Mango & Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta

DSC_0070 - CopyIf you haven’t seen this video by Katie Quinn (qkatie) on how to peel a mango in 3 seconds, then stop what you’re doing this instant and go watch it. Seriously, this is so clever, you’ve just got to see this right now (well, maybe after you’ve finished reading this post and decided to make this delicious creamy & fruity dessert!). How did I not know this trick? I’m telling you, it will make prepping mangoes a cinch. Especially if you love mangoes like I do, but hate all the mess & fuss in peeling them. Curious?
You couldn’t wait to watch it- am I right? Ok, so now that you’ve seen the mango-magic video, what shall we do with two perfectly round cheeks and spears of juicy sweetness? I say we make an easy & tasty Mango and Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta. It’s another simple, make-ahead dessert that would be ideal for Easter brunch….or for any fancy dinner party really. The ingredients list isn’t too long,  and the presentation is sure to impress.

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A traditional Panna Cotta (Italian for “cooked cream”) is a specialty thought to have originated in the Piedmont region in Northern Italy. It’s traditionally made by blending thick cream, egg white and honey. The blend is then baked in a water bath in a low oven. However—-we’re going to make an ultra-simple, no-bake version that’s much faster and easier. It’s just as creamy as the original, and the tang from the Greek yogurt nicely off-sets the sweetness from the honey. Find yourself some pretty little dessert cups, glasses, small bowls…whatever you have that you can layer the ingredients into. These are rich, so you won’t need a huge vessel.

Mango and Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta
yields 4 – 4ounce portions |  printable version

For Panna Cotta:
2 teaspoons powdered unflavored gelatin
3 tablespoons water
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons honey (use the good stuff)
1 cup plain Greek yogurt (my favorite is FAGE 0% Fat)

Put the gelatin and water in a small bowl and stir to dissolve. Set aside. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat warm the cream, sugar, and honey. Do not boil, just warm until sugar and honey have dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in moistened gelatin until completely absorbed. Allow to cool slightly. Whisk in yogurt gently. At first the mixture may appear to be separating, but no worries, it’s not. Just keep whisking gently until you get a smooth custard-like texture. Pour into serving vessels, filling about 1/2 to 3/4  up the sides. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set.

For Mango Gelée:
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered unflavored gelatin
3 tablespoons water
1 cup mango puree (1-2 mangoes, depending on size)
1-2 teaspoons sugar (to taste)

Put the gelatin and water in a small bowl and stir to dissolve. Set aside. Peel mango (using the cool qkatie method) and put into small bowl of food processor. You want the equivalent of one cup of pulp. Process to a fine-course texture. Careful not to over-process and create a juice. Put processed pulp and sugar into a small saucepan and warm through. Taste the mangoes to determine how much sugar you’ll need. Keep in mind the panna cotta is  sweet, so you’ll want this gelée to be slightly tart to balance the flavors. Add in dissolved gelatin and stir to incorporate. Allow mango gelée to cool slightly and spoon over top of panna cotta. Place back in refrigerator, covered, for 1-2 hours to allow both to fully set. Serve with Meyer Lemon Biscotti or any other cookie of your choice!

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Note: if you want to substitute the mango, you could use papaya, passion fruit (omg, yum!), golden kiwi fruit (done it; tastes amazing), or summer berries (go for it). If using berries, just be sure to strain the pulp to remove all seeds.

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Meyer Lemon Biscotti

If you could have smelled my kitchen yesterday.
It was lemon central. And it was divine. I used not only the zest and the juice of meyer lemons, but also candied lemon peel in these pretty little Meyer Lemon Biscotti. The heady floral aroma of a meyer lemon is like no other. It has such a distinct scent. You know it’s a “meyer” when you smell it. The back door was open for a while since it was such a warm spring day, and the heat made the tree’s fragrance even more intense. I couldn’t help but pick a few and get to baking!

Good thing too, as I think my tree is just about done bearing fruit for a while. Figured I better enjoy them before it’s too late. But the good news is I see a ton of new buds on the tree, which hopefully means more deliciously sweet & tart lemons will be coming soon? Fingers crossed! Here in Northern California, we’re fortunate in many of the micro-climates to have citrus fruit year-round. And with this little guy, since it’s a dwarf variety, and in a pot near the house, it’s protected from the cooler nights….plus get loads of sunshine and warmth during the day.

So in honor of these gorgeous little gems…and because it’s Spring…..and because it’s Easter Sunday next week—you’re going to want a simple, make-ahead dessert so that your holiday entertaining is even sweeter. And these Meyer Lemon Biscotti  taste as good as they look!

