Zucchini Bread

I love zucchini.  I will put it in anything, and have been happy as heck to have a garden overflowing with the stuff this summer.  In a few minutes, I’ll be starting zucchini fritters for my own family, but a friend asked for a zucchini bread recipe, and it happens I have a good one.  You can tell.  The recipe card is spattered and sticky, and almost impossible to read.  I use the same formula for almost all of my quick breads and swap out whatever I have on hand, mashed banana, shredded carrot, cooked pumpkin or in this case, zucchini, and then adjust sweetness and spices accordingly.  Quick breads are a satisfying, easy entree to baking, make lovely gifts, and for me, sweeten the pre-dawn hour of silent communion with my coffee cup that I need before I’m ready to face another human being in the morning. Even zucchini haters love this moist, spicy bread.

WHAT

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I am in love with the roasted cinnamon a friend gave me)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup sugar

1 cup finely shredded unpeeled zucchini

1/4 cup cooking oil (you can lower the fat and use unsweetened apple sauce, but the result is a slightly tougher bread)

1 egg

1/4 teaspoon fresh lime zest

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

HOW

Grease the bottom and about 1/2 inch up the sides of your loaf pan and set aside.  In medium mixing bowl (or bowl of stand mixer), combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.

In another bowl, blend sugar, zucchini, cooking oil, egg and lime zest. Fold nuts in last.

Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes, or until it smells amazing, has risen, and a wooden toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

I like to top this with either a sprinkle of coarse sugar crystals, or this cinnamon streusel topping, which I keep prepared and frozen, so it’s on hand for all kinds of baking. (scroll through to the bottom to get instructions for the topping)

Let it cool in the pan for 15 minutes, and then you can invert and cool completely on a wire rack.  If your family doesn’t just eat it all before you’ve even finished the dishes.

Enjoy

 

 

 

 

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Rhubarb Pie

Where I live, we have a community garden project.  We’re a very socialist kind of neighbourhood.  We have our own daycare/summer camp, our own toy library and clothing exchange, a neighbourhood wide barter system for trading goods and talent, and our own food bank and community kitchen where those of us who have a little more can share with those who have a little less, and nobody has to be embarrassed.  The roster of who’s on which side of the equation shifts from year to year.  When the community garden started three years ago, it was a natural extension of the programs that we, the residents of my community, had already built for ourselves as local social services have shuttered one after another.  Interested residents enter a lottery, and if chosen, have the use of a fenced in raised bed garden for the six months that this part of Canada is capable of producing anything besides traffic accidents and new curse words.  Two plots are held back from the lottery, and everyone who ‘won’ a garden plot contributes to the planting and maintenance of these.  They supply our community kitchen with fresh produce for half the year.  A kitchen where neighbours who need or want, can assemble on any given weeknight to cook and eat together with ingredients provided by the community.  No judgement, nobody keeps track of who the leftovers go home with, and we all take turns sharing recipes, so we all learn from each other.  Those who don’t cook can chop, prep, or wash dishes, and hopefully learn the skill with exposure.  It’s a great system, and I’m really pleased to be part of a community that has elevated itself from ‘bad neighbourhood’ status into the giant, extended family that it is becoming.
I had a garden the first year, but didn’t win one last year.  This year, my name was drawn, so once again, I am growing a ‘spaghetti sauce’ garden.  Peppers, spinach, onions, zucchini, four kinds of tomatoes and a variety of herbs.  This year, however, I inherited a rhubarb with the garden.  It wasn’t there when the plot was assigned to me in March, but by the time I was ready to start planting after the last APRIL snowstorm this year, it was already there, huge, scary-looking, and almost ready to pick.
I’d actually never eaten rhubarb.  When I was little, the elderly couple next door grew it, quite by accident, and it was a game in spring between the two of them, to see if he could manage to kill it before she was able to harvest it.  Even when he succeeded it would be back in a matter of weeks, and this cycle would repeat itself all summer long.  I always thought it must be some evil weed eaten only by pickle-faced old Scottish women, who proved their mettle by eating it raw, while everyone in the room winced just watching them and waiting to see which would prove more bitter.
So when I found myself the proud custodian of a ridiculously healthy rhubarb, I had no idea what anybody actually DID with it, besides run it over with a lawn mower at every available opportunity.

