Monday, December 20, 2010

Separating the boys from the (gingerbread) men

Santa is about to make his arduous journey around the world. Why not treat the old man to some gingerbread cookies with a kick? Yep, these are not gingerbread boys; they're full grown gingerbread men made with a healthy dose of spiced rum. Although they are robust and rum-y, kids can eat these, too as the alcohol evaporates during baking.

I prefer metal cookie cutters because they have a sharper edge, cutting all the way through the dough. And the older the cutter, the closer it is to my heart.

To lessen the amount of times you have to roll out the dough, try to get as many cookies from the dough each time you roll.

Boozy Gingerbread Men

-1/2 cup softened butter
-1 cup sugar
-1 cup molasses (If you don't care much for molasses, you can substitute some of it with sorghum, maple syrup, and/or honey. Example - 1/2 cup molasses & 1/2 cup honey.)
-1/2 cup spiced rum
-4 cups flour, plus a little bit more for rolling out the dough
-1 tsp. salt
-1 tsp. baking soda
-1.5 tsp. ground ginger
-1/8 tsp. ground clove (optional)
-1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon (optional)

To make the dough:
Beat butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until well combined. Add molasses (and honey/maple syrup/sorghum if desired) and rum. Beat until fully incorporated. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk or sift together flour, salt, baking soda, and spices. Add the dry mixture slowly to the wet mixture until combined. Don't over stir. Flatten dough slightly, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. (This dough can be made two days in advance if it's kept in the fridge.)

Tips for rolling out the dough:
Keep the dough as cold as you can. Divide the dough into six smaller pieces. Use one small piece at a time and keep the other pieces in the fridge. This will make it easier for you to roll out as well.
Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch. Work on a lightly floured surface or between sheets of parchment paper. If the dough is sticky, it's better to roll it out on flour.
Having trouble lifting the cookie from your work surface? Slide a thin spatula under it to transfer from the surface to the cookie tray, then next time you roll out the dough, add a bit more flour.

Bake on a greased or parchment paper lined baking sheet at 350 degrees for about 6 min. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet.

Decorating: if you like dried fruit, nuts, or seeds, you can dot the cookies with them before they go into the oven.
If you like a drizzle of icing, here's a good recipe:
Combine 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, 3/4 tsp. of vanilla extract, and 1 tsp. of milk. Drizzle over cooled cookies. Let dry.

Store cookies in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It's POM time

Hello guys! Sorry no recipe this week, but I had to share some good news. Last week, Karli and I got a very cool email. A fella from POM Wonderful messaged us to see if we would come up with a recipe using their delicious and nutritious pomegranate juice and blog about it. My internal response was something like, "Hells yes!" The POM fella is sending us a case to experiment with. I can't wait to get started! Unfortunately, my experimentation won't begin until after this crazy holiday season. Speaking of, boozy gingerbread cookies are coming next week. See you then!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Potato & Leek Soup

Leeks are perhaps one of the most beautiful vegetables. Their interiors are so vibrant. This soup is a great way to use left over mashed potatoes. Just whip them right into the broth. This soup can be made vegetarian or vegan as well. It's just a nice soup to make on the fly for a cold day.

There is fennel bulb in this soup that mustn't be overlooked. The subtle fennel flavor adds a lot to this simple soup. The fennel fronds can be used as a tasty garnish, too.

Here are the cooked, wilty veggies after about 8 minutes. They were cooked in olive oil, but to really add some flavor, cook some bacon in the pot, discard and reserve the bacon to garnish the finished soup, and cook the veggies in the delicious, fatty bacon grease. Yes, I know, it's a heart attack waiting to happen, but what a tasty way to go.

Potato and Leek Soup

- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 3 leeks, cut into 1/4 inch pieces (Discard the coarse, green leaves at the top.)
- 1 fennel bulb, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
- 1/2 tsp of salt
- 3 cups mashed potatoes
- 4 cups chicken broth OR 2 cups of broth and 2 cups of milk

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, fennel, and salt - cook stirring occasionally until soft - about 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the mashed potatoes and broth (and milk if using) and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally until heated through - about 4 to 6 minutes.
Puree the mixture in the pot using an immersion blender (or use a stand blender).
Season with more salt and pepper to taste.
Dish out and serve with crackers.

Makes about 4 servings.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pot Pie!

