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Friday, December 25, 2009

God bless us, everyone!

One of the strongest memories from my childhood Christmases is that of my parents making peanut butter balls in the kitchen. Dad would roll the peanut butter mixture into balls, and Mom would dip them in melted chocolate. (Or maybe it was the other way around... I don't recall, but that's not the point anyway.)

Peanut butter balls are delicious. Tott says they're better than sex. What better endorsement could a tiny Christmas treat get??

I always make a double batch of these guys for our Christmas party. (That way, there's enough to snack on before the party, and there's always some left over.) I suppose you could make these at any time of the year, but I'm betting they taste best at Christmas.

Peanut Butter Balls

1 box powdered sugar (I think it's a pound)
1 cup of butter, room temp
1 jar creamy peanut butter (around 12 oz)
8 oz milk chocolate chips
1/4-1/2 bar of parafin wax

Combine the butter and sugar, and beat until smooth. Add peanut butter and keep beating until well blended.

Roll into balls. Smaller balls are better because the chocolate-to-peanut butter ratio is higher. My great grandmother's recipe card instructs us to roll the peanut butter mixture into 1/2-inch balls. I think it is preposterous to think that one might make such small balls. The ones I make are usually about an inch in diameter.

Grate the parafin wax into the top of a double boiler. Add the chocolate, and stir until melted and well combined.

Dip the balls in the chocolate, roll them around for a second with a fork to make sure they're completely covered, and then lift out.

Let the extra chocolate drip off for a moment, and then set on a cookie sheet that has been lined with wax paper.

Cool them in the refrigerator, and store them there. They can be (and always are) set out at a party, but they will soften a bit at room temperature. They're better at fridge temp.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

christmas party 2009

It's our favorite time of year again. Christmastime! (Actually, it's been Christmastime for a while now, but we've been busy. Hence, a lack of posts.)

We love the movies, the music, the presents, the parties, the drinks, the decor, all of it! Most of all, we love throwing our Christmas party. We start planning the menu around the first of August, and it's a great chance to get compliments on our food and have a great time with all of our friends. (This year was also our chance to show off our new house and all the work we've done on it.)

This year's party was Saturday night, so we have loads of new recipes to share. I'm going to try to space out the posts, though. If I put all of the recipes up at once, you'd start drooling copiously, and too much drool can be hell on a keyboard.

I'll start with the little bowls that we place on virtually every flat surface in the house. We've found that when people are drinking (it is a cocktail party), they like to snack on something salty. So, we give everyone easy access to popcorn, olives, and nuts.

Fancy Olives

Stuffed olives are great, but they're expensive to buy and a pain in the, um, neck to make. Here's a quick and easy way to modify your olives.

Do this 3 or 4 days before you want to serve the olives. Get a jar of green olives from the grocery store. Drain the brine. (Next year, I'll save it in a small pitcher so we can make dirty martinis.) Peel 4-5 garlic cloves and slice them in half lengthwise. Cut two 1/2-inch slices of red onion into quarters. Put the garlic and onions into the drained jar of olives, and shake 'em all about. Fill the jar back up with olive oil, and let it sit in the fridge for 3 or 4 days. Ta da!

Roasted Pecans

These are awesome. 'Nuf said.

24 oz raw pecan halves
3 Tbs butter
2 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbs garlic salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350.

Melt the butter. Mix in the brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic salt, cayenne, and cinnamon.

Pour the mixture over the pecans, and toss to coat the nuts.

Bake the nuts on a cookie sheet for about 10-12 minutes, until they start to brown.

Remove and drain on paper towels.

Roasted Walnuts

Kaytie also made roasted walnuts, but she went for a different flavor on them.

24 oz raw walnuts
3 Tbs butter
3 tsp garlic salt
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp ground chipotle pepper
1/8 tsp cumin

Follow the above procedure. Melt the butter. Mix in the garlic salt, cayenne, paprika, chipotle, and cumin.

Pour the mixture over the walnuts, and toss to coat the nuts.

Bake the nuts on a cookie sheet for about 10-12 minutes, until they start to brown.

Remove and drain on paper towels.

**Obviously, you could use either pecans or walnuts for either recipe.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

pumped up poppers

If you're ever at a loss for a party snack, you should definitely make our jalapeno poppers. (Actually, we got the recipe from my sister Sara.) They're delicious, and because they're made with turkey bacon and fat-free cream cheese, they're pretty good for you.

We, of course, have a hard time leaving well enough alone, so Kaytie went looking for a new recipe, which I tweaked when I couldn't find chorizo at the grocery store.

Anyway, this recipe is great. It was a hit at our neighborhood Halloween party, and I'm sure it would be a hit at yours. If you have a little extra time, you should try out these beefed-up (well, sausaged-up) poppers.

Pumped Up Poppers

24 jalapeno peppers
1 lb ground pork sausage
8 oz smoked gouda, grated
1/4 red onion, finely diced
1 block cream cheese at room temp
1 egg
3 Tbs sour cream
salt and pepper
1 pkg turkey bacon, sliced in half

Preheat oven to 375.

Cut the tops off the jalapenos and split them lengthwise. Scrape the seeds and ribs out. This ensures that your poppers will be delicious without being too hot.

Brown the sausage in a skillet over medium-high heat. Drain the fat, and put the sausage in a large mixing bowl.

Add the cheese, onion, egg, sour cream, and cream cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Fill the pepper halves with the cheese mixture. Wrap half a slice of bacon around each pepper and secure with a toothpick.

Put the poppers on a rack (like a rack used for cooling cookies) placed on a cookie sheet. (Line the cookie sheet with foil for easy clean-up.)

Bake for about 15 minutes, and then broil for 3-5 minutes to make the bacon crispy. Keep an eye on them while broiling, though, so you don't burn them.

**You're going to have extra filling. You can just buy more jalapenos, or you can experiment with other things, like mushrooms, tomatoes, or bell peppers. These other things could probably be baked for about 15 minutes at 375.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


We come from crafty stock, which means that we carve pumpkins at Halloween. And when one carves a pumpkin, one is left with a whole mess of pumpkin flesh, goop, and seeds.

Kaytie used the flesh to make some Thai-influenced pumpkin soup. I'm not sure if she'll post about it, as it was a tad on the bland side. (I thought it could do with some bacon...)

And as far as I can tell, the goop is useless and only exists to make eating the pumpkin seeds more difficult.

But the seeds are tasty.

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

pumpkin seeds
olive oil

Preheat oven to 400.

