Just Baked

October 07, 2010

Bean Salad

Bean Salad

Even though the time for summer BBQs and picnics may be past for this year, there's still always room on the table for a side of bean salad. This is incredibly fast to prep and throw together, and stores excellently in 'fridge for days - in fact, I prefer the way it tastes after all the beans have been marinating together for a couple of days.

The only suggestion that I would make for this salad is to use freshly blanched green beans and wax beans instead of ones from a can. I actually intended to make the salad with fresh veggies, but unfortunately the store was out of fresh wax beans, so I skipped it this time. Although the salad is far tastier than I expected with the canned green beans (I am a vegetable snob sometimes, I'm sorry), I think fresh ones would give it a wonderful crunch that just isn't there when you use the canned green beans. Using fresh green beans won't add too much to the prep time, so if you have the time and fresh beans, I say go for it!

September 27, 2010

Apple Fritters

Apple Fritters

So, Jon and I are both currently not eating much in the way of carbohydrates or added sugar - just some dietary changes we've decided to try out for the next month or so, since we've been feeling sluggish. Of course, when you have recipe boxes full of cakes and other sugary, carb-y, delicious things, sometimes you have to compromise.

Since these fritters are at least 50% apple each, I decided that it would be OK to make them, and perhaps to snack on one or two (okay, it was three, but let's keep that our little secret).

I was just looking at photos of other apple fritters online, and I definitely sliced mine incorrectly. I cut my apples in to 8ths, but it seems that most people choose to cut the apples in to rounds. Oops. Either way, mine tasted good, the apples still had a little crunch on the inside, and the only thing I would do differently is perhaps add some vanilla to the batter.

You can slice your apples however you choose.

September 22, 2010

Corn Souffle

Corn Souffle

The Souffle. If you whisper the word too loudly while one is in the oven, it will fall... Right? Making this souffle worried me; up till now, I had never attempted one before, and no one likes a failed recipe.

I bought the ingredients for this a few weeks ago, truth be told, but I've been steadily coming up with excuses to not bake it. These have ranged from "I had corn yesterday!" and "It's too hot to bake something for so long." to "The puppy is bouncing around too much today, the vibrations will surely make the souffle fall."

Finally, I started to feel guilty about avoiding the recipe, and decided to toughen up and go for it.

So did it rise?


September 09, 2010

Tillie's Pie Crust

Tillie's Pie Crust + Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

People always seem to think that I will make them pie. I don't know where anyone got this idea from, since I pretty much bake everything but pie on a regular basis. Cookies? Sure, just tell me what type. Brownies? Okay. Cakes? Muffins? Cobblers? Lasagna? Just ask.

Pie? Oh god, are you sure I can't interest you in a nice cobbler instead? Honestly, before this pie, I hadn't even tried to make one in at least 5 years; that's how much of a disaster the previous pie was. Some friends and I decided to make the pie and the crust from scratch- we made a huge mess of the dough, and the filling - ugh, the filling. I know we wanted to make a strawberry rhubarb filling, the type with tapioca balls in it, but rhubarb wasn't in season. Hmm, what to use instead... Oh, I don't know, let's go with... bananas. Strawberry-banana tastes pretty good in smoothies and drinks, so we figured it would be a reasonable pie filling.

It was not delicious. Everything boiled out of the edges of the crust, the sugar burned to the bottom of the oven, somehow the crust was still unbaked, the tapioca was still in little balls, and the whole thing was a disaster. So I don't really like to make pie.

A couple of weeks ago, all of that changed. My boyfriend showed up with a box of strawberries and a few stalks of rhubarb- part of his weekly haul from a local CSA share. A pie was requested. Great.

Luckily for me, I had recently found Tillie's pie crust recipe. I figured that if there was ever a pie crust recipe I could follow, it would be one used by my namesake, my great grandmother. The recipe looked easy enough that even I couldn't mess it up too badly, so I agreed to make the pie.

I found went online to find a recipe for the filling, since I hadn't come across a strawberry rhubarb pie recipe in the boxes, and came across this one. As luck would have it, it didn't involve the dreaded tapioca balls, so I got started right away. It was a good pairing of recipes, and I was rewarded with a flaky golden crust and delicious moist filling.

Tillie's Pie Crust + Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

August 23, 2010

Swiss Coconut Macaroons

Swiss Coconut Macaroons

Back in the beginning of July, Jon and I went to visit some of his family for a few days. I ended up being too busy to find the time to bake anything to bring with us, so in a panic I ran to a nearby deli* known for having outrageously large cookies and cakes, not to mention tasty sandwiches. I didn't know if their baked goods were, well, any good, but in my pastry frenzy I bought a half dozen or so giant cookies and then threw in a couple of mountainous coconut macaroons for good measure.

Were they any good? Well, let's just say I wished I had bought twice as many of everything. I've been wanting to devour macaroons ever since, and the pre-packaged ones from Whole Foods just wouldn't cut it.

Recipe box to the rescue! It just so happens that my gram made excellent macaroons, so I used a BBQ that Jon and I were going to as an excuse to make a batch of them. I'm not exaggerating when I say that they were the first thing to disappear from the food table. It looks like I'm going to have to make another batch of them for just Jon and I!

