Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve

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Wow! This year really flew by!

I'm having a few friends over tonight to ring in the new year and I decided to do fondue. Here is my menu:

Appetizers

3 Cheese Fondue
cornichons, pickled brussel sprouts
red and green pepper strips
summer sausage, and cubed bread

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Entree

Hawaiian Marinated Pork
Garlic pineapple dipping sauce

Beef Fillet
Bacon bleu cheese dipping sauce
Aioli

Shrimp
Cocktail sauce

Cherry tomatoes
Zucchini

Dessert
Chocolate fondue with Raspberry Liqueur
pound cake, bananas, pears
marshmallows, strawberries

Beverages will include a variety soft drinks, wine, coffee, and bubbly for ringing in 2009.

May the coming year bring you nothing but peace and happiness.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Back Among the Living

I'm back! Did you miss me? I went to my folks for Thanksgiving and came back to computer problems.

So what have I been doing for the last month?

Let me see....

I've baked a mountain of cookies. I made Justine's and Fruit Rocks with my mom and aunt over Thanksgiving week-end. I made World Peace cookies, Apricot Pistachio bars, and Triple Ginger Biscotti for friends and family. I've made two batches of Chex mix and two batches of sausage balls.

I took my mom shopping one Saturday. That was an adventure.

I shot some mistletoe from the top of a tree. (I'm that good with a rifle!)

I read a few books. Wrapped an infinite number of presents. Made flavored vinegars.

I discovered a cool new store in my neighborhood.

And I seem to be fighting a seasonal problem with vertigo. It's like riding the Spider at the fair while sitting at your desk.

We had a party on Tuesday night with my book group buddies and I made Chicken Roumaki. It was very well received. No pictures, but here is the recipe:

1 1/2 to 1 3/4 lb chicken tenders
1 lb hickory smoked bacon
1 can sliced water chestnuts drained
1/2 c soy sauce
1 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 clove minced garlic
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 c water

Mix together soy sauce, water, brown sugar, green onions, garlic, and ginger and set aside.

Cut chicken tenders into 1 1/2" pcs. Cut bacon strips in half. Place 1 water chestnut slice and one piece of chicken together and wrap with bacon. Pin together with toothpick. When all are assembled, place in soy sauce mixture and refrigerate overnite.

Preheat oven to 375. Place bacon wrapped chicken on a foil lined baking sheet and bake until bacon is crisp (approx 40 minutes).

Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Crafty Evening

So, I made some wreaths tonight. I wanted to get them done in order to deliver them over the weekend to my Mom, my sister, and my aunt. I made two gumdrop wreaths and one grapevine wreath.

Making the gumdrop wreath.

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You will need toothpicks, clippers, scissors gumdrops, a styrofoam form.

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Cut the toothpicks in half,

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Insert the cut end into the gumdrop.

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Place into the form.

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Repeat. Try to keep as neat as possible.

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Four tubs of red and green gumdrops made two 10" wreaths.

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Create a decorative hanger/bow with satin ribbon.

Christmas is coming...are your crafts done?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Baked Potato Bar

Tomorrow we are having a baked potato bar at the office. Everyone loved the Taco Salad day and we thought this would be a great thing to try. We created a sign-up sheet and everyone seemed excited. All day today I've been fielding questions.

"How many potatoes should I bring?"

"Is two pounds of butter enough?"

"What kind of cheese should I buy?"

The sign up sheet included:

Potatoes (we asked three people to bring enough potatoes for 22)
Cheese (we asked that two people bring cheese)
Sour cream
bacon bits
chives
salsa
jalapenos
broccoli
chicken
BBQ
chili

We also requested 4 people bring desserts, two bring drinks, and someone to bring flatware, cups, and napkins.

So tonight I made a pot of beanless chili and I made it hotter than if I were cooking for myself. Since sweet potatoes were on sale, I picked up 8 and baked them tonight also, thinking I'll take them as something different.

I can't help but wonder, upon reviewing the list, why the people who don't cook always sign up for dessert? Why not a bag of shredded cheese? A tub of sour cream? Sodas? A can of chili? Why dessert?

So, if you were loading a baked potato, what would you put on it?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Christmas Cookie Bake-a-long...White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread

It was my turn to pick the recipe this week, so I picked one from the Better Homes & Gardens Ultimate Cookie Cookbook. My reasoning for this was simple. Maraschino cherries? Almond extract? Score!

White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread

1/2 c maraschino cherries, drained and finely chopped
2 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/2 c sugar
1 c cold butter
12 oz white chocolate baking squares with cocoa butter
1/2tsp almond extract
2 drops red food coloring
sugar
2 tsp shortening
red & white nonpareils

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spread cherries on paper towels to drain.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour and sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in drained cherries and 4 oz (2/3 c) of the chopped white chocolate. Stir in the almond extract and, if desired, the red food coloring. Form into a ball and knead gently until smooth.

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Shape dough into 3/4" balls. Place on an ungreased baking sheet approximately 2 inches apart.

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Dip the bottom of a drinking glass into sugar and gently press down each ball into 1 1/2" rounds.

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Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until centers are set. Let stand for 1 minute on cookie sheet. Transfer cookies to wire rack and let cool.

In a small saucepan, heat and stir the remaining 8 ounces of white chocolate and the shortening over low heat until smooth. Dip half of each cookie into the chocolate mixture, allowing excess to drip off, and roll dipped edge in nonpareils. Place on waxed paper until set.

