Thursday, December 22, 2011

Just in Time for Christmas: Jennifer's Orange Salad


Knitting friend Jennifer Ashworth made this delicious Orange Salad for the WiNKS Christmas Party and Beedle's Open House last Saturday. Fresh and clean tasting, it's a perfect foil for heavier fare. What a great dish for Christmas dinner!

JENNIFER'S ORANGE SALAD
•4 ripe medium oranges, peeled
•1 small red onion, sliced very thin
•2 tablespoons sherry vinegar [Jennifer used pear vinegar]
•6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil [Jennifer thinks that's a bit too much - see what you think]
•1/2 teaspoon mild smoked paprika
•Sea salt and black pepper to taste [don't be shy]
•3 tablespoons golden raisins, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, then drained
•15 to 20 black olives, pitted
•2 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts [toasted in the oven in a baking dish]
•2 tablespoons blanched almonds [optional]
•Fresh parsley and mint, chopped

Directions

1. Remove pith from oranges and slice into 1/4-inch rounds. Arrange on a serving platter and scatter very thinly sliced red onion on top. [Jennifer built her triple recipe in - you guessed it - triple layers.]
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, paprika, salt, and pepper. Spoon over the onion and oranges.
3. Sprinkle with raisins, olives, chopped walnuts, and almonds. Garnish with parsley and mint.

Chill a couple of hours - serve with a flourish
The tripled recipe will serve a large group, 10-12


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Simple Chicken Supper

My knitting group had a lovely, lovely holiday-themed gathering last night at the beautiful home of Beedle Hinely (of biscotti fame!). As my contribution to the goodies, I made my favorite chicken dish that's super easy. If you have a houseful of guests or family,or need something to take to a potluck,  this recipe can be doubled or tripled without any problem ... or time!
It's delectable, super-simple, and has the taste of something you've slaved over all day to make. My kind of recipe!

CLARA'S CHICKEN
this recipe was given to me by my mother's late lifelong best friend and partner in decades of crime, Clara Albrecht. She was a treasure!

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 slices Swiss cheese


Place boneless breasts in a well buttered 7 X 11 baking pan/casserole and top with the Swiss cheese slices.

1 cup sour cream
1/2 to 3/4 cup sherry wine
1 can cream of chicken soup

Whisk together the sour cream, wine and soup and pour over the breasts.

1 1/2 cups Pepperidge Farm Herb Stuffing crumbs
6 tblsp. butter, melted

Blend crumbs and butter well and sprinkle densely over the soup mixture.
Bake at 350 degrees for an hour.

That's it. Honest. This takes all of 10 minutes to prepare! You have plenty of time to whip up an impressive dessert, or make an elaborate salad and veggie dish.

Doubled, make in a 9 X 13 pan.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

New Holiday Classic: The Best Biscotti!


Love a dry cookie for dipping in coffee or enjoying with tea? My friend Beedle bakes up this biscotti recipe each holiday season, and with good reason: It's not too sweet, but still satisfying, with overtones of caramel complimented by a buttery rich toasty pecan flavor. This is destined to become one of our favorites, too, I predict.

Beedle’s Pecan Biscotti

Carmelize Pecans:

2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
¾ cup chopped pecans

In a heavy skillet, melt butter over low heat and stir in dark brown sugar, cooking very slowly for a couple of minutes. Add pecans, stir, and turn up heat slightly, shaking and stirring pecans in skillet often, allowing butter and sugar to coat nuts completely and to caramelize. Remove from heat, and spread nuts on a sheet of foil or parchment paper to cool.

For Biscotti Dough:

1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 oz.) butter, room temperature
¾ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla, blend well, then add eggs one at a time, mixing between additions.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a separate bowl. Add to creamed mixture, mixing until just blended. Gently stir in carmelized pecans.

Divide dough in half. Grease and flour a baking sheet, and pat out two logs, 1 1/2 inches wide,  ½ inch high and 14 inches long at least 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 5 minutes, then slice logs at a 45 degree angle into 3/8” slices. Lay slices flat on the baking sheet, and return to the oven for 10 minutes, turning them over once, to dry slightly. Remove from oven and cool on racks completely, at least an hour. Store in airtight containers.

Makes 3 ½ to 4 dozen biscotti 


Friday, December 2, 2011

Holiday Classics: Pizzelles, Butterballs, Peanut Butter Blossoms



Now that it's December, officially holiday season, it's time to post some of the other requisite Christmas cookies we make each year, as requested by my eldest daughter, Julia. My sister-in-law, Debbie, makes the BEST pizzelles, and we use her recipe as our standard. We also never fail to make my mom's Butterball recipe, sometimes as balls and sometimes as crescents. And who doesn't love the peanut butter cookie with the  chocolate kisses in them?


