Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Happy New Year
All Best for the New Year.
-And a very Happy Birthday to Miss Mary, the smartest, most adorable four year old girl in Saskatchewan. Danny sends kisses, though I'm not sure you'll want them as he's just eaten some very ripe cheese.
Coconut Persimmon Bread
A quick bread with a nice moistness and not-too-sweet flavour. It also freezes well. I send a version of this bread (usually without persimmon) to my father-in-law each year for his birthday. It keeps and travels well. The recipe is also adaptable. Substitute banana, add some currants or dried cherries. Leave it only coconut-all wonderful variations that we've enjoyed.
The bread does brown quickly on the outside, so cover the top loosely with foil if it looks like it is about to burn. You'll notice the bread does not have any butter or oil in it, which is admittedly a bit odd for this sort of bread. It does dry out a bit at the crust, but i think that texture is rather nice and it softens up as it stores. The bread does best wrapped tightly in waxed paper and then tightly in cling wrap.
You Will Need:
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup shredded coconut
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk (I used 2%)
2 very ripe persimmons, peeled, mashed and seeds removed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 9x5x3 pan. Sift the dry ingredients together. Add the wet ingredients and mix well. At this point, let the mixture stand for 20 minutes (I have no idea why, but the original recipe I've been using for 20 years said to).
Pour into prepared pan and bake about 45 minutes, checking to make sure top isn't browning too quickly. Cover it loosely with foil if it does.
Cool on rack.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
This is a very rich dish and would be best as a side, not a main (though I'm sure that won't stop Mr. Eat The Blog from eating a couple slices). Warm or cold, it is a nice way of dealing with an abundance of mushrooms and potatoes.
You Will Need:
Enough pastry for a 2-crust pie (I made mine with about equal amounts of Crisco and butter)
2 pounds mushrooms, chopped (use the stems too) I used regular old button mushrooms.
2 large onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
Salt and pepper
In a small pot, boil the potatoes until soft, drain and set aside.
In a large frying pan, heat the butter and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat and cook the mushrooms. After a few minutes, add the sage and thyme. Add the salt and pepper. Continue cooking until they have given off their liquid and then increase the heat to reduce it. Add the sherry and blast the heat for a minute or so, or until it is burned off. Remove from heat, stir in the cream, and then return to low heat for a few minutes until the cream is heated through. Remove from heat, cover and set aside.
While mushrooms are cooking, cook the onions in a frying pan or large pot in the olive oil until very soft. Add the potatoes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. prepare the pastry and line either a 9-inch pie plate, or an 8-inch square pan. Combine the mushroom mixture with the potatoes and stir in the cheese. Mix well. Pour into piecrust and then top and seal edges. Vent generously in a few places. Bake about an hour or until golden. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.
Three Citrus Marmalade
My in-laws really enjoy citrus jellies and marmalades, but they cannot eat grapefruit because of interactions with medication. I adapted a three- citrus marmalade by replacing the grapefruits with Cara Cara oranges. I also increased the lemon a bit to compensate for the loss of tartness from grapefruit. The Cara Caras gave the marmalade a deeper colour, which is rather attractive. I'm looking forward to giving this a try with blood oranges. I got 9 half pint jars (and a bit extra for the fridge). Your mileage may vary depending on the juiciness of your oranges.
You Will Need:
3 ½ cups chopped orange pulp (use half sweet oranges and half Cara Cara)
3 ½ cups thinly sliced, seeded lemon (a mandolin slicer will help with this, otherwise use the thinnest knife you have and watch your fingers)
3 cups thinly sliced orange peel (use some of both peels)
1 ½ quarts water
Bring the pulp, lemon and peels to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Let simmer five minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let cool before placing in the fridge for 12-18 hours.
Rapidly bring the peels to a boil and cook the heck out of them. Keep in mind that the peels will not soften any more once you add the sugar so make sure you have them as soft as you like. When they reach the desired tenderness, measure the volume of the fruit and liquid. Add 1 cup of granulated sugar for each cup of fruit and liquid. Return to pot and stir until sugar is dissolved. Cook over high heat until just BEFORE the gelling point. Marmalade will get very hard upon setting and I've bent a few knives trying to pry too-hard marmalade from a jar. Remove from heat, skim foam and pour into sterilised ½ pint jars leaving ¼ inch headspace. Remove air bubbles, wipe threads clean and seal fingertip tight. Place in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes. Cool five minutes before removing. Cool 12-24 hours before checking for seals.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Turban Squash Bread
This is the sweet potato rolls recipe from Beard On Bread, made as two large loaves with winter squash rather than potatoes. The only changes I made to the original recipe were the substitution of bread flour for AP, and I increased the squash from 1 1/2 cups to two. Due to the increase in squash, it took more flour as well, even compensating for the use of bread flour.
It certainly is a beautiful loaf of bread, and the colour is lovely. It is surprisingly light, and is excellent toasted.
Makes 2 very generous loaves.
You Will Need:
4 1/2 teaspoons granulated dry yeast (not instant)
4 tablespoons granulated sugar (divided 1 tablespoon, and three)
1/2 cup warm water
3 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
1 tablespoon salt
3 eggs (1 used in final glaze)
3 1/2 to 4 (or more) cups bread flour
2 cups cooked, well-mashed winter squash
2 tablespoons of cream
Combine the yeast with 1 tablespoon of the sugar and let stand 5 minutes. Add remaining sugar, butter, salt, and two of the eggs. Stir well to mix. Stir in the flour a cup at a time until you've added the first three. Mix in the squash and mix well. Add more flour slowly, until the dough comes together and can be kneaded. When the dough is smooth and somewhat elastic, gather into a ball and place in a well-buttered bowl. Cover, and it rise until doubled.
Punch dough down (or fold if you prefer) and let rest ten minutes.
Divide dough in half and fit into buttered pans. Cover, and let rise until almost doubled-about 45 minutes to an hour.
Before baking, combine remaining egg with cream and beat well. Brush atop loaves.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Place bread in centre rack position and bake 30-40 minutes or until done. I baked these to an internal temperature to 200 degrees F.
Cool on racks.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
We do love lima beans in this family. All sorts really. Dried, frozen, Fordhook-doesn't matter, we love 'em all. We're also pretty partial to polenta (say that three times quickly). Most of all, we like recipes that will provide a few day's eating for an hour or so of cooking.
Now really, this isn't succotash proper. It does have polenta (corn) and lima beans but I doubt preserved lemon peel and Kalamata olives make too many appearances in the traditional foods of indigenous North Americans. I mean, sure they had trade with other groups, but not Greeks and North Africans (even Hyerdhal wouldn't try claiming that degree of oceanic contact..he was such a fun nutjob, I really kind of miss him. You had the Kon Tiki book too, didn't you? They gave it away free if you joined Book Of The Month Club, so I pestered my mother to join and then she bought a bunch of Graham Greene novels that were kind of boring and moralising. She bought me a nice translation of The Iliad as well, but really, I just wanted the freaking Easter Island via raft adventure book. I'm off topic again, aren't I?). I know this about the trans oceanic contacts of indigenous North Americans not extending to North Africa because I have an Anthropology degree. They teach you this stuff. Yeah, I'm a physical anthropologist-but I still had to sit through the cultural anthro classes. Ask me about Trobriand cricket-or not. We could just talk about food. OK, let's talk about food.