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I left out the red food coloring, I didn't use the nonpareils, and I experimented dipping some of the cookies in semi-sweet chocolate. Sue me!

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Makes 5 dozen.

I can tell you these are quite tasty and I could have been pefectly happy with the raw dough.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Thanksgiving Menu

Roast Turkey Pictures, Images and Photos

I just got off of the phone with my sister...we were divvying up the Thanksgiving menu. We will be celebrating on Friday so that she can celebrate with her hubby's family on Thursday.

So, here is where it stands now. And everything is subject to change.

Appetizers
Pesto palmiers (me)
crudite (Sis)

Main Course
turkey breast (me)
cornbread dressing (me)
ham (Aunt R)
green beans (cousin R)
broccoli salad (Sis)
mixed veg casserole (Sis)
potato salad (Sis)
squash casserole (me)
praline sweet potatoes (me)
rolls (Aunt R)
cranberries (me)
pickles (me)

Dessert
apple dumplings (me)
chocolate something (Sis)
sugar-free pie (Aunt R)

Beverages
tea (Sis)
coffee (me)

So, what are you having for Thanksgiving?

Operation Baking Gals

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Well, I was not a very successful team leader. I know of some people who mailed goodies, but have not heard from others. And no one emailed me photos. So, I'll post my own.

I sent "Uncle Willy" a batch of Apricot Nut Bars with Chocolate Chips that I made at for our Christmas Cookie Bake Along.

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Yields eighteen 3x2-inch bars.

9 oz. (2 cups) all purpose flour
1-1/4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. table salt
1/2 lb. (1 cup) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 lb. (about 1 cup) chopped, shelled natural pistachios
1/2 cup diced dried apricots
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate or white chocolate morsels
One 15 1/4-oz. jar apricot preserves
how to make


Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, oats, sugar, cinnamon, and salt on low speed until well combined. Add the butter and mix on medium until the butter is mostly blended and the mixture appears moist and begins to pull together, about 3 minutes. Stir in the pistachios. Reserve 1-1/2 cups of this crumb mixture, stir the dried apricots and chocolate morsels into it, and refrigerate.

Firmly press the remaining mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 13x9-inch baking pan. Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes. Let cool for about 20 minutes (leave the oven on). Spread the apricot preserves evenly on top, leaving a 1/8-inch border around the edge of the crust.

Crumble the reserved crumb mixture over the apricot preserves. Return to the oven and bake until lightly browned and the fruit filling is bubbling all over, including the center of the pan, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely before slicing into 18 bars (or into smaller pieces, if you like).

And I made Dorie Greenspan's World Peace cookies...a lovely chocolate sable cookie, salty and sweet and very chocolaty. I think I must make these for my BIL and nieces.

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I also included some local favorites, Goo Goo Clusters, some nuts, and some Gatorade mix.

I know that Dr.Ruth sent a box of assorted granola bars and power bars. That MileHighBaker sent a box of assorted goodies. And that my old friends at J&M loaded up a box with cookies, candies, home-made breads and assorted snacks. A group of people that know Uncle Willy also sent out boxes of goodies. And Ejava sent two kinds of homemade cookies with assorted snacks, also.

I know that these will be appreciated by not only Uncle Willy but those with whom he serves.

Now, on to Round 5!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Home Remedies

I posted last nite about the creepy crud I have been fighting for over a week now. I complained to a co-worker about the fact that I can't sleep because of chest congestion (which let me to a 3:30 a.m visit to Walmart--why sleep when you can shop?). She told me that her husband will take a couple of slugs of blackberry brandy for a bad cough and swears it always helps.

I don't have any blackberry brandy and I don't plan on buying some any time soon. However, as many of my friends will tell you, I've got a lot of liquor for someone who doesn't drink. I felt heavy and congested before bed last night, so I pulled out a bottle of peach brandy and took a long hard pull. It burned all of the way down and was still burning fifteen minutes later.

I think it burned the little cilia to the point that they could not stimulate the coughing mechanism. Anyway, I slept like a baby. If you have a nagging cough, I highly recommend it.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers...Herb-Roasted Onions

It's the second Thursday of November and that means it's time to Barefoot Blog and this month's recipe was chosen by Kelly at Baking With The Boys.

If you were to ask me what is my favorite vegetable I would probably say green beans, but that would be a lie. It's onions. I love onions. Red onions, yellow onions, green onions, Spanish onions, Vidalia onions, pearl onions, Portuguese sweet onions. I love them all. Dip them in batter and fry them, serve them raw on a sandwich. Saute them in butter, grill 'em, caramelize them. Grate them into meatloaf or make them into a sauce. I just don't cook without onions.

So I was thrilled to try this recipe.

And then I was beset by the "itis's". My tonsils were inflamed, my sinus infected, and I still have a bad cough. My energy level was nil and I convinced myself to maybe skip this recipe. Tonight, however, I decided to go ahead and give it a whirl.

HERB-ROASTED ONIONS

2 red onions
1 yellow onion
2 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp garlic, minced
½ tbsp fresh thyme leaves, minced
3/4 tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
½ tbsp fresh parsley leaves, minced


1. Preheat the oven to 400.

2. Remove the stem end of each onion and carefully slice off the brown part of the root end, leaving the root intact.

3. Peel the onion.

4. Stand each onion root end up on a cutting board and cut the onion in wedges through the root.

5. Place the wedges in a bowl.

6. For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, mustard, garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.

