Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!!!

May the coming year bring you happiness, health and properity.

(and the occasional cheesecake)

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

TWD: Sorry, No Scutterbotch Pudding or Cheesecake

Step aside folks, keep moving, nothing to see here, keep moving.

I did complete 3 out of 5 recipes for the month, so I think I'm ok in the rule book. I hope to be able to get back in the weekly groove with Dorie in January...

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Daring Baker's December Challenge: French Yule Log (in 6 Part Harmony)

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux.

They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand.

6 elements, 8 layers, 19 pages of instructions, 2 caramel burns, 3 days, 2 helpers, 1 exhausted Daring Baker. This one was a doozy! I merely read the instructions started hyperventilating. My palms got sweaty and I got all confused and in a complete tither. Of course, since everything else in December gets me confused and in a complete tither, I did the whole ostrich deal and waited until Thursday to start on this creation. Some people were doing an actual “log-ish” type thing. I pounced on two teeny weenie little words literally on the very last page of the 19 pages of directions. At the very bottom of the very last page I saw: “springform pan”. Can you say life preserver?

The whole log concept and inverted vs. right side up assembly vs. upside down assembly vs. dacquoise on the top or bottom or both, version A or version B, etc., was making my brain vibrate and eyes cross. (breathe, breathe, breathe). X'ing out all the variations I wasn't using with a big fat sharpie helped me get my brain wrapped around this. I took the straightforward approach and did mine in a 9” springform pan, right side up with one layer of the dacquoise biscuit on the bottom. I chose hazelnut as the overall theme for the cake (sorry I refuse to say that we worked like fools for 3 days on a LOG) and Hazelnut is the flavor du jour. My mom and sister were here and they helped with the execution. More on that later.

The 6 prescribed elements are:
1. Dacquoise biscuit
2. Dark chocolate mousse
3. Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert
4. Praline Feuillete (Crisp) Insert
5. Vanilla Crème Brulèe Insert
6. And finally, Dark Chocolate Icing

The order in which I made these components did not follow the order above.

I did mine as follows:
1. Vanilla Crème Brulèe Insert
2. Dacquoise biscuit
3. Praline Feuillete (Crisp) Insert
4. Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert
5. Dark chocolate mousse
6. And finally, Dark Chocolate Icing

1. Vanilla Crème Brulèe Insert
My sister and her husband went on a recent cruise to French Polynesia including Tahiti and Bora Bora (yeah, it does sound like a Bugs Bunny cartoon, but they did go and had a grand time, I might add) and brought back with them (among many other wonderful things) a kilo of vanilla beans. Yes, you read that right – one kilo of Tahitian vanilla beans. Guess what I got for Christmas? :D I got a nice bottle full of beans and some homemade vanilla extract. Yum yum. I scraped down one of those precious lovely little beans and parked it in the cream to infuse a while. While that was soaking I started on the...

2. Dacquoise biscuit
DH went to Whole Foods during lunch one day and faithfully picked me up some whole hazelnuts (filberts to some) and had the spice/nut guy grind up a container into hazelnut meal for my recipe. This was fairly straightforward. There was no piping into pretty little spirals like some of the directive pictures suggested – I smushed it down on the silpat and into the oven it went. Pulled it out to cool and cut to size. Easy peasy, unlike the.....

3. Praline Feuillete (Crisp) Insert
Can you say caramel? Again? Incredibly inconceivable as this might sound I could not find store-bought praline anywhere down here. And this is the South, mind you! Land of Nathalie Dupree and Paula Deen! I think it’s a conspiracy. I smashed up some of the whole hazelnuts with a rolling pin, and I had some caramel sauce left over from November’s caramel cake and used that. Twice. The first batch scorched while I was reheating it. Being the frugal girl I am, I asked my DS and DM to rinse all the sugar out and salvage the nuts for round 2. Round 2 was better and I pulled it off in the blonde stage and before it became an amber brunette. I used les Krispies des Rice in lieu of la gavottes/lace crepes for the “crisp” part of the program. I sprayed 2 plastic spoons with Pam spray and tossed the rice krispies with the hazelnuts and sugar mixture. I then plopped it on some waxed paper, put another layer on top and flattened it out to make my circle. Into the fridge and later cut it to size. Then we jumped...

