Do you sometimes feel like you have hit the wall?

I think that is what I am feeling lately. We have kitchen (dishwasher/cabinets/island) issues and everything I want to make seems like a chore. I just think I need a little break, but then I feel bad for taking a break because I have some good things to make on the horizon.

So I need to work myself back in a mood to do some cooking/baking and what better time for that than spring??

Somehow I feel like if I write it all down, it will force me to act and get my butt in gear here. And it makes me a bit sad that it has come to this. I think another thing I need to do is plan a little better for food days – you know, the days where everyone expects there to be something special on a food blog. So I have a couple more ideas for St. Patrick’s Day that is coming up and I have even made one of them and that does make me feel good. The bad thing is that I have to go out of town for three days in March – and it happens to be for St. Patrick’s Day – Damn it.

So here are the things on the list, starting with St. Patrick’s Day.

Guinness Cake with cream cheese frosting
And if I am feeling really ambition and can keep the Guinness from the MotH, Guinness Brownies.
Reuben Dip in a bread bowl – might be a good dinner, if you think about it.
Maybe some clover-shaped sugar cookies in the colors of the Irish flag.

And after St. Patrick’s Day ….
Polenta with asparagus, prosciutto, spring onions, and lemon
Butterscotch pudding – my favorite kind, um, pretty much, ever
Twix Thumbprints – this idea will work, but I am concerned about the caramel involved. This seems like the kind of idea I will over think – a lot.
And this idea is something I really want to make for the people at my office – Apple French Toast Muffins.
Mini Cake Donuts – I bought a donut pan. Yep, I did.

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Mardi Gras Cookies – sugar cookies after all.

Mardi Gras

Well Carnival season is always a fun time here in Pensacola. Everyone associates Carnival with just New Orleans, but in this country it started in Mobile, Alabama – and moon pies are involved. Yep. Moon Pies. Pensacola has a vibrant krewe tradition and a host of parades and balls from 12th night (6th of January) on – there is not much else to do in January and February after all. It is cold and rainy most of the time so any excuse to drink like fish and dress up is appreciated. I would join a krewe, but I just do not like people. Nope.

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Yes, I have carnival cookie cutters. So?

Throws (beads, cups, and, whatnot) vary, but Moon Pies are in the mix. I am so not sure why, but hey, what is wrong with a chocolate Moon Pie once a year. Apparently this year there were calorie count moon pies – like tiny little things – who does that? This season is for indulgence, so let us just have a regular old-sized moon pie – like the kind I ate when I was a kid. I do not like the vanilla ones and really do not like the banana ones – ugh. Go chocolate (which is odd for me) or do not bother.

So today I wear beads to work – just like I wore beads this weekend when the major parades were going on. Monday was red beans and rice day and while that is a traditional Monday thing, but this is the important Monday. Today is Mardi Gras – the crazy day and then Ash Wednesday changes everything.

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Hood – my Mardi Gras pup

January – March 2016 – Food “Holidays” Recap

Super Bowl – February 7

Spiced Pecans * Roast Beef Horseradish Sandwich * Bacon-wrapped Fruit Bites * Buffalo Rolls * Proscuitto Fontina Pinwheels * Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Torte *

Mardi Gras Pot Luck – February 9

Mardi Gras Sugar Cookies *  Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Torte *

Margarita Day – February 22

Leap Day – February 29

Apple Carrot Cupcakes *

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Apple Carrot Muffins – slightly amazing. And, no. I’m not bragging.

Pi Day – March 14

Apple Walnut Pie *

Butter Pie Crust *

St Patrick’s Day – March 17

Guinness Brownies *

Easter – March 27

Not sure yet, but I have a few days to sort it out. Yikes.


Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Torte

Another recipe that isn’t really a recipe. I’ve been making this for ages. I can’t even remember where it came from, but it is very simple but amazingly satisfying  – if you like the ingredients that is.

When we have a pot luck at work, I usually just say – “somebody tell me what you want me to make” and this comes up again and again. I think that is a double-edged sword; it is good that so many people like it, but it also does not challenge me much. This time I agreed to it because it was a Mardi Gras pot luck which fell two days after the Super Bowl – hello real food holidays lining up – ugh. This, normally, would not be a big deal, but this year, after my Super Bowl prep – on Saturday night, I fell up the stairs – yes, up. And split my knee open in rather a dramatic fashion, so I needed something for the pot luck that I could make ahead and let sit and this sun-dried tomato pesto torte always does make-ahead really well. I was sort of pleased with how it turned out and as ever, it was popular.

It is so kind of dead simple that it makes me feel a little bit silly, but it is, well, awesome. The Boy loves it. My friend T at work likes and has asked me to make a few for a party or two of hers. This may not have been my prettiest version, but standing on a jacked up knee was not easy either. That said, it still tasted great. Like it always does.

