30 January 2011

Spicy Sandwich Cookies with Lemon Frosting

It's the weekend and that means I've got time for experimenting with recipes and making special dinners. I've been busy!

Look at these beauties! Isn't this just the prettiest little Leaning Tower of  Pisa pile of sandwich cookies?  I am thinking so. Lynne, over at milk n cookiezzz , made the most gorgeous little spicy star cookies back at the beginning of January and I have been waiting for a chance to try a little add-on. I love the flavors of ginger and spices with lemon and I have been fixated on finding a good rolled cookie recipe that incorporates those spices plus five-spice powder in a slightly crispy cookie that is rolled and cut so that two layers can be put together with a lemony cream cheese and butter icing.

28 January 2011

Stromboli - A Warm Sammich!

It's not a pizza, but it has pepperoni!  It's not a grilled cheese, but cheeses are in there! It's not a Monte Cristo, but it's brushed with plenty of egg! It's not a Calzone, but it's got some folding goin' on. It's a Stromboli and it's a lovely, long, hot pocket of ham and red peppers and herbs and cheese and pepperoni and garlic and black olives and whatever else YOU think might be a good addition!

27 January 2011

A Classic Recipe ... Warm Pear Crisp

Sometimes you just want a simple homey dessert for that evening cuppa. Sometimes one should listen to one's inner voice when it whispers. Go to the tried and true and work up a classic.

26 January 2011

Ribs, Rice, and Roasties

Let's get this out of the way real fast. These are probably some of the BEST ribs I have ever had - spicy hot ... 'make your lips tingle' hot ! This barbeque sauce is a tangy sweet hot concoction that clings well and needs minimal basting. It stays shiny and caramelizes well in the hot oven (or grill!) that finishes the ribs.

24 January 2011

Pasta Carbonara

Are there a kazillion ways to prepare a pasta carbonara or is there only one pure recipe that rests securely in every Italian grandmother's mental recipe file? That's a question I pondered today, as I opened my cupboard and went in search of something  'carbonara'.

Let's back up for a moment, though. When I rolled out of bed today, I knew there was a rack of ribs thawed in the fridge, just waiting for me to give them a good rub and cozy them up in a slow bake before applying a hot baby back  BBQ sauce ... but by the time I gave them their rub, I thought better of rushing that spicy transfer ... and as Scarlett always said, ' I'll think about that tomorrow because after all, tomorrow is another day ...'.

Instead, I turned my thoughts to a big warm bowl of pasta tucked into a carbonara sauce that would be like velvet. Some crunchy green and sweet bite mixed with an al dente fettucine. Some salty meaty prosciutto in little strips. Some walnuts toasted in a bit of walnut oil. Some firm and tangy Parmesan stirred in at the last minute to form cheesy strings. In other words, I went straight for the 'pasta fix'. 

21 January 2011

Calvados Apple Upside Down Cake

I know! I promised myself to cut the sweets a bit in the New Year, but when I invite friends to dinner I must make dessert. Please pardon my expediency when I say that I have been meaning to figure out how to make a consistently good up-side down cake ... so ... I sat thinking about it the other afternoon, as I was planning the menu for last night's 'friends dinner'.  Yesterday afternoon, I plugged away at a recipe for a dense (almost bread-y) lemon flavored cake that has a double layer of tart apples and a Calvados-laced caramel syrup that soaks the top of the cake.

18 January 2011

Warm Chicken and Andouille Soup

My day started with a peek out the window and a marvelling at the frost feathers that had formed over night on my bedroom window. So beautiful and everchanging!

17 January 2011

Friends Helping Friends ...

"Whatever the hand may find to do, let the heart go forth in union."

Image - Oddfellows Heart In Hand staff circa 1920

Just very quickly, folks! I have a blogging friend named Trissa who blogs from Australia. With her permission, I'm passing this post on to you ...please read and do as your heart dictates.

