Overwhelming 

If you follow food online this is the most overwhelming time of the year – between Thanksgiving, or maybe even Halloween, and New Years.

I get so many emails in my gmail account* with “29 recipes for dressing,” or the “best pecan pie,” or, heaven-forbid more recipes for Brussels sprouts – I am sorry there is not enough bacon in the world to make those things taste good. They should be called what they are, nasty little cabbages. Do not care how you shave them for a raw salad or what you roast them with. Am not doing it. Um, ever. 

The whole holiday food situation is just overwrought.

It is just a bit overwhelming and I think the best thing you can do it avoid it as best you can. Which is what I do around the holidays – avoid as best you can.

It reminds me of the traffic in our neighborhood that basically goes to hell in a hand basket between mid November and mid January because we are centrally located – which seemed like a good idea when we moved here, but when you cannot get out of your own neighborhood for about three months, you realize, it is not a good thing.

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Cranberry Relish – an easy tradition

Maybe that is why traditions become so important. They dial down the stress. You have recipes you know work and that you know your family and friends love, so it takes the pressure off. With the caveat that you don’t try to add too many new things in a single year – that way, friends, is disaster. Again, something I am prone to do, but am working on it. So far this holiday season I think I have done an admirable job.

I think the most important things are the things that make you happy. That is what all the holidays are about and that is why I always make M&M cookies for Christmas.

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Yep – M&M Cookies for Christmas

* and this is my fault.

 

Butter / Egg Usage – October 2016

1 October 2016 – Red Onion White Wine OJ Butter Sauce Pasta with spinach tortellini  – 4 Tbs

14 October 2016 – Ghirardelli Chocolate Chip Cookies – 16 Tbs / 2 large eggs

15 October 2016 – Buttermilk Blueberry Muffins – 5 1/2 Tbs / 2 large eggs

19 October 2016 – Shortbread – 16 Tbs

19 October 2016 – Best Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies – 12 Tbs / 1 large egg

25 October 2016 – Cheddar, Corn, and Sausage Muffins – 4 Tbs / 2 large eggsdd_1591

27 October 2016  – Lemon Bars – 16 Tbs butter / 5 large eggs

28 October 2016 – Pecan Sandies – 16 Tbs butter

28 October 2016 – Lemon Crisps– 8 Tbs butter / 1 large egg

97.5 Tbs = 12.1875 sticks = 48.75 ozs = 3.04 pounds 

13 eggs 

I will have to add this all up just to see where it gets me for this year. This is not a bad month after all. Might even make up for my crappy summer. But probably will not. 

“Meyer” Lemon Bars

I have this habit of asking people what they would like me to bake or cook for them. It keeps me interested in baking and cooking and pushes me outside of what I typically do. I do it at work, “what do you guys want me to make for the pot-luck?” and I do the same thing at my favorite restaurants. I think restaurant staff is not appreciated enough. Guess that comes from being a server ages ago. I hope they appreciate it, but it is more to get me to try to do different things.dd_1599

So I asked Berta, at my beach local, to tell me what she would like in the baking department, and she said my baking nemesis – lemon bars. I have not had good luck with these in the past – at all. That said, I was going to give it another go – it is a challenge after all. And I never back down from a challenge.

This is a recipe on my little USB drive of recipes that I have been working on for ages and I just sort of picked it out of the two I had. It was daunting – I have to admit that I was not comfortable trying this idea again. I did this on a Thursday because I figured if I fucked it up, I would have Friday to try again. And I am really not scared in the baking department, but you never know if things are going to go pear-shaped.

I have to say, I just cut a corner out of this and just got stupid over how good it was. That is, indeed, a good sign. I guess when I get silly about something in the kitchen, that makes me happy and pleased with myself. And that makes me think it will be something other people will like too.

Personally, I would like to keep the entire pan of these lemon bars to myself, but I won’t. But I will damn sure to make this recipe again. The original called for Meyer lemons, but I only have those when my (precious) little tree produces Meyer lemons and this is totally the wrong time of year, so I just used regular lemons. It was amazing. Stupidly so. Yeah me! yep.

