Hope everybody’s 2014 has started out to be a good one. If you are like me and most people, the new year brings the same yearly promise to get healthy, eat healthy, feel healthy, be healthy. I don’t know why we tend to let go of our sensibilities towards the end of each year, but around here we did just that. Had such a good time being bad though, and in the back of my mind I’m telling myself that there’s a good chance I’ll do the same thing next year. I hope that I reach some goals and see some changes between now and then. We’ve started towards that place and it feels good.
One of the easiest and tastiest ways to reach your nutrition goals is to eat soup. Chock full of the good stuff and so comforting on a cold day, a big pot of soup is just the ticket. There’s something therapeutic about standing in the kitchen and chopping a big pile of vegetables, choosing a few spices and flavorings, and then creating the magical potion that is – homemade soup. It’s intoxicating. It’s good for you. It tastes nothing like the stuff that comes in a can. Nothing.
The best thing? Tastes even better the second day after the flavors have had time to get to know each other. If you make a big enough pot, you can freeze a few portions and reward yourself on those days that standing in the kitchen is the last thing you want to do. Win-win.
This soup is one of those that lets you decide what goes in it. One of those recipes that you will tweak according to your own mood and desires. Want to throw in some pasta? Go for it. A few beans? Kale? Yeah. Go right ahead. The veggies cook quickly, so after you get all the chopping done, the soup comes together very fast. Don’t worry about chopping everything all same-size perfect. Let it be rustic. It tastes better that way.
In this pot of soup I added potatoes instead of pasta, because that’s what my husband asked for. Sometimes I give him a choice. He likes that. I threw in a bit of cabbage. A few white beans. Olive oil. A little butter. I also added quite a bit of flavor. I tossed in some dried thyme from my herb garden. Some oregano. Some Italian seasoning. Garlic, of course. To make it really special I added pizza seasoning. Yes, that. It’s my new go-to thing. I add it to anything Italian-y. Buy yourself the good stuff though, none of that mediocre grocery store stuff. You’ll thank me.
Make this soup just like me, or however like you like it. Either way, it will be just right. Just remember to breathe. You’ll thank me for that, too. Smells like heaven.
Note: As the soup simmers, the olive oil and butter will float on the top. Be sure and stir before serving so that the fats are distributed throughout each serving.
2 tbsp. butter
3-4 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 zucchini, seeded and chopped
4 ribs of celery, sliced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
5 carrots, chopped or sliced
1 28 oz. can whole, peeled tomatoes, chopped or pureed
5 small potatoes, peeled & sliced OR 1-2 cups cooked pasta of your choice
6 cups water
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp. dried thyme, crushed
1/2 tsp. oregano, crushed
1 – 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. pizza seasoning
One Bay Leaf
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Sugar, 1/2 to 1 tsp. (to cut acidity of tomatoes)
Handful or 2 of shredded cabbage, optional (add to pot during last 15 minutes of cooking)
1/2 to 1 cup White beans - cannellini, Great Northern, Navy, or white kidney (canned & rinsed OR fresh cooked, added during last 15 minutes of cooking)
Handful of chopped Italian parsley (add to pot during last 15 min. of cooking)
Wash all vegetables. Chop. Mince garlic and set aside.
Place canned tomatoes in blender and pulse once. Set aside.
Melt butter in large soup pot. Add olive oil.
Add the chopped onion, celery, green and red pepper, and zucchini to pan. Cook and stir until onion is almost translucent. Make a well in the center of vegetables and add minced garlic. Cook for 30 seconds or until garlic is fragrant. Pour in the pureed tomatoes. Stir. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
Add water and broth. Add carrots. Stir.
Add spices and seasonings to pot. Add salt, pepper, bay leaf and sugar. Stir.
Bring to a boil and then lower heat to low or simmer.
Cook, stirring often, for 15 minutes then add the potatoes, if using. Cover and cook for another 30 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are tender.
If using pasta instead of potatoes, add cooked pasta after the carrots are tender.
Add bean and chopped Italian parsley. Cook and stir to heat the beans. Remove bay leaf.
Here’s a recipe for a delicious cookie that can be put together quickly and kept on hand for those coffee and tea gatherings we enjoy throughout the holidays. This recipe is perfect as is, but it can be varied according to taste by substituting your favorite dried fruit mixture, using only dried cranberries, or raisins, or by adding chopped pecans, almonds, etc. Maybe even a few chunks of chocolate? That would be nice, but not necessary, as these cookies shine with just the dried fruit. The prepared cookie dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week. How perfect is that?
