Friday, December 27, 2013

Happy New Year

Pin It
Homemade pita!

Ah, another year over.  It was an interesting one.  Here are a few highlights.  In January I made homemade pita bread with some Greek chicken.  Christina was back at school and called and scolded me for not making this when she was home.  I made it again a few weekends later when she came home, and it did not disappoint!

In February I made a new friend.  I made cookies for her KD daughter and we chatted for over an hour at my kitchen table.  We wondered out loud how we went so long not knowing one another?!  She has become a great friend, a great walking partner and we share an occasional beer over Bachelor/Bachelorette shows.  Don't judge, that's our job!  Maybe in 2014 she and I will hike a canyon or two....

In March I jumped up on my soap box about my little criminal.  You can read it here, but sadly, almost 10 months later, she is still going through our very slow court system.  Oh well.  I try not to think about this episode, it makes me lose faith in people.

In April I shook off the winter doldrums by making some of the prettiest cookies ever.  A colorful shower,  Ole Miss engagement platter, which I was nervous about since they are red, white and blue,  but were very pretty.  My new friend from February?  Her parents both turned 80 in April and I was thrilled to make 80 candle cookies for Geez and Gumps!  And the month was topped off by a Southern party combo....Sip and See/Piano Recital. Some pretty cute cookies for my friend from Pure Barre!

In May  I opened my heart to you.  You'll enjoy it, really.  I made a jillion cookies, all designs, and they were pretty fun, and we ate hot dogs four ways.  They were memorable and delicious!

The All American Dog

In June I made more graduation cookies, and cookies for my favorite store.  Ironic, as I am working the liquidation sale at said store right now.  Sad.  But more on that later.

July is my favorite month.  The Fourth, my and Christina's birthdays, the hottest, longest days of the year...Ahhh,  But, in trying to keep my resolutions, my first stage play was produced.  I am a playwright.  Pretty cool seeing your words come alive on stage.

In August, I didn't blog much, but what I did was yummy!  We traveled quite a bit, but at home we ate the most delicious Turkey Burgers, my favorite BLT Salad, and my sister wanted Hobbit Cookies, so I obliged and garnered a new group of fans, and became a One Ring fan myself.

September is the start of college football, and I posted some Sooner cookies that I had neglected to post the year before!  But I also had a revelation in September.  I needed a project.  Since I was 10 months from my big 5-0, I decided to start blogging my favorite, most influential, funny and iconic chefs that have shaped me.  So it began, with my Mom,  the founder of my workplace, Chuck Williams,  Dinah Shore, Deborah Madison and the Sussman Brothers.  I have to make a recipe I have never made, and it has been one of the most enriching projects ever.  So much good food!

My Mom and Sookie

October.  We were pretty busy following our favorite Millsap Major digging on the VB court, so my few blogs were all about the 50 chefs.  Ina,  The Silver Palate and Paul Prudhomme.  Sadly, there were no bat or witch cookies, and trick or treating was a bust.  November rolled in with a vengeance.

This is the time of year that I put my head down and dive into the holidays.  I decorate early so I can enjoy it, I did blog Giada,  and I made a few cookies.  But really, I work the holidays, I know there was a turkey.  You know November can be sort of blurry.

We had a great volleyball season....lots of cookies!

And then the wind was knocked out of me in December.  My Williams Sonoma store is closing.  We got the news a week into December.  In the height of my 17th Williams Sonoma Christmas.  It was devastating.  Once the shock wore off, I looked at it as an opportunity.  New possibilities.  Who knows.  I know I need to write, and bake, and write a play, and visit my parents.  I hope to work at the Outlet here, and keep my fantastic discount since I am nowhere near finished shopping!  There is a new business on the horizon and a new city for my son.  He was just leaving home when I started this blog.  I wrote about how sad I was to leave him on his college adventures, but now I am thrilled (and a little sad) for his grown up adventures.  So here's to 2014.  Here's to new adventures, new friends, travels, opportunities and to anyone who takes time to read this, I hope you enjoy what I have to say as much as I enjoy putting it down for you!  Be safe and we will see you in the New Year!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Catalan Caganer

Pin It
I bought this charming nativity in a little Catalan village called Figueres.