Separate the seeds from the goop. (I couldn’t find an easy way to do this. I tried rinsing them in a colander and floating them in a bowl of water, but it pretty much boiled down to me squeezing them out of the goop and then rinsing them off.)

Boil the seeds. Use about 2 cups of water for every ½ cup of seeds. Add up to 1 Tbs salt for each cup of water used, depending on how salty you like your seeds. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain the seeds.

Spread olive oil on a cookie sheet. Spread the seeds out on the sheet in a single layer.

Bake on the top oven rack for 10-20 minutes until the seeds are browned to your satisfaction. Let the pan cool on a rack.

**These are good, but I think I may spice them up a little bit next time. I think I could sprinkle some Greek seasoning or some other seasoned salt on the seeds before baking them.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

milk, please

When I was teaching, I tried to elicit good behavior through a system of awards. Kids could earn tickets, stickers, or points (depending on which year I was teaching) that they could then trade in for privileges or prizes. Basically, I bribed them.

By far, the most coveted prize was a batch of chocolate chip cookies. (I handed them out at the end of my class - let the next teacher deal with the sugar high!) I stumbled onto the recipe on the back of a Butter Flavor Crisco can and made just a couple tweaks. It's the best chocolate chip cookie I've had. Seriously.

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever

(makes about 4-5 dozen)

1 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup Butter Flavor Crisco
2 Tbs milk
1 Tbs vanilla
1 egg
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 c chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine brown sugar, Crisco, milk, and vanilla, and mix well. Add the egg, and mix well again.

Add flour, salt, and baking soda, and (guess what?!) mix well.

Stir in the chocolate chips. (In the above picture, I used both semi-sweet and white chocolate chips, but normally, I use only semi-sweet chips.)

Use a spoon to scoop out portions of the cookie dough that are roughly 1 1/2 inch in diameter, and drop them on an ungreased cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 8 minutes. (This is the perfect time for my oven to produce soft cookies - you may need to adjust the time by a minute or two.)

Remove cookies from the pan immediately, and cool on a cooling rack.

**If you don't want to make the entire batch, the cookie dough can be kept in the freezer. You can scoop right onto the cookie sheet and put the cold dough right into the oven.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Everyone loves brunch. (That's why I submitted a recipe for Cornbread Cakes Benedict to the Mississippi Magazine contest.)

Though I admit the above picture is not the prettiest, this recipe is a nice alternative to standard brunch egg dishes. We usually eat it as a scramble. Tott had a good idea, though. She made it finger food friendly by making the scramble and then putting it in Fillo cups and melting the cheese on top.

Sausage, Onion, & Apple Scramble
1 package of andouille sausage, sliced
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 or 2 green apples, diced
shredded cheddar cheese
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste

Saute sausage until it begins to brown. Add onions and apples. Sprinkle with spices. Saute until the onions and apples are soft. Drain fat. Serve topped with shredded cheese.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

untimely but tasty

This recipe should have been posted in June. That way, you could enjoy your gin fizz all summer long.

As it is, Kaytie wanted a glass of wine last night. We had none. She would settle for bourbon. Again, we had none. A gin drink, perhaps? Is there tonic in the fridge? Alas, no. Luckily, she's married to a bartender (me). I whipped up a gin fizz.

These drinks should be light and easy to drink, so you can guzzle them by the pool. (I like gin, so I tend to make them on the strong side.)

Gin Fizz

1 - 1.5 oz gin
3 - 4 oz club soda
1/2 tsp Splenda
juice of 1/2 a lemon

Mix over ice.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

tired of potato salad

I know summer officially ended a couple days ago, but I think we have a couple more weeks of barbecue weather. Traditionally, we have sides like potato salad and cole slaw with burgers and other grilled meats, but sometimes a new dish is pleasant.

We got this recipe from Kaytie's grandmother, and we've enjoyed it for several years now.

Radish Salad

1 bag or bunch of radishes
lots of salt
3 green onions
about 1/4 cup vinaigrette

Cut the green tops off of the radishes and rinse the radishes well. Scrub the dirt off.

Slice the radishes so thin that they are transparent. (Though I have done this with a knife, a mandoline makes this job much easier and faster.)

Place the sliced radishes in a bowl in very thin layers, salting generously between each layer. The salt gets the heat out of the radishes. (I'm not sure what that means, but that's what Kaytie's grandmother says, and I know that the radishes are much more palatable once they've been salted.) Cover the bowl and let it sit in the fridge for a couple hours.

Dump the radish slices in a colander and rinse well. The salt has done its job and must be washed away.

Slice the green onions and put them in a bowl with the radishes and enough vinaigrette to cover. We use a balsamic vinaigrette from the grocery store, but you can certainly make your own.

Mix and serve.

NOTE: Once the dressing is added, the radishes will begin to turn pink. I'd wait to dress the radishes until right before you serve it. Alternatively, you can let the dressed salad sit overnight and serve a bright pink salad the next day.

P. S. I know there are too many pictures in this post. I don't care.

Friday, September 25, 2009

i'm a believer

I've never been impressed by asparagus. (Except in Veggie Tales...) I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, when I tasted some asparagus at a potluck thrown by Kaytie's coworkers. It was lemony and crisp. I loved it.

I wanted to give it a try as a side next to some roasted pork tenderloin. It was great - had a nice acidity that set off the pork's sweet balsamic reduction.

Blanched Asparagus with Toasted Almonds

1 bunch of asparagus

juice of 1 lemon

1-2 Tbs butter

slivered almonds

Toast the almonds. I spread them on a small baking sheet and heated them in the toaster oven. Kaytie prefers to toast nuts in a skillet on the stove. Either way, KEEP AN EYE ON THEM. As soon as they start to brown, remove from heat.

Slice the tough bottom ends off the asparagus stalks.

Fill a large skillet with salted water. Bring to a boil.

Drop in all of the asparagus. Simmer until just fork tender (about 3 minutes).

Drain. Return the asparagus to the hot skillet and toss with the butter and lemon juice.

Top with toasted almonds and serve ASAP.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

back in the saddle

There are a lot of projects going on at our new house. (Maybe we'll finish them all by 2012...) Sometimes, my friends volunteer to help with the work. Most of the time, when they hear what I need, they find an excuse to avoid it. Caleb, on the other hand, followed through on his promise to help me put up my metal storage shed. In the rain.

In return, I cooked dinner, and Tallie and Kaytie joined us. Sunday supper lives again! I'd forgotten how great it is to cook a real meal; we've been eating a lot of beans & rice, sandwiches, and take out. I'd also forgotten how much I like to feed people.