Fortunately, there are a lot of people in my orbit whose rhubarb experiences were clearly a lot more positive than mine, and many sent me recipes and links, and I’ve been happily experimenting for weeks, because, as it turns out, unless you rip the whole plant out by the roots, even after you pick it, it just makes MORE rhubarb.

I had no idea, but as it happens, rhubarb is like zucchini.  In that the moment you have it, you automatically have way too much of it, and it turns out that everyone in your house thinks they hate it, and you’re forced to resort to leaving baskets of it on the doorsteps of strangers in the middle of the night.

During the first year with the garden, I finally addressed the zucchini issue for my house-mates with great success here. So far, they’re both holding out against rhubarb, but I’ve got my best friend living right behind us, happy to help dispose of surplus jam and pie, and in the process of all this experimenting, have found myself a convert.  So while my husband and son are still in the design phase of the flamethrower they’re building to try to eradicate the plant completely, I’ve been baking pies. I’m on my seventh pie now, and the plant is bigger and more robust than when I started.

After trying all kinds of different fillings, pre-cooking, blending with other fruit etc, the winning rhubarb pie recipe is below.  As with many of the best recipes I know, it’s dead simple, and requires little very art at all.
Rhubarb Pie
WHAT
Double crust pastry recipe, or a package of store bought.
1 1/3 cups sugar
A teaspoon or so of cinnamon
6 tablespoons of flour
1 beaten egg
A tablespoon or so of coarse sugar
HOW
1. Line pie plate with bottom crust (I will use either store bought, or make my own, depending on how I’m feeling, and how much time I have. Don’t judge me.)
2. In a mixing bowl, combine 1 1/3 cups of sugar with 6tbsp of flour and a teaspoon (ish) of cinnamon. Stir until blended
3. Spoon half the mixture over bottom crust
4. Fill with 4 cups (ish) of chopped rhubarb
5. Spoon remaining flour/sugar mix over rhubarb
6. Top crust. Either lattice or well vented.
7. Brush top crust with beaten egg and sprinkle with coarse sugar
8. Unless you like cleaning your oven, put the pie on a cookie sheet.
9. Bake on the bottom rack of oven at 450 for 15 min, then turn oven down to 350 for 45 min to an hour. (When it smells like cooked pastry, go look) Let cool on a wire rack. Devour while still warm, and laugh at all the silly people who think they don’t like rhubarb.  Repeat ad infinitum, because you never actually run out of rhubarb, and once people find out you like it, you’ll have all the rhubarb you can handle.

Millionaire Shortbread

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I know, I know. It’s been a billion years since I’ve posted anything officially. It’s not that I’m not still cooking, I’m just busy. Suddenly it’s Christmas, and I have three days left to finish all my baking. I adapted a new recipe this year, and it was a mistake. I made the first batch in late November, thinking to get the jump on holiday baking, and I haven’t been able to keep them in the house. I’ve lost track of how many I’ve made now. The current batch is hidden in an All Bran box in the hope that it will survive until Christmas Eve.  I give you, ‘Millionaire Shortbread’! Merry Christmas!

Millionaire Shortbread, close up.jpg

Millionaire Shortbread

WHAT

Crust:

1 ½ cups (375 mL) All Purpose Flour (dip, don’t scoop)
½ cup (125 mL) icing sugar
¾ cup (175 mL) butter, softened

Pinch of salt. Because everything sweet tastes weird without a little salt.

Caramel:

1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons golden or dark corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Generous pinch salt

Note**  No.  You didn’t do it wrong. I doubled the recipe for the shots below.  You might want to consider doing so also.  Trust me.

Pour molten caramel over shortbread.jpg

Top:

A bag of the best chocolate chips you can find. I like Ghirardelli milk chocolate, but whatever blows up your particular kilt is fine.

spread chocolate chips.jpg

HOW

Line an 8 X 8 baking pan with foil and spray generously with cooking spray.

If you have a mixer, use the paddle and combine butter, icing sugar, flour and salt until a soft dough forms. If you don’t, roll up your sleeves and get out your pastry cutter, then cut it all together until it looks like coarse crumbs, then knead until it is dough. Press into the bottom of your pan. I use a shot glass to roll it in pan to make sure it’s an even layer. Bake at 350 for 20-25 min until just slightly golden and set it aside to cool completely.