So, the year winds down.  And what a year.  A graduation, a job loss/change, a new city for my son, and an untimely death of a special relative.  So when I put up my nativity I bought in Figueres Spain, I most definately put in my Caganer.

See that red cap hiding behind the fence???
 This strange addition to a nativity may be offensive to some.  However, in the Catalan region of Spain, it is quite commonplace and has been around since the 17th Century.  Children love to search the nativity for the hidden Caganer.  Mine, is a traditional Catalan man, and yes, he is doing a Number 2.  You see in many cultures, poo, is a sign of good luck as it fertilizes the earth and ensures a good harvest for the coming year. is exactly what you think.
He's hiding out of respect for the birth of Christ, but he is in all the nativities in this part of Spain!

All over Barcelona and the surrounding region, you find these little figurines for sale.  The most popular is the traditional Catalan man, but you can find many famous politicians, soccer players, celebrities and even Elvis.  I would have bought him had I found him!  But I bought the traditional fellow, and every year he is hidden behind a little fence in my nativity.  His defecating is a reminder that no matter what may have transpired this year, it lays the groundwork for the success of the coming year.  Out with the old and in with the new.  So, to you, a very Merry Christmas and a blessed and prosperous New Year.  See you on the other side.  Stick around, we have about 40 chefs to cover before I turn 50!!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

My New Chapter For 2014

Pin It

Anyone who cooks and shops knows this is the uniform of Williams Sonoma.
 The Christmas season is that one time of year when you just don't want any curve balls.  Many of us have so much on our plate that we tend to get through the parties, the shopping, the work schedules and the day to day with our head down.  Often, it seems, I look up, and the New Year is here.  This Christmas season, a curve ball came.  It hit me square in the chest.

My Williams Sonoma family and I were told that our store would be closing.  The close out sale starts next week.  Breathe.

This was not some job for me.  This is my second family.  We are a cast of characters that have been together for over 16 years, this is my 17th Christmas with WS.  Hopefully some of us will be placed at the local outlet.  For some, this will be the end.  That's when my chest hurts.  I don't want to leave. To put this in perspective: When I started, Christina was in Pre-School, today she is halfway through Junior year of COLLEGE.  See what I mean.  Breathe.

I made these for a corporate visit last year.
I have really only ever had 3 jobs since I graduated from college.  Proctor and Gamble, Bristol Meyers, and this.  My selling, stocking, display building, truck unloading, cooking class instructor, job.  It has defined me for so many years.  People stop me in the supermarket, in line to vote, and at other stores, "Aren't you the gal from Williams Sonoma?"  People ask me for dinner ideas, how to cook things and bridal registry tips.  I have had customers come in looking for Pernigotti Cocoa and Neilsen Massey vanilla because "the blog" said it would be the best for her cookies.  She was referring to my blog!  I have helped the same old gals with their Christmas shopping and their packages for years.  I have waited on Steve Harvey, Ginnifer Goodwin, Steven Segal, Loren Roberts and countless local chefs.  I remember when Justin Timberlake and then girlfriend Brittany Spears shopped our plaza, although they were obviously not into cooking (they skipped our store).  And of course I met the man, Chuck Williams, whose dream I worked in.

Grande Cuisine.  Most people don't know what this symbol means.