Perfect tucked into lunch boxes and in homemade cookie packages given to family, friends and neighbors. Take some to work with you and make a co-workers day. They make a great afternoon pick-me-up during the hectic, busy days of December, and will become a favorite standby cookie during the rest of the year for many of you.
Fruit Slice Cookies
2 cups brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tbsp. pure vanilla
3 1/2 cups *sifted, unbleached flour
1 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
*Tip: If you don’t want to drag out a sifter, just place the flour in a bowl and whisk briskly to fluff the flour.
Measure one cup of dried fruit. Chop any large pieces. Set aside. (My favorite dried fruit mix comes from King Arthur Flour.)
In the bowl of your electric mixer, cream together the brown sugar and butter until fluffy. Add eggs and beat well, then mix in vanilla.
In same bowl that you sifted or whisked the flour, add the cream of tartar and baking soda to flour and whisk again to mix.
Add flour mixture (a cup at a time) to creamed mixture. After the first cup of flour has been mixed in, add chopped dried fruit. Proceed with the rest of the flour. Dough will be thick and somewhat stiff. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of mixing bowl to ensure all ingredients get mixed in evenly.
Cut 2 pieces of waxed paper about 10″ long and place half the dough on each piece, forming two logs. Using warm, clean hands, press and roll as you go. Wrap each log in the wax paper, rolling tightly to form round logs. Secure ends and place logs in the refrigerator. Chill at least two hours and up to a week.
When ready to bake, remove from refrigerator and allow to sit a few minutes, rolling log a few times on counter. You can roll any flattened sides as you slice the cookies, but don’t worry about this too much (perfection not a requirement, just good taste!). Unwrap dough, and slice evenly with serrated knife, anywhere between 1/4″ and 1/2″ thick. Place slices on cookie sheet lined with a non-stick liner or parchment.
Bake in a 350 degree oven, 7-10 minutes for thinner slices and 10-12 for thicker slices. Remove from oven when edges are brown and the middle is no longer wet. The longer the cookies are baked, the crisper the cookie. After baking, remove from cookie sheet and cool on a wire rack.
So good with a cup of steaming hot tea!
Eggnog Snack Cake with Vanilla Glaze
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 cups eggnog, room temperature
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
Finely grated zest from one orange
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
2 tbsp. water
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees (375 degrees for high altitude). Grease and flour Bundt pan; set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and grated orange zest. Set aside.
In the bowl of your mixer, beat the softened butter for a few seconds. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add vanilla and beat for an additional 30 seconds.
Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture, in three parts, alternating with the eggnog and mixing well after each addition.
Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cake should be golden. Place cake in pan on a wire cooling rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Invert cake over cooling rack and continue to cool the cake.
When cake is cool, prepare the vanilla glaze. Combine the glaze ingredients in a microwave proof container. Microwave on high for 1 minute, stirring after each 20-25 second interval. Brush glaze on cooled cake.
Want something decadent for breakfast or brunch?
This French Toast casserole has it all. Sweet, flavorful, fluffy, soft, and crunchy all at the same time and oh, so good. Paired with scrambled eggs and crisp bacon, this French toast takes a boring, bland breakfast to the next level. That special something you sometimes need to pair with say, a crisp, fall Saturday morning or Sunday brunch with family or friends.
A snap to put together and very easily transported, this might become my go-to specialty. I’m betting this recipe can be changed up a bit by the addition of various fruits and nuts.
Maybe some chopped apples for fall and cranberries at Christmas time?
Yeah, that sounds like a plan.
Croissant French Toast
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup whole milk (I used 2%)
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. sugar, divided
2 tbsp. orange juice
Grated zest of one orange
1 tbsp. vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a bowl, beat the eggs. Add milk, 1/4 cup sugar, orange juice and zest, and vanilla. Whisk until well combined.
Butter a 8×8 baking pan or casserole dish. Tear the croissants into chunks and arrange in the buttered baking dish in a single layer. Pour the egg mixture over the croissants.
Using a spatula, press the croissants into the egg mixture to ensure the croissants are moistened.
Bake, covered with foil, for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for another 20 minutes.
Remove from oven, sprinkle with the remaining 1 tbsp. of sugar. Return to oven and continue baking until crisp, about 5 minutes.
This recipe was adapted from a Food Network magazine recipe (April 2013) that called for baking the French toast covered for the full 40 minutes, then broiling for 5 minutes after sprinkling the sugar on top. You can also broil the top to crisp, but I found that the top will burn easily. I prefer baking the French toast covered for the first half of baking, then uncovered for the second half of baking to brown and crisp the top. The sugar topping can be reduced or eliminated altogether, as the casserole is just as delicious without it.
