Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
I can't say I loved them, but then again, I'm not a big drinker of Jack Daniels (which is why I used the teeny tiny bottle). I post the recipe here in case you enjoy Jack Daniels, or want a quick goodie for someone who does. If you make them, please let me know what you think.
(Later, a review from my Mom: "I don't know that they taste much like Jack Daniels, but they are very flavorful.")
Jack Daniels Pecans
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons Jack Daniels
2 teaspoons instant coffee
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups pecans
Preheat oven to 325 F.
In a large skillet, combine sugar, Jack Daniels, instant coffee and cinnamon. Mix until well combined. Stir in pecans. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly until pecans are well coated.
Put in oven and bake about 10 minutes, until the coating is dry. Cool.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
I know a lot of people who don't like going to the bother of making cutout cookies. I agree that it's shocking that it can take an afternoon to make the cookies, and only minutes to devour them, but to me it doesn't seem like Christmas without a batch of cut-outs (this post will tell you why).
This is a good recipe for people who have trouble with cutouts. The dough is easy to work with and doesn't require refrigeration before rolling (although it works well if it has been refrigerated, too). The icing is also easy to work with because it is neither too thick nor too runny. And the two of them together are delicious! The drop of almond extract in the icing gives it a nice flavor but it's subtle enough that you can't tell it's almond (be sure to warn people with nut allergies).
Cutout cookies will never be as easy as, say, a bar cookie, but here are a few tips to make them less frustrating:
1. Be gentle when you're rolling the dough. Work from the middle toward the outside.
2. Don't roll the dough too thin, or the cookies will be difficult to transfer to the cookie sheet.
3. When you roll the dough out, make sure there is flour on your work surface, as well as on top of the dough (so the dough doesn't stick to your rolling pin).
4. When you're done cutting out the cookies from the dough, brush off the extra flour from the top and bottom of the dough. The more flour that gets into the dough, the less good it will taste. Only re-roll a few times -- once the dough looks like it has cracks in it when you roll it out, that's the point at which the dough has taken on too much flour and it's time to discard it.
5. The decorating pastes from Williams Sonoma (right) are the best for coloring frostings -- and I've tried the liquids from the grocery stores and the pastes from craft stores. The colors are vivid. They are a little pricey but one package will last for ages.
Easier Frosted Cutout Cookies
Adapted from a Penzey's recipe
These cookies are easy (as cutout cookies go) because the dough is easy to work with, and because you don't have to chill the dough before rolling.
1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In an electric butter, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and the vanilla, and mix until well blended. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder, then gradually add to the butter mixture and blend well.
Form the dough into a smooth ball. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of 1/8 to 1/4 inch (I like mine a little on the thicker side).
Cut out with cookie cutters and place on nonstick or lightly greased cookie sheets (I use the insides of the butter wrappers). Place on cookie sheets an inch or so apart -- they will spread a bit. Cookies should be of equal size to ensure even baking.
Bake for 6 minutes or so, until you see a little browning just on the corners of the cookies (the whole cookie should not brown). Cool on cookie sheets for at least five minutes, then remove from cookie sheets and cool on wire racks or waxed paper. Decorate when cool.
Vanilla Cookie Frosting (or flavor of your choice)
This makes lots of frosting so that you can make various colors. The almond extract gives the frosting a nice flavor that doesn't have an overt almond flavor, but you can substitute other flavorings such as lemon.
6 cups powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
6 Tablespoons milk
1 Tablespoon imitation vanilla extract (this will keep the frosting white in color)
Scant teaspoon almond extract
Food coloring, if desired
Mix together all ingredients until smooth.
I posted twice today because I wanted to make sure I squeaked in under the deadline of Food Blogga's Christmas Cookie roundup! She gets so many contributions to the event, that she has to do a couple of posts to contain them all. Here is Part 2 of 2008!
Two things you should know about this recipe:
1. You need to start these a day in advance, since they need to steep in simple syrup overnight.
2. You need superfine sugar. The recipe said that if you can't find superfine sugar, you can make your own by processing granulated sugar in a food processor for a minute. I gave granulated sugar a spin in the blender. I'm not sure I achieved the right consistency, because my sugar formed a thick coating on the cranberries that tended to flake off. That may have been because of my sugar, so if I made them again, I'd get the superfine sugar.
I took them to a party and the hostess loved them. One guy (a member of CRB, by the way) said he didn't like cranberries and she urged him to try one anyway. He popped one in his mouth and said he liked it ... until he got to the cranberry. I was kind of with him -- I thought the cranberries had a somewhat bitter aftertaste.
So I don't think you'll win over the cranberry haters with this recipe. But if you have any guests or gift recipients that are trying to stick to some healthy habits over the holidays, they'd probably be happy with you for making them.
Adapted from Cooking Light December 2003
Because of the contrast between the tart cranberries and sugary coating, the flavor of this snack pops in your mouth. The berries are steeped in hot sugar syrup to tame their tangy bite. When entertaining, serve these in place of nuts. You can use the reserved cranberry cooking syrup as a cocktail mixer.
3 cups granulated sugar
3 cups water
3 cups fresh cranberries (about 1 package)
1 1/4 cups superfine sugar
Combine granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring mixture until sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat. (Do not boil or the cranberries may pop when added.) Stir in cranberries; pour mixture into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
Drain cranberries in a colander over a bowl, reserving steeping liquid, if desired. Place superfine sugar in a shallow dish. Add the cranberries, rolling to coat with sugar. Spread sugared cranberries in a single layer on a baking sheet; let stand at room temperature 1 hour or until dry.