I don't know what will happen.  We go day to day.  But when I was all teary talking to Christina, she said, "Mom, look at it as a new chapter".  She's right.  (Hopefully not a whole new book!)  But it is a new chapter.  It's going to hurt long after the doors are locked and a new business opens there, but it also feels okay, sort of.  It feels great to know I have worked side by side with so many amazing people.  I have learned so much about business, cooking, retail, and people along the way.  I learned people will surprise you everyday if you open your heart.  I have been hurt too, that goes hand in hand.  The unhappy customers (one made me cry), the thief, the snotty brides (few and far between, but my land, mean!).  But when you hold a job, any job, heck, even a marriage for 16+ years, there is something you just can't walk away from.  And that is the imprint of all those years and all those people.  I am a better person because of every single day I worked there.  My new chapter is unnamed as of yet.  But it's mine, and I will do my best to make is as good as the last, long one.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

50 Chefs For 50 Years, #11 Richard Sax Part One, Farmer's Market Veggie Soup

Pin It

I admit the color isn't appealing, but this soup is amazing on a cold day!

Back at the 50 chefs, and I have just about 7 months to finish.  Yikes!   This one is pretty relevant to me.  Back in 1994, I was given one of my all time favorite books.  Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax.  305 recipes, all desserts, all so thoroughly researched.  Historic recipes, friend's recipes, some of his own personal favorites.  So why, you are wondering, am I making soup?  His last book which was published after his death, is where the soup recipe comes from.  The book is called Get In There And Cook.  So, if you read my blog, ever, you know this chef made an imprint on me.  He was a prolific writer, so respected in his field, and went to culinary school after he had been an high school English teacher.  The courage to pursue your dream.  Powerful stuff.

I am also the owner of The Cookie Lover's Cookie Book, which is okay.  I love Rose (she is coming up).  Richard's is a small book, and I really dislike cookbooks in the miniature.  But it is a 20 degree December day, and we needed soup.  So I started at Richard's last book.  But I will be back to bake a dessert, you can count on that. So lets get to the soup.

Generally speaking, I am not a big recipe follower for soup, but to honor this man, I decided to try my very best.  I wanted no meat, and this fit the bill perfectly.  I have also made his Pasta e Fagioli from this same book. My notes make it very clear I veered off the path on that one!  But I apparently liked it, and it is a popular blog post.  This soup is packed with flavor, and blending part of it makes it creamy and satisfying.

Where the magic happens...

Farmer's Market Vegetable Soup
adapted from Richard Sax

2 T olive oil
2 medium onions peeled and diced
3 leeks, trimmed and cleaned well, then sliced
6 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
2 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
36 oz. vegetable or chicken stock (I used both)
3/4 cup half and half
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 can fire roasted tomatoes (my idea, I really wanted a little color and acid)
Fresh spinach...however much you like!

Sweat the onions, carrots, leeks, garlic, salt, thyme, pepper flakes and tarragon over low heat for about 10 minutes.  Stir often.  Add the potatoes and broth and bring to a simmer until the potatoes are cooked.
Using an immersion blender or a blender, puree up to one half of the soup and put back into the pot.  Add the cream, nutmeg and tomatoes.  Do not boil again, heat gently until ready to serve.  Add spinach just before serving to wilt.  Season with salt and pepper as desired.

So, I did change up the quantities a little.  Three onions is a lot of onions, and leeks here come in 3's so what to do with that last one?  The carrots were scrawny and I like them, so I doubled it. And the spices are sort of an eyeball guess.  Soup is not a is an art.  So I am creating my own version from his work.  Simmering, the aroma is fantastic and the soup is perfect following an ice storm!  So, as it appears the cold has settled in early and will likely stick around, it's going to be soup season for awhile.  What are you waiting for?  Get in there and cook!  (Thanks Mr. Sax!)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Peppermint and Browned Vanilla Butter Holiday Chip Cookies

Pin It

Chunky, Buttery, Pepperminty....
Yes, I should be rolling out graduation cookies, snowmen and gingerbread houses.  But I needed something quick and festive.  These would be perfect for the jolly, fat man for sure!  You need to make the  browned vanilla butter ahead, but then they come together pretty fast.  I use the Ghiradelli Chips which are a little big, and I love the massive feel they give these cookies.  I also used the M & M Chocolate Peppermint, but I did notice a new white chocolate available.  You could use whatever your family loves!  I sort of adapted these after a Secret Recipe Club from way back, but this is a more manageable size and I love peppermint and vanilla together!