DEBBIE'S PIZZELLES


6 eggs
1 cup Wesson vegetable oil or Mazola corn oil
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 cups flour
1 tblsp. anise seed
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla


Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together; set aside. 


Beat the oil and sugar together, and then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add dry ingredients gradually, then anise seed and vanilla. Bake in preheated pizzelle iron until pale golden or until steaming dies down ( matter of 30 seconds =/-). Makes 4 dozen. 


****************************************


BUTTERBALLS
not one Christmas in my lifetime has passed without these!


1 cup butter (2 sticks, or 8 oz.), room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. water, room temp
2 cups flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans
powdered sugar for coating cookies (about 2 cups)


Cream the butter and sugar, add water and vanilla nad beat well. Add flour and blend well. Add pecans, mix until just incorporated. Shape into small balls or roll into small logs with tapered ends and bend into crescents, and bake on ungreased cookie sheets at 325 degrees for 20 about 20 minutes. Bottoms should be pale golden. Cool slightly, then roll in powdered sugar until well coated, and place on racks to cool completely. 
Makes 4 dozen crescents or 5 dozen balls.




****************************************


PEANUT BLOSSOMS
from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion book


1/2 cup (1 stick, or 4 oz.) unsalted butter
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup sugar, plus additional for coating dough
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tblsp. milk (2% or whole, not nonfat!)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
7 ounces (48) chocolate kisses, unwrapped 


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.


In mixing bowl, beat butter and peanut butter together until well blended. Add the sugars, and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg, milk, baking soda, salt and vanilla and beat well. Gradually add the flour on low speed, mixing well to incorporate. 
Shape the dough into 1" balls and roll them in granulated sugar. Place the balls on the baking sheets.  
Bake for 10 mins. or until a very pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and IMMEDIATELY press a chocolate kiss into each cookie. Work quickly! Cool slightly, then transfer to a rack to finish cooling. Makes 48 cookies. 





Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Headstart Holiday Baking: Vanilla Pillows

One of our favorite Christmas cookie recipes that I'm NEVER allowed to skip are the wonderful, tender, melting and vanilla-laden Vanilla Pillows. Far from being a boring or plain cookie, these have amped up vanilla flavor and a divine texture. I'm putting them up here now, because while they are easy to make, there is a certain amount of lead time needed to make the Vanilla Sugar that coats them. Like two weeks, minimum. That, and making them in advance actually improves their flavor. 
Here is the Vanilla Sugar recipe. Make it in a large glass jar with a screw on lid and you can keep the jar going all the time for Vanilla Pillows whenever the mood strikes you:

Vanilla Sugar for Vanilla Pillows
(requires a minimum of two weeks for flavors to marry properly)

2 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean

Cut a slit in the vanilla bean, and place it in a large GLASS jar with a tight fitting lid (tall enough for the vanilla bean -- like a peanut butter jar) and scoop the sugar in around it. Shake the jar every couple of days for at least two weeks to marry the flavors. Use to coat Vanilla Pillows.

VANILLA PILLOWS
great Christmas favorite, makes 180 cookies!

4 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks, or 8 oz.) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup shortening (Crisco)
1 cup confectioners (10X) sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
4 egg yolks
tablespoon vanilla extract

Sift together the flour, cream of tartar, salt and baking soda; set aside.

Cream the butter and shortening together until fluffy, and add the confectioners sugar a little at a time until all is added, then beat for 2 additional minutes. Add granulated sugar a little at a time until it is all added, then beat an additional 2 minutes. Add yolks one at a time, beating well between each addition; add vanilla and beat one additional minute. Add flour in 3 additions, blending at low speed until it is just combined after each addition. Chill dough, covered, for 2 hours.
Have ready a wide flat bowl with Vanillla Sugar (see recipe above). Roll a teaspoon of dough into a ball, then roll in vanilla sugar, coating completely. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet, 1.5" apart, and flatten slightly with a cross hatch design with the tines of a fork. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 9 minutes. Cookies should be very pale golden on bottom.
Transfer to racks to cool. Store in AIRTIGHT tins/containers (important to develop flavor!) overnight before serving.
These keep very well, with the flavor improving over time. Keeps up to two weeks.
Makes 180 cookies.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday, November 4, 2011: Roast Chicken and Hot Fudge Pudding Cake for Cold Nights

One of my knitting friends, Beedle Hinely, shared a recipe for roast chicken that is to die for. We love to make roast chicken during the cold months: no meal is as comforting or as satisfying on a cold fall or winter night. Enjoy! For dessert, something gooey and chocolatey seems just right. How about an old-fashioned Hot Fudge Pudding Cake? Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.