Note: The steeping liquid clings to the berries and helps the sugar adhere. Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to a week.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Their family convened a family meeting and, after kicking around some ideas, decided on a zoo. They figured it would take advantage of the parents' and daughter's talent for designing critters out of various candies. (If you want to see some examples of that talent, check out their Shrek and Dr. Seuss characters from last year and Spongebob characters from before that ... you may have to scroll down those posts.)
One daughter, who truly dislikes sweets (something hard for me to fathom), used a mixture of various beans to create the path that wound through the zoo. The son was gone at a birthday party for most of the process, but helped out here and there. The parents and other daughter worked on the critters ... which you have to see close up to appreciate ...
The younger daughter -- 11 years old -- made these cute penguins. I think her molding style has a "cartoon" feel.
Her molding materials were vanilla and chocolate Tootsie Rolls.
Her class did a gingerbread project this week, so she made a bunch of these penguins at home and brought them into school. Her classmates wouldn't believe she had made them. An 11-year-old did -- really!
Dad made a pair of alligators with lime Tootsie Rolls for their bodies, green gumdrops for legs, and round ball candies for eyes.
Behind the gators are more of the daughter's creations -- snakes, also made with lime green Tootsie Rolls.
And how about the cute light posts? Those are birthday candles with little gumdrops on top, with Life Savers as their base. (OK, I have to admit ... the Life Savers were my suggestion.)
Mom made some contributions as well. She made a pair of cute lions out of caramels. I really like the mane on the female!
She went to art school, but she surprisingly didn't take a class in candy sculpting.
She also made a striped hyena (that was originally a zebra) that I didn't get a good photo of.
The ground of the whole creation was royal icing sprinkled with green sugar and allspice for a realistic effect.
Dad made monkeys out of caramels (although I think their faces look kind of like Homer Simpson). The monkeys' play apparatus was made out of cinnamon sticks and Twizzlers Pull Apart licorice. There's even a tire swing for the monkeys to play on. The monkey on top is holding a candy banana.
Did I mention that this guy is a financial planner? He's got an incredible amount of artistic talent, but works with unusual media. His other specialty is pumpkins. Each Halloween, he does inventive carvings -- this year he tackled Wall-E. I've never seen him work from any kind of sketch or picture -- it's all out of his head.
In the back of this picture are a pair of polar bears, made by the daughter out of vanilla Tootsie Rolls.
At right is an elephant who I think looks like "Horton Hears a Who." To the left is a giraffe eating the leaf of a tree. That one took a lot of engineering. I'm pretty sure the legs and neck have toothpicks inside for support. The palm trees -- with cinnamon stick trunks and spearmint leave tops -- were Mom's idea.
At about this time, this family had been working on the project for a few hours, and the talented younger daughter went to a friend's house to play. The other daughter had completed her path and walls, and had no interest in sculpting with candy. And the son was playing with my sons.
Then the Buffalo Bills game started, and both the Dad and my husband turned their attention to the game. At this point, the Mom's attitude was, "let's just fill these bare spaces with ANYTHING and get this done." That's when I jumped in ... I made a flamingo out of pink Tootsie Rolls, with toothpick legs, which kept falling over. I made a snow leopard that I didn't get a good shot of. Finally, I made a palm tree, with a little parrot on top (right). I actually kind of liked the parrot.
What's funny is that once we wiped our brow from getting both creations done, our two families started talking about what we'd do next year. My husband:
"Next year, let's do an amusement park. With roller coasters."
Oh yeah, that will be EASY. Come back next year and see if we're crazy enough to attempt it!
P.S. If you're thinking of making a gingerbread creation before Christmas, I just came across a nice series of tutorials on a blog called At Home With the Farmer's Wife. Since I also want to have the links on hand for next year, I thought I'd share the links:
Step One: Get a Pattern
Step Two: Make Gingerbread Plywood
Step Three: Cut Out and Bake
Step Four: Make Royal Icing ... although I prefer Martha's Eggless Icing
Step Five: Glue Together
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Now it's Christmas in the Top Chef kitchen ... makes sense since it was Thanksgiving a few weeks ago -- in ROCHESTER, remember?
Quickfire: one-pot holiday meal, with Martha Stewart as the judge.
"When I was six, I was evil ... I was a bad boy," Fabio says. Can't you just picture him as an adorable little six-year-old with a mischievous twinkle in his eye? His Grandma solved the problem by having him stir the polenta for an hour. So he makes polenta. Too stinking cute.
That's about all I remember from the Quickfire. Then it's judgment time ... am I the only one who would have been SCARED TO DEATH to have Martha judge my food? I agree with Leah ... she's badass ... not only does she have an intimidating presence, she has also done hard time.
Martha turns up her nose at a few dishes -- including Fabio's -- she said his polenta was gray, but it looked yellow to me. She awards a copy of her new book to fellow New Jersey gal, Ariane. Although Ariane is on a winning streak, I still don't see her lasting. The stuff she has cooked thus far has been very simple, and although she does them well, she's bound be be unseated by some of the more creative chefs. And that's it for Martha -- she stopped by long enough to plug her book, then buh-bye.
