Friday, December 31, 2010

Ringing in the New Year

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The family on Christmas Eve.

Well, here we are on the cusp of 2010. A pretty good year all around for our family. A few challenges, but that's what keeps us aware of our many blessings. Today is my baby's 21st birthday, an amazing milestone, that, he surprisingly does not want to spend at home. But we still have a 17 year old that has to have a social agenda chock-full, so we told her to invite her crew over tonight, we have a few adults coming over, and a spread of all that is bad in the food world today. I really thought about doing a fabulous beef tenderloin, a sweet potato gratin, champagne punch etc. But the truth is my kids, their friends and my husband want finger food. Pick up and go. Nothing crazy. I get it. We are not the kind of family that makes a counter full of appetizers to watch a football game, except today I make appetizers and we will enjoy the last weekend of the holidays before school starts, work sets in and life goes back to normal.

First off, everyone will receive their red underwear for breakfast. Red must be worn against the body as the New Year rings in to ward away evil spirits. All over Italy, red underwear are everywhere following Christmas. It is a bit more of a challenge here to find things that are, shall we say, appropriate? I will not take photos of our new drawers to share. They are quite tasteful, take my word on this.

So the party: No teenage get together is complete without Rotel. Now in the South, that means a couple of cans of Rotel (tomatoes and peppers) dumped into a brick of Velveeta and melted in a crock-pot. I will add some Italian sausage since it's a "special occasion". This is one of the main food groups in the South, and I am certain I am in violation of some law because I am not serving pulled pork butt with it. However, I am brining some pork tenderloins to toss on the grill and slice onto little rolls. There will also be some sliders for the kids left over from the last party.

Another Southern New Year's tradition is the black eyes peas. Now most prople I know who make them cook them with bacon and maybe some greens, onions, whatever. I have opted for a little Texas Caviar. I snagged the recipe from Epicurious and I love it. You can get the core recipe here, Texas Caviar from the Cowgirl Hall of Fame and my own vinaigrette. I have never been to the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, but my friend's mom is in it. How cool is that? Dixie Moseley. Right now there is an exhibit at the museum on aprons. I know a food blogger/sewer who would love to see that, ME! Back to the peas. Any constant reader knows I didn't follow the recipe. I used 4 cans of beans, cilantro instead of parsley, 4 jalapenos, and an orange and a yellow pepper along with what it actually called for. As far as the dressing, apparently Epicurious took off the one that was originally on the site. I used a dried Penzey's salad dressing base and some white balsamic (for sweetness) and cider vinegar, and of course olive oil. Then put it in the fridge so they can mingle for a few hours. It is best on Fritos scoops, which I normally hate, but they can hold the weight of the beans. I am addicted to baked Tostitos, but you have to set the beans on the chip because they are far too fragile to scoop it up!

I am also making some marinated cheese. A recipe from my friend Claudia which I have changed over time as well. Here is my version:
Slice up your favorite cheese. I like fresh mozzarella, goat cheese, white cheddar, even cream cheese works. You want cheese that can take on bold flavors. Lay them in a shallow dish so they look good. Plating is so not my thing. Then top with some marinated artichoke hearts, some green olives, maybe some sun dried tomatoes. Then make up a vinaigrette with ¼ cup balsamic, ¼ cup olive oil, a clove of garlic, a teaspoon of sugar, 2 chopped green scallions and a jar of pimentos, drained. Pour over the cheese and garnish with fresh parsley and basil and let sit at room temp for an hour before eating on bruschetta. YUM!

I am also conceding to the cream cheese and jam business. There is this awesome grocery in Castle Rock, CO between Denver and the Springs. Tony's Market on Happy Canyon Road. What's not to like? A guy named Tony must be a paesono and what a great street name! Anyway Scott went for a sandwich and they were sampling Blueberry Jalepeno Jam on cream cheese. He was reeled in and brought a jar home for tonight.