Brisbane and a huge swath of Queensland have been devastated by mass flooding. If you've watched TV or listened to radio in the past two weeks, you've seen some of the heartbreaking stories surrounding this natural disaster. We, in cyberspace, can do much to pass info along and provide links for effectively helping where we can. I urge you to check out Trissa's post. Thanks, friends!

The Devil Made Me Do It! - Silent Bob's Birthday Cake

There are times when I find myself baking a new treat, KNOWING I don't really need it. The sweet tooth or an impending dinner party or a birthday is on the horizon though. Duty calls. Those are the times that I turn a blind eye to the mirror (and the scale) and forge on, promising myself that I will have one piece and pass the rest around for others to share.

14 January 2011

Top Twenty ...

Illustration from Cinderella - Charles Perrault

While others may be listing their New Years resolutions, I have been pondering the evolution of cooking and kitchenware. I got this book  for Christmas and have been so engrossed in reading it! Last evening over dinner, Silent Bob and I were talking about all the incredibly important kitchen inventions that have made life easier and more efficient for cooks and chefs world-wide ... and safer for everyone who eats. I kiddingly said we should make a Top Twenty list, so we started one ... please add your thoughts in the 'comments' section. Oh, and know that these are not in any order of import ... just as we thought of them.

So, here we go ...

1. Stove (in all its manifestations) - Making the move from the fireplace must have been earth-shattering for cooks of the nineteenth century!

2. Wire whisk - This girl can't imagine trying to make meringue without one!

3. Tempered steel knives - They sure beat rocks and lesser metals!

4. Non-stick cookware - Oh man, do I love my non-stick wok and fry pans!

5. Dishwasher - I still remember getting my first dishwasher and feeling like I'd hit Lotto! The time for clean-up was SOOOO drastically reduced!

6. Standard measuring utensils - As a cook who wants to pass on recipes, I want them to come out for others as they come out for me ... these tools sure help in that department!

7. Mesh strainers - These sure beat using cheesecloth, which is a b*^#! to clean!

8. Microplane - I don't know what I ever did without the one I have! Thank-you, Sprout Kate!

9. Silicone spatulas - No more degenerating spatulas because you forgot and stirred the tomato sauce or custard with your cheap rubber spatulas!

10. Tupperware (in all its manifestations) - Thank-you, Mr or Mrs. Tupper for figuring out nesting leftover keepers!

11. Cherry/olive pitting tools - Nothing says, 'Tedium'  like making a cherry pie without one of these little tools! The world is a better place because of them ... and my shirts and fingers have been saved those stains!

12. Ziploc bags - Everything is easier with these bags in your drawer! Marinating, tenderizing meat, saving leftovers, storing bug-prone staples ... life is easier with Ziploc!

13. Rings/lids/and jars - Canning equipment sure makes saving and storing food safely a cinch ... and no more dealing with melting wax for sealing!

14.  Refrigerators - Having an icebox, fridge, whatever right in the kitchen sure makes life easier for storage and food safety!

15. Pastry bags with attachments - Pretty food is just such an aesthetic joy!

16. 17. 18. 19. 20  .... and here is where we stopped ... so what do YOU think? We await your comments so that we can argue over them a bit  (rather, have scintillating dinner conversation over their merits!).

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Pssst! One year ago today :  A Treat ...

12 January 2011

Two Words ...

Onion Tart

11 January 2011

Scaloppine ...

Pretty Vegetables and Fruit

Pretty Platter

Pork Scaloppine

The New Year always makes me want to try new things, make new friends, pick new projects, and in general get off my duff and get busy at the serious winter pastime called puttering.

09 January 2011

Crackers! A Dedication to Heather @ Pretty Peas ...

Her crackers looked SOOOO good ... SOOO tempting ... that I took a bit of my Sunday afternoon and duplicated her recipe. Please send any comments or kudos to Heather!

Silent Bob and I had a VERY late night last night ... the last of the holiday parties. Too much brew and too much rich food., which leads me to a question. What do YOU have when you have overindulged, are morning sick with baby in utero, suffering from stomach bug, whatever?  I usually suck down water and eat crackers. 