Mix and Match your favorite flavors!

In a small saucepan melt over medium low heat,

2 Sticks Unsalted Butter

Let it simmer gently (be careful of splatters), and the color will slowly change.  You can smell and taste the difference long before it gets brown.  Sadly, if it gets too brown, it tastes burnt.  Turn off the heat and when it no longer is bubbling, add

1 Tablespoon Vanilla Paste

Stir in, and carefully pour the mixture into a jar or shallow dish and chill until firm enough to make cookies.

One of my favorite Christmas gifts...the cake stand.

1/2# browned vanilla butter (that you just made!)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 Cups Flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 pound assorted chocolate chips, chocolate candies, whatever you like!

Cream butter and sugars.  Add egg and vanilla and mix in.  Add dry ingredients and mix in until no flour is visible.  Stir in the chips and things and drop onto cookie sheets covered in parchment or Silpats.  Bake at 350˚ for about 12 minutes.  Switch the pans from front to back and top to bottom midway in baking.  Cool on rack.  Makes 3 dozen big cookies.
What are you waiting for?!  Get in there and bake!

These old Santa cups are just a tad creepy....

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Gift of Food

Pin It
So my last post was gifts for the cook.  These are food gifts for the cook and the baker.  Sometimes people just hedge on spending that extra money for something better quality or cool to have.  So here are a few ideas.  Things I certainly enjoy.

If you read my blog, ever, you know that this is the only vanilla I use.  Nothing else tastes like it, and although it is a little pricier, it is worth every penny.  The vanilla paste is a wonderful treat for someone who makes their own ice cream, meringues, whipped cream...It is basically all those little vanilla bean specks in a sugar based suspension.  It keeps a long time, much longer than vanilla beans, which tend to dry out.  It really eliminates scraping the bean, and there is no waste.

Seasoning your food is paramount.  Maldon sea salt crumbles perfectly on your salads and meat.  And tellicherry pepper is all I would ever put in my grinder.  I never believed there was a difference, but there is.  Truffle and Salt is an expensive addition to a pantry, but nothing tastes as decadent as truffle.  It is amazing sprinkled on pasta, potatoes, even popcorn.  Finally, the tin of Potlatch Seasoning.  We sell out of it often, and for good reason.  It is terrific on salmon, but also makes a yummy sour cream based chip dip and season your chicken with it before you make chicken salad and wow...whole new level of flavor!

My dad buys Hot Rocks in bulk.  We all get them.  It is a chunky salt and pepper mixture with a little lemon in there as well.  It is so good on a steak!  The little jar on the right comes from the St. Helena Olive Oil Company.  It is a darling package with some great herbs inside.  Just add a great olive oil and dip your bread.  I also sprinkle it on pasta.

The baker in your life will thankyou for any of these. Instant espresso powder enhances anything chocolate, but also can bring a great coffee flavor to baked goods without adding any additional liquid.  This is my favorite brand.  Some are very bitter, almost burnt tasting.  The Pernigotti cocoa is something I talk about frequently, it just beats anything from the grocer.  Lyle's Golden Syrup is delicious and beats out corn syrup every time.  And local honey is a gift everyone would love.  Honey has many benefits, and local honey is shown to help with seasonal allergies.  I also love that I support a local bee keeper.

I have sung the praises of Captain Rodney before.  These are usually found in a specialty store, and are fun additions for the holidays.

If your food lover doesn't have a Trader Joe's and you do, here are some suggestions.  I stock up when we go to Nashville.  The nut selection is vast, and priced very well.  Almond meal, raw almonds, sliced almonds, pistachios (out of the shell) and macadamias are some of my favorites.  The white balsamic is my everyday vinegar, I buy 4 bottles at a time.  The peanut butter cups?  Delicious.  I bought them in August and they have been in hiding for 3 months.  I treat myself to one every week or so.  They also usually have some good special chocolate things for the holidays.  I just love this store.  Wish we had one in Memphis....hint hint hint.