The sweet stuff is chocolate fondue, cookies and cream cupcakes and red velvet cupcakes with almond buttercream. Pictures to follow. Providing of course I don't drink too much Veuve. No sunshine today either, so bad photo weather. Happy New Year to you all. Next week is my last week on management. Everyone say WHEW! and then we work on the resolutions!!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Sweetest Sugar Cookie

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I love an old fashioned Christmas. Which is funny considering I work at a high end retail store where we sell to the masses...but I honestly do a lot of home made holiday gifts. More on that in a later blog. I made these fantastic cookies, and have no idea what to do with them...parting with them is way harder than I thought! They are so adorable. I used wafer paper from Fancy Flour and I was going to give them to the teachers, but life, once again got in the way. So here they are, enjoy.....and get in there and bake! Until midnight if need be, that's what I do!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pizzelles for Christmas

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Ahhh, the perfect Saturday, oh wait, that was last Christmas. This year I said "Yes! I would love to go into management for the busiest 8 weeks of the year." What was I thinking? My blog is sad, my writing career is flat, my freezer is full of cookies begging for royal icing. Oh my, there really aren't enough days in the year. So today is pizzelle day (night, really) I have a new recipe and a new pizzelle iron. After 8 hours of peddling pots and pans, I am tired, really want a glass of wine, and my house is smelling like a bakery. A week ago I reread my blog from last year on pizzelles and decided I had better order a new iron! So I have a no nonsense pizzelle iron. No non stick, no fanciness. I decided to use a different recipe since I rarely do the same thing twice.
The recipe I have used in the past few years is from Nick Malgieri's book Cookies Unlimited. There are a million variations on the web, and it really is personal. My family has always gone with the crispy anise flavored pizzelles. There are thicker soft versions, pizzelles with anise seed, fennel seed, almond and chocolate. The chocolate isn't bad, but I love the anise. This year I am using anise extract instead of oil. With the extract you could use a half teaspoon or more. The key is to know when enough is enough, because too much anise oil (like anything over ¼ teaspoon) and the whole batch is ruined, I know, I've done it.
This is my own variation of a recipe I have had for awhile. And amazing enough, they always taste good. These cookies are always a hit, likely because they are so special looking! I use both white and brown sugar, I think it adds a little depth to the flavor. My new pizzelle iron makes them sooooo thin and crispy, perfectly browned! The recipe as follows only makes about 2 dozen. But some of the recipes I found make 180 pizzelles, I'd be there at the iron for hours! I have learned over the years a recipe that big would not do well divided to make just 45. Better to double a tried and true version. A little Elf on the tube and how can you not get into the spirit! Remember there are four food groups, Candy, Candy Canes, Candy Corn and Syrup....gotta love Will Ferrell. Happy baking.

Here's the recipe...
3 eggs
½ teaspoon anise extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ¾ flour
½ melted butter
¾ sugar
¼ brown sugar

Mix 'em up and bake in the iron....thin and crispy!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Message in a Cookie (cont)

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What was I thinking????? I had admired the colored cookies on the box of the Message in a Cookie cutters, so I made some of my dough green. UGH! Too much green. It's hard to remember that it tastes like my regular dough. I actually ended up throwing a chunk away, I couldn't roll any more. So I made a few stamped cookies, some trees and, yea, that's that. I was asked by one of my faithful to post a gingerbread recipe. So since I have a batch chilling for another day, I thought I would get the recipe up. This is the one I am making this year, I cannot say it is my tried and true, I haven't made gingerbread boys in a few years. So when I ordered my gingerbread house cutter, Fancy Flours sent this recipe, so I guess it's fair to say it is their tried and true. So I shall use it myself. You should check out this site, very inspiring!

Gingerbread Cookies

2 sticks butter
2 cups sugar
1 cup light molasses (I buy organic at Whole Foods, we'll see what happens)
2 eggs
4 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cloves

Cream butter and sugar. Add salt, soda and spices. Add eggs and molasses. Add flour. The dough will be soft. Chill well before handling. Preheat oven to 350°. Roll out dough using a good amount of flour. She recommends 1/8th inch to keep the details in tact during baking. Bake 8-10 minutes.