I roasted some sweet potatoes and blanched some asparagus (recipe to follow) to go with a roasted pork tenderloin. It was great!

Roasted Pork Tenderloin
(feeds 4-5)

2 pork tenderloins
1 tsp ground corriander
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 ground chipotle pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
garlic salt

Rinse the tenderloins and trim off the fat and silver skin. Place them in a glass bowl.

Dump the other ingredients (except the garlic salt) in the bowl, too. Goosh everything around so the pork is covered in the marinade. Marinate in the fridge for 8-10 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in an ovenproof skillet over medium high heat. Sprinkle the pork with garlic salt. Sear the pork in the skillet, about 30 seconds or a minute on each side. (I used a skillet with low sides, and the splattering oil caught on fire. It was awesome.)

Put the pork in the oven and roast for about 8-10 minutes. I used a remote probe thermometer and took the meat out when the internal temperature was 150-155 degrees.

Let the pork rest for 5 minutes before slicing. While the meat is resting, make the...

Mustard Balsamic Reduction

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp honey

Whisk everything together in a small pot and bring to a boil. Boil until reduced by about half.

Slice the pork into medallions and drizzle with the balsamic reduction.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

who needs bisquick?

Yes, we've been known to keep Bisquick in the house. (I also eat frozen chicken pot pies and mac 'n cheese from a box. What of it?) The biscuits it makes aren't great, but it's nice to have as a pancake mix.

Anyway, Kaytie wanted some pancakes one recent morning, but we were out of Bisquick. No problem, I thought. I can make up some pancakes. And so I did. They were a little too sweet, though that worked in our favor, as we were out of syrup.

While Tyler and Han were in town for my birthday this weekend (Kaytie let me jump out of a plane!), we invited them over for breakfast, and I tweaked my recipe. Here's the final product.

(makes about 18 3-inch pancakes)

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups milk

Mix all the ingredients together.

Use a 1/3-cup measure to scoop the batter onto a hot pan (over medium heat). After about a minute, when bubbles form in the top, flip the pancake.
Give the pancake about 30 seconds to brown before taking it off the griddle.

Serve hot with lots of butter and syrup.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

new digs

Well, we're finally moved in. Far from settled, though. We've refinished the floors (never again!), and we're almost finished painting the master bedroom. I've cut down more bamboo than I like to remember, and I've just barely made a dent in the overgrown backyard.

On the plus side, we're having a great time with our new hobby: buying furniture that needs to be reupholstered. So far, we've amassed a couch, a loveseat, a club chair, and a chair that we found on the curb in the new neighborhood. (Some reupholsterer is going to make a fortune.) Our most recent acquisition came from a nice family in Madison. We bought a sofa table they'd listed on Craigslist, and they threw in a wingback chair for free! People are so nice.

What better way to say, "Thanks!" than with a nice loaf of bread? Kaytie first made this lemon bread to welcome someone to our previous neighborhood. It's quite tasty. The best thing about this is that it's really more like cake - it just masquerades as bread. It's awesome with vanilla ice cream.

Because I can't leave well enough alone and with a nod to our readers at Hederman Brothers, I added some blueberries. Delicious!

Blueberry Lemon Bread

1 2/3 cup self-rising flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
2 tsp (packed) lemon zest (or up to 2 Tbs)
½ cup milk
3 oz fresh blueberries (half a cup)

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, strained

Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8 ½ by 4 ½ by 2 ½ loaf pan.

In one bowl, whisk together flour and salt.

In another bowl, using an electric mixer (or your stand-up mixer) beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and lemon zest.

Add dry ingredients to the butter mixture a little at a time, alternating with a little milk.

Gently fold in the blueberries.

Pour mixture into prepared loaf pan. Bake about 1 hour, or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven.

Make the glaze: Over low heat, combine the lemon juice and sugar, stirring until the sugar is dissolved and the glaze is clear.

Loosen the edges of the loaf by running a sharp knife between the bread and the pan. Top with glaze, let bread cool in pan, then remove.

Monday, May 11, 2009

I give up.

I am in the middle of exam hell, so I haven't posted anything (or cooked anything) in ages. The last time we cooked, we had a fish fry. That night seems like a happy but faint memory as I prepare for my Federal Courts exam on Wednesday. But procrastination is fun, and it's nice to think back to our last Sunday Supper, so here I am posting when I should be studying.

For the fish fry, Daddy brought us about a dozen fresh bass that he caught, and Drew had the pleasant task of filleting them. We soaked them in buttermilk and hot sauce, breaded them, and fried 'em up. We served our tasty fresh fish with corn on the cob, hush puppies, and cole slaw (as pictured unattractively above).

I love cole slaw because it is easy and cheap and refreshing. This is my momma's recipe, and I don't think it can be improved upon. As summer (and oppressive Mississippi humidy) approaches, you could probably use something cool and appetizing to bring to your next cook out or barbeque. So without further ado...

Cole Slaw

1 head of cabbage, chopped fine
3 or 4 carrots, shredded
1 white onion, chopped very fine
Miracle Whip
lots of salt and pepper

Combine the veggies with enough Miracle Whip to be moist but not soggy. Salt. Add pepper very liberally. Let it sit for at least an hour. Serves a bunch of people.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

easy dessert

Often, Lindsey brings a cake to Sunday dinner, but sometimes, we make our own dessert. One recent Sunday, we looked at our available ingredients, grabbed a random cookbook, and settled on pudding cake.

Sounds good, right? Pudding is good, cake is good ... it's a no-brainer. Turns out, it's pretty easy, too.

One note: this cake will never get firm. Don't expect it to. We overcooked the heck out of this cake (didn't seem to hurt it) before finally looking online for a picture of pudding cake. Apparently, this dessert is supposed to be cakey on the top and gooey on the bottom.

One more note: we made this in a cake pan. The recipe gives the option of baking in custard cups or a cake pan. I think it would be prettier if you made individual custard cups because you wouldn't have to scoop the cake of the pan to serve.

