Pear and Cheddar Crisp

6 cups peeled and sliced Bosc pears- about 5 pears
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 2 quart casserole dish. Okay – how do you decide what is a 2 quart casserole dish — it is 8 cups, but … annoying. Just give me a measurement of the dish – I mean really – ugh.

Toss pears with lemon juice in a bowl. Combine 1/2 cup light brown sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon together in a separate bowl. Add sugar mixture to pears; toss to coat. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish – totally sprayed this with cooking spray. Sprinkle pear mixture with Cheddar cheese.

Combine flour and 1/2 cup light brown sugar in a food processor; pulse to mix. Cut butter into flour mixture until crumb consistency. Sprinkle topping over Cheddar cheese layer.

Bake in the preheated oven until top is golden brown, about 45 minutes.

Source: Allrecipes.com

Interesting that the original recipe said this was an odd combination – Really? No. This was really good, granted, I made a couple modifications, but I think that is allowable based on taste. I have a couple of quibbles though.

D&D_1145This did not work in the cheese flavor department, which was really disappointing because I love pears (or apples) with cheddar. Will have to figure out how to do that better. And, this is no criticism, but I want a little more crunch in the “crisp” part and I think either walnuts, or maybe almonds should work for that.

A 2 quart dish is an 8 cup dish, and according to conversion charts can be a 9 inch round cake pan (thank you again William Sonoma). That is what I used and to be honest, I think something slightly smaller in size, to make it a bit thicker would have been good. Notes for next time. And there will be a next time. I have two Bosc pears and a Granny Smith apple and I think I will be doing this again.

Thing of the Year 2015 – Get it Right spatula

I have suffered through many a bad spatula (haven’t we all?) in my time in the kitchen. But never again! At the end of 2014 the New York Times had a gift guide for Food. In which they had some strange things on their list  – Macaron purse?, Whisk necklace?, although a baking steel which I already have – is totally practical for pizza. So as I am checking out the list I found the holy-friggin’- grail of spatulas. No, I am not kidding. I may be the biggest Get it Right fan, um, ever. I purchased my first spatula in December of 2014 –  yellow – one of my favorite colors, and have added to the collection all of 2015. And as I add them, I get rid 0f all the inferior spatulas that I have – there were many. Sad, but true.

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Best Spatulas EVER – Get it Right

It is kind of amazing when you do not realize that you are dealing with an inferior product until you get one that is damn-near perfect. Yes, I spend $15 for a spatula, but the first one (yellow) convinced me, and these spatulas are awesome! And there is no shipping — if you spend more than $10.00 –  that’s a deal!

Let me expand on the concept. These are pharmaceutical grade silicone (“Because we love you.” love it!) unibody food-safe silicone, dishwasher-safe spatulas. They are BPA free (I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing – right?), and heat proof to 464 degrees (wish I knew how to make the cute little degree symbol). And to me, the “ultimate size” fits my kind-of small hands. They really just work for me on all sorts of levels.

So at first I just added to the “lemon” one with “lime” and “orange” and then it got colder and I went “black.” Then this winter wasn’t (to start with) too horrible, but rainy, so I added “grey” and a hopeful “teal blue.”  I really need a red one and I would love if there was a Navy blue one (anyone listening??). We will not talk about the “bacon” ones. Who was smoking something that night? Just asking.

I love that there is so much science in the way these are made and you can read more (and probably understand more than I do) at the Geek Out page. Pretty cool, even if I don’t quite get it. All I know is I love these spatulas – that seems like hyperbole, but I do not say this lightly. They are now a fixture in my kitchen. I hope to encourage others to give them a try. They are so totally worth it.

Get it Right – can I come and hang out with you guys? (I know no science, but do love excellent design). I have ideas. Or maybe we can have beer or two. Just a thought.

 

 

 

Butter Usage – by month (December 2015)

2 December – 16 Tbs Rugelach – this dough works …

8 December – 4 Tbs – Rugelach filling – but the filling does not.

11 December – 4 Tbs – Rugelach filling – again did not – annoying – total failure – should really do a better job of reading the comments.

12 December – 8 Tbs – Banana Nut Bread – competition

14 December – 8 Tbs – Brownie Cookie

17 December – 8 Tbs – Glazed Lemon Cookies

19 December – 16 Tbs – Butterscotch Blondies

20 December – 4 Tbs – Everyday Orzo – yes. Again.

20 December – 12 Tbs – Lime Sugar Cookies

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Lime Sugar Cookies – pretty damn amazing.