*"Famous 4th Street Delicatessen," definitely my favorite deli in Philadelphia.

August 21, 2010

Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut Butter Cookies

I've always loved peanut butter cookies. They're definitely in my top 5 list of all time favorite cookie varieties. When I was in Girl Scouts, I always ranked Do-si-dos above Thin Mints and Samoas. When my mom would go to the local bakery and ask what type of cookie I wanted, it was almost always a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie. Peanut butter cookies rock, and there's nothing you can do to convince me otherwise!

My gram's recipe box contains several variations of the traditional peanut butter cookie, but I decided to start with the cake mix cookie recipe first, for a couple of reasons.

1.) Some of the other recipes are ones written out by her friends, and have suspiciously clean recipe cards.
2.) I was already making macaroons that day, and felt a tiny bit lazy.
3.) I had never made peanut butter cookies with a cake mix base before, and wanted to see how their texture would be.

Since I was already planning to coat the macaroons I was making in chocolate, I decided to do the same to these cookies - adding chocolate to peanut butter cookies only makes them even more delicious. I used the seed method of tempering the chocolate, since I don't have a chocolate thermometer or a block of marble or granite handy. It worked out just fine, and was pretty easy. I would recommend it if you want to add a little chocolate to these or any other cookies you make.

Seriously, I am the worst at working with chocolate, and look how these turned out!

Peanut Butter Cookies - Chocolate Coating

Now let's make those cookies.

August 20, 2010

Macaroons and Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut Butter Cookies and Coconut Macaroons

So! We packed up all of our belongings, double checked every drawer and cabinet and room, put everything in a Uhaul and drove across the country with a puppy and a smelly hedgehog.

And I forgot all of my bowls and bread pans in my old apartment. I have no idea how I managed to do that, since I packed up other things from the same cabinet, but sometimes these things happen.

Anyway, I quickly replaced the bowls, because trying to beat eggs in square tupperware containers is not my idea of a good time. Also, I needed to make some cookies to take to a BBQ that one of Jon's classmates was hosting, and you just can't make cookies without a mixing bowl.

I've been wanting to eat coconut macaroons for weeks, so I knew from the start that I was definitely going to try my hand at a batch of those - especially because I've always been told how amazing my gram's macaroon recipe is. I wanted to make a second batch of more typical cookies as well, just in case some people at the BBQ hated coconut. I eventually went with peanut butter cookies, just in case someone else decided to bring chocolate chip.

Of course, then I had to decide what recipe I would use for the peanut butter cookies, because I immediately found 3 different ones. I went with the cake mix based one, just to be lazy since I was already making macaroons as well.

I'll post both recipes over this weekend, along with a link explaining how to temper chocolate and make it nice and shiny.

July 13, 2010

Augh!

I'm so sorry for the lack of posts recently - I'm in the process of packing up and moving myself and the boyfriend and our puppy to the opposite side of the country, and it leaves even less time than I expected for baking and photographing.

I'll try to squeeze in some time for a post soon, I promise!

June 29, 2010

Popovers

Popovers
I love popovers. LOVE THEM. Sadly, even though I have made this recipe several times over the last couple of weeks, I cannot make them look pretty in a photograph. Luckily, they are crispy and pop-over-y on the outside and soft and warm on the inside, even if they are not the prettiest popovers and don't like to come out of their tins without a struggle.

It's actually my mom who always made me popovers.

They were one of my favorite things to eat for breakfast or snacks when I was a kid, especially when my mom would put a spoonful of jam in the middle of them before putting them in the oven. As it turns out, my gram is the one who gave my mom her fail-safe popover recipe, so I guess I in part have her to thank for all of my tasty popover filled mornings.

Popovers are easier to make than I expected them to be. The only hard part is waiting for the ingredients to come to room temperature, and remembering to heat up the pan before pouring in the batter. If they didn't take 40 minutes to bake, I would want them for breakfast every day, even though I guess that they aren't technically a breakfast food.

June 12, 2010

Orange Rice Pudding



I am in love with this rice pudding. There, I said it. I love this recipe so much that I have decided to run off to Vegas and elope with it. Twice.

This rice pudding is a little bit different from the one I made before, which was my gram's go-to rice pudding recipe. This has more of a standard rice pudding texture than the other recipe, which is a custard. Also, the preparation is very different. For a start, the rice is uncooked at the beginning of this recipe; more importantly, the raisins are soaked in an orange liqueur. Also, this recipe is cooked on the stove, not in the oven. Sure, it's more work, and you may end up with boiled over milk all over your stove, but it's worth it. Trust me.


May 17, 2010

Shortbread Cookies


I ate so many of these shortbread cookies when I first made them that I promptly got a belly ache and had to go lay down for a little while. They're so buttery and light, they just melt away in your mouth, and before you know it, you've eaten 8 or 9 of them. Dangerous.