Lemon Pudding Cake
(from the Church of the Incarnation's Episcopal Epicure cookbook)
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 Tbs butter
2 tsp lemon zest
3 eggs, separated
3 Tbs all-purpose flour
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup whole milk
Preheat oven to 350.
Cream the sugar, butter, and lemon zest together. Add 3 egg yolks and beat well. Add the flour, lemon juice, and milk, a little at a time, beating as you go.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold egg whites into the yolk mixture. It won't be smooth. In fact, it will look kind of gross.
Pour batter into buttered custard cups or 7-inch ovenproof dish. Put a larger pan in the oven. Place the cups or dish in the pan, and add water until the water level is halfway up the sides of the cups/dish.
Close the oven and bake until set. That's 30 minutes for cups and 45 minutes for the dish.
We served our with blueberries and whipped cream (well, Cool Whip). Raspberries would probably be good, too.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

a moment to boast

Well, it finally happened. I've been discovered. If you look on page 105 of Mississippi Magazine, you'll find a huge picture of Smoky Eggs Benedict, plus the recipe, plus a little picture of me and a blurb at the bottom. A blurb about me! I'm practically famous.

Why am I on page 105? Because I'm a category finalist! For that honor, I got six Mississippi Magazines in the mail (literally the day after I bought a stack of them at the store - curses!), plus prizes of cookbooks and a Mississippi-shaped cookie cutter. (Whoopee.)

I, of course, would rather be the grand prize winner. That honor, however, went to Peggy's Pound Cake, a recipe that a woman submitted in honor of her mother. (There's a very heart-warming story here.) I quickly scrutinized the recipe and offered scathing criticism, such as the fact that the recipe calls for cake mix! (I conveniently overlooked the fact that the cornbread cakes in my recipe call for cornbread from a mix, too...)

After a couple days of wallowing in sour grapes, I decided to actually try the pound cake. It's delicious. No doubt. I'm not sorry that I lost to Peggy. I mean, just look at that picture. Doesn't it look delicious? I'm not going to give the recipe here, because that doesn't seem fair and because that might violate some copyright law. So, I recommend you go out and buy a Mississippi Magazine (or come pick one up from me - I have loads of them) and cook this cake.

You should try my recipe, too.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

updates are coming...

I promise. We will be posting recipes again soon. We've just been distracted by exams and buying a house and ... well, really, just that. (We've been surviving on Lean Cuisines, mac n cheese, ham sandwiches, and potato chips. Gasp!) My last exam is tomorrow, though, so I'll be able to cook something soon, and I'll post about it ASAP. Poor Kaytie still has two weeks of exams.
P.S. This picture of celery has nothing to do with this post. But it looks nice, doesn't it?

Friday, April 17, 2009

make your own pizza night

My mother had some true strokes of genius. Case in point: when she noticed that my three little brothers and I were sharing-impaired, she created Make-Your-Own-Pizza Night. Make a little extra dough, and everyone is happy.

The tradition endures to this day. Kaytie first met my brothers on a Make-Your-Own-Pizza Night. Everything was going swimmingly until she pilfered a pepperoni from someone else's pizza, which, of course, violated the entire premise of Make-Your-Own-Pizza Night. (We brothers still aren't very good at sharing.) Tyler has since forgiven her, which is a testament to how much a part of the family Kaytie has become.

I'm just going to give you a recipe for the pizza dough, because I think that pizza toppings are a deeply personal choice. I believe that anything and everything (especially bacon) should be thrown on top of a pizza, creating a pizza slice that sags under the toppings' weight, making a fork necessary. Kaytie, on the other hand, combines toppings deliberately and comes up with much more refined pizzas.

Often what we put on our pizza is simply a function of what we have in the kitchen. (Pizza's flexibility is one of the reasons I like it so much.) While developing this dough recipe, we've tried several combinations of toppings.

Pepperoni, bacon, green & black olives, sauteed onion, feta, and mozzarella with a red pizza sauce.

Bacon, sauteed onion, black olives, roasted garlic, sauteed spinach, pine nuts, and mozzarella with alfredo sauce.

Basil, green & black olives, and sauteed onions with an alfredo sauce.

Pizza Crust
(makes enough for 2 12-inch pizzas)

1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
1 (1/4-oz) package active dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
4 Tbs olive oil (plus a little more)

Stir the yeast into the warm water. Let it sit for about 5 minutes.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and other spices together in a mixing bowl. Pour in the yeast-water and stir with a wooden spoon. Just when the dough pulls away from the bowl and forms a ball, stop stirring.

Dump 4 Tbs olive oil in a large mixing bowl. Use your fingers to spread the oil all over the sides of the bowl. Use your oiled fingers to move the dough to the oiled bowl, and roll the dough around so it is completely coated by the oil.

Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let it sit at room temperature for an hour.

Move the bowl to the fridge for 5 or 6 hours.

Thirty minutes before you want to make the pizza, get the dough out of the fridge.

Put a baking stone (or upside-down iron skillet or cookie sheet) on the bottom shelf of the oven. Preheat the oven to 475.

Pour about 1 Tbs olive oil onto each of two 12-inch pizza pans and spread it around. Divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a smooth round in the center of a pizza pan. Let the dough sit for 10-15 minutes.

Spread the dough to the edge of the pan, rotating the pan to spread evenly.

Apply toppings.

Cover the pizza loosely with aluminum foil. Place the pan on the baking stone, and cook for 6 minutes.

Remove the foil and bake for 6-8 minutes more. The edge of the pizza crust should be crispy, and you can use a fork to lift the edge to see that the bottom of the crust is lightly browned.

We prefer to eat pizza sprinkled with salt and Louisiana hot sauce, but you don't have to.

P.S. This dough can be frozen after it has risen in the fridge. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and put it in a plastic container. To thaw, remove the plastic wrap and place the dough-sicle in a bowl covered with plastic wrap. Let it sit at room temperature for 3-4 hours until it is completely thawed. After freezing, the crust won't be quite as fluffy, but it's still good.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

fancy cookies

Well, I think this is the last installment in the make-up-a-cookie-recipe saga. (Now that Lent is over, I can eat sweets made by anybody.)

I don't have much interesting to say, so I'm not going to waste your time. Because people think of Bananas Foster as a fancy dessert, they will think these cookies are fancy, too.

Bananas Foster Cookies
(makes about 68 cookies)

1 stick butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup mashed banana
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup walnut pieces

Preheat the oven to 375. Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper. (Or grease them.)

Mix the wet ingredients (butter, sugars, molasses, egg, vanilla, & banana) together until smooth. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking soda. Mix well. Add the flour and mix again. Fold in the walnuts.

Drop heaping teaspoonfuls of dough into a bowl of white sugar. Roll them around, forming 1-inch diameter balls and coating them with sugar. Place them on the cookie sheets, leaving a couple inches between them.

Bake for 8 minutes.

Let the cookies cool for a minute or two on the pan, and them transfer them to a cooling rack. Let them cool completely before icing them.