4. Back on the Crème Brulee wagon.
I thought I’d be clever and use the springform pan to cook the brulee, but that quickly changed when it sprang a leak and started flooding out of the bottom. Quickly flipping through my brain for ideas – EUREKA! The silpat circular baking pan I have – the kitchen gods were smiling on me (at that point) as the diameter was the same as the springform pan. Yay! DS helped me pour it all in and we popped in the oven without a hitch. I froze it after it cooked and it popped out of the silpat like a frisbee and nestled down so neatly into the springform pan. Little did I know that the kitchen gods are fickle and can turn on you (and your mother) in an instant. This was made abundantly clear in the next step, the...

5. Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert.
“Step 1: Make a caramel”. Ok, we made another caramel, we burned another caramel and we burned our fingers on the molten lava sugar. (Gee, I wonder if it tastes as burnt as it smells? Let's have a sample...doh!) Blisters for both me and my mom – that crap is HOT. Just as bad as hot glue (insert Voice of Experience here). It hits your finger, burns the heck out of it then instantly cools ever so slightly, so that it turns from liquid to solid and it’s stuck on your damn finger, continuing to broil the flesh underneath it and you can’t get it off. More of my good friend Silvadene cream, followed by a miracle product my DS brought me – Melagel, made from teatree/melaleuca plant. Amazing. No scars, not blisters and not sensitive to heat or touch the next day. A must for every kitchen and home. But I digress. Screw the “make a caramel” part. Kraft made the caramel, we stirred the chocolate into it. I smeared it onto the dacquoise layer with a spatula. Little did we know that the next step held yet more challenges like the...

6. Dark chocolate mousse.
This includes a Pate a Bombe which is a term used for “egg yolks beaten with a SUGAR SYRUP, then aerated.” Helloooooo! CARAMEL IS A SUGAR SYRUP! and this has the word BOMB in the title! I’ll spare you the details, but this layer turned out slightly chunky, as the SUGAR SYRUP BOMB turned into chunks of hardened caramel/sugar and no amount of whipping, beating, magic bulletting or smashing would break them up. So, slightly chunky it is. I refrigerated the mousse per somewhere I read, but wound up having to microwave it to make it workable again. No piping here but more smearing with a spatula and fingers.

At this point, all the layers are cut and assembled in the following order:
Ganache insert
praline/crisp insert
creme brulee insert

and the whole shebang went into the deep freeze for the night. Today I unmolded the cake and it was this nice, sturdy wheel thingy. Very nice. Then I started on the last (TYG!) step, the...

7. Dark Chocolate Icing.
I mixed the gelatin with water and let it rest for 15 minutes. I came back and pouf! She is gone. “Ah, honey, where’s the little bowl that had goopy stuff in it that was on the counter? In the dishwasher – it was empty wasn’t it?” I hope to heaven that it dissolves completely in there. Made it again and babysat this time. This was easy peasy as well, but it took a long time to cool. I finally got impatient and dumped it on the cake. I had to pick it up and roll the sides around in the pan to coat them. Thank goodness it was frozen solid.

Back into the chiller for about a half hour and then into the fridge. The 1/2 hour maximum defrost is a huge underestimation. It was in there for the entire run time of the movie Wall-E (98 minutes, FYI) and it still was frozen solid. I carved it up regardless to take my photos and tried a bite. Frozen = eh, it’s just ok. I've left the slice out on the counter during the time I'm typing this (also about 97 minutes and counting) and ran in there just now to re-try it = mmmmmm much better and the threatened apocalyptic catastrophe of melty, runny stuff is nowhere to be seen. Nothing has pooled or gotten all gloppy– it’s room temperature, tasty and all the layers are still intact. (Note: still in one piece after 3 hours and tastes even better.)
NOW I can taste the hazelnuts and the chocolate. Veni, vidi, vici, venti.
(I came, I saw, I conquered, I got the t-shirt and a latte.)

Thanks to Hilda and Marion for selecting this month’s Daring Bakers Challenge. You can find the complete recipe (all 19 pages :D) on their sites.

To see what all the other DBer’s did, you can find the blogroll here and if you’d like to join the monthly party, info about that can be found on that page as well.

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas to All

and to all a good night!