I'll report my experience! So, get in there and bake!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Message In a Cookie

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One of my "jobs" at my job was to make some gingerbread men for a visual that is in the window. I used the Message in a Cookie cookie cutters and have to say...I loved them. I was a true skeptic when these came in, but now I see the possibilities. I admit however, they are a pain to clean, lots of tiny little letters. Let me explain.

The Christmas cutters are essentially 3 cookie cutters, an ornament, a gingerbread boy and a snowflake. Good size cookies are made from these. You could easily use them as a basic cutter, but they have a couple of "rails" in the center of the cutter that you can slide words and letters onto. The holiday box came with Merry, Christmas, Seasons, Greetings, Happy, Holidays, and From. There is also a huge assortment of extra letters so you can spell out any message that will fit onto the two rails. You will want your cookie dough well chilled. And I rolled it out a chunk at a time. You carefully push the plunger of the cutter and slide your words and letters onto the rails. There is a video on the Williams Sonoma site that shows how. (How do I get THAT job?) Next, the cutter with the letters in place needs to be well floured, I tapped the plunger that controls the letters a number of times into flour and then cut the cookie dough. Once the cutter is positioned on the dough, you push the plunger to stamp the letters/words into the dough. Admittedly, many of my cookies stuck and had to be re-rolled. I like the effect of the full stamp into the dough although the O's were pushed completely through the dough. It isn't a perfect world here, but it works. I think it would be an epic fail with any dough that contained margarine or shortening, puffiness is not your friend. I had a dish towel laid out on the counter and slid the letters and words on and off over the towel. That way no little letters bounced off the counter to the floor, all the flour and dough scraps stayed put and when I finished, I put them all back into the mesh bag they came in and swished it in hot, soapy water, let it soak for about 20 minutes and they were pretty clean. You may have an E or F that holds onto some dough, but once it dries it will easily fall off. Careful not to let the letters fall into the sink, they are small enough to suck right down the drain! They say they are dishwasher safe in the mesh bag, but seriously? What is it with the dang dishwasher? I put plates, glasses and silverware in it. Period. No knives, no appliance parts, no gadgets...did you know that the detergent in there is almost all bleach? With the hot water and the steam and the sheer force of the jets of water...Yikes! Honest, washing by hand is not that awful, you'll be amazed how much longer things last.The box shows cookies with the dough tinted, which I have done, there is a chunk of green chilling now. Of course to keep the integrity of the words, these cookies won't take the full royal icing treatment, which is better particularly for gingerbread. I love that you could make any message in the dough. I of course bought the holiday set, and put the Basic set on my Christmas list. There is a heart, a star and a scalloped rectangle. Perfect for so many cookies. I love that I could put my Sweetie Petitti signature in every batch I make! As usual, I buy all my own stuff, there is no paid advertisement here, I just happen to love these little cookie cutters. I will update with pictures of the new sugar ones ASAP. So, get in there and bake!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Nuttier Than a Fruitcake!

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Few things can stir up a controversy faster than that word. As a kid I remember fruitcake appearing right around Thanksgiving. I thought it was disgusting. The colorful cherries, the mere weight of that small cake, and the lack of, well, cake. Over the years I have had many fruitcake experiences, and they just keep getting better.

When I first started my "little part-time" job 14 Christmases ago, we sold Assumption Abbey Fruitcake. I knew it had to be good, it's made by monks, and the webpage shows them injecting alcohol into the cakes. (Could it be Christian Brother's Brandy? I mean, let's keep this in the family right?) The first time I tasted it, I was so pleasantly surprised. It was dark, and nutty, and mildly fruity. The problem is, if you are like me and live among non fruitcake eaters, it can take a year to get through a 2 pound cake.

Last January, I was in Florida visiting the parents, and my dad opens a tin from the fridge and unwraps a little chunk of fruitcake. Hey, what is that amazing aroma? It just so happens that my sister in Iowa sends him a fruitcake every fall. It's actually 3 small loaves and he soaks one in whiskey, one in rum and one in amaretto. Then, he wraps them in old white t-shirt scraps that are soaked in the liquor, (he's 81, give him a little slack on this one, why buy cheesecloth when you have a drawer full of perfectly good, worn, white t-shirts? I personally suggest avoiding the armpits of the shirt). He gives the chunks a little nip now and then, and shaves a thin slice or 2, or 3 for breakfast every day. It is delicious. He would have made a great frontiersman (or pirate) with this innate ability to preserve food with alcohol, plus he's a great shot!