Rum Icing

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 1/2 Tbs milk
1 Tbs melted butter
1/2 Tbs dark rum

Sift the powdered sugar into a bowl. Add the wet ingredients. Use a whisk to stir everything together until smooth.

Hold the cookies upside down, and dip the tops in the icing.

Let the icing dry. (It won't be too hard, I promise.) Ta da!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

quack, quack

You know what my favorite kind of meat is? Free meat. It's so nice when someone calls and says, "I just killed a whole bunch of (deer, rabbit, elk, duck). Want some?" The answer is always a resounding "Yes!"

And so, a few Sundays ago, we cooked some of my favorite kind of meat--in this case, free duck killed by my sister's boyfriend Caleb. One of the downsides of free meat, however, is that you don't get to request in what form the meat is given to you. In this case, the breasts had been carefully butchered (for which we were thankful), but the skin and fat had been removed. Not that I blame Caleb: the alternative would be to have left the skin on but to have plucked all the feathers. I've never plucked a duck (say that three times fast!), but I can't imagine that it's a pleasant experience.

The duck breasts, then, looked nothing like the ones you see in a restaurant. My concerns were twofold: first, I couldn't find any recipes for duck breasts without skin, and second, I was worried that they'd be dry and tough. But hey, who's going to let such trivial matters stand in the way of cooking free meat? Certainly not me.

I soaked the breasts in milk for a day (this takes the gaminess out), then I rinsed them and marinated them for half a day. Then Drew grilled them medium-rare, and they turned out lovely. Perhaps a little tougher than restaurant duck breasts, but they had a good flavor. I served them with a sauce made of melted pepper jelly, butter, orange rind, worchestshire sauce, and onion powder.

A word on marinades. I love making marinades because they allow for endless experimentation and creativity. My basic formula is this: 3/4L + 1/4O + H = goodness. L = any type of flavored liquid, including but not limited to fruit juice, vinegar, or booze. O = any type of oil. H = fresh or dried herbs. My marinade for the duck was cranberry-pomegranate juice, olive oil, and rosemary. I used fruit juice in this one because I love duck served with a berry sauce. The best duck dish I've ever had was at the Maple Street Cafe in New Orleans, where I had duck breast in a blueberry-cognac sauce. Scrumptious.

Anyway, I've yet to really give you a recipe, have I? Here's one for the rice that we served with the duck. Arthur called it Persian; I call it good.

Persian Rice
(serves 4-6)

2 cups white rice
4 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup minced green onions
1/4 cup dried currants
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1 tablespoon butter
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Melt butter in a medium sauce pan and saute garlic over medium heat. Add rice. Add chicken stock, kosher salt, and lemon juice. Cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Once rice absorbs all of the liquid, add the other ingredients. Let sit 5-10 minutes before serving.


Kaytie wanted something special for dessert on Sunday. Not just anything special for dessert -- something in particular. Puddin'.

We found a recipe on, and I followed it as closely as possible, though I may have cooked the sugar a touch longer than recommended. This resulted in a nice, thick butterscotch pudding with a hint of caramel flavor. I also just realized that I used half the amount of milk. (I doubled the rest of the recipe.) No wonder it was so thick and rich!

Butterscotch Pudding

1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbs cold water
3 large egg yolks
3 Tbs cornstarch
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbs molasses
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp dark rum
6 Tbs cold butter, cut into large chunks

Things happen quickly here, so read the whole recipe and prepare your mise-en-place.

Put a mesh strainer over a heatproof bowl next to the stove. Set it aside.

In another bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and yolks until smooth. Whisk in the molasses and salt. Slowly whisk in 1/2 cup of the milk until the mixture is smooth. Set the bowl aside.

Heat the rest of the milk in the microwave for about two and a half minutes. Get it hot but not boiling, and set it aside.

Dump the sugar in a sauce pan and spread it evenly over the bottom. Sprinkle the water over the sugar so that all of the sugar is moistened. Heat over medium high heat. After a while, the sugar will begin to brown. Once that happens, stir the mixture gently with a wooden spoon until it turns an even, red-amber color.

Slowly pour in about half of the warm milk. (Be careful -- the mixture will bubble like crazy and splatter a little.) Stir vigorously until the sugar is all dissolved. Add the remaining milk, stir, and remove from heat.

Slowly whisk about half of the sugar mixture into the yolk mixture. Pour the sugar-yolk mixture back into the pot with the rest of the sugar mixture, and stir.

Over medium heat, cook the mixture for about 6 minutes while stirring constantly. The foam will calm down, and the mixture will thicken.

Take the pan off the heat, stir in the vanilla and liquor. Immediately pour the puddin' through the strainer. Let the puddin' sit for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally while it cools.

Put the puddin' in a food processor or blender. Turn on the machine, and add the butter chunks, one at a time. Blend until everything is incorporated.

Pour into ramekins and leave in the fridge until completely cool.

We served these topped with Cool Whip in a can. (Don't knock Cool Whip. I love it.)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

martini chicken--sauteed, not stirred

I love to look through old cookbooks, but most of the recipes use the same tried-and-true flavor combinations. Lemon and dill? Check. Tomatoes and basil? Check. Cilantro and lime? Check. And while I'm sure that the recipes are delicious, I'm not often intrigued enough to try them.

But every now and then, I find one that sounds so bizarre, so outlandish, so...well...gross, that I just have to try it.

So it was with Martini Chicken. I discovered the recipe in Paula Peck's Art of Good Cooking (where she calls it Vermouth Chicken). I was lucky enough to discover this awesome cookbook when the Lanier High School library gave away all of its Home Ec collection. I was teaching Art at Lanier at the time, and I greedily grabbed all of the cookbooks I could find. The Art of Good Cooking was the one gem of the bunch. I tried several of Ms. Peck's recipes (and had great success) before I finally decided to (gulp) give the Martini Chicken a try.

The recipe calls for green olives, cinnamon, allspice, vermouth, and cream. Can you see why I my curiosity was piqued?

Well, weird as it may sound, this recipe is to die for. I have made it time and time again, and everyone always loves it. Even people who hate green olives (Doug, Jim) and people who hate cinnamon (Tott) and people who hate chicken (Tott again) love this dish. It was the perfect dish for Sunday Night Supper tonight--slightly unusual but ultimately rich, delicious, and comforting. It's different enough to be a company meal but easy and cheap enough to do on weeknights (or Sunday nights when I'm feeling lazy, natch).

Without further ado...

Martini Chicken (adapted from The Art of Good Cooking)
(serves 6)

1/4 cup butter (half a stick)
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 bunches green onions, minced
1/2 cup dry vermouth
2/3 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sliced green olives
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 300. Put a casserole dish in the oven and let it get hot. Just leave it in there for now--you'll use it later.

