Ginger Almond Biscotti Recipe

After exams, a flu, and lots of last minute Christmas orders, I’m finally back! I’m very much hoping to get back to a fairly regular blogging schedule, and I really do plan on posting the rest of the honeymoon saga (though I’m sure you’ve all long since lost interest). In the meantime though, I’m going to give you fun holiday recipe.

Ginger Almond Biscotti - Haus of Ariella

I don’t cook often (thankfully my husband is an excellent cook and doesn’t mind doing it), but I do like to bake from time to time. Biscotti happens to be something I’m pretty good at, so I usually make a batch or two around this time of year. It’s great for giving as a gift – it’s not hard to make, it’s a bit different, and it keeps well in tins.

I have a particular recipe that I usually like to use, but this year I couldn’t find it. It turns out it’s at my mom’s house, but not having it handy inspired me to try something new. This recipe is an adaptation of this Epicurious recipe.

Note that these are very gingery, even as I have the recipe written (Epicurious called for even more ginger). If you aren’t a huge ginger fan, you can cut down the ginger by using a little less ground ginger or substituting the crystallized ginger for another ingredient like dried fruits. I think that this would be great with chopped dates.

If you’re wondering what crystallized ginger is, it’s basically just candied ginger. I think it’s delicious on its own, plus it’s great if you have a stomachache. You can usually find it as health food stores and food co-ops. I got mine from a bin at Whole Foods.

Also, this recipe makes about 14-16 5″ biscotti (depending on how you cut them/shape the loaves), which is enough for one very full, round Christmas tin. If you’re doing a few tins for people, you might want to double the recipe.

Ginger Almond Biscotti

Ginger Almond Biscotti - Haus of Ariella

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup dry toasted, unsalted almonds (you can also toasted raw almonds in an oven for about 10 minutes)
  • 1/2 cup crystallized ginger
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

First of all, preheat your oven to 300°F.

Next, coarsely chop your crystallized ginger and almonds. You can chop them together, since they’ll go into the recipe at the same time. Note that the ginger is sticky inside.

Ginger Almond Biscotti - Haus of Ariella

Next you’ll need to sift together the flour, sugar, ground ginger, salt, and baking soda. If you don’t have a sifter (like me) a neat trick is to take a metal strainer and use it to sift the ingredients.

Using a strainer as a sifter

In a separate bowl, beat the whole egg, egg white, and vanilla together. Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients and mix them together well. Then add the crystallized ginger and almonds and mix some more.

This was the first time I’ve had a chance to use the mixer my grandmother got us for our wedding and I was very happy to have it! Don’t expect the biscotti dough to be very wet or to mix well. When it’s all mixed together nicely, you should have a substance that looks a bit like very lumpy oatmeal.

Ginger Almond Biscotti - Haus of Ariella

Now you get to form the loaf. If you’d like, you can use a buttered loaf pan. However, I prefer to free form my biscotti loaves on a baking sheet. Free-forming the loaves give you more freedom to shape them, plus I prefer the look. Grease your baking sheet or cover it with non-stick aluminum foil.

Wetting your hands prior to picking up the dough makes it easier to shape (plus it’s easier to get off your hands afterward). I made mine into one large log for longer biscotti, but if you want to do mini biscotti make two logs that are half as wide as the one. Keep in mind that while the dough will spread somewhat while baking, it won’t rise, so don’t make it too thin.

Ginger Almond Biscotti - Haus of Ariella

Bake at 300°F for about 45 minutes or until it’s a nice golden color.

recipe 2

Take out the loaf and let it cool for 30-45 minutes. Epicurious says to cut it after 10 minutes, but I think that’s a very good way to end up with a lot of biscotti crumbles and very few intact biscotti. In my experience, cool biscotti loaves cut much better than warm ones. Letting it cool completely won’t hurt it and it may save you some frustration, so put it on a cooling rack or in some nice, cat-free area and forget about it for a while.

Now that your biscotti is nice and cool (you did wait, didn’t you?), take a serrated knife and cut the loaf crosswise (across the thinner part). I usually cut mine into 1/2″ thick slices, but you can vary that to taste. Put your slices back onto the cookie sheet (you might need to break out another baking sheet to fit them all, or you can do them in shifts) and put them back into the oven at 300°F for about 15 minutes until they get crisp. They’ll get a bit crispier once you take them out and cool them, so if they’re looking darker after 15 minutes, but haven’t reached the level of crisp you’d like, let them cool then check them.