What to do, what to do with all of that left over turkey?! Well, you could make a sandwich every day for a week, but that's boring. My favorite cure for leftovers is to make a pot pie. You can turn this pie into whatever kind of pie you like: chicken pot pie, turkey pot pie, even ham pot pie. I've made them all...many times. This recipe is a no fail and an instant hint. It's my most requested dish at home. Here it goes...

Let's make a roux. First chop some onion.

Melt the butter and lightly cook the onions. Toss in the flour, pepper, and salt.

Stir to combine, and cook it for a little bit to make it taste less floury. This should just take a minute. Then pour in the milk and broth.

This is what your brothy roux should look like. Not too watery and not too thick. Check it with a wooden spoon.

Hooray for frozen veggies! You can put in your favorite veggies. I like the ol' carrot, corn, and green bean mix. Then toss in your meat of choice - precooked!

You can bake it in one big pan (9x13) or in two 8 inch pie plates or mix it up however you want. I like to make one pie plate and then make a few mini pies to freeze and eat later.

"C" is for chicken because I made this batch a while ago. I'll be putting "T"s on this new batch. Oh, you might have noted that I only use a top crust. You can use a top and a bottom crust, but I find that my bottom crust gets soggy. One top crust works for me just fine.

Chicken Pot Pie


· 1/3 cup butter or margarine

· 1/3 cup of flour

· 1/3 cup onion

· ½ tsp. salt

· ¼ tsp. pepper

· 1 1/3 chicken broth

· 2/3 cup milk

· 2 cups chicken

· 1-10 oz. packaged frozen veggies (carrots, broc, cauli, etc.)

· 1 or 2 Pillsbury pie crusts

How to:

· Heat butter over low heat until well blended.

· Add flour, onion, salt, and pepper.

· Cook over low heat stirring constantly until mixture is smooth and bubbly.

· Remove from heat.

· Stir in broth and milk.

· Heat to boiling, stirring constantly – boil and stir 1 minute.

· Stir in chicken pieces and frozen veggies.

· Pour in crust and cover with top crust.

· Bake at 425 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Makes 6 servings.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cabbage - it's good for you

Hello! I'm keeping it really short this week. I'm feeling a bit under the weather and having a strange desire to consume cabbage. This is a rare occurrence, craving cabbage, but I hope it doesn't detour you from trying it out. Cabbage gets a bad rap, I think, and it's unfortunate. Tis delicious and easy to fix.

Chop-a-da cabbage.

Lightly cook zee cabbage with carrot and onion. Just wilt them a bit. Don't over to it. Mushy cabbage = ew.

Place the wilted veg in a dish. Whip up the milk, egg, and cheese and pour over zee veg. I advise you to top it off with more cheese. Cheese makes everything even better.

Ta-da. Easy cabbage side dish.

My apologies for the laziness. See you next week! Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Birthday Sweets - part 2

Here is another one of the dessert items that I brought to Aubrey's 30th birthday party. Berry Cobbler; it's great for a carry-in. People love this simple dessert. You can make it with fresh or frozen berries, and it works just fine. Any berry will do. I used mostly blueberry with a few raspberries for extra measure.

This cobbler is sort of upside down. Usually in cobblers the berries are on the bottom and the bread is on top, but not here. I have found that it's best to sprinkle the berries a bit heavier around the edges. The berries tend to wander into the center of the pan, making an uneven ratio of berries to bread. (See last photo.)

A bit of extra sugar on the top makes a nice little crunch. I cut out a LOT of sugar from the original recipe. You can cut out even more to turn this dessert into a breakfast item.

Berry Cobbler adapted from Pioneer Woman

- 1 stick butter, melted
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 cups berries, fresh or frozen
- a few teaspoons of sugar for dusting


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a small baking dish (like an 8x8 or 9x9). Combine flour, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix melted butter, sugar, milk, and vanilla together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just combined. Pour into greased baking dish. Layer the berries on the top of the batter, and sprinkle with a small amount of sugar to finish. Bake for about an hour or until the edges brown. Let cool for a few minutes to set up before serving.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Birthday Sweets - part 1

My crafty friend Bobbie threw a fantastic 30th birthday party for her wonderful sister, Aubrey. Bobbie gave me the honor of baking up the desserts. I happily obliged. I baked up a storm, making pumpkin cake, an apple tart, and a berry cobbler.