I hope that your Christmas was everything you wished it would be and more.
Sending all of you special hugs on this magical day,

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Random Image

I have NO earthly idea why this vignette of white and silver has been composed in my bathroom sink or where the bow came from. I just walked in the room and this stopped me in my tracks. There's nothing under the bowl. And why the spoon? Mysteries abound.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

TWD: Buttery Jam Cookies

For your consideration: Buttery Jam Cookies from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, page 80 featured this week on Tuesdays with Dorie.

Short and sweet today, my dearest sweeties! I have a BOATLOAD of things to do tonight to get ready for the morrow. It's Winter Party for the Little One and I am the Room Mom who needs to help, bring some supplies, teacher gifts and flowers for one of the teacher's half birthday AND some paying work as well, woo hoo! It's a whirlwind I tell you! A whirl wind!

Thank Heavens I made these cookies three weeks ago. I would have been really crazy otherwise ;) (You can see one of the Linzer Sables hanging out in the background.)

These were easy peasy to make - I used peach preserves and while this combo was good and buttery, they didn't taste very peachy. Maybe something stronger like apricot would have been better. Hmm. I might make these again, because they were good and if I do, I'll be trying apricot jam.

Thanks to Heather of Randomosity and the Girl for choosing this recipe. To see what all the other TWDers did with it, check out the blogroll here. If you'd like to try making Dorie’s version of Buttery Jam Cookies for yourself, you can find the recipe on our hostess’s blog, or in Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Coq au Vin

Flambé better late then never! I love a good flaming pot of food, especially when I intentionally set it ablaze and not accidentally. This post is late due to my unfortunate incident with the exploding water. My hand healed really well and I can use potholders and everything now just like a big girl.

Coq au Vin. Chicken au vin, coq and wine, chix and wine (which is what we really have here when I'm with my friends, versus cooking like a fool right now) and at last we settle on chicken and wine. I really chopped up this recipe and made it my own due to extreme laziness and the fact that my kids don’t eat anything with “weird” ingredients like small frozen whole onions or (heaven forbid!) cremini mushrooms. DH HATES ‘shrooms, so there’s no point throwing them in just for myself to hear everyone whining and moaning about it and then having to pick them out.

The chicken part was easy – I used boneless skinless chicken breasts as I was too lazy and cold to walk downstairs and shuffle thru the freezer to dig out parts or defrost the bowling ball that is a whole chicken down there. Parts is parts. I also just used up every last shred of carrot in the house – literally just shredded from making a carrot cake - so I used parsnips. If anyone asks, they’re albino carrots. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. So, I blithely start making the chix wit’ wine in my Colossal Pan. Yes, it actually IS called the Colossal Pan. This is one of my favorite pans - it's a big 6 quart puppy and because it’s so big, it’s almost a pot. Would that make it a pant? Hmmm.

Anyhoo, I cooked the bacon (I crumbled it after frying it whole because who wants to dice when they can crush?) I browned the chicken, I sautéed the onions. I added the garlic. I’m thinkin’ to myself – WOW 5 large cloves of garlic? You go girl! Alas, I have the cookbook open to page 2 of the recipe and forgot that my ingredients are on the page before – the pot roast on page 117 uses 5 cloves of garlic, if anyone’s interested – so my c.o.v. had 5 cloves instead of 2. Good thing I love garlic.

Moving forward to the flambé part.

I got the Colossal Lid to my Colossal Pan, just in case I needed to smother the flames before setting my kitchen alight, and grabbed a long fireplace match. I lit it from these cute little penguin candles from Bath & Body Works. Aren’t they sweet? Cinnamon scented, discounted with purchase, you can get coupons from their website if you sign up for email. But I digress. I pour in the cognac and light the match and POOF! Up in flames goes the pan. Coooool. Messy one comes running thinking I’m about torch the place and also says Cool when he is assured that I MEANT to set fire to dinner this time.

Now, I know you’re thinking, well Lisa, that Colossal Pan doesn’t look like it has an oven proof handle. And of course, you’d be right. It always usually helps to actually READ the recipe – I missed the whole preheat your oven thing or else I’d have started out in the other pot that can go in the oven.

Presto changeo. Through the miracle of the internet and my DH who washes the dishes without complaint, the dinner is now clad in stainless steel.

