Sunday, December 29, 2013

Cookies!

Wow, have I been baking! Thanks to Pioneer Woman, I discovered this stupendous recipe for sugar cookies at Bake at 350 
Just thrilled that the dough doesn’t need to be chilled before rolling out. Yummy! Here they are in several formats!       
Fancy cookies! I couldn’t resist the circular cutters with space for the jam to show through. Here’s how I made the dough from Bake at 350 (what a fun blog name) by substituting whole wheat flour for part of the recipe:
Cream 1 cup sugar and 2 sticks of butter. Add 1 egg. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and ¾ teaspoon almond extract and 1 teaspoon water. Add 2 teaspoons baking powder and 2 cups white flour plus 1 cup whole wheat flour. Roll out, cut the cookies, and bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until they are lightly browned.
Use any red jam (I also love peach jam with these cookies) on the bottom layer, then top with punched cookie. At first I was annoyed with myself for forgetting to dust confectioner's sugar on the tops before placing them on the jam, but was pleasantly surprised that the sugar just absorbed into the jam so it was fine to put the top onto the jam, then dust with sugar.
Assembly line! Chocolate chip cookies were per package directions, peanut butter cookies were fairly boring to photograph…here is the recipe for chocolate no-bake cookies
And here we go, out the door! Do you have any favorite holiday cookie recipes?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Tarragon Rosemary Chicken Mushroom Soup

Do you ever feel suddenly inspired to cook a certain dish? Today on the way home from the library, I had a hankering for soup and concluded that it had to be a certain recipe that I hadn’t prepared in at least a year. Thankfully, I had all the ingredients on hand!
This recipe was obtained from a restaurant server who got it scribbled from the chef…the restaurant no longer serves the soup and I modified it- here’s my version:
Sautee chopped onions in butter, add mushrooms. Quantities to your choice- suggest a couple of tablespoons of butter, about 1/3 cup onions, 1 or more cups mushrooms. Set aside onion mixture. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter, and once it's melted, add one tablespoon whole wheat flour. Once flour is absorbed, add another tablespoon of flour. Allow flour to warm but stay nearby to avoid burning. Gradually add 1 1/3 cups chicken stock (I added about 1/3 cup at a time, stirring to incorporate flour). Once stock mixture has warmed up, add 1 cup skim milk*. Add ½ teaspoon tarragon, ¼ teaspoon rosemary, and salt/pepper to taste. Add about 4 ounces of cooked & shredded chicken. Add the sauteed onions and mushrooms. If you are slightly crazy like me, add 4 or so ounces of chopped cooked chestnuts.
I can’t remember if I’ve ever added boiled & cubed potatoes to this soup in the past, but I may try that next time. I can’t believe the original recipe called for garlic powder, which I don’t own. By the time I saw it listed on the card with the herbs, I’d already prepared the onions and mushrooms…note to self: add fresh garlic to the onions at the beginning! That said, this soup is so fragrant and rich, it is actually wonderful without any garlic.
* of course, the original recipe calls for cream!
I never provided an update on the watermelon saga in our garden (bites stolen by 4 legged critters)- here is the one successful melon that grew to softball size.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Chocolate no-bake Cookies

I’ve had this recipe since high school, with no source information on the hand written recipe card. I modified the ingredients, but was still shocked that my fond memories of these cookies conveniently forgot the 2 cups of sugar called for! Now that I think about it, all my fond memories of dessert items include at least 2 cups of sugar…
Boil 1 stick of butter, 2 cups sugar, and ½ cup fat free evaporated milk. Remove from heat and add 5 ½ tablespoons powdered cocoa, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 3 cups oats, and optional one cup shredded coconut or ½ cup peanut butter. Drop onto waxed paper and allow to cool- I used a small mellonballer scoop and the yield was 50. In the olden days, we made them using soup spoons, thus a much smaller yield!
Wish you could smell the melted butter with cocoa being stirred in!
Do you know any other no-bake cookie recipes?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Thanksgiving Recipe Lessons