Meyer Lemon Bars

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, very cold, cut into small pieces
1 – 2 tsp ice water

5 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 Tbs Meyer lemon zest
3/4 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 Tbs confectioners’ sugar, for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan and line with parchment with an overhang on the long sides. Or all the sides really.

In the bowl of a food processor, mix all purpose flour, confectioners’ sugar, and salt. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add ice water as needed to bring dough together. Press dough into prepared pan, pressing firmly against the inside edges. Bake crust for 20 – 25 minutes until lightly golden. Set pan on wire rack to cool slightly. Reduce oven to 300 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until well combined and paler in color. Stir in zest, lemon juice, 1/4 cup flour and a pinch of salt. Carefully pour topping over warm crust. Bake 15 – 20 minutes, or until set.

Set the pan on a rack to cool completely. Remove squares using parchment. Cut into bars. Dust with 3 Tbs confectioners’ sugar. Or more if you want. I use way more confectioners’ sugar than that. Just me.

I think I made a few friends with these – at least I really hope so. Berta loved them and her daughter asked for them on her birthday at the end of November. I guess there are more lemon people than I had imagined. I shared one of my favorite lemon things ever – lemon, white chocolate chip cookies – they sound slightly weird, but they are stupid good.

And then in my head – lemon cupcakes with cream cheese frosting for another person that is a lemon person. I think we have to stick together. There just are not that many of us. Lemon People Unite – or something?  No, that just does not work. I guess you chocolate people have us outnumbered. Again.

Shortbread

Shortbread is an odd little cookie if you ask me. It is not sweet, much, and can be a bit difficult to work with, but I am a fan. Although it is not the first thing I would go for in the baking/cookie department. I think is pretty much amazing with tea though, I guess that is because it is a Scottish biscuit in origin. And I have to say, I do sort of mess with the general idea of shortbread – see: vanilla and sanding sugar.dd_1583

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted*
1/2 -3/4 tsp vanilla (optional, well, not really)
Sanding sugar (optional, nope, not really)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter until slightly lighter in color and smooth. Sift confectioners’ sugar and salt over a piece of waxed paper. Beat with butter until light, fluffy, and smooth. Add a bit of vanilla if preferred.

Sift flour over waxed paper. Add flour and mix until just incorporated. Scrape soft dough onto plastic wrap. Cover with more plastic wrap and pat until a bit thin. Rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour – it needs to be firm to the touch.**

Using flour, roll out shortbread dough until it is 1/4 inch thick. Use your favorite cookie cutters (my mom’s) or a biscuit cutter and put the cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cool the cookies in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Sprinkle with sanding sugar or whatever sugar you feel inclined to use.

Bake until the tops are golden, about 12-14 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet and then move to a wire rack to cool completely.

* confectioners’ sugar always needs to be sifted. It is just a given.

** I chilled overnight because I am kind of lazy that way. Well, not really. Here’s the deal – I make a dough one night and bake it later, usually the next day. It works because I can do each step – make and then bake the next day – because during the week my baking occurs after work. I also justify this by the fact that I have read that cookie dough gets better with a bit of time in the fridge. Sure – that works for me – after all I’m making cookies during the week, not just on the weekend.

I have had this recipe in my cookie binder, yes, I have that, for a long time and I think trying to find the source of this recipe when the title is only “shortbread” is nigh on impossible. So I won’t but will thank the gods that be for a pretty good recipe that I messed with just enough to make be really happy.

