Scottish Sharp Cheddar Shortbread

You know me – any chance at a cheese cracker, especially a cheddar cracker, and I am all in. This was a new recipe to me, but it seemed like it had all the things I like about a cheese cracker – with one glaring exception – you had to roll the damn dough out. Ugh. I just hate that beyond words. I will roll out sugar cookies. I will roll out pie dough, but why should I have to roll out crackers. It just seems unnecessary when you can roll cracker dough into a log – chill – slice – and bake and make perfectly good crackers.

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So I decided to buck the recipe and go for what made the most sense to me. Guess what? It totally worked and has made me be a little more critical of all future cracker recipes. Make it easier – why not; it also fits into my favorite way to bake – make the dough one day and bake a day (or two) later. Fits my work week baking plan to a T.

8 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper – 1/4 tsp at a minimum
8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, finely shredded
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Using electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat together butter, salt, black pepper, and cayenne at low speed just until blended. Add Cheddar and flour and mix at low speed just until smooth, Do not over-mix because that makes crappy crackers.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake shortbread until lightly golden and beginning to brown on edges, about 13 to 15 minutes. Cool on sheets 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Source: Epicurious

Original Directions: Shape dough into disk, wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper, and chill 30 minutes. On lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4- to 1/8-inch-thick round. Using 1 1/2- to 2-inch round cutter, cut out rounds and arrange 1 1/2 inches apart on baking sheets. Reroll scraps if desired (rerolled scraps will be tougher).

This is why rolling out crackers is just annoying. I think I have figured out the best way to do it. Out of laziness. Yep, that is me.

It is August – what’s with the pumpkins??

This happens every year. It is so amazingly annoying. Why are pumpkin recipes showing up in my in box in friggin August? Okay, I get that it may be towards the end of summer in parts of the country. But for the lord’s sake, it isn’t even Labor Day yet. Do we have to anticipate this much.

Hello, Williams Sonoma – I do not want pumpkin plates in August. Do you not have an algorithim for different zip codes? We’ll be damn lucky if it gets cool in, um, November. Right now we are worried about record heat, serious rain fall, flooding, and the possibility of hurricanes. Fuck pumpkins.* Not everyone lives in the north east. I am really thinking the people in California are feeling the same way – excepting the hurricane bit.

dd_img_0850-edit*Sorry, slightly rude, but so on point.

Blueberry Upside-Down Skillet Cake

I think this is such a great idea. I love blueberries.  A lot. I really am not too much of a fan of other fruits. There are just a few:  Blueberries, blackberries, nectarines, grapes, apples, esp. Granny Smith, raisins, but that is dried fruit but it is still fruit and I love that. Are cranberries a fruit? I am not sure, but I like them both fresh and dried. I guess they are a fruit. This just shows my lack of knowledge. And I am too lazy to check it out.

I think the orange juice in this in this recipe will likely make it. I have orange juice in my cranberry relish recipe for Thanksgiving and it makes me happy. It just works. Sometimes you just need that slight acidity with a little sweetness – not the over powering citrus like a lemon. But some times you need that too – Pecorino Chicken is a great example. Indeed.

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4 Tbs unsalted butter, cubed
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 orange juice
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk
8 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a ten-inch oven proof* skillet, melt butter over medium low heat, stir in brown sugar until dissolved. Remove from heat. Stir in orang juice and the place blueberries over mixture.

In a large-ish bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, mix together egg, milk, butter, and vanilla until blended. Add wet ingredients into flour mixture, until it just comes together – do not over mix. Pour over blueberry in the skillet.

Bake 18 – 22 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before inverting onto serving plate. Dust with some powder sugar, or, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream or whatever strikes your fancy.

Notes: I am going to make this again. I did not let it bake enough to set the cake. Boo. That said, the parts that I did eat were really good. I may make this the next time with frozen (organic – yes, I did it) blueberries which means I could make it just about any time.

Source: I got nothing. And I really feel bad about that. If someone recognizes this –  let me know. I want to give credit where credit is due. But sometimes I just mess up in this department.

* If you are not sure if your skillet, esp. the handle, is heat-proof at this temperature, just wrap the handle in a couple of layers of heavy duty foil. It works. See: Apple Sour Cream Butterscotch Upside-Down Cake that I make all the time, especially for the Boy’s birthday.

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Creamy Pesto ….

I know I have never done this before but I think the idea is really solid.   I love pesto. I could eat it in a different way and on daily basis. And that includes breakfast.  On pasta which might just be my favorite, but I love pesto mixed with sun-dried tomatoes and spread between layers of cream cheese. And it is amazing yes, and stupidly good.  I just keep saying that, don’t I?

D&D_2020Basil – 2 bunches, stems removed
Garlic – 2 cloves or or more if you would like it
1 1/4 cups walnuts or there abouts – fear the pine nuts.*
1/4 cup really good olive oil
Whole milk ricotta

First mix the garlic in the food processor. Then add the walnuts and mix it up again   Do this before you add the basil. Because this is a good thing. It just seems to work so well. Then stream the olive oil in until you have it the consistency you want. Since I knew I would be adding ricotta, I opted for a little less olive oil than usual. Add about 1/4 cup of ricotta and see what you think. You might want a smidge more oil or a little more ricotta. If you want to go all crazy, toss in a few oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes. Never a bad thing.