I know what you're thinking (other than, "Gosh, she's blathering worse than usual-can't she just get to the freaking recipe?" because hell, that's a given). You're thinking polenta is time consuming to make and difficult because it requires constant stirring. Know what? Half an hour-that's it. And unlike risotto, the end result is actually worth the bother. Here's what you do-get yourself a very long wooden spoon-something like an 18 inch length. This will save you getting splattered with hot corn mush, as well as give you some room to reach the cup of coffee you set down on the counter. Then, you're going to want a good, heavy pot. I use an enamel over cast iron dutch oven that has been taking a beating for twenty years and nothing sticks to it. Seriously, I don't know how I ever lived without that pot, but i wouldn't give it up for the world. So get your long spoon and fancy French pot and start making the polenta. You can even make it a day ahead. You really need to keep it moving, particularly toward the end, but the recipe makes quite a bit. When it is cool, cut it in half, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and you'll have it ready to go for a couple meals.
You Will Need:
For The Polenta:
6 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups polenta (coarse corn grits-not corn meal)
3 tablespoons butter
Bring water and salt to a boil in a large pot. Add the polenta slowly and reduce to a slow simmer. Continue stirring until thickened-about 30 minutes. remove from heat, beat in butter with a spoon and pour into a buttered baking dish (glass or porcelain work best 8x10 is a good side). Let stand 10 minutes, then unmould onto a platter. Let cool, before wrapping tightly in cling wrap and keep refrigerated until ready to use.
To Fry Polenta:
Place a small amount of olive oil (about a tablespoon and a half) in a frying pan (cast iron works best). Fry over medium heat, watching that the oil does not begin smoking (just lower the heat if it does. Pressing gently on the polenta, fry until browned on both sides. Meanwhile, make the beans.
For The Lima Beans:
1 small bag frozen lima beans, blanched in boiling water, then drained and refreshed under cold water.
I bunch scallions, chopped fine
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 small tomato, seeded and cut into eighths (but you can cut them any way you like because heck, I don't want to be a bummer if you live to dice tomatoes. No need to obsess over a detail like that)
1 tin cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
About eight Kalamata olives, chopped fine
1 teaspoon preserved lemon peel, chopped fine (a little goes a long way)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried basil
Black pepper to taste
Olive oil for cooking
Provolone cheese, grated
In a large frying pan, cook the onions and mushrooms in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil until mushrooms have given off some of their moisture. Add the lima beans, olives and lemon peel. Add the spices and additional olive oil if it seems to be absorbing too much. In the last few minutes add the tomatoes and cannelini beans. Cook until warmed through. Serve over fried polenta with provolone cheese grated over.
Sunday Cannibal Jokes
"Oh, just the usual, missionaries."
The witch doctors asks what the missionaries looked like.
"They were wearing long brown robes and had bald spots in the centre of their heads."
The witch doctor asks the cannibal how he prepared them.
" I boiled them in a large pot for hours." replied the cannibal.
The witch doctor yelled at the cannibal:
"You idiot! Those aren't boilers, they're Friars."
Friday, December 26, 2008
Ever Wish You Could Un-Read A Recipe?
Because for at least the next couple of days I'm going to be thinking of "Tapioca Tuna Soup."
Yep, it sounds pretty bad. Let's see, pearl tapioca, water salt, pepper and paprika (not so terrible yet) powdered mustard, minced onion, 3 cups of milk (uh oh, this isn't sounding so good) 1 cup of light cream, 2 tablespoons of butter and a 7 ounce tin of tuna.
Mmmm, goes great with "Potted Sheep's Tongues"
I wish I were making these up. And you thought the early sixties was just aspics and chafing dish meatballs in pineapple.
A Small Batch Multi-Berry Jam For The Fridge
I had the ends of many bags of frozen berries, and about a pint of fresh red currants, so I made jam. The photograph does not really show how glorious the colour is-like a very deep magenta. So beautiful. I didn't bother with water-bath canning and will keep it in the fridge instead. We'll probably go through it quickly enough. I might use some of it to make jelly candies later in the week. I'm coming to the end of my summer stash of frozen fruit, though I still have ample strawberries, concord grape puree, and prune plums. I'll bet I have some nectarines lurking back there-I should really have a look, but then I like those surprises in the dead of February when you realise there are blackberries just waiting to be tossed on a lemon pound cake.
If you decide to can them, use half pint jars (I got just shy of 2 pints)-I'd prepare 4, though you might only get three. Leave 1/4 inch headspace, remove air bubbles, wipe threads, and process fifteen minutes in a water bath canner. Let cool five minutes in canner, then 12 hours on a stack of dishtowels before testing for seals.
You Will Need:
4 1/2 cups mixed berries, measured after mashing (I used blueberry, raspberry, and red currant)
3 cups granulated sugar
Add sugar to berries and stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Cook over medium heat bringing slowly to a boil. Then, increase the heat and cook rapidly to the gelling point. Remove from heat, skim foam (I didn't have any for once!) and ladle into jars. Either keep refrigerated, or put through water bath canner. Makes about 4 half pints.
Leftover Stollen Grilled Cheese
It took a four year old to think of it, but it worked great! Cheese goes well with fruit (though I had serious doubts about the cinnamon) and things like chutney, so I went ahead and made the requested lunch.
If there's any left, I might try making French toast, or a bread pudding out of the rest this weekend.
There's Probably A Joke About "Evolving Tastes" Here, But I Can't Find It
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Jellied Nesselrode Pudding
This is not the classic Nesselrode that is a frozen dessert with chestnut puree. Instead, this is a more modern version that I further adapted because I just couldn't imagine using that much booze and heavy cream in a pudding.
You Will Need:
2 envelopes unflavoured gelatin
1/4 cup water
2 cups whole milk
2/3 cup sugar (divided)
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs, seperated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons rum extract
1/4 cup each:
currants, raisins, dates
2 tablespoons diced citron
1/2 cup candied green cherries
1/4 cup drained, chopped maraschino cherries
Soak gelatin in water for five minutes to soften. Place milk in top part of a double boiler and scald. Add gelatin, 1/3 cup of the sugar, and salt. Cook until gelatin dissolves (this might take time, so keep whisking). Beat egg yolks in a small bowl and add some of the hot milk mixture to it and mix well. Slowly (and I mean, sloooooowly) add to the milk in double boiler. Keep whisking and cook over boiling water until it thickens (this might take time, but for heaven's sake, watch it or you will be pushing curdled egg through a sieve as I was).
When thickened, place entire bowl into a heatproof larger bowl filled with ice and chill until thickened, stirring every once in a while. Meanwhile, beat your egg whites until they hold sift peaks-then slowly (about a tablespoon at a time) add the sugar and beat until quite stiff.
Into the cooled custard add the extracts and fruit. Fold into the egg whites carefully and pour into a rinsed 1 1/2 quart mould. Chill several hours or overnight. Dip in hot water to unmould. Garnish with fruit and additional whipped cream.
I used a different stollen recipe this year and it came out lovely. Due to nut allergies, I omitted the almonds and marzipan coating (does anyone really like marzipan anyway?) and added extra fruit. The basic recipe came from the Women's day Encyclopedia Of Cookery, 1966 but I made so many changes as I went that it can hardly be called the same. Most breads of this sort take well to changes so if you hate glaceed cherries, or citron (or marzipan) you should feel free to experiment. Most people suggest staying within the amounts for fruit when making substitutions but heck, it's Christmas-if ever there was a time for an extra handful of currants, this is it.