This recipe came from my grandmother's sister, my great aunt Syd. She had some of the best "old lady hair" I've ever seen: naturally snow white and a bit fluffy. Aunt Syd would call my gram on the phone every single night at the same time, just like clockwork. Back before cell phones and caller ID, gram could answer the phone and know exactly who was on the other end of the line - at least when it was 8 PM, anyway.

One of the ingredients in these cookies left me temporarily confused. It calls for "4x sugar," which, it turns out, is just a type of confectioner's sugar. Most stores just seem to carry 10x sugar, which worked out just fine for these cookies.

May 08, 2010

Peanut Butter Squares


Those chocolate peanut butter cookies I had at the Picnik Party on Saturday really set me off on a peanut butter binge. I finished off the remains of a jar I had in the cupboard, and when I was at the grocery store ended up buying 2 fresh jars - I couldn't decide between a jar with just ground peanuts or one with peanuts and a little bit of sugar. In the end, I decided that it would be best to stock up.

These squares seemed like a good place to start using up my peanut butter stockpile. They're really just a peanuty variation of a rice krispy treat, with peanut butter and karo syrup taking the place of the butter and marshmallows, and I'm fine with that. They took practically no time to make, and are quite tasty. Next time, I might have to spread a little nutella on them though!

A Picnik Party!

This past Saturday I had a little adventure*!

Casey, from TasteStopping, organized a "Picnik Party" for local food bloggers. Not only was it a fun chance to meet a few other local bloggers, but also play around with "Picnik," which is a website that allows you to edit photos online. Picnik is like Photoshop meets a Japanese photobooth - you can adjust the exposure and color settings of an image, or add in butterflies, hearts and facial hair - or do a bit of both!

Of course, we didn't spend the whole time staring at a computer monitor. There was also time to sit around and chat - and of course, to snack! Casey, who also is the woman behind Kitchen Witch, baked up several varieties of yummy cookies for us to munch on while we chatted. They were all great, but I have to say that my favorite were her peanut butter cup cookies. I'm such a sucker for the chocolate/peanut butter combo.

Anyway, it was a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon, and it was great to meet Jennifer and Wendy. I look forward to reading both of their blogs in the future. I'm so glad Casey organized the "picnik"!


* I say adventure because I somehow managed to get myself totally lost while driving to Home Cooked to meet up with everyone. I hit traffic, my phone/GPS died when I was only a few miles and a couple of highway exits away, the car charger I ran in to Best Buy to quickly charge my phone didn't work properly... Honestly, I don't know how I manage to make so many things go wrong when I'm trying to go someplace new. Anyway, I managed to get the phone on long enough to find out the last couple of turns I needed to make, and I arrived so late that it was certainly past the point of making a stylish entrance. Oops. At least I showed up in the end, and everyone was very nice to me, even though I was so very, very late.

April 27, 2010

Squash Casserole


It seems as though any self respecting housewife in the 50's had at least a couple of casserole recipes stashed away in their recipe box, and my gram is no exception. This casserole was pretty easy to toss together, like all good casseroles are, and, like most casseroles,  isn't the prettiest looking thing once it's on a plate.

If I made this again, I think would use a homemade stuffing instead of one from a box, but besides that I wouldn't change much. I personally prefer casseroles with noodles in them, but this was also nice.

April 13, 2010

Sweet Potato Muffins


After all of that matzo, it was such a relief to go back to using flour in everything. Don't get me wrong, matzo is all well and good, but no matter how much you grind it up and mix it with other ingredients, there's still that lingering matzo flavor, reminding you that it's in there.

It's been awhile since I've made a batch of muffins, and these sweet potato muffins sounded too good to pass up- plus I noticed that the only item I would need to go buy for them was the sweet potato. Who can resist a recipe when almost everything you need is already in your kitchen?

Of course, when I went out to pick up a couple of sweet potatoes, it started to pour, so I ducked in to the local organic market, hoping to grab the potatoes there. For some reason they only had Japanese sweet potatoes in stock that day, but I decided to just use them instead of getting soaked.

The Japanese sweet potatoes were just as tasty as regular ones, and the only thing I missed was the pretty orange color that regular ones would have given the muffins. There's always next time, I suppose!


April 04, 2010

12 Egg Sponge Cake - Day Seven of Passover Recipes


So, this cake is the last Passover recipe I'm making - this year, anyway. Yes, I still have a couple more stashed away to try out next year. I enjoyed making, if not eating, most of these dishes (kugel...), and will definitely make several of them again (matzo ball soup, fruit chews...)

About the cake. It was pretty, and smelled nice, but even though I thought my gentle folding of the egg whites in to the batter was thorough, I must have missed some spots. There was a thin layer of really heavy, think, wet cake at the bottom in parts. Oops. The top part, especially the outer crust, was tasty, and reminded me of an angel food cake.

Ok, let's get a move on, I want to get back to baking with real flour!

April 03, 2010

Matzo Kugel - Day six of Passover Recipes


I'm a terrible judge of kugel. I don't really like it. If someone were to hand me some kugel that had been proven to be the best in the world, I would most likely say "meh" after tasting it.