As always I add my Parmesan last and make sure I have extra for garnish.

I have to say that I’m glad I tried this the night I made it because after that the Boy ate the rest. Guess that’s a testament to the fact that it was good. Yep really good. Adding the ricotta did make the pesto a bit heavier, so it might be better if the fall, but I will be doing it again and I think the next time sun-dried tomatoes will be added.

Butterscotch Pudding – Gourmet

D&D_1886I love homemade pudding and it really could not be much easier if you get right down to it. There are two schools of thought to this – the egg yolk version or the cornstarch version. They both have the merits and to be honest, I am not sure I have a preference excepting that the egg version can leave you with some egg bits in it and that is never good eats.

1/2 packed dark brown sugar
2 Tbs plus 2 tsp cornstarch
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Whisk together brown sugar, cornstarch, and 1/4 tsp salt in a heavy medium saucepan, then whisk in milk and cream. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking frequently, then boil, whisking, 1 minute. Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla. Pour into a bowl, then cover surface with buttered wax paper and chill until cold, at least 1 1/2 hours.

2 June 2017 – just trying to be normal for a little while, but this is a difficult time for me. I am not sure it is working at all. Nope, not likely. But the pudding is pretty damn good. At least the best that I can expect.

Yes, while I am posting this in August, my June was quite difficult.  We will say lupus and be done with it.

Oh, I totally forgot, I made little mini cups of pudding for the office and I could not keep myself away from them … but I did my best and I think the rest of the office enjoyed them. At least I hoped so.

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Pesto – amazing 

pesto [pes-toh]

noun, Italian Cookery.
1. a sauce typically made with basil, pine nuts, olive oil, and grated Parmesan blended together and served hot or cold over pasta, fish, or meat.
In college, I made some great friends, and one of them was a girl named Karen T. (cannot believe I remembered her whole name, but somehow that makes me feel good, but won’t divulge).
She threw excellent (read: grown up) parties. If you said you would attend, you were actually expected to do so. She was a great cook – the first person I knew to make chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. She totally rocked, and she also introduced me to pesto. I think it was her mom’s recipe, photocopied, and I remember this most clearly, the recipe was called “Pesto by the food processor method.” Hysterical now, but at the time a totally new thing for me.
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It is basically the “recipe” I still make today, except I substitute walnuts for pine nuts. I don’t notice a difference, so it works for me. And I always have walnuts in the freezer.
It’s great for pasta, for pasta salad, add some sun-dried tomatoes and it is excellent in my sun-dried tomato pesto torte. Have I not made that for you? Damn, will rectify that situation soon.

Basil – 2 bunches, stems removed mostly
Garlic – 2 cloves or or more if you would like it
1 1/4 cups walnuts or there abouts – fear the pine nuts.
1/4 cup really good olive oil
A good bit of freshly grated Parmesan – indeed.

First chop the garlic in the food processor. Then add the walnuts and mix it up again   Do this before you add the basil. Because this is a good thing. It just seems to work so well. Then stream the olive oil in and the when it is all done, add the Parmesan. And if you want to go crazy add some sun-dried tomatoes. Because that is amazing. Yep.

I was to go to Italy with Karen and Dierdre in the spring of 1993, but giving birth to the Boy put those plans into a stall. Never regret it. And he was eating pesto as a 3 years-old – he was that kind of boy. Sushi, sure. Pesto, yep. Mushroom pate – always. Kids will try anything if you don’t make a big deal of it.
Karen moved to New Jersey and we lost touch, but some things stick with you in an important way. And I miss them both.

Work Food Hacks

So I eat lunch at work quite often (most days). And I bring leftovers because I don’t care for cold sandwiches with one amazing exception*. So what to do to make it interesting and different and using the limited equipment we have at the office to make it work. In my case, that’s a microwave, a toaster, and a toaster oven, so it really is somewhat limited.

So this will be a recurring post with my terrible iPhone camera pictures. 

First up – Mushroom Fontina Toasts which is a play on Mushroom & Fontina Crostini 

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Yes, this picture is pretty much awful. But it was my lunch and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

So I brought some Italian bread into the office with some of the leftover mushroom shallot garlic mixture. Then I went to the Publix and got some thick sliced Fontina from the deli. So I heat the toaster oven while I toast the Italian bread in the toaster. Meanwhile I heated the mushroom mixture in the microwave just a bit. Not too much though.

So this is how you put it all together: with the toaster oven heated, on broil, top the toasted bread with the warm mushroom mixture, and then top with the thick sliced Fontina. Broil until the desired gooey-ness factor is achieved.

Then put it on your ugly paper plate and have a great lunch at work. 

Now here are some extra tips – have some lemons available, even at the office, oh and it never hurts to have a small bottle of Worcestershire sauce for they both are fresh flavors. 

* cheddar, mayonnaise, and homemade hummus, on Italian bread. Oh yes, this is now in my brain and I have to make it again.