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Recipe Review – Star Anise Cookies in “The Illustrated Cook’s Book of Ingredients.”

I have long been fascinated with the spice called “Star Anise.” It is used primarily in Asian cuisine but also in Malay, Indian, Pakistani, and Vietnamese. It is a recent newcomer to the West with a flavor like that of Anise, although they are unrelated plants.

Star Anise

Recently having purchased some Star Anise I have been looking for a dish I could use it in. Today, while browsing through a new book, I was reading the section about Star Anise and it had a recipe for cookies made with this spice. The recipe is simple and so I could not resist.

Illustrated Cook's Book of Ingredients

The recipe is from the book “The Illustrated Cook’s Book of Ingredients” which was given to me as a gift.

I liked the results and so am sharing them with you here. Two things however, I will change with the next batch I make will be to reduce the baking temperature to 350 degrees because the cookies baked a little bit too much even with checking and rotating at 5 minutes and taking them out at 10.  I will also increase the amount of Star Anise in the dish because I find this amount providing too subtle a flavor. I would like to taste more of the Star Anise flavoring in the cookie.

Here is the recipe:


8 Star Anise Seeds

1 c Self Rising Flour*
1 t Baking Powder
1/4 c Brown Sugar

4 T Honey
7 T Butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Star Anise ready for grinding

Remove seeds from pods and finely grind in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.

Star Anise seeds

Combine flour, baking powder, and brown sugar with ground Star Anise seeds. Stir in the honey and then the butter. Mix well until smooth.

Lightly grease a baking sheet (or two) or line with parchment paper. Drop cookie dough by teaspoonfuls onto the baking sheet, lightly pressing with your hand keeping 2 inches between to allow for spreading.

Star Anise Cookies ready for baking

Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until just beginning to turn golden. The cookies may still be a little soft when they come out of the oven, but will become crisper as they cool.

Star Anise Cookies

These are good served with a glass of dessert wine.

* I did not have self-rising flour on hand so I substituted with 1 c flour, 1 1/2 t Baking Powder, and 1/2 t Salt.

Mexican Four Bean Salad

If you love TexMex style dishes, you will love my spin on three bean salad. This dish is not only delicious, but beautiful. It has many layers of flavors and will be a refreshing addition to any meal from South of the border.

Mexican Four Bean Salad


1 lb Black beans * (or one 15 oz can rinsed and drained)
1 lb Pinto beans * (or one 15 oz can rinsed and drained)
1 lb Green beans ** (or one 15 oz can rinsed and drained)
1 lb White beans * (or one 15 oz can rinsed and drained)
1 lb Corn, whole (grilled then cut from cob, or a one pound package frozen – thawed)
3 Green onions, sliced
½ c Cilantro, chopped

1 lb Cotija cheese

2 Jalapenos, seeded, chopped
3 Garlic cloves, sliced thinly
½ c Olive oil
½ c Lime juice
6 T Sugar
1 ½ t Salt
1 T Pepper
1 T Cumin
1 t Chili powder
½ t Red pepper flakes

In a large bowl, mix together beans, corn, green onions and cilantro.

In a separate bowl, mix together olive oil, lime juice and the remainder of the ingredients listed.

Make the marinade and mix the vegetables (but not the cheese) and place in separate containers in the refrigerator one day in advance.

The night before the meal, toss the vegetables with the marinade. Cut Cotija cheese into small cubes, and toss gently with marinated vegetables. Cover and refrigerate overnight.


* Final weight after cooked, drained, and cooled. This requires about 6.5 ounces of dried beans per recipe.

** To prepare green beans trim off stem end, cut into 1” sections, drop into boiling water for five minutes, drain and place in bowl of ice water for five minutes, then drain.

Review of Crab Bisque recipe by Paula Deen

A friend who is a big fan of Paula Deen found a recipe by Paula Deen for Crab Bisque and asked if I could make it. I am also a big fan of Paula Deen. However, the recipe calls for adding canned soup and I prefer not to use pre-made items in my food preparation. I’m sure the recipe by Paula Deen for Crab Bisque would taste really good and is designed to make the preparation easy. However, I decided to add my own personal touches to the recipe.

Using the recipe by Paula Deen as my inspiration, I went about concocting my own without using canned soups. It turned out quite tasty and I have no doubt it is something you will want to try for yourself, your family, and friends. My friend took what was left to work and everyone loved it.

Crab Bisque

Here is my recipe:


2 T Butter
2 Green Onions, chopped
1 stalk Celery, thinly sliced
1 lb. Asparagus, chopped
½ lb. Mushrooms, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced

3 T Butter
4 T Flour
2 c Cream
3 c Chicken Broth
1 t Salt, Kosher
1 t Cracked pepper

12 oz. Crabmeat (this can be two 6 oz. cans)

Instructions Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a pan and sauté the green onions and celery. Once they have begun to soften add the asparagus and cook until heated, then the mushrooms and garlic. Do not overcook the vegetables. You want them to have a crunch in the soup.

Chopped Veggies

While the vegetables are cooking combine 3 tablespoons of butter with the flour and stir until smooth. Add the cream and chicken broth and whisk making sure all is combined and there are no lumps of flour.

Cream Sauce

Continue cooking on low heat until warm. Once the vegetables have been sautéed to the correct degree, remove half and puree them in a blender (I used my nifty Ninja which was given to me for the holidays).

Pureed Vegetables

Pour the puree into the cream mixture and stir until thoroughly heated. Add the rest of the vegetables, salt and pepper and fold to combine.

When all is heated through add the crabmeat.

Do not stir heavily, especially if you are using canned, because you want to retain some of the crabmeat in bits.

Continue cooking until heated. Be careful not to let it boil.

Serve with garlic bread.

French Toast for Two

It can be really difficult to just cook for two people as many couples (both young and the more mature), empty nesters, and seniors will attest. It seems that when I am preparing food for parties where quite a number of people will attend, it is much easier than preparing those everyday meals for just a few people.

With our aging population I believe this group is becoming larger every day and will continue to do so for quite some time.

Cutting down a recipe is often more complicated than simply dividing the amounts of the ingredients. So with this blog I am starting a series on Cooking for Two with tested recipes which are simple to make yet delicious and work perfectly for just two people. Who knows, perhaps you will find here just the recipe for that next special quiet date at home.

With this inaugural blog for the Cooking for Two Series, I begin with a tasty recipe for French Toast.

French Toast for Two



2 Eggs
½ c Milk or Cream
1 T Sugar
1 t Cinnamon
1 t Vanilla
Pinch Salt

4 Slices bread

Combine eggs, milk (or cream), sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and salt in a bowl and whisk until well combined. Melt butter in pan over medium heat. Soak bread slices one at a time in egg mixture and place in pan. Cook until golden brown on both sides. Sprinkle with powdered sugar for a garnish. Serve with honey or syrup.