The original called for a gooey icing to be poured over, but being a traditionalist, I decided stollen does best rubbed with a stick of butter fresh from the oven and dusted generously with confectioner's sugar. If you like the glaze, feel free to pour it on.
You Will Need:
1/4 cup warm water
2 1/4 teaspoons granulated dry (not instant) yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
6 tablespoons granulated sugar divided into 4 and 2
3 tablespoons soft butter (divided to 2 1nd 1)
(about) 3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup dried currants
1/4 cup chopped citron
1/4 cup red glaceed cherries
1/4 cup chopped and drained maraschino cherries
1/4 cup raisins
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Extra butter for baked loaf
Extra confectioner's sugar for dusting
In the warm water, dissolve the yeast and let stand until foamy.
Scald the milk and pour in a large bowl over the 2 tablespoons butter, 4 tablespoons sugar, and salt. Cool to lukewarm. Stir in 1 cup of the flour. Add the egg and beat well. Add the yeast and mix well again. Stir in the candied and dried fruit (this recipe does not have you work it in after) and add enough flour to make a dough that is no longer sticky. Remove from bowl and knead well. The cherries will break up a bit and give the dough a pink-ish colour which looks lovely when baked.
Place dough in a buttered bowl and let rise until doubled (this took about 2 hours in my cold kitchen). Punch dough down and let it rest ten minutes.
Mix remaining sugar with cinnamon.
Roll out dough into an oblong. Spread one half with remaining tablespoon of butter and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Fold the dough over and pinch closed. Turn ends in slightly to form a crescent. Place on a buttered baking sheet, cover and let rise again until doubled (about 1 1/2 hours.
preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake in centre rack position for 30-40 minutes or until dough i well browned and sounds hollow when rapped.
Remove to a rack over a baking sheet and rub surface generously with butter while still hot. Then, layer confectioner's sugar thickly (I find a small sieve works well to get it even) and let cool uncovered.
The best way to store this is very loosely wrapped in waxed paper so that the sugar does not melt-but it must be completely cool before doing so.
Serve warm or cold (with apple jelly if you have it).
Stollen goes dry (not stale) quickly, but that does not really matter-it will still be wonderful lightly toasted in a week (if it lasts that long).
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Have A Merry Stomach Virus
I also made a jellied Nesselrode pudding (hey, we're already sick, what's some custard and egg whites?) in a new tiered mould. Again, it isn't the classic Nesselrode that is filled with chestnut puree and frozen, but a moulded dessert with gelatin, candied and dried fruit and plenty of eggs. Just a note-this isn't a thing to make when you're sick. It took forever for the custard to come together over the double boiler and then predictably, I turned my back for less than a minute and it began to curdle. I ended up putting it through a fine sieve and "correcting" the problem, but what a royal pain in the behind. Beautiful, sure-but from now on I'm sticking to steamed puddings at the holidays.
Danny put out his carrots and cookies for Santa and his reindeer and Mr. Eat The Blog (still suffering mightily from the norovirus-from-hell), managed to bite them in such a way as to appear eaten by reindeer. Is he great or what? Danny sweetheart, I hope you're reading this when you're forty and know just how much your mama and papa love you. Your poor papa really had to gag just to look at those carrots.
As soon as I'm convinced he's asleep, I'll put the presents beneath the tree. Danny is getting a few books, about eight little toy cars from the Cars movie, a sticker book, pencils, a child's scissors (blunt, very, very blunt), a few pieces of candy, and a transistor radio. I'd call that a pretty good haul. I have a used Light Brite toy for him, but I think I'll save that for Valentine's Day. I also picked up some vintage wooden building toy that looks like a precursor to Lincoln Logs (or a competitor). With any luck, we'll get the electric train running tomorrow and the day can be spent sending the engines and cars around (and around, and around) the tree.
Then, I'm going to collapse.
That's Not Santa
"They're having Santa on-do you want to call and speak to him?" I asked.
Danny listened for a minute and then replied:
"No, because that isn't Santa, it's the tornado guy from the radio in the storm cellar."
Which, was actually true-it WAS the meteorologist we tune-in during severe weather. I can't believe he recognised his voice though-that's pretty mind boggling, as we don't watch or listen to local news any other time. Strange, the things kids remember from a tornado.
Monday, December 22, 2008
I'm planning an elaborate Nesslerode pudding for Christmas, but it will have to be made without chestnut puree due to nut allergy. I realise this does not make it a traditional Nesslerode pudding, but I think that will be OK.
Here then are a few favourites you may enjoy as well:
Zucker Bretzelen (Sugar Pretzels)
Orange Slices In Bourbon
Chocolate Candied Oranges
Cookies For Your Pinko Friends HERE and HERE
Hard Candy (clove and anisette)
Grapefruit Compote With Star Anise
Strawberry Bavarian (from hell, but worth it)
Chocolate Covered Caramels
Maple Sugar Pie
Lamb Pot Pie (goat will substitute fine here)
Lama bi Ajeen (a really impressive appetiser)
Baccala (salt cod)-perfect for one of the Seven Fishes or perhaps you prefer Brandade
The Other White Meat
Seemed like a simple enough request, and I had just bought a rather large-ish apple for him anyway. I didn't see any harm in letting him play with it for a bit. Danny raced off to his play kitchen and I turned my attention back to making lunch.
From the corner of my eye, I see him go to the bookcase, grab a cookbook and take it back to the play kitchen.
"How cute" I thought, "he's pretending to cook."
"Mama? What does P.O.R.K. spell?"
"Can I have some pork to play with?"
By this point curiosity got the better of me, so I went over to see what he was doing. I found the cookbook opened to this:
A pork loin stuffed with apples and prunes.
I think I'll just hand off the cooking to Danny now.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
I'd buy them frequently if they were more widely available. Mr. Eat The Blog used to work with a woman that supplied us with stewing hens, as well as chicken and duck eggs in exchange for breads and pies, but he's since changed jobs and lost touch. I don't know anyone keeping poultry that would like to barter, so it isn't something I splurge on often. I'm so excited about my cheap stewing hen, I could practically burst. Strange, considering I won't be eating it. I just want to make a fricassee. Thankfully, Mr. Eat The Blog is happy eating days worth of leftovers. Poor fellow has been eating a round roast for the past week without complaint (he really did seem to enjoy it).
I wonder why stewing hens have fallen out of popularity? It seems like my mother frequently bought them, particularly if she was making soup. One almost never sees them anymore, and when they do show up, they are frozen. Strange.
Sunday Cannibal Jokes
"Hey, I just passed your brother in the woods."
Saturday, December 20, 2008
You see, we asked Danny what he wanted for his Birthday breakfast and expected an answer like, scrambled eggs. Instead, he asked to have 1 of each doughnut they sell at Hy-Vee. That turned out to be a dozen. He ended up eating a bit of each, which is kind of fun. Mama and Papa are eating his cast-offs.
The people who work there even gave Danny a #4 for the table, being his fourth Birthday and all.
Don't worry, he's having broccoli and tofu for dinner.
Friday, December 19, 2008
It is finally done. I've spent close to two weeks working on the cookies, cake, filling and frosting. I hope Danny likes it. Four layers, what the heck was I thinking?
