Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Smells Like Christmas

The first time I had these cookies was at a holiday party about seven or eight years ago. After biting into one, I found the hostess and started babbling about how great they are, how the spices are just right, and they are soft and chewy, and on an on. Now that I think about it, it's a little embarrassing. I mean, it's a cookie. These cookies are perfect to make and mail to friends and family or just to have sitting around during the holidays, since they require aging of at least one week and do well sitting in a tin for a month or so.

The woman who gave me this recipe is really...neat. I don't know how else to describe her. She is an emergency room nurse, and seems equally at home talking about grody emergency room stuff and the finer points of baking. Her husband is the kind of guy who has a special room to smoke his cigars and drinks hard liquor on the rocks and listens to old jazz records, in a classy, not a stuffy way. When I asked for this recipes she wrote it down for me on a little card which I laminated and dang-it, I'm glad I did since I pull it out every year. You'll do the same, I guarantee.

White whole wheat or whole wheat flour can be nicely substituted in this recipe, though I suggest you use about 2 cups whole wheat flour and 1 cup all purpose flour for a lighter cookie. Chop, chop, chop the fruit peels; it's a messy, sticky business but worth it. I use almond meal in place of the chopped almonds. You'll notice this cookie has no oil or butter, so it's actually a very low fat cookie, though I haven't calculated the nutritional value. These cookies pack nicely in tins and can be mailed or just sit around your house for the holiday season. They only get better!

1 egg
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup dark molasses
3 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
1/2 cup finely chopped mixed fruit peels
Lemon glaze (recipe below)

Beat egg in a small bowl on high speed about one minute. Add brown sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in honey and molasses. Stir together flour, cinnamon, soda, cloves, ginger, and cardamom in a large bowl. Add beaten mixture and stir by hand to combine. Stir in almonds and fruit peels. Cover and chill dough three hours.

Preheat oven to 350. Divide dough in half. Roll on a lightly floured board to make a 12" x 8" rectangle. Cut into 2" squares and bake on greased cookie sheets at 350 for 8-10 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet for one minute. Transfer cookies to a cooling rack and brush with lemon glaze while still warm. Age cookies in a tin for at least one week.

Lemon glaze: Combine 1 1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar, 1 Tbs melted butter, and 2T lemon juice. Add enough water to make glaze drizzling consistency.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Food Hangover

Thanksgiving is over. The classic recipes were good. The new recipes were good. It's time for a long winter's nap.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Getting Ready for Thanksgiving

It's no surprise that Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays: it's all about food. And I especially love when we host Thanksgiving, because I get to spend months thinking about the menu, and weeks planning the details, and days shopping, and scheduling, and, finally, cooking.

All this comes in the midst of my semester at school, a time when projects are being finished and papers are being written and research proposals are being submitted, making it a stressful time. But making Thanksgiving dinner gives me something to look forward to. It also gives me something to make lists for and organize and I love that. My day planner has had notes in it for months, my recipes and cookbooks are stacked in one place, and I have a fairly neatly organized plan including a shopping list and a schedule starting with things to prepare on Tuesday, and on Wednesday night, and a full list of what to do as the day progresses on Thursday. Yes, I may have an illness but don't worry, you can't catch it.

This year I will be making a mix of new and classic recipes. And I have no pictures (though I posted my shopping list in case you're nosy) because I haven't started cooking yet, but I didn't see why I would post Thanksgiving recipes after Thanksgiving so I wanted to share these now.

Orange-Pecan French Toast Casserole

Graham crackers with pumpkin cream cheese dip
Fresh veggies with spinach dip
A few kinds of cheese with honey and bread
Goat cheese and tomato on puff pastry

Scalloped sweet potatoes and apples (recipe below)
Corn pudding (recipe below)
Cranberry sauce (recipe below)
Brussels sprouts
Mushroom, fennel, and parmesan stuffing
Creamed pearl onions (my parents will bring these)
Mashed potatoes (chosen because they can be made ahead)

Cranberry ginger upside down cake
Pumpkin something or other (my parents will bring this)

Scalloped Sweet Potatoes and Apples
Adapted from the Boston Cooking School Cook Book.

2 cups boiled sweet potatoes, cut in 1/4 inch slices
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups sour apples, sliced thin
4 Tbs butter
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350. Put half the potatoes in a buttered baking dish, cover with half the apples, sprinkle with half the sugar, dot with half the butter, sprinkle with half the salt. Repeat. Cover and bake 30 minutes in moderate oven (350). Uncover and bake until apples are soft and top is brown.

