Nutty Crunch Hazelnut Butter Cookies

BA Nutty Crunch Chookies-3

Sometimes I feel like making a quick batch of cookies with ingredients I have on hand. This recipe is just the thing to make. These cookies are nutty and crunchy and buttery. They also keep remarkably well for about a week.

Nutty Crunch Cookies
(Slightly Adapted from Bon Appetit March 2014)

1 cup blanched hazelnuts
1/2 cup unsalted roasted almonds
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup flour
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter cut into 1 inch pieces
flaky sea salt for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
2. Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet, and place in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Watch them closely to make sure they don’t burn. Remove from the oven and let cool.
3. In a food processor, combine the almonds, brown sugar, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 cup of the hazelnuts, and the seeds from the vanilla bean. Pulse until finely ground. Add in flour, and pulse to combine. Add the butter, and pulse until the dough comes together. At this point, I like to put the dough in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes for it to firm up.
4. Coarsely chop the remaining hazelnuts and set a side.
5. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a 1 tablespoon scoop, scoop balls of dough and flatten to 1/2 inch thick. Space cookies 2 inch apart. Sprinkle with the hazelnuts, and press them gently on to the cookies. Sprinkle the cookies with flaky sea salt.
6. Bake 15-18 minutes, rotating cookie sheets half way through baking time. Let them cool completely. The cookies can be stored in an air tight container for about a week.

BA Nutty Crunch Chookies-2

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Travel Tuesday: Ammoudi in Oia–Santorini

I never dreamed of going to Santorini. It was always one of those places that I thought was surreally beautiful and unreachable. A place that did not exist other than in photoshopped postcards. The truth is that Santorini is even more beautiful than the most stunning photograph on any postcard that depicts it. The sky, and the Aegan sea are a deep shade of blue. The sun is so bright that it makes all the colors pop. Oia, a small and picturesque town in Santorini, is one of the most romantic places I’ve ever been to.

Oia Santorini

Oia Santorini

Oia is perched high, stunning cliffs surrounding it. You will find Ammoudi bay some 220 treacherous steps below Oia . The only sign you will find to guide you is this one:

Steps down to Ammoudi

Steps down to Ammoudi

Those are 220 slanted, uneven, and misshapen steps that you will have to climb back up. Ammoudi Bay is a small harbor with a pebble beach and many tavernas with fresh seafood. Fishermen tie their boats to poles in the water and then jump on the restaurants’ platforms to deliver their catch of the day.

Ammoudi is also one of the places where you can see the famous Santorini donkeys. Did I mention you have to share your path with them? Of course, you can always choose to ride a donkey down to and back up from Ammoudi, I just didn’t have the heart to do it.

Santorini Donkeys

Santorini Donkeys

Although it’s a gorgeous spot, the reason for my trek down to Ammoudi was to have a meal at Katina. You can’t mistake it, the cheerful orange chairs stand out before you complete your descent down the 220 steps.

View from Oia down to Ammoudi

View from Oia down to Ammoudi

Once my boyfriend and I arrived at Katina, we were offered drinks and then we were led inside to choose from their fresh seafood display. We ordered a Greek salad, chargrilled octopus, and grilled seabream. Our server recommended that we try a fried red mullet, as it is considered a Mediterranean delicacy. We enjoyed a lazy afternoon lunch, and savored every bite of food and every sip of our drinks without being rushed.

Greek Salad

Greek Salad

Chargrilled Octopus

Chargrilled Octopus

Red Mullet

Red Mullet

Sea bream at Katina

Sea bream at Katina

At the end we were stuffed.

Lunch at Katina

Lunch at Katina

Sailboat in Ammoudi

Sailboat in Ammoudi

I don’t know how I made it up those steps and back to my hotel. Needless to say, once back at the hotel I only had energy to end the day on a chair by the pool.

Relaxing by the pool after climbing 220 steps in the bright afternoon sun

Relaxing by the pool after climbing 220 steps in the bright afternoon sun

A shout out to Robyn Webb, who gave me fabulous recommendations for Santorini when I was absolutely clueless about where to stay, what to see, and where to eat. Katina was Robyn’s recommendation, and it was simply fantastic.

Travel Tuesday: Bougatsa at Bougatsadiko in Athens

Bougatsa1

Today’s Travel Tuesday post is all about Bougatsa. Bougatsa is a Greek breakfast pastry made with crispy phyllo dough. The dough encases a rich custard filling. Bougatsadiko in Athens specializes in this type of pastry. The dough is stretched out in the air, and it is quite impressing to watch. The whole process takes only a few minutes.

Here are the rounds of dough ready to be stretched
Bougatsa2

I don’t think I will try to make this dough anytime soon
Bougatsa3

Dots of butter are placed throughout the dough, then filled with the custard and folded
Bougatsa4

Filled dough, ready to be baked
Bougatsa5

Click here to watch a video: Making Bougatsa at Bougatsadiko in Athens

Bougatsadiko is definitely worth seeking out if you are in Athens.

