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.
D&D_1998
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.

Chocolate Chip Pretzel Blondies

I think my favorite kind of recipe is one where I have all the ingredients on hand – no need to go to the grocery store. It also helps if it something that, in general I like, but made a little better because of a twist. I think that definition suits this recipe exactly. I had pretzels from a non-starter recipe for, well, something. I cannot remember, but I’m sure it was a good idea at the time. And there we are. This was my Friday night baking. I only do that if I have had a good week – and – have everything on hand. This was so not a disappointment. It has gone over well with everyone I’ve shared it with.

dd_1675

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda 
1/2 tsp salt
12 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup  brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
12 ozs semi sweet chocolate chips (1 bag) Ghiradelli
1 1/2 cup chopped pretzels

Line a 9 x 13 inch metal pan with parchment to overhang the long sides. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Over waxed paper, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together both sugars and butter until light. Mix in eggs, one at a time, and vanilla. Slowly add dry ingredients. Stir in chips and pretzels.

Spread batter in baking pan and bake for 30 minutes, until golden. Run a plastic knife around the edges. Transfer to a cooling rack. Then make into squares.

I made these for The Boy – we are just going to call it a Friday night special –  and I really loved them and The Boy did too. He is a huge fan of the blondies. But so am I.

The recipe says they can be stored in an airtight container for two weeks. They will not last that long.

Thank you Food & Wine – even though your website is more annoying than I had any idea of. Really – rethink your advertising. Left your site more often than stayed. I am pretty sure I am not the only one.

Cranberry Relish 

I have been making this relish for a very long time and you either like it or you do not – it is either a horseradish thing, or more likely, a cloves thing. I really do not think there is a middle ground here. I am forever in debt to my lovely mother in law – who is now my only mom for the great gift of lots of serving bowls*. I know I use this one year after year, but it is really beautiful. Indeed. dd_1651

I started making this just after the Boy and I came back from England. And I shared it with a really good friend the first time. Now I share with lots of friends – and that makes me really happy. I am 90% sure this is a recipe from Southern Living Magazine.

2 packages (6 cups) fresh cranberries
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
1/3 cup prepared horseradish, just drain it a bit
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Rinse cranberries, removing any that seem suspect. Combine sugar and orange juice in a large saucepan. Heat until sugar is dissolved on medium heat. Add cranberries and mix until the cranberries start to burst. Simmer for a bit. Let cool completely. Mix in the horseradish and the cloves. Refrigerate.  This will keep for months. And that is an excellent thing. Because you never know when you are going to need it.

For friends this year:

Traci 
Sandy
Joyce
Elaine
Josh
Tony
Ham

I am on my second batch and I am sure there will be a third batch. I just tell people when your canning jar is empty, let me know and I will fill it up again with cranberry relish. Because this is the time for fresh cranberries.

That being said, frozen cranberries (fresh cranberries that you shuffle off into the freezer), work for this too. No, really, they do. And I do freeze fresh cranberries, because you never know when you want cranberries with horseradish, especially in the summer. Yes, for a summer turkey sandwich with bleu cheese dressing and cranberry relish. That is good stuff.  And Tony says make the sandwich on Hawaiian rolls – I cannot believe I did not think of that before – duh.

* Need to get pictures of all the serving bowls she gave me – they are pretty much amazing.

 

Thanksgiving

So I have mostly always made my same Thanksgiving appetizer, and I have to say it really is pretty much amazing. Sweet potato biscuits with ham and horseradish cream.  Just going to say, thank you once again to JW because this was all him. He was the best caterer for UNC-Chapel Hill while I was there and I totally took the idea and ran with it.DD_0184

Even so, I wanted to find a new appetizer for this Thanksgiving. But I do think I will make my small little sweet potato biscuits with all the best things, just because I can. But maybe this year my excellent cranberry sauce will be part of this mix.  Indeed.

That said, I have been looking for Thanksgiving appetizers – they all seem to involve cranberries or Rosemary – thank you most overwhelming pinterest. Sigh. Do love some Rosemary, but isn’t there anything else?