7. Slowly whisk in the olive oil.

8. Pour the dressing over the onions and toss well.

9. With a slotted spoon, transfer the onions to a sheet pan, reserving the vinaigrette that remains in the bowl.

10. Bake the onions for 30 to 45 minutes, until tender and browned, tossing the onions once during cooking.

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11. Remove from the oven, and drizzle with the reserved dressing. (Hanging head here. I didn't do this step. But I don't think I suffered for it.)

12. Sprinkle with parsley; season to taste and serve warm or at room temperature.
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When I pulled the onions out to stir them, I threw some big pieces of turkey smoked sausage onto the pan to finish cooking with them and I think it was a very wise decision. The onions were delish and the sausage was a perfect complement.

These onions might not find their way onto my Thanksgiving table, but will show up again with steak or sausage soon.

To see what the other Barefoot Bloggers thought about this recipe, check here.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Foodie Nirvana

I've been there. I've been to Whole Foods big three storied monstrosity and to Trader Joes. It was so beautiful. I can't really talk about it. Just know that I bought so much I'll have to try to cook and consume quickly.

Tonight I'm having a cheese platter with a little Cottswold, a little honey goat cheese, grapes, pears, and pomegranite for supper.

Life is good!

Friday, November 7, 2008

An Award! A Meme!

I'm back among the living! Yea! I have been sick in reverse. Sunday I started feeling congestion in my chest. Monday and Tuesday I had a sore throat. Wednesday I had laryngitis and started coughing. Thursday I added head congestion. Today, I am at full funky. But I feel better and I'm not contagious. I got from my father's side of the family a flat behind and horrible sinus'

Sorry to whine. I really am fine.

And I received an award from Deb at Kahakai Kitchen that comes with the 7s meme. Check out Deb's blog, it's so wonderful to see what amazing and creative things she cooks!

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Now for the meme:

7 Things I Did Before
1. Checker at Big B Drugs
2. Retail sales
3. Wholesale flooring rep
4. Managed satellite office of flooring wholesaler
5. Kitchen design
6. Worked in a friends bookstore as barter for books
7. Men's shoe company internet sales/design

7 Things I Do Now
1. Belong to three book groups
2. Read...see above
3. Work for one of the big 3 auto manufacturers
4. Cook
5. Cook for my parents
6. Serve as cat furniture
7. Internet junkie

7 Things I Want To D
1. Sky Dive
2. Spend enough time in NYC to saturate myself
3. Learn to bake cakes and bread
4. Spend more time with my family
5. Day spa with my BGFs
6. Spend a month at the beach with my "to be read" pile of books
7. Drive from state to state, visiting the out of the way places in each

7 Things That Attract Me About the Opposite Sex
1. Eyes
2. Thighs
3. Smile
4. Sense of humor
5. Heart
6. Voice
7. Religious commitment

7 Favorite Foods
1. Chicken
2. Cheese
3. Chocolate
4. Peanut butter
5. Spaghetti
6. Salad
7. Bread

7 Things I Say Most Often
1. I/Me
2. Doofus
3. Crap on a stick
4. Darn
5. S*#t
6. You know
7. Well, uh...

Now, it's up to me to pass the torch to other bloggers I enjoy.

1. Melissa of It's Melissa's Kitchen...I have to be very careful when reading her blog...she makes me very hungry.

2. Mary Ann of Meet Me in the Kitchen I love to see what she has cooked up!

3. Vinnie of Bitter Cup of Joe, he is so adventurous and I love to see the vegetarian fare he creates.

4. Ginny of Of Mice and Min, my old, dear friend.

5. My new cyber buddy Cora at Cora Cooks, her sight makes my mouth water.

6. Jolt'n Joe at A Man's Gotta Eat...he man foodie in the music city.

7. And Tanya at Chocolatechic because I love her fun posts and the encouragement she offers.

So folks, meme if you want, but please enjoy the award and know that I check on you regularly.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Is it over yet?

Why do I do this to myself? Why have I declared Thursday my night to do as much as I can?

You see, I leave my place around 6:15 every morning. It's a short drive to work and I'm usually there between 6:30 and 6:40. I don't have to be there until seven but ask anyone who knows me about me being early...it's a curse. So I left the office around 3:45 and stopped on my way home to pick up something for my Halloween costume.

Home by 4:30. Sit down and give Prissy her cuddle time. Then the cooking began. First I made the White Chocolate Chunk cookies featured below. Then I browned a pound of ground beef. Cleaned the kitchen. Made the Yogurt Marmalade Cake from The Pioneer Woman. Cleaned the kitchen. Diced a red bell pepper. And assembled the rest of the ingredients I need to make soup in my crock pot at work tomorrow.

We were going to have a chili cook-off. But someone complained that they didn't like chili. So then it was going to be a soup/chili cook-off. Then it became a Crock-pot extravaganza. Then it became a "bring what-ever the hell you feel like" kind of thing.

Over 60 people in the group and there are 13 people who have signed up. Anyway, I'm making Cheeseburger Soup. To the ground beef and red bell peppers, I'll add chicken stock, milk, seasoning, Velveeta, and dice potatoes and let the crock-pot do it's thing. It should be good with chili, meatballs, cocktail wieners, queso dip, vegetable soup, chips, sodas, cake, and plates, cups, and napkins.

Now I must go to bed. Methinks I might be tired.