23 December – 2 Tbs – Cheddar-Stuffed Mushrooms

23 December  – 13.5 Tbs – Sunday Sweet Potatoes

23 December – 16 Tbs – Walnut/Pecan Tassies

25 December – 1 Tbs – Toasted Banana Nut Bread

26 December – 12 Tbs – Sweet Potato Biscuits

29 December – 8 Tbs – The Browniest Cookies See Above.

30 December – 13 Tbs – Chess Tart

Total 145.5 Tbs = 18.1875 sticks = 4.5468875 pounds

Not my best month this year, but a damn good month by any measure.

I’m a bit frightened by what the total for the year will be if this is any indication. I may not keep up with this again, or maybe I’ll add keeping up with eggs too in 2016. Again, slightly frightening. But what the hell – makes for an excellent recap in an odd sort of way.

 

 

Lime Sugar Cookies

I make lemon things. But I thought there has to be some limes cookies out there somewhere, right?  This recipe is very old, it has been in my cookie binder for donkey’s years, but I had never made until now. I even screwed up the egg yolk part and just added two eggs, didn’t seem to be a problem. I kept them in the fridge for two days before baking and it was still no big deal. I am a huge fan of these cookies.

This recipe was cut from a magazine, maybe Southern Living, but based on the font (yes, I’m that nerd), I’m guessing it was a Better Homes and Gardens that I used to borrow from my lovely mother-in-law.

3/4 unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar, divided – 1 1/2 cups and 1/2 cup
zest of two limes
1/2 cup sour cream
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 Tbs fresh lime juice
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Beat together 1 1/2 cups sugar and lime zest, and butter on medium speed until lightly creamed. Add the sour cream and mixed until combined. Stir in egg yolks and lime juice.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt over a piece of waxed paper. Add to egg / butter mixture until blended. Chill dough 1 hour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Place 1/2 cup of sugar in a bowl. Shape dough into 1 inch balls, roll in sugar. Place on baking sheet. Bake 20 – 25 minutes until the edges begin to brown, bottom will be light golden. Remove to wire racks to cool.

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Lime Sugar Cookies

I think next time I will still roll them in sugar and bake them that way, but will make a glaze of lime juice and confectioners’ sugar, just to amp the lime up a bit more. Just a personal preference, but it gives you a little more lime of your cookie – never a bad thing in my opinion.

My Sous Chef

Every cook needs a great sous chef. Someone who is there in the kitchen with you ALL the time and who helps and makes your kitchen time easier. I have two.

One sous is here on special occasions and is super helpful. I can say, “hey, can you watch that pan of apples on the stove for me?” and know I have nothing to worry about. No burning.  A timer goes off and I’m not around – he’s up to the task – no matter if it is baking or cooking. He can handle it. He’ll do little things for me – please empty the sink (i.e. – load the dishwasher), and nothing goes in an incorrect place.   Please dice these for me – handled. What wine should we drink – at this he is SO much better than me. Makes excellent mimosas! Yes, this is the Boy. He’s become quite the epicure. I’m very proud of all he has learned and continues to learn. I just wonder why he never showed much interest in the kitchen until he started working both front and back of the house in the restaurant business. Curious, non?

One sous is here every time I cook. He’s smart and focused and always up to the task. That said, he snorkels the floor looking for anything I have dropped. He gets in the way and is a general nuisance in his own very adorable way. He never begs, for which I’m eternally grateful, but he does give you the look that strongly suggests that you need to drop something good on the floor, and damn soon. That stare. This sous is half border collie and I’m afraid occasionally, I am the sheep.

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My Sous Chef with his Border Collie stare

Christmas Brunch

When I was growing up we had a few things for Christmas breakfast that were basically snack-able. To me that was an excellent thing. Toasted Banana Nut Bread – honestly, to me the only way to eat it. It was crunchy and smeared with some imitation butter that I immediately changed to real butter once on my own as a grown up. You only live once, why the hell eat margarine? Another was sausage balls – we had them served with a side of mustard, usually brown, and my personal, kind of slightly wrong. choice, grape jelly (do not judge until you try a sausage biscuit with a little grape jelly).  There might have been other things, but those are the two that stick our for years and years and years.

I have made some changes for our Christmas morning since then beyond just going with really rich salted European butter, but that was an excellent call on my part, not too many real changes. First, it is not breakfast. It is brunch around 11:00am-ish (isn’t funny how adding the suffix “ish” gives you lots of wiggle room with time?). In past years, I have added latkes which works well with my Christmas soundtrack. The Boy says it isn’t Christmas with out The Klezmatics and he is correct. How this started, I don’t know, but I love to listen to them on Christmas morning – full playlist below. Latkes I love with sour cream and freshly sautéed Granny Smith apples (not applesauce). They are not something I make often, but something I really really enjoy. Another change I’ve made is to make sausage balls without using pancake mix (Bisquik) and just using Cook’s Country’s recipe – superior in every way and with things I have on hand.