If you're not familiar with the movie "Cars" (you're lucky) this is supposed to be a scene where the cars go "cruising" down the main street at night with all the neon signs lit up. Do you have any idea how hard that is to do on a frosted butter cookie? I made cutter templates from Danny's various colouring books and toys, and then just gave it my best with royal frosting. I think it looks OK. I wish my kitchen weren't quite so slanted and that someday I could bake a cake that is actually level.
So um, you know all those theories about food colouring making kids hyperactive? I guess we'll have some annecdotal observations to add tomorrow.
It is supposed to be scary cold here over the next couple days (-12 F.) I'm afraid we might have to keep the birthday celebrations closer to home as it probably isn't a good time to be outdoors. Danny has his 4 year check-up early tomorrow (on his birthday, poor kid, but it was the only time that fit everyone's schedule) and I promised him a Hy-Vee breakfast afterward, but i think the Union Pacific Train Museum will have to wait for another day. Hopefully we can get home before noon when the temperature is supposed to start dropping like a stone.
Four years old. Wow, it went fast.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Candied Orange Peel
I've been watching Mr. Eat The Blog tossing out orange peel for weeks now, and I couldn't bear it any longer-so I candied them. The pile there comes from four oranges, trimmed of ragged edges. I have no idea what I'll do with them. I suppose they can be eaten as-is, or dipped in chocolate. I wonder how a handful would do chopped-up in a challah?
This was so quick and easy I did it while dinner was cooking on another burner.
We're in the throes of an ice-storm with a predicted 8 inches of snow to follow (Midwest living-yay!) so there's a good chance we will lose power and be off the Internet for a while. At least we'll have candied orange peels to sustain us.
You Will Need:
Peel of four or five oranges, peeled closely to avoid pith
1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
Extra sugar for coating
Place the orange peels in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil, then drain. Repeat this four times. Cut the orange peels into slices the length and width you prefer, trimming ragged edges.
Make a simple syrup by boiling together the water and sugar. Reduce to medium heat and add the orange peels. Cook until they are translucent. Remove a few at a time and toss in a bowl with extra sugar to coat. Remove with a fork and let dry on a rack. Store in an airtight container until they begin growing mould (at which point you should probably toss them out, but if you're my mother you get out a knife and start scraping).
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Anisette Cookies and a Routine Dinner
I was in no mood to bake cookies-or anything else really. A dear friend of many, many years has died and it really was completely unexpected. I'm still trying to get used to the idea that I can't pick up the phone and share some silly Danny story. Everywhere I turn I find constant reminders in the dishtowels she sent me, her old scarf I still wear each winter, the coat and snow pants Danny has finally grown into. I have her dishes, her books, old lesson plans and workbook pages from when she was a teacher (sent for homeschooling Danny) and so on. For heaven's sake, she outfitted most of Danny's first four years of clothing (and a good part of mine over the last couple decades). It finally snowed today-I was waiting to take photos of Danny in the snow pants to send her.
It snowed, and snowed and snowed today. My husband's car is in the shop, so we were stuck home without transportation and I watched the snow piling up and lost any desire to put Danny in his snow-pants and play outside. Around noon Danny asked if we could bake something and I made these cookies almost robotically- they're cookies, I guess. They taste OK. Danny likes them. I want to go back to bed. I can't go back to bed, so I baked cookies and then I made dinner and did laundry. I washed Evelyn's dishtowels. I should pack them away, not so much to save but because I can't look at them without falling apart. I'll probably vacuum. Pushing the Hoover about is healthy.
I realise, I'll probably never go back to Massachusetts. Nearly everyone I cared about has moved or is dead. As I wrote elsewhere, I've reached the age where my friends have started to die and while I'm not all that concerned for my own mortality, it hurts like hell to bury your friends.
The damned snow keeps falling and the temperature is hovering around zero. I baked cookies and made pizza for dinner because I didn't know what else to do.
The cookie recipe may be found HERE.
The pizza was just thrown together with tinned olives and a jar of red peppers. I crammed the dough into two 9 inch round baking pans that I oiled lightly.
Posting will probably be light, and uninspired for a while.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Cream Cheese Peppermints
These are my new favourite candy and when you see how easy they are to make, you'll love them too. I've done variations of this with butter, but the cream cheese was a new one to me. The recipe may be found at From My Homestead (another avid home canner). I waited until they were ice cold to dip in chocolate and they did soften a bit but that wasn't anything chilling them didn't correct. I imagine white chocolate would be really good as well.
In other news, it is now officially cold enough to store the cannister of my ice cream maker outdoors. I like having extra freezer space, but man-is it ever cold here. Interestingly, the windows to the mudroom are frosted over but the new windows on the house are not. Nifty.
In other, other news-I finished frosting close to fifty butter cookies with royal icing for Danny's birthday. I'm so glad that's done. I'll bake the cake Thursday, frost it and put it together with the cookies Friday night and have it ready to go Saturday. Then, I'm using my well-chilled ice cream maker to whip up a batch of frozen gin and tonic...and I'm not sharing.
I did get really good at frosting cookies though.
Cannibal Joke Sunday
"Does this taste funny to you?"
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Step By Step Egg Noodles
These noodles freeze well and make a terrific gift this time of year (everyone has plenty of cookies and candy by now). With all the baking I've been doing, I was left with extra egg yolks from making royal icing. This recipe uses three yolks plus one whole egg, so that solves that problem. You can cut them thick or thin, and the recipe is pretty forgiving if you don't roll well as you can give them an extra stretch before setting them on a rack to dry. A few minutes of work makes about a pound of fresh noodles.
You Will need:
3 egg yolks plus 1 whole egg
3 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon salt
(about 2 cups all purpose flour)
In a bowl, beat the egg yolks and egg until quite light. Add the water and the salt and beat well. By hand, mix in 1 cup of the flour and then slowly add from the second until you have a very stiff dough. It probably won't take all 2 cups, but keep the extra around for tossing the rolling surface with.
Divide dough in 3 parts. Roll out each round into a rectangle as thin as possible. Sometimes, if the dough is fighting you, it is best to leave it a few minutes and then try again after the dough relaxes a bit. Place rolled out dough on a clean (well, duh!) towel (not terrycloth-duh again!) and cover with another. Do this with each until all three are rolled and covered. Then, wait. About half an hour to an hour for the dough to dry out a bit. You don't want it too dry or you won't be able to roll it out.
Take each piece of dough and roll it up into a tube.
Cut dough to desired thickness.
Unroll rounds and lay noodles across a rack to dry for an hour.
An hour later, turn them and dry the other side. At this point they should still be pliable, but not sticky. Carefully fold them in half and place in a bag. Remove as much air as possible and either store in the fridge for up to a day, or in the freezer for longer.
These noodles don't cook well at a full boil. They should go into boiling water or broth and then immediately reduce the heat to medium and cook until tender.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Three Day Sourdough Rye
The advantage of this recipe is that you don't need to have a starter already active, as you make one from potato water and yeast three days ahead. A real sourdough starter is a bit more work than most casual bakers are willing to make, but this one only takes three days out of your life and really, only a few hours of active baking time.
I've tweaked this recipe so many times with pretty decent results either way. If you can't get first clear flour locally (really, unless you live near a mill-who can?) and don't want to order from King Arthur, you can make this with a good bread flour and vital wheat gluten added in. You'll need about 8 teaspoons of vital wheat gluten if you go that route. I used First Clear here because I had quite a bit of it (it is an excellent flour for feeding a real sourdough starter).