Christmas Cookie Bake-a-long White Chocolate ChunkCookies

This week on the Contessa's Kitchen board bake-along we tried White Chocolate Chunk Cookies, selected by Kim. These reminded me of a Christie's Cookies offering and that is, to quote Martha Stewart, a good thing.

Masterpiece White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

2 sticks (230 grams) unsalted butter, (16 tablespoons)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons Bailey’s
3 cups cake flour (or sub, see bottom)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (3/4 teaspoon if using unsalted butter)
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts, lightly toasted before chopping
9 ounces chopped up white chocolate

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and both sugars. Beat in eggs, vanilla and Baileys. Stir or sift together cake flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in nuts and white chocolate.

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Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto a parchment or “Reynolds Release” lined pan. Bake for 11-13 minutes. (As you can see, I followed the advise of my fellow Contessa's and rolled these into balls. I also refrigerated the dough before baking.

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Makes 4 dozen

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Okay. I had one. Maybe two. The rest are going to a Halloween Party tomorrow night.

All I can say is, OMG!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Barefoot Blogger..Veggie Pot Pie and an Apology

I'm reversing the order on my post today. You see, it's time for the Barefoot Bloggers again and this week's recipe was chosen by Deb at Kahakai Kitchen. I'm sure this recipe, as written, is fabulous.


Vegetable Pot Pie

12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
2 cups sliced yellow onions (2 onions)
1 fennel bulb, top and core removed, thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups good chicken stock
1 tablespoon Pernod
Pinch saffron threads
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 1/2 cups large-diced potatoes (1/2 pound)
1 1/2 cups asparagus tips
1 1/2 cups peeled, 3/4-inch-diced carrots (4 carrots)
1 1/2 cups peeled, 3/4-inch-diced butternut squash
1 1/2 cups frozen small whole onions (1/2 pound)
1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
For the pastry:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper


Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and fennel and saute until translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the flour, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly add the stock, Pernod, saffron, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the heavy cream and season to taste. The sauce should be highly seasoned.
Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Lift out with a sieve. Add the asparagus, carrots, and squash to the pot and cook in the boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain well. Add the potatoes, mixed vegetables, onions, and parsley to the sauce and mix well.

For the pastry, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the shortening and butter and mix quickly with your fingers until each piece is coated with flour. Pulse 10 times, or until the fat is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Divide the filling equally among 4 ovenproof bowls or 1 large baker. Divide the dough into quarters and roll each piece into an 8-inch circle. Brush the outside edges of each bowl with the egg wash, then place the dough on top. Trim the circle to 1/2-inch larger than the top of the bowl. Crimp the dough to fold over the sides, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place on a baking sheet, lined with foil, and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.

Mine, not so much. I apologize to Ina and the Barefoot Bloggers; I've been having a really blond week and it definitely showed in this dish.

First...fennel. After three trips to the market with a list I still managed to forget the fennel.

Second...asparagus. I like it, don't love it. I refused to buy a huge bundle for the little bit of it I would use.

Third...flour. I don't know how it happened, but I picked up whole wheat flour instead of unbleached flour. And then I had another brain fart and didn't even think about using the self-rising flour and not using the baking powder. (Really big blond day!)

Fourth...Pernod. Ina, really? I am a non-drinker with a cabinet full of liquor as it is. I'm not buying Pernod. Especially since I forgot the fennel.

So. I made the white sauce with sliced cremini mushrooms. Not a lot of flavor, but I love my 'shrooms. And I used brandy

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So far, so good.

I used green beans instead of asparagus. Bland, but who doesn't love green beans?

I made half the recipe, so I used an 8 x 8 dish.

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I've said it before and I'll say it again...I just can't make pretty food! This is an embarrassment. I'm airing all of my flaws so that you won't make the same mistakes, dear reader.

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The colors are great, aren't they? Unfortunately, the flavor was bland and the crust was dry and flavorless.

So what have we learned from this? Fennel and asparagus are important in veggie pot pie and whole wheat flour makes a sucky topping.

To see how well the other Barefoot Bloggers did, click here...I'm sure you will be impressed. Please don't judge by me and my feeble attempts.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Operation Baking Gals Now Recruiting

I volunteered this month to host a soldier on Operation Baking Gals and now I'm asking everyone I know (and everyone I don't know) to volunteer. This month I'm hosting "Uncle Willy". Though I've never met him, he sounds like someone I would love to meet and get to know.

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Uncle Willy (everyone calls him that) is in the reserves and his unit was called to active duty in April 2008. They are scheduled to be in Iraq until next October 2009.

He is from Pittsburgh, PA. He has two daughters (21 and 14), a son (3), a granddaughter (3), and a grandson (2).

He’s a fun loving guy who rides motorcycles and loves electronic gadgets. He is always willing to help out his friends. He has been known to “work” for chocolate chip cookies!

Please contact me if you are interested in supporting our troops thru Operation Baking Gals and would like to send something to Uncle Willy.

And check the link to Operation Baking Gals on the sidebar to see what other bakers are doing.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Barefoot Blogging Bonus Recipe--Easy Cheese Danish

The Barefoot Bloggers cook Ina Garten recipes the 2nd and 4th Thursday of every month, but we also have a bonus recipe selected by the person who sends the most visitors to the Barefoot Bloggers site. This month's bonus recipe was selected by Val of More Than Burnt Toast and it included two of my favorite things...cream cheese and puff pastry. To quote Ina, "how could that be bad?"