 

Sausage, Cheddar, and Corn Muffins

I have a thing for breakfast muffins, especially when a pork product is involved. I just had to try these, although I did mess about with the recipe a bit. We are little bit past fresh corn season, even for us.* So I purchased frozen white shoepeg corn – one of my favorite things in the entire frozen world. I think I prefer the shoepeg because it is slightly less sweet. I have modifications to the originally recipe and know I will be making more adjustments to this recipe the next time I make it.**dd_1590

2 teaspoons olive oil
16 ounces hot breakfast sausage
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup corn meal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup frozen sweet white corn kernels, let thaw while you make batter
1/2 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese, plus more for sprinkling on muffins
1/4 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 12 muffin tin cups with foil liners.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and add sausage. Break the sausage into small pieces with a spatula as it cooks. Cook until the sausage is crumbly and cooked through. Remove skillet from heat. Blot up some of the fat with  paper towels leaving about 1 tablespoon. Let mixture cool.

Place flour, corn meal, and baking soda in a mixing bowl. Whisk until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and buttermilk together. Add egg/buttermilk mixture slowly to flour/cornmeal mixture. Add corn kernels, Cheddar cheese, and reserved sausage mixture. Stir in melted butter; mix just until flour is mixed in.***

Divide batter among muffin cups. Top with some extra Cheddar cheese.

Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool to warm before serving.

Adapted from Allrecipies … once again.dd_1591

* We have a huge rural farming community around us, but it is October and I’ll just go with frozen corn and pass on the farming left-overs.

** I was missing a little salt in these muffins. I think next time I’ll add a 1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan. I could add salt, but why not make it Parmesan. More cheese and some salty flavor to the mix.

*** I mixed everything up one night and put it in the fridge. Came home the next day and let it sit until room temperature and then baked the muffins and they were great. I am a huge fan of making a recipe to a certain point and then continuing on the next night.  I have to do that since I bake/cook after I get off work.

The original recipe had scallions in it. They might be nice, but I am thinking chives next time would be a great deal better, or maybe even a shallot. Now there’s a thought.

Can you tell I will be making these again pretty soon. One of our students had one and said anytime you add sausage to something, that was a good thing. I completely agree. Any pork is a good thing.

Oatmeal Raisin Pecan Cookies

Oatmeal cookies are some of my favorite cookies pretty much ever. In my opinion, they combine a lot of things I like – oatmeal, dried fruit, and nuts. Add a little sugar and bake and they are great “breakfast” cookies, right?  That is just how I justify eating lots of them for breakfast –  no guilt involved.dd_1588

This is a new recipe for me, but certainly not my only oatmeal cookie recipe. I feel like a bit of an expert in this area, but maybe that is just because I’m the odd one that likes oatmeal cookies when everyone else is picking up the chocolate chip cookies. Fine – more oatmeal cookies for me. But I do think raisins and nuts – walnuts or pecans – need to be involved.

This recipe was a request, but you really never have to ask me to make an oatmeal cookie twice. Huge fan — as long as no chocolate is involved. That is just the worst thing – um, pretty much ever. You see an    oatmeal cookie and have expectations of raisins, and then damn – ugh – it is chocolate chips – so. very. gross. It gives me the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it.

2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup chopped pecans (our local pecans – Renfroe’s)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
12 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
2 Tbs pure grade B maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup raisins/sultanas

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread oats on rimmed baking sheet and toast until lightly golden, about 6 minutes or so. Add pecans and toss, toast another 6 minutes until pecans are fragrant. Let cool. Turn off oven or lower to 350 degrees.

Sift over a piece of waxed paper flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir in oats and pecans.

In a bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add egg, syrup, vanilla and beat until incorporated. Add dry ingredients and beat on low until just combined. Add raisins and stir, scraping down the bowl. Let sit at room temperature for one hour to hydrate the oatmeal.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a #20 or 2 ozs. disher, scoop dough onto parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing 3 inches apart – cookies will spread as they bake. Bake until cookie edges are golden brown and firm but centers are still soft, 15-17 minutes. Let sit on baking sheet for ten minutes (??) and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Cookie dough can be made 3 days ahead and covered and refrigerated. Let dough come to room temperature before baking.

Source: Based on the original name of the recipe – I’m thinking Bon Appetit and their “Best of” series. Made a couple of changes, but the idea is still amazingly wonderful.

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.

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