I think that this kugel is "meh," so it's probably the best matzo kugel in the whole wide world. If you are a fan of kugels, noodle or otherwise, you should probably make it for yourself and let me know how this one stacks up against your other favorites, because I'm curious. It certainly smelled nice while it was baking, but you know. It's kugel.

Kugel is a funny sounding word.

April 02, 2010

Basic Matzo Stuffing - Day Five of Passover Recipes


Stuffing isn't something that ever seems to get made in my family, but ever since I had some awesome mushroom stuffing at a friend-hosted Thanksgiving, I've had an itch to make a batch. I didn't think that matzo stuffing could end up being as nice and fluffy as some made with regular bread, but I was pleasantly surprised. I think the optional celery and mushrooms really add something, so I wholeheartedly recommend using them.

I just asked my boyfriend what else I should say about this stuffing recipe, and he told me to say "It's delicious!"

He followed that up with "That stuffing really was delicious." So there you have it folks. This stuffing is delicious, and you should make it!

Delicious stuffing.

April 01, 2010

Pancakes with Raspberry Sauce - Day Four of Passover Recipes


Delicious pancakes during Passover? Is that even possible?

Of course it is - would I lie to you? You can probably figure out what the main ingredient is in these.

I'll give you three guesses, but you won't need them.

Yes, it's your trusty friend, matzo meal.

I was very skeptical of this recipe at first, wondering if the pancakes would rise at all. They definitely do, although they could always be a tad fluffier. Next time I make these, I'll probably beat the egg whites separately and then fold them in, to give them that extra poof. These pancakes are obviously not buttermilk, since it's hard to hide that subtle matzo flavoring, but they're tasty as can be anyway.

The sauce is great. I'm planning on stirring the leftovers of it in to my oatmeal tomorrow morning. I used strawberries for the sauce, because all of the raspberries at the market looked a bit old, but any fruit will yield a delicious topping.

Pancakes!

March 31, 2010

Fruit-Nut Chews - Day three of Passover Recipes


These tasty little fruit-nut chews make me think of little round granola bars- with matzoh instead of oats, of course. I don't know if it's my love of raisins and walnuts speaking, but I would eat these even if it wasn't Passover! The edges bake and get just a tiiiiny bit crunchy, and the middle gets soft and chewy. Yum!

They're packed full of filling, high energy ingredients, and seem to keep pretty well... If you can keep from eating them all within a day or two, that is. These are definitely a good snack to toss in your bag and carry around with you for those mid-day munchy feelings.

Unrelated to the chews themselves, just look at how cute the little granny on the recipe is!

It's printed on the back of an RSVP to a seder at a local synagogue, and I can practically hear the drawing saying "Bubala, just wait till you try these fruit chews!" No wonder this found its way in to the recipe box!

March 30, 2010

Matzo Ball Soup - Day two of Passover Recipes


Matzo Matzoh Matza Matzah, no matter how you want to spell it, I've always thought that it tastes best in ball form, preferably floating in some nice soup.

So, about 5 years ago, I went through a phase where I was obsessed with making matzo ball soup. Not from scratch, mind you; I liked to just buy the box from the store that had all of the components of the soup in it, and make it that way.

One day, I mentioned to my gram my newly found love for making matzo ball soup. She was so pleased and excited- until I told her I was buying the pre-packaged mix. Yes, although my gram loved boxes of cake mix, the idea that her granddaughter wasn't making matzo ball soup from scratch was an affront to all that she believed in. She promptly launched in to an explanation of what to use to make it from scratch, rattling off ingredients and measurements. I brushed it off, saying the boxed stuff was less work, and soon moved on from my matzo ball obsession.

Oh, younger me, why did you ever think that boxed matzo ball mix could measure up to matzo balls made from scratch? The foolishness of youth... Now that I've made my gram's recipe, and seen that it only takes about 3 minutes longer than the pre-packaged mix... Well, I'm never going to go back! I definitely plan to keep on making this, even when it's not Passover.

One of nice things about this recipe is that on one of her recipe cards, my gram included a vegetarian version of the matzo balls, using peanut oil instead of rendered chicken fat- this is the version I made, although I'm sure if you want to make some schmaltz, the matzo balls will be even better.

Soup time!

March 29, 2010

Haroset - Day one of Passover Recipes


Haroset is a tradition part of the Passover seder, the evening meal that takes place on the first day of Passover. This meal is called a seder, from a Hebrew root word meaning "order," because there is a specific set of information that must be discussed in a specific order. I won't even try to explain all of the happenings of a seder, because it's been so long since I've attended one that I'll only confuse things (like with my Purim explanation), but I will say that they're typically a very fun, if very long, meal.

The Haroset, or Charoset, is a mixture of fruits and nuts, and is one of the symbolic foods eaten during the seder. The texture and color of the chopped up mixture is supposed to remind us of the mortar that the slaves in Egypt used to lay bricks for the Pharaoh. To further the connection, it's typically eaten sandwiched between two pieces of matzo.

Haroset is a tasty and easy to prepare part of the seder, so let's get to it!


