My thoughts on the Cracker Challenge – yep, that sounds slightly weird. Geh.

After the 2012 cracker challenge, I decided to make the ultimate cheese cracker – my own version. I took the following things into consideration: ingredients on hand, time to mix, log or flat, dough handling, time to chill, spice. nuts. flavor, crispiness, cost to make, and it all culminated in an all around winner which was – Parmesan Rosemary Walnut Shortbread.Will make that again, because I really love them. Because growing fresh Rosemary is simply easy – just put it in the garden in a place  that gets lots of sun, but not too much water – read: no sprinkler system.

D&D_1476That said, I took the best qualities from the 5 recipes I used and developed this. I think this just might be my first real recipe on my own – although with a little help. I do freelance in cooking, but baking is a completely different animal.

The cracker challenge sat for a while (until 2016), but now we are going to make my ultimate cracker and see if/how it measures up. I am not growing Rosemary – damn it. But we shall manage. Will soldier on. That is what I do. It is June 2016 and I cannot sleep, so this is what I decided to do. I’ll wear it proudly. It is June 2016 and I cannot sleep, so this is what I decided to do. I’ll wear it proudly.

6 ozs all-purpose flour – yes, we are measuring by weight – why else do I have the damn scale? Thank you Ruhlman.
2 ozs grated cheddar – plus just a bit because that is what I do.
2 ozs finely grated Parmesan – it really seems like a lot but in reality it is not, mostly.
1/2 tsp cayenne – I think next time – more, yes, please – more.
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped, but not too finely
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 ozs (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2” pieces
1 egg yolk, with just a smidge of cold water

First thing, I chop the walnuts in the food processor and since everything else is going to be mixed in there, it is no big deal. Remove the walnuts.

To the food processor, add the flour, and cheeses, cayenne, walnuts, pepper and whir around a bit. Then add butter. Once that is combined, add the egg and water to the top of the dough and just pulse until it comes together. Then add the walnuts back in. Will not be long to come together.

Dump out on waxed paper and press together and then shape into a couple of logs. Chill overnight or up to three days.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment. Cut the logs in 3/4 inch slices or there abouts. Just try to make the slices very similar to each other. That way they bake the same way. It takes about 12 minutes to bake them, but you need turn them half way through. You want the edges slightly gold and the same with the bottom. That really is as far as you want to go in the baking these cheese crackers.

Hood got a bit of cheese, but the cracker rolls are in the fridge and ready to be baked and in my head, they will be good because the dough was not damn bad.

Nota bene:That is something I have learned – if the dough does not taste good, neither will the cookies or crackers.

 

 

Egg Usage – by month – May 2016

17 May 2016 – 3 eggs – Yukon Gold Potato Salad

21 May 2016 – 3 eggs – Chicken Salad

 

Well, this was not the month for eggs. I had a slight serious thing for toffee and shortbread this month and neither involve eggs. So this month, my egg supply was used on some pretty amazing savory things.

Summer always has me thinking of potato salad. I did the same thing last year. I really need to get to the local farmers’ markets to find some local red new potatoes. The By-Pass Market in Milton is one of my favorite places because they have excellent, local, new red potatoes – and lots of other amazing local produce. I am always tempted to roast new potatoes because they become sweet (like candy) and we just eat them right off the roasting pan. They are so addictive. So they never seem to make it into potato salad.  I know what my future holds – a trip to the By-Pass Market.   Ce weekend.

I am a huge fan of chicken salad. I poach chicken breasts in water which I then save and serve to a totally underserving puppy – chicken water is an excellent thing for a pup. I usually make this simple – celery – peeled of course, shallots, Duke’s mayonnaise, a little Dijon mustard, parsley, and, of course, a few boiled eggs. Simple, but so very good.

Will have to do better in June in both the butter usage and egg usage, but I am not thinking it is going to go well. I am still a little off my game, but I will make up for that.

Yes. Yes, I will. You just have to work through things and to me cooking and baking makes me happy.

Fred and Father’s Day.

My father died on May 20th this year – one month ago (that is why I have been a little absent lately). With that and the constant yammering about Father’s Day (see: totally made up holiday) these past few weeks, it has caused me to think about how important a father is. That being if he is a true involved father which mine was. I was his first born kid – I really think know he wanted a boy. He taught me quite a few things in his 83 years, some of which I ignored until I got older and then I saw the wisdom of it. Sometimes. But not always.

Practical Stuff:
* How to change a tire. That is fine if the last tire dudes did not put the lug nuts on too tight.

* How to change brake pads. Though these days things are so different I doubt I could manage.

* How to pour concrete. My dad added a room to the back of our house. It became our family room, but I helped pour the slab for it.

Things he did just because:
* He would come home with a roll of life savers in his top shirt pocket after work for me. Usually cherry or butter rum.

* Help coach my softball team. Sometimes that did not go well. That is a very long story.

*Took us bowling with him and mom every Friday night. They were in a league – who does that now? And we pretty much roamed free to play video games. Excellent.

* Brought a dog home that was hanging around his work. Terrier mix that we called Domino because he was black with two white spots on his throat.

* Build a rabbit hutch. For bunnies he brought home for us. I think they were supposed to be eating rabbits, but Ralph  and Thumper were pets. And I would so love to have another rabbit.

* Would respond to our notes of, “please take us to the 7-11 for candy.”