In comes a gospel choir from Harlem. Good God can they sing. Dang. I've always wanted to go to a service that had a really good Gospel choir. If the chefs were really puzzled about why the choir was singing "The 12 Days of Christmas," then they are pretty slow. The challenge (duh): a dish inspired by the 12 Days of Christmas. This is a tough one, but if they do anything that remotely can be applied to the song, they will be ok -- so they shouldn't overthink it.
They had the chefs sing a few bars and what a surprise -- Fabio can sing! He's no Pavarotti (and I did see him in person, at Ravinia near Chicago), but his voice is pleasant!
Anyhoo, some of the chefs are pretty clever in being inspired by the theme. Some of the harder ones:
- Jeff gets the Lords a Leaping -- a difficult one -- and looks for frog legs, which I think is clever. There aren't frog legs in Whole Foods, so he's stumped, until he remembers two different Greek cheeses, so he's going to leap from island to island. Not bad for an arrogant dude.
- Stefan has the drummers drumming, so he's doing chicken pot pie. No explanation of how the drumming applies to the pot pie. Confused.
- "Once again, I peek the crappy theme," says Fabio. "What you gunna do with nine ladies dancing that resembles, somehow, food." I love the way he says "food."
The next day ... bad stuff. A fridge is warm. They don't say why. Was it on the blink? Left open? Anyhoo, Radhika and Hosea seem to be screwed ... until the whole crew pitches in and helps them. Nice. Very much in the spirit of Christmas (in July).
The AmFAR event appeared to be a success, with everyone serving a finished dish and fitting in the theme, some better than others. Stefan's pot pie was supposed to resembled a drum. Hosea did smoked pork, because the pipers reminded him of putting something in a pipe and smoking it. Hmmmm ... I wonder what that says about Hosea. Gene came up with some kind of a goofy story about the golden rings ... hello, he was using pineapple -- all he had to do was cut it into golden rings! Another case of him overthinking -- he seems to be his own worse enemy.
The winner: Hosea, whose dish ended up being a group effort. So Michelle Bernstein gives all the chefs a copy of her new book. Pretty funny, because I'm sure some of those chefs would rather forget Michelle Bernstein!
In the end, nobody goes home, but Tom lectures all of the chefs that he was disappointed with the food. He's tired of the chefs playing it safe. Not exactly a ho, ho, ho ending ... it would have been a bit nicer if the chefs remained because they did a heck of a job for a worthy function ... but that's reality TV, huh?
"Life is not fair," is one my friend, Melissa, says to her kids on a regular basis.
"A moment on the lips, forever on the hips," was one of my own Mom's. I probably should have paid a little more attention to that one.
One of mine:
"The first time it's funny. After that, it's just annoying."
OK, so it's not as ubiquitous as the first two, but I find myself saying it all the time.
As an example, let's take this year's gingerbread house. We recently did our gingerbread day with friends, and right away one son returned to the theme of last year's gingerbread house, putting a dog and yellow snow on it.
"The first time it's funny. After that, it's just annoying," I said, and removed it. See?
This time, I vetoed any scatological humor. My concession was Calvin & Hobbes having a snowball fight in front of the house.
Can you tell that those creatures in front of the house are Calvin & Hobbes? Well, those were created by my older son. I think his use of little candies for eyes gave them a scary effect but he was happy with them. Let's just say he's more of a musician than an artist -- one of his many musical ventures is playing bass in this band.
My younger son, thankfully, wanted to make a normal house. He made the roof of Life Saver candies above (I embellished it with the snowdrifts of royal icing. He also came up with the idea of using alphabet pretzels. I used them in the "wipe feet" doormat above -- something I'd imagine Calvin's mom doing. My son also used the pretzel letters on the back of the house (or is it the front?) below.
My younger son also made the path (of candy dots -- the kind that come on paper -- and Twizzler Pull apart licorice). He also added the friendly gingerbread man in front.
Although come to think of it, I haven't seen that gingerbread man for several days! Uh oh, I'm suspecting the work of FD. Who is FD? Well, you'd have to read this post to understand.
As for our friends' house ... well, it wasn't a house at all. It was an act of sheer lunacy. Shall post it soon...
This was featured on a site that's new to me -- but has lots of fun tips and ideas!
Monday, December 15, 2008
One nice thing about giving these glazed pecans is that the recipient can eat them as a snack or use them to garnish a salad.
I got this recipe from my cousin, Kristen, who lives in Crystal Lake Illinois, with her great husband and beautiful kids. Thanks Kristen!
Glazed Pecans a la Microwave
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 - 3 cups pecans
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
In a 2-quart microwave safe dish, melt butter on full power in the microwave, about one minute. Stir in sugar and corn syrup. Microwave on full power 3 1/2 minutes, stirring after each 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from microwave and stir in vanilla.
Place nuts in an oblong microwaveable dish. Pour syrup over nuts, stirring to coat well. Microwave on full power 6-7 minutes, stirring after each minute. Nuts should be shiny and appear roasted.
Separate the nuts and spread out on aluminum foil to cool.
Cool and store in a jar.
Well guess what? It was a dumb idea. To add a daily post on top of all the Christmas tasks? Crazy.
Maybe in January...
Saturday, December 13, 2008
I can't say I'm surprised at the accusations, only because I think the restaurant business is one in which workers don't tend to be treated well.
