Over the holidays, we spent a few days in downtown Chicago where we visited a charming little store called Teavana. Housed in Water Tower Place, this was our first visit to the store. As we headed into the cozy shop, we were encouraged to taste-test a variety of deliciously fruity tea samples and admired all of the containers of loose leaf tea stacked high on tidy shelves lining the store walls.
Well, after spending over $100.00 in purchases, we headed out the door with several pounds of tea, and a few Teavana trinkets that we convinced ourselves we absolutely needed.
Arriving home, M and I decided to make a batch of Ginger and Spice Biscotti cookies to have on hand during our evening ritual (enjoying a cup of piping hot tea and watching the Hallmark Channel).
…And there’s nothing like a warm cup of tea and a spiced cookie during the cold winter months living in the Midwest.
Ginger and Spice Biscotti
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 1/4 cups flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons ground ginger
3/4 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground oatmeal (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray, with cooking spray, a cookie sheet.
In a large bowl, mix together oil, sugar, eggs, and molasses. In another bowl, combine flour, wheat flour, baking powder, and remaining spices. Mix into the wet ingredients to form a stiff dough.
Divide dough in half, form each piece into a roll about as long as your cookie sheet. Place roll onto the prepared cookie sheet, and press down to 1/2 inch thickness. Sprinkle with ground oatmeal. (Optional)
Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool 5-10 minutes.
Cut into 1/2″ thick diagonal slices. Place sliced biscotti on cookie sheet, and bake an additional 5 to 7 minutes on each side. Cool, store in airtight container.
This weekend, we attended Grandma M’s Neighborhood Oktoberfest. The annual event is held in Chicago and whenever we drive in to the city, we are quickly reminded of the reasons why we decided to move out to the country many years ago. While there is much to do throughout the city, (visit the beautiful lake front campus, spend the day at numerous museums, fantastic shopping opportunities, and great restaurant choices) we certainly don’t miss the sparse street parking, the long wait at frequent railroad crossings and the horrendous traffic situation.
That being said, it really is fun to head over to Grandma’s for her October party. Everyone attending brings along a favorite dish to contribute. Festive tablecloths and autumn colored dishes (holding scrumptious desserts and flavorful appetizers) top the side tables. Pans of bratwurst, sauerkraut, and potato salad sit on the main buffet. Plenty of hot coffee and cider brew in huge pots and the fridge is stocked with plenty of beer.
My contribution included this rich, dense, autumn cake. I had to slap a few hands as I cut the cake into squares and loaded up a serving platter for the party. All wanted a taste before we headed to grandma’s house. I scolded them all telling them that they would have to wait.
This truly is a great recipe and as the cake sits for a few days, the flavor intensifies. Although, very rarely does this cake have the opportunity to sit for a few days…Enjoy!
Pumpkin and Oat Spice Cake
3 cups flour
4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup margarine, softened
2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
1 (15 ounce) can solid-pack pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups golden raisins
1 package (serving size) old fashioned style oatmeal with flax, maple & brown sugar
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 13×9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Combine flour, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl; set aside.
Mix together margarine and sugar in large bowl on medium-high speed of electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; mix until blended. Turn mixer to low; add pumpkin. Gradually blend in flour mixture. Stir in raisins by hand. Pour into prepared pan. Top with one serving-sized package of flavored oatmeal.
Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.
Blend confectioners sugar and water; drizzle over cake. Sprinkle nuts evenly over top. Cut into 12 servings.
I grew up in a northwest suburb of Chicago. When I was young, there was a bus that would travel from the center of my small town to a local shopping mall that housed the famous Marshall Field’s & Company. During the summer months, my best friend and I would board the bus and head to the mall. The bus was never crowded and the air conditioned environment was a welcome sensation as we had to ride our bikes to the bus stop in the summer heat. The first stop at this enormous shopping mall was the Marshall Field’s entrance. We would hop off the bus and head to our favorite restaurant destinations housed within the centrally located food court. After lunch, we made our way through all of the “young girl” stores that displayed an array of cheap jewelry, poorly constructed clothing, and inexpensive footwear.
As we grew older, we found the bus trip to the mall to be a great way to save on gas money, forget about the hassle of finding a parking spot, and catch up with friends while the bus driver brought us to our desired destination.
Marshall Field’s had a cafe style lunch area that became our new, more mature, lunch hangout. I would always order the Chicken Salad. Their recipe included sweet grapes, crunchy nuts, and moist chicken bits, in a smooth creamy dressing.
Over the years, I’ve tried to mimic the recipe to the best of my recollection. I’ve seen other copycat recipes that include sour cream and Dijon mustard, but this is the way I like to remember the salad. I often substitute the grapes with pineapple for a more tropical twist… And I sometimes serve the chicken salad in a pineapple boat for a dramatic summer presentation. Every time I assemble this recipe, I think about my carefree summer days riding the bus and enjoying the wonderful memories of Marshall Field’s & Company.
Copy Cat Marshall Field’s Chicken Salad
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 cups boneless skinless chicken breasts, fully cooked and chopped
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
2 tablespoons onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted and chopped
1/4 cup thompson seedless grapes, halved (optional)
lettuce leaf or plum tomatoes, for serving (optional)
Mix first 4 ingredients together in large bowl.
Add chicken, onion, celery, pecans, and optional grapes. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
This weekend we celebrated the holiday with the South Side Irish, St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Chicago. We attended the Annual St. Patrick’s Day Luncheon/Carry In and celebrated the holiday with family, friends and neighbors. Every year, I bring along a big tray of Mary’s Irish Scones and this delicious Pistachio Pudding Cake. It’s oh so easy to make and it’s beautiful light green color makes for a festive addition to any spring table.
Pistachio Pudding Cake
1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant pistachio pudding mix
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon almond extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour a 10″ tube pan.In a large bowl mix together cake mix and pudding mix. Make a well in the center and pour in eggs, water, oil, and almond extract. Blend ingredients, then beat for 2 minutes at medium speed. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until cake springs back when lightly pressed. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. Ice with Powdered Sugar Glaze or sprinkle with powdered sugar.