You can read the recipe and other observations about it HERE
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Birthday Cake Countdown
You're familiar with that (insert favourite expletive here) Disney movie, Cars? No? Consider yourself fortunate. Anyway, Danny's cake is going to be a scene (his favourite part of the movie) where the cars go out cruising at night and all the neon signs are lit up. I'm baking a large round sheet cake, frosting it black with white lines for road markings and then making stand-alone decorated sugar cookies of all the signs and various cars to stand on top. I've used this technique successfully with tractor cookies last year, and twinkling stars the year before-so I know it works. Still, given the level of detail on these cookies it is time consuming. Each morning I get up and mix a batch of butter cookie dough and each night I make the decorator's and royal icing to frost them. They dry overnight, and then I hide them before Danny gets up. So far this has worked. I have no idea how I will hide the cake itself, but I'll deal with that later-I don't expect to be cooking much the few days before so there will be room in the fridge to accommodate the cake.
You can see some previous cakes for birthdays and half birthdays HERE, HERE,
I'm off to decorate cookies now.
The one thing I didn't think through was having an 8 AM appointment for his yearly check-up the morning of his birthday.
"Happy birthday kid, here's your measles jab!"
Aside from that not being a really great way to start your birthday, it also means the cake has to be done the night before so he can have it when we get home. I have a day out planned for him after the doctor, though I had to re-think that as well because they closed the cheap-arcade with all the driving games. Poor Danny, when he found out he nearly cried:
"Now where am I going to learn to drive?!"
It was so sad, I almost cried. Anyway, we'll find the kid a new arcade to frequent but I'll really miss noisy, dirty, Nickel-A-Play in Omaha. Stupid economic downturn ruining my kid's fun. He's been through so much this year with the tornado, drug resistant staph, and now the freaking arcade goes out of business-and I still had prize tickets to redeem. Bastards.
Anyway, that's what I've been up to. Pictures eventually.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Cheese Crackers from The Boston Globe
The food section at the Boston Globe used to be something to look forward to. In recent years, they've kind of "dumbed it down" which is really too bad. The recipe for cheese crackers that ran today is a good example. Basically, it is a cheese pie crust, cut into crackers. Not terribly difficult to manage, but made confusing by the directions. What's more, not everyone owns a food processor. I suspect a number of people looked at the recipe and dismissed it assuming a food processor is needed to make pastry dough, which of course it is not.
If you decide to make these crackers (which by the way are not really anything special) mash together the butter and cheese and then cut it into tablespoon sized chunks. Then, sift the dry ingredients together in a bowl and cut in the cheese/butter mixture as you would any shortening (a pastry cutter works great, or two knives, or if you have poor circulation like I do, just work it in with your fingertips. I did not have any difficulty managing it as a single roll, but the article suggests two. I'm not sure how to address the absurd instructions for wrapping the dough in cling wrap (for heaven's sake, just roll it up in the plastic and smooth it out-really, it's not rocket science) other than to say it probably doesn't matter as long as you seal it well.
Anyway, I just wanted to reassure people that a food processor while nice, isn't always needed and is probably overkill for pastry as you can't feel what is happening with the dough.
Lecture over. I'll just step down off my soapbox now...
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Sometimes I look at the things that come out of my oven and can't believe I baked them. That's not bragging, it is genuine disbelief. I didn't grow up around great cooks and bakers, and I didn't really start baking regularly until we moved out to the country. I'll try to post better daylight pictures of the bread tomorrow, and maybe a sliced interior photo as well-believe me, the picture does not do this bread justice.
So hey, did I ever tell you the story about the place in the North End that had a mouldy panettone sitting in the window for something like three years? Mr. Eat The Blog used to check it out every time we had to go that way, and sure enough, there it sat in fuzzy green glory. Don't worry, this panettone won't go mouldy-it won't last long enough. Before the thing is even cooled you'll have people poking their noses into the kitchen wanting to know what smells so good.
I started with a recipe and then promptly disregarded it. What's the point of baking panettone if you're not going to fill it with wonderful, colourful fruit? I also lacked a proper panettone pan. I could have used a large coffee tin with a foil collar extended up the top-but I didn't. That's pretty much why I never bake julekage either-lack of pan. I do have a couple of tube pans, one of which I'm rather fond-so I pressed it into service for this and it worked just fine. If you really must have a mushroom topped loaf, go ahead and do the coffee tin thing, but for heaven's sake-line it with parchment because I can't trust what they manufacture things with these days and I have no idea if it is even heat resistant-in other words, use coffee tins at your risk. A deep souffle dish would work too, but again, you'll have to mess around with foil over the top.
With all the baking I've been doing I ran short of candied cherries, so I substituted half with maraschino and it was fine. You may prefer to use less fruit, or more fruit, or different fruit and that's really the beauty of a recipe like this-the versatility. I did not use liquor to soak the fruit because I didn't have anything anisette flavoured. Instead, I added a tablespoon of fennel seeds to the soaking fruit and that worked just fine.
I'm not going to lie-this is time consuming and quite a bit of work. I would save it for a day when you plan to be home.
You Will Need:
1/2 cup sultanas
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup candied cherries
1/2 cup maraschino cherries
1/2 cup chopped citron
1 cup dried currants
1/4 cup chopped crystalised ginger
1/2 cup chopped dried dates
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
warm water to cover fruit in bowl( about 1/2 cup)
2/3 cup whole milk, lukewarm
1/4 cup lukewarm water
4 1/2 teaspoons granulated yeast (not instant)
sugar (1/2 teaspoon with yeast, 1/2 cup with dough, 3 tablespoons for glaze)
1-1/2 cups bread flour, divided
3/4 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs plus 3 egg yolks, beaten
Grated zest of 1 orange
2 1/2-3 cups (or more) all purpose flour
1/4 cup of the soaking water from the fruit and the three tablespoons of reserved sugar. You can round up with water if you don't have enough soaking liquid. Bring it to a boil and remove from heat. Strain it through a fine sieve into a measuring glass.
In a bowl, soak the fruits and fennel seeds for half an hour until plump. You don't need to soak the cherries and citron.
Heat the milk in a saucepan until lukewarm. Place in a bowl with the warm water, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and the yeast. Let stand a minute and then stir to dissolve. Let stand about five minutes until it begins to proof. Add 1/2 cup of the bread flour and stir until smooth. Cover and let rest 30 minutes.
Stir the melted butter, 1/2 cup of sugar, salt, eggs and yolks, and orange zest into flour mixture. Add remaining bread flour and mix well. Add the purpose flour a cup at a time until it comes together in a ball. Remove from bowl and knead until smooth adding more flour if needed. Place in a buttered bowl, give it a turn and the cover. Let rise 1-2 hours or until doubled. Punch dough down, give it a fold and then return it to the bowl for another hour.
Remove bread from bowl. Drain fruit reserving liquid. Flatten dough into a large rectangle and top with half the fruit. Fold, and top with the rest of the fruit. Begin kneading it in( this will be a mess in the beginning, but persevere as it will event come together).
Fit the dough into a well-buttered tube pan (or 2 large coffee tins, etc.) trying to keep the dough as even in level as possible (you won't get it perfect so don't obsess over it). Cover with a towel and let rise another 60-90 minutes or until doubled.
