Cookie Cutters

I do not have a lot of things from my mother, but these she gave me these cookie cutters years ago. I do remember them from when I was a kid. They are cookie cutters in the shapes of suits of cards – heart, diamond, club, and my favorite, a spade.

My aunt was just two years older than my mother and the third to the last girl born – there were eleven children in the family – my mom was the last single girl born at my grandmother’s age of 41 – yes, that wasn’t really a sentence in the proper sense of things. So, my aunt was born when my grandmother was 39 and we won’t even mention the twins that were born after my mom when my grandmother was 44.  I just do not understand being married at 16 and having kids into your 40s. That was a very different time – I get it, but that just seems wrong.

Either way, my aunt and my mother would love to play cards – gin rummy. My aunt would come down from North Carolina and there were cards or scrabble every night at the kitchen table in our little house. They tried to include me, but I just do not have the brains for cards. I wish I did, but …. I did love to sit there and listen to the two sisters talking.  They were so much alike, but I am so glad that my mother left North Carolina. It made our lives so much easier growing up in Florida away from such a rural situation in North Carolina. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy visiting North Carolina. I did, especially when we would bring home a full cooler of Revels BBQ – the stuff that heaven is made of. No, I am not exaggerating.

As we enter the beginning of sugar cookie season –  yes, it is a real season in my mind anyway, I thought I would share my cookie cutters. I have no idea how old these are, but they have been in my life as long as I can recall – that means they must be pushing an age I would rather not say.  I have other cookie cutters that I have purchased, but these are a sentimental favorite of mine. They remind me of my mom and my aunt and gin rummy and my inability to play cards.

dd_1560

 

 

 

Buttermilk Blueberry Muffins

I am trying to expand my collection of muffin recipes – both sweet and savory. Blueberries come to mind immediately for me. And in this case with buttermilk, to keep the sweet from overpowering the whole thing, I think I will be a happy camper at the end of this little experiment. Besides, I topped each muffin with Turbinado sugar – love the crunch of that.dd_1581

A notice, though, to all you people developing recipes for muffins – those of us baking muffins have one of two sized pans – a 6 cup muffin pan or a 12 cup muffin pan – strange numbers, like 15, are not appreciated at all. Come on, really? Thankfully, this is sane recipe that makes – wait for it – 12 muffins.

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups blueberries*
Turbinado sugar, for topping

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract. Stir in one third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the buttermilk. Mix in another third of the flour mixture, followed by the remaining buttermilk. Stir in all remaining flour, mixing until no streaks of dry ingredients remain. Fold in blueberries until well-distributed. *If using frozen blueberries rinse first, dry well, and then toss in 1 tbsp flour before folding in.**
Divide batter evenly into prepared muffin cups. Each cup should be full of batter. Sprinkle with coarse sugar.
Bake for 21-24 minutes, until the muffins are domed, lightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of each muffin comes out clean. Transfer muffins to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 12, thankfully.

Source: Baking Bites

** I have also heard you can toss with confectioners’ sugar too which makes a degree of sense since confectioners’ sugar has corn starch in it. May try that next time.

These were pretty damn tasty blueberry muffins. I do think frozen fruit, in this case, organic, was the way to go. With that you can make blueberry muffins in December if you get yourself in the mood. Which I just might – these went over well with the MotH and The Boy and also the office. That just makes me really happy. I suppose I’m just a simple creature. Making food that makes people happy, makes me happy. I suppose that can be a bit dorky, but it is what I am.

Also, I do love those muffin cups. They are supposed to be like grass and I really like them. They are Wilton Petal Grass Baking Cups. We just don’t have a lot of options for cool muffin cups around here, and sometimes I need something not too terribly expensive to make up my free shipping order on Amazon, so there we are. There are several more on my list … yeah!

Chocolate Chip Cookies – redux

I have had a habit of making cookies in the fall/winter (when the baking is so much easier) for people that I really appreciate. Especially for all the staff at the restaurants that we go to. And now it is time to start baking again for this fall, at least our version of fall – which is not saying much — sigh. dd_1578

There is a sweet boy that works at our favorite local on the beach and I have been remiss to ask his name, but I finally did last weekend and asked him what kind of cookies he liked. I think I might have scared him a bit – I mean who does that. He said chocolate chip, so this is a new version of the standard. Because Toll House Cookies are a total standard – at least for me. But I totally wanted to make some really exotic kind of cookies …  but he said chocolate chip cookies, so there we are. Simple as it is ….

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/4 cups unsifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips (12 oz bag)

Preheat  oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking pan with parchment.

Sift flour, baking soda, and salt over a sheet of waxed paper.

In a stand mixer, beat butter with sugar and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy and lightened in color. Add eggs, one at a time and then add vanilla. Mix on low speed until incorporated. Gradually mix in flour mixture into butter mixture. Stir in Ghirardelli chocolate chips.

Drop by disher* #30 onto parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.

* a disher is apparently a name for a cookie scoop – or an ice cream scoop. Had no idea at all, but thanks to Alton Brown I know how to determine the size of the disher. The one I had was a 40, so I then purchased a 30 and a 20.

I really liked these cookies. They were crispy on the edges and that is what I like in a chocolate chip cookie. Not a huge fan of the chewy cookie, unless they are oatmeal cookies. These seemed to go over well with the Boy, and the office. So, all in all that is a good thing. I do value the opinions of my friends and family – just as long as they are honest in their assessments. I think these were a success.