40 minutes later, we’re good to go. I thickened up the sauce with the flour/butter paste and stopped there as we weren’t partaking of the ‘shroom and onion action. Served with egg noodles and they liked it. What? Oh, those are albino carrots honey. No? Oh, silly me those are actually potatoes. You like potatoes. Eat them. No whining, Santa knows when you whine. Trust me.

Many thanks to Bethany of this little piggy went to market for selecting this recipe. If you yourself would like to see exactly how easy, simple and tasty this Coq au Vin is, you can find the recipe on the Food Network site here or in Ina Garten’s new book, Back to Basics on page 116. To join the BB community or to see what all the others did with this, please visit the the Barefoot Bloggers site.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Electric Mixer

(Click to enlarge)
My classic symbol of comfort and home is flaming cherry red. ;D

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

How NOT to Roast Garlic...

This is what NOT to do:
1) prepare 2 perfectly innocent heads of garlic by peeling the skins off, leaving the root intact, then cutting off the tops of the cloves and rubbing the entire thing with olive oil, especially into the cut areas.
2) put said garlic heads into 2 cute little mini-Pyrex ramekins that you love and are the only 2 you have left from a set of 6.
3) put the above assembly into the microwave for 5 minutes.
4) get distracted doing something else in another room
5) come back into the kitchen trying to find the source of that horrible burning smell.
6) open the door to the microwave and have massive clouds of thick, choking gray smoke billow out.
7) set off the fire alarms and fill the whole house top to bottom with smoke and that sickening burnt stuff smell that will take about a week (or more) to fully disappear. Open all the doors and windows in the interim, letting all the heat (and smoke) out.
8) try to clean the inside of the microwave out using spray cleaner and Barkeepers Friend.
9) set your favorite 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave with 1 cup of water and a splash of lemon juice and bring to a boil so that the water vapor helps steam off the goop and clean out the smell that is now permeating the guts of the microwave.
10) open the door to the microwave and remove the favorite measuring cup and have the bloody thing start reboiling, overflowing onto your hand.

Things TO do:
11) scream obscenities at the top of your lungs that would make a sailor blush and fling the cup and liquid across the room in the general direction of your porcelain sink and have it shatter in there into a million pieces. Try to get it all in the sink and not have it splash all over the floor and cabinets. Avoiding hurling it through the window is also a good idea.
12) run your now scalded hand under cool water for several minutes until you realize that your state is in a drought and that they changed the billing /water tier consumption rate charges on your house and that it will cost a small fortune to keep running the water. Yell for your 9 year old to bring you a bowl (NOW!) and plunge your hand into the bowl of cool (not cold) water. Add a few ice cubes when the water becomes bearable.
13) sit there for, oh, about 1 1/2 hours, swishing your hand gently back and forth. While you're doing this, it's a good time to make your kindergartener sit and write out 10 times "I follow class rules". This will take the whole 1 1/2 hours, so it is a constructive use of your otherwise free time.
14) call every urgent care center within a 20 mile radius and discover that they all close at 8:00 pm and that unless you want to go camp out in the ER until morning with all the really sick people, you're SOL.
15) call Walgreens to see if they have anything and learn that the answer is no, not really.
16) send your husband to dig around in the medicine closet and find the jar of Silvadene burn cream that expired back in 2005, but that you kept "just in case".
17) realize that this is one of those moments and apply the cream. Have pain ebb and flow between excruciating and tolerable for about an hour.
18) breathe a deep sigh of relief and gratitude that the old cream still works and that the pain is abating.
19) do not take a picture of your hand to document the experience.
20) be extremely grateful that the cream and cold water worked and that the burn is not near as bad as it could have been.
21) tell the internet and the Barefoot Bloggers that you were going to make the coq au vin but got sidetracked by all this and you'll do it in the next few days. Beg forgiveness and plead insanity. Type the post with the one good hand and two fingers from the other because you are not 100%, but can't be separated from your computer and the internet for any length of time without going loco.
22) the next time you boil water in the microwave for a longish period of time, put a bamboo skewer in the water to give the bubbles an escape route and not explode on you.
23) buy a jar of roasted garlic at Trader Joe's or Harry's/Whole Foods. You'll have it on hand (ow!) when you need it in a pinch and don't have time to roast it properly.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Salud! The story of our visit with Shirley Corriher

Messy One wants to be a scientist and a chef. He also wants to be an architect / archaeologist / astronaut (architectolonaut) when he grows up. For Christmas, I asked him what he wanted and he came up with "Something with cooking. And books". Okey-dokey. Sure thing kid. That about narrows it down.