Preheat the o 400 degrees F. Move a rack down to accommodate the tall bread. If using a tube pan, place it atop a baking sheet (butter drips, ya know). Bake it for 10 minutes and then turn the heat down to 350. The bread can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour depending on the size of the pan and whether you make one loaf or two. It may begin to get too dark before it is fully baked inside-just cover it loosely with a piece of foil and keep baking. You'll need a large wooden skewer to test for doneness and really, you need to watch it as it can go from wet batter to over baked in a matter of a few minutes depending on how much fruit you used and how moist it is. While the bread bakes, make the glaze.
When bread is done, cool in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes. Then run a knife around the inside and very carefully remove. Immediately glaze the hot bread with the syrup, giving it a generous coating (or three). Let stand until completely cool and dry. Store wrapped tightly in foil.
Time for another Christmas cookie recipe. This one also comes from the Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook (1950 edition) but I changed a number of things. Obviously, I omitted the nuts. I also went ahead and added currants and citron to the dough which turned out to be a good call. For the decorations (since I couldn't use almonds) I made use of what I had-candied cherries, dates and some over-sized sultanas cut in half.
The glaze cooked up a bit thick so the first batch has a heavier glaze than the second which I thinned down. I cut these a bit larger as I was working by hand with a knife rather than a cutter. The cookies bake up pretty hard, and like most old-fashioned cookies that do not have butter or shortening, they need a good week in a cookie jar or closed tin to "mellow." This is done by adding a piece of sliced apple or orange and changing it once a day. I know it sounds strange, but it really works wonders with things like gingerbread. Some cookies are worth waiting for. I split one with Danny and while it was hard, it was still delicious-I can't wait to taste them next week.
You Will Need:
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup molasses (I used mild)
3/4 cup brown sugar (I used dark)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated rind
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/3 cup finely diced candied citron
1/3 cup dried currants
In a saucepot, mix together the honey and molasses until they come to a boil. Remove from heat and cool completely.
Stir in the brown sugar. egg. lemon juice, and rind. Sift together the dry ingredients and mix that in. Stir in the citron and currants. Mix well and wrap tightly in plastic wrap to chill overnight.
The dough will be very soft, so work with small amounts and keep the rest chilled as you work
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. and lightly grease pans. Roll dough 1/4 inch thick on a floured board and cut into rectangles or oblongs. Decorate with fruit and nuts as desired. Bake 10-12 minutes or until cookies no longer show an indentation when lightly pressed. Glaze immediately out of the oven (recipe follows. Transfer to racks to cool, and then let mellow in a jar or tin for a week.
boil 1 cup sugar with 1/2 cup water and bring to 230 degrees. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar. Brush on hot cookies. If it thickens up between batches, add a bit of water and reheat until liquid.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Granny Is Eating Pizza With Uvulas
Soda Bread With Currants
I am so tired. I slept all day yesterday-just couldn't hold my head up for more than a few minutes at a time. Today was somewhat better, but I can feel a whopper of a cold coming in (ears, nose, body aches). Danny's already sick with a bacterial thing that refuses to go away (we're on the third course of Sulfa now-all this as a secondary infection following chicken pox. I mean gosh, the chicken pox weren't bad, but this infection just will not go away), and now he has an eye infection-swell. I guess that means back to Omaha to the doctor (again) tomorrow. I knew there wouldn't be time for baking a bead-hence the soda bread.
This bread is so easy you can make it with one hand while holding a phone in the other talking to your mother-in-law, which is what I did. Five minutes to throw it together, forty minutes in the oven. The recipe is rather basic and you could do it with half whole wheat flour if you like. It can be sweeter as well, but I know Danny will eat it with cheese and jam so there's no pint in turning it into something rich.
Blogging might be sparse for a bit depending how things go around here.
You Will Need:
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk (you may not need it all)
1/2 cup currants
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking pan.
In a bowl, mix dry ingredients and currants. Slowly add the milk just until you have a soft dough that comes together-use a wooden spoon or your hand, but don't use a mixer as it will work the dough too much.
Shape into a ball, flatten it slightly and cut a cross into the top. Bake 20 minutes, rotate and bake about 20 more, watching it does not burn. The loaf should sound hollow when tapped. Cool completely on a rack before slicing. If you prefer a softer crust, cover the bread with a towel as it cools.
Makes 1 small, dense loaf.
Friday, December 05, 2008
Seventeenth Century Rosewater Cheese Tart
While I wasn't blown-away by this tart, the boys were. Within two days, they'd demolished every last bite, lousy crust and all. In fact, Danny was waking up at five AM asking for dessert. I figured this probably tells you more about the recipe than my impressions. It is a very rich dessert, but if you like dense cheesecake, and like it to smell like a French whorehouse (not that I'd know anything about that) this might just be your dessert. Seriously, they never go through a cake like this.
The recipe comes from a supermarket book devoted to cheesecakes from 1985. It claims to contain 100 tested recipes, but it says nothing of editing. Somehow, a number of recipes in the book neglect to mention what temperature the cakes are to be baked at stating only "Bake in a preheated oven." Thanks, that's helpful.
The recipe for shortcrust was terrible. terrible. I won't reprint it here and instead suggest you use one that you prefer. If you've never made one before, start with the recipe in Mastering The Art Of French Cooking, as it is basic and simple to prepare.
I find it slightly amusing that there is a disclaimer at the front of the book that reads:
The information contained in this book is true and complete to the best of our knowledge (LIARS). All recommendations are made without any guarantees on the part of (publishers of bad cheesecake books) (BECAUSE THE RECIPES ARE INCOMPLETE). The author and publisher disclaim all liability in connection with the use of this information (BECAUSE THE SHORT CRUST RECIPE IS ASS!).
Luckily, I know how to bake and was able to salvage it (though that short crust disaster really took away from it). I did have to do a bit of interpretation when it came to the ingredients, and I will try to post other baking suggestions that were overlooked in the original (like, it will leak all over your oven so bake the thing on a sheet (I always do with springform pans, but not everyone would know to do that. It seems sort of incompetent not to mention it).
So here is the recipe, adapted (practically re-written) from the crappy supermarket cheese cake book. I'm not going to use this book again, and to spare the next victim from purchasing it at the thrift shop, I'm tossing it out. A quick look at the other recipes revealed similar flaws and omissions.
On the positive side, the cake is unusual enough to serve as a special holiday treat and rosewater baking makes your kitchen smell nice.
You Will Need:
1 shortcrust pastry, blind baked in an 8 inch springform pan
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sherry
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons rose water
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1/3 cup currants
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
When shortcrust is cooled, make filling. In a small pan over low heat, scaled the whipping cream and sherry. Remove from heat. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, rose water, spices and salt until blended. Beat in the cream cheese. Note-at this point the cheese may break up funny like it is curdling-that's ok and it will not harm the cake. Slowly add the whipping cream/sherry in a stream while still beating the mixture. Beat until reasonably smooth (you won't get it completely.
At this point the recipe suggests stirring in the currants, but they are only going to drop to the bottom anyway, so wait until you pour the batter and then sprinkle them on top evenly (they will sink in).
Bake on a sheet, for about 1 hour or until a tester off centre comes out clean. You should probably keep an eye on it after 40 minutes. Mine took exactly 55 minutes.
I decorated mine seasonally with pitted dates, candied cherries and sultanas. Cool in pan on a rack completely. Chill well before serving. I made this last night for today and once it was cooled I placed it on the plate and inverted a large bowl over it as a cover. This seemed to work better than waxed paper. I decorated it the next day.