So this year, I was trying to sort out what to make and decided that simple and tasty were good enough. I made banana nut bread ahead of time (Banana Nut Bread Challenge) and decided to make sausage, as a nod to sausage balls, and scrambled eggs – super quick and easy.

There is a story behind the scramble eggs and sausage though. As as child, and to a large degree even now, I was allergic to damn near everything. Consequently, I wasn’t fed eggs as a kid – hell, I didn’t get the MMR shot until in my 20’s because the vaccine was grown (yes, back then – ugh) in eggs and no one wanted to risk it. So I never ate eggs as a young kid. Enter my elementary school age, and my mom would make sausage and scrambled eggs and I loved it, but that was the only way you could get me to eat an egg.D&D_1054.jpg

Let me explain how this process works. In a large non-stick skillet, cook a pound of  bulk breakfast sausage of choice (there is only one choice – hot) until it is cooked through. In a bowl. whisk together with a fork, 5 eggs and a splash of cream or milk. While the sausage grease is still hot, add the scrambled eggs and cook them as you would any other scrambled eggs. Serve while nice and hot.

Dead simple and pretty much amazing. Oh, and they really reheat well with a smidge of time in the microwave the next day, but it is highly unlikely there will be any left over. The three of us polished all that off with no problems whatsoever. And some salted butter soaked banana nut bread. Simple, sometimes is the best thing ever.

Another Brownie Cookie

Why am I doing this? I am not, again. a chocolate person. But since I made the first version and they were, on the whole, successful when I saw this, I figured what the hell. I mean, right? Let’s try to figure out a really good way to make the brownie taste in a cool cookie form. Cookies are so much easier to transport and deal with and to be honest, I may not be a huge brownie fan, but if I am going to have one – it MUST be an edge piece. And I make so much lemon stuff that my friends put up with, sometimes you do something that may not be your favorite, but that others will enjoy. I am pretty sure that being “that lemon person” does not win you any popularity contests in the baking world.

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Brownie Cookies

I also have to admit that this recipe kind of caught my eye for the name. Since we are very near to Christmas and I only watch two cartoons from my childhood any more – 1. How the Grinch Stole Christmas, 2. A Charlie Brown Christmas – great music in both in my opinion. But it is Lucy in ACBC that says,  “of all the Charlie Browns, you are the Charlie Brown-est.”

Yes, the cartoons also date me just a bit. That will be theme to this year. But it is better than the alternative.

The Browniest Cookies

1/2 cup (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter
4 ounces (115 grams) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup (190 grams) dark or light brown sugar
2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
1/2 cup (45 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder, any kind will work
1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (225 grams) chocolate chips or bitter- or semisweet chocolate, chopped into chunks

Melt butter and unsweetened chocolate together — you can do this on the stove over very low heat, stirring constantly, in a double-boiler or in the microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring between each — and taking the chocolate out when it’s almost, but not fully, melted. Off the heat, stir until it is.

Whisk sugars into melted butter and chocolate, then eggs, one at a time, then vanilla. Whisk in baking soda and salt. If your cocoa powder is lumpy, sift it right onto the surface of the batter, other wise, just add it to the bowl. Add flour, too, and then stir until just combined. Add chips or chocolate chunks and stir until combined.

Place bowl in the fridge for about 30 minutes, and up to a few days. Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Longer than 30 minutes, they become difficult to scoop, but you can let them warm up slightly before you do. Here was the issue for me. Once they were in the fridge for a couple of days, they were a nightmare to scoop and to be honest, didn’t spread at all. So I baked for 11 minutes, turning half way through, and then kind of smashed them a bit to finish them of for another 2-3 minutes so they got a great soft interior with a bit of crunch on the outside. Me being an edge person, this worked really well for me. Minor quibble, but worth mentioning in my opinion.

Scoop into about 1 1/2- to 2-tablespoon sized mounds and space evenly on parchment lined baking sheets, allowing room for them to spread a little – a very little.  Bake for 11 to 12 minutes, and if you want a fudgy cookie be done with it, but if you are like me and like a bit of crunch, mash them just a bit (with wet hands – melting chips do burn) and give them another minute or two.  Let set on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to a rack to cool the rest of the way before eating. Dust them with confectioners’ sugar sifted through a sieve just for looks, but I liked it.

Do ahead: The cookie dough keeps in the fridge for up to a week and longer in the freezer. The original recipe says that if you want slice n bake cookies, after 20 to 30 minutes in the fridge, scrape dough onto a sheet of parchment or waxed paper and form into a 1 1/2- to 2-inch thick log. I may do that next time, but it worked fine just the way I did it this time.

I’m not sure which brownie cookie I like best. I’m waiting on the Boy’s vote. He is the lover of all thing brownie, but the MotH really like these, and that’s saying something.

Source: Smitten Kitchen