Wednesday, December 29, 2010
I don't know about you, but I'm in serious need of some vegetables. I used to be able to go all of Christmas week eating only (or mostly) carbs and sweets. I'm the kind of girl that eats cookies for breakfast when they're available. But in the past few years, when faced with a sugar-carb explosion, I find that my body starts craving something legitimately healthy. I guess I'm getting old.
While we started off last week with an obscene number of cookies in the house, it has been whittled down to a very reasonable level. And not just from us eating them - we managed to bring cookies places and leave them. The problem is twofold: there are a number of varieties of Christmas cookie that I dearly love, and love to bake so I want to do all of them. And new recipes get slipped in alongside old favorites without getting rid of any old favorites. So the number of batches tends to grow. Next year, though, I vow to be smarter and halve some of these recipes. That should keep things under control. Maybe.
So yesterday, after days of cookie overload, I decided we needed a bit more vegetation in our lives and roasted half a cabbage for dinner. This is a wonderful go-to recipe of mine. I found it last year when I was desperately searching for vegetables other than bell peppers and carrots that I might like to eat. I knew I'd eat cabbage in certain preparations, like stir fries and coleslaw without tasteable mayonnaise (did I mention I'm a picky eater?), so I thought I'd give it a shot. It is wonderful. I love the caramelization on the edges of the leaves. Roasting allows the cabbage's natural bite to mellow out a bit, similar to what happens to garlic when you roast it. The leaves are tender and delicate, and the lemon juice brightens it up. It's a winter side dish that feels like a light summer one. A worthy addition to anyone's winter menu.
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living via Meet Me in the Kitchen blog.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
I want to post about these Polish Christmas cookies my family makes every year, but I'm having a hard time starting the post. You see, I don't know what to call them. My mom, brother and I always called them suhadki (which I haven't a clue how to spell, by the way - I've only ever heard and said it aloud). Grandma, however, (whose cookies these are) calls them suhadi (no 'k' sound). When asked how to spell it, she replied: sucharki. We've always just lived with that discrepancy in pronunciation. Interestingly, my dad's father, who is Italian, has always called them chrusciki, which is what they're called when you see them in the grocery store. While we've accepted our own idiosyncratic pronunciations, his has always been wrong.
So in order to solve this mystery, I went to the repository of all knowledge: the internet. When I googled 'sucharki,' I got this recipe for 'Polish Papal Wafers,' a traditional Easter cookie which looks like this. Our cookies look nothing like that. So I decided to google 'chrusciki' for comparison. Apparently, Grandpa was right - a thousand pictures of our cookies came up.
I'm not sure how this came about. It's possible that Grandma confused the names of two Polish cookies. Or even that her own mother did, since Grandma herself is not from Poland. Whatever the case, I don't think it's going to change my family's pronunciation. You can call them chrusciki. We're going to continue to call them whatever the heck we want.
Polish Christmas Cookies
My great-grandmother's recipe.
3 egg yolks
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp red wine (or whiskey, although we find we get better results with the wine)
~ 1 1/2 c flour (Grandma doesn't really measure flour . . . this is a guess based on this weekend's baking. I believe I was using a 1/2 c scoop and needed about three of those per three eggs, give or take a little)
powdered sugar, for topping
For this recipe, you'll need some sort of fryer filled with vegetable shortening. The shortening needs to be very hot to cook the dough properly. Best prepare this and let it heat before beginning the dough.
When the shortening is very hot, add cookies to the fryer (you can test the heat by adding a small bit of dough to the fryer - if it floats to the surface right away, the shortening is hot enough). The cookies will bubble and sizzle while frying. When they stop bubbling, they are done. When one side stops bubbling, flip them to cook the other side.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
This side dish was actually made on Monday to accompany the beef that refused to shred until 9:30 pm. Instead, it accompanied leftover stuffed shells. I had thought about blogging the recipe then, but with the haphazardness of our dinner, I decided to skip it.