Let's start with the apple tart. (Ha, that rhymed.) This dessert looks very impressive, but takes SO little time or effort. The recipe came from Martha again, but I cut out the unnecessary steps/ingredients. Martha, Martha, there's no need for such complexity.

Step one: buy apples and puff pastry. Two: peel and slice apples. Three: roll puff pastry out into a rectangle.

Four: score a 3/4 inch border around the edge. Don't cut all the way through.

Step five: in a large bowl, toss apples in sugar with a dash of cinnamon. Six: arrange the apples on the pastry dough, keeping within the edges.

Step seven: bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. (Optional) step eight: glaze with warmed apricot or apple jelly for a pretty sheen.

Thanks for the recipe, Martha. I'm going to paint my fingernails with the extra time that I saved.

Apple Tart adapted from Martha Stewart

You will need:
  • 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed, rolled out to about an 8x14 inch rectangle
  • flour for work surface
  • 2-3 tart apples, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • a few dashes of cinnamon
  • a Tablespoon or two of apricot or apple jelly (optional)
Impress your friends with this fall favorite. Berry Cobbler coming next week.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Slice of heaven: the only quiche you'll ever make again.

Oh, Martha Stewart, why do you make such good things? I think you often over complicate your recipes, but with this quiche, you hit the money.

Quiches are one of those adaptable foods that you can alter to suit your own taste. Basically you can plug in different ingredients like this; pick at least one ingredient from each of the following categories:
Aromatic - onion, shallots, scallions, etc.
Cheese - Parmesan, Gruyere, Romano, Asiago, etc.
Filling(s) - mushroom, zucchini, broccoli, spinach, kale, arugula, shredded carrot, sausage, bacon, prosciutto, chicken, etc. (Precook the meat or use cured meat before adding it to the egg mixture.)

The veggies will have to be at least half cooked otherwise they will be crunchy. Quiches should not be crunchy. And when you see the heavy cream listed among the ingredients, don't freak out. This 1980's non-fat/low-fat fad is outdated garbage. If you're going to take the time to make food, use the best ingredients; and that means using real butter or cream sometimes (for example). I'm not talking about in excess. Paula Dean is a forerunner for heart disease, but in moderate portions, you can eat anything and be perfectly fine.

Here's the recipe. Martha uses morel mushrooms, but obviously you can choose a more affordable mushroom for this quiche. With this quiche base, you could put in whatever filler ingredient you want. I used shiitake mushrooms, red onion, and spinach. You could use zucchini and prosciutto OR shallot, bacon, and arugula OR just broccoli. Try this recipe word for word, ingredient for ingredient to see if you like it. Then experiment, experiment, experiment to make it your own. I found that Martha uses too much salt, so I cut back by half. The cheese adds a lot of salt, too.

This recipe makes one tall quiche or two shorter quiches. I like splitting the filling into two crusts because we like a little more crust in our household. See, it's all about adaptability. Give it a try. This recipe is definitely one to make to impress the in-laws.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pumpkin bread (or cake)

What to do, what to do with that pumpkin puree.... I've got the perfect thing - pumpkin bread. It tastes great, it's perfect for autumn, it makes a wonderful gift, and it travels well. Let's get to it!

Whip up all of the wet ingredients in a large bowl. (I like how the non-oily ingredients are suspended in the oil. It looks so trippy, similar to a lava lamp.) Sift the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. It's best to sift or whisk the ingredients together so you can avoid little flour balls in your finished loaf. You can see said flour balls in my loaf. *sadface* Add the dry to the wet, and be careful not to over mix.

Pour into greased bread pans or a baking dish. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes. Stick a toothpick in the center to check for done-ness. If it's clean, your bread is ready to come out of the oven.

  • Pumpkin Bread

  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 7x3 inch loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.
  3. Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Monday, October 18, 2010

How to make pumpkin puree - no cans allowed!

Have you been searching desperately for pumpkin puree on the grocery store shelves? Due to the pumpkin crop casualty of last growing season, we're still seeing the effects. Although some stores have a few cans to offer, you won't find canned pumpkin-y goodness as easily. I say quit searching, head over to a farmers market or pumpkin patch, and pick an eating pumpkin to puree yourself. It's easier than you think. Here's how it goes:

Picking a pumpkin: ask your vendor for an eating pumpkin. You can cook and eat all pumpkins, but only a "pumpkin pie" pumpkin or an eating pumpkin will taste good. Don't feel like you have to get a gargantuan gourd like I did. After eating one of these, I now prefer the little pie pumpkins. They are small, round, and vibrant orange. One small pie pumpkin will be enough for an average recipe, but if you're going through the motions to make your own puree, it's better to pick up and puree two. It's not that much more work.

