Thursday, December 18, 2008

cookies and tassies

I really need to go and purchase a chest freezer so I can start making Christmas goodies earlier in the season and freeze them. Instead, I find myself going home from work every night and baking until I am exhausted. I still have some cookies to finish and one little handmade item for my friend to make tonight.

Shall we take a look at the items I have baked already?

These are chewy chocolate gingerbread cookies. So, one way to describe these cookies is really delicious. Another would be pain-in-the-neck! I don't know if it was the fact that my oven decided to despise me and run very hot burning 2 dozen of these cookies in 4 minutes or if it was making the dough but they were just troublesome. Troublesome but very tasty. Worth it all. The recipe is from Martha Stewart and can be found here.

Ok, so much simpler to make and also very tasty are these lovely to look at jam thumprint cookies. Just a basic shortbread with raspberry preserves. Only, I did not have seedless raspberry preserves so I have to strain all the seeds out. Once again, these cookies are worth the trouble. Totally.

My mom introduced me to these pecan toffee tassies last year at Thanksgiving and I was instantly hooked. The recipe is from Paul Dean, who is always a wizard when it comes to baking. They are like mini pecan pies. The recipe calls for a 10 ounce bag of almond brickle chips. I live in the middle of nowhere and sometimes have trouble finding these. Right now at the grocery store in the baking ailse there are toffee pieces that are Heath bar so they are basically brickle with chocolate. I used these this year and they are still amazing. Just amazing.

Even without a big freezer I have amassed a stockpile of cookies and tassies this week. I also made rocky road fudge which is one of the very best inventions ever. I suppose it is for the best that I don't have a freezer, since this way the cookies are all fresh and tasty.

Monday, December 15, 2008

hugs to you!

Big hugs to the person who first thought to make a brownie sundae! These things are so amazingly fabulous. I really didn't need to eat it but I did anyway. I used Tyler Florence's brownie recipe. I did not include the walnuts because my hubs hates them. I thought about using pecans instead but decided to go nut free for these brownies. The brownies took longer to cook that Tyler's recipe states as many people detailed in the comments on I love the user comments feature on cooking websites and blogs! It is usually a good heads up to know that something takes longer or is very, very sweet. There is always one loan voice crying foul against the crowds but I think if 55 cooks agree it is too sweet that one guy saying it's bitter is just trying to cause trouble. Ah, but such is life, no?

So, I am wicked busy and burning the midnight oil to get some last minute items made for my mom and sister. I need to get these items in the mail by Wednesday or pay through the nose for shipping which I do not want to do!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

making dinner with my biggest fan

I don't know why, but from the moment I pulled the turkey bones from the freezer to the moment I finished this turkey noodle pot pie, Pebbles was right under foot. I normally have a lot of K-9 company in my kitchen but even more so on Sunday afternoon! Every time I turned around, there was Pebbles. She wasn't just underfoot, she was intently watching my every move in the kitchen. If I moved in such a way as to block her view, she would lean over to get a better view of carrots being chopped or (her favorite) when I removed all the meat from the boiled turkey bones. I hesitate to say carcass but that is what it was. Carcass just sounds so... terrible.

I can't really blame her. This was a really good dish. Turkey pot pie really but with noodle style dumplings (Anne's brand as pictured) added instead of potatoes. Woof, this was good. These are the times when I cannot imagine not having the dogs nor can I remember how lonely I must have been without a small, tri-colored, sous chef in the kitchen.

I am now ready to have beef for Christmas. Turkey is so cheap; it's hard to pass it up but I don't want turkey again. I want a traditional English Christmas dinner this year with Yorkshire pudding and rib roast! Hold the brussel sprouts... I can just never get into them.

I did reward Pebs for her vigilance and excellent supervisory skills by putting a spoonful of the filling into her and Huck's dinner bowls along with their kibble. Spoiled rotten crazy beagles.

Monday, December 8, 2008

close to being my favorite

I really don't have a favorite anything, you know? I don't have a favorite ice cream flavor, pair of shoes, or tv show. I usually like a thing or not but of the things I like or dislike, I do not rate them beyond that... usually, I said. There are exceptions, obviously,to everything in life. Pink might be my favorite color, Diet Coke my drink of choice and I am pretty sure that beagles are the best dogs in the world.

Having said all that, Scrooged, starring Bill Murray just might be my favorite Christmas movie. I am as shocked by this as anyone else!! I would think my favorite Christmas movie would be something much more traditional and romantic but Scrooged really has it all!

I am looking forward to curling up with my husband and the beagles with a nice cup of homemade hot cocoa and really snuggling in to watch it this coming weekend. Here is the trailer, courtesy of youtube. I am now pondering what life was like before youtube but I'll save those musings for a different day.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

the secret...

to writing good Christmas cards is having really good, homemade hot cocoa or hot chocolate, depending on what you like to call it. Don't forget the marshmallows! Oh, or whipped cream would be good on there, too. With some sprinkles or a candy cane. Yummy!

The most fabulous hot cocoa in the world

1 1/2 cups of dry, instant milk powder
1 cup of confectioners sugar (or Splenda for a more calorie conscience hot cocoa)
3/4 a cup of cocoa powder
3/4 a cup of white chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon of salt

Whirl all this together in a food processor until the chips are ground finely. I mix about 1/3 a cup of this mix with 1 cup of hot water or even milk for an extra rich treat!

Monday, December 1, 2008

black eyed pea and turkey cassoulet

Last night, when I was making dinner, I was thinking about my former life as a chef. I sometimes miss the work but I never actually miss the job. I fear that perhaps that only makes sense to me.

There is a certain honestly that is found in any sort of hands-on labor that I enjoy immensely. I actually like cleaning my house (when I feel well) and I think that it is the fact that the work is so evident. There is really no subjectivity about it at all -- a thing is dirty, it needs to be cleaned and it's just me and the dirt, you know? No body pushes me around. I either do it or I don't. I feel much the same about cooking. So, I miss cooking professionally but I do not miss being a chef. True, I can cook at home but I lack the full arsenal of truffle oil and beef tenderloin that I had as a professional. My creativity at home is only limited by my grocery budget and that seems to be getting ever tighter!

I was a pretty good chef. My real weakness was making new dishes. My cooking philosophy is truly, there is nothing new under the sun. If the goal was to recreate a classic, (preferably French) dish, I could usually pull that off flawlessly and with little effort. Where I always got tripped up was making things that were called a classical dish name but was not that dish. Like... Osso Bucco made with something other than veal shank like lamb or even chicken! I just never really "got it" when it came to that type of cooking.

So, last night when I made this dish and called it cassoulet, I was feeling a little challenged. The little French chef that lives in my head was screaming (in a heavy, French accent of course