March 26, 2010

A week of Passover Recipes

So many holidays seem to revolve around eating or not eating specific things.  Turkey and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, latkes for Hanukkah, and nothing with leavened bread or regular flour for the week of Passover. Yeah, that's right- no pasta for a whole week.

If you aren't familiar with Passover, it's a Jewish holiday that lasts for 8 days. It's in part a celebration of the Pharaoh freeing the Jews from slavery; he and the rest of Egypt suffered through 10 plagues until he finally gave in and told the Jews to get out of dodge.



The Jews didn't want to give him time to change his mind, so, led by Moses they hurried out of Egypt, across the briefly parted Red Sea (hi-five Moses!)




They left in such a hurry, they didn't have time to let the bread they made for the journey rise! Because of this, during Passover, observant Jews don't eat leavened bread or regular flour, in order to remember how God freed their ancestors from slavery in Egypt.

If you'd like to read more about Passover, including the meaning of its name, I would suggest Chabad.org. You can find the full Passover story here.

It's been awhile since I've observed Passover and gone to a Seder dinner, and I've never made it through a full 7 days without slipping up and eating a sandwich or cookie without thinking- I guess it's because my family has always observed the gifting and feasting holidays more-so than the ones involving fasting and denial.

Anyway, so here's the scoop: I found a neat little bundle of my gram's favorite Passover recipes, and I've decided to make a week of Passover recipes. Even if I don't keep Kosher for Passover, I thought it would be fun to try out some of these recipes- and who doesn't love an excuse to eat a good bowl of matzo ball soup?

So come back on the 29th, and I'll have some matzo balls ready!

March 22, 2010

Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Butter Ball


Sometimes, you want a chocolaty cookie, but not one that's super-sweet. For those times, this is the perfect cookie.

These round little cookies, full of semi-sweet chocolate bits and unsweetened cocoa and dusted with powdered sugar, are perfect to have with a dainty cup of afternoon tea. Careful though! That powdered sugar seems to have a way of getting everywhere you least expect it to... That's probably why I never saw these in my gram's cookie jar. She never could abide crumbs of anything sitting on the counter for more than a few seconds.


Anyway, beware of the powdered sugar.

March 11, 2010

Sour Cream Potato Soup



It’s been so wonderful outside the last couple of days. Sunny, a light breeze, weather in the mid-50s to low 60s… Perfect for roaming the city and doing some light shopping.

I went to a large indoor market today, and somehow in my glee at being out and about, I ended up buying a 10lb sack of potatoes. And a boxes upon boxes of blackberries, but that’s not the point; I bought all these potatoes and then I had to carry them a few miles home, and now I’m sitting here with ALL OF THESE POTATOES.

Luckily, my gram’s recipe box has quite a few good ways of using potatoes, so I settled down with my grater and made a big pot of sour cream potato soup.
The soup is creamy, without feeling heavy; it’s nice for Spring, when the temperature drops in the evening. This is fine on its own with a chunk of crusty bread, and if you use dill in it, I could see serving a bowl of it before a nice piece of salmon.

If I make this soup again, I will probably substitute some vegetable stock for part of the water, to add a little more depth to the flavor. It’s nice and simple the way my gram wrote the recipe, though I do think vegetable or chicken stock would be a nice addition.

Soup's on!

February 27, 2010

Hamantaschen


Oy vey, I've eaten so many hamantaschen I could plotz. There's a huge pile of them sitting on my kitchen table, and that's even after I dropped half of them on the floor, like the klutzy schlemiel that I am.

... And now that I've pretty much exhausted all of the Yiddish that I know...

One of the foods my gram always seemed to have around were hamantaschen, even though they aren't normally a year round treat. She must have had a magical box hidden in the pantry that created the cookies from thin air, since I never saw her make them, but yet if you requested one, there it was! A neatly folded, buttery triangular cookie, stuffed with prunes and nuts or ground apricots - yum!


I guess I should explain what exactly a "hamantasch" is, for anyone out there without a Jewish grandmother. Hamantaschen are triangular cookies, typically filled with ground up fruit and nuts, although chocolate or poppy seed fillings are not unheard of.

They're made to celebrate the holiday of Purim, which is a festival that involves a lot eating and gifts of food; sometimes it also involves dressing up as various biblical characters. I just learned that it's also a drinking holiday, with one portion of the Talmud* saying "one should drink on Purim until he can no longer distinguish between the phrases 'Cursed is Haman' and 'Blessed is Mordecai.'"** They never taught me that in Hebrew school!

*A book of Jewish laws
** There are other books that promote a much more moderate approach.

I now present to you my jumbled memories of the Purim story, which have been laying unused in my brain since my early years: 
There was a king, who married a Jewish woman named Esther, without realizing that she was Jewish. One of the higher ups in the king's court, Haman, got mad at the Jews for some reason, and convinced a bunch of people, and maybe even the king, that they should kill all of them. Esther found out about this, and went to the king, told him that she was Jewish and said that he better overrule Haman and save her people. Somehow a guy named Mordecai was also heroic, Haman was sentenced to the gallows, and now we eat pastries shaped like his triangular hat. THE END

If you would like a more accurate/in depth explanation of Purim, I suggest you check out this summary on Jewishfaq.org or the Wikipedia page.