Now wash your pumpkin(s), slice them open, scoop out their guts, and cut into manageable pieces. (If you have a pie pumpkin, cutting them in half will be manageable enough.)

Place them in a deep dish or oven-safe pan, cut side down. Don't over crowd your pan like I did. (It will take longer and then you'll have to cover the pile with foil.) Pour an inch of water into the pan with the pumpkins. Place in a preheated oven (350 degrees), uncovered for an hour to an hour and a half - just until the pieces are soft and the skin peels easily.

When the pieces are soft, let them come to room temperature or until they are cool enough to touch. They will look sad and wilty, but the skin will peel easily. Peel them...

...and place the pieces into a food processor, food mill, or potato ricer to achieve a nice, smooth puree. It's better to work in batches so that you don't bog down your machine.

If not using your puree immediately, I like to line a cupcake pan with a layer of thick plastic wrap (don't use the cheap stuff, it tears) and measure out 1/2 cup portions. Freeze it, pop out the portions, and transfer to a freezer zip-top bag. When you need pumpkin puree, just take out a few pumpkin-sicles and thaw in the fridge. Use them in your oatmeal, put them in cookies, make pumpkin pancakes or muffins, make a fancy risotto, put it in a soup.... It's pumpkin season! Enjoy!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Eating St. Louis

A few weeks ago, my fine friend, Natalie, and I drove to the good ol' city of St. Louis to sell cookies. We participated in the Strange Folk Festival again this year. To prepare, we baked and baked and baked our little hearts out, in attempt to keep up with the demand from last year. Despite our efforts, we sold out - yet again! - around the same time, even though we brought many more cookies. Hurrah! We were very pleased to supply our faithful customers with cookies. Next year...double the cookies! (I hope.)

So during our down time, Natalie and I ate. It's our favorite activity and what a fantastic city in which to indulge! Though we didn't get around town like my mom and I did last year, we ate the hell out of Grand boulevard!

First stop - dinner at Al Waha Restaurant. They serve Bedouin and Afghani cuisine. I'm beginning to think that Middle Eastern cuisine is my favorite ethnic food. Man, it's a close call. I do love Caribbean grub, too.

At Al Waha, they serve you a complementary, traditional coffee as a sign of welcome and friendship. We had a great eggplant dish, a creamy yogurt dip, and a pan-fried fish that melted in our mouths. This was my favorite meal of the trip.

Dinner number two - Lemon Grass Restaurant. Here, we had Vietnamese food. I ordered a tasty curry veggie dish, and Natalie had her favorite sweet and sour soup. It contained a few vegetables I had never eaten before. One was reminiscent of Styrofoam. I stuck to my curry.

Breakfast on the last day - City Diner. This was a really fun place. It was decorated with vintage art, records, posters, chairs, tables, etc. Our waitress was very sweet. Natalie was good and ordered an omelet. I needed some feel good food - biscuits and gravy. They were exactly what biscuits and gravy should be.

St. Louis, we love you. See you again next year!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Soup Season! Corn & Carrot Bisque

Soupy Sunday is commencing. What's Soupy Sunday? Well, back in my college days, a few Art-Kid friends and I would take turns making soup for each other every Sunday. When it was your time to cook, you just cooked and people came over, bringing their own bowls, spoons, and drinks. No extra dishes for the cooks. This event was wildly popular amongst the Art-Kids. I miss it, so I declare an encore. For this week's Soupy Sunday, I made a corn and carrot bisque adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe.

This is a two pot soup, but I think it could be turned into a single pot dish. Just sauté the onions in a heavy bottomed pot until transparent, then toss all of the other ingredients in after. The veggies can steam/cook in the simmering broth and milk.

Red onions, I'm partial to them even though they sting my eyes and make my noes run.

At the end, you get to choose what kind of soup you'll eat. A bisque is a soup that has been pureed until velvety smooth. You can leave it chunky or partially chunky if you like. I suggest that if you don't have a good stand blender or immersion blender, don't attempt the bisque. The corn can be hard to puree, leaving a texture to be desired. As with any soup or stew, heat and time can help create a whirlwind of flavors.