ENZO’S MOTHER’S CHICKEN

Roasting Chicken – 5 to 8  lbs.
Salt
Sage
A lemon, quartered (leave rind intact)
One or two red onions, quartered
Fresh rosemary sprigs
Olive oil
4 or 5 russet potatos, halved
Butternut squash, peeled and cubed
A red pepper, seeded and cut in eight pieces
2 or 3 heads of garlic, separated but not peeled
6 to 8 carrots, peeled and left whole
Pepper, garlic salt

Several hours ahead of roasting: Wash the chicken thoroughly in cold running water and pat dry. Refrigerate on a platter to allow to dry thoroughly.

Peel vegetables and set aside.

Dust cavity of the chicken with salt and sage. Stuff with the quartered lemon, 1 red onion quartered, and some of the fresh rosemary.

Rub the chicken skin with olive oil, and sprinkle with garlic salt. Brush the bottom of the baking pan with olive oil, and lay several rosemary sprigs in a bed in the center bottom. Lay chicken on top of rosemary.

Toss the second quartered onion, the potatoes, the red pepper, the butternut squash cubes, carrots, garlic lightly in olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Arrange vegetables around the chicken, and sprinkle with pepper and garlic salt. Roast in a 375 degree oven (with rack in quarter of the oven),  until done, based on weight of chicken. Baste chicken occasionally with pan juices, and turn vegetables a couple of times during roasting.
Roast for 2 to 3 hours, based on weight of chicken. Use pop up timer or thermometer to determine when the chicken is done.

* * * * * * * * * *


HOT  FUDGE PUDDING CAKE
To be served warm


1 cup flour
¾ cup sugar
2 tblsp. unsweetened cocoa
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup milk
2 tblsp. Melted shortening or butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
1 ¾ cups hot water

Oven 350 degrees

Measure flour, sugar, 2 tblsp. Cocoa, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Blend in milk and shortening. Pour into ungreased square 9 X 9 pan.
Stir together brown sugar and 1/3 cup cocoa; sprinkle over batter. Pur HOT water over batter, and place in preheated 350 degree oven for 40-45 mins.
While warm, spoon cake into dessert dishes and top with whipped cream or ice cream.

8 servings

Saturday, September 24, 2011

September 24, 2011 - Two Versions of Linzer Hearts


So why, out of the blue, would I publish the very special  Linzer Hearts recipe in the middle of September with nary a holiday beckoning? As it happens, my niece Christy is being married on October 8, and my insane sister-in-law is making cookies for the reception. As if there won't be enough sugar shock for everyone to imbibe. But they are pretty, they are festive, they are amazingly delicious. And they are a pain in the butt to make, since they  require assembly. Hence, the cookies must be made in advance. Not a recipe to leave for the last minute when wedding nerves are jangling.

One small note: If you don't want a lemony cookie, then omit the lemon zest and juice altogether, and substitute a large pinch of cinnamon and a large pinch of either mace or nutmeg for a slightly spicy cookie. Cinnamon and raspberry play very nicely together. Or just go with a vanilla-y cookie, or substitute half the vanilla extract for almond extract for a refined variation.

LINZER HEARTS

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 large pinch salt
2 teaspoons vanilla sugar
zest and juice of half a lemon
1 2/3 cups flour

seedless raspberry jam (Dickinson’s is the best)
powdered sugar

Preparation
Cream butter and sugar on medium high speed of a stand mixer until fluffy. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the jam and powdered sugar) and beat well. Let the dough rest for about 1 hour in the refrigerator.

Roll out the dough to about the thickness of a dime. With a heart shaped or round cutter, cut out an even number of cookies. Half of the cookies (these will be the tops) will have the center cut out with a small cutter: i.e. a heart, or small circle,or some other shape. Place cookies on parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake at (400F) in preheated oven for 3 to 6 minutes. They should be a very pale golden color.

Once the cookies are completely cooled, dust the tops with powdered sugar from a shaker or a fine sieve. Spread a thin layer of jam onto the bottom halves, and press the 2 parts together.

30 to 36 cookies.
(We triple or quadruple the recipe for holiday baking).

Make ahead note: Cookies can be baked in advance and frozen prior to assembly. Defrost a day or two before your occasion, and dust the tops with powdered sugar. Spread the bottoms with jam and press together with a top.

------OR------

A more authentic recipe, with almonds in the cookie:
Thank you, King Arthur Flour!