When I was young, Thanksgiving was a huge deal at our house. The only downer part about it was being stuck at the kids’ table. Really? Ugh. I understand that my older brother and sister were a LOT older and were pretty much married by the time I was 9-ish, but I was stuck with my younger sister and nieces and nephews – it was just insulting.

One of those weird things that I remember was a glass dish that my mother would take out for Thanksgiving and put gerkins on one side and olives on the other. Olives = ick. Gerkins = loved them. Besides Bread ‘n Butter pickles, gerkins were the only pickles I ever liked.

I  can totally see that glass dish. Should have asked for it long ago and now it is too late. Let that be a lesson – do not wait –  ask for what you want from your parents because if you do not you will be forever disappointed. I know I will be giving things away very early – like my Dad’s mom did. Simplify everything.

That just got slightly strange – but on to the Thanksgiving plans. And planning is involved – lots of it.

Apparently spell check does not like the word gerkins. No, it sure doesn’t.

So we are about a week-ish out from the big day and, my friends, this is go time.

1. Make decisions on what to make and how much depending on your guest list – my list, this year, is small. But that is not a bad thing because The Boy will be joining us and that makes me very happy.

2. Develop a grocery list of what you need and when you need to buy it. And then develop the “making” list – ie. when you can/will make each thing, but do what I do … plan for a catch up day on the Wednesday before the big day. That day, with nothing planned, will save you.

3. Order your turkey from the butcher shop. And also call your favorite bakery to order Parker House Rolls – I have been doing this forever. No need to make yourself crazy at this point. They will, pretty much, be better than anything you can make – unless you are making biscuits for Thanksgiving – and in that case, I salute you.

4. Pick one, just one, no seriously just one, new recipe to try. I will try.

5. Figure out what appetizer to make. Just don’t go overboard – less is more in this case. See above.

6. Add staples (butter, eggs, heavy cream, lemons, chocolate chips, local pecans, etc.) to your regular grocery list.

7. Watch grocery ads for Thanksgiving specials. Traditional there are lots of them. Hello fresh cranberries.

8. Decide if you want girkins. Hope you do for my sake.

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.

Italian Fresh Cream Lemon Cake

D&D_1374 I have always heard about Italian Cream Cakes, but this is my first go with one. In a way it seems like lighter version of a pound cake and I did bake this in a bundt pan. Seems to make sense in a way.

I appear to be in cake mode now. Not sure why, but that does happen to me on occasion. Kind of like being in cookie mode for the last couple of months (read: 8 months). It is odd in a way, but I guess as humans we get into a trend of sorts and just go with it. Now, it is cake – not a bad thing, at least not in my opinion. We will see how this sorts itself out. Who knows? Not me – ever.

Maybe next trend will be cupcakes (if they are not too twee). Unsure at this point. But need something to transport them in.

I brought this cake to the office this Wednesday which is when our students are there – it seemed to be a success.  It really is a light version of a pound cake. I will make it again, but I really need more lemon in it. Maybe a lemon glaze. That always seems to make things better.

2 cups plus 1 Tbs all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine salt
4 large eggs
1 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar (sifted for sure)
7 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled
zest of one lemon, grated on a microplane
1 tsp vanilla or more which is not a bad thing -kind of always do more
2/3 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Over a piece of waxed paper, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Spray a bundt pan with baking spray – yeah, just over do it if your have the kind of bundt pans I have (see below).  In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat eggs and sugar until light. Add the flour to the egg mixture alternating with cream. Fold in butter. zest, and vanilla.

Pour into (well) prepared pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Testing with a wooden skewer – just to be sure. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then tump it out. Let cool for a few more minutes and dust with  confectioners’ sugar.

Notes: I just realized how many assumptions I made with the recipe – holy cow. I assumed all-purpose flour but the recipe I have did not make that clear,  and large eggs, and unsalted butter, wow could this recipe be more vague. I could have just made a huge mistake. But I am hoping I did not.

Source: An Italian in my Kitchen.com

Pan – Nordic Ware Heritage Bundt Pan