When I got home from said debauchery, I headed straight for the couch and some passive entertainment. I cruised the Net and found (among other things) Pretty Peas' weekend offering (while I nursed a big glass of water). It was kismet. I sent off a 'comment', made the dough, put it in the fridge to chill, and crashed on the couch for a bit. Roused myself to roll and bake, cut some excellent local cheese and poured some red wine (please don't judge me!). Then, we watched a football game ... ahhh Sunday afternoon during playoff season!

08 January 2011

Italian Braised Thighs and Peppers

Remember that scene in La Dolce Vita when that wonderfully decadent and daft actress staggers around the fountain that's bubbling away in Rome? I totally flashed on that scene tonight as I watched these naked chicken thighs bubbling away in their bath of Prosecco and fire-roasted tomatoes ... all dosed up with garlic and chili flakes ... talk about heaven and hell! Fellini would have been proud ... er, but he'd probably have cuffed the side of my head for using canned tomatoes. Let's all say it together, "Get over it, Federico!"

06 January 2011

'Another Triumph, My Dear!' - Mrs. Cratchit's Steamed Pudding

For years, I've made a steamed suet pudding at Christmastime or New Years, depending on when we were having a gang in to eat the thing! You see, steamed pudding is one of those holiday treats that has earned the comment, 'A little bit goes a long way.' It IS very rich ... not as cloying as a fruitcake, not quite as heavy, but it 'sticks to your ribs', so to speak. Eating it right after a full Christmas feast is like dropping a brick ... you know where I'm going here. It's saving grace is it's warm steaminess and the warm sherry sauce that is drizzled over it, just before serving. Because of the aforementioned, we have always tended to have it later in the evening with a cup of tea or a glass of warm milk or eggnog, when we can appreciate it ... because despite the harangue, it is truly delicious.

05 January 2011

Buttermilk Buckwheat Muffins ... and a Cup of Tea

THIS is how I feel today ...

Daisy lounges on one end of the comfy living room couch and I lounge the other end  ... what a couple of bookends! I stayed up late into the night reading a good book and then slept until I wanted to get up. The holidays are over for most folks and our house has begun to return to a slower pace. I languish in this post-holiday peace.

Now is the time for those slow wintertime activities that tide me over until the beginning of mud season and the inevitable bout of cabin fever. I have dusted off the pile of wintertime reading beside my bed and will be picking and choosing title after title for the next two months. There are a few home improvement projects waiting to be accomplished , my small knitting project to complete, a sewing project that is cut out and waiting the sewing machine. And there are simple comfort food recipes rambling about in my mind ...

03 January 2011

Meatless Monday - Vegetarian Stroganoff on a Bed of Kashi

Resolution #1 - I intend to eat, drink, and be merry with the people I love ! ! !

I posted that statement on my personal Facebook page on New Years Day as a broadside against the flurry of diet-related posts, advertisements in sidebars, MSN articles on my homepage, and blather on the TV and radio. Now, I know I may alienate some folk out there, but I just have to say that if we would all just be a bit more moderate about what we put in our mouths, we'd all be a bit better off. Oh, and yes! You do have to move your butt on occasion and break a sweat doing SOMETHING during the day - at the gym, around the house, out in the yard, moving around the city, wherever and doing whatever!

01 January 2011

Warm Supper ... Tomato Bisque, A Grilled Cheese ... and a Story

Warm supper. When I was a kid, a wintertime supper fit for a queen consisted of a big warm bowl of cream of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich with a mug of hot cocoa and some cookies for dessert. I lived in a neighborhood inhabited by at least forty kids that ranged in age from seven to seventeen years of age. Who knew if there were younger ones. There had to be! That, however, didn't concern a ten year old headed for the wintertime sliding hill on a chilly winter afternoon. Our neighborhood abutted a tract of land that ran adjacent to NY State Highway 37 ... and that tract of land was wooded with a criss-cross of paths and rutted bike trails that our banana bikes carved in the summer and that provided prime sliding trails in the wintertime.