RECIPE II


AT A GLANCE

PREP
25 mins.
BAKE
8 mins. to 10 mins.
TOTAL
2 hrs 35 mins.
YIELD
24 cookies

Directions

  1. To make the dough: Beat the butter, sugar, and zest until light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as needed, about 3 minutes. Add the yolk and vanilla and beat until combined.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, almond flour, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and mix until just combined. Don't over-beat.
  3. Divide the dough in half, and pat each half into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
  4. To assemble: On a lightly floured surface, roll one disc of dough out about 1/4"-thick. Using a 2 1/2" round cookie cutter, cut out cookies. Transfer rounds to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Gather the scrap dough, roll, and repeat. Place the cut cookies in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  6. While the first half of cookies is chilling, cut rounds from the remaining dough. Once you've transferred these cookies to a baking sheet, use your smallest cookie cutter or the end of a round piping tip to make a peekaboo cutout in the center of each. Place cookies in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to chill.
  7. To bake: Bake all of the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the edges are just beginning to turn brown. Let them cool for 5 minutes on the pan, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
  8. To fill the cookies: Place the cookies with the holes in them on a cookie sheet and sift confectioners' sugar over the top. Turn the remaining cookies flat side up and spoon jam into the center, spreading it slightly. Top with the sugar-dusted cookies.
Be sure to double this recipe -- they don't last!




Monday, June 6, 2011

Blue Ridge Love


In short, we were just too far away. Too far from most family. Too far from too many friends. Too far from GREEN.

So, we moved. Because we could.

We're now on a knoll on the windward side of the Blue Ridge mountains. Simply put, it is Eden. Lush, green, teeming with life, color, and sounds,

the move was the perfect antidote to the hot, dry, scorching, distant
southwestern locale we moved from. We have so many birds, so many small critters, deer, trees, plants and flowers that evolve from day to day, bloom, wither, lie down to cycle again next year. Set among tall, tall oaks, the house is cradled into the landscape. So many more stars are visible at night, so many colors nuanced in the sunrises and sunsets that come and go in the mountain mists.Where else would anyone want to be?

(We're only 3 miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway! The photo above is close to milepost 68. The photo above left is near milepost 59. It's heaven to be so close to it!) Below, left to right: Phlox in our backyard, the Maury River nearby, dogwoods on the property.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Shades of Summer

Blackberry Cobbler: A summer favorite. At least at our house. It doesn't take a summer day for us to break out the blackberries, either. Warm from the oven, with a big dollop of Ben and Jerry's Vanilla atop it, it is a rich and satisfying treat.

BLACKBERRY COBBLER

1 full quart fresh blackberries -OR- 2 bags frozen blackberries
Zest from 1/2 an orange -OR- 1 tsp. grated orange peel, soaked in 2 tblsp. orange juice for 20 minutes
1 cup sugar
3 tblsp. flour
1/4 tsp. salt

Mix berries and next four ingredients together and pour into a well-buttered oven proof 2 qt. casserole dish or deep 7 x 11 pan. Dot with 2 or 3 tblsp. butter, and set aside while making the dough for the topping.

Topping
2 cups flour, sifted with:
3 tsp. baking POWDER
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tblsp. powdered sugar

1/3 cup vegetable shortening
3/4 cup PLUS 2 tblsp. milk

Blend the shortening into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter or 2 knives (as for pie pastry) until the mixture appears mealy. Add milk, mixing gently by hand, to form a soft, rough dough. Drop by tablespoons onto berries, covering them completely to the edges of the pan. DO NOT COMPRESS DOUGH.

Bake at 375 degrees (Farenheit) for 40 -45 minutes or until topping is pale golden brown. Let stand at least 20 minutes after baking, then serve with ice cream.

Serves 4 to 6, easily.

Aaaahhhhhhh!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Vanilla Cupcakes with Raspberry Cream Cheese Frosting

Haven't posted in some time! Happy New Year, all, and happy birthday to my lovely house mate Patrice. For her birthday I made vanilla cupcakes with raspberry cream cheese icing, and they were a huge hit. Here's the recipe for all who want to make something simple, yummy, and yet sophisticated.

Vanilla Cupcakes

Ingredients
Yields 24 cupcakes
Cupcakes:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cup granulated sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs, room temperature
4 egg yolks, room temperature
3 tsp vanilla extract

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a standard muffin pan with paper liners; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add butter, sour cream, egg and egg yolks, and vanilla; beat at medium speed until smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula and mix by hand until no flour pockets remain.

Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Bake 20-24 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.

RASPBERRY CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

1 (4 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup fresh -0r- frozen raspberries
1 tsp vanilla extract

Blend cream cheese, butter, and salt together until fluffy. Add confectioners sugar alternately with the raspberries, using only as much sugar as needed to make a medium-soft, light frosting. Pile high or pipe high onto cupcakes.


note: I found this recipe at burnmenot.blogspot.com and simply doubled the quantities.