The next time I make this, I think I’ll add a little cinnamon and nutmeg to just 1/2 tsp. sugar.
Serve with warmed maple syrup or make an orange syrup by warming 1/2 orange marmalade and 1/4 cup water in a microwave-safe container for 1-2 minutes in the microwave.
1/2 cup mayonnaise or sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp. each of your choice fresh herbs, such as:
curly or Italian parsley, thyme or lemon thyme, fresh-snipped chives, dill, oregano, basil
1 garlic clove, crushed then minced fine
1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard (may increase for extra bite, if desired)
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. each of salt and pepper
Wash and dry herbs. Mince, snip, or chop, as desired. I prefer a fine mince in my dressing.
Place all ingredients into a mason jar or small bowl. Shake or whisk to combine.
Keep cold for up to 4 days.
Happy to finally see September arrive. Seems like this year, more than any other, I am looking for fall weather as kind of a saving grace. I have learned to dislike the summer weather here. The heat feels oppressive, the wind never ending, and I long for the blessings that fall brings, earlier and earlier each year. September still brings hot weather to the Southwest, but hot eventually turns to warm, and warm to cool. This month also brings the promise of cooler nights and crisp mornings, making the world a much nicer place.
September also brings to me my favorite season at home, for with cooler weather, our homes come alive with color and the outdoors are renewed with a fresh season of outdoor living. As the cooler temperatures extinguish the heat of summer, the days of air-conditioned, stuffy air are slowly replaced with days offering the tickle of fall breezes, the hint of that pungent outdoor air that I love, and scents of fall cooking and baking coming from the kitchen.
Ah, what’s not to like about fall’s effect in the kitchen, all spicy and fragrant and delicious?
Pumpkin Pecan Scones
Moist from the pumpkin, with just a hint of brown sugar sweetness, and topped with pecans, these scones are a good way to start the season.
3 cups flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
4 tbsp. cold butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 tsp. pure vanilla
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup pumpkin, canned or fresh baked
1 tbsp. brown sugar, for topping
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
Milk or Cream, to brush top
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Take the butter out and cut into small cubes. Place butter back in the refrigerator to keep cold.
In a medium bowl. whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, and pumpkin. Set aside.
In a small bowl, measure flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. Stir with a whisk to lighten and combine. Add the cold, cubed butter to the mixture and using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles very coarse crumbs.
Add the wet ingredients to the flour/butter mixture, stirring just until combined, leaving the butter wholly undisturbed. The dough will be wet and sticky.
Flour a wooden board lightly, and turn the dough out onto the board. Gather dough together and using floured hands, knead lightly 3-4 times, just enough to pull dough together.
Place dough onto a silpat or parchment-lined baking sheet and pat into a 9 inch circle. Brush the top of dough with milk or cream. Sprinkle with brown sugar and chopped pecans, pushing both into the dough lightly. Score the dough lightly with a sharp knife (do not cut all the way through).
Place into preheated oven and bake for 18-24 minutes, or until golden brown.
Cool on a wire rack before serving.
Delicious served with butter, apple butter, or pumpkin butter, but moist enough to serve plain.
It’s me. The gal who hasn’t posted here for awhile. Let me introduce myself to all of you new guys who have recently registered for updates to my blog. I’m sure you have waited patiently for a new recipe, or two. I have lots of things to cook for you.
It’s not that I haven’t wanted to cook. Bake. Take a few pictures. Write a story. Post it. I think about it, all the time. It’s just that I’ve been really, really busy. Getting my self together. Trying to get into a good rhythm. Mucking out. Finding my way through my piles of STUFF. I cook and I bake, I really do. It’s just as far as I get, lately.
You see, I like a lot of things. I own a lot of things, those things that I like (hmm, a little Dr. Seussy?)
Those things I like get messy. They need a little tending to, from time to time.
Like bird things . . .
This particular bird thing is a flour sack towel (Mary Lake Thompson). A good one. For all of those dishes I wash. They need drying.
Because most of the time, I can’t seem to get all the dishes in the dishwasher. We got a new dishwasher. We NEEDED a new one. Only we waited until we ABSOLUTELY needed a new one before we ordered it. Then, while we were waiting forever for it to get here, I kinda sorta got into the habit of hand-washing all the dishes. Now I don’t like my new dishwasher. As much as I’d like to. Or should. Considering I really have a lot of dishes to wash.
Speaking of washing,
when was the last time you took the time to enjoy doing your laundry?