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So you do have to scale it to fit the vessel you are using for a mold. I usually use my white ramekins – small ones if it’s for a small family event and the larger for bigger groups – like pot lucks at work with our students.

Cream cheese, softened, usually 8 oz block, but more if you want more layers
bunch of basil, washed, stems removed, and dried very well (wrapped in a tea towel)
3/4 cup walnuts, or something like that (or fresh pecans) – not a fan of pine nuts
2 good sized cloves of garlic or more if that is your preference
a really good pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed), softened with warm water, and then drained
olive oil – I use olive oil from our local Greek Market – Shoreline – which is imported from Chiana on the Island of Crete – cool, right?

Line a ramekin with  plastic wrap, leaving a good bit of it to hang over the edges of ramekin.

In the bowl of a food processor, whir up garlic, walnuts, and salt.  Then add sun-dried tomatoes and basil. Slowly add in olive oil until a paste forms, but do not add too much olive oil (you can do that later with the leftovers to make pasta sauce).  I know – it’s a non-recipe. Sometimes you just have to wing it.

Spread the bottom of a ramekin with a layer of cream cheese, about a 1/2 inch. Then carefully add a layer of pesto covering the cream cheese. Add the last layer of cream cheese being careful not to mix things up too much. Cover with plastic wrap.  If you are making a large version of this, add a bit of a weight to it.  Let chill overnight, at minimum, but this can be done at least three days ahead.

To plate, let sit at room temperature for about a half an hour and unwrap ramekin and tup it out onto a plate. Surround by crackers and baguette slices (or if your really feeling like a hedonist, Hawaiian Sweet Rolls).

When I have leftovers of this, which is not often, I use it to make either A) a sandwich – which is pretty amazing (if you like garlic), or B) a pasta sauce, for just some rotini, you might need to add a little olive oil and will certainly need to add grated Parmesan to the finished product, but hello – stupid good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mardi Gras Sugar Cookies

D&D_1180These really are the simplest and best sugar cookies. The Boy and I made them for Christmas Eve (my favorite Christmas Holiday, perhaps my favorite holiday, period) but a few years ago I had so much to make at Christmas that I put these off until January and then it fell into Carnival season.* It worked on so many different levels.

So this year I finally decided to order Mardi Gras cookie cutters, because, well, it is a thing for me now. So I did it – I ordered special cookie cutters for this “holiday.” King Arthur Flour had the cutest set. There are two crowns, a mask, a music note, and the most important one, in my opinion is, a fleur de lis. Carnival season is a big thing here in the Gulf Coast.

* The season is Carnival, the last day is Mardi Gras – Fat Tuesday. Please do not confuse the two. After Mardi Gras comes Lent. I really think next year I need to do crepes for pancake Tuesday (Mardi Gras by a less interesting name) but I will probably make potato pancakes (latkes) because I just love to mix up religions and traditions. It’s me.

But for now it’s just really pretty sugar cookies. Purple, Gold, and Green.

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

Over a sheet of waxed paper, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Sift in flour, a cup at a time. Blend until just mixed. Pour onto a surface and mix til it just comes together. Press into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 3 – 4 hours or up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough to about an 1/8 inch and cut with cookie cutters. Place on parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle with colored sugar. Bake for 10 minutes, turning the pan half way through. Let rest on baking sheet for a minute and then remove to a rack to cool completely.

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.

Salted Butterscotch Pecan Cookies

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Salted Butterscotch Pecan Cookies

16 February 2015 for our Mardi Gras pot luck at the office. You know that Mardi Gras is a thing here and has been for quite some time. So where did it start? New Orleans, um, nope, but Mobile, Alabama – who knew? Those of who live in here do. And we are so lucky to live here – it’s kind of dorky special.

And the cookies were a huge success.  I think one of the best things for someone who bakes cookies on a regular basis, is a cookie dough scoop;  kind of like an ice cream scoop, but pretty much smaller. I really think that having equal sized bits of dough that bake at the same time make a world of difference. Only heated the oven to 365 degrees, and 12 minutes with a turn half way between worked perfectly.

And I’m totally in the mood to make more cookies.

1 3/4 cups all purpose all-purpose
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar (pref. dark brown)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 1/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
coarse salt, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. I mostly do this over some wax paper and it works really well.
In a large bowl (of a stand mixer), cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, blend in the flour mixture. Stir in butterscotch chips and chopped pecans.
Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place on baking sheet, leaving about 2-inches of room between each cookie. Sprinkle each dough ball with coarse salt.
Bake for 9-11 minutes, until cookies are golden brown around the edge. Centers will be light; allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 3-4 minutes to allow cookies to set. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 3 dozen.

Source: Baking Bites