Place all the caramel ingredients into a heavy bottomed medium saucepan and whisk gently over medium heat. Don’t stop. You have 20-30 minutes to kill while the sugar dissolves and the butter melts. Good thing you have WiFi in the kitchen.  It will boil gently. If it boils rapidly, turn it down a little or you’re going to have toffee, not caramel. This is boring. Stir continuously until it reaches a deep, golden colour, and you can let a few drops fall into a glass of ice water and be able to form them into a soft ball once cooled. Think, slightly stiffer than peanut butter. Remove from heat and pour over cooled shortbread, using spatula to scrape pan, and smooth evenly. Give it a minute or two to begin to firm up, then sprinkle your chocolate chips evenly over the whole surface.

Now go for a smoke, check Facebook, feed the cat.. whatever it is that you’ve been dying to do while you’ve been stuck standing in front of the stove stirring caramel. You have 3-5 minutes.

When you get back, use a clean spatula to spread the now melted chocolate chips into an even layer over the surface of the caramel. If so inclined, sprinkle a little sea salt on top.

Place in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight.

Let them come up to room temperature again before cutting them, or the chocolate on top will shatter when you try to slice them into 24 bars, give or take. It’ll taste the same, but you’ll have ugly, ugly cookies of shame.

They can be stored at room temperature in an airtight tin for a week to ten days, but you won’t need to worry about that. You’ll probably have eaten half of them before they even make it to the tin.

 

Steel-cut Irish Oatmeal, Pumpkin Pie Edition (Stovetop Method)

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Steel-Cut Irish Oatmeal, Pumpkin Pie Edition (Stove-top method)

You’d never guess from the 17 boxes of cereal in my pantry, but I am not a big cereal fan. My pantry is where cereal goes to die. A lot of us were raised to think of cereal as a healthy start, but in actual truth, it may be one of the most heavily processed foods that you consume in a day. I’ve posted before about my aversion to factory made food. As corporations wield their immense wealth to lobby lawmakers, my distrust of food made by a corporation that considers itself to be more accountable to its shareholders than its customers continues to grow.

But I digress.

Mornings are turning cold, and even though I am naturally awake before 5:00am most days, and like it that way, even I am beginning to struggle with getting up and running in the mornings when bed is warm, and the rest of the world is not. 5:00am is very early to have to face food, but my schedule doesn’t allow me the luxury of time in the mornings. While I have an amazing pit crew who routinely gets up and makes a hot breakfast for my son and me, even on mornings when he doesn’t need to be up until much later, and prefers the convenience of cold cereal himself, I thought I’d give him a break this week, and cook ahead, since our schedules will see little overlap, with me out early in the mornings, and him out well into the evening. What prompted today’s recipe We had planned a trip to Maryland this weekend, but plans were canceled due to the combined threats of hurricane and flooding on the coast, so we consoled ourselves with a day trip to western New York. It may be October on both sides of the border, but holy SMOKES Americans take their pumpkin spice season seriously! I found pumpkin spice mini-wheats, pumpkin spice frozen waffles, pumpkin spice candy corn, pumpkin spice pumpkin seeds, Kit Kats, Oreos, nachos, salsa, coffee creamer, pop-tarts, coffee, cookie butter… the list goes on. I love pumpkin anything, but as much fun as the gimicky prepared stuff is for an occasional treat, I still can’t bring myself to make any of it part of my family’s regular routine. But all the pumpkin stuff got me thinking about what I can do at home, with simple ingredients that have had minimal factory processing, and still get my pumpkin fix. I make all kinds of things at home, but I like to begin with things that are as close as possible to the form in which they were grown/raised/harvested, and take it from there. I have neither the acreage, nor the talent to grow and mill my own oats, and already had pure, plain pumpkin puree leftover in the freezer from another recipe, so that was my starting point.

Irish Oatmeal, Pumpkin Pie Edition

What

3 cups water
1 cup milk
1 cup steel-cut oats
1/4-1/3 cup pure pumpkin puree
pinch salt
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or poudre fort if you like a bit more punch- I blend my own, and that’s what I use. Recipe below)
1 tsp butter
2-4 tablespoons of real maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla

Raisins, nuts, shredded coconut, diced apples, dried cranberries whatever blows up your particular kilt, in whatever proportions do it for you.

How

In medium saucepan, bring milk and water just to a low boil. Milk will scald and smell like feet, so don’t overdo it. Reduce heat to low and add the oats. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in all other ingredients, and continue to stir, cooking on the lowest heat you can, until desired thickness has been reached. I like oatmeal thick enough to stand a spoon upright in, but it’s a matter of personal taste. Serve in small bowls or ramekins, topped with cinnamon sugar, chopped pecans, more raisins, or whatever appeals, and enjoy a house that smells fabulous, and the sensation of eating pumpkin pie for breakfast.