A few weeks ago I went to a book signing and lecture at the Margaret Mitchell House for Shirley Corriher's highly anticipated new book Bakewise. She and Alton Brown were at the event; Alton was acting as master of ceremonies, asking Shirley questions and keeping her on task. (That woman could EASILY talk about salt for 2 hours, and you would be FASCINATED and want to hear more.) I had a great time (sorry, no photos. DH lent me his camera... without a memory card in it and my phone takes suckky pictures) and I left with a copy of Bakewise and visions of the Tunnel of Fudge cake flitting about in my head. (You should get her book Cookwise too. Amazing!!!)

One of the women I went with tipped me off that Shirley would be giving a demo at Harry's / Whole Foods "Salud!" cooking school. Bing! Lightbulb! I reserved 2 tickets. One for me and one for the Messy One. Of course we were late getting there, but not tooo late. It hadn't started yet, but we were the last ones into the classroom which holds only about 24 people. As expected, Messy One was the youngest one there and we got the hairy eyeball from everyone when we walked in. Some credit here people! I KNOW better than to take No Thank You Boy. That would never have worked. Messy One? No problem. He was an angel: he listened politely, didn't fidget, paid attention and even took some notes! I was so proud, even when he wiped his runny nose on his shirt sleeve. (Completely understandable. We're still working on nasal manners and hygiene around here.)

The demos Shirley did were corn bread, chocolate crinkle cookies, deep dark chocolate cake, rustic pear fruit tart, chocolate ruffles (the woman is simply BRILLIANT!!!! BRILLIANT I tell you!) and a decadent chocolate ganache. Everything was amazingly good and we got to taste it all. Of course Messy One was covered in chocolate from ear to ear, but then again, most of us were and with him, food head to toe is to be expected.

The corn bread was basted with butter on the top AND bottom ("wretched excess", she called it) and served "wedding cake style". This is another BRILLIANT idea when you have to serve a round cake thing to a bunch of people and don't want to get all skimpy on the slices or wedges. How to: Cut an inner circle inside the cake about half waybetween the edge and the middle. Slice the outer ring into wedges and the inner into slices - everybody's happy, they get a nice chunk of cake and your creation isn't carved into crumbs.

We had a great time. Shirley signed our recipe packets and complimented him on his manners and his love for food and science. All in all, a great time.

Merry Christmas, Messy One.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookie Recipe
AJC Article about Book Event
AJC Article
Tunnel of Fudge Recipe
Margaret Mitchell House

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Saving Documents: an EASY Way

(Today's TWD is next/below this post)

This makes my life so much easier, I thought I’d share.

Instead of physically printing out important documents you get online, like receipts from online purchases, invoices, order acknowledgements, coupons :D (when legal or moral), use this FREE program to create pdfs of them instead.

If you're a couponer and have a scanner, you can also print/pdf and save copies of your original cash register receipts, rebate forms , UPC’s or other proofs of purchase before you mail off your originals.

To use this program, instead of clicking on “print” and then selecting your regular ink printer, you select the “pdf redirect printer” in the print drop-down box and it creates a pdf file you can then save. Save everything to a folder called “receipts” or something like that and you’ll have all those things in one place, and not reams of paper to keep track of.

If for some reason you need the documentation, all you do is then print the file on your regular printer or you can forward it directly as is to the company as evidence.

Think outside the box!
You can also use this method to keep copies of recipes (hallelujah!) , directions, instruction manuals or ANYTHING you want to print and keep for posterity, but not have paper clutter.

If you scan them in, you can also save Legal documents like your will, insurance papers, picture of your passport, driver’s license, credit cards – anything you’d REALLY need if things were stolen or if your house burned down or if your computer crashed.

You can save these files from catastrophe by emailing these pdfs to yourself at an online email service (like hotmail, gmail, etc. or similar site that you can check from another computer anywhere on the planet) and then save the documents in your inbox or saved items box. If you’re traveling and need this info, you can just get online and print the files in whatever country you’re in.

The possibilities are endless.

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TWD: Grandma’s All-Occasion Sugar Cookies

For your consideration: Grandma’s All-Occasion Sugar Cookies from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, pages 146-147 featured this week on Tuesdays with Dorie.

