I do this every year – make a list. Sigh.

I make a list of things I want to try in the kitchen, but this year I am going to plan this out in some way that makes it possible. Not sure  how (not good), but at least I have motivation for a few things. This is a hallmark year for me (shut up Super Bowl), but something needs to kick me in the arse and I think this just might be it. So I am starting the list now. I expect it will get longer (and be updated) as the remaining days of this month – hell, probably the whole year –  go on. Who knows?

Venison – I kind of have a freezer full of it since the MotH’s brother is a hunter. I have NEVER cooked it. That said, I have eaten it and really enjoy it.  I have talked to my favorite hunter once about it and will do it again over the holidays – and make notes this time. I know venison is on the lean side, so right there I need to figure out how to make that work for me = add fat. I have the following types of venison in the freezer – sausage (!!), ground, chili, and something that may be backstrap, I will not know until I thaw that last one  and I can damn well guarantee that will be last one I try to figure out how to cook because in my head that is the most challenging. But I think this is a January project. Right now, unfortunately, leading right up to New Years here it is in the 60’s /70’s and rainy. Ugh. So save this project for some colder weather.

Pate a Choux (not sure how to add all the cool French accents)  – I will not go 1980’s crazy and make a croquembouche, but I think I will make gougeres since cheese is involved. And, sigh, this was on the list last year. Lord, I am a loser.

Beef Tenderloin – I cannot believe I have never made this. It is supposed to be dead simple – a favorite cooking method of mine. I even have a couple of recipes from America’s Test Kitchen for it which means it should turn out perfect – they are ATK for a reason, after all . I guess it is the fact that is it so much beef and now, it is just me and the MotH. Either way, I will have to get over that and just get to it.

Panatonne – I am going all in on this since the only bread I have ever made is soda bread (it was good, but it is kind of not real bread = no yeast).  I will not make it for Christmas / New Years, but for sometime while it is cold outside – Mardi Gras isn’t that far away – excellent thought! I may temper the dried fruit a little and there will be pecans involved – it is my Southern version of the thing after all – but I know my starting point will be the recipe I just saw on Martha Bakes. I really like this show – it is kind of like taking a master class in baking. I can watch it for ages. It is on PBS and really wonderful.  You may have missed my earlier MS reference – 1980’s croquembouche – first time I ever saw one was in her Christmas book. It is what I compare them all to. Need to get a copy of that book again. It is completely over the top, especially for me in the, um, 80’s. May still be way out of my league. There is a great deal of trepidation involved in this.

As I type, it is raining buckets – again. Ugh. Another front that brings rain not much cooler temperatures. And more rain due in two days. Not the Christmas / New Years that we wanted. Weather guessers (meteorologists) are not terrible accurate, Best job to have – you can be totally wrong and NOT get fired. This wreaks havoc on my candy making. Cannot make decent candy in anything but very low humidity. Every Southern candy make will tell you that. Our window is very very small, and this year getting smaller by the day.

 

Glazed Lemon Cookies

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Glazed Lemon Cookies

Sometimes, for me, the rush of baking that happens between October and New Years (let’s just call it what it is), and I get a little burned out. I guess it is the other cooking that comes into play and you final decide, okay, I’m taking a break. These were my “taking a break” cookies this year. It was post Thanksgiving and I had been on a baking hiatus for several days, but decided to give these a go for just something lemon. I know, I know.

I really like these cookies. They are a modification of the first time I made them because I thought they needed more lemon – it’s never a bad thing in my opinion. Then I received a small bag of Meyer lemons from a friend of my mother-in-law which was really exciting and gave me new things to work with. I also have my biggest crop of Meyer lemons on my own potted tree on the back patio. It is a bit of a Charlie Brown Christmas tree looking tree, but I’ve never had three lemons make it through the year. I will take a picture and it will be a sad little tree, but there will be three nice looking Meyer lemons on it.

Meyer Lemons = More inspiration – I can use it after the holiday season (that stretches longer and longer each year). That said, here are some great lemon cookies you can make with whatever lemons you have.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbs finely grated lemon zest
2 Tbs lemon juice
1/2 cup (8 Tbs) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon extract

Lemon Glaze
2 Tbs finely grated lemon zest
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift over waxed paper the flour, baking soda, and salt. In a stand mixer, beat butter, granulated sugar, and lemon zest. Add egg, vanilla, lemon extract, and lemon juice and beat until combined. Beat in flour mixture on low.

Drop dough by tablespoons, 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until edges are golden, 15 – 20 minutes – rotate pan half way through. Let cool 2 minutes then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

In a medium bowl, sift in the confectioners’ sugar, and mix in the lemon zest, and lemon juice until smooth.

