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.

Quaker Oatmeal Raisin (Walnut) Cookies

I am a total sucker for oatmeal/raisin/walnut cookies in just about any form imaginable. I am not sure why that is, because I do not remember eating loads of these as a kid and don’t remember my mom making them either. I guess it’s one of the strangely good combinations that as an adult I prefer over, say, chocolate chip or something.D&D_2006

It also does not hurt that somehow I think these cookies must be good for you. You know, oats are good for your heart, nuts are good for you, and raisins and just plain tasty. I eat these for breakfast and can feel really good about it. That might just be the best part of all. And it’s all total bullshit, but I can just about convince myself that it works. Yep, I can.

14 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups Quaker Oats (quick or old-fashioned)
1 cup raisins + a little more
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts + a little more

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Over a piece of waxed paper, sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add in eggs, one at a time, and mix, then add vanilla. Add dry ingredients and then oats and mix well to combine. Stir in raisins and walnuts.

Using a cookie scoop (#30), scoop dough onto baking sheet and flatten them a bit. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Cool 1 minute on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

source: Quaker Oats Company

Walnut Tartlets 

I bought these small tartlet pans  – they are kind of like tart pans with removable sides, but just smaller.  They have been sitting around for a couple of months, but I finally decided to do something with them. So I took a tart recipe and made do with it. I also changed the nuts from pecans to walnuts, but the idea remains the same. Mostly.

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Dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt
8 Tbs unsalted butter, chilled, cut into cubes
1 Tbs ice water

Filling:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt
2 cups chopped walnuts

*^* special equipment: 4 – 4″ tartlet pans with removable sides.

In the bowl of a food processor, mix flour, sugar, and salt. Add the cubed butter and pulse until mixture is pea sized. Add ice water a teaspoon at a time and pulse until dough comes together into a ball. Turn dough onto a surface and form into a ball. Flatten into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Divide dough into 4 pieces. Press dough into bottom of tart pans and working up the side, making sure the pan is covered, but not too thick. Place a piece of foil on each pan, pressing into dough to hold its shape. Place the pans in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove pans from the freezer and remove foil. Place a piece of foil on a baking sheet and add tartlet pans. Prick bottom of tart dough with a fork and bake 15 – 20 minutes or until dough is lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature. Lower oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together butter, brown sugar, egg, and salt until well combined. Divide filling among the 4 tartlets.

Place tartlets on foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes until lightly browned and a little puffy. Remove from oven and let cool to the touch. Remove outer ring of tartlet pans. Let cool completely before cutting.

Parmesan Walnut Crackers

I do love to make crackers. I have a cracker binder. I am guessing not many people have those. I mean a cheese cracker binder. Well, there it is. I just cannot help it, I love cheese crackers. This recipe was my winner in 2012 cracker challenge. Not my best year, but the best crackers. And I keep on making them again and again. dd_1673

8 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
4 ozs freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
big pinch of fresh cayenne

Cream butter and Parmesan and mix well. Stir in flour, walnuts, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Form mixture to 1 inch logs and wrap in cling film. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 3 days, or longer.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Cut log into 1/4 inch slices. Place slices on a baking sheet about 1 inch apart and bake for 20 minutes until edges are golden.

Winner of the cheese cracker challenge. Yes, I do a cracker challenge quite often. So sad. And very geeky. But that is me.

I think I’ll do it in January just for fun with a new set of recipes. Might include cheese straws for this one. Or maybe not. We shall see.

My thoughts on the Cracker Challenge – yep, that sounds slightly weird. Geh.

After the 2012 cracker challenge, I decided to make the ultimate cheese cracker – my own version. I took the following things into consideration: ingredients on hand, time to mix, log or flat, dough handling, time to chill, spice. nuts. flavor, crispiness, cost to make, and it all culminated in an all around winner which was – Parmesan Rosemary Walnut Shortbread.Will make that again, because I really love them. Because growing fresh Rosemary is simply easy – just put it in the garden in a place  that gets lots of sun, but not too much water – read: no sprinkler system.