Southern Corn Pudding
Adapted from the Boston Cooking School Cook Book. I will note here that I have no idea how long it takes because I've never made it, and I will be cooking it at 350 because that seems to be what the oven will be set at. I will give it at least 45 minutes to cook, but will adjust it as necessary.

2 cups corn
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 Tbs melted butter
2 cups scalded milk
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Combine ingredients. Bake in buttered dish in slow oven (325) until firm.

Cranberry Sauce
Adapted from the Boston Cooking School Cook Book.

3 cups cranberries
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup boiling water

Pick over and wash cranberries. Cook with sugar and water 10 minutes. Watch to prevent boiling over. Skim and cool.

Green Tomato Contest Update

I am not a winner, but it was an honor just to be nominated.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Having friends over for brunch is one of my favorite ways to entertain. I don't feel pressured to make fancy food and I don't fall asleep during the party. And if brunch is followed by a rocking game of Guitar Hero III, well, even better! In case you're wondering, I ROCK!

Ahem. Back to brunch food.

I like to keep it simple, so we had pretty standard fare: eggs baked with gruyere and onion fresh chives from our CSA, fried green tomatoes also from our CSA, upside down cranberry ginger cake made using this recipe, biscuits, cooked apples, and what we affectionately call "half-eaten" banana bread (a lovely chocolate-chip banana bread that our guests brought and apologized for taste-testing--who can blame them?).

Two recipes are classics: cooked apples from Slenderella and biscuits from Kitchen Tested Recipes. The apple recipe was simple and just okay, so I won't bore you with the details. But I am providing the biscuit recipe below because they're worth making. I made no ingredient substitutions in this recipe but because I don't have a stand mixer (someday, someday) I just beat everything by hand and it turned out just fine. As a matter of fact, I imagine the only reason this includes mixer instructions is because it's in a Mixmaster cookbook because I've always read that one should be careful not to overmix biscuits.

Baking Powder Biscuits
Adapted from Kitchen Tested Recipes: By the Home Economists of the Famous Sunbeam Mixmaster, 1933. The one reason I hesitated to post this is because it calls for 4 teaspoons of baking powder. If you use the standard stuff you buy in the grocery store the flavor might be off because you will taste the aluminum in it. I highly recommend for your tastebuds and your health that you buy non-aluminum baking powder like this one. I'm placing my preparing-for-holiday-baking order with King Arthur soon so if you know me in real life and want me to order some for you, I will.

I think you could use butter instead of shortening, or try a shortening without trans-fats like this one.

Also, I suggest sifting the flour before measuring. I prefer recipes that list ingredients by weight but since most of them don't I've found that sifting, or at least stirring the flour and lightly scooping it into the measuring cup, is more likely to get you the right amount of flour.

2 cups flour (sift before measuring)
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
4 Tbs shortening
3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 450. Place flour, baking powder, and salt in large mixing bowl. Mix on low for one minute or whisk together. Cut shortening to small pieces, then mix on medium for 3 minutes (or blend by hand with a pastry blender). Add 1/2 of the milk, working only enough to combine the ingredients. Add the rest of the milk and mix.

Turn out on a floured board, pat or roll about 3/4 inch thick, and cut with biscuit cutter.

Bake for 15 minutes at 450.

Friday, November 9, 2007

I'm a Finalist!

I can't believe it. I entered a green tomato recipe contest on one of my favorite sites: Apartment Therapy Kitchen. I'm a finalist. Wow! Check out my entry here.

Edited to add: Here's the link to the voting: http://kitchen.apartmenttherapy.com/food/green-tomato-2007/green-tomato-contest-vote-now-036016

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Make These Cupcakes

I'm not a chocolate pusher, I'm not really a chocolate lover (I mean, yeah, I eat it but I'd rather have a good lemon cake or something). But when I finished mixing all the ingredients together I knew something was different about this recipe. The batter was thick, almost like pudding.

When I scooped them into the pans they held their shape like little scoops of ice cream. This is no ordinary chocolate cake. I sometimes find chocolate cake too rich, too heavy, too fudge like. If that sounds good to you maybe this isn't your thing, but give it a try. These are more souffle like, without feeling empty and airy, more like collapsed soufflees.

They are topped with a simple chocolate frosting, but powdered sugar or anything you normally put on a chocolate cake would be just fine.

The recommended substitutions and changes included below are in the original recipe. I used dark brown sugar instead of white, and 4 squares of chocolate. Oh, and please tell me you have cake flour in the house. If you don't, run and buy some. Go on now.

Chocolate Cake (Basic Recipe)
Adapted from the Boston Cooking School Cook-Book, 1948. The recipe calls for 3 squares chocolate, but it doesn't specify what kind. I used bittersweet but there may be enough sugar to get away with using unsweetened.