Enjoy

This keeps well in a container in the fridge. I make it by the bucketful so we can just scoop and microwave whatever amount is wanted on busy mornings.

Poudre Fort

This is a re-creation of a medieval spice blend that has become one of the first things I make every fall, and then spend the cold months adding it to pretty much everything. It has the same general aroma as pumpkin pie spice, but the addition of pepper gives it an extra kick. It is gorgeous blended with raisins, pumpkins, apples, and pretty much anywhere else that you might use cinnamon. This recipe comes straight out of ‘A Feast of Ice and Fire‘, the superlative Game of Thrones companion cookbook by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel & Sariann Lehrer.

1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground mace
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon long pepper or grains of paradise (optional)

Combine all ingredients and store in a small, airtight bottle.

Or if you’re me, quadruple the batch, and keep it in a mason jar.

Chicken Apple Breakfast Sausage

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Chicken Apple Breakfast Sausage

Chicken Apple Breakfast Sausage

Chicken Apple Breakfast Sausage Rounds

Ok, so it’s October now. That means a switch back to cold weather cooking and eating, and in our house, that means a switch back to hot breakfasts. Like anybody else, our mornings are busy, and starting from scratch isn’t an option. But being me, I resent paying far too much for low-quality, assembly line fast food that’s been handled by heaven knows who. Now that I’m on chemo full time, I have to be super cautious about food handling. With no immune system, food-bourne illness is easier than ever to fall to. I also do not like mass produced food. I’ve worked in enough factories and quick-serves over the years to be very skeptical of food handling in any business that is more accountable to its shareholders than its customers. So pretty much all of them. The solution is just to do all of our cooking at home. I enjoy the process, and often spend lazy weekend days puttering in the kitchen just for the pleasure of it, and then portion pack and freeze, so we enjoy the convenience of prepared stuff, without all the unlisted chemical additives, and questionable practices.
Also since it’s October, pretty much everything I make for the next month or so will feature either apples or carrots, since both are abundant, all but free and either grown by me, or someone I know. (There’s a wonderful carrot soup recipe coming, just as soon as I remember what I did!) Because I cook in such quantities, and often for a crowd, I’m also always aware of using what’s in season and readily available, just because it costs less. I’d go broke feeding everyone, except I stockpile things as they’re available, and buy and cook in quantity.

These came about when DH accidentally bought ground chicken instead of the turkey I’ve been using for years. They look the same, but cook and season much differently. They were an accident, but I think I like the chicken better.

WHAT

2 lbs ground chicken
1/2 baking apple (DON’T USE MACS) minced
1/2 medium sweet onion, minced
1/2 tsp minced garlic
3/4 tsp black pepper
3/4 tbsp crushed thyme
3/4 tbsp ground sage
1/2 tsp ground ginger (yes, Jenn, you can leave it out or use cayenne instead for heat, just use less)
1 1/2 tsp salt
2-4 tbsp cooking oil

HOW

Mince the apples and onions, and fry in oil in a large skillet until onions are transparent. Leave the pan on. In a large mixing bowl, combine chicken and spices. Add the apple and onion once they’re cooked and mix until thoroughly combined. Use a tablespoon, ice cream scoop or spatula to scoop out handfuls a little larger than a golf ball and pat into patties, dropping into hot pan when complete. Cook 4-5 minutes per side until browned, and never use the same spatula that you used for raw meat on the cooked product.

Now your house smells fabulous, and you have 16-20 sausage rounds that you can freeze and just heat and serve, or if you’re entertaining as I often do, grab yours and put the platter out on the table. You won’t get a second chance, because they’re amazing.

Goes without saying to wash hands thoroughly in between. Whenever handling raw poultry here, the dishes all get washed, and then rinsed with a little bleach in the rinse water. Sink is scrubbed, and dish cloth is washed and microwaved after clean up.

Glazed Zucchini Fritters

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In my own head at least, I’m the world’s least sentimental person. Years of frequent moving in my misspent youth taught the hard lesson that anything you get attached to can be lost, used against you, or taken from you. Even if you do manage to hang on to something special, you’re just going to have to keep moving it. The more attachments, the heavier the load.