You should have some delicious ginger almond biscotti! Put them in a tin (after eating a few yourself) and impress your friends and family for the holidays!

Ginger Almond Biscotti - Haus of Ariella

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Wedding DIY: Is It Worth It?

DIY Sheet Music Flowers

The answer: it depends.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for DIY, especially for weddings. I’ve always loved making things and when I got engaged I went a little overboard with it all. That’s how Haus of Ariella and my brand new bridal shop, Lace Over Heels, came into being. I’m making our cake toppers, my veil, a wedding/reception dress (I haven’t decided which it will be), and many of the decorations, but there are a lot of things that we are buying/hiring someone to do or omitting altogether.

The trick, I think, is to prioritize your DIY projects much the same as you prioritize items in your wedding budget. If you’ve spent much time in the wedding blogosphere, you’ve undoubtedly read about amazing couples who had their 100 person wedding in the rustic barn behind their cottage. They’re the ones who made their own wedding cloths, hand painted 10,000 mason jars, folded 1,000 paper cranes, wrote the wedding ceremony, hand cut every invitation, brewed their own beer for the reception, baked a wedding cake, and self-catered a full-meal for their wedding. Oh, and they did it all in about 3 months.

Most of us realize that as cool as all of that is, those people are also freakin’ nuts. Everyday life doesn’t stop just because we’re getting married, despite what some bridezillas might think. Just because you can DIY something doesn’t mean you have to or even that you should. Here are a few things to ask yourself when deciding whether to take on a DIY project or leave it to the professionals.

How important is it?

One of the great things about DIY wedding projects is that it gives your wedding a personal touch and makes the items you made even more special to you. If you’ve always dreamt of baking your own wedding cake or sewing your own dress , and you have the ability to do so, then do it. If you think that making your own bouquet would make it that much more special to you, then put it higher on your list than the decorations that you think will just cost less if you DIY them.

The importance of the item can swing the DIY factor in the other direction too though. If you’ve been fantasizing about the perfect tiered wedding cake with intricate fondant flowers, but you’ve never decorated a cake in your life, go with the pros and DIY another project instead.

How much will it cost?

The most common misconception about DIY projects is that they always save you money. In fact, some of them could cost you more than it would to buy the items in the first place. As any crafter who’s ever spent a bit too much time in Michael’s or Joann knows, crafting supplies can add up fast. Plus, you may only need two feathers for your fascinator, but your going to have to buy the whole bag anyway. If the material is something you’ll use again, then it’s not a big deal to buy more than you need, but if it’s something that’s just going to sit around your house until you get sick of looking at it and throw it away, you need to take that into account.

Of course having some extra supplies is a good thing when you’re DIYing something, because you have to take the learning curve into account. Even experienced crafters who’ve made something 100 times before mess up every now and then. If you’re completely new to making a particular item or using a certain technique, then you should count on a few failed experiments before you get things right.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t do a DIY project just because it won’t really be any cheaper to buy it/pay someone to do it. However, it’s

How long will it take?

Don’t forget that your time is valuable. If you’re DIYing something to save money, just ask yourself how much an hour you would expect to be paid if you were doing the project for someone else, then add your “hourly wage” to the cost of materials for it. Will you still save money in that calculation? If not, go back to “How important is it?” and decide if it’s something that DIYing would really make special or something that you would really like to DIY.

When does it have to be done?

Your time is valuable anytime, but even more so in the weeks leading up to your wedding. You’ll probably be chasing down those last RSVPs, coordinating everyone’s schedules, and finalizing details. You also might be stressing/freaking out a little bit. The last thing you want to be doing the week before your wedding is making 500 paper flowers that should have been done months ago. It’s important to try to start DIY projects for your wedding as early as possible (I should follow my own advice here).

Some projects, however, can’t be done that far in advance. Making your own bouquets with fresh flowers, baking your own cake, and self catering your wedding are all projects that can’t really be done more than a few days in advance. If you decide to take on a project like that, try to make it easier on yourself by not procrastinating on other projects that can be done ahead of time. Also, do a lot of advance preparation. Don’t just assume that the alternation to the recipe you’ve made 100 times won’t be a big deal – try it out well in advance of your wedding.

Will you enjoy making it?