Meyer Lemon Biscotti
yields 26-30 | printable version

To make these even more lemony,  I added candied lemon peel. If you don’t have it or can’t find it, just bump up the lemon zest and add 1/2 more tablespoon of lemon juice. And if you can’t find meyer lemons, substitute eureka lemons (the variety found in most grocery stores, they’ll work just fine.)

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch fine sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh meyer lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh meyer lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons candied lemon peel, finely chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 large eggs

2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons meyer lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons meyer lemon zest

To make the biscotti:
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a standard baking sheet with non-stick liner. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Add in zest, juice, candied peel, oil, and eggs.

Mix to combine. Dough will be loose and crumbly (and appear dry) but it will come together once you start kneading it. Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead gently for about 5-7 minutes, or until dough forms a nice ball. The dough will feel sticky, that’s ok, don’t add any more flour though. Just keep kneading on floured surface until you can easily shape it. Divide dough in half. Roll out each half with your hands to an 8-inch roll and approximately one-inch thick.  Place rolls on baking sheet a few inches apart from each other. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Cut each roll diagonally into 15 or so half-inch slices. Place the slices cut side down back on the same baking sheet.

Reduce oven temperature to 325F and bake for another 10-12 minutes. Then turn biscotti over and bake one last time for another 10-12 minutes. The interior will still be a bit soft, but it will harden as the biscotti cools. Remove from baking sheet to a wire rack and cool completely.

For the glaze:
Combine the confectioner’s sugar, zest and juice in a small bowl. Then drizzle over cooled biscotti. Or you can put the glaze in a pastry bag and pipe if you’re feeling fancy.
Happy Easter, Happy Spring, Happy, Happy Everything!!    (couldn’t resist!)

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DIY Beeswax Wood Cream

DSC_0123-ps2 If your cutting boards and wooden spoons look anything like mine did above, then this simple-to-make wood cream is for you. Many of the wood creams on the market say they are pure, but amongst the minute drop of beeswax are a bunch of other chemicals that are not good for us. This is a much healthier alternative as there are only two ingredients: 100% pure beeswax & food-grade mineral oil. That’s it. Beeswax has proven antimicrobial and antibacterial properties so this will not only hydrate your wood, but also help protect it from those harmful elements as well. And this DIY version is much less expensive than the ones you’ll find in the culinary shops. Plus the wonderful aroma of honey will permeate the woods leaving a delicious scent every time you use them. It’s a good idea to go through your kitchen and inspect all your wooden boards & utensils about twice a year…..really just depends on how much you use them. If they get rinsed often (never soaked) in a lot of water, used with particularly smelly foods (garlic & fish), or happen to sit in a sunny place in the kitchen and become sun bleached— then all this wear-and-tear can accelerate the loss of the wood’s oils. So to keep your tools from cracking and smelling, and to restore their natural luster, try making this cream at home.


We’re using 100% pure beeswax pieces. These smaller half-ounce nuggets make it easy to work with and to calculate the portions in the cream recipe. But whatever size/shape yours come in, no worries, you can always cut a large block down to smaller pieces with a sharp knife. You ought to be able to find pure beeswax at your local farmer’s market, natural grocery or even some of the larger hobby/craft stores carry it. I found a great supplier in Oregon who’s kindly made his naturally farmed beeswax nuggets available for purchase exclusively through my new on-line shop:

Mineral Oil
DSC_0084-2Mineral oil can be found at your natural food store or pharmacy, or in some of the bigger general grocery stores. Be sure to read the label to ensure it is food-safe.

 Beeswax & Mineral Oil Wood Cream
(makes enough to restore one side of 12″ x 18″ cutting board and 3-4 wooden utensils. Double recipe if restoring more than one side of board or multiple boards/utensils)

1/3 cup finely grated pure beeswax
3 tablespoons mineral oil (use food-grade or food-safe)

Grate enough beeswax pieces on a standard box grater (using the fine-grate side) to yield 1/3 cup. Put curls into a microwave safe bowl. Heat at 30 second intervals until the wax just starts to soften, but does not melt. Pour in mineral oil and stir. Cream will separate at first, but after some brisk mixing with a spoon, it will start to form a smooth paste or cream. Let sit for 15-20 minutes. Once cream has solidified, use bare hands to massage it into the wood thoroughly. It make take a couple passes on a board that is extremely dry. It should feel like there is excess on the surface, that’s ok, this is what you want. Allow boards/utensils to sit for 6-8 hours with cream on, preferably overnight. Then take a dry cloth and wipe off any excess. Good as new! And your hands will feel amazing afterwards too!