The thing that cracks me up is that he is fighting back like a Top Chef contestant in the bottom three at judges table. In this article, Collichio says that in 20 years of operation, his retaurants have never been accused of wrongdoing and blah, blah, blah other stuff. Well, hello -- most of the people who work in restaurants don't have the means to hire attorneys.
I have no idea or opinion about the lawsuit, truly. Just interesting...
Friday, December 12, 2008
When I saw her last, she made a simple but tasty meal of roast chicken, a winter squash dish, and a salad. In the squash dish, she substituted acorn squash for butternut by mistake (making it a labor of love to peel, seed and chop the thing), but I thought it was one of the best squash dishes I've tasted. I begged her for the recipe and here it is. I think she cut it out of the newspaper. The photo is terrible, because it's of the tiny amount that was left over the next day, just before I gobbled it up for lunch.
Aunt Jean's Acorn Squash
1 acorn squash, about 2 pounds, halved, seeded, peeled and cubed (can also use butternut squash)
1 large sweet onion, halved, cut into wedges
2 Tablespoons canola oil
2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar or maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
3/4 cups dried apricots (can also use prunes, if you can stand them)
3/4 cups large walnut pieces, toasted if desired
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix squash, onion, oil, sugar and cumin in large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Arrange squash mixture in single layer on a well-oiled jelly roll pan. Bake, stirring often, until fork tender and a little golden, about 30 minutes.
Cut apricots into quarters with scissors. Soak in very hot water to soften, about 2 minutes. Mix the squash, apricots and walnuts in a a large bowl.
If preparing in advance, add the apricots and walnuts after the squash is reheated in a hot oven.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I'll keep up with my weekly musings but I'll keep it snappy. Holiday preparations call.
The thing about Stefan loving Jamie is too funny. Does he think he'll recruit her to the other team?
The QuickFire -- tasting soups and naming ingredients in them -- was cool. It reminded me of being with some friends at a cooking class last week. The demo had been a pumpkin risotto, and when we tasted it, we agreed the risotto tasted "off," as something was overpowering all of the other flavors. It took me about 10 minutes of tasting to figure out that it was too much nutmeg -- and I had the recipe right in front of me! I've got to hand it to the chefs for their discerning palates. And it was gratifying to see Stefan get beaten by Hosea.
The Elimination Challenge -- cooking for Gail's bridal shower...
- How cool is Gail's job? To get some leading chefs to cook for your bridal shower -- not a bad perk! Think the host had to pay for any of it?
- The theme of the challenge -- something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue -- was clever. Just difficult enough to make it a challenge, but broad enough to let the chefs cook some great food of their own styles.
- The "old" team doing "heirloom" tomatoes was right on the money. The dishes didn't appeal to me but they were smart to start off with dishes that were light.
- The "new" team (mostly Eugene) waaayyyy overthought the challenge and that derailed their food. Haven't they watched the show in the past? The judges will overlook a team bending the rules (with a scolding from Colicchio, perhaps) before they overlook bad food. And it called for "something" new, not an entirely new cuisine. How about something with new potatoes or baby greens? Or incorporating Beaujolais Nouveau?
- Poor Carla. Yes, she has funny expressions but she seems to be a talented chef and a decent human being. Did you see the cute wonton bowls she was making for the salads? Loved them. She did everything she could to not throw her teammates under the bus. But she's going to have to grow a pair (or something) if she's going to stick with the competition for the long haul.
- The "borrowed" team was a good example of using the theme very loosely -- borrowing from someone's culture? The lamb dish looked absolutely gorgeous but those foodie women are a different breed than the women I know. I've never been served lamb at a bridal shower and can't imagine it. In these parts we ladies eat salads and chicken at bridal showers.
- The "blue" team had it the roughest in terms of theme. Using blue cornmeal was clever, as was Fabio's idea of cooking food from the blue ocean. As much as I love Fabio, that dish didn't look or sound very exciting.
- Ariane winning the elimination challenge? Seriously? It seemed like all she did was put the lamb in the oven and take it out! She should have shared her goodies with her team.
- Colicchio is starting to irritate me. "If I could, I'd send all three of you home." If the chef thing ends up going south, he could find a career in being an elementary school lunch lady. Or bus driver. Ha, ha, I can totally picture him in both roles.
- It could be argued that Gene should have been cut because he dreamed up the make-your-own sushi roll and then forgot to explain it to the ladies. It would have been disappointing,though, because it seems like he has a lot of talent. I think the right guy left.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Since I was going to a cookie exchange this week in which we were to bring six dozen cookies, I thought it would be a good chance to try some recipes to see if I could get closer to the recipe.
The cookie on the left was a traditional lemon cookie called Aginoretti. These looked right but they weren't as sweet or tender as the lemon meatballs. The one in the middle was based on Paula Deen's Lemon Blossoms, which have lemon cake mix in them and are made in mini muffin cups. When I made the original recipe, they imploded in the muffin cups, so I'm not sure why I thought they might stay shaped like a ball when I made them into balls and baked them. Duh -- they ended up flat as pancakes. On the right are Easy Glazed Lemon Cookies, which I concocted from a few recipes on the Web. These were lemony and chewy -- the favorites of everyone who tasted the three cookies -- but they still weren't the cookies I was going for. And oh, by the way, they were based on a cake mix, so they were very easy.
At that point, I thought I might be out of luck when it came to making meatball cookies at home. As luck would have it, a lovely person named Jeannie posted a recipe in the comments for my original post about lemon meatball cookies. It sounds promising, and I'm definitely going to give the recipe a try soon.