Anyway, the important thing to remember here is the hamantaschen, because they are very tasty, and my gram's recipe for them is delicious- the pastry outside is buttery and smooth and the filling isn't overpoweringly sweet. I found 5 different recipes for hamantaschen in the recipe box, but decided to go with the one that she had 2 vanilla stained copies of. Maybe next year I'll share her quick cake mix based hamantaschen recipe. 

Purim starts tonight at sundown tonight, and continues until Monday, the 1st, so I guess we better get baking! 

February 25, 2010

Helpful Tip 001: Minimizing Mess

You should see my kitchen counter while I'm baking. Actually, you shouldn't, I would be embarrassed by how messy it is. I always seem to end up with a layer of flour and sugar on the counter. When I go to clean it up, I end up smearing it around and getting it on the floor and myself. Of course, all this could be avoided if I would only listen to something my gram would tell me every we made cookies.

Use the sink.
It's so simple, so obvious, but something I rarely remember to do.

Before you start baking, make sure the sink is emptied of dishes and glasses and all of those pans from last night's dinner that you haven't gotten around to washing yet. Now, when you need some flour, place the container in the sink before you scoop and level the measurement. Any flour that misses its target can be instantly washed down the drain, no mess! If you keep your baking supplies in canisters, putting them in the sink before you refill them also keeps the messiness to a minimum.

My gram would insist on measuring out everything this way, and I was always trying to get around it, not wanting to take the ingredients the few steps over to the sink and then back to the mixing bowl. Any time that she was distracted by the phone ringing or her dog barking, I would try to measure out things over the counter, and every time, she would catch me.

"ahh ahh ahh, there's flour on the counter."
"Just a little..."

And then of course we would have to pause in the cookie making to clean up the flour before it spread around and got out of hand.

It seems like such a little, silly thing to do, but when it comes to saving on clean up time, every little bit helps, especially when you hate cleaning up as much as I do.

February 19, 2010

Double Chocolate Nuggets


These cookies taste like the crispy edges of the best brownies ever, but better because the chewy/crispy part isn't just a portion of the treat, but the entire thing. Honestly, I'm not normally a fan of brownies, but these cookies are like the best brownies I've ever had. The have just a thin moist layer in the middle, and are chock full of nuts and chocolate chunks. Honestly, these might be my new favorite super-fast-'n-easy cookie.

The main reason they're so fast and easy is because of (you guessed it) my gram's love of cake mix. She says to use Dunkin Hines, and gives you the option of two different chocolate cakes; I went with the Devil's Food. As usual, I'm sure whatever brand you like will work out just fine. She also says you have to top them with pecans, but I doubt that it will be the end of the world if you prefer to use walnuts.

Recipe!

February 09, 2010

Sour Cream Cookies


I can practically see the puzzled look on your faces. "Sour Cream Cookies? But... But you promised us the best bran muffin ever!"

I know I did. I'm sorry. I tried, really tried, to make my gram's bran muffins this weekend; if you don't believe me, feel free to ask my dreamy boyfriend about it (I'm sure he'll have some choice words to say on the subject.) I made him trudge with me, through the blinding blizzard, to three different supermarkets in search of the ingredients. It seems that the panicking masses, worried that they wouldn't be able to dig themselves out of their houses in time for a Sunday brunch outing, bought up all of the buttermilk in the city. I jest, of course. If it had been open, I probably would have been able to find the buttermilk at Wholefoods.

The problem is with the bran flakes themselves. The recipe calls for two different varieties of flakes, and it seems that one has been discontinued and the other is just difficult to find. I'll try to come up with a good substitute for the discontinued bran flakes over the next few weeks, and let you know as soon as I've devised something close enough to the original muffins.

So, Sour Cream Cookies. I chose this recipe in part because, for once, I already had sour cream in my 'fridge, a remnant of a quesadilla craving last week. The sour cream I had was low-fat, which is something that I doubt my gram would have used in these cookies, so if you can stand a couple of extra calories, I'd say go for it and use full fat sour cream; your cookies will have a richer flavor than batch I made.

February 05, 2010

Memento from Japan, 1979

I realized the other day that I've been sharing my gram's recipes and some stories about her and her cooking, but I haven't shown any photos of her or her house.

Besides the usual family snapshots from birthdays and long weekends, I actually have quite a few photos of just her house and belongings, remnants of a slightly (ok more than slightly) self indulgent photography project about "painting a portrait of a person through the things they owned." Yadda yadda yadda.  Really, I just wanted an excuse to photograph her beautiful house and built a justification from that.

Anyway, I've decided to occasionally share a photo or two of my Gram and her house, in between recipes.


This first photo is of a souvenir plate that she brought back from a trip to Japan in 1979. I know she liked this photograph of herself, because the plate was always on prominent display next to one of the many candy dishes in the living room. My grandmother is the smiling woman kneeling on the mat on the left. The woman standing on the right is her friend Roselle Como, who my grandmother sometimes traveled with.