So when I had to suddenly put my big cat down yesterday, I was rudely shocked to discover how crushed I was by the loss of a cat that I’d become ridiculously attached to. After all, she was over sixteen years old, and we all knew she was sick, and the world certainly isn’t facing any shortage of cats. She’d always had a difficult personality, and was, in fact, adopted because I have a pathological tendency to fall in love with the ugly, damaged, unwanted and unlovable creatures that nobody else wants. Big Cat was an ugly kitten, left to become an ugly young cat after all of her other siblings had been adopted. She had chronic stomach problems even as a kitten, more whiskers on one side of her face than the other, making her look lopsided, was freakishly huge, even as a kitten, and had a hopelessly bad attitude that she never outgrew. It was love at first hiss.

So nobody was more surprised than I was to find that none of this mattered while I was stroking her ears for the last time and watching the lights slowly go out for my cantankerous kitty for the last time, and feeling totally devastated, while the vet tried not to look at me, and my husband stared very hard at a spot on the floor.

Artists paint when emotion moves them. Musicians make music. I find the same comfort in my kitchen, and newly this year, my garden. The active meditation that both afford is peaceful, and making something from nothing appeals to me. Especially if it’s something that can be shared. So for no good reason other than the comfort of doing it, I spent the afternoon turning summer’s constant nuisance crop, zucchini, into something even people who hate zucchini love. I made zucchini fritters.

My grandmother used to make them every summer at the cottage, and the smell of them cooking is one of those childhood sense memories that always makes me happy. I’ve changed the recipe to suit my own tastes over the years, but the foundation was hers.

zucchini fritters

Zucchini Fritters

Makes 3-5 dozen. You can easily halve the quantities, but WHY? People always have too much zucchini, and you can never have too many doughnuts. Also, zucchini lovers proselytize zucchini haters, hoping to convert them. This is a good recipe for doing that.

WHAT

5 cups all purpose flour (use dipping method)
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups sugar
2tbsp unsalted butter (let it come to room temperature in the bowl of your mixer, or in a large mixing bowl while you collect the other ingredients)
2/3 cup milk
2 cups grated zucchini (about two small) Don’t let your zucchini grow too big unless you plan to stuff them. Otherwise about 8″ is good for picking. Otherwise they become tough, and can get bitter
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
Canola oil for frying (I buy it in 4L jugs)
2 tsp lime zest

Glaze

4 cups icing sugar
1 tsp lemon extract
1 tsp lime zest
3-5 tbsp water
HOW

I’ve assumed a stand mixer, otherwise use an additional large mixing bowl where I reference the bowl of your stand mixer. I no longer have the strength in my hands to manually mix stiff batter, but anyone with two working hands can do perfectly well with a little elbow grease and a wooden spoon.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, the cornstarch, the baking powder, the kosher salt, the nutmeg, lime zest and the cinnamon. Stir to combine.

In the bowl of your stand mixer (or your other large mixing bowl) dump the sugar into the butter, and beat with the paddle attachment until it looks like crumbs. Add the eggs, and mix at medium until it looks like a soft, yellow batter. Add the blast shield, and then spoon in the dry ingredients, the milk and the zucchini. Scrape the sided often, since I find with the paddle if I miss this, I’ll end up with an unmixed layer on the outside of the bowl, and it’s a pain in the hoop to clean and messes up the recipe, since half the dry ingredients remain unmixed, as concrete on the side of the bowl.

Once combined, fill a deep frying pan with your favourite cooking oil and set to medium heat. Don’t use olive oil for frying sweets. 1. They’ll taste like olives. 2. Olive oil burns at a much lower temperature. Use canola, vegetable, safflower or peanut.

Go for a smoke, surf the internet for a bit, flip a load of laundry, or in my case, console the surviving cat, who has been wandering from room to room looking for his missing companion. Give the oil time to get hot.

Addendum:  I’ve assumed you’re not a total idiot, and won’t really leave a pan full of hot oil unattended.  

Once your oil is hot (you’ll know because a small bit of the batter dropped in will boil and bubble) drop rounded teaspoonfuls of batter in, and cook approx 2-3 min per side. Look for bubbles around the edges, like you would if cooking pancakes, prior to flipping. Each side should be golden. If they’re cooked through, the side facing down after you flip them should begin to split, just like a loaf of zucchini bread will split along the top when done.

Drain on a wire rack, under which you’ve placed waxed paper, paper towel, or both, because you’re not into cleaning your countertops with a putty knife.