My Mother's Beef Brisket
If you've never cooked one, a beef brisket can seem sort of overwhelming-as I pointed out to her, unless you have a professionally outfitted kitchen, you're going to have to cook the beef without browning it first. The recipe I gave her is good for any cut of beef that requires long, slow cooking. I've used it successfully with chuck roast and beef short ribs.
The recipe itself came to my mother by way of our butcher. She'd never cooked one either, and he presented her with a recipe that was so good she never tried making brisket another way-nor have I. Pretty hard to improve upon perfection.
You can view the sliced brisket HERE (not the best photo) with some onions, carrots and potatoes.
You Will Need:
A brisket of beef
1 bottle of Bennett's chili sauce (you can use other brands, but Vic the Butcher said Bennett's and that's what my mother used. It is hard to find outside of the Midwest so you may need to substitute Heinz).
2 onions, sliced in rings
a couple carrots, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1-2 cups sweet red wine (if you use more, you get a sweeter roast. My mother used kosher Concord Grape wine (so sweet it makes your teeth hurt) but any sweet red wine will do)
water to come halfway up the side of brisket
Optional potatoes to add in last hour of cooking.
Place the brisket in the roasting pan, cover with chili sauce, onions, garlic and carrots. Pour wine over and add water. Cover and cook slowly in a 325 degree oven for about three hours. Check it to make sure the water isn't all evaporating and add more if needed. If it appears at any point to be boiling, turn the heat down. You want it to cook very slowly. In last half hour or so, remove the lid and let it colour a bit. Let stand at least twenty minutes before slicing.
You can make a wonderful gravy from the liquid in the pan by letting it cool a bit and stirring in a finely milled flour (like Wondra). I like to serve brisket over homemade egg noodles, or second day as a warm sandwich. If you have any challah it makes one heck of a brisket sandwich.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Georgia Molasses Cornbread
You bad penguin! Get out of here, I don't have any herring for you.
No silly, I didn't burn it-it has 1/2 a cup of molasses baked in. I wanted a small batch cornbread (unlike my regular recipe that feeds an army) and this one sounded interesting. I liked that it called for exactly as much buttermilk as I had sitting in the fridge waiting to be used, and the smaller amount of butter also appealed.
This is fantastic corn bread. I served it with a hearty three bean vegetarian chili and half the bread is gone. Danny had better get up early if he's going to have any for breakfast. I made mine in a cast iron pan, but an 8 inch square pan will also work.
Adapted from the New York Times Heritage Cookbook
You Will Need:
3/4 cup white corn meal (I used yellow because I had it)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup mild molasses
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg, well beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Grease a cast iron skillet or an 8 inch square pan. Sift the corn meal, flour, salt and baking soda into a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir just until blended. Pour into prepared pan and bake fifteen to twenty minutes (mine was done at about thirteen minutes, so watch it). Aprox. six servings.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Oh Boy, Santa Brought Me Pringles and Snack Pak Pudding
I had to do an errand in Lincoln this evening so we stopped for dinner the the Superior and 27th Hy-Vee grocery.
By the front entrance they had tables set up with beautifully wrapped food baskets and a sign that the store is your "Holiday Headquarters" or something to that effect. I glanced down at a large basket with cellophane wrap and gleaming bow to see it contained potato chips, Tootsie Rolls, and some microwave popcorn.
"No shit" I thought, "This has to be an employee's idea of a joke."
I looked at some of the other baskets and quickly realised it was not a joke. They weren't even good snack foods (you know, like some beef jerky and Poppycock) but crap you wouldn't eat if it were in your emergency kit and a nuclear bomb had just detonated.
Just imagine the smiles on their faces Christmas morning when they see those small tins of pudding and microwave popcorn!
You might think these baskets were cheap, but the ones I saw were around thirty bucks, which is kind of expensive for Pringles and Snack Pak Pudding. For that kind of money I'd want a Hostess pie or two.
So let me save you thirty bucks by suggesting you go buy a basket at Goodwill for a buck and fill it with junk food from Big Lots, or Aldi. If you go to Aldi you can even get decent chocolate and an interesting assortment of potted meats. If you're really generous it might cost ten bucks. If you're hell-bent on buying it at Hy-Vee you could buy dried fruit and nuts in the produce department and put it in a gift bag for less money than the potato chips and pudding and you won't look like a jackass presenting someone with a "food" basket filled with something you'd only eat at three in the morning on your way back from a concert in 1980 when the Jack-in-the-Box has just closed for the night and the only thing you can find to eat at the gas station are those packages of two oatmeal cookies sandwiched with some sort of "creme" and a bottle of Fresca...then, you might be happy to see a basket of "treats" like those and depending how much of a contact high you got at the concert, you might pay thirty bucks for it. Otherwise, I've got to think, as a consumer you can probably do better.
(For you English majors out there, that was a good example of a run-on sentence).
Gingerbread , Cannibals, Pina Coloda Mix, and Pinheads
With a title like that, you know it is going to be another installment in Goody's Holiday Memories (tm). If you just want the gingerbread recipe, skip to the bottom.
The last year that my mother was alive she discovered a line of drink mixes that had the alcohol already in it. While that might elicit a "yuck" from many people, my mother considered this to be one of the Twentieth Century's greatest inventions-I mean, right up there with the Xerox machine. Mind you, she was diabetic and had no business drinking, much less drinking pre-mixed Pina Coloda mix, but she did and she loved it. As I recall it had a pretty low alcohol content so you'd have to drink quite a bit of it to get drunk, but it still had a bit of kick. I think my mother liked it because it was a drink without really "drinking." You know, more of a weak cocktail. No one would have said a word if she wanted to swill straight gin from a bottle in the freezer (oh what, like you never do that?) but to people of her generation a mixed drink was "nicer." Anyway, the bottle of pina coloda mix had a place of honour in the door of the fridge.
Christmastime rolled around and my mother suddenly gets weepy and expresses a desire to bake Christmas cookies with me. I was about to graduate from my undergrad studies and she suddenly realised we'd never baked cookies together.
"You're going to graduate and move away and I'll never see you again." she complained a bit more emotionally than I would have expected from her. I tried to reassure her I would still be around, but finally she blurted out:
"You're going to end up like the Rockefeller boy."
Oh. Um. Well, she'd managed to avoid saying it the four years I'd been pursuing an anthropology degree but at last she'd uttered her great fear that I'd be eaten by cannibals and we'd never have baked so much as a tray of cookies together. Much as I promised never to go to New Guinea, she still wanted to bake the cookies, so we got out the cookbook and mixed up a batch of gingerbread. This is a great time to take a break for a joke:
Two cannibals are sitting around a campfire eating when one cannibal says,
"I hate my mother-in-law" and the other cannibal says,
"So try the potatoes."
Right. So we might have had a few glasses of the pina coloda mix at that point, and my mother brings out the beautiful copper cookie cutter pictured above. I'd never seen it, and she couldn't remember where it came from, but there it was just waiting to make cookies. I tossed the chilled hunk of gingerbread dough on the table and realised I couldn't roll it. I mean, even warmed up, the thing wouldn't budge. How she ever worked that much flour into it without busting the gears of the mixer I'll never know, but that mass of dough wasn't going to be rolled out by the force of either of our upper-body strength. I think we managed to do two or three before finally giving up. The kitchen was covered in flour, there was a sink filled with dishes and we were running low on pina coloda mix. I sat at her kitchen table for a minute before taking a good look at the cookie cutter.
