Saturday, February 23, 2013

Sweet Olive Oil Crackers

Olive Oil Crackers 021

Last week we were at a party to celebrate a friend who was retiring from her job.  It’s a big deal.  She’s not even 50 yet and she is able to retire!!  She wants to travel with her husband and so all of us surprised her with a party to celebrate and tried to disguise our envy.  :) 

The food was delicious.  There was a gorgeous cheese tray that the retiree herself put together  (she sure has a talent for putting together an eye-catching assortment of cheeses) and tucked in a basket with some other crackers were these unique crackers that were like nothing I had ever tasted before.  They were crunchy and sweet with a hint of anise which tastes like black licorice.  The new retiree said they were purchased at The Fresh Market.

Olive Oil Crackers 013

So of course  they were first thing I looked for when I was shopping there this week.  I believe they are called Tortas but of course they were sold out on the day I was there. 

So, I dug around online and uncovered this same recipe several times on several different websites.  The ingredient list looked like all of the same flavors that I remember so decided to go ahead and I prepared a batch of them today.  The recipe I followed came from the blog Taste of Beirut where there is an excellent blog post and description with photos of how they were made. 

Here is the recipe.

Sweet Olive Oil Tortas

5 ounces of extra virgin olive oil 
peel of half a lemon or orange  (I used the peels from both.)
1 tablespoon of anise seeds (or ground anise) (I used seeds.)
3.5 ounces of white wine (or fresh orange juice)  (I used the juice of 1 fresh orange and 1 fresh lemon.)
2 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of ammonia powder (I didn’t have any of this but will shop for it for the future.  It helps to make the crackers more crunchy.)
3 tablespoons of sugar plus more for sprinkling on the crackers
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon plus more for adding to the sugar sprinkled on the crackers
1/4 cups of sesame seeds, toasted till golden  ( I toasted them in a dry saute pan on top of the stove.  Toast them till they are a light golden brown but be careful not to burn them.)


Peel the lemon (yellow part if possible only) to get a long strip. Place the lemon peel and the olive oil in a small skillet and heat the oil until the peel starts to brown. Remove the peel, add the anise seeds and cool the oil.
Sift the flour, baking powder and ammonia powder in a mixing bowl. Add the cinnamon  and sugar and mix in.
Add to the flour mixture the olive oil, anise seeds, wine or juice.  Mix to combine well. You should obtain a moist and firm dough.
Let the dough rest for 30 minutes in a bowl or plastic wrap. If not using right away, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one day.
Line several cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpat. Place 1/2 cup of sugar (with a pinch of cinnamon if you like) in a small bowl. Place the sesame seeds in another small bowl.
Form small  walnut- sized balls of the same size if possible from the dough and line them up and cover them with a piece of plastic wrap. Take one ball at a time and press on it with your fingertips on the parchment-lined cookie sheet till it gets as thin as possible,  ideally 1/2 mm or 1/16 of an inch.
Sprinkle the crackers with a bit of sugar and sesame seeds.
Bake in a preheated 325F  oven for about 15 minutes or until browned around the edges and dry.

These are a delicious and unique cookie/cracker that we enjoyed with a glass of wine and an assortment of cheeses.  But I also think these would be very nice to enjoy with a hot cup of tea or coffee.  They are a bit labor intensive but so worth it!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Low Carbing It

Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato Roll Ups 008

Today’s lunch.  Bacon, pepperjack cheese and tomatoes wrapped up in Romaine lettuce leaves. 

I slipped.  For the past 6 weeks I have been humming along on a new diet.  I have been experimenting with a low carb diet and doing pretty well with it.  I loved how NOT hungry I was all the time.  I loved how nothing I was now eating did not give me indigestion anymore, and of course I loved how much looser and more comfortable my clothes were becoming.  But yesterday I slipped.  I indulged in a lot of the foods I have been avoiding over the last few weeks.  And it taught me a lesson.  I don’t feel good when I eat all of those foods!  My Mexican dinner last night of chips and salsa, a mini Margarita, an enchilada, and a chalupa with re-fried beans and a big chocolate brownie for dessert taunted me last night while I was trying to sleep.   It wasn’t pretty!

This is the Food Pyramid that makes the most sense to me.

Now I don’t expect to go hardcore low carb the rest of my life and never eat another piece of fruit or bread.   And while I don’t expect to go “Paleo” and eat like our caveman ancestors ate, a lot of that diet makes sense.  Man has been on the earth for thousands if not millions of years and wheat and agriculture has only been in existence in recent history.   And look at all the health problems we have today. 

One of the hard things about it for me is that  I LIKE  to BAKE bread and make desserts for my family and friends.  I like to experiment and try new foods and will continue to do so.  But, I also expect to experiment a bit more with foods with less sugar and less wheat.  I’ve done a lot of reading lately and I don’t like the idea that a lot of our food today has been genetically modified.  The wheat in our breads and flours today is not the same wheat our grandmothers and grandfathers ate.  So I have been trying out some alternative flours like almond flour.  A lot of what I have been eating could be considered gluten free.  I know it seems like gluten free is all the rage right now but seriously, why are so many more people feeling better these days when they avoid wheat?  I think it has something to do with how the food industry has tampered with the genetics of the wheat we now eat in the name of higher production and yields.

I usually don’t use my blog as a platform to spout off about politics or controversial issues.  I just wanted share that I have been changing some of the things I have been eating and I feel better.  I was also hoping to hear your thoughts on eating less wheat and wondering if any of you out there have had success with eating a low carb diet?

(Also, I have just created a page above on my menu bar called Low Carb Ideas.  It will be a work in progress and I will be adding any tips and tricks I have learned along the way!)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

200th Pride and Prejudice Anniversary by Jane Austen

Photo: January 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Download a free audiobook version to celebrate! iTunes - MP3 - plus free Austen ebook downloads from the library

Did you know that it is the 200th Anniversary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice?  It is very close to the top of my list of favorite books. 

It’s a story that never seems to loose it’s appeal.   At least not for me.  And I am a big fan of every movie or mini series that takes it’s turn telling the story of Miss Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.  I love the manners and etiquette of the day.  The clothing and their way with words.  No one ever says anything in the direct and to the point way people seem to talk today.    My favorite version is the BBC series from 1995.  Jenifer Ehle and Colin Firth made the perfect Lizzie and Darcy for me.


“It is universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

 Pride and Prejudice    

“Oh Mr. Bennet!  Have you no compassion for my nerves?”


The Bennet Family.  Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, Lydia, Elizabeth, Jane, Mary, and Kitty.


Mr. Collins and his patroness The Lady Catherine de Bourgh, mistress of Rosings, and his wife, the former Charlotte Lucas. 


The silly youngest sister Lydia with her handsome (and loathsome) Mr. Wickham.

“Ah, Jane, I take your place now, and you must go lower, because I am a married woman.”

     Pride and Prejudice 1995 -    

And in the end, Jane marries Mr. Bingley for “she could not be so beautiful for nothing”.  And Elizabeth marries Mr. Darcy much to Lady Catherine’s dismay and becomes mistress of Pemberly.

Mr. Darcy emerges from the lake.

And in case you missed it, here is the iconic moment that women the world over witnessed and it forever seared the image of Colin Firth as the only possible Mr. Darcy.  At least in my lifetime!

And before I go, Did you know that you can download Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen for FREE from Amazon to your Kindle? 

How about you?  Are you a Jane Austen fan?  And if so, which is your favorite book?

Happy Anniversary Jane!!