For the glaze

Mix the lime zest, icing sugar, lemon extract and enough water to form a thick glaze. Thin enough to qualify as a liquid, thick enough to stick to your spoon. While they’re still warm, dip the fritters, both sides, and return to your wire rack until glaze is set. Lick the bowl while nobody is looking because it’s too good to waste, but irresponsible to eat on toast.

Try not to eat them all before you get to share them with at least one zucchini hater. They really are delicious.

zuchini fritters, rack

Basic Rolled Sugar Cookies

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Basic Rolled Sugar Cookies

Publishing now in preparation for the weekend. I’m an idiot, so I’ve agreed to make cookies and Pirogies simultaneously with children, and my giant man-child of a best friend.

Send wine.

These are a tried and true recipe that uses granulated sugar instead of confectioner’s sugar. I prefer the texture and find the dough nicer to work with than the powdered sugar variety. I use orange or lemon extract, but almond and maple both work. I’ve also used mint and added crushed peppermints. You can also leave the extract out and add pumpkin pie spice and make spiced sugar cookies. Whatever spins your particular touque.

When baking with kids (or brilliant but highly unfocused and hyperactive adults) I strongly recommend a good night’s sleep followed by liberal amounts of coffee before you even start assembling your ingredients. Add grappa, Bailey’s, Kahluah or Lorazepam to taste. I’m a huge advocate of starting kids in the kitchen as soon as they are able to stand unaided, but when they’re young it’s important to make sure it’s a positive experience. I joke, but If you can’t be naturally zen about the inevitable mess, and the extra work involved in letting little ones ‘help’, use whatever resources work to put you in the right headspace. If not, take them to the park instead. Stop at the bakery or grocery store on the way home and let someone else do the baking. You’ll all be happier. If you’re going to be impatient and bent out of shape over the mess and extra work, all they’ll remember is that cooking is awful and makes people miserable. Since getting sick, I’ve found I really do have to plan for a big cooking day, and allow for rest both before and after. With very young children, I do the baking ahead of time, and just let them help with decorating instead. Allow lots of time. Cooking for me is like any other art. It’s a chance to focus on something creative and just let everything else go. If you can approach it as making art together, cooking with kids can be a great experience. Making things together is a great way to connect. COOKING together gives you an opportunity to do a craft, nurture a life skill and give a science lesson all at the same time.

WHAT

3/4 Cup shortening (margarine works, or part butter part margarine
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon lemon flavouring or vanilla (use the good stuff!)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

This recipe doubles and triples easily without adjustment. I often make two doubles at a time.

HOW

Mix shortening, sugar, eggs and whatever flavour extract you chose thoroughly until combined. For me this means dumping them all into the bowl of the stand mixer with the paddle attachment and letting the mixer do the work, but a mixing bowl and hand mixer, or serious determination with a spoon, will work.

In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Measure the flour by dipping method, never just scoop with your measuring cup. It compacts the flour, you’ll end up with too much and your dough will be dry. Also, your cookies will be bulletproof.

Mix the dry ingredients into the wet a little at a time until thoroughly combined to form a soft dough. If you have a stand mixer, little people like seem to like adding scoopfuls of flour and watching it mix. Unless you like having your entire kitchen covered in flour, use the blast shield.

Divide dough. For each single batch I roll two separate balls. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for an hour or so. I also make kids help with cleanup and dishes, and this is when we do it. I DETEST finishing with a messy kitchen, so we clean as we go. There will be more than enough mess at the end anyway.

When you’re ready to start rolling, heat oven to 400 degrees.

Clean and lightly flour your work surface, rolling-pin and cookie cutters. Roll to 1/8″. Really. They don’t need to be thick. This dough puffs up quite a bit. My personal preference is parchment lined, double layer, air-filled aluminum pans, but work with what you have. Parchment will make you happier, but these will work on a plain, ungreased baking sheet.

Bake for 6-8 minutes. They really don’t take long. As soon as they start to smell good, they’re done. They should be just slightly golden on the bottom. Let ’em cool on the pan for a couple of minutes before you try moving them, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
To decorate, my personal preference is to use an ice-cube tray, a bulk package of vegan royal icing mix and a whole stash of Wilton’s paste food colouring. The kid that comes in little pots. Mix a big bowl of the icing to a paintable consistency (add a drop or two of whatever extract flavoured your cookies, then pour into the ice trays. You can now use the tray as a palate, and mix colours to your heart’s desire. Use good quality paint brushes (I have a set that I ONLY use for this purpose) and you can paint whatever you like onto your cookies. In about 30 min the icing dries solid, and your cookies are stackable.