"Why is the gingerbread man a pinhead?"
My mother wasn't exactly dour, but she also didn't fall apart laughing much-until the day she decided to bake cookies. We never did figure out why the gingerbread man was a pinhead, or where she found it to begin with, but it was the last Christmas I spent with my mother and I'm glad I'm able to remember her having fun. By spring she was gone. I suppose she'd be pleased to know I use the pinhead gingerbread man every year now to amuse her grandson and that thankfully (at least, so far) I haven't been eaten by cannibals.
You Will Need:
(modified from the Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook)
1/3 cup soft shortening (I don't use butter for these as they keep better with Crisco)
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups full flavour molasses (yes, that is a lot)
1/2 cup cold water
7 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon or cardamom
2 teaspoons baking soda dissolved in 3 tablespoons cold water
Mix together the shortening, brown sugar, and molasses. Stir in the cold water/ Sift together dry ingredients and add to the first mixture. Stir in the baking soda and water. Mix well and chill, several hours.
The dough will be sticky, so use enough flour to keep it from sticking but not so much that it makes the cookies tough. Roll them out very thick (about 1/2 inch). Bake in a 350 oven for about fifteen minutes. Cool on pan two minutes, then remove to a rack. Makes about a dozen.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Stop Bothering Me When I'm Reading, Mother
He looks really mad, but that's Danny's idea of a "big fake smile for the camera." I interrupted him while he was absorbed in a Daffy Duck comic book and he gave me this smile to go away.
I had to share the .50 cent thrift find sweater. Mr. Eat The Blog thought it was hideous in a 1974 kind of way, but I thought it had potential with the right pants. I sent him out today wearing a tweed sport coat over it and penny loafers so maybe...possibly, Mr. Eat The Blog had a point about my fashion sense being stuck somewhere around...well, 1974. I don't know, I thought he looked suave...or at least as suave as an almost four year old should. Besides, the sweater was practically free. Can't beat that.
Someday he's going to discover this blog and bludgeon me in my sleep.
Spritz Cookies, Take One
I'm submitting this post for Food Blogga's Eat Christmas Cookies event. You can see a round-up page HERE (go look at all the beautiful cookies).
So I guess there's a learning curve to making these, eh? That's OK, my boys will eat misshapen cookies-and just look at that vibrant food colouring (mmmm, food colouring healthy....).
Last weekend my husband spotted the cookie press sitting all alone on a shelf at the Goodwill. It was taped shut so I flagged down a teenager working there and asked if it was missing parts, could I return it? He laughed and said sure, but he also let me open it to have a look. I made a deal with him-if it didn't work I'd be back for a refund but if it did, I'd be back with cookies on Saturday. Guess I have a few days to sharpen my technique.
I looked at a number of recipes and finally settled on the one in my 1950 Betty Crocker cookbook because all the other cookie recipes work so well. I guess I didn't feel like wasting a cup of butter to find out a recipe wouldn't work or wasn't adequately tested before being posted. I divided the dough in two and tinted it with gel food colouring (I might have used a tad too much but you just don't see green cookies like that every day. Don't they just scream "festive?" I'm feeling festive just looking at them on the screen. Pretty darn festive. It's feeling awfully festive around here. Oh yeah, the cookies-we were talking about cookies...
My fancy imported vintage cookie press came with a gazillion attachments and spouts for filling cookies and other cool things. It looked like it might have been used a couple times at most and I'm sort of sad the thing is so old because you could order all sorts of extra pieces according to the booklet, and some of them really looked interesting. I guess I could have a look at ebay.
Anyway, this dough is nice and soft and you shouldn't have any difficulty pushing it through a press. The cookies are very rich and kind of fragile so use a very thin spatula to get them off the pan and let them cool completely before trying to pack them.
I wasn't sure what to do for decorating. I resorted to jimmies and candied cherries though really, I think they would have been just fine without the decorations. I suppose if you liked some finely chopped nuts would work. They're so finely shaped it almost detracts from them to add much of anything. Maybe some jelly in the middle of the star shape.
Overall I'm pleased with my $1.99 cookie press. I was in the kitchen supply shop today (I scored porcelain ramekins for .25 cents each!) and noticed the average going price for a cookie press is around $40. and they are made of plastic, with less designs. Come to think of it, the cookie press cost less than the butter to make the cookies.
You Will Need:
1 cup soft butter
2/3 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Mix together the butter and sugar until light. Add the egg yolks and vanilla-mix well. By hand, mix in the flour and work until quite soft and pliable. Tint if desired. Force through press according to directions onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 7-10 minutes (mine took 8) until just set-do not let them brown. Cool on racks. Makes about 6 dozen cookies (I got about 4)
Monday, December 01, 2008
I Remember When People Used To Do All This On Christmas Eve
-But now we get a whole month to deck the halls. For a used tree from the Goodwill, it looks OK. I had some Christmas decorations from a million years ago when I lived in Boston that I unpacked as well. I don't know about you, but those little birds they use for floral arrangements are my favourite way to decorate for the holidays.
We baked some cookies last night but most of them were off to the recipient before I could take photos and Danny didn't really want to unhand his cookies for photos-oh well, next time. I have a new (to me anyway) cookie press I can't wait to try out, so hopefully that will produce some photo-worthy cookies.
Apple Raisin Crumble
The recipe comes from Granny Stark's Apple Cookbook by, Olwen Woodier. I thought this was a very good crumble, though a bit richer than what I'm used to. I omitted pouring additional melted butter over the top as I thought a stick of butter to four apples was already sufficient. I also didn't have any oranges, so I substituted tangerines with great results.
You Will Need:
4 medium Granny Smith apples, pelled cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 cup golden raisins (I used regular)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange rind (I used tangerine)
1/4 cup orange (tngerine( juice
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 2 quart baking dish.
Peel, core and slice apples into 1/4 inch thick slices. Place in bowl with the raisins, brown sugar, zest and juice. Stir in the allspice. Pour into baking dish.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, remaining brown sugar, oats and cinnamon. Cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle on top of apples.
Bake for 30 minutes or until top is golden. Serve still slightly warm.
Bell Pepper and Spinach Soup
I hesitated to post this as it is more a case of cleaning out the icebox than "cooking." Still, it turned out so delicious I thought it would be worth posting if only so I remember how I made it.
You Will Need:
(about) 8 cups vegetable broth
1 block frozen chopped spinach
2 tablespoons minced dried onions
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
6 carrots, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small tin diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup chopped curly parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups cooked white beans
(about) a cup broken noodles (mine were the end of a large bag of broad egg noodles)
1 red bell pepper (seeded and chopped)
1 yellow bell pepper (seeded and chopped)
In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and cook the carrots until they begin to soften. Add the garlic and bell peppers and cook a few minutes more. Add everything else except the stock and then add it slowly until vegetables are covered by at least a few inches (to leave room for noodles to expand). At this point, check your salt level which will depend on your stock, tomatoes, etc. Adjust as desired. Then bring it all to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover with the lid slightly askew to vent. Mine took about an hour to cook. This will make quite a bit of soup, but as it does not have potatoes or cream, I see no reason why it wouldn't freeze well.
I served it with generous slices of Struan bread and assorted cheeses. For a simple dinner it won great praise from Mr. Eat The Blog.