Spread completely cooled cookies with glaze and let set, about 1 hour.

21 March 2010 – vvg lots of lemon in both the cookie and glaze – not too sweet, added 1/2 tsp lemon extract

30 April – shared w/Kevin – fav student

17 Dec 2015 –  I pretty much think I have confectioners’ sugar all over me,  (that always seems to happen with confectioners’ sugar) but … It’s what I do.

1 year

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Two generation Christmas tradition – M & M Cookies

So Christmas Day is my one year “anniversary” with this blog. Not my one year blogging, but …  So this upcoming year do I get to do  – “One year ago today this is what I posted?”   Not sure. I seem to have an annoying habit of cooking the same things over and over again (orzo – yep). But I will try much harder because this blog makes me challenge myself to do things that I have not done before and I think that is a very good thing. Yes, I still make a lot of the same things but that is because that are pretty damn good. So you will see repeats, but that is because I (or the Boy) really like certain things, and sometimes you just want what you want. Like these M & M Cookies – a favorite for Christmas for both me and the Boy.

Butterscotch Brownies – basically, Blondies

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Butterscotch Chocolate Blondies

I have always had an affinity for blondies. I guess it is because it is a nice mix of cookie dough w/chips and, honestly, it is dead simple – no batches of cookies, only turning the pan once – simple and done. Now the Boy is a blondie fan so I try to make things for him that I think he will enjoy and – again – dead simple. I guess that may mean I am kind of lazy.

I do love butterscotch. I am well aware the butterscotch chips are, truth be told, not real, but as America’s Test Kitchen says – sometimes you just need a butterscotch chip to have the right butterscotch flavor. Improving the world through chemicals – sounds so 70’s and slightly mostly creepy, but this recipe is pretty much, um, great.

This time I made them, I added a few semi-sweet chocolate chips just … well, just because I had some left from another recipe and it seems to work pretty dang well.

1/2 pound unsalted butter, softened (16 Tbs)
1 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar – I always use light brown sugar
1 Tbs vanilla – yeah! Not may recipes call for this much, but I never measure strictly. More is better. Kind of like chocolate or cheese.
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup butterscotch chips
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13” baking pan. I still have a preference for William-Sonoma (RIP Chuck Williams) gold-touch baking pans. They are beyond words my favorites and I am slowly replacing everything I have with them.

Sift together, over a piece of waxed paper, flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy (someone needs to define “fluffy”). Add eggs, one at a time and then mix in vanilla. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and mix until smooth. Stir in 1 cup of butterscotch chips and all chocolate chips.

Spread dough in pan and smooth. Top with finally 1/4 cup butterscotch chips (and a handful of chocolate chips if you are so inclined). Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until they begin to pull away from the edge of the pan and a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in the pan and then cut into bite-sized pieces.

24 December 2009

15 February 2014 – for Em. vg not too dense – try adding a bit of chocolate

19 December 2015 – for sharing at the holidays with friends.

I think this may be my new favorite Blondie. It is really good. And I think that may be the mix of the chips, but it is probably it is the tablespoon of vanilla. Yep, that may be it.

Prep for Christmas – in all its forms.

We had a very quiet Thanksgiving which I enjoyed, but I am glad Christmas is going to be an all-out family party. I love the way my brother-in-law fries a turkey. No matter how many times I roast one (thank you AB for the best roasted turkey of all time! And I should add, the first turkey I ever made in my life), I still prefer a fried turkey, but do not have the nerve (or equipment) to do it myself. Very glad he does.

So here are my plans for the upcoming holidays:

Christmas Eve – just an aside – This is my favorite part of Christmas because growing up we had a smorgasbord (sorry lacking the umlauts and accents). Or at least my eleven year-old version of it. Why my mom let me kind of take over to a degree – although she still did most of the cooking, I have no idea. But that is what happened in my family. Christmas Eve we opened presents from each other and munched on a buffet of all kinds of things that my mom made and a few that I dreamed up. At the time, I realized I wanted to be a caterer, so it is not surprising that I went into event management – not really.

So for me Christmas Eve is meant to be relaxed. Our new tradition from a few year ago is to have Cheddar fondue night with all the things that go with it. In our case, that is apples, pears, grapes, baguette, and to gild the lily, some Boursin (for the baguette, not the fondue). Maybe some Brie or, well, who knows.  I always shop on Christmas Eve to get the freshest things I can find. It is so simple and it can be scaled for however many people you have. In our case, it is small – typically four of us, but fun nonetheless. I am just a bit too excited about this. Oh, and then there is dessert. Whatever kind of cookie I make for the next day – but we hit it anyway. Although after a bunch of fruit and cheese I do not have tons of room. Well, that is what I tell people.