Sprinkle the chicken breasts with the salt, allspice, and cinnamon. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Saute the chicken breasts one minute on each side. Take out of the saucepan and stick in the hot casserole dish. Cover and cook at 300 for 8-10 minutes. (Because the heat is so low, these are pretty forgiving...I must admit that I've left mine in there for 15 minutes before and they've been fine.)

While the chicken is in the oven, add the green onions to the saucepan that has the butter and chicken drippings in it. Yum. Saute for two to three minutes on medium high. Then add the vermouth and cream. Cook on high, stirring frequently (and watching with an eagle eye to be sure this doesn't boil over). Let cook until reduced by about half.

Take chicken out, put each breast on a bed of rice, and pour the sauce generously all over. Top with green olives and parsley.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

thank you, orange peel

Every first Thursday of every month, the shops down the street from us stay open late for Fondren After Five. Galleries and stores serve wine and snacks, bands play, and the police block off traffic for a few hours.

Kaytie had a great idea. To promote the blog and get more readers, we should serve food at one of these stores. I talked to Kristin at The Orange Peel, and she was enthustiastic. We picked The Orange Peel because it's a great consignment shop -- great deals on vintage clothing and such. Kaytie loves it.

We had a great time. The food was a hit, and we met lots of interesting people. One lady even asked for our autographs! Does that make us famous?

People loved the food, but they were befuddled as to why exactly we were there. "So, y'all are opening a restaurant?" No.

"You cater?" No. (Well, occasionally. For friends.)

"So, you're not doing this for money?" No.

"Why are you serving food at The Orange Peel?" Because we want you to read our blog. And we want to eventually publish a cookbook.

Okay, time for the food. Follow the links for the recipes...

We made tiny biscuits (of course) with ham and pepper honey, which were a big hit. I had to make carrot cookies because they're awesome. We also made black-eyed pea fritters topped with roasted red pepper coulis, cilantro sour cream, and black olives. I've used this black-eyed pea fritter recipe for my black-eyed benedict, but we changed it slightly for this evening.

Black-Eyed Pea Fritters

2 slices of bacon
1/3 of a red onion, diced small
1/2 cup of green onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup of red bell pepper, diced small
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced fine
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp Tony Chachere's creole seasoning
3 cups cooked and drained black-eyed peas
3/4 cup of bread crumbs
2 eggs

Cook the bacon, and set it aside. Use the bacon grease to saute the onion, peppers, and garlic for 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat. Puree (until smooth) 2 cups of black-eyed peas with the eggs in a food processor.

Combine 1 cup whole peas, pureed peas, vegetables, seasonings, crumbled bacon, and bread crumbs in a mixing bowl. Shape into balls that are about the size of a ping pong ball, and flatten them into patties.

Preheat the oven to 300.

I deep-fried my fritters (about 4 minutes at 375 degrees), but you could pan fry them. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a saute pan. Brown the ckaes on each side for a couple minutes and put them back on the lightly greased baking sheet.

Bake the fritters for 10 minutes.

Top them with cilantro sour cream (1 bunch cilantro, chopped fine, mixed with 2 cups sour cream), red pepper coulis, and a couple of sliced olives. We served them at room temperature, and they were great!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

heretical red beans and rice

Long time, no blog. Drew has been picking up my slack admirably, but I'm still a bit shame-faced. To compensate, I am going to reveal the secret to my much-beloved red beans and rice.

Are you ready?

The secret is canned beans. Gasp! The horror! I recently told this secret to a friend from Lafayette, Louisiana (who has not sampled my fabulous beans), and she delicately wrinkled her nose and eloquently said, "Yuck."

I know it's unorthodox (and heresy according to some) to use canned beans, but folks, they are delicious, easy, and cheap. I got my recipe from Que Sera Sera, a restaurant here in Jacktown where I once waited tables many moons ago. (Why a Cajun restaurant has a Spanish name, I'll never know. Maybe the owner, Boo Noble, has a thing for Doris Day.) And Que Sera used canned beans. I've taken some liberties with the recipe, but it hasn't protested.

Red Beans and Rice
(serves 3 or so)

1 can of Blue Runner creole style red beans*
1 link andouille sausage (or other spicy smoked sausage), diced
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped (optional)
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup water
Louisiana hot sauce

*(This is SO IMPORTANT. You cannot use plain old kidney beans, or else it will be gross. You can only use Blue Runner. If you can't get Blue Runner, I'm sorry, you cannot make this recipe.)

In a deep saucepan, saute the sausage on medium-high heat until browned. Add all of the vegetables. Salt the vegetables. Add a little oil to the pan if you need it to keep the veggies from sticking. Saute the vegetables until softened but not browned. If you like your beans very spicy, you can add cayenne pepper at this step. Add the beans out of the can. Add the water (you can add more or less depending on your desired consistency). Add the bay leaf, the butter, and hot sauce to taste. Stir. Now cover it, turn the heat to low, and let all the flavors combine and mingle while you make your rice. Once the rice is done, the beans are, too. Serve over the rice.

At Que Sera, you have the option of topping your beans with cheese. This is more heresy, but man, few things on this earth are not improved by the addition of a healthy grating of pepper jack or cheddar cheese. So we serve ours topped with cheese, too.

I hope you can lay your prejudices against canned beans aside and make these beans. I have a lot of affection for this recipe because it was one of the first things I ever cooked for Drew, when we first started dating and neither of us (1) had any money and (2) knew how to cook at all. It still turned out great. Who knows? Maybe the beans convinced Drew to take a chance on me. I hope if you make them that you turn out as lucky.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

poking the doughboy

Flush with pride because my Smoky Eggs Benedict recipe is a finalist in the Mississippi Magizine contest, I have decided to enter the Pillsbury Bake-Off. I'm not expecting to win, but the prize is a million bucks. What do I have to lose?

There are two lists of products that must be used. One item on the lists is brownie mix, and because I have been thinking of stuffed brownies for a while, I decided to see what I could do.

Everyone loves tiny brownies, so I used a mini-muffin pan to make bite-sized treats, and I filled them with peanut butter. My first batch were difficult to remove and kind of fell apart, but I've figured out the trick. Line the muffin pan with foil. It's easiest if you use small pieces that overlap. Then, grease the foil. When the brownies are cool, you can just peel the foil off of them.
Here you go. (I admit, it's a little Sandra Lee-ish, but they do taste good.)