Corn & Carrot Bisque

  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 2 ears of fresh corn, kernels cut from cobs, cobs broken in half and reserved
  • 6 medium carrots, peeled, thinly sliced or diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed OR 1 tsp of garlic salt
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock/broth
  • 2 large fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Bring milk and corncob halves (not kernels) just to boil in heavy medium pot. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep while sautéing vegetables.

    Melt oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; sprinkle with salt and pepper; sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes (do not let onion brown). Add corn kernels, carrot, celery, and garlic; cook until vegetables are soft, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Add 2 cups broth/stock, herb sprigs, bay leaf, and milk with corncobs. Increase heat and bring to boil. Cover partially, reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes to blend flavors.

    Discard corncobs, herb sprigs, and bay leaf. Cool soup slightly. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until very smooth.

    Yields about 5 servings. Can be made a day in advance.

    Monday, September 27, 2010

    Overnight Oatmeal

    I've come to grips with Fall's presence. (Although it's quite a warm fall so far. I'm not complaining.) I'm ready for flowing scarves, warm sweaters, hot beverages, soups of the day, and oatmeal, oatmeal, oatmeal. I love steel cut oats and groats especially, but they take some time to prepare - from 20 minutes to an hour. Some people can cook their oats on the stove while they shower or take the dog for a walk. I can't. I've had to jump out of the shower at exhilarated speeds one too many times at the smell of burnt wafting up from downstairs.

    To avoid stress, hunger, screaming smoke alarms, and scalded pans, I make my breakfast before I go to bed. Crockpot oatmeal is a wonderful thing. Even if it's just you eating it, it keeps well in the fridge for the next few mornings to come. Tweak it to your taste. This batch had some pumpkin puree and flax seed meal in it.

    I am always delighted to see how nice and mushy it is when I open my crockpot in the morning. The groats fully absorb the water and become very tender; almost creamy.

    Overnight Oatmeal
    -1 cup of steel cut oats or whole groats
    -4 cups of water
    -1 cup of dried fruit of choice OR 1 cup of pumpkin puree OR 1.5 cups of chopped fresh apple*
    -1 tsp of ground cinnamon or pumpkin pie/apple pie spice blend
    -1/4 tsp of salt
    -1/4 cup of flax seed meal (optional)
    -sugar/honey/maple syrup to taste

    *Note* If using pumpkin puree, use only 3.5 cups of water. The pumpkin adds a lot of water on it's own. Same goes with the fresh apple. They are loaded with juice.

    Combine ingredients in a crockpot, cover, and set on low for 8-9 hours. Add chopped nuts right before serving if desired.

    Makes 4 servings.

    Monday, September 20, 2010

    Eating Chicago

    Last, last weekend I got to visit Karli in her new home, Chicago. She and her hub, Travis, picked me up, and away we went on our eating/shopping extravaganza. We were super excited to attend the Renegade Craft Fair. (An event that I was too busy absorbing to take photos of.)

    After being in Chicago for only a few mere minutes, while Travis was stopped at a red light, Karli and I jumped out of the car to get a bag of Garrett's popcorn. Whoever thought to eat caramel corn and cheddar cheese flavored popcorn together is a flippin' gastronomical genius. Don't knock it until you try it, for reals.

    For dinner Saturday evening, we ate at the Fireside Restaurant. This place had so many appetizing dishes. It was hard to pick just one. The cheesy rice balls with marinara sauce were sooo good.

    After dinner we proceeded to stuff ourselves further with George's Ice Cream. There were so many flavors to choose from and the line was long, long, long. My coffee milkshake was worth the wait. I did feel like I was waddling home though....

    A Taste of Heaven is the name of a cafe not too far from Karli & Travis's place. It's an appropriate name for such a cafe. The food is delish. We shared our entrees. Karli got a velvety French toast. I ordered pancakes layered with a berry compote and topped with whipped, sweetened cream cheese. Hell-o! Travis ordered a dish with cornmeal biscuits and a strangely tinted gravy. It was very tasty, but on the orange side. That didn't hinder me from eating the last of it. I'll have to get that again next time.

    I came, we ate, we shopped, we conquered. I hope to eat my way around Chicago with Karli and Travis again soon.