Whew! It was worth it, but after learning some important lessons, I’m making notes for the future and hope that since I didn’t know this stuff before, maybe someone can learn from my mistakes. At least the cranberry sauce, a favored standby, turned out great. 
I tried a plain apple pie recipe, not the custard recipe I’ve been making for years, because I had run out of sour cream . The plain recipe called for a top crust, which I didn’t have, and instead of adding a crumble, I left the pie “topless”. It tasted great but didn’t look too hot (just cut up apples). Moral of this story: use top crust, crumble, or stick with the original custard recipe. No photos of ugly but tasty pie.
Brined turkey: thumbs down. I know this is a common tradition for many, but my family votes “no”. Also, using a nice baking dish cover in heavy stoneware accelerates completion time for a turkey. Two different birds were done well ahead of time according to a meat thermometer than the times called for on the wrapping. Stay alert! The turkey wrapper directions called for melted butter, sage, thyme, rosemary, and marjoram. 
Creamed onions need a vast proportion of cream sauce to onions. My grandmother’s recipe listed the simple ingredients of onions, butter, flour, and milk, but did not indicate quantities. An on-line search quickly revealed many tablespoon/cup amounts for roux. When I poured the successful roux into the boiled and drained onions, it looked good from above. After baking, there was far too little sauce! The flavor was fine, but I’d recommend making a significant amount of roux and practically drowning the onions in it, if your family likes it the way mine does. I had drained the onions and dumped them into the baking dish, then poured the roux on top. Keep them separate, adding a layer of sauce, a small layer of onions, more sauce, etc. The flavor was fine, but it was dry. I didn’t weigh the onions I used, so I cannot recommend a specific weight to sauce ratio.
On the other hand, the scalloped potatoes were too soggy. My grandmother’s recipe listed the simple ingredients of sliced potato, butter, salt/pepper, and milk, but did not indicate quantities. I covered the potatoes with milk as directed, but apparently used a baking dish that was too deep, leaving the liquid to bubble nicely but not absorb into the many layers of sliced potato. The next day, it was better, but that was too late. Considered combining the onions and potato dish, but didn’t! My aunt recalled that a shallower baking dish had previously been used for the taters.
The chestnut stuffing turned out well, but I didn’t care for the celery flavor so I’ll omit that in the future. I used store bought corn bread stuffing mix, and sautéed a bit of chopped onion in butter, along with 7 ounces of chopped jarred chestnuts. Used chicken stock according to the package directions and baked to warm it up. Next time, more chestnuts!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Gratitude


Despite some bumps in the road, I am grateful for many blessings. Selecting just a few photos of thousands to show gratitude was a challenge, so I clicked on a few recent pics to share, knowing that there are so many more.
Every morning for the past two years, I sip my coffee from this mug (if the dishwasher* was run!). I’m so glad to have met Asya of http://gleena.com/index.php at Squam, and thank http://www.doorwaystraveler.com for the inspiration to take photos of coffee mugs!

These photos were taken outside the serene Zen Center in Cambridge, MA. What an oasis of peace in the city.
Many of us think of the last week in November as Thanksgiving for food… since I don’t have a recipe for this photo to create an entire blog about, here is a stupendous bagel sandwich. Made at Feldmans in Burlington, VT, it has bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato and probably some other things on an everything bagel (as always, no person or company is compensating me for favorable reviews).
* blessing!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Stockholm, Part I


And now... another travel post! Our whirlwind tour of a small area of Sweden was very nice, and we hope to see more of the country during a future visit.

This photo was taken from the café in the Nobel Museum, through the window onto the square. Many interesting displays there taught us about prize winners in science, literature, and peace. Though small, the contents were comprehensive and meaningful.

We found the food in Stockholm to be outstanding. Prices were more along New York City lines with the exchange rate, and we splurged a few times while electing bargains other days. These meatballs and lignonberries were served at the Vasa Museum, both of which every tourist should experience (unless you are vegetarian, in which case Hermitage in Old Town provides a superb meat free buffet for a reasonable price). The restored ship in the Vasa Museum is tremendous and interesting.

We took hundreds of photos of the local scenery, including church spires, cobblestone alleys, ships in the harbor, and the animals at Skansen park. Stay tuned for another post, and in the mean time, I leave you with a table for two, complete with the ubiquitous candles we saw, glimmering in the early darkness.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Cheesecake Brownie Cupcakes