This was a fortunate decision, for now you all get to benefit from my busy-ness. You see, the chipotle was a little intense. I mean eye-tearing, tastebud-scalding intense. I took the slender wedge of squash in my hand and ate it like a slice of watermelon. Unfortunately, that puts the full intensity of the chipotle right on the tongue. Bad idea. It's hard to compel your tastebuds to operate again after that sort of shock. I'm pretty sure Jeff would agree - we were both running for the milk after that side dish.
Yet we still thought it was worth a second shot. We agreed that some additional sweetness would help mitigate some of the intensity of the chipotle. Tonight we tried again - this time, with some honey (although I think maple syrup might be nice as well).
The result? Much better than the first time (well, also because we've learned not to put the chipotle right on the tongue). I did not need the milk at all. The chipotle still has quite a kick, but the sweetness of the honey adds another dimension, so it's not all kick. When looking through variations of this recipe online, I saw one comment that said the sweetness of the acorn squash goes well with the spiciness of the chipotle. I don't actually think acorn squash is very sweet. Nothing like a butternut, or, dare I suggest, buttercup (which I actually found too sweet for my taste, and I have a big sweet tooth!). If you do think acorn is sweet enough, you may want to reduce or eliminate the honey. I do agree, though, that the spiciness works well with the squash. If you're looking for an alternative to maple-glazed squash (which seems to be the standard preparation), I think this is a pretty solid option.
Honey Chipotle Acorn Squash
Adapted from Joelen's Culinary Adventures.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
My guess is that people are thrown off by scary terms like "double boiler." I believe they sell double boilers, but it seems like a waste of money to me. All you need is a bowl that fits over your pot. You boil water in the pot, turn off the heat, and put the bowl of whatever you're trying to melt over it. Stir it as it melts. Done. This is not rocket science. The hardest part is waiting for the water to boil while you contemplate the deliciousness you are about to create.
In case you doubt how easy this actually is, let me point out that this was my first time doing it. (Ok, so it's not my first time using a double boiler. I've made recipes involving melted chocolate before. I've just never coated anything in it.) And it was Jeff's first time using a double boiler and he did just fine. In fact, he melted the white chocolate himself while I was dipping strawberries.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
I also took the opportunity to do some experimenting. I got an awesome new oven back in August, but I had yet to try the convection function. I thought cookies would be a good way to test this out. I could try the first batch and, if it didn't work for some reason, I'd still have another batch I could do the regular way. As it turned out, everything went well. My oven manual says that the timer would beep when the time is 75% up (since things may cook faster in a convection oven), but I'm pretty sure that didn't happen. Still, they came out beautifully.
While I think the cookies were good, I'm not a huge fan of the chocolate peanut butter. I felt that, rather than complementing one another, the two flavors almost cancelled each other out. I can taste the peanut butter, but it seems weaker than it should be. I don't think I can taste the chocolate at all (well, maybe in the aftertaste). Overall, I think it produces a pretty ordinary cookie (rather than the kick-ass one I was expecting). But I'm being critical because it's my job. Based on the number of cookies Jeff took last night, I'm pretty sure he was pleased with them.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from Southern Living's Southern Barbecue Cookbook (source of all my favorite cookie recipes).
1 c butter, softened
1 c chocolate peanut butter (of course, you could use any kind of peanut butter you have on hand)
1 c sugar + some extra for topping
1 c brown sugar (I used light brown because I didn't want it to conflict with the flavors in the cookie)
2 1/2 c flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
Using a stand mixer on medium speed, beat butter and peanut butter together until creamy (you could, of course, do this with a hand mixer as well. I think, though, that the cookies turn out the best when the butter is creamed on its own before the sugar is added). Gradually add sugars and cream together. Then slowly add eggs and vanilla (I like to do this on a slightly lower speed, so as not to whip the eggs). In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add this gradually to the butter mixture. Cover and chill for about 3 hours.