To me, this one trumps the cost/time factors. If you don’t like making things, then don’t start just for your wedding. DIY weddings may be all the rage right now, but I assure you there are plenty of brides out there who still do things the old-fashioned way and just buy items or hire people for their wedding needs. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Even if you’re a crafty person who enjoys making things, not everyone likes every type of project. If you love sewing, but making paper flowers bores you to tears, don’t make the paper flowers and spend your DIY time making the ring bearer pillow or accessories for your bridesmaids. Keep both your strengths and your preferences in mind when deciding what to DIY.

And remember, DIY doesn’t have to be all or nothing even for individual projects. If you’re dying to have a wedding dress that’s uniquely yours but don’t have the time or sewing ability to make your own from scratch, buy a plain dress (which you can often get relatively cheaply) and ad d your own lace appliques, beads, or flowers. The same goes for items like veils, shawls, and clutches.

One last word of advice – don’t be afraid to delegate! DIY doesn’t always have to mean do-it-yourself, it can also mean ask-a-friend-to-help. Friends and family are often very willing to help out with DIY wedding projects. Even if they don’t feel up to gettin’ crafty with it, they might be willing to help in other ways, such as tracking down those RSVP-less guests, leaving you more time for DIYing.

What did you decide to DIY for your wedding?

 

Cheap and Easy Pesto Sauce (And Pizza) Recipe

I love pesto sauce, and since I had gotten a basil plant when we moved into the new place (we have a balcony now) I decided it was high time to actually use it. John suggested we use the sauce for pizza because he knows that pesto pizza is a favorite of mine. We made it last night and it was delicious!

I kind of ad libbed the recipe because pesto isn’t an exact science or anything. The pesto I ended up making was cheap because we left out the most expensive of the traditional ingredients – pine nuts – and it’s easy because you just throw it all in a blender and turn it on.

I originally had every intention of using pine nuts, but when we finally found some (our little Food Lion apparently isn’t posh enough) they were $9 for a small bag of them, which would have nearly doubled the price of dinner. We talked about using another nut as a substitute, but eventually decided to just do without. If you’d like to add pine nuts to this recipe, just throw in about 1/3 cup of them in the blender along with everything else. I apologize for the less than stellar backgrounds for the photos.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of fresh basil leaves – make sure you press them down a bit when measuring them
  • 1 cup of olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, depending on how garlicky you like your pesto
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese or a Parmesan blend (we used Trader Joe’s blend of Parmesan, Romano, and Asiago)

As I said before, making pesto isn’t an exact science, so feel free to adjust the ingredients to taste. If you prefer a thicker or thinner sauce, just use a little more or less olive oil.

Step 1

Throw it all in a blender.

Step 2

Turn on the blender.

And that’s it really – blend it until it’s a nice, pesto-y consistency. If you prefer chunkier pesto, you can use a food processor instead, but I like my pesto nice and creamy. At this point, you can use your pesto on pizza, pasta, sandwiches, etc. If you want to save it for later, just cover it, put it in the fridge, and make sure you mix it well when you take it out.

We took our pesto and spread it on a premade thin pizza crust from the store.

Then we topped it with mozzarella mixed with the cheese blend we used for the sauce, mushrooms, and turkey pepperoni.

We ended up with a delicious, though slightly overcooked (we need to have our oven recalibrated) pesto pizza. The pizza crust came two to a pack, so we have plenty of stuff for another pizza tonight. All of the ingredients that we bought (we grew the basil and already had olive oil and salt) cost about $12, which is pretty good for two nights’ worth of food for two. What do you like to put pesto sauce on?

The Invitations Are Here!

Keep Calm and Marry On!

We finally ordered our wedding invitations from Vistaprint and they recently arrived. I’m quite happy with how they turned out with the small exception of the very bottom of one of the circles on the inside being cut off. It’s a very small flaw though and I’m not going to complain considering I got the invitations for about $40 including the cost of the Living Social deal ($10 for $50 of printing).

We decided to go with the geekier version of the invitation (with the Tardis on the top instead of a crown) since we are having a Doctor Who wedding. The hardest part was figuring out the wording, but this is what we ended up with.

We thought it was fun and informal, which is what we want our wedding to be. AND OH MY GOD I JUST SAW THE TYPO! Enthusiastic, not enthusiatic! DAMMIT! What should I do about that? ACK! Now I’m upset at myself. How could I have overlooked that? Should I order new ones?

UPDATE: Vistaprint’s customer service reps are my heroes! Even though the typos (and I now realize there are two of them – don’t drink and design kids) were entirely my fault, they’re sending a replacement order for free! I contacted them because John thought they might give us a bit of a discount on the reorder, but we certainly didn’t expect to get them free. I’m super happy now. The invitations will just have to wait a few more weeks to go out.