Have fun!

Meh.

Meh.

 

Weeping Angel Cookies

Weeping Angel Cookies

Minion cookies

Minion cookies

MOAR minion cookies

MOAR minion cookies

Zombie cookies

Zombie cookies

Ninja cookies

Ninja cookies

Tourtiere

Tourtiere

Adapted from Canadian Living.

I’ve been making this one at Christmas for a few years now.  Like any of my recipes, this one is very versatile, and easy to double, and even triple.  You can make individual turnover style tourtiere for a cocktail party or buffet, or a full sized pie if you like.  Each double crust pastry recipe should yield 24 turnovers.  I tripled this recipe and made 48 turnovers and a full sized pie.

WHAT

  • 2/3 cup cubed, peeled potato.  I almost never do this.  I make a whole pot of mashed potatoes, and then use it as an excuse to make Leek & Potato Soup on the back burner.
  • 12 oz lean ground pork, or whatever convenient, non-standard sized package your grocer or butcher has.
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped (I use a quarter to a half of a large Texas sweet)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (or a heaping teaspoon of the minced stuff from the jar)
  • 1 rib celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup sodium-reduced chicken broth – use a tetra, use concentrate, a bullion cube, make from scratch- it doesn’t matter.
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 bay leaf

HOW

If you’re not just going to make a pot of mashed potatoes, you can microwave cubed potatoes for 5 min or so with a couple of tablespoons of water, and then coarsely mash with a fork and set aside.

Brown the meat.  I add the garlic, onions and celery while it’s browning.  Don’t forget to drain.  Once browned, add the spices, mashed potato, bay leaf and chicken broth.  Simmer, stirring regularly until most of the liquid is evaporated and then turn off the element and let it cool.

You CAN make your own pastry, I often do.  The one over at Canadian Living is as good as any I’ve used.  But this close to Christmas, I’m desperately short of counter space and time, and since Thursday was a chemo day, I’m still not feeling that hot, so I cheated.  Each double crust makes either one family sized tourtiere, or 24 or so turnovers.

If making turnovers, I use a pint glass and punch out rounds of pastry, then fill with 1tbsp (ish) of filling.  Dip finger in water and trace edge of pastry round, then fold over and crimp with a fork.

Don’t overfill.

They explode.

For a full pie, just drop whatever you’re using for pastry in to a 9″ pie plate, fill, add top crust and crimp edges to seal.  Whether making turnovers or a pie, don’t forget to cut vents.

They explode.

For turnovers, space them evenly on a parchment lined cookie sheet, for a pie, I always set the filled pie on a pan and lift that, so I don’t wind up breaking the crust trying to get it out of the oven.

Beat one egg lightly with about a tbsp of water, and brush pastry.  Sprinkle with Kosher salt if desired.

Bake in the bottom third of the oven at 425 for the first 15 minutes or so, then reduce heat, and bake an additional 15 min at 350.  For the pie, you may wish to use pie shields or tinfoil over the outer edge of the crust when you reduce the oven temp, on order to prevent scorching.

You’ll know when they’re done.  They’ll be golden brown, and your house will smell delicious.

Remove from oven and cool on wire racks.

If you’re making these ahead, freeze them in a single layer, then reheat on parchment lined baking sheet at 350 until they smell good.  If reheating a pie from frozen, don’t forget to shield the outer crust.

Your other option, of course, is just to eat them all.  🙂

Tourtiere turnovers (3)

Grandma’s Molasses Crackles

My cousin posted yesterday about how, with the holidays approaching, she was craving a particular cookie my grandmother always used to make at the holidays.  Another cousin chimed in, and pretty soon we all realized that we all share a ‘sense memory’, associating the smell, taste, and texture of my grandmother’s molasses cookies with family and the holidays.  After my grandmother died, another cousin went through her recipe cards, many annotated or hand written, and made each of us a copy of ‘Grandma’s Cook Book’.  A fair number of the recipes are missing steps, or have ingredients that my grandmother forgot to mention, since it was assumed that you already KNEW what you were doing, and what the end result should be.  She was an accomplished home cook who would feed anybody, and whose cooking and kitchen, whether at the winter house or the cottage, were the anchor of pretty much every childhood holiday, as well as a gathering place for half the known world.  As a teenage runaway, I held on to some of those sensory impressions for dear life, the only shreds of home and security I could carry at times.  Now, as an adult, I take as many opportunities as I can to fill my home and kitchen with people, and a lot of the same tastes, smells and textures that were the foundation of so many great childhood memories.  Food nourishes so much more than just the body at times.  This is one of those recipes I keep going back to,every holiday season, because it brings an echo of my gigantic, messy, wonderful family, both living and not, into my present day life, along with all of the associated great memories of time spent with them.