Loaded Brownie Bites

1 box Pillsbury milk chocolate brownie mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Preheat the oven to 350.

In a medium bowl, mix together the peanut butter and sweetened condensed milk. Beat until smooth.

Combine the brownie mix, eggs, and oil in another bowl. Stir until well-mixed.

Line a mini-muffin tin with foil. Grease the foil with cooking spray.

Put about a teaspoon of the brownie batter in each muffin cup. Then, drop about a half-teaspoon of the peanut butter mixture in each cup. Top each cup off with another teaspoonful of the brownie batter.

Bake for 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before peeling the foil off of each brownie bite.

move over, general mills

Anybody can make their own pancakes or waffles. My friend Katie Rice makes her own cereal. Why? Because she and her husband are too cheap to buy real cereal! I think this is the greatest reason to make your own granola, ever.

Anyway, Katie Rice, adding that many variations are possible, gave me her granola recipe. Sometimes, she crushes some cardamom pods in the liquid ingredients as they are heating. I decided that cardamom smelled like tea, so I left it out. (I do NOT like tea.)

She also said she sometimes adds nuts. (I used pecans because I had them, and I think sliced almonds would be delicious.) Other times, to the dismay of her husband Kyle, she throws in some golden raisins, too. I assume the best time to do this is at the very end, after the granola is cool. If I were more industrious and less knocked out by allergies, I would have used my food dehydrator to make apple chips or dried strawberry slices.

Fresh banana slices also taste great on the granola, but I have found the best way to eat this breakfast. In my fridge, I have a ganache that turned out much runnier than I'd planned. (Equal parts boiling heavy cream and white chocolate chips, stirred until incorporated.) Forget milk. Pour the ganache-sauce over the granola, and presto-chango, you have dessert!


Preheat the oven to 300.

1 stick butter, melted
5 cloves
1 Tbs vanilla
2 Tbs water
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar

Stirring to combine, heat the above ingredients until everything is melted. Do this over low heat for about 10 minutes to let the cloves flavor the mixture.

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup wheat bran
1/2 cup crushed pecans
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl through a strainer to remove the cloves (& optional cardamom pods). Stir until everything's combined.

Spread on a baking sheet and cook for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

soup for you

Lately, the weather in Jackson has been a touch on the dreary side. Chilly and rainy - the perfect weather for soup.

It is rare that I have a craving for soup, but one of my favorites is Kaytie's French onion soup. I decided to try it out this week.

I learned two things. First, beef stock is best for this soup. I used a mixture of beef stock and rabbit stock (leftover from when we made rabbit stew). We'd used some different spices in that recipe, like cloves, that were not the best for onion soup. Stick with beef for a hearty soup with delicate flavor.

Second, it is very important to saute the onions until they are a deep, dark brown. I quit when mine were just a golden brown (had to get to work), and the soup was too sweet (probably had something to do with the rabbit stock, too). Be patient, and brown those onions.

Kaytie's French Onion Soup

4 onions, very thinly sliced
2 Tbs butter
3 cans beef stock
dash of Worcestershire sauce
splash of Madeira, red wine, sherry, or sweet vermouth
1 bay leaf
sliced Provolone or Gruyere

Melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and salt liberally. Saute over medium to medium-low heat for a long time, stirring occasionally to let them brown evenly. Once the onions are deep brown but not scorched, deglaze the pan with a splash of the alcohol. Add the beef broth, bay leaf, and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer over low heat, covered, for 20-30 minutes.

Serve topped with cheese, alongside some good crusty bread.

I made a couple baguettes, recipe courtesy of The Bread Bible. (If you haven't bought this cookbook yet, you are really missing out.) I couldn't resist closing with this picture...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

back from brooklyn

So, I haven't cooked anything in the 48 hours since I've been back from my trip to Brooklyn (where I ate Trinidadian food--oxtails--yum!), so instead, I'm offering you a different sort of post today.
One of the things I love about my collection of old cookbooks is the delightful illustrations. I've been meaning to post some for a while, but I was afraid of running afoul of copyright law. (Can you tell I'm in law school?) After consulting with a friend who is an expert in intellectual property, I learned that I can post a group of the illustrations if I offer insightful critical commentary on their artistic merit.Such as, isn't this bunny picture adorable? I just want to squeeze its little tail! (Drew just called me a pervert.) No, seriously, I love the playful humor of these two pictures. The turtle one accompanies a recipe for turtle soup, and the bunny one is for a salad. Both are from the Esquire Cook Book, illustrations by Charmatz. Now, this picture can be found in My Stove is My Castle. (How much do you love the title of this cookbook? It was published in 1956 and has amazing authentic Mexican recipes for ceviche and huevos rancheros.) I cannot tell you why on earth there is a picture of a woman covered in birds in this cookbook, but I like it despite, or perhaps even because, it's such a non sequitur. The illustration is by Jacques Dunham.
This picture is so gorgeous. I love the stylized pen and ink, as well as the repetition of pattern and shapes. It reminds me of my days when I was an art teacher in Quitman County, Mississippi, desperately trying to teach my students the elements of art. This is from A Basque Story Cook Book, from which I cooked my roasted chickens and chickpeas. The illustrator is Marian Ebert. I think I picked this one for two reasons: first, because I love stippling, and second, because I am absolutely repulsed by frogs. This repulsion has spawned an equal fascination--like watching a train wreck, as they say. I can't look away. The detail amazes me. But I promise that I will never cook the Frog Legs Provencal recipe that this picture accompanies. Both the picture and the recipe can be found in The New York Times International Cookbook, illustrations by James J. Spanfeller.

Finally, I leave you with this beautiful picture from The Spice Islands Cookbook, illustrations by Alice Harth. Drew and I love the pictures in this one so much (though unfortunately not the recipes) that we cut them out with a razor and matted and framed them to hang in our kitchen. The style of illustration reminds me of the style of animation in my two favorite animated movies--The Rescuers and Gay Purr-ee. (I love Gay Purr-ee. Newsweek said of it in 1962, "There seems to be an effort to reach a hitherto undiscovered audience - the fey four-year-old of recherche taste.")

In sum, I wish cookbooks were a showcase for artists like they used to be. I promise that should we publish a cookbook, we will fill it with fun, kitschy illustrations. In the meantime, enjoy these instead.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

cookies from the garden

Mom was sneaky. When I was a kid, she used to make brownies with grated zucchini hidden in them. We would never know if her brownies were laden with nasty veggie vitamins or if they were simply safe, empty calories. (Truth be told, the zucchini brownies were good, though it's taken me a while to fully trust desserts.)