I’ve been making cheesecake for many years, and have loved experimenting with different types of crust (graham crackers, small round wafers for cheesecake cupcakes, crushed chocolate crème sandwich cookies, etc.) and fillings- baked, no-bake, with pumpkin, with chocolate, and on and on! 
I’ve found that large group event attendees prefer cupcake sized desserts instead of large slices of cheesecake, so I decided to combine two recipes from my trusty Philadelphia Cream Cheese cookbook of 1989. The brownie cheesecake recipe was an old friend, with notes scribbled in my handwriting about adjusting the ingredients to make a 9x13 pan instead of a round springform. Ditto the cupcake version…for a dozen, be sure to double the recipe, and so forth. 
Here’s what I used; you go ahead and adjust for your needs:
One 10.25 oz package of brownie mix, prepared according to the package directions will yield 17 cupcakes if you put 1/8 cup batter into each paper liner. That results in a decent layer of brownie as the crust. Feel free to use the entire batter for 12 thicker brownie cheesecakes, but you’ll have less space for cheesecake batter.
While the brownie layer is baking at 350 for 12 minutes (!), prepare my adaptation of the recipe: beat together two 8 oz. packages of reduced fat cream cheese, between 1/3 to ½ cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, one egg, and ¼ cup egg substitute.
Pour ¼ cup cheesecake batter over the brownie layer, then microwave 1 cup of any type of chocolate pieces for one minute.  Stir the partially melted chocolate and microwave again for about 30 seconds as needed, for melted and smooth chocolate.
Stir ½ teaspoon of melted chocolate into the unbaked cheesecake batter, then bake them for 30 minutes. I used white chocolate chunks, but would recommend for visual appeal and flavor that you use chocolate chips or chocolate/ peanut butter/ butterscotch chips.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Flowers


I plan on using these photos to create cards, but haven’t printed them out yet. As snow is starting to fall in some parts, here is a sunny reminder of summer months. 
As much as I like large bouquets which include roses and other elegant blooms from time to time, these small bunches from a local farm are so cheerful and friendly. 
They lasted a few days and put a smile on my face each time I passed one of the petite arrangements. 
I added a few new flowering plants to the garden for next spring and summer, with hopes for bright colors to supplement all the green. Meanwhile, the leaves are falling, in “tree showers”, as Mr. Spice calls them. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Scalloped Potatoes with Thyme, Rosemary, and Oregano

I’ve wanted to try a recipe from Pioneer Woman for a long time, so I was glad to have two pounds of potatoes on hand from the farm share, and find this stupendous posting:
As usual, I modified the ingredients slightly, but would recommend that you try the original version for full flavor! Since I don’t have a vegetable slicer, I hand cut the potatoes, and boiled the slices for a few minutes to tenderize them. 
Here’s my version: I didn’t have any ham (leftover or otherwise), but next time would substitute bacon - a freezer staple - in the absence of ham, for additional flavor. Slice 2 lbs potatoes, boil in water for a few minutes. Sautee an onion in oil or butter for a few minutes, add one clove minced garlic, add 2 cups whole milk. When milk is warm, add ¼ cup flour and stir to blend in. Add 1 – 1 ½ cups grated cheese, turn off heat. Sprinkle with salt, pepper,  rosemary, thyme, and oregano. I had freshly dried herbs, so didn’t measure the amount of leaves I pulled from the sprigs (probably about ¼ teaspoon each, but more is fine).
Grease 9x13 baking pan and layer the potatoes and milk/cheese mixture. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Next time I’ll use more garlic and herbs. I made mushroom soup the next day, and put leftover scalloped potatoes into the soup- yummy!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Cooking Class Photos

I’ve taken a bunch of cooking classes, and have yet to prepare the majority of those recipes at home, despite good intentions. It’s been fun learning about new spices and techniques, and messing around with the camera during class has yielded some nice results (I think).


These bowls of spices include some in their natural form. Compare to a rack of containers in the technical school kitchen for the students to use during the day.


I don’t usually have a pile of eggplants to photograph…


Or bunches of lemons and limes! I haven't taken the time to experiment with the new camera- that's still on the to-do list...


I’ve been on the road – planes, trains, and busses, and will soon have more travel posts. Gathered some new material (literally) at my Mom’s to try new card-making techniques, thanks to the inspiration I received from others earlier this year, so stay tuned!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Eggplant Tomato Sauce with Oregano and Basil


A few posts ago, I mentioned an abundance of tomatoes and searched for recipes to use them up before the next farm share arrived. During the winter months, I usually make pasta sauce with a packet of spice mix and a can of tomato paste, but there’s no reason to do that in the summer with so much fresh produce available. I started with this recipe, and swapped out what I had on hand.

Here’s my version of the ingredients and instructions: sautee in olive oil one chopped tomato, one green pepper (from our own garden!), three cloves garlic, one chopped white eggplant, five chopped tomatoes, a handful of fresh basil (cut with kitchen shears), and two sprigs of fresh oregano. Salt and pepper to taste.

I suspect the eggplant would have tasted better if I’d prepared it according to the original recipe, but time was short after work, and this way was fine. “Next time” I’ll pre-cook the eggplant in larger slices so it’s nice and tender, then make the rest of the sauce.

Here you see soy crumbles and shredded cheese, making a nutritious and tasty meal over whole wheat pasta. Endorsed by Mr. Spice asking for seconds!