In the meantime, I'm sending the best cookie of the bunch -- the Easy Glazed Lemon Cookies -- to Foodblogga for inclusion in her 2nd annual Christmas Cookie Roundup. This blogging event is incredible in it size -- last year she had dozens (hundreds?) of cookie submissions from all over the world. If you want a great source for cookie ideas, the roundup, which will continue to accumulate until December 24, is here.
Aginetti (Italian Lemon Drop Cookies)
Adapted from this recipe on Recipezaar
These cookies are traditional Italian cookies, cakey but somewhat dry, and not very sweet.
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
yellow food coloring, optional
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Cream together sugar and shortening. Add eggs and lemon extract and beat well. Add flour, baking powder and salt. Add food coloring, if desired. Mix well. The dough should be soft and sticky.
With a small cookie scoop (mine is about 1 Tablespoon), form balls. Drop balls on greased or parchment-lined cookie sheets, spaced2 inches apart.
Bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until firm and lightly brown. Remove cookies from cookie sheet and allow to cool completely on wire racks.
Glaze as directed below. Store in an airtight container. If you want to freeze the cookies, freeze unfrosted and frost once thawed.
Lemon Blossom Thins
Loosely based on this recipe by Paula Deen
18 1/2-ounce package yellow cake mix
3 1/2-ounce package instant lemon pudding mix
4 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
Zest of 1 lemon
Combine the cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, oil, and lemon zest and blend well with an electric mixer until smooth, about 2 minutes. Refrigerate about 30 minutes so that the dough is easier to work with.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Use a small cookie scoop (mine is about 1 Tablespoon) to form balls. Drop balls on greased or parchment-lined cookie sheets, spaced 3 inches apart.
Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Cool completely on a cooling rack. Glaze as directed below.
Easy Glazed Lemon Cookies
Rah Cha Chow recipe
These turn out flat and chewy, with a crackly top. They pack a powerful lemon punch but aren't overly tart or sweet.
1 (18.25 ounce) package lemon cake mix
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon lemon extract
The zest of 1 lemon
Combine cake mix, eggs, oil, lemon extract, and lemon zest in a large bowl. Mix with an electric mixer until well blended. Refrigerate about 1 hour, until no longer sticky.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
Use a small cookie scoop (mine is about 1 Tablespoon) to form balls. Drop balls on parchment-lined cookie sheets, spaced 3 inches apart.
Bake for 11 - 15 minutes. The bottoms will be light brown and the insides chewy. Cool, then glaze as directed below. Makes about 36 cookies.
Glaze for all three cookies:
3 cups confectioners sugar
juice of 1 lemon
milk, if needed
jimmies or nonpareils, optional (for cake mix cookies)
lemon zest, optional (for Italian cookies)
Combine the confectioner's sugar and lemon juice. Mix with a whisk until smooth. For the two cake mix cookies, the mixture should be somewhat thick -- about the consistency of Elmer's glue. For the Anginetti, it should be thinner, like heavy cream. If it is too thick, add milk, a few drops at a time. If it is too thin, add a little more confectioners sugar.
For the cake mix cookies, use a spoon (like a cereal spoon) to drop the glaze on the cookie, then spread around with the back of the spoon. Leave a little border, as the glaze will spread. Sprinkle with jimmies or nonpareils, if desired. For the Anginetti, put the cookies on the rack and use a spoon to drizzle the cookies with the glaze.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
These had a chewy texture and a nice coconut-y flavor. You wouldn't guess these start with cake mix.
3 cups flaked coconut
1 yellow cake mix
1/2 cup Crisco oil
1/4 c water
1 teaspoon almond extract
Preheat oven 350.
Place 1 1/2 coconut in small bowl; set aside. Combine cake mix, egg, oil, water and almond extract in large bowl. Beat at low speed with electric mixer. Fold in remaining coconut.
Drop rounded teaspoonful dough into reserved coconut. Roll to cover lightly. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute and remove to cooling rack.
Pat's Pecan Tarts
These were the prettiest tiny tarts I've seen! The secret was rolling the crust and cutting it with fluted cookie cutters instead of pressing it into mini muffin tins.
3 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 pound butter, room temperature
1 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup chopped pecans
Mix cream cheese, butter and flour. Chill. Roll thinly and cut with a small fluted cookie cutter. Press into mini muffin tins.
Mix together remaining brown sugar, butter, vanilla and egg. Put 1 teaspoon in each tart. Sprinkle top with chopped pecans.
Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.
Dawn's Peanut Butter Balls
These were some of the best peanut butter balls I've had. My son and I almost came to blows over these. I think her secret is adding extra peanut butter.
2 cups sifted conf sugar
1 cup peanut butter -- she swears Peter Pan is the best -- she says she adds extra, so maybe 1 1/2 cups?
1 stick soft butter
Mix until light & fluffy. Refrigerate until firm. Roll into 1" balls. Refrig again until firm. Melt choc wafers. Roll balls in choco Dry on wax paper.
Marie's Chewy Peppermint Cookies
These were chewy and minty. I liked them ... but I would have loved them if they incorporated some dark chocolate!
1/2 cup margarine (or butter)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
4 Tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon mint extract
red-colored sugar (optional, but looks nice)
3-4 candy canes
Preheat oven to 350. Cream together margarine with sugar and brown sugar until light and creamy. Add vanilla and blend in.
