before they go about their day. Covid-19 has proven just how social we are. I will still be in the kitchen cooking and baking, but I won’t take seeing people in person for granted again. Apparently, we’re all people who need people.

I love to share recipes, particularly when it’s cake. Chocolate was a weakness for my Grandma Salley. She kept Hershey’s Kisses in the pocket of her aprons. She’d sneak and give us a couple when my mother wasn’t looking. Chocolate is something I love to bake with, but as I gathered recipes for the Cooking with My Nanas cookbook, I wanted to be sure to include every dietary need. Family is about everyone at the table enjoying a meal together. What’s the fun if some members only have a bowl of fruit for dessert. I know it’s healthier, but who wants that when everyone else has chocolate.

I found this recipe for Gluten-free Chocolate Cake on What the Fork Blog, which was adapted from Ina Garten

Chocolate Cake

For the Cake

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose gluten free flour (all-purpose flour)
  • 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your gluten-free blend contains it) (omit if using regular all-purpose flour)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, turbinado, or golden sugar pulsed fine)
  • 3/4 cups cocoa powder*
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup unsweetened coconut, rice, almond, or soy milk + 1 tablespoon white vinegar)
  • 1/2 cup avocado oil (or canola oil)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature (1/4 cup Aquafaba, 1/2 cup silken-tofu pureed with 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 2 flaxseed or chia seed eggs, or egg replacer)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hot coffee

For the Frosting

  • 1 cup salted butter, softened (vegan butter)
  • 3 cups powdered sugar (organic confectioner’s sugar,. Swerve confectioner’s sugar substitute)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream (full-fat coconut milk)
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup, light corn syrup, or brown rice syrup, optional

Instructions

Instructions

To make the Cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray 2 8-inch cake pans with non-stick spray. Line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper and spray that parchment paper with non-stick spray.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, sift together the flour, xanthan gum, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Use the paddle attachment to mix the dry ingredients on low speed.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, oil and vanilla.
  4. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix until completely combined.
  5. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and pour in the hot coffee. Mix on low until incorporated.
  6. Pour the batter (it will be very thin and pretty liquidy) evenly between the two pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 – 40 minutes. (Mine take about 37 minutes.)
  7. Cool the cakes on a wire rack (in the pan) for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the cakes from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.
  8. When the cakes are cool, prepare the buttercream.

To make the chocolate buttercream:

  1. Add the butter to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until completely smooth. Add the powdered sugar and cocoa powder and mix on low to combine. Mix in the vanilla extract and heavy cream.
  2. Turn the mixer to a medium-high speed and beat for 1-2 minutes or until the frosting is light and fluffy.
  3. Frost the cake as desired!
Italian Butter Cookies and Linzer cookies