But still, my personal fruitcake dilemma lives on. I have shopped the nicer grocers, but honestly, the fruitcakes are huge. I want a taste or two, not a two month supply. Then my friend Melinda was talking about her friends bugging her to make her fruitcake cookies. Whaaaat? Two things I love wrapped up together! So here we go. Here is the recipe as she gave it to me.

Melinda's Fruitcake Cookies

½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup butter
2 eggs, well beaten
½ cup whiskey
1½ teaspoons baking soda dissolved in 1½ Tablespoons milk
1 lb. dark raisins
1lb. pecans, chopped
1 lb. candied cherries, cut in half
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
½ nutmeg
1½ cups flour

Mix all ingredients. Drop by teaspoonful on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes.

So before I even go on how I made them, let me say this. For a foodie like me, nothing means more than a handwritten recipe. I love this. There is something about that little card that says "Enjoy, Melinda" that I will always cherish. It is a symbol of a friendship, the sharing of a recipe, the note of good tidings. It will find a home in my Christmas file and for years to come I will remember my friend at Williams Sonoma. Okay, I digress. Back to the cookies.

My apologies to Melinda, I never follow a recipe. So, I used Bourbon not Whiskey. I could not bring myself to buy the candied cherries. The ingredient list was long and full of syllables, and they are very colorful. So I substituted ½ lb. of dried cherries and a bag of semi sweet chocolate chips. I thought chocolate would convince the non fruitcake eaters to taste them. I used Monukka raisins, they were dark and smaller than many of the other varieties, and soaked them in the Bourbon for about an hour. I also added ½ teaspoon of salt, I just thought there was a lot of sweet and it was going to need balance, especially since I used unsalted butter. I searched the web, avoiding the crazy million recipe sites and really couldn't find a recipe like this one.

They are dark and not really cookie-like. My 17 yr old who insisted on the chocolate but hates raisins and fruitcake ate 2 right out of the oven. They are delicious. I am going to chill the dough before I bake the last of them, in hopes they will hold more of a shape. Then I will freeze the baked cookies, and plan on sending some to dear old Dad. These are a keeper.

So, what are ya waiting for? Put on the Christmas music and get in there and bake!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Deck the Kitchen

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I admit my weaknesses. Goat cheese, Pinot Noir, 71% Dark Chocolate, (preferably all on the same night), and Christmas decorations. I have 3 trees in full regalia. The family tree choc full of all those ornaments I pick up on trips, given to us at parties and those made in grade school. The second tree is in the dining room and is white and covered in snowmen. Note: Never tell people if you intend to collect something. I have more damn snowmen than I know what to do with! And the last tree is my favorite. It's only about 5', fills a corner of my kitchen and is covered in kitchen stuff. Cooking chefs and santas, copper pots and pans, whisks, silverware, petite fours and glass cheese. I love it! One friend brought me Christmas okra, a huge okra, like 6" and it's painted like Santa. How funny is that?! I also have a huge assortment of Williams Sonoma ornaments from years past. No big surprise there. The most beautiful is a glass Waterford chef Santa.
Years ago when we lived in Atlanta we started the killer dessert party tradition, Lance and Sue brought us a German Baker Nutcracker ornament. I love the ones that stir great memories!