In a separate bowl mix flour, salt and baking soda. Add to sugar mixture. Stir in water as needed. Add more water if necessary if batter is smooth. Blend in mint extract.
Drop spoonfuls of batter on ungreased cookie sheet. Roll in red sugar, if desired. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove cookie sheet from oven and sprinkle with crushed peppermint candy. Return to oven for 2-3 minutes or until candy begins to melt. Remove and cool on wire rack for 20 minutes.
Makes about 2 dozen cookies.
Terri's Salted Nut Bars
I've made these before and they are a yummy combination of buttery crust, sweet butterscotch filling, and salty peanuts. They are one of my favorite bar recipes.
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Blend together (I used my hands):
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 cup butter or margarine, melted
Press into an ungreased 15 X 10 pan (I used 12 by 18). Bake 10 - 12 minutes.
Sprinkle 3 cups of mixed nuts over the crust. (I used a little more because I used a bigger pan.)
While the crust is baking, combine in a small saucepan:
1/2 cup corn syrup
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp water
6 oz. butterscotch chips
Bring to a boil and boil 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour cooked mixture over nuts. (I moved the nuts around to make sure they were in the cooked mixture.) Bake 10 - 12 minutes. When cool, cut into bars.
Monday, December 08, 2008
I liked the salad dressing so much that I used it in another salad. My mom had given me the recipe for a new favorite winter salad with romaine lettuce, pear, apple, Craisins, Swiss cheese, and cashews. I lost the recipe, but remembered that the salad dressing was sweet, so I used the poppy seed dressing instead. The salad was a great combination of textures and flavors.
Red Cabbage Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing
Red Cabbage (Lori used Napa. Both work.)
Poppy seed dressing, to taste
Mix together all ingredients and enjoy!
Winter Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing
I don't measure salad ingredients, so these are guess-timates...
1-2 heads romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
4 ounces Swiss cheese, diced or shredded
1 cup cashews (I used lightly salted)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 apple, diced
1 pear, diced
Poppy seed salad dressing, to taste
Poppy Seed Dressing
Adapted from this recipe on Lori's Lipsmacking Goodness
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Whisk ingredients together. Pour into glass container. Store in the refrigerator.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
The place is called Tadco ... although it is changing its name to Niblack Foods. It is located in the Genesee Valley Regional Market on Jefferson Road in Henrietta.
Inside the warehouse-type building is a tiny store that carries a huge selection of cooking and baking items at very reasonable prices. It carries things that are hard to find in grocery stores -- stuff you see in cooking magazines and on Iron Chef America. As example, I saw gelatin sheets there yesterday -- I know I've seen those used on Iron Chef America, but have no idea what they are used for.
My son and I went shopping for our holiday baking supplies yesterday. As you can see by their display of decorative sugars and jimmies, the storefront and packaging are no-frills. Here are some of the cookie decorating goodies we picked out:
- 14 oz of rainbow nonpareils for $5
- 6 oz of rainbow sanding sugar for $2.75
- 6 oz of gold sanding sugar for $2.75
- 5 oz of green jimmies for $2.75. That's not much more than the itty bitty containers at the grocery store!
Other fun stuff I purchased yesterday:
- whole wheat pastry flour (2 pounds for $2)
- SAF-instant yeast ($4.75 for one pound). The last time I bought SAF-instant yeast was at Williams Sonoma and I paid $7 for just over 4 ounces -- and I considered that a terrific deal over the packets you find at the grocery store. (Yeast, by the way, can be frozen.)
- I'm not going to go on ... my husband reads this blog and I don't want to add up the total!
If you're not a Rochesterian, they have a Web site. It's as no-frills as its storefront, but if you're interested, a link is here. I have never ordered from the Web site, so I can't vouch for its service.
If you are a Rochesterian and go there, keep your eyes peeled, because the market sign has been taken down and a big new building is going up near the road. If you enter the market from Jefferson Road, Niblack Foods is near the back of the market.
(For full disclosure, I am not affiliated with Niblack Foods and I don't know anyone who is.)
Saturday, December 06, 2008
1. I finally broke down and bought a digital SLR camera and am anxiously awaiting its delivery. I've been wanting to improve my food photos and can't get what I want from the two point & shoots ... can't wait to get it!
2. My son's & my cookie recipe was published in Relish Magazine! When the writer called about doing the article, I didn't know what the magazine was, but it's a monthly magazine that is inserted in newspapers across the country. My in-laws saw it in the Buffalo News and my Grandma saw it in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin -- fun! About their photo (since I'm getting a digital SLR, I'm looking at food photos with a more critical eye) ... I love the light and the use of the board ... but they made the cookies longer and thinner than I do ... is it my imagination or do they look kind of ... nah, it must be my imagination.
WAY BIGGER news for my stepsister, Karyn: ... no that's not a photo of her ... that's the actress who has been cast to star in the movie adaptation of her second book, Twenty Times a Lady. Columbia Pictures is set to produce. How cool is that? More about that on Karyn's blog.
And, since she's received mixed press over the years, I wanted to say that it couldn't happen to a better person. She and her sister's family visited us last July. She was a blast to have around and great with all the kids around. Our visitors came to a CRB gig on a summer day when the temperature was way above 90 degrees. While everyone else in the audience was wilting in the shade, Karyn was boogying in the scorching hot sun with her 3-year-old niece. That's just a little example of the fun kind of person Karyn is.