So certainly there are lots of other great food items, but this is a good start.  A change from the classic olive oil, bottle of wine or Christmas candy route.  So head and out and make your food lover happy.  You may reap the rewards of your gift as well!  So what are you waiting for?  Shop, and maybe someone else will cook!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Christmas Shopping For The Cook

Pin It
Selling kitchen stuff has been my job for the last 17 Christmas seasons.  I obviously love what I do.  But I also live what I love.  I cook or bake, or both, pretty much every day.  There are many things I use in the kitchen that I believe to be great tools, indispensable in what I like to make.  These have nothing to do with the cookie world, we are talking everyday use...or close!  Most were bought at Williams Sonoma, some are different or no longer available.  I also shop at Crate and Barrel, Sur la Table and Baker's Catalog, etc. so no paid endorsements here.

The Food Lover's Companion is a must have for any foodie.  Really, it is way better than Google when you want to learn about an ingredient or something food related.  It is updated every few years, so if your food lover has a dog eared copy, update it for them.  I have learned a lot from this little book.

I call these tail-gate knives.  They are made by Kuhn Rikon and come in an assortment of colors and blade styles.  Paring, serrated utility, bird's beak, even cleavers.  They are metal blades and are very sharp.  And if you are smart enough to wash and dry and put its little protective sleeve back on, they will stay sharp.  I always travel with one.  They run about $10 and are handy to peel an apple on the go.  Toss one in your tail-gating box or glove compartment and always be ready!

These juicers have changed form many times over the last few years, but it really beats a reamer for juicing a lemon or lime.  They aren't terribly expensive, and I feel like I can really wring out the citrus with it.

I have acquired a lot of cookware over the last 16 years, and this grill pan is my latest.  It is called a Komin and is a light weight cast iron.  I love the thin ridges on it, as I can get great grill marks on my meat and vegetables indoors.  It cleans up like a breeze. Runs about $100.  All my old grill pans are gone!
You will also see 2 measuring containers.  Neither one is from WS, but I use them all the time.  The one on the right is a plunger mechanism, and if you are measuring peanut butter, syrup, Crisco or anything dense it pushes right out.  Comes apart for easy cleaning and has lots of measurement capabilities all around it, including liquid and dry.  Yes, they are different!  The small glass beaker is also for liquids, and when I need 6 Tablespoons of something this is what I use.  I do use this for every cookie recipe I own!  The small wooden spoon is made of olive wood, and is rather flat.  It is for avocados.  Can I get an avocado out of its skin without it?  Yes.  But it is a beautiful piece of wood, was really cheap, and slides that gorgeous green flesh out perfectly every time.  Finally is the Microplane grater.  Do not accept any substitutes.  This is the original which zests citrus in a flash.  I also like the snowy fluffs of parmesan cheese it makes.  And it's made in Arkansas.  USA.

If the cook in your life is buying jarred garlic, please buy them a garlic press.  You will thank me.  Nothing tastes like the real thing.  After you squeeze your garlic, let the press sit on the counter for an hour or so.  The garlic remnants inside will dry up like parchment paper and fall right out.  The wash in soapy water.  Like just about everything on this not put it in the dishwasher.

Inexpensive things I use all the time.  Ramekins.  I have made creme brulee in them once or twice, but I pour hot bacon grease in them and the chill until it is hard and pops out into the trash, I use them for mise en place when I am cooking, I use them to store leftovers, lay out pizza toppings, eat juicy food out of them so it doesn't touch other things on my dinner plate.  These can go in the dishwasher.  Mine are Apilco, French porcelain, and will outlive me.  The blue and red things are the greatest for sealing up bags of powdered sugar and brown sugar.  Spring loaded and easy to use...they come 3 in a set, but buy more.  People steal them.  I am guessing Bed Bath and Beyond for these.  And finally tongs.  Once you use them, you can't live without them!  These have silicone tips so they don't scratch a non stick pan.  You can get them stainless too.  Buy 2 pair.  Trust me.  And they don't have to be expensive.