Just Make a Decision Already!

The design on this magnet is the one I’d like to use for our wedding invitations

Clearly, I love my fiance dearly. I wouldn’t be marrying him if that weren’t the case. Sometimes though, I find him a bit trying. For example, I get a little frustrated when quick trips to the grocery store for taco stuff and beer turn into hour long excursions because he has to wander down every aisle and can’t decide if he’s more in  the mood for Dos Equis or Landshark beer.

It’s also becoming a bit of a frustration for me in with wedding planning. I want him to be involved, and he has come up with some great ideas. When I ask his opinion on things though, he hems and haws and never actually tells me anything. Part of it is the “it’s your wedding” thing and part is indecisiveness on his part. As far as I’m concerned though, it’s OUR wedding, I value his opinion, and, perhaps most of all, I don’t want to be responsible for every freaking decision.

Let’s jump to the most recent issue – wedding invitations. I have to have these designed and ordered by June 5 because that’s when my Living Social deal for Vistaprint expires. I came up with two variations of the Keep Calm and Marry On design above – one with the crown and one with a Tardis. Now he’s saying that it might be too kitschy and people might not get it. Has he offered any other solutions though? Of course not. He’s a good artist – why doesn’t he come up with a new design?

The other issue is that things aren’t getting done. He’s come up with a lot of awesome ideas, but they’re all still just ideas. I think part of that is because he thinks that four months is more than enough time to get everything done. He’s right that four months is enough time, but if he leaves everything until the last month it’s going to be bad.

What’s the best way to approach this? Should I just assume he doesn’t want to be that involved and I’m going to do it all myself one way or the other?

And most importantly for the moment, what should I do about the invitations? Should I scrap the design and start over? If so, what kind of design should I go with instead?

DIY Floofy Fabric Flowers

Floofy Fabric Flower

Don’t tell me that floofy isn’t a word, because I think it describes these fabric flowers perfectly. I love the way they look on my Record Birdcage Veils, but they can be used for all sorts of projects.

Birdcage Veil and Upcycled Record Fascinator topped with a Floofy Flower

They’re quite easy to make, though it does take a little while. They also don’t require many materials. Chances are the only thing you’ll have to actually buy is fabric.

What you need

  • Fabric – you can make these flowers with just about any kind of fabric, but keep in mind that very lightweight fabrics won’t be as crisp and will require more fabric to make the flowers full. How much fabric you need depends on the type of fabric you use and how full you want your flowers to be. For this one, I used a fat quarter (18″ x 21″) of cotton. You can use remnants from other projects in coordinating colors too.
  • Needle and Thread – about 20″ of thread. The thread won’t be visible when you finish, so feel free to use whatever color you have laying around.
  • Cardstock – you need a square of cardstock that’s the size than you’d like your finished flower to be. You can use a lighter paper if you want, but I like cardstock because I can tell when I’m starting to cut into it instead of around it.
  • Scissors – I’m pretty sure you already have a pair of these.
This is what your cardstock will end up as

Step 1

Cut a square of cardstock so that it’s about the size you’d like your finished flower to be. This is going to be the template you use to cut your fabric. I used a 4″ square for this flower. You’re going to fold the cardstock the same way I described in my sheet music flower tutorial. If you need a refresher (or didn’t read it in the first place), this is how you do it.

Take one of the squares and fold it in half diagonally to make a triangle. Fold it diagonally two more times until you have a triangle that’s about 2″ on the shorter sides. Find the corner that’s at the center of the sheet (I often unfold the triangle just to make sure) and cut off the corner. Starting under the corner closest to the hole you just made, start cutting in a semi-circle across the top and under the other corner. To finish your template, cut a line from one fold to the hole in the center.

Step 2

Put your template over the fabric and start folding it back up with the fabric between the folds of the template. Cut the fabric around the template. Next, with the fabric still between the template, sew the thread through the fabric where the hole is.

It should look like this once it’s on the thread.

Repeat step 2 until you have between 15-25 pieces of fabric on your thread. How many you need depends on the type of fabric you use and how full you want your flower to be. I used 20 for this particular flower because that’s how many pieces I can get out of a fat quarter. Your thread should now look like this:

Step 3

Pull the thread on either side and push the petals close to each other. Once they’re nice and bunched up in the middle, tie a knot in the thread.

Congratulations – you have a Floofy Fabric Flower!