Big news for ANOTHER Karin: My good friend, Karin, is creative in many ways. When she lived nearby, she had the best parties -- Oscars nights with food and prizes related to the nominated movies ... Christmas gatherings with everything beautifully decorated and amazing food ... I miss her parties at this time of year! She also did the coolest crafty things and every so often she'd inspire me to do something crafty, like homemade ornaments with the kids.
Anyhoo, she recently published TWO cool crafty books:
- Mostly Metals: A Beginner's Guide to Jewelry Design "is a much more accessible jewelry title than most and should be considered the foundation of any beginner's attempt," says the Midwest Book Review.
- Altered You: A Girl's Guide to Personal Style shows tween and teen girls how to alter clothing, accessories, and room decorations to create great new looks with only the simplest sewing and crafting.
These would be be great Christmas gifts if you have adults or preteens/teen girls in your life that are creative/crafty! Just thought I'd mention them!
Back tomorrow with cookie recipes! Have a good Saturday!
Friday, December 05, 2008
It's not that I didn't like leeks. They just struck me as a giant and rather lackluster cousin to the scallion. I had never looked at one and said, "yum."
The recipe that changed my mind was in the October 2008 issue of Bon Appetit, in the column written by Molly Wizenberg (of Orangette).
She rhapsodized about leeks and this stuff she called leek confit. As far as I could tell, leek confit was just a fancy name for leeks sauteed in butter with a little salt. How good could that be?
But I happened to have all the ingredients in the fridge, although the leeks from the final weeks of my CSA delivery had seen better days, so I decided to try it. There wasn't much to it -- wash some leeks well, cut up, and slowly saute in butter. When they were done, they didn't look all that impressive -- just some sauteed leeks.
In the magazine, Molly went on to include the leek confit in a tart but I didn't feel like dealing with the whole tart business. Instead, I did one of the alternatives she suggested -- cut up a baguette, spread it with a spreadable goat cheese (and not a very good one), and slather it with those leeks.
Oh yum. Double yum. OMG yum. The leeks were buttery with a oniony, faintly herbal flavor and a good contrast to the tangy goat cheese. I ended up eating it for dinner (BTW, don't do that -- it's a little too rich for dinner). My 13-year-old son tried some and said, "this might be my new favorite food," and then devoured the rest of the batch.
I am dying to take this to an upcoming holiday party, but I'm pondering the logistics of serving it. The confit (and yes, I think it's good enough to bear the fancy name) is best served warm, but if I make the crostini and put them out, the leeks will cool off pretty quickly. I guess I could take the bread, the goat cheese, and the confit in something that would keep it warm, and let the guests make up their own crostini. Or maybe I should move on to make Molly's tart. We'll see. In any case, I'm happy that next year, when I open up a bag and see leeks, I'll say, "yippee -- leek confit!"
I'm sending this to Thursday Night Smackdown for her first Thursdays blogging event. On the first Thursday of the month, bloggers make recipes from their collections of cookbooks and magazines. This month's theme is hors d’oeuvres. I can't wait to check the blog on Monday (December 10) for some more appetizer ideas for upcoming holiday parties!
from Bon Appétit,October 2008
Recipe by Molly Wizenberg
I served it warm on slices of baguette spread with goat cheese. Molly said to serve it warm with fillets of salmon, in scrambled eggs or pasta, or on crostini with goat cheese.
Yield: Makes 2 cups
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
4 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 5 cups)
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Melt butter in large pot over medium-low heat. Add leeks; stir to coat. Stir in water and salt. Cover pot; reduce heat to low. Cook until leeks are tender, stirring often, about 25 minutes. Uncover and cook to evaporate excess water, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve warm. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 week ahead. Keep chilled. Rewarm before using.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Then I read that Fabio netted me 10 points in the online Top Chef Fantasy game. That's great, but my two gals netted a negative 7. My fantasy season isn't looking good. Oh well....
Just a few observations about the Rocco episode...
Am I right or have they started showing Ariane eating breakfast at the beginning of every episode? At least she's not eating yogurt with a huge spoon. And is it my imagination, or do they always play scary music whenever they show her?
Quick Fire: a Breakfast Amuse Bouche
- Rocco, Rocco, Rocco ... I'm still not sure what I think of Rocco. He was so arrogant in "The Restaurant." And such a lame dancer, although I guess I give him credit for trying.
- Fabio says that what he likes for breakfast is something "zweet," like brioche, some fruit, and some cappuccino. Yum. I personally thought his strategy of going sweet when the others were going savory was a good move, and what he made looked yummy. Guess the judges didn't agree. Either way, I predict Fabio is going to become a star from this. The combination of his looks, his charm and his accent ... I'd watch him on a cooking show any day of the week.
- Stefan's eggshell presentation idea was clever. So was Daniel's stuffed zucchini blossom, even though the execution didn't work. Many of the others seemed to do, ''a piece of toast, bacon, and some bullsh1t egg," as Fabio put it. They all looked the same to me, but two were in the top three, so what do I know.
Elimination Challenge: a cooking demo for home cooks
- They announce that the challenge is a demo suitable for live TV, and then immediately cut to Carla with her crazy eyes. But you know, I like her. She seems to be an up, caring human being. Her wacky stuff makes her interesting
- Then they go to Whole Foods ... Whole Foods, Schmole Foods ... Wegmans is at least as good as they are, and they should have shown Wegmans in Rochester last week. I'm still bummed about that. And oh, by the way, what would happen at Wegmans or Whole Foods if WE asked to go behind the counter and cut our own fish or meat? Yeah, I don't think so.