This photo should go under food gifts, but I have to brag on the BonJour blender.  Battery operated, I use it every day to emulsify my salad dressings.  I also use it to mix up sauces.  It has a home in the top drawer, and I buy batteries in the jumbo pack.  Hands down beats any salad dressing maker out there.
And what to season your life with?  Penzey's of course.  I am a big fan.  The cinnamon is flavorful and they offer many kinds.  The salt free Mural of Flavor, Tuscan Sunset and Sunny Spain are fantastic.  My hubby loves their cinnamon sugar, and the Black and Red Pepper blend is my go to for everything.  Heat and flavor!  If you sign up for the catalog you get coupons to try free jars about 4 times a year!

I have seen both of these tools on lists of ridiculous kitchen gadgets.  But if you eat mangoes or pineapple, they make your life a lot easier.  Both do the job, and for the price, you can't beat them.  The one on the left will core and slice a pineapple like nobodies business.  I don't care how good your knife skills are, it is awesome.  The mango pitter on the right makes a very messy job much easier, and I get so much more mango to use in my salsa.

My favorite knife.  The shape is a Santoku, a flat Asian blade that makes any knife work a breeze.  This particular brand is Shun (pronounced shoon...really), and I love everything about it.  No matter what kind of knife you buy, hold it in your hand, understand how and who is going to sharpen it for you when the time comes and NEVER, EVER, put it in the dishwasher.  Or else.  The cutting boards....4 for $10.  I have gorgeous wood boards I use all the time, but these are great for cleaning meat, chopping juicy pomegranates, stinky onions etc.  They are thin, fit in a drawer on top of other stuff, go on the top rack of the dishwasher.  Sometimes I use them all prepping dinner.  No cross contamination of flavors, meat juices, anything.  Not designed to last forever, but they make easy work of a big chopping job.

Finally, this book.  I have bought a number of them for Christmas gifts, and if you come to visit me, there is a good chance I will take you to Hog and Hominy to eat some of this amazing food.  It is very on trend, and the chefs are honestly 2 of the nicest guys you would ever meet.  I will be giving away a signed copy of their book before Christmas, so stay tuned!!!

So, what are you waiting for?  Get out there in the madness, stimulate the economy, SHOP for the food lover in your life!  I'll be the one in the green apron....

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

50 Chefs for 50 Years and Giada's Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Pin It

 The House Smells Like Fall!
Giada.  What can I say.  She is one of the smallest Italian women, ever.  I have seen her appearances on the various morning shows, and her cookbooks have been a staple at the store since she started writing them.  I own a few myself.  I like her approach to food, family and her books are pretty straight forward, even a little basic.  She seems like an instinctive cook (which I am; open the vegetable drawer and invent dinner), and her books are written in a way you can change ingredients and understand how things go together.

Another in my vast collection!

This week was my last cooking class of the year, as Thanksgiving looms!  It was a cookbook club class featuring Giada's newest book: Giada's Feel Good Food.  A cookbook, yes, but also a lifestyle book to answer the question she is most often asked: How does a chef (she went to the Cordon Bleu) stay so darn thin!?  It isn't a diet book, no fear, but rather a book full of healthy recipes (nothing artificial), gorgeous pictures and plenty of great information.  It was really one of my favorite classes, likely because it was topped off by Pumpkin Spice Cookies.  I loved them!  I decided to make them at home with a few changes, but lets break them down first.

The original recipe calls for all purpose flour which we used in class and was fine.  I made my home version with Spelt Flour and it was seamless.

The recipe also calls for Raw Sugar.  We used a Demerara Sugar when we made them in class, and I opted for Light Brown Sugar at home, both produced fine results.