Easy Cheese Danish
by Ina Garten
Barefoot Contessa at Home

8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2 extra large egg yolks
2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tbs grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
2 sheets frozen puff pastry defrosted
1 egg beaten with 1 tbs water for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Place the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachement and cream together until smooth. With the mixer on low, add the egg yolks, ricotta, vanilla, salt, and lemon zest and mix until just combined. Do not whip!

Unfold one sheet of puff pastry onto a lightly floured board and roll it slightly with a lightly floured rolling pin until it's a 10 x 10 inch square. Cut the sheet into quarters with a sharp knif. Place a heaping tbs of cheese filling into the middle of each of the 4 squares.

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Brush the borders of each square with egg wash and fold two opposite corners to the center, brushing and overlapping the corners of each pastry so they firmly stick together. Brush the top of the pastries with egg wash. Place the pastries on the prepared sheet pan and refrigerate the filled Danish for 15 minutes.

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Bake the pastries for about 20 minutes, rotating the pan once during baking, until puffed and golden brown. Serve warm.

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Now, confession time. I didn't feel like zesting two lemons so I only did one. It was fine. I sprinkled the tops of the Danish with turbanado sugar before baking just for the heck of it. Fine. Extra large eggs?!! Ina..really...I used large. Fine. And finally...I fell asleep on the couch while they were cooking and did not rotate the pan. See for youreself.

I can't help but ponder the purpose of the ricotta in this recipe, but no matter. It tastes wonderful and like all of the recipes we've tried so far, it was deceptively easy for something so lovely.

To see what the other Barefoot Bloggers have to say about this recipe, click here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Christmas Cookie Bake-a-long...My First Biscotti

I am not a great fan of biscotti but, admittedly, I've only had it a couple of times and it was at Starbucks or Seattle's Best...not homemade. And I certainly never tried making it. But when it was chosen for our Christmas Cookie Bake-a-long on the CK board, I thought "why not?"

Candied ginger, that's why not. My local supermarkets didn't carry it so I called the Publix in the next town. They had it with the holiday specialties and didn't have it out, but would be happy to get it for me. I love Publix.

So, candied ginger in hand this afternoon, I set about making Triple Ginger Biscotti. This was an easy recipe, and quite tasty. I just don't know if I did it right or not. They look smaller than those I've seen in the stores, and not as rounded.

It is from "The Good Cookie" by Tish Boyle.

Triple-ginger pecan biscotti

1-3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
5 Tbl. unsalted butter, softened(I used salted)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tbl. peeled and finely grated fresh ginger
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1 cup pecans-chopped

1. Position two racks near the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, ground ginger, salt and pepper. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until well blended. About l minute. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in the fresh ginger and vanilla. At low speed, add the flour mixture, mixing just until blended. Stir in the crystallized ginger and pecans and mix until combined.

4. Scrape the dough out onto a floured work surface and gather it into a disk (the dough will be quite sticky). Divide the dough in half. Sprinkle the surface with more flour and shape each piece into a 12-inch log. Transfer the logs to one of the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 3 inches apart. With the heel of your hand, flatten the logs slightly, until they are 2 inches wide. Place the baking sheet on the upper oven rack and bake for 35 minutes, or until the logs just start to brown lightly. Set the baking sheet on a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.

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5. Slide a spatula under each log to loosen it from the parchment paper. Carefully transfer the logs to a cutting surface. Line the baking sheet with clean parchment paper. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs on the diagonal into 1/2-inch slices. Arrange the slices cut side down and 1/2-inch apart on the two baking sheets. Bake for an additional 18 to 22 minutes, switching the position of the baking sheets halfway through baking, until the biscotti are dry and barely beginning to color around the edges. Transfer the cookies to wire racks and cool completely.

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I used toasted pecans because a few weeks ago I toasted too many for another recipe and I had them already chopped and a perfect cup. I'm glad I did; I loved the taste of the toasted nuts.

The taste was great. These are far milder than ginger snaps, more mellow. So I may now be a biscotti convert. But tell me, seriously...I'm not begging for strokes here...do they look okay?

Playing with Pork

Kroger had pork tenderloins on sale last week and I picked a package that included two. I froze one and left the other out for cooking. So what to do? I started by seasoning it well with salt, freshly ground pepper, and some fresh rosemary and browning it in olive oil. I added two finely sliced yellow onions and put the pan into a 350 degree oven. After about 30 minutes, I pulled it out of the oven and added dried cherries and balsamic vinegar and tossed it back for another 20 minutes or so. I pulled it out of the oven and allowed the roast to stand.

I created a bed of onions and cherries on the plate and placed the sliced roast on top. Then I drizzled it all with the pan juices. I served it with a green salad and roasted butternut squash. All I can say about it is....yummy!

I would love to post pictures, but discovered that the batteries in my camera were dead as I had everything beautifully set up.

Cherry Balsamic Pork Tenderloin

2 lb pork tenderloin
2 medium yellow onions
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp fresh rosemary
1 c dried cherries
1/4 to 1/3 c balsamic vinegar
1 tbs olive oil

Place oil in dutch oven or oven proof pan at medium high. Season the pork loin with the salt and pepper and pat with rosemary. Place in the pan and brown on all sides. Add onions and place in a 350 degree oven for approximately 30 minutes. Remove from oven and add cherries and balsamic. Return to oven for approximately 20 minutes (more if your tenderloin is thick, mine were quite small). Remove from oven and allow to stand before slicing. Serve roast over onions and cherries with pan juices poured over top.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Waiting

Why am I up when the alarm will be going off in 5 1/2 hours? Well, I'm waiting. First, I waited until the pain became unbearable before taking Tylenol, now I'm waiting for it to kick in.

