Comfort Foods and Indulgences
It's cookie season! Oh, sure, cookies are eaten 365 a year, but is there a better time to celebrate cookies than during the Christmas season? Even the most baking-averse among us can't help but bake cookies in December (though they may just be sugar cookies cut out from a can).
Anyone can make cookies and everyone loves to eat cookies. They're the ideal thoughtful holiday gift, they're perfect for children's little hands, and they're a wonderful way to spend time with family and friends creating memories that will last a lifetime. (I don't remember many Christmas gifts I received when I was a kid, but I do remember marathon Christmas cookie baking sessions with my mom every year.)
So during this Christmas cookie season, I'm sharing 10 tips for baking, storing, and freezing cookies.
1. Before you begin baking, make sure you have all requisite ingredients as well as baking utensils, pans and parchment paper (lots of parchment paper). Baking requires precision, so it's a good idea to use the exact ingredients specified in a recipe rather than make substitutions that can adversely affect both texture and flavor.
Comfort food with a crust. Need I say more? Thanksgiving, for me, is all about the sides. I do love my gravy, but I prefer it over my rustic herb stuffing. Forget the turkey and save it for a big batch of turkey potpie or a morning hash.
This recipe has been part of my repertoire for the past 20 years. It has evolved over the years but one thing has remained constant; there is very little fat and no cream in the recipe. And in making this dish, over and over again, the cream is not even missed. The filling is delicious but what really makes this dish is the crust. And this gluten free crust is a winner (thanks to Shauna).
In doing all of my planning, marketing, and organizing on Sunday’s, I always find a lot of inspiration in cleaning out my vegetable bin. Soups, stir fry’s, salads, stratas, and frittatas, are dishes created from neglected or almost “not edible to eat” veggies. Food rarely gets wasted in our home and it gives me great joy to not see money thrown into the compost bin.
To all of my friends and readers who have supported me over the years, I am grateful to you for your support, questions, advice, and friendship. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!
I have made four turkey dinners this month, needless to say I have had a lot of leftover mashed potatoes in the fridge! They are never really the same when reheated, so it was time to turn them into something totally different.
Since the mashed potatoes are already seasoned, they are the easiest thing to turn into soup. In fact, regardless of what you have added to them flavor wise, it's most likely going to work. Potatoes are versatile that way.
Anyway, I had this simmering on the stove and my oldest son insisted on having it as an after school snack, he loved it. It's delicious and naturally thick. It takes only minutes to make since the potatoes are already cooked and you're really just heating them through.
This will be a great way to use up holiday leftover mashed potatoes or you just might find yourself making extras just so you have leftovers. Either way, enjoy this dish.
We all have our own rituals for fall Sunday afternoons. Some guys sit around and watch football; for me it takes only about a quarter before I need a nap. Others feel inspired to take up household projects; the less said about my ability with a hammer the better.
Instead, I cook. Well, I cook all year round, but when the days start to cool and the light turns golden, I get more ambitious. Rather than 30 minutes at the grill, I throw myself into hours-long kitchen projects. This year, it's been lasagna.
It started in late September. I had just gotten back from the farmers market when I heard that Marcella Hazan had died. I looked over everything that I had bought and in her honor immediately started making dough for fresh pasta. And peeling and seeding tomatoes and turning them into sauce. And making a Parmesan-enriched white sauce. And blanching, chopping and sauteing beet greens. And then putting it all together. All of a sudden it was dinner time.
There's nothing like lasagna from scratch to while away a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Pizza is local. A guy from Cincinnati traveling in Italy will thumb his nose at the pizza because it’s not what he used to eat in Ohio when he was going through puberty. Italians are no different. I know Romans who make rude gestures when they talk about the pizza from Naples.
“The crust is too thick — and then it falls apart in the middle. It is without structure.”
I’ve eaten a lot of pizza in Naples; I’ve downed an obscene number of pies at Baffetto in Rome; I’ve had Sicilian pizza in Sicily, Pugliese pizza in Puglia and Ligurian pizza in Liguria (excellent, by the way) and pizza, at its best, is totally local, which means to say it reflects the personality and the groceries of its neighborhood.