And, instead of a star on top, there's a chef's hat!
Because I work retail in a business driven by food holidays (think Thanksgiving here), I have a pass to get Christmas up early. Lots of baking ahead.....Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Serving in Dumbledore's Army

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"These are dark times indeed...but you can't fight this war alone Mr. Potter". Tonight at 12:01a.m. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows opens. The end is near. What a wonderful ride it has been. I remember when the books first released and they were banned....amazing really. I love the battle of good vs. evil. Steven King has successfully done it for years, and I am a "constant reader". So in honor of the movie opening, I made Harry Potter cookies for a UT Knoxville student's birthday. And of course it has started a bit of a chain reaction, Harry does that to people. So here's the cookie. Classic Harry. I will see the movie next week with my son. We went to the midnight book release for this one, so it is only fitting. I loved racing through the books with him, and plan on rereading every last one before I see the Part 2 of the Deathly Hallows.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Miracle Whip Facial

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I decided to go back to this blog and do it again, so I though I would repost. It is one of those things you have to just try!
We are a house divided. Mayonnaise (me and Christina) or Miracle Whip (Scott and Nic). Never the 2 shall meet. I say the Whip is too sweet, the boys say mayo is too creamy. Let's face it, it is rare for anyone to cross that line. But I have Miracle Whip on the shopping list for a new reason. The Miracle Whip facial!
There's nothing new about using kitchen ingredients for beauty. I have rinsed my hair in vinegar many times,tried the egg white facial mask, olive oil hand conditioner, mayonnaise as a hair conditioner, even brushed my teeth with strawberries once. You have to throw away the toothbrush because of all those little seeds, I don't even remember why I did it, I think it was before you buy whitening in every dental product.

Anyway, recently I came across a news bit in a magazine praising the benefits of the Miracle Whip facial. So naturally, I googled it and found some really interesting posts. The best is here. The original post was put up March 2006, and has garnered almost 60 comments from people like me who are like "What the heck, let's slather salad dressing on our face and see what happens".

So here's the deal, indeed slather Miracle Whip all over your face, avoiding the eye area. Some readers also put it on their lips, most mayo eaters will opt out of that. Relax for 20 minutes, do not breathe deeply, because it stinks like Grandma's macaroni salad. After 20 minutes, wipe gently with a dry washcloth and then rinse and wipe your face clean with warm water. People were amazed at the dead skin coming off their face. I didn't have layers of skin come off, but after drying my face, there was a little "zingy" feeling, probably from the vinegar, but my skin was as smooth and soft as a babies. Amazingly smooth. Really. So I did it again every night for a week. I couldn't wait to see what happened. I'd either look like a 21 year old, or my face would be covered in pimples. I'm also thinking of putting it on my extremely dry feet, I'll let you know how miraculous that is.
So, I kept up the facial for a solid week. I never really got accustomed to the stink, but every night my face was so smooth, crazy smooth. Toward the end of the week however, my skin was a little sensitive which is one adjective I never use to describe my hide. I think the best way to do this is maybe every other night, and then just maintenance. Sounds rather invigorating now, since I haven't done it in awhile, I just may raid the fridge tonight.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I Am Not a Top Chef ,Yet!

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Top Chef is my favorite show. Period. I love Colicchio, Padma, the guest judges, especially Bordain. Yes, I said it, I am a closet Bordain groupee. I do watch reality shows, and that includes Big Brother, Survivor, Hell's Kitchen, Biggest Loser and American Idol. I know that it is all a figment of an editor's imagination, but I find real people far more interesting than actors. But, I do need to clarify: I do not watch Jersey Shore, Hoarders, Maury or Jerry, you get the idea. Top Chef is exciting because these contestants are in their element. They win by being creative and thinking on the fly, not by following a recipe in their back pocket. They respect the other contestants, (at least in a good season), and they recognize that this is a great platform for furthering their career. I don't eat out often, at least not that type of food, but I love to watch every detail in the dishes. I have no aspirations of cooking at that level, I am not a chef, and that's okay, I am a happy foodie.

But then came Top Chef Just Desserts. All of a sudden, I want to be on a reality show! The contestants are colorful pastry chef types. I loved Zach and his Disco Dust until he got all cliquey with the Go Diva group. Yigit is amazing and cute, but tries to do too much, and that is a sign of a guy full of ideas, not a bad thing unless you are being timed. Not a Heather fan. I think Morgan is cocky but hey, he can back it up, and I am pulling for him to win the whole thing now that my FAVORITE is gone. Eric. The lowly baker. He saw almost immediately that most of these contestants were trained professional pastry chefs, (which is why I contentedly watch from the couch). He mused that he was "just" a baker, and that made him my favorite. Dessert doesn't always have to be over the top, it just has to taste good. There were challenges where he had to step up the presentation and the creativity of the dessert and he went with the flow. He got booted over some shortbread. A sad way to go, but as he exited, he said, "I am a Chef!" Yes you are, and you have a loyal following right here who loved your comfort desserts and your humble attitude, those will take you to great lengths.