Bougatsadiko
Iroon 1 Square
Psirri 10554
Athens, Greece

Bougatsadiko

Travel Tuesday: Perivolas in Oia, Santorini–Greece

Drinks at Perivolas

I have so many photographs from my travels that it can be overwhelming to figure out how to post them on the blog. I though it’d be fun to do a Travel Tuesday post every once in a while to share them with you. I’d love to hear what you think.

This first Travel Tuesday post is from Perivolas Hotel in Santorini. Perivolas is a luxurious and intimate hotel in Oia, with one of the most stunning views of the caldera. It is also well-known for its gorgeous infinity pool. Staying there was out of the question, since it’s quite an expensive hotel. Instead, in the planning stages of my trip to Santorini, I scheduled one evening to watch the sunset from the poolside terrace. The boyfriend and I headed there on the scheduled day, but it turned out to be a cold, rainy, and cloudy day. The weather was not cooperating with my plans for the spectacular sunset I envisioned.

We sat there, staring at our drinks. Suddenly, the clouds parted, and we got a glimpse of the sun setting for a few short minutes. It quickly got darker and colder, so we moved inside the hotel’s quaint restaurant which is located in a converted wine cellar.

Although it was not the stunning sunset that I had expected, it still was a magical evening.

A brief glimpse of the sunset
Perivolas Sunset

The view from Perivolas’ restaurant
Inside Perivolas Restaurant

Perivolas’ infinity pool
Perivolas Infinity Pool

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Butternut Squash Lasagna-3

I often struggle with ideas for weekday lunches. I like dishes that I can make on Sunday, and then freeze or refrigerate. When I’m ready to head out the door, in a rush or with time to spare, all I have to do is grab the pre-made lunch from the refrigerator or freezer and be on my way.

I just can’t get in the habit of putting together lunches in the morning. For that reason, sandwiches and salads are sort of out of the question.

I came across this recipe in Cherry Bombe Magazine. Have you heard of Cherry Bombe Magazine? It’s a bi-annual magazine that celebrates woman and food. What’s not to love?

The recipe in the magazine was a vegetarian version. I changed things up a bit with smoked mozzarella cheese instead of fresh mozzarella. The lasagna is flavorful, savory, and fairly easy to put together. I almost don’t feel bad about the pasta and the cheese because of all the butternut squash in it.

To make it vegetarian, just omit the ground beef.

Butternut Squash Lasagna-5

Butternut Squash Lasagna with Spiced Beef and Smoked Mozzarella
Adapted from Cherry Bombe Magazine Issue 2 Fall/Winter 2013
Serves 12

Butternut Squash and Ground Beef Layer
4 lb butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1lb lean ground beef
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/4 cup low sodium vegetable broth

Cheese Layer
1 lb whole milk ricotta cheese
8 ounces smoked mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt

1lb lasagna noodles, cooked or you can use fresh lasagna noodles

Topping
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Butternut Squash Lasagna-1

Lightly oil an 11 inch by 15 inch baking pan, I use a Misto oil sprayer filled with sunflower oil to spray the pan. Pre-heat oven to 425F.

Peel the butternut squash, cut in half and remove the seeds. Cut into 1 inch cubes.
Divide among 2 rimmed cookie sheets. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over each cookie sheet. Sprinkle each cookie sheet with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. Toss and bake for 30 minutes. Halfway through cooking time, use a spatula to turn the butternut squash to ensure even baking. Remove from the oven and let cool. Spoon into a large bowl, and mash about half of the butternut squash leaving the other half in cubes. Set aside.

In a deep skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are caramelized. About 20 minutes. Remove onions with a spoon and add into bowl with butternut squash.

In the same skillet, add in the ground beef, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon allspice, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Using a spatula, crumble the beef into small pieces as it cooks. Cook until brown, about 15 minutes. Add into the bowl with the butternut squash and onion. Add vegetable broth to the bowl. Mix well. Set aside.

In a small skillet, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and sage leaves. Cook until lightly browned and crisp. Drain on a paper towel. Set a few leaves aside to decorate the lasagna. Crumble the rest into the butternut squash mixture and mix well.

In a medium bowl add: ricotta, smoked mozzarella, 1/2 cup Parmesan, heavy cream, egg yolks, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Butternut Squash Lasagna-2

Preheat oven to 375F. Assemble the lasagna. Place a thin layer of the ricotta mixture on the bottom of the prepared pan. Layer with lasagna noodles. Add half of the butternut squash mixture, then half of the cheese mixture. Repeat. Finish with a layer of lasagna noodles, sprinkle the top with 1 cup Parmesan cheese and garnish with the reserved sage leaves. Bake for 35 minutes. Let cool for about 15 minutes so that the lasagna is easier to cut into and the layers don’t fall apart. If making ahead, refrigerate until cold. Then cut into portions and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate or freeze.

Butternut Squash Lasagna-4