And there was much rejoicing. Yum yum yum yum yum! FINALLY! A TWD recipe that was easy to make, with no exotic or expensive ingredients (like nuts) AND it actually tasted great, which is always a plus in my book. I was feeling more than a little discouraged over the last few TWD recipes and was dreading making any more "eh, metza metz" things that didn’t put my ingredients to their best use. Q'est que c'est metza metz? It's Italian slang for so-so (which you say while rotating your hand back and forth).

These cookies were such a refreshing change! I made the dough last weekend when I made the Linzer Sables - I also completely trashed the kitchen in the process. I made all three TWD cookies simultaneously; the sables, these sugar cookies and the buttery jam cookies that are next week’s offering and just got them all knocked out at once. I also made the dough for Shirley Corriher’s Chocolate Crinkle Cookies from Bakewise which we've just dished out, sugared up and popped in the oven as we speak.

I grated the rind of an orange into these cookies and decided to do the slice and bake method since I did the cookie cutter thing with the sables and was over that action. I shaped them into a square shape and threw them in the freezer (for 5 days) wrapped in waxed paper until I could get to them (in other words, as today's deadline approached.)

Yesterday I pulled them out and sliced them into ¼” disks and topped them off with Turbinado (raw) sugar. They smelled heavenly and as the scent wafted through the house, the kids were chomping at the bit waiting to tear into them. After they ate their Lentil Soup (coming soon) they were allowed to get at the cookies. They LOVED them! Not too sweet and a very interesting flavor.

Many thanks to Ulrike of Küchenlatein for choosing this recipe. To see what all the other TWDers did with it, check out the blogroll here. If you'd like to try making Dorie’s version of Grandma’s All-Occasion Sugar Cookies for yourself, you can find the recipe on our hostess’s blog, or in Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Salud! with Shirley


EDIT: Ohhh! Sorry to keep you hanging! I promise to try and write about this tomorrow! Messy One has a swim meet all this weekend, and I'm still up (now at midnight Friday) cooking for the hospitality suite. TWO different egg casseroles (one of which needs to be there at about 6:30 am; same bat time/channel Sunday for the other) and TWO marbled sour cream cakes - w/two new flavor riffs previously untried but the batter is to die for! I need to split these up and share the love with the pool staff - they have been very helpful, and meets can be stressful.

Also (don't hate me) we're supposed to go to Tom Colicchio's brand spankin' new Craft Atlanta tomorrow night. Taking pics will most probably be tacky, so I'll need to use my imagination to document it all for you! Oh the excitement!

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

TWD: Linzer Sables

For your consideration: Linzer Sables from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, pages 134-135 featured this week on Tuesdays with Dorie which is actually Wednesday With Dorie this week.

Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t. More nuts this week with Dorie. I scanned thru the upcoming recipes and there are no nuts coming up next week or the week after. Phew. I was worried. I really didn’t want to make this recipe because of all the pricey nuts involved. Maybe I’m hoarding for the winter, but I didn’t want to spend any more of my frozen cache on a recipe that may or may not turn out. I did hear on NPR the other day that there’s a nut shortage in some parts of the country. Ok people, it was squirrels and acorns, but I’m trying to make a point here! What if people nuts are next?! Oh stop! Nutty people will always be in plentiful supply, but I'm talking about the actual nuts themselves! I’m driving myself nuts crazy thinking about it.

I keep all my nuts in the basement freezer and in surveying my loot I have 8 jars of macadamias (on super sale at CVS last week - score!), 5 cans of salted peanuts, 4 cans of honey roasted peanuts (Kroger on sale and BOGO), 1 ½ bags of pine nuts, 2 cans of cashews, a small bag of pre-shelled pistachios, smallish boxes of walnuts, almonds (whole and sliced) and a plethora of pecans. I have a huge bag and a half that I bought from Sam’s for last week’s Twofer Pie. Like I said, I was having nut-spending phobia BUT the Ghost of Linzers kept showing up. Everywhere I kept running into these Linzer Sables. Everywhere! Then to top it off, sitting in my inbox was yesterday’s "Day 2" Food Network 12 Days of Cookies recipe. Yes, it was… Pistachio Linzertorte Cookies from Paula Deen. AAAAAH! Guilt, guilt, guilt, it’s written all over your face. I knew I must make these or I would be haunted forever.