D&D_1476That said, I took the best qualities from the 5 recipes I used and developed this. I think this just might be my first real recipe on my own – although with a little help. I do freelance in cooking, but baking is a completely different animal.

The cracker challenge sat for a while (until 2016), but now we are going to make my ultimate cracker and see if/how it measures up. I am not growing Rosemary – damn it. But we shall manage. Will soldier on. That is what I do. It is June 2016 and I cannot sleep, so this is what I decided to do. I’ll wear it proudly. It is June 2016 and I cannot sleep, so this is what I decided to do. I’ll wear it proudly.

6 ozs all-purpose flour – yes, we are measuring by weight – why else do I have the damn scale? Thank you Ruhlman.
2 ozs grated cheddar – plus just a bit because that is what I do.
2 ozs finely grated Parmesan – it really seems like a lot but in reality it is not, mostly.
1/2 tsp cayenne – I think next time – more, yes, please – more.
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped, but not too finely
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 ozs (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2” pieces
1 egg yolk, with just a smidge of cold water

First thing, I chop the walnuts in the food processor and since everything else is going to be mixed in there, it is no big deal. Remove the walnuts.

To the food processor, add the flour, and cheeses, cayenne, walnuts, pepper and whir around a bit. Then add butter. Once that is combined, add the egg and water to the top of the dough and just pulse until it comes together. Then add the walnuts back in. Will not be long to come together.

Dump out on waxed paper and press together and then shape into a couple of logs. Chill overnight or up to three days.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment. Cut the logs in 3/4 inch slices or there abouts. Just try to make the slices very similar to each other. That way they bake the same way. It takes about 12 minutes to bake them, but you need turn them half way through. You want the edges slightly gold and the same with the bottom. That really is as far as you want to go in the baking these cheese crackers.

Hood got a bit of cheese, but the cracker rolls are in the fridge and ready to be baked and in my head, they will be good because the dough was not damn bad.

Nota bene:That is something I have learned – if the dough does not taste good, neither will the cookies or crackers.

 

 

Butter Usage – by month – May 2016

11 May 2016 – 16 Tbs – Pretzel Toffee – Did not work – need to use a thermometer for the temp of toffee. Damnation

12 May 2016 – 16 Tbs – Shortbread with mini chocolate chips & Heath pieces – just saying damn skippy – And my birthday – the 50th. So where do we go from here? Being old that’s where I go anyway. Just something I have to do. I have always said it is better than the alternative.

21 May 2016 – 16 Tbs – Pretzel Toffee – again. This time I got it right. It is stupidly good. Yep. Stupid. D&D_1465

This was not the best month for me. My Fred died and I miss him so. But I also miss my Mom and my little Bering and my big dog Duke. I am kind of tired of people and dogs I love dying.  Yep tired of all this.

Will do better next month – really need to get back into the kitchen and do something useful.

The kitchen always makes me feel better.

Pretzel Toffee

I love toffee. I can’t help myself. And when you pair it with salty pretzels what is not to love?  I am going to plan this carefully – Florida = humidity, but I think past weekend was my time. In May that is a strange land indeed. What the hell, I will give it a go.D&D_1465

1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar (how would this work if we changed it to brown sugar?)
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups of pretzels
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Line a baking pan with a Silpat. Cover with the pretzels in a single layer. Sprinkle walnuts evenly over the pretzels.

Melt butter in a heavy saucepan. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Cook until the sugar is light amber in color, about 7 – 10 minutes. It can separate but that’s okay.

Pour sugar mixture over the pretzels with the walnuts. Top with chocolate chips then use an offset spatula to spread the chocolate over the toffee. Cool the toffee in fridge. Then break into big or middle-ish pieces. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge. Fridge = dry, and in NW Florida, at this time of year, that is a good thing for toffee.