So dessert. One challenge was a bake sale at a high school. I loved this challenge, right up my alley, as my most loyal customers are in their teens. Eric won having made Nutella Rice Crispies and chocolate chip cookies. Two of my favorite things. I make Rice Crispy Treats about twice a year(no more) because I can't keep my hands off them. I figure since it is mostly cereal they are perfectly acceptable for breakfast. And since the rest is marshmallows, well, they fit right in to lunch, dinner, dessert and bedtime snack. Nutella, yea, I love this stuff on a spoon. Other than a crepe, I haven't found a great recipe for it. I was hoping these winning Nutella Rice Crispy Treats would be my best of both worlds winner.

So I found the recipe here called Peanut Butter Krispy Bars and decided to whip up a batch. After reading the recipe the reality that "I am not even a baker" set in. Who makes Rice Crispy's without Jet Puffed Marshmallows??? Eric does. Dang it, I just didn't have the time to make the bars with corn syrup and a thermometer. So that was my first change in his winning recipe and the beginning of a long list of problems to come.

The next was to shrink it a little. It is all in grams, which is okay because I use a scale, but his recipe would be enough for, well, a bake sale. I needed them for a little meeting. So I started dividing up the quantities and shrunk the pan, and mixed and melted and pressed in the Rice Crispies. I wasn't happy. I had them in a sheet pan which has very low rims, and the bars were to the top. I had a little extra in a small glass pan. I hate thin Rice Crispy Treats, I generally make them in a 9X9 so they are like 3"tall. I decided to slug on, even though I knew that this is where I generally am finished. A perfect unadorned Rice Crispy Treat. But these were too thin for me to get excited over.

The first chocolaty layer for the bars in his recipe is milk chocolate, Nutella and butter, (YIKES!). Well as soon as I began to melt it all in a saucepan the whole pot seized up. Rookie mistake. Damn. I added enough milk (no cream on hand) to return it to spreading consistency and spread it over the skinny little bars. It wasn't pretty.

Then I filled the sink up with soapy water and gave up. Never went to the next topping of semi sweet chocolate and peanut butter. I was defeated without a time restraint or competition from professionals. I butchered the winning recipe and I'm afraid Eric would be disappointed. I'll be back at this recipe. I am going to get it to work and report back. But fear not, the mistake tastes delicious for breakfast (that Nutella makes it even more breakfast-like) or whatever meal you decide to add it to. Maybe I'll try Eric's winning chocolate chip cookies next time! Happy baking. If you get these done, I want a peek at them please!

Monday, November 8, 2010

More Cookies

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Busy Baking...
Not even cute Memphis pennants could help the Tigers with U of Tennessee. A few little penguins... My favorite branch of the military. A little sweet for the St. George soccer team. An assortment of Halloween, St. Agnes volleyball and a few other treats.
More soccer team treats. And for my favorite cadet in Squadron XXV Rock Hard and Red Eye!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Perfect Cookie for November 1

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Here is a favorite repeat. I am heading back to work in a low level management position, but it will cut into my blogging! This is a lot like the molasses cookie at that famous coffee chain, Big, soft and chewy, they beg for hot coffee or cider. Perfect fall fare for the first of November.
Farmer's Favorite Molasses Cookies
2 Cups Flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons Sugar
1/2 Cup Shortening
1/4 Cup Unsalted Butter, slightly softened
1/4 Cup Dark Molasses
1 Large Egg

Mix first 6 ingredients together in small bowl and set aside. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat sugar, shortening, butter and molasses until well blended and fluffy. Beat in the egg until smooth. Beat in dry ingredients one half at a time until everything is incorporated. Cover and chill the dough for at least 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350. Grease your cookie sheets. Shape dough into balls, and then I roll them in sugar. Place about 2" apart on sheet. If you prefer a flatter cookie gently press it down, if you like them a little thicker, leave it in a ball. Try it both ways!
Bake 10-14 minutes, until lightly browned on the edges. Cool completely on a wire cooling rack.