Just look at how immaculate her hair is in this photo! That's how her hair looked for the entirety of my life, although perhaps the color wasn't always natural.

If you want to see the photo in more detail, just click through to the Flickr photo page, and you can view a larger image.

What's up next, recipe-wise? I don't want to overexcite you, but I've been eyeballing my gram's renowned bran muffin recipe.

February 03, 2010

2 Ingredient Muffins


I told you that my Gram wasn't above taking shortcuts and using pre-packaged things in her baking, and this muffin recipe sure proves it! When I first found this recipe card I couldn't help but laugh and shake my head. "No way will this ever work" was my first reaction.

I thought about it some more, and realized that making muffins from just these two items did make sense, in a weird way. All of the typical muffin-making ingredients are present, in one way or another.

The final result is a muffin that's a bit more like a sweet tasting biscuit than a moist muffin, but I think that they're worth making once or twice, just for the novelty of it. As you hand one of these muffins to your friend/significant other/child you can shock them by saying that you made it using only 2 ingredients-- trust me, they will be so darn impressed with you that you will appear as a God to them, for at least 5 minutes... Well, maybe not, but they'll at least be intrigued.

I can hear you gnashing your teeth and shouting "just tell me what two things I need to make the stupid muffins already!" so without further ado:

January 31, 2010

Oatmeal Cookies


I've been complaining self-righteously about the existence of The Hollywood Cookie Diet for the past week or so, but I'll let you in on a little secret; ever since I baked a batch of Gram's oatmeal cookies, I've been accidentally doing my own version of the cookie diet. They're just such tasty little cookie bites that I can't help but eat a few of them without realizing it, and then I'm not hungry for a real meal anymore, so I just eat one more cookie and leave it at that. Oops.

I don't really think that the cookies are good for me, but if I'm going to end up overdosing on cookies, I could do worse. When you look at the ratio of ingredients, you'll see that they're a bit more than 50% oatmeal/raisin/walnut, which isn't that bad. That's what I've been telling myself, anyway, and I'll happily stick to my illusions about these cookies, thankyouverymuch.

I laughed a little when I read the ingredient list for these cookies. I had never heard of using cake mix in cookies, but my gram has a few recipes that do that. Even though she has plenty of recipes that are completely from scratch, she loved her pre-packaged shortcuts. Quite a few of her recipes start out with pre-made soups or pastry, and my all time favorite birthday cake recipe starts as a box of Duncan Hines yellow cake mix. No, that isn't really an endorsement for the brand, but my gram was very particular about brands, so it had to be that specific box of cake mix for her to make a birthday cake.

She doesn't specify the brand of mix for these cookies, but I picked up the D. Hines because I figured that would be the one she would have in her pantry. I'm sure the yellow cake mix of whatever brand you feel loyalty towards to will yield identical results.

January 27, 2010

Avocado Cream Cheese Dip


This is a dangerous recipe for me. As any of my friends will tell you, I love avocados. If I'm at a restaurant and one of the dishes lists avocado as an ingredient? Decision made, that is what I will be ordering.

I'm also a fan of dips. They're suitable for both parties and for sitting on the couch in your PJs. Also, you can dip so many things in them! Chips, carrots, broccoli, chips, cucumber, celery, chips, cherry tomatoes, chips. You get the idea.

This dip is quick and simple, creamy, but with a little bit of bite from the hot sauce and onions. I can easily imagine it at one of my gram's famous parties, comfortably sitting in a chip 'n dip*, next to carved watermelon boats full of fruit salad. If you need to bring something to a party and you're stumped, just whip this together and grab a bag of baby carrots or chips. Yum!

*The Mad Men Chip 'n Dip, as discussed beginning at 1:10 in this video.

January 21, 2010

Chocolate Cherry Ring



Enough is enough! As much as I love veggies, sometimes you have to have something sweet- hence the massive chocolate and cherry stuffed bundt cake currently sitting on my table. I'm not worried about it though, I doubt that it will be sitting there for long; cakes have a way of disappearing in my house.

I want to get back in the (maybe bad) habit of always having something fresh baked around the house, especially because friends tend to just drop in. What better way to go about that than to always have some of my Gram's cake baked up? After all, she was pretty much the queen of keeping sweets for visitors.

This cake is moist and not too sweet. It's perfect paired with a cup of tea or coffee, with just a sprinkle of powdered sugar on top. Yum!

January 13, 2010

Mock Crab Cakes



I'm pretty sure that zucchinis were my gram's favorite vegetable. I say this because almost all of her vegetable recipes revolve around them, and besides peas, they were the only green veggie I ever remember her serving me. My research is inconclusive; I should probably just ask my dad.

My gram was a huge fan of crab cakes. Most of the time when we would go out to lunch, she would order a crab cake plate, and boy was she picky about them. She was right to be, of course- who wants to get something in a restaurant that isn't as good as what you can cook for yourself?