I used the pecans, I figured that I could sacrifice those to the Linzer Sable gods and ground them up in my Magic Bullet and turned them into dust. The cookies went together fairly straightforward – no major surprises, although the dough does need to be really cold/almost frozen in order to get the cutouts out of the dough. It is somewhat labor intensive, but not hard so this is something that needs to be preplanned or split into two sessions, the dough half and the cookie making half.

Contemplating the jam. Alas, I think I have a problem here as well.

I’ve discovered that I have a jam, jelly, preserve fetish, but I can create a diversion proudly say that Nancy at The Dogs Eat the Crumbs has a bigger and more impressive stockpile, and I won’t even go into the Pam cooking spray collection that Cathy of The Tortefeasor has. We can go for intervention together. Nuts, jam and Pam. I’ll find a recipe for those three and get back to you.

Anyway, I chose the traditional seedless raspberry jam for the pretty cutout cookies, and filled the leftover thumbprint cookies with some of that as well as Peach preserves and Sweet Potato Butter. I had the Nutella out, but there again, I have a spending problem. I didn’t want to cash it in on these cookies. I swear, it’s a nut thing. Plus, I easily justified it by the fact that the Nutella flavor overrode the pecan flavor and that would have cancelled it out. (Hmm. I need to buy some hazelnuts.) Recipe made, conscience cleared.

The verdict? These were surprisingly good – I haven’t tasted the pretty ones yet since I’m taking them to a friend’s house tonight for her birthday, but the baker’s sample was really good.

Thanks to Dennis of Living the Life for choosing this recipe. To see what all the other TWDers did with it, check out the blogroll here. If you'd like to try making Dorie’s Linzer Sables for yourself, you can find the recipe on our host’s blog, or in Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Chili Today, Hot Tamale

I am not a chili fan (and it doesn’t like me either), but the Y chromosomes in the house are big fans. My DH especially loves chili, but I really don’t like the canned slop that they sell in the store. In perusing the labels, I’ve been Horror Struck! (insert rolling of eyes and gnashing of teeth here). This is also not taking into account that the “serving size” is less than half a can and the nutrition info is labeled thusly. You need to do the math to determine how much artery clogging sludge is in each can, because let’s face it, does your Manly Man eat 1 cup (246 grams) at a time or eat the whole can? The whole can of course! One little gem has 180 fat calories/20 grams fat (aka: 30% of your daily value) and 8 grams of saturated fat which equals 40% of your DV. Fiber and sodium are equally off the charts.

Keeping this in mind for my men, I made chili. I made CI’s Simple Beef Chili with Kidney Beans, to be precise. None of them like green peppers, so those were left out and I eased up on the amount of heat: I halved the cayenne and chili powder and only used about a teaspoon of cumin – it’s one flavor they haven’t grown to like yet.

They loved it. Men/boys sitting around snarfing chili, crunching up saltines and making low grunting noises over their bowls. Just sampling it to get the seasonings right gave me heartburn. Nope, male bonding and chili. I’m good with that.

Cooks Illustrated Simple Beef Chili

Good choices for condiments include diced fresh tomatoes, diced avocado, sliced scallions, chopped red onion, chopped cilantro leaves, sour cream, and shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese.

Makes about 3 quarts, serving 8 to 10

2 tablespoons vegetable oil or corn oil
2 medium onions, chopped fine (about 2 cups)
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
2 pounds 85 percent lean ground beef (see variations below)
2 (15-ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 can (28 ounces) tomato puree
Table salt
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1. Heat oil in large heavy-bottomed nonreactive Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking, 3 to 4 minutes. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic, and spices; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add half the beef; cook, breaking up pieces with wooden spoon, until no longer pink and just beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add remaining beef and cook, breaking up pieces with wooden spoon, until no longer pink, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Remove cover and continue to simmer 1 hour longer, stirring occasionally (if chili begins to stick to bottom of pot, stir in 1/2 cup water and continue to simmer), until beef is tender and chili is dark, rich, and slightly thickened. Adjust seasoning with additional salt. Serve with lime wedges and condiments if desired.

Thank you to the Fabulous and Talented Cathy over at The Tortefeasor for giving me The Butterfly Award!

Thanks Cathy! You sincerely rock.

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