Strong Street Studio – Blown-Glass Pumpkins

The first weekend in October is one of my favorite little splurges that I have had each year for about five years now. Pumpkin shopping at Strong Street Studio.

dd_1577

2016 Pumpkins from Strong Street Studio

I am not a shopper. I hate shopping for clothes, for which the MotH should be eternally grateful. Indeed. For clothes shopping, I have to take him with me because he is better at picking out things for me. I can shop for shoes, but only when necessary and, pretty much, only on some sort of sale. Do love bags, but again must be on sale. I think it was because my mom was not a shopper either. Shopping is a chore for me and not a pastime. I think I may be a strange woman. A rare breed indeed – at least in my mind.

That said, I wait every year for this sale. I’ve been buying Scott’s pumpkins since he was selling them in a tent outside of Jaco’s. Usually one or two – they are not inexpensive and understandably so.

I  have had a weekend of glass blowing classes thanks to the MotH for my birthday when we first moved here, and it is bloody hard work. I understand so much better what is involved since I have tried to do it myself. I need to post pictures of what I have made – they are not awe inspiring, but the did require upper arm strength – that is a HUGE part of blowing glass. Upper arm strength is not one of my strong attributes.

A couple of years back we had a devastating flood in the area and it destroyed Scott’s equipment and studio. He did a Kickstarter that I joined, the benefit was a blood orange pumpkin never to be repeated and it is my only orange pumpkin, and will probably be the only one ever. An orange pumpkin is kind of pedestrian. But blood orange with that hint of red – nice. But everything else, well I am a bit whimsical about my pumpkins.

dd_0427

Blood Orange Pumpkin

I am always looking for something different and have been happy to find just the right amount of odd* in the pumpkin sale – see that white one from this year – no idea what inspired it or me to purchase it, but it is so lovely in the light.  I do keep my pumpkins out year round, but move them around and make it different all the time. Fall is my favorite season even though we really don’t have much of a real fall. So again I just push the issue and try to will our fall into being.

Otherwise, pumpkins at Christmas, why the hell not? Yes, I do that.

My favorite odd pumpkins* –

dd_img_0771-edit

Green and Lilac pumpkin – could not help myself.

dd_img_0850-edit

I think this my favorite – it looks like an evil pumpkin and I love it.

Cous Cous Salad

Well, I am doing it … again. Making the same recipes over and over because I like them. That said, it does not make for new and exciting things for this blog, but it is true to life and to me that is pretty important. This is how I cook. I make things that make me and mine happy – or sometimes, just me, happy. That is the case with this recipe. It is a combination of flavors that I love. You will also find it in the Asparagus, Red Onion, Orange Juice, White Wine butter sauce pasta. Red onions and orange juice are really amazing together.

It kind of bugs me (no, really bugs me) that I cannot find the source for this recipe – google –  can you not fix this?  Again, another recipe from my vegetarian decade and I so thought this was from The Greens Cook Book, but, alas, no. Still one of my favorite cook books.D&D_1556

1 cup fresh orange juice
1/3 cup sultanas (or just raisins in this case)
1 medium red onion, sliced into half circles
red wine vinegar – or apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup toasted pecans (or walnuts whatever you have)
2 scallions, sliced thin
1 cup cous cous*
1 Tbs canola oil

In a dry pan, heat nuts until they are just fragrant and slightly toasted. Remove from heat. In a small pot heat water to boil and place red onion in a heat-proof bowl. Add the hot water to the red onions for a few minutes and drain. Set aside and splash with red wine vinegar. Heat orange juice in a pot over medium heat and add sultanas. Add cous cous to the  orange juice mixture and add canola oil. Cover the pot with the lid to steam. Give it a few minutes and then fluff with a fork. Add in scallions, nuts, and red onions (w/the vinegar).  This is pretty damn amazing.

This salad, in my opinion, is great at room temperature and not bad on the cold side either. The vinegar pickles the onions and makes them crunchy and that is just lovely with the cous cous and the soft sultanas and crunchy nuts.

* I have tried this with Israeli cous cous, but prefer the Italian version – smaller, in this case, is better in my opinion.

Very Special Rice Krispie Treats

I defy anyone to not like a home-made rice krispie treat. They are great, drop dead simple, and make people happy. Those of us who bake/cook do it to make people in our lives happy. These also make me happy – so a total score!dd_1562

I had an accident once with rice krispie treats. It was probably common enough, but it made for a major advancement in my recipe. I had put my unsalted butter in a sauce pan to melt before adding the (mini) marshmallows and was not paying attention. Unbeknowst to me, I had created a light version of brown butter but went ahead with the recipe – this, people, is a game changer. No shit. Game Changer. It gives the treats a nuttiness that is simply amazing.

So then I started to think what else could I do to make these simple treat special? Well, let’s see – marshmallows are vanilla flavored so why not a bit of vanilla extract while we’re doing this – gild that damn lily. Then I think I had one of the best thoughts lately (maybe ever). What does sweet food love more than salt? Um, nothing. So after the treats were in the pan, I sprinkled them with Maldon salt. Holy Hell. Yup.

So here are the particulars … based on memory because I just kind of winged it.

4 Tbs unsalted butter
10 oz-ish bag of mini marshmallows
1 Tbs vanilla extract (the really stuff, please)
5 cups rice cereal (snap, crackle, and pop, stuff – Publix brand works really well)
2 tsp Maldon salt – or your choice of sea salt, something flaky though

Spray a 9 x 13 inch glass pan with cooking spray and set aside. Melt butter in a light colored sauce pan that way you can see when it starts to get just a bit brown. Add the marshmallows and stir to start melting. When you feel in the mood add in the vanilla. Once marshmallows are melted, stir in the rice cereal and coat with marshmallows.

Dump marshmallow mixture into prepared pan and using wet hands smooth it into an even layer. Sprinkle the pan with Maldon salt.

Then – eat for breakfast because you know all the cool kids are doing it.