Celebrating Mom | Pistachio Baklava with Cinnamon Honey Syrup

Friends, in case you’ve forgotten, tomorrow is Mother’s Day. A day to take time to celebrate and thank the wonderful mothers in our lives for all that they do.

We’ve all got them. Whether they are our mothers, mothers-in-law, grandmothers, or other women in our lives who have encouraged us as mothers do, we all have “mothers” to be thankful for. I hope that you are able to share some love with the mamas in your life tomorrow.

My mom is wonderful – a serious frontrunner for Best Mom Ever. I consider myself very lucky to have her. My mom is loving, caring, kind, and considerate. She is smart. She is generous, and tends to put the needs of others before her own. She is encouraging. She is patient. My mom is fun too. And she has healing powers. The power to heal a skinned knee with a kiss, or a broken heart with hugs and sweet words, my mom has always been there for me, through thick and thin, in good times and bad (and really, really bad). She gave me life, and she has saved my life, countless times.

Thank you Mom, for being you. I can only hope that one day, I can be the kind of mom to my children that you are to me.

Food is one of the ways that I share love with people. And a perfect way to share love on Mother’s Day. I made this baklava a few weeks ago. I have been wanting to try to make baklava for ages, but it always seemed like such a difficult, involved recipe. In all honesty, baklava is not as difficult to make as you might think! Sure, it takes some time and patience, but I can assure you that there are no crazy skills involved. I put on some good tunes, poured myself a glass of wine, and spent an hour dancing around my kitchen, buttering layers of phyllo to the rhythm of the music. I didn’t stress about any tiny tears in the phyllo (no one will know!), and I didn’t dwell over the spilt syrup on the floor that my feet stuck to for days afterwards.

And I was rewarded with this rich and deliciously sticky baklava at the end of it all. Totally worth it. Don’t even try to tell me that you can’t do it, because you can. Just don’t make the same mistake that I did, and look up the nutritional content of one wee square of baklava. Let’s just say that it accounts for an unfortunate amount of your daily recommended intake of fat, sugar, and everything else bad for you. But that doesn’t mean I stopped eating after just one square. You must know me better than that by now. 😉

Pistachio Baklava with Cinnamon Honey Syrup (from First Look Then Cook)

2 cups plus 8 TBSP. sugar, divided

2/3 cup honey

1 cup water

2 cinnamon sticks

3 cups shelled pistachios, toasted

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 cup unsalted butter, melted

18 14×9-inch sheets fresh phyllo pastry or frozen, thawed (from one 16-ounce package)

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine 2 cups of the sugar, honey, water and cinnamon sticks, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a boil and then simmer over medium heat until reduced to approximately 2 cups, about 15 minutes. Cool.

Place the pistachios and 2 tablespoons of the remaining sugar into a food processor. Pulse until most of nuts are finely ground (the largest pieces should be the size of small peas). Mix the nuts, 6 tablespoons sugar, and cinnamon in medium bowl and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously brush a 9×13-inch glass baking dish with melted butter. Place 1 phyllo sheet folded over on bottom of dish (to fit the dish). Brush lightly with melted butter. Repeat 5 more times with phyllo and melted butter. (You’ll want to work quickly so that your phyllo doesn’t dry out. Cover the phyllo that is waiting to be used with a damp towel.) Sprinkle half of the pistachio mixture (about 1 1/2 cups) evenly over phyllo. Place 1 phyllo sheet (folded over) over nuts; brush lightly with butter. Repeat 5 more times with phyllo sheets and melted butter. Sprinkle the remaining pistachio mixture evenly overtop. Place 1 phyllo sheet atop nuts folded in half; brush with butter. Repeat 5 more times with phyllo sheets and melted butter.

Using a very sharp knife, cut diagonally through the top phyllo layer from the top left corner to the bottom right corner. Cut the top layer of phyllo into 1-inch-wide rows parallel to both sides of first cut. Turn the pan and cut rows about 2 1/4 inches wide, forming a diamond pattern. Bake the baklava until golden brown and crisp, about 50 to 55 minutes. Drizzle the syrup evenly over the hot baklava. Cool and then recut the baklava along lines all the way through layers. Serve!

See, easy as pie! If baklava doesn’t float your mom’s boat, here are some other tasty ideas to share for Mother’s Day:

Nana’s Cinnamon Buns (I’ve got a batch of these rising on my countertop right now)

Banana Bread Oatmeal Pancakes

Blueberry Lemon Muffins

Whole Wheat Apple Cinnamon Muffins

Red Velvet Sandwiches

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mamas out there! xoxo

A Festive Treat | Christmas Biscotti

My mom brought these delectable treats to the cookie exchange last weekend. I spent the afternoon in the kitchen with her the day before, and we worked through the recipe together (neither of us had ever made biscotti before). This biscotti is quite delightful, if I do say so myself. The original recipe called for dried raspberries or strawberries, but my mom could not find either, no matter how hard she looked, so we improvised and used cranberries. The biscotti are loaded with pistachios, cranberries, and little bits of white chocolate, making them look rather festive and fitting for the holiday season! Not to mention the fact that they are delicious, especially with a nice cup of coffee or tea.

Never made biscotti before? Have no fear! They are fairly simple to make, just more time-consuming since they are baked twice. Stay inside where it’s warm, take an afternoon to bake these, and fill your home with the delicious scent of biscotti! These would taste great at any time of year I am sure, but the colors and ingredients fit with the holidays perfectly. Happy eating!

Pistachio, Cranberry, and White Chocolate Biscotti (adapted from Bon Appétit magazine, Dec. 2005)

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 TBSP. canola oil

2 tsp. baking powder

2 ½ tsp. almond extract

½ tsp. salt

¾ cup shelled raw unsalted natural pistachios

1 cup sugar

1 cup dried cranberries

3 large eggs

½ cup chopped high-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina)

8 ounces high-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina) and/or 8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 350oF. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat sugar, eggs, oil, and almond extract in a large bowl until well blended. Add flour mixture and beat until smooth. Stir in pistachios, dried cranberries, and ½ cup white chocolate. Drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls in two 12-inch long strips on prepared baking sheet, spacing strips 3 inches apart. Using wet fingertips, shape each strip into a 3-inch-wide log, pressing evenly (logs may look slightly lumpy). Bake logs until lightly browned and almost firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. Cool logs for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325oF.

Carefully transfer the logs to a cutting board. Use the same parchment-lined baking sheet. Cut each log crosswise into generous ½-inch-thick slices. Stand biscotti upright, spacing about ¼ inch apart, in 3 rows on baking sheet. Bake until pale golden (biscotti may be soft but will firm as they cool), about 20 minutes. Cool completely.

Line another large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place 8 ounces chopped white (or bittersweet) chocolate in medium glass bowl. Microwave for 20-second intervals just until chocolate is soft to touch, about 40 seconds total (do not overheat or chocolate will burn or seize). Stir chocolate until smooth. Dip 1 end or 1 side of each biscotti in chocolate; place on baking sheet. Chill until chocolate has set, about 30 minutes. To store, arrange in single layer in airtight container and chill up to 5 days or freeze up to 2 weeks.  Makes about 3 dozen.

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