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Sausage Balls – A Southern & a family tradition

Christmas Day – Morning. I am kind of going easy this year. I have my mom’s Banana Nut Bread that I will slice and broil until crunchy and smear with great salted European butter. I probably could just do with that. But I want something else, but something simple. This year, not sausage balls (which are a huge tradition in my family), or latkes which I love more than words, and yes, I might just be being a bit lazy in this department. But there may be just the two of us so I am going with sautéed hot breakfast sausage that I then add scrambled eggs. So the eggs cook in the sausage grease – it is amazing. That was the only way I ate eggs as a kid (long story – see: allergies).

Then the plan is to bake my stuffed mushrooms which you will see and reheat my Sunday Sweet Potatoes which you have seen way too many times, for Christmas with the family. I will have the third batch of Cranberry Horseradish Relish made by then and have more bags of cranberries in the freezer than make sense.  And have put up the pecan/walnut tassies as well – again things that people seem to really like.

So on the 28th, we are having another family thing on the beach – super cool! I plan to make my (yes, you’ve seen it here) sweet potato biscuits with something in them. May try to change this up this year. Probably will not, but … I might. You never know what happens.

I am dreading going to the grocery store today. I have put it off since it’s been raining for days. And the forecast does not get any better until, well maybe if we get really lucky – not likely, Friday for Christmas Day. That said, it will be in the 70’s. Not any kind of Christmas weather and certainly not any kind of candy making weather. Guess I am waiting for January for cold and dry to make Vanilla Taffy or English toffee, or Divinity or even Peanut Brittle. Nothing too unusual in the grand scheme of things. But irksome.

 

Brownie Cookies

I am not a chocolate person, nor am I brownie person, but sometimes you make things for the people that you love or the people who D&D_1012are your friends. That said, if, and that’s a big if, I’m going to eat a brownie, or a piece of one, I want an edge piece. I think most people are that way. That is why there is a pan that gives every piece of a brownie an edge. We gave one of those to our niece for her birthday a few years ago. Now Alton tells me I’m a dummy for doing so, but it made her happy.

So here I am making Brownie Cookies. For my friends. The idea here is a good one, the cookie should be fudg-y in the middle and a little crunchy on the edges. This recipe really pulls that off rather well.

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
12 ozs semi-sweet chocolate chips
8 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup walnuts, chopped

Sift together over a piece of waxed paper, flour, baking soda, salt.

Melt chocolate and butter in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until smooth. Let cool just slightly.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat sugar and eggs until pale yellow and thick, 2 – 3 minutes. Add chocolate mixture to egg mixture and mix until incorporated.  Add in vanilla. Add in flour and mix until just incorporated. Add walnuts. Refrigerate until firm enough to scoop, 30 minutes or so.

While dough chills, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment.

Scoop heaping tablespoons of batter onto baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Batter will spread.

Bake until the tops are crackled and the edges are firm, 14 – 16 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes, then transfer to wire rack. Make sure baking sheets cool before using them again.

Source: Food Network Kitchen

Spinach Dip

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Spinach Dip with Hawaiian Rolls

I have had this recipe, dare I say it, since the late 1980’s. And now I feel pretty much -ancient – yep. I am sure there are better variations, but this is the one the Boy likes, and to be honest, I really like it too. Although I don’t think the Boy understands that there are water chestnuts. He says he does not like them – funny – will not tell him for a few more years. This is a variation from my friend Marie in my first real job. We worked in a distribution company and it was a great job and I learned so much about working in the real world. My French Silk Pie recipe also comes from this time period. And a few other recipes that I will have to bring out of the 80’s just for fun. Or just to make me feel, um … old.

I am sure in the 80’s I did not use King’s Hawaiian rolls, but now they are a requirement. Thanks Boy – and that was an excellent move on your part.

8 ozs cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 packages frozen chopped spinach, drained and all the liquid pressed out
1 package Knorr vegetable soup mix
1 can water chestnuts, minced
King’s Hawaiian Rolls

Mix together cream cheese and mayonnaise. Add vegetable soup mix, and mix to combine thoroughly. No, I mean it. This is important.
Add spinach and water chestnuts and mix. Refrigerate overnight.
Let sit at room temperature for about an hour or so. Serve with Hawaiian rolls. Sliced horizontally and then vertically, so you get 4 pieces of Hawaiian bread from each roll.  Not sure how this worked out, but it is a pretty good combination
I make this for the Boy. Every Thanksgiving.