Enjoy.

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Grandma’s Molasses Crackles

WHAT

3/4 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1/4 cup molasses

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon each of ground cloves, ground ginger and salt

Granulated sugar for rolling

HOW

Cream together molasses, shortening, sugar and egg

Sift all dry ingredients and blend into wet to form a soft, sticky dough.

CHILL- I recommend at least two hours.  Unchilled dough makes flat cookies that don’t crackle.

Once dough is chilled, roll into 1″ balls, and then roll in granulated sugar. I use the coarse, sparkly kind.  It’s pretty, and adds a nice crunch.  Place cookies at least an inch and a half apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet, and bake at 350. ‘Till done’ is what my grandmother’s instructions say.  For the rest of us, that’s about 10-11 min if you prefer them soft, and 12-15 if you like them hard and crunchy, like a biscotti.  Let cool on the pan for a minute or two before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.  Depending on how big you roll them, this makes 4-5 dozen.  Make a double batch.  They’re delicious, and your whole house will smell wonderful.

Try not to eat them all before anyone gets to see what a genius you are in the kitchen.

 

 

 

French Canadian Split Pea Soup

French Canadian Split Pea Soup

So I made hundreds of pierogies on the weekend, and am presently baking gingerbread on a gorgeous October day with all the windows open. So naturally, of course, I’m posting the recipe for French Canadian Split Pea Soup. A) because my pierogy bitch from the weekend asked for it and B) that’s just the way I roll.

I know, I know, I mostly post recipes for sweets and baked things, but I did a batch cook last weekend, and this was the ‘also ran’ that I made on the back burner while the minions were busy stuffing pierogies. I’ll go back to posting sweets as soon as I remember how I made the pumpkin spice whoopee pies last year.

With the weather getting cooler, this is a nice recipe to have in your pocket, and it doesn’t take as long as you might think, and is as close to effortless as home-cooking gets. This is another one that will feed a small country for less than $10 worth of ingredients. If you own a big canning pot, double the recipe and freeze it in whatever sized portion you’ll use. Normally I’d post a picture here, but this was immediately distributed among six different households, and was gone before I could get Twitter to play ‘Marco Polo’ with me for long enough to help me find my cell phone, which is also my only camera.

Which is fine.

Because French Canadian Split Pea Soup, when correctly made, looks like throw up anyway.

You’ll just have to trust me. This recipe is both so easy it barely qualifies as cooking, and delicious.

Not everything worth having is pretty to look at. 😛

What

3tbsp cooking oil
900gm bag dried yellow split peas
1/2 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped
2 large carrots, peeled, quartered lengthwise and chopped
1 tsp chopped garlic (the kind from a jar is fine)
3 litres chicken stock (home-made, from concentrate, cartons, from bouillon, whatever)
salt and pepper to taste.
2 cups chopped cooked ham (optional)
2 large bay leaves

If you happen to have a ham bone, this is a great use for it. Add it to the soup when you add the broth, and simmer it. Pick it out after an hour or two and salvage any useable meat, and return that to the pot before discarding the bone. (I like to stud mine with cloves) Otherwise a cup or two of chopped leftover ham is a lovely addition.

HOW

Add oil to large stock pot and heat. Add chopped garlic, onion and carrot and sautee until onion clarifies.
Rinse the peas in a colander, and add to pot. Add chicken stock, ham and ham bone if using.
Add bay leaves, and turn to low heat. Stir, cover and ignore over low heat 2-3 hours until peas are soft and incorporated. Salt and pepper to taste. May thicken on standing/refrigerating. If it turns into a brick, add more chicken stock or water to the pot when reheating. It’ll still be wonderful. If you’re like me, you’ll serve with home-made bread or buttermilk biscuits, but any crusty bread is good.

Edited:  HA!  Found a photo from the last batch!  Told you it looked like throw up!

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