I got to thinking this week. Could I disguise a vegetable in a tasty dessert? Might my children one day mistrust my cookies?

The answer is a resounding yes. These carrot cookies (holy cow, they're awesome) are incredibly delicious. I cannot recommend them highly enough.

Carrot Cookies

1.5 sticks butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup raisins
1.5 cups grated carrots

Preheat the oven to 375.

Mix together the butter, sugar, egg, and molasses until smooth. Beat in the soda, allspice, cinnamon, and flour. Stir in the raisins and carrots.

Drop heaping teaspoonfuls of dough into a bowl of granulated sugar. Roll the dough into a ball, covering it in sugar as you do so. Place the balls on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, about 2 inches apart. (If you lack parchment paper, just grease the cookie sheet.)

Bake for 9 minutes. Cool on the cookie sheet for a minute or two before moving the cookies to a cooling rack.

And now for something completely unnecessary...

In keeping with the carrot cake theme, Kaytie had the brillant idea of icing the cookies. Of course! Cookies couldn't possibly be complete unless you turn them into little icing sandwiches.

Okay, the cookies are plenty good by themselves, but they are nice with icing, too.

Cream Cheese Icing
(If you're icing a cake, you probably need to double this recipe.)

1 8-oz block cream cheese, room temp
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1 Tbs milk
1/8 tsp almond extract

Beat the cream cheese and sugar together until smooth.

In the top of a double boiler, add the milk and chocolate chips. Do this over medium heat. Do not let the water in the bottom boil. Do not let the hot water touch the bottom of the top pan. (I know - it's a lot of rules. They're for your own good.) Stir constantly as the chips melt.

Once the chips are melted and combined with the milk, add the mixture in a steady stream to the cream cheese mixture as you continue beating. Add the almond extract. (You may want to add a little more extract if you like a stronger flavor. Taste as you go.)

Once it's all mixed together, spread a layer on the bottom of a cookie, and top it with another cookie. Ta da!

Iced cookies should be kept in the fridge.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

c is for...

For Lent, I gave up caffeinated drinks and sweets that I haven't made myself. (I'm all about the fine print.) Well, this week, I got a craving for some cookies, and after my success with the billionaire cookies, I decided to make up a new cookie recipe.

I'm pretty pleased with myself. I even took these cookies to work to show off. The apple cinnamon flavor is faint, almost delicate, but not overpowered by the peanut butter. They also kept remarkably well - stayed soft until they were gone.

Apple Cinnamon Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup peanut butter

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg

4 Tbs (1/2 stick) butter

1 cup brown sugar

3 Tbs milk

1.5 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp salt

1.5 cups self-rising flour

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled & diced fine

Preheat the oven to 350.

Combine the peanut butter, vanilla, egg, butter, sugar, and milk. Mix until smooth. Stir in the cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add the flour and mix well. Finally, fold in the apple bits.

Roll scoops of dough into balls that are about an inch or inch & a half in diameter. Place them on a greased cookie sheet, and use a fork to press them flat, creating the classic criss-cross.

Bake for 10-12 minutes and cool on a rack.

Makes about 52 cookies.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

henny & penny are not forgotten

Sometimes, you should sit back and take stock. No, wait. You should sit back and make stock.

1. Because it makes you feel like a pioneer.
2. Because it's cheaper than buying a couple gallons of chicken broth.
3. Because it's easy.
4. Because your freezer is too empty.
5. Because rice (or oatmeal) cooked in chicken broth is way better than rice cooked in water.
6. Because it's better than just throwing those bones away.

Our first stock used post-Thanksgiving turkey bones, and we currently have rabbit stock in the freezer. We make chicken stock whenever we have chicken bones laying around.

After Kaytie roasted Henny and Penny, we put the bones in a baggie and tossed them in the freezer. We've also been saving various vegetable leavings (like leek tops and parsley stems), and on Saturday, I finally got fed up with the random bags in the freezer. I made chicken stock.
This is an easy task, and it makes a lot of stock. You need a really big pot. A stock pot. Actually, I use a tamale pot, because the thing is huge. Anyway, put the chicken bones in the pot. Chop 2-3 onions into large chunks and toss them in. Do the same for some carrots and celery. I always peel and cut up a rutabaga, too. (Someone once told me that it was good for stock, and I believed it.)

In case you haven't noticed, this recipe is not going to provide exact directions. You don't need them. Start with the carrots, onions, celery, and rutabaga, and then add anything else that sounds good. Like a couple bay leaves. I'd stay away from salt & pepper. (You can season the stock later, when you're actually cooking with it.) You should probably go easy on strongly flavored stuff, too, like garlic. In this last batch, I threw in some green onions, leeks, parsley, and turnip shavings.

Fill the pot with water so that it covers all of the bones and veggies. Bring it to a boil and then turn down the heat to medium or medium-low. Let it simmer, covered, for several hours. You can give it a stir and check the color of the stock every once in a while. When it's as dark as you want, turn off the heat and let it cool. (I probably cooked this one 3-4 hours.)

Strain out the bones and veggies, and, using cheesecloth, skim off the fat that might be floating on the surface. Divide the stock into manageable (2-3 cup) portions (like those Gladware or Ziploc containers), and freeze. When you're ready to use it, you can heat it in the microwave until it's thawed completely.

Monday, March 2, 2009

pasta and gremlins

Yep, I made pasta from scratch Sunday night. I had a new gadget that I wanted to try.

Actually, it's a used gadget. Every once in a while, my manager Kristina goes through her pantry and makes space by donating her old kitchen stuff to me. Mixing bowls, spatulas, Calphalon pans, and a pasta maker. All of which is greatly appreciated.

To tell the truth, I'm not sure linguini from scratch is much better than dried linguini from the store. It's cool to say the pasta's fresh, though. (I'm also pretty excited about the idea of making flavored pasta, like dessert spaghetti with ice cream meatballs...)

What was notable was the gremolata I made as a condiment for the pasta. (It was Kaytie's idea, but I made it and called it the gremlin, which only I found funny.) It's an Italian thing, and it adds a little citrus zip that is especially nice on a creamy dish. (We use some on a tenderloin tips risotto at work.) It was great on the shrimp pasta, and I'm planning on using the leftovers on Kraft mac and cheese.


1 cup pecans
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 large clove roasted garlic
4 tsp lemon zest
4 tsp chopped basil
4 tsp chopped parsley
1/4 tsp black pepper

Dump it all in a food processor and pulse until all is well combined and chopped.