You know the drill, don't you. Enduring the headache before the Tylenol starts working, the sore joints until the Aleve is rushing through your blood stream, or the itch until the cortisone cream is absorbed. You can't just go to bed and try to sleep...it's impossible. Me, I pace. I walk in circles, from room to room, in the semi-dark...waiting. I've walked as much as I can and am beginning to get sleepy, so I decided to sit down at the computer. Staying busy. Hoping movement will pump the drugs though the system faster. I'm almost there.

How do you wait on the drugs to kick in? Are you smart and take them while the pain is minimal, the ache only a dull throb, the itch only a hint of discomfort? Do you wait until you just can't stand it any more?

Just curious.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Christmas Cookie Bake-a-long and a Saturday Story

It was my favorite kind of Saturday. I slept late (6:30) and did a little putzing around the house before getting ready head into work, where I worked until 12:30 and then met a friend for lunch and shopping. I bought books and a wreath for my door and ate Chinese food. And I drove home on this absolutely beautiful day with SEC football on the AM radio; I stopped and bought some boiled peanuts from a man sitting on the side of the road. It was Indian Summer done right!

I've been laughing out loud all afternoon about two different incidents.

I was the only person in the building at work this morning. Just me. By my lonesome. And my car was the only vehicle in the parking lot. I had decided it was time to give the office coffee pots a good scrubbing so I was putting them in the back of my car to take home with me when a car pulled into the parking lot behind me (remember...mine is the only car in the lot)and the driver sat there as I opened the door, put my purse in the passenger seat got into the car, buckled up, rolled down the windows, adjusted the A/C, and changed the stations on the radio before putting the car into motion. As I pulled away I saw the gentleman pull forward into the parking place I had just abandoned. Imagine...250 empty parking spaces, and he had to have mine!

Later, my friend and I were at a small Chinese restaurant near the mall catching up over Hot & Spicy soup and fried rice when we heard some shouting going on. We looked around to the bar area and saw the entire staff in bright orange Tennessee T-shirts shouting in a language we didn't understand at the University of Tennessee football team on television. If the expression on the face of the matriarch of the group was any indication, they were not shouting pleasantries but were, in fact, expressing some displeasure with the team's performance. It was the funniest thing I can ever remember seeing. I'm giggling while typing this.

I have fallen behind in the Christmas Cookie Bake-a-long on the CK board and must try to catch up. So last night I made Peanut Butter Blondies.

Peanut Butter Blondies

1 ½ cups All-Purpose flour (7 ½ ounces)
1 teaspoon Baking powder
½ teaspoon Salt
8 Tablespoons Unsalted butter, melted and cooled (1 stick)
1 ½ cups Packed light brown sugar (10 ½ ounces)
2 large Eggs
4 teaspoons Vanilla extract
½ cup Crunchy peanut butter, room temperature
½ cup Peanut butter chips (3 ounces)
¼ cup Roasted, salted peanuts, chopped (1 ¼ ounces)

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13 by 9-inch baking pan with a foil sling and grease the foil.*

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Please note my big ol' bottle of home-made vanilla extract...I love that stuff.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the butter and brown sugar together. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla until combined. Whisk in the peanut butter until combined. Stir in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Stir in the peanut butter chips and peanuts.

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3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake the blondies until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. (If the toothpick comes away clean, the blondies are overbaked)

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4. Let the blondies cool completely in the pan, set on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Remove the blondies from the pan using the foil, cut into squares, and serve.

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Variation
Chocolate-peanut butter blondies
Although we prefer bittersweet chips here, semisweet chocolate chips can be substituted.
Add 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips, with the peanut butter chips in step 2.

I wasn't overwhelmed by this recipe but I don't think it was the recipe. It seems that my local Kroger only stocks the store brand peanut butter chips and not any name brand. I will blame the failure of this recipe, then, on Kroger. Oh, and I didn't make a sling of foil...instead I lined the baking pan with foil and it worked out fine.

Maybe tomorrow afternoon I'll tackle the Triple Ginger Biscotti.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Barefoot Blogging...Risotto with Butternut Squash (sans Saffron)

It's time again to explore the wonderful world of Ina Garten with the Barefoot Bloggers. Over one hundred of us mark our calendars for the 2nd and 4th Thursday of every month and we all cook an Ina Garten recipe. This month's recipe was chosen by Rachel at Rachel Likes To Cook. And I have a secret. Sssshhhhhh! I have never cooked risotto before.

I know. It's embarrassing. I've been meaning to try it for years, but quite frankly, I found all of that standing and stirring intimidating.

First, let's talk about adventures in shopping in a small town. Thanks to the Food Network, it is easier to find most things than it used to be, like Arborio rice. Of course, I still have to explain to the checker about shallots every time I buy them, but that's okay. The big news was that my supermarket did have saffron...for $20.00 for what looked like 2 tsps. I may have mentioned it before--I'm cheap. Far to cheap to pay that for a single recipe. And I meant to go to the Mexican grocery, but never got there.

Another blogger mentioned using cinnamon, so I thought "What the heck" and used it. I halved the recipe and would up with three good sized serving. And thank you, Ina, for once again showing me that an elegant dish like this is far easier than I imagined.