See this pile of clean laundry? It smells good. It feels good. Laundry is one of those everyday duties we hurry through, not enjoying very much. As I sat down (yes, I did that – I sat down to fold the laundry – usually I stand, impatiently),
when I sat down on my bed to fold this laundry ,
(because their really wasn’t anywhere else to do it, considering I had STUFF pulled out of every cabinet, nook and cranny -
you know, organizing it)
when I sat down with this lovely pile of laundry, it was actually FUN. I took my time folding those lovely dish towels and really enjoyed it. For the first time in a long time.
A pile of clean laundry is kind of comforting. It’s like a new beginning for all of those bits of fabric. They come to life again.
Too bad I don’t take the time to enjoy doing laundry more often. It’s being added to my list of goals.
My very, very long list of goals. But still.
Another thing I’ve been doing is growing herbs. Growing herbs is good. They smell nice, too. Like clean laundry, but different. I love cooking with my herbs. I love washing them, and patting them dry. I really love chopping them.
I don’t know why, but I do.
See the dill in the photo above? I grow dill just to look at.
Not to eat, really.
I don’t grow cucumbers, well, I kind of do. I bought a cucumber plant that didn’t get planted in the garden, just kind of got nestled near the garden, and therefore, it seems to be doing really well. I might grow a cucumber or two, but I don’t use my dill for pickling.
I occasionally use dill when I cook.
I just really like to snip it and put it in a container of cool water and set it in my house.
That’s why I grow dill. It looks good and reminds me of summer (because I always grow it).
I like roosters, too. Every kitchen needs a rooster, right?
I really, really like lavender.
Especially nice in a blue jug.
Know what else looks good, in containers, in the house? Florals. Lots of them.
You can never have too many florals in your house.
Well, maybe you can, because then your house might look like a flower shop, or something.
I think I might have just a bit too many florals in my house, now that I look around, but they make me happy.
By the way, I know I have too many flowers in the YARD, because there’s a ton of them out there, all waiting patiently for me to come along and snip at them, too. Only, now I am just too busy, what with all that organizing going on.
Organizing. My middle name lately.
I just can’t figure out how come I am never organized.
When I spend so much time organizing.
Look at the word organizing.
It’s one of those words that look weird. Especially when you type it too many times in a story. Especially when you have nothing to show for all the time spent organizing.
Soon, very, very soon.
We got a new table. A big one. A table for ten.
Now we can all fit at the table, with a chair for everyone.
That is if I ever get organized enough to cook for that many people.
That’s a lot of people.
Kind of a lot of stress.
Cooking that much food.
Especially when I have these dishes to wash, herbs to chop, flowers to snip, laundry to do and things to put away. Did I mention I really like books? Books to read and books with food.
Speaking of food, I sure do have a lot of dishes. I like dishes, like I like herbs and flowers and bird things.
You can’t have too many dishes, can you? They’re kind of like flowers.
If I have too many flowers, I most certainly have too many dishes.
I will NEVER have too many books.
You see where this is going?
I like dishes. They make me happy.
You never know when I’m going to have a bunch of people to cook for, now that I have a table with ten chairs.
Speaking of chairs, I kind of have a lot of chairs. You see,
I have three tables.
Can you have too many tables?
Hey, I have a really good question -
can your house be too big?
Stay tuned. I will be cooking. And posting.
Very, very soon.
a.k.a. Chocolate Chip and Yummy Topping Banana Bread
Banana bread recipes are a dime a dozen, with so many variations, but all using common ingredients. Nothing wrong with your basic banana bread – it’s comforting, simple, and delicious, but here’s one to try. Speckled with bananas AND chocolate, it’s a winner. I’m sure many banana breads are baked simply because there are a few overripe bananas laying around kitchens, which is why I baked this loaf today. I can’t tell you how many times I told myself, “I need to make banana bread with those bananas”, only to throw the bananas away a few days later, black and shriveled. I always feel a little sad, knowing I could have (and should have) gotten my act together and baked something that is essentially one of the easiest baked goods on the planet, but sometimes the days are simply too chaotic for even the simplest of recipes.
Today, a day as chaotic as any, I stopped and transformed three lovely, spotted beauties into this fragrant loaf, knowing full well that I didn’t really have the time. I just did it any way. I was in the mood and so I baked a recipe from long ago that I used to bake when my kids were small, adding a little this and that to it, for kicks. Just before I placed it in the oven to bake, I sprinkled the loaf with a little mixture of cinnamon, sugar, and nutmeg, and then, for good measure, I stirred a little quick-cooking oats and almonds into a tiny bit of melted butter and pressed that into the top of the batter.