Obviously I’m not referring here to pizza chains, which produce cookie-cutter pies of no interest. Nor am I referring to take-out pizza, which is an abomination. Take-out pizza absorbs the taste and smell of the cardboard it travels in. By the time it arrives you may as well just eat the box. No, I’m talking about real pizza.
It hit me hard. A craving for pimento cheese just came out of nowhere and wham! I had to have some.
The mother of one of my good buddies from my childhood in Hawkinsville made the best pimento cheese… and that’s the recipe I wanted to try. I couldn’t remember exactly how she made it, so I tried to recreate hers. Low and behold, I came out with a version I’m quite proud of. Like any dish, simple but good ingredients make the difference, and with pecans falling, a fall spin on this Southern classic was born.
Toasted pecans make just about anything better...tomato soup, any dessert, salads, and now pimento cheese. That essence, that flavor of goodness from a toasted pecan makes my taste buds sing.A slight salting doesn’t hurt either. A few of these from the farm goodies tucked into my pimento cheese sandwich were quite good my friends, quite good.
Now on to my next pimento cheese condiment…Wickle’s Pickles. Those of us who attended Auburn or are from that neck of the woods know what I’m talking about. These Dadeville, Alabama exports are pickles with a kick and are super right out of jar or on a sandwich or burger. (Try my pimento cheese and these pickles on a burger…wow!) Many of the major grocers are now carrying this brand so go get some as soon as you can! Be sure to try them with my pimento cheese and toasted pecans too...yum!
When I asked what I could bring for dessert to a recent gathering, my friend told me that her husband loves “anything pumpkin” - particularly healthy recipes - but also a little decadent.
Always up for a challenge, I consulted my well-worn copy of Whole Grain Baking from King Arthur. They have a wonderful recipe for Pumpkin Layer cake which uses both whole wheat and whole barley flour. It’s a quick and easy cake recipe and the barley and pumpkin keep it nice and moist.
I opted for cupcakes which are easier to transport and decided to frost them with a Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue Buttercream. For a finishing touch, I made some candied pecans with pumpkin seeds and crystallized ginger.
The result was an over-the-top cupcake with a very “healthy” vibe.
Move over...there's a new "crack" in town. And this dip is definitely it. Don't make it unless you plan on over-indulging or you have many friends around to help you eat it. I promise you, there won't be any left.
It's so delicious, especially when served with tart Granny Smith apples. The sweet and sour balance each other out and make for this wonderful food-dipping experience.
This is perfect for your upcoming Halloween party (serve in a hollowed out pumpkin). It will also be great for Thanksgiving, Christmas....okay, pretty much any holiday or gathering.
It will take you five minutes to make. Everyone will love you.
What a meal. Busy life = slow-cooking meat = happy family.
Again, I am embracing the slow-cooker. It's saving me! However, have you ever been home all day while the slow-cooker is going? Or worse asleep at night while it's cooking? I feel like I snack more while those amazing smells are wafting from the kitchen. Then the kids come home from school and whine until dinner because they smell the food too. And want it. Oh well, a small price to pay for an awesome meal.
This pork, is melt in your mouth delicious. And you can literally throw it together in 5 minutes and be on your merry way. When you get home you will have a fabulous, slightly sweet and savory meal that goes QUITE well with mashed potatoes. And there is so much juice to pour over the meat, leaving it moist and yummy. Ah, bliss.
We will be doing this one again and again this winter.
Dining out is one of the best favorite forms of culinary inspiration. Last weekend I went out for brunch at Eats on Clement Street and ordered the Waffle Bacon which was described as bacon pressed in a waffle, cheddar, Hungarian peppers and a sunny up egg. It was a wonderful combination of gooey, chewy and crisp and had many classic flavors associated with breakfast. It was definitely the sauteed peppers that tied the bacon, egg, cheese and waffle together and took the dish to the next level. I knew this was something I had to order again or better yet, try to duplicate at home.
Instead of using Hungarian peppers I took the easy route and used diced green chiles from a can. The result? Oh my. It was delicious! The truth is, a bacon waffle topped with chiles and cheese is actually quite good without the egg as well, though you can imagine how the yolk forms a lovely sauce for the bacon waffle. Sometimes more is better, and it's the excess of this recipe that makes it so satisfying. Who doesn't love bacon, cheddar or green chiles? They are my go to ingredients for making everything from eggs to soups or stews taste better.