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.

Best Sugar Cookies

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Sugar Cookies

Remember when I was “devastated” over a lost sugar cookie recipe? I really did look everywhere, which to me meant I looked in binder after binder and I decided one thing – I’m bloody terrible at keeping up with recipes. Once I pull them out of the binder everything pretty much goes to hell. I finally found this recipe on the back side of another cookie recipe that I had been planning to make for a few weeks – duh, turn things over. This is not the first time this has happened. Sad.

That said, I’ve been making this sugar cookie recipe for about ever – over ten years now. Originally, I made this for Christmas – Christmas Eve in particular, but with so much other stuff going on, I kind of pushed these into the new year and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. A few years back I started making these for Mardi Gras. I had the colored sugars for it, but that was about it.

The cookie cutters I used for a few year are those of my mom. She had a set of card suits cookie cutters – spade, heart, diamond, club – which is kind of strange to be honest, but she was a great card player, especially with her sister. I never could get the hang of gin rummy. But I am happy to have these cookie cutters – along with a couple of others. They have been around as long as I can remember.

I do like to order weird colors of sanding sugars (those are usually the ones on sale), so one year I got a dark purple and a pale green – both from William-Sonoma. When you mix the pale green with a Christmas green, it works. Kind of like when you mix orange and yellow together you get the gold that you’re looking for  – the Mardi Gras colors.

Truth be told, I have ordered Mardi Gras cookie cutters for our pot luck at work. This makes me happy. I guess it’s just the simple things – or maybe I’m just a bit simple.

So here’s the recipe from the Food Network Kitchens – at least I think that’s where it is from. Again – me a keeping up with recipes – ugh.

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Over a piece of waxed paper, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer,  cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time and then the vanilla. Sift flour into butter mixture, 1 cup at a time until just combined. Dump out onto plastic wrap and shape into a disk. Cover with plastic and chill 3 to 4 hours.*

Roll out dough until 1/4 inch and cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Brush and sprinkle with colored sugars. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 8 – 10 minutes until edges are slightly golden. Remove cookies to a rack to cool completely.

December 2002 – best sugar cookies ever
January 2003 – bake on parchment, spilled sugar comes off easier than a Silpat – for cast boy – granulated sugar is pretty too.
24 December 2003 – 8 minutes, to D&S for Christmas Eve
24 December 2004 – vvg as always
24 December 2006
December 2007
December 2008
February 2012 – Mardi Gras
28 January 2014
19 January 2016 – Mardi Gras practice

*Or overnight. This dough keeps pretty damn well for a few days as long as it is properly wrapped.

Cheddar Parmesan Crackers

How weird is it that you have a binder full (!) of cheese cracker recipes? Who does this? No one.
Well, I do. I’m not even sure how this started really, but it did and these, as a group, are one of my favorite things to bake. I eat them for breakfast and for a snack when I get home and am making dinner. I love the fact that most of the crackers I make you can get the dough together and then bake up to a few (or more) days later. The slice and bake nature suits me for baking mid-week.
I have certain things I like about crackers: I prefer cheddar and/or Parmesan over Bleu cheese; nuts should be involved and I D&D_0871lean towards walnuts – pecans can be a bit sweet; my favorite herb is fresh rosemary; and there should always be bit of heat, usually provided by cayenne.
I guess the only thing about crackers is that humidity will effect them (or is it affect). I was correct with the effect – thankfully.
They still taste amazing, but they are a bit soft. Something that cannot be helped even this time of year. It’s early November and humid and in the 80’s. That’s our “fall” as it were.

4 ozs. cheddar, gated on the big holes of a box grater (no pre grated)
2 ozs. Parmesan, finely grated
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1:4 tsp dry mustard (Coleman’s)
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4 Tbs unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces
2 Tbs cold water, plus more if needed

In a food processor, blend all ingredients except butter and water. Pulse five times to make sure all ingredients are mixed well. Add small pieces of butter, and pulse until pea sized dough. Add water, a tablespoon at a time until the dough just starts to hold together.

Dump the dough on to waxed paper and roll into a log about 1 1/4 inch in diameter. Wrap well and refrigerate for at least two hours or up to two days (Or freeze for up to a month).

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut log into 1/4 inch slices and arrange slices on a baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake for 14 – 15 minutes, rotating pan half way through, until lightly golden. Cool on a rack.

Notes: top crackers, before baking with finely chopped walnuts.

05 September 2006 – outstanding
21 December 2006
21 December 2008 – heaping 1/4 tsp mustard; 1/4 tsp cayenne = perfect
vvg – light and crisp – best cheddar cracker
6 March 2010 – still futzing with time and temp
6 December 2014
31 October 2015 – 38 crackers total, vg