The original recipe calls for an icing instead of rolling in sugar. If you want to ice them, flatten slightly before baking, do not roll them in sugar.When the cookies are cool, spread the icing over the cookies.
Icing Recipe
2 Cups Powdered Sugar
1 Tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 teaspoons light cream or milk. More or less as needed for spreading consistency.

So, happy fall, get in there and bake!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The House That Built Me

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It is my favorite song. Sung beautifully by Miranda Lambert. It is about a 20 something (she must be young) who is trying to find herself and goes to her childhood home. Well I'm not 20 anything, I found myself a long time ago, but for some reason as I plan my next move to our 8th residence in a 24 year marriage, I get a little nostalgic. This is the house my kids will most remember. But it is the house that "built" me I lovingly remember.
I spent my preschool and elementary years in Clinton, Iowa. By the time we moved I was entering high school and was the only child at home. So the house in Clinton that was full of family is the one I pine for. It is a gorgeous English Tudor sitting on a large hill with views of the Mississippi River. It was once a retreat for an order of monks which explains the cross mowed into the lawn. It sat on an acre of property, most of it woods, and had a beautiful stone patio, an enormous screened in porch and a balcony from my parents room. The wood was heavy and dark, and every room had built in closets, dressers and shelves. The windows are were all leaded glass and there were 2 huge picture windows. In the spring there were dozens of lilac trees and bushes of peonies. In the summer we would have thousands of monarch butterflies and in the fall we would collect hedge apples and pine cones.

Christmas was magical. My dad would string the big Charlie Brown bulbs all over the hedges and when the snow would fall they would glow in bursts of color. Our huge tree would proudly stand at the living room picture window. We would have cut it down ourselves and decorated with the dozens of family ornaments and tossed tinsel all over it. I never thought to look for the Christmas presents hidden on the screened in porch, but many years later I learned that was my mom's favorite place to hide them.

Of course the house had a basement, and a pit in the garage that my brothers used to learn to work on their cars. And my favorite spot was the breakfast room with its octagonal shape and all the leaded windows. No one could come in either driveway without being seen. My last bedroom (I had to wait until the older sisters went to college), had a wall of windows that looked out over the river. It was such a magical place. I have the photographs and the memories, and this time of year makes me think of a particular cooking memory. In the Betty Crocker cooky cookbook that is falling apart, are the many recipes we made. I blogged about it before and decided that it was the perfect time to make Pumpkin Cookies. These are the cookies I made on September 24, 1976. The note next to the recipe says "couldn't go skating". It was a sad day. Every fall we had a roller skating party and it was the one night a year a 7th grade girl (in 1976) could hold hands to a Shawn Cassidy song and roller skate a memory. But alas, I didn't clean my room, and the meanest mom in the entire world made me stay home. She probably launched my love of baking and journaling through recipes. I remember the night clearly. It is, after these many years, a very happy memory. Needless to say I couldn't make the recipe as it is written, so here it is with my changes.

1½ cups brown sugar
½ shortening (I'm using butter)
2 eggs
1¾ canned pumpkin (this is one, 15oz. can)
2¾ cups flour
1 T baking soda
1 tea cinnamon
½ tea nutmeg
½ tea salt
¼ tea ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla (this is my addition)
1 cup raisins (yuck!) (I'm using 1 ½ cups mini chocolate chips)
1 cup chopped pecans (I am using walnuts)

Okay, my changes. Shortening does make a really soft cookie, but butter just tastes better. And I think raisins are yucky in a cookie, so chocolate chips, perfect replacement. The recipe says the cookies can be iced with a thin butter icing. Would you ice a chocolate chip cookie? I mean, the recipes are very similar. I say enjoy the pumpkin! This recipe makes about 6 dozen and they do not spread, so you can really cram them on the baking sheets.

So, what are ya waiting for? Get in there and bake!