The recipe also calls for Raisins, and well, I opted for chocolate chips.  Yes, really.  I love pumpkin and chocolate, and I decided this was going to be my one pumpkin baked good this season, so I went for it.  And the results were just delicious!

At the store we used our famous Pumpkin Butter instead of canned pumpkin.  I was out of pumpkin butter at home, so had to go canned pumpkin.  I bumped up the spices to try and make up for the depth of flavor found in our pumpkin butter, but I would use pumpkin butter it if at all possible.  The recipe calls for 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin, and this really bugs me.  That amount is less than half a can, and what are you going to do with the rest?

And here's where my "aha" moment came.  Prior to class, one of the managers does the grocery shopping for class.  He goes through the scullery for ingredients and lays them all out for me, and there on my cart was a bag of whole allspice.  The recipe of course, calls for ground.  So as I was prepping, I got out the mortar and pestle and ground it up.  Wow!  The aroma was intoxicating, almost overwhelming.  And that came through in the baked cookie in the most delicious, fall-flavored way!  I have been a big fan of fresh nutmeg, fresh ginger, even fresh ground cinnamon, but this was a first.  I immediately went out and bought whole allspice and will never have it anyway but fresh ground again!

Smellavision would be good right about now!

Here's the recipe as written, and my substitutions.

Spiced Pumpkin Cookies
by Giada, adapted by me

1 cup all purpose flour  (I used 1 cup spelt flour)
2/3 cup old fashioned oatmeal
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I used 2)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (I used 3/4 teaspoon of fresh ground)
3/4 cup Raw Sugar (I used light brown sugar)
1/2 cup canned pumpkin (I used half a can, but you should use Williams Sonoma Pumpkin butter instead!)
1/3 cup safflower oil
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla (I used 2 of the best vanilla...)
1/2 cup raisins (Ew. I used chocolate chips)

Mix the flour through the all spice in one bowl.  Use a whisk to make sure there are no clumps.  In another bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients except raisins, and again whisk to make sure your sugar isn't clumping.  Finally mix the bowls into one, and stir it up well.  Add your chocolate chips or raisins (or both!).  Drop onto parchment covered baking sheets, and bake about 15-18 minutes at 350˚.  Cool thoroughly before packing into airtight containers. Makes about 30 cookies.

If you have been around awhile, you may have read a similar recipe for Pumpkin Cookies and a nostalgic little story.  Don't tell Betty, but Giada's cookies are tastier! It must be the fresh allspice!  What are you waiting for?  Get in there and bake!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Cookie Round Up, So You Don't Think I Gave Up on The Sweet!

Pin It
So fall means sports around here.  And while football is king, volleyball rules in this house, but a friend has a daughter off to play lacrosse in Vermont.  I was delighted to make these for their fall game vs. Harvard~

U of Vermont Lacrosse team had these at the Harvard tailgate!

My friend's children are all at football powerhouse schools!

We had a great volleyball season....lots of cookies!
I didn't get around to Halloween cookies yet again....but I did whip these up for my sister.  I sent her mor Hobbit cookies, below, and she wanted a little something for her!  Last year I made them speckled and they were gorgeous.  But time got the best of me here.

I put these in a box for my sister...these were just snacking cookies for her!
 I love this platter for baby Camp's shower.  Very sweet, fun colors.

A sweet combo of colors for a baby boy's shower

And yes, more of the Hobbit.  You may have seen my previous post on the cookies that went to a Hobbit employee my sister works with in LA.  She asked if I would send more for her to send to another co worker, in New Zealand!  You know, home of the Hobbit!  So I was happy to make them again.  I love the inside of the Hobbit door as much as I love the outside!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

50 Chefs and Paul Prudhomme and Mirliton Pirogue Stuffed With Shrimp

Pin It


 So here we go again.  50 Chefs for 50 Years continues.  Today, Paul Prudhomme and his book Louisiana Kitchen.  He is the godfather of Cajun cuisine, and I remember the day I got this book.  I had never been to New Orleans, but blackened fish was all the rage when we moved to Atlanta in 1991, and I really wanted to explore this cuisine.  This book was on a list of the 50 greatest cookbooks of all times, and  I guess as Louisiana cooking goes, it really is the authority.  However, I have never cooked a thing out of it.  It is rather complicated, lots of steps, and it wasn't food I had a lot of experience with.  So now that I am older and wiser, here we go.