I may not get all of the stuff done that I need to, but that’s really nothing new. I will, however, be able to offer my husband a yummy slice of banana bread with his evening coffee, and I’ve already had a sample.
That’s a good thing, right?
Mmmm, so good.
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (2-3 medium) bananas, mashed
1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 tbsp. pure vanilla
2 cups unbleached flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips, chopped small (milk or dark, your choice)
1 1/2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
1 tbsp. melted butter
2 tbsp. quick-cooking oats
2 tbsp. sliced almonds
Pre-heat oven to 350○ (375○ high altitude). Grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan and flour the bottom. Set aside.
Chop the chocolate chips small, leaving some pieces finely chopped and some pieces a bit bigger (chopping the chips helps to keep the fine texture of the bread). I use a mezzaluna for this task. Miniature chips will work well too.
In a mixing bowl, beat sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add mashed bananas, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla. Blend well.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk together to blend.
Add flour mixture, a little at a time, until mixed well with wet ingredients. Pour into prepared loaf pan. Smooth top. Combine the sugar with the cinnamon and nutmeg. Sprinkle on top of batter. Melt butter. Stir in almonds and oats. Spoon on the top and center of batter and press lightly with a spoon.
Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out mostly clean.
Note: Take a peek at the end of the 50 minutes. If the topping is getting too browned, tent a piece of aluminum foil over the top during the last few minutes. Remove foil just before the bread is done to ensure top of loaf browns evenly. Remove from oven. Let cool in pan 15 minutes. Remove from pan and let bread finish cooling on a wire rack.
While I was baking this biscotti, my husband called me outside. We have been fortunate this spring to have two different bird nests to watch over, right in the middle of our yard. Western Bluebirds have built a nest in a juniper tree. The bluebirds are very beautiful and very colorful. The little ones have tender voices and it’s been so nice to listen to them as they are being fed. The nest was built in a birdhouse our son built when he was much younger, in the sixth grade. He’s twenty-five now. The birds return each spring, but we are not sure if they’re the same pair, or if we perhaps are just lucky enough to attract new bluebirds each year.
We have also been watching a nest with four little bluejays, located in a very large, old pinon tree. The birds are very loud when feeding, sounding almost dinosaur-like, with their loud screeching.
Today was the day they left the nest for the first time. We were wondering how long the nest would hold them, since they’ve grown so large for the size of the nest. They didn’t really fly from the nest, they hopped, from branch to branch. They will be perfecting their wing flapping and soon be gone.
A sight to behold, these little feathered friends, all fluffy and new.
Blessings come from unexpected places.
Very Vanilla Biscotti
Simple, with lots of vanilla flavor, because simple can be oh, so, delicious.
Besides, sometimes you feel like nuts, sometimes you don’t.
6 tbsp. unsalted butter (3/4 stick)
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
2 whole vanilla beans, split and scraped
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees (375○ high altitude). Lightly grease a large baking sheet (18 x 13), or line with parchment or silicone baking sheets. A pan specifically for baking biscotti may also be used.
- Measure out the sugar (3/4 cup) and place in a small bowl. Split the vanilla beans and scrape out the seeds with the tip of a small, sharp knife. Add to the measured sugar, mixing well.
- In a medium bowl, beat the butter, the vanilla sugar, salt, vanilla extract, and baking powder together until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Beat in the eggs. Batter will look curdled. On low speed, add the flour one cup at a time. Mix until smooth. The dough will be soft and sticky, but will hold its shape when dropped from a spoon. You will be able to see the vanilla beans throughout the dough.
- Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet., shaping it into a rough log, about 14″ long, 2 1/2 inches wide, and 3/4″ thick.
- Bake the dough for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and set on a baking rack to cool for 5 to 25 minutes. Remove from pan. Slice 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick, using a sharp serrated bread knife. To make the biscotti easier to slice, use a clean plant mister filled with fresh water to lightly mist the top and sides of the dough. This will make the dough less likely to crumble when slicing. After misting, let sit for 5 more minutes, then slice, making sure to slice the biscotti evenly from top to bottom.
- Place slices upright on baking sheet, leaving room between the slices. Bake for another 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool before storing in an airtight container.
Adapted from King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion cookbook. I prefer to scrape the split vanilla beans instead of using the entire vanilla bean. Experiment to see what you like. For those times when plain just isn’t what you are in the mood for, feel free to add in your choice of nuts or chocolate, etc. Just be sure to chop all extras on the small side to make slicing the biscotti easier.
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