- Ariane does a simple salad with tomato, watermelon, feta and basil oil. I've had a similar salad and I just do not like the combo of watermelon and tomato. They give her a cheer for finishing with 14 seconds left. What???!!! On live TV, that would be an uncomfortably long period of dead air or filler chattering. It shouldn't have been a race as to how fast they could do the demo. Thumbs down to the judges for not calling her on that.
- Jamie's salad of a duck egg, bacon "lardon" and caviar seemed out of whack for a demo to home cooks. I don't think I've ever seen a duck egg -- even at Wegmans -- but I could be wrong. And I don't know lots of home cooks who use caviar. And the uncooked egg white - ugh.
- Am I the only one who thought that the caption said that Jeff worked at D!ldo Beach Club? I had to do a double take when it came up. Either way, I don't care for him or his attitude.
- Fabio's tuna looked beautiful with that crust. I hate tuna cooked that way, with just a little sear on the outside, but boy was it pretty. When they asked when he came from Italy, he answered, "I'm fresh outta da boat." Cute.
- Tom spit out Melissa's habanero shrimp. This must be the year of judges spitting out food. I was sure she was going home.
The judges' discussion about the contestants bugged me -- to judge them based on their personalities? So they've gone from elements of Hell's Kitchen (last week's losers cleaning the kitchen) to elements from The Next Food Network Star. The thing I like about Top Chef is that people are not made-for-TV personalities. They are kind of hardcore, which is what's cool about them. I'm not crazy about that twist, but I think the elimination was about the food.
In the end, Ariane wins with a simple salad and a too-short demo. She seemed pleased with herself for winning ... but let's remember she has done well for roasting a turkey and making a salad I've had several times. As much as I'd like to see the gal in her 40s do well, I'm not seeing it yet.
Melissa or Alex-- either elimination would have been ok. Still too many chefs to keep track of... although I might have sent Alex packing for the flood pants with the green socks.
I meant to watch Ariane on the Today show this morning ... did anyone catch it?
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
This is really a recipe that can be fun and creative -- not to mention tasty, if you like the sweet/salty combination the way I do.
You can melt packaged caramels or make homemade caramel. You can press all kinds of things into the caramel -- mini M&Ms (shown here), various chopped nuts, or various chopped candy bars. Then drizzle it with whatever chocolates, chocolate chips or melting wafers you have on hand. (Some chips, like white chips, don't seem to melt very well, so you may want to experiment.) In this case I had dark chocolate and red candy melting wafers (or whatever you call those things). The only thing I'd say is that dark chocolate can tend to overwhelm everything else, so I'd suggest sticking with semisweet or milk chocolate.
I am sending this to My Kitchen Treasures (a blogger from Belgium) for her ongoing compilation of homemade Christmas gifts from the kitchen. If you're looking for some gift ideas from the kitchen, her roundup can be found here. She will keep adding entries until December 20, so check back from time to time!
Triple Dipped M&M Pretzels
14 oz bag of caramels
2 Tbsp milk
10 oz bag pretzel rods
1 package mini M&Ms
10 oz semisweet chocolate chips or almond bark
10 oz white almond bark or colored candy melting wafers
2 Tablespoons shortening
Unwrap caramels and put them in a microwave-safe bowl. Add milk. Microwave on high for about three minutes or until melted, stirring after each minute.
Dip each pretzel into caramel mixture, covering about two-thirds of the pretzel. Let caramel drip off slightly. Spoon or roll some of the M&Ms onto the caramel on the pretzel, pressing lightly with back of a spoon. Let stand on nonstick foil or foil coated with cooking spray (NOT waxed paper -- it will stick!)
Move the pretzels to a wire cooling rack, arranging them so that there's a little space between each of them. Microwave the chocolate chips or bark, along with 1 Tablespoon of shortening, stirring after each 30 seconds, until melted. Drizzle the chocolate over the pretzels. Refrigerate until firm. Turn the pretzels so that a different side is up. Microwave the white or colored bark or wafers with 1 Tablespoon of the shortening, stirring after each 30 seconds, until melted. Drizzle over the pretzels. Refrigerate until firm. Keep melting and drizzling until the pretzels are to your liking. Package in decorative gift bags.
Monday, December 01, 2008
I made this last year for little gifts for the members of CRB (my band). I figure it's easy to OD on cookies and candies at this time of year and it's nice to get something that's a little different. Come to think of it, I never did hear how they liked it. Hmmmm....
From Culinary in the Desert
15 cups popped popcorn
1 cup butter
2 cups packed brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line two large baking dishes (I used 9 X 13 pans) with foil and coat with cooking spray. Fill each with 7 1/2 cups popcorn.
Combine butter, brown sugar, molasses, corn syrup, ginger, cinnamon, and salt in a large, heavy bottom saucepan. Heat over medium heat until mixture boils. Boil for 5 minutes; stirring frequently. Remove from heat and add baking soda. Pour over popcorn; toss to coat.
Bake at 250 for one hour, carefully stirring the warm mixture about every 15 minutes. Cool completely.
I'm sending this to Ruth's Kitchen Experiments for her Bookmarked Recipes blog event. Every Monday she posts recipes that have been bookmarked from Web sites, cookbooks, magazines, etc.