Did I like it? Well Duh! The creaminess of the rice, the saltiness of the Parmesan, and the sweetness of the squash and the shallots created a festival of flavor in my mouth.

Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash

By Ina Garten
Barefoot Contessa Family Style

1 butternut squash -- (2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock -- preferably homemade
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ounces pancetta -- diced or good quality bacon diced
1/2 cup minced shallot -- (2 large)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 400ยบ.

Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes in a preheated 400 degree F. oven, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.

squash

Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the pancetta and shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock 2 ladles at a time stirring every few minutes. Each time cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total.

rissoto mid

Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan cheese. Mix well and serve.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.

risoto final

You will please note that I have no pretty pictures of this dish plated. That was because I started eating it out of the pot and when you are standing at the stove eating risotto with a big honkin' serving spoon, elegance seems to escape you. Sorry!

To see what the other Barefoot Bloggers think about this recipe, click here.

And on a completely different subject....

I GOT AN AWARD!!! From Cat at The Cat's Pajama's. How wonderful is that? I always check in with Cat to see what's on the stove, how wonderfully her husband treats her, and how God answer's her heartfelt pleas.

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I would like to share it with some other wonderful bloggers who bring me joy.

Becky at Random Musings of a Deco Lady because she needs a hug right now.
Suzie @ Munch & Nibble because she makes she makes incredible food and only seldom mentions Vegamite
Leigh Ann @ Your Home Based Mom because we share a love of books and reading as well as food
Rebecca of Ezra Poundcake because she always makes me laugh

Ladies, thank you for brightening my day!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Should I be bothered?

By the fact that I got sheared on Monday and no-one seems to have noticed? Or should I be worried that what I thought was a fabulous new do is not and my co-workers are just being nice in not mentioning? Do I sound paranoid?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Week-end Summary

I got up at my regular time on Saturday and was on the road by 5:45, heading to Alabama to see my folks. And it was quite fascinating. I was surprised to find that I was not the only early-bird. What do people do at that time on a Saturday morning? Hmmm.

I caught the most magnificent sunrise as I headed east on the county road to hit the interstate. I-65 was very heavily trafficked with, I guess, fans headed to Tuscaloosa for the football game. It was a far more pleasant drive home this afternoon.

I was at Mom & Dad's by about 8:30 and wound up taking Mom to a couple of yard sales. She was quite the Chatty Cathy everywhere we went. The first words out of her mouth to anyone who would listen were "I had a stroke" which reminded me of Aunt Aida in Cold Comfort Farm announcing sternly "I saw something nasty in the woodshed". And by the time we left one house, we knew that the owner taught my nieces in school; at another we discovered that the homeowner had attended the same high school as Mom and that we all had acquaintances in common.

We settled in to watch the game Saturday afternoon...Alabama won, but they tried very hart not to. Afterwards, I cooked supper. I fixed Kraut and Smoked Sausage, fried okra, and potato salad. I don't like potato salad. I can certainly live without it. But either I was in a weird taste phase or I made some really good potato salad. I ate two helpings last night and more today for lunch.

Mom frightened me today. She wasn't feeling well this morning so we sent Dad off to church and I stayed with her. I was in the kitchen when I heard her shouting from the family room. I ran in to find her sitting in her recliner waving her right hand above her head. When I asked what was wrong, she said "I couldn't move this arm" waving her right arm in my direction.

"You're moving it now."

"I know. I couldn't move it earlier."

"When?"

"I don't know."

Hmmmmm.....

And later she announced that she had to go to the bathroom. I put her walker in front of her and she stood. And she stood. And she stood. So I asked...

"Mom, is everything okay?"

"Yes."

"Were you going to the bathroom?"

"Yes."

Okay....

"I guess I'll go to this one." And she turned toward the guest bath.

I pointed out that she was, in fact, closer to her own bath and that it was outfitted with a handicapped toilet and hand rails.

"OH! Then I'll go there."

I shared my concern from this particular incident with Dad and suggested that he make an appointment for her at the stroke center at UAB. I was quite persuasive. But I think I'll call Sis for back-up.

I got home around 6:30 this evening and have managed a nap and a soak in the tub since. Now I'm off to bed.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Another Month, Another Box of Cookies!

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Yep! It's time again for Operation Baking Gals when over 500 volunteers send home-made goodies to men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. This month I was a member of Team Adrienne's House and we sent our goodies to Sargent Mark Martin, a Southern boy from Chatsworth Georgia. And I didn't send any smack about Alabama beating Georgia (handily) in football this year.

I sent half the recipe of the Peppery Cheese, Nut & Cornmeal Cookies found in an earlier post, some gummy bears, some Tic Tacs, and some Ranger Cookies. I found the recipe for the Ranger cookies in my new BH&G Ultimate Cookie Book with over 500 recipes. That should take care of OBG for the foreseeable future. We call all pray that our servicemen and women are home long before I run out of recipes.

I highly recommend anyone who loves to bake and feels compelled to some form of service to join us next month at Operation Baking Gals. You can check out our mission and see why it is we serve here.

Ranger Cookies
The Better Homes and Gardens Ultimate Cookie Book
pg 75

1/2 c softened butter
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 c all purpose flour
1 c quick cooking oatmeal
1 c flaked coconut
1 c raisins, dried cherries, dried cranberries or mixed chopped dried fruit

Preheat oven to 375. In a large mixing bowl beat the butter on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add the sugars, baking powder, and baking soda beating until combined, scraping sides occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much flour as you can using mixer, then beat by hand to add the rest. Stir in oats, coconut, and fruit.