We have a lot of families on my daughter's volleyball team from Louisiana, and I was talking to them about Mirlitons.  I wish I could give you a pronunciation, because a Louisiana native doesn't pronounce it the way it is spelled.  At all.  It's like mel-i-tone.  Not sure where that R went to.  Anyway, some friends brought me a basket of them, and here I am. They are also called chayote, but I have yet to see them in my local grocer under any name.   I followed Chef Prudhomme's recipe to prep these, by boiling them until tender.  Then I cooled, peeled and cored them, reserving the pulp for the filling.

Here's what I learned.  They look like a squash, but are not starchy at all.  They are actually in the cucumber family. Also called a vegetable pear.  The flesh is sweet and bright, and they are not easy to scoop out into perfect little Pirogues.  What's a Pirogue, you ask?  I know this only because I watch Swamp People.  A Pirogue is the boat they use in the swamp, very shallow hull, and here is a great photo of one.  My Pirogue (pronounce pee-row), will be filled with shrimp and andouille.  I left out the Tasso and Oyster Hollandaise for a couple of reasons.  First, it would make a simple dish that already has a few steps in it, much more complicated,  and second, it calls for a pound of butter, 4 egg yolks and 1/4 cup margarine.  I have seen Chef Prudhomme on Top Chef this season, and I am going to guess this gentleman isn't eating a lot of hollandaise these days.  He was a large man when this book was published and he is easily half his weight now.  So I too opted out of all that fat.  I thought without the hollandaise, I would get a better flavor of the mirlitons, the andouille and the shrimp!  I was right.

Before we get into the details of the recipe, I have to tell you, I LOVE these.  The mirliton after it was boiled and peeled was delicious.  Really.  The flavor is hard to put my finger on, but I think it could go sweet or savory.  It enhances other flavors, like the spicy andouille, and they fried, yes fried to a gorgeous crispy treat.  The meat was delicious with it.  My next adventure will be boiling them and maybe making a cajun fry baked in the oven this time.  I made extra seasoning, so there'll be plenty of flavor!  A new favorite here for sure!

Mirliton Pirogue Stuffed with Shrimp

2 large Mirlitons
1/2 cup milk
1 egg beaten
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

I doubled this because I know it will be good on sweet potato fries, brown rice, chicken... 

Seasoning Mix

1 T salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried basil

vegetable oil for frying

One andouille would have been plenty, but there were only 2 in the case.  I felt guilty buying just one.

3 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup andouille sausage (I used 2 links)
1/2 pound peeled shrimp

Boil the mirlitons in a large pot of water until they are fork tender.  Rinse and cool.  Slice down the middle and peel and deseed.  Scoop out extra pulp so you have a 1/2 inch thick shell.  If you make the mirlitons ahead, simply cover and chill them until ready to use.

Fry the sausage until the meat is cooked through.  Add the and extra mirliton pulp and the shrimp and cook until the shrimp are cooked through.  Turn off heat and set aside.

The Dipping Stations
Add 2 teaspoons of the seasoning mix to both the flour and the panko, and mix well.  Make stations for your dipping process.

One pirogue is plenty!
Add enough vegetable oil to a deep skillet so it is about 1/4" deep.  Dip the mirliton pirogues into the seasoned flour first, then into the egg, then into the seasoned Panko.  Fry in hot oil until crispy, flip and fry on the other side.  Drain on paper towels or brown bags.  Fill with the shrimp andouille mixture and enjoy!!! An Abita Beer or root beer from New Orleans would be a great addition!!

Check out the prior chefs in my 50 Years and 50 Great Cooks/Chefs.