Silly things:
* He pretended he could make traffic lights switch with a snap of his fingers when I was little. A 4 year-old is so gullible. He was watching the opposing lights.

* He would always kiss me before he went to work at about 5:30 in the morning. Which was lovely until one time when I was slightly awake and socked him in the jaw. I am sure I didn’t hurt him but I did feel bad. But not really.

* Bought me Swedish Fish since I could not have real fish. I still love them and there is a jar of them in my office.

Not so much fun:
* He went looking for me when I was late coming home from work because I was having a drink with a guy – pre-cell phone era. Oh, so not happy then.

* Got totally pissed when I accidentally electrocuted my self with Christmas lights and a large container of water which had a Christmas cactus in it in the half done addition to the back of the house. Boy howdy, he was pissed, but that was because he was scared. And I was scared too.

“I am not going to run behind you all the way to first grade.” Helping me learn to ride a bike without training wheels.  I did learn that very day.

* The time I left my windows cracked on my car and it rained overnight. Oh, so not good, again.  But then again, he bought the car and then said, by the way, you now have a car payment. Lovely.

* The time I scraped a school bus in the parking lot of my high school parking lot and they (by which I am sure it was a she bus driver)  called the cops for a hit and run  and leaving the scene of an accident.  Honestly, really? I got 9 points in one day and since I was dropping off friends, the cops beat me home. Once again he was angry, but I think by the time I had to go to court – yes, court- he really thought it was bullshit. It probably did not help when the judge said, “why did you leave of an accident?” And I said, “I did not know there was an accident to leave the scene of.” Fred jabbed me in the ribs. Ugh.

By the way, his name was not Fred, but that is what I have been calling him since I was about 12 or so. Not even sure how that happened, but it did and it made me happy. And maybe him too.

Shortbread with chocolate chips and toffee bits

I am a huge fan of shortbread. I mean, come on, it is basically a butter cookie and then you are going to add chocolate, but even better (!) – toffee chips. Yes – I did just say that – toffee chips. Damn skippy. I think next time it will just be toffee chips. That sounds like a breakfast cookie to me. Lots of things sound like breakfast cookies to me though, so I probably should not be trusted at this point. D&D_1448

1 cup unsalted  butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted – must be sifted
1 teaspoon  vanilla
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips – or however much you want – just saying
3/4 cup English toffee bits, such as Heath (the ones without chocolate)

Preheat the oven to 350°.
Sift together the flour and salt on a piece of waxed paper. Cream the butter and powdered sugar together until smooth. Add the vanilla, and then add the flour mixture. By hand, mix in the chocolate chips and toffee bits.
With a cookie scoop, drop cookies onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake until the edges are just starting to brown, about 12 to 15 minutes, turning the baking sheet half way through – it is just a thing I do. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container, like one does with all cookies.
Many thanks to Farmgirl Fare for the excellent recipe. I do love the banners for that site and then there are pictures of donkeys. I always though I would have a few donkeys, but I just do not think it will work out now. That said, I think I could pull off having a mini donkey and say it was a German Shepherd Dog. Totally  – could pull that off.

Chicken Salad

D&D_1467

Simple Chicken Salad

I seem to keep failing at chicken salad. I am not sure why, but this time, I really thought I got it. But to be honest, chicken salad is so pedestrian. I mean, pretty much any idiot can make it. That just makes me feel like a bit of an idiot because it does not seem to work for me.

All that said, this was pretty damn good chicken salad. Too bad I could not enjoy it like I wanted to.

I have no idea how my mom made chicken salad. One of the million of things I did not ask her – this seems to be a theme. Guess that is what happens when someone you love dies unexpectedly. So you just have to forge you own way in the world. Suck it up and deal.

I poach a chicken breast or two* – usually two and then add the usual suspects: celery, peeled of course and then minced, a few (3) chopped boiled eggs, some shallots – minced, parsley also minced, a little Duke’s Mayonnaise, Dijon mustard. And if I am feeling really frisky some sweet pickle relish. None of this is anything my mother EVER did. But this is pretty cool in the grand scheme of things.

My lovely mother-in-law makes great chicken salad and it is just the way I like it – with grapes and nuts, but the MotH does not care for that. Either way, this one is pretty damn good.

I guess this is another one of my non-recipe recipes. I do seem to have quite a few of them. But when I think of it, that does not seem to me a bad thing

*I could have poached the chicken with bay leaves and peppercorns and garlic, but I save the chicken water for Hood, so I go simple so I can give him a treat. What dog does not love chicken water? Um, none.

 

 

Butter Usage – by month – May 2016

11 May 2016 – 16 Tbs – Pretzel Toffee – Did not work – need to use a thermometer for the temp of toffee. Damnation

12 May 2016 – 16 Tbs – Shortbread with mini chocolate chips & Heath pieces – just saying damn skippy – And my birthday – the 50th. So where do we go from here? Being old that’s where I go anyway. Just something I have to do. I have always said it is better than the alternative.

21 May 2016 – 16 Tbs – Pretzel Toffee – again. This time I got it right. It is stupidly good. Yep. Stupid. D&D_1465

This was not the best month for me. My Fred died and I miss him so. But I also miss my Mom and my little Bering and my big dog Duke. I am kind of tired of people and dogs I love dying.  Yep tired of all this.

Will do better next month – really need to get back into the kitchen and do something useful.

The kitchen always makes me feel better.