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Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet about 2" apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are golden and centers are set. Cool for 1 minuted on baking sheet before transferring to racks. Makes approximately 4 doz.

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I used dried cherries and thought they tasted great.

A quick review of packing...per some very good advice from another blogger and military wife...I stick strips of apple peel between layers of paper towels and place these between layers of cookies. This keeps the cookies moist during shipping and prevents them from arriving as granola. The Gladware, ZipLock, Rubbermaid containers are great for this and you can usually catch one or the other on sale. This week I found the Gladware at Kroger for $2.50 for a pack of three good sized bowls.

Please remember those who serve in your prayers and consider enlisting as a Baking Gal yourself (or Baking Guy!)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

She Should Be Shot for This

The last Saturday of every other month, a group of friends and I get together and watch old movies (nothing after 1965). Last night we watched Paradise Lost with Ronald Coleman and Jane Wyatt and Here Comes the Groom with Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman.

We were down one, but we sure had plenty to eat. We had sub-sandwiches, chicken wings, hamburger quiche, past e fagioli, queso spinach dip and chips, Mexican Stuffed Shells, chocolate bundt cake, no-bake cookies, and my little cheese cookies.

And I decided to make The Pioneer Woman's Apple Dumplings and I've got to tell you, this recipe is dangerous. Really. I didn't take any pictures because Ree is such an amazing photographer that I'm embarrassed to show mine.

Good Golly! One taste of these sweet treats and you will want to "slap your mama" for never providing anything this wonderful. I think I've found my dessert for Thanksgiving. Or anytime I feel like escaping my problems into a diabetic coma.

Check this one out, you'll love it!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Christmas Cookie Bake-Along

I am a member of a cooking discussion board and we have begun testing recipes for the upcoming holidays. Becky at Random Musings of a Deco Lady chose our first recipe, which was for a savory cookie. The flavor of these little tidbits is powerful but certainly reminiscent of that Southern sideboard staple, cheese straws. Or in this case, cheese pennies.


Peppery Cheese, Nut & Cornmeal Cookies
The recipe comes from The Jimtown Store Cookbook, Recipes from Sonoma County's Favourite Country Market.

"This savoury icebox cookie...will earn you a reputation as a stellar hostess. ... The yield is large, but since both the raw dough and the baked cookies freeze well, there's no reason not to stock up." Makes about 100 cookies. Serve as an appetiser, snack, or along side soups or salad."

2 1/2 cups (approximately 9 oz) pecans
8 oz Asiago* cheese, finely grated (about 2 cups)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 oz sharp Vermont white cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (about 2 cups)
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal (preferably stone-ground)
1 Tbsp finely ground black pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Toast pecans on a baking sheet, stirring a couple of times, for 8-10 minutes. Immediately remove from pan and cool to room temperature. Chop finely and measure 2 cups. Save any extras for another use.

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Combine Asiago, butter, cheddar, flour, cornmeal, black pepper, salt and cayenne in food processor bowl and pulse to mix. (Can mix by hand or in mixer if processor not available.) Turn dough out into large bowl and scatter the pecans over the dough. Knead to mix in the nuts until the dough is smooth. Give the dough several whacks to remove any air pockets.

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Divide dough into four equal pieces and roll each into a 12" log, 1" in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill until firm.

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(At this point the dough can be frozen for up to two months. Thaw frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator before baking.)

Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 400°F. Line sheet pans with parchment.

Slice chilled dough into 1/8" thick rounds and arrange on prepared pans, spacing about 1 1/2" apart. Reshape to round if they flatten during slicing. Put two pans in the oven at the same time and bake for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Change positions of the pans on the racks from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking time. Transfer to cooling racks and let sit till they cool to room temperature.

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Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature. They will keep for at least a week and develop more flavour if they sit for a day or two after baking. Alternately the cookies can be frozen in an airtight container for up to a month.

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*If you can't find Asiago cheese, aged Parmesan or Pecorino Romano can be used instead.

I am a lover of all things cheese and when you throw in the toasted pecans, well now your talkin'.I didn't use the full amount of black pepper because I am just not a huge fan and besides, I didn't have any pre-ground and my wrists could only take so much grinding my own.

I only baked half the batch to take to movie night tonight and I froze the other two. They may wind up in my package next week for Operation Baking Gals.

I've been imagining all of the wonderful things I could do with these. I love the idea of just being able to keep the dough in the freezer so you can make it up far in advance of needing it. Any hostess would be thrilled with a decorative tin filled with these and tied in a pretty ribbon. Our how about adding them to you football watching menu. How great would all of that cheesy heat be with a cold beer?

At the moment, I'm having trouble keeping out of these. I'm hanging on to this recipe.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Happy Consumer

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This morning as I was getting ready for work, I had to touch up the top I wanted to wear. It got me to thinking about products that are out right now that make my life easy or better in some way. So all day today I've been compiling a list of products for which I am grateful. Here they are, in no particular order:

Downy Wrinkle Release
Parchment paper
Bleach
Pumpkin Spice Wallflower refills
Furminator
my KitchenAid mixer
Aveeno All Day Moisturizer
fast drying nail polish
Pam
Big Sexy Hair products

So what makes your list?