1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 cup milk
2 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
3 squares chocolate, melted, or 1/3 cup cocoa
1 tsp vanilla

If desired, increase sugar to 2 cups. Use brown sugar if preferred. Chocolate may be increased to 4 squares. Use coffee or water in place of milk.

Heat oven to 325. Beat egg whites until stiff and set aside. Cream butter, add sugar and chocolate gradually. Beat in egg yolks. Mix and sift dry ingredients together, and add alternately with liquid to butter mixture. Fold in beaten egg whites. Bake in shallow pan or two 9-inch pans about 30 minutes.

Chocolate Frosting
2 squares chocolate
1 Tbs butter
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
Confectioner's sugar

Combine chocolate, butter, and milk in top of double boiler and cook until chocolate is melted. Stir well; let stand until lukewarm. Mix in vanilla. Beat in sugar until mixture is right consistency to spread.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Surest Sign of Fall

Last fall when we got green tomatoes from our CSA I wasn't sure how to use them. So, of course, I made fried green tomatoes and they were fine, good even, but I didn't quite get the hype. This year I decided to become more adventurous and when green tomatoes were on our pick-up list yesterday afternoon I started thinking about all the compotes and salsas and preserves and other green tomato recipes I've been browsing getting ready for this day.

Is it any surprise that I turned to the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book for a recipe? I know, I know, you are wondering if I have any other cook books and I assure you I do, I just find this one has everything I need. Avocado mousse? Page 144. Honeycomb pudding? Page 553. English monkey? Page 127. And need I remind you that there is a whole chapter on Gingerbread and Doughnuts?

If you follow this little story to the end, you will get a peak at a non-classic cooking idea since the stuff you see on this site is only a small portion of my cooking. So we'll start with a classic recipe, but we'll end with one of my improvs.

Curried Green Tomatoes
Adapted from the Boston Cooking School Cook Book.

2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs minced onion
1 tsp curry powder
2 cups green tomatoes, chopped
Salt and pepper

Melt butter, add onion and cook slowly until yellow. Add curry powder and tomatoes and cook until heated thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Now here is where the recipe ends and it would be fine served over rice or scooped up with naan. But because I had a whole tray full of peppers roasting in the oven and because I was trying to be a little creative for a contest I wanted to enter this recipe in, I decided to use the curried tomatoes as the start of a soup.

To the tomatoes I added:
5 cups or so of roasted peppers, mostly red but a couple small green, yellow and orange ones
2 cloves of roasted garlic, smashed
1 can of garbanzo beans
Cayenne pepper

I let this simmer a bit over medium-low heat, then added:

1 cup light coconut milk
more seasoning to taste

Using an immersion blender, I blended the soup until it was smooth but still had nice big pieces of pepper, tomatoes, and whole beans. And I got this...

Friday, November 2, 2007

Slimming Bread

How does one make slimming bread? By following the recipe from the Slenderella cook book of course! What makes this bread different? Hmmm, the ingredients look like just about any whole wheat bread recipe. You mix it and knead it and let it rise. Looks pretty normal to me.

Oh. Here it is at the end of the recipe. "Each loaf makes 27 slices 1/3 inch thick--30 calories each." Bread sliced 1/3 inch thick? Riiiiiight.

Whole-Wheat Bread or Rolls
Adapted from the Slenderalla Cookbook, 1957.

1 package yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 cup skim milk
1 Tbs butter or margarine
2 cups sifted whole wheat flour
1 cup sifted flour

Combine the yeast, sugar, salt, and water. Stir until yeast dissolves. Scald the milk; add the butter and let cool. Add the yeast mixture and the flour. Beat until smooth. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl, then turn dough over. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in bulk. Punch down.

You can chill part of the dough up to 1 week. This will make 2 loaves or 24 rolls.

For rolls: Break dough into small pieces and put in muffin pans. Cover and let double in bulk. Bake at 400 about 20 minutes.

For bread: Divide the dough into 2, shape and place in 2 loaf plans. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Remove from pans at once and let cool on a cake rack.

A few tips from the Classic Cook...

If you are like me and do not have a stand mixer (yet) I highly recommend you buy a dough whisk. I use this one from King Arthur Flour and I really can't believe I used to mix bread dough with a wooden spoon.

The dough will feel quite sticky when you first start kneading it (see first picture). It may need a little extra flour but try to keep kneading and not add extra flour unless it absolutely needs it. Eventually, the dough will become smooth and elastic (see second picture). I've read that it's really difficult to over knead the bread if you do it by hand so don't be afraid to keep going.

Finally, an easy way to shape rolls is to roll the dough into little balls and put three in each muffin cup.