Since her crab cake recipe was so excellent, it makes sense that she would have found an equally wonderful recipe for mock crab cakes. Anyway, her mock crab cakes are based on finely grated zucchini, which is thrilling to me, since I've been obsessed with making zucchini fritters for the past year. Trust me, these cakes, when paired with an easy pepper sauce, are way better than any zucchini fritters you may have eaten in the past. These look and smell (and taste) so good that when my friend Mike saw them, he asked me several times if I had made real crab cakes.

The sauce I made isn't a recipe of my gram's, it's just something I found online when I was looking for a sauce to dress up crab cakes. And yes, you will have to get out your food processor or blender to make it- but it is so worth it. If you're in a hurry you can just eat these with some tartar or ketchup, but if you have an extra 2 minutes, just whip up the red pepper sauce, you won't regret it.

Time for me to stop talking about how amazing this was, and tell you how to make it for yourself.

January 12, 2010

Sneak Peak: Mock Crab Cakes

Oh my God, these are so good. So so so good. I may never make real crab cakes* now, that is how good these are.

I made a batch of these for dinner tonight, and I couldn't wait till I was done editing the photos and typing up the full post to share it, so here is a liiiiiittle peak at what you can look forward to tomorrow. You will make them and eat them and say "Nom nom nom," that is how good these taste.



*This is a lie, my gram has a legendary crab cake recipe.

January 10, 2010

Choices, choices

So what do you think I should make next? Something sweet or something with veggies?

January 09, 2010

Parsley Pasta



"The Usual" is, as you may have guessed, a dish that my gram made for me all the time. I would be sitting at her kitchen table, most likely practicing writing a never ending list of words in cursive (handwriting is very important), and she would ask me what I wanted for lunch.
"The Usual."
"The Usual? Okay."
So she would set a pot of water on to boil and then nudge her tiny step ladder over to the right place in the pantry, climb up and get a box of tri-colored rotini (I would have called them "spirals" at the time), and cook them with salt and margarine. After straining, she would put them in a bowl, scoop some more margarine on top, mix it around a bit, and slide it in front of me. "The Usual." Awesome. This always made me feel as if I was a regular at a restaurant, which at the time I thought was the coolest things to aspire to.

Don't worry, I'm not about to tell you how to boil water and coat something in margarine, although this isn't that much harder, if you don't count having to clean the food processor afterward. Cleaning up the food processor is my least favorite part, if you don't count having to get it out of the cupboard in the first place- I always feel as if I'm going to drop it on my head or foot (ouch ouch ouch). 

Before I tell you the recipe, I just want to say thank you to Sam (and thus The Scrivener Collider) for mentioning Honey Never Spoils the other day- I'm sure that's where many of you nice folks currently reading this came from. Thank you, and I hope you like the recipes.

Pasta time!

January 08, 2010

Parsley



Just a little sneak peak at the main ingredient in lunch today.

More later, because my boyfriend is looking at his watch, and I don't want to make us late to the movie theater.

January 07, 2010

Flour Substitution

OK, so after my impulsive whole-wheat-for-white flour substitution yielded super-dense bread, I poked around online a bit to find out how I could have gotten better results (besides the obvious solution of just not messing with my gram's recipe.) Here's some of what I learned:

January 06, 2010

(Whole Wheat) Bread



My gram baked a lot of bread. There was always home baked bread in her house. Now, any of you who knew her are probably scratching your head and wondering what the heck I'm talking about.

As far as I saw, she never baked typical bread, the kind you slice and use to make sandwiches and toast to sop up runny eggs. The type of bread she did always have around were quick breads, specifically zucchini bread. I always think of them more as cakes in a sneaky disguise to make you think that they aren't really that full of sugar and calories-- How could banana bread or zucchini bread be anything less than a healthy snack?

Anyway, this is not a quick bread. I promise, I'll make her zucchini bread at some other point, because it is the best gosh darn zucchini bread ever made by anyone ever, but right now I am going to make some plain ol' bread.

Making my own bread scares me much in the same way that making my own candy scared me (until I bought a candy thermometer and realized it wasn't nearly as hard as I had thought.) The bread that I made is currently in the oven baking away, so hopefully I'll decide after this that it also is No Big Deal.

(Ok, an update on the bread, after it has come out of the oven: This was not a hard thing to do, just time consuming, and I will definitely do some things differently next time I make bread. Any less than satisfactory aspects of the bread are very blatantly my fault.)

I think part of what made me shy away from baking bread is my moms bread maker. It was one of those terrible machines that turned out OK "loaves" of bread. I put "loaves" in quotes because they were more of a cylinder, and that just won't do!

The other reason I haven't made bread is yeast. Something about those weird little packets has always worried me. What if it doesn't rise? What if it DOES rise, but it rises too much and suddenly I'm running out of my kitchen like Steve McQueen in the blob? These are serious concerns.

Potential B-horror movie outcomes aside, I bit the bullet, bought some yeast, and decided to make some bread. I had to dig around in the boxes to find a non-quick bread recipe, and almost gave up hope, except that I was sure I had seen a yeast bread recipe at some point during my poking around the boxes. Literally the last 10 unchecked cards in the box contained the bread recipes. Hooray!

The recipe and potential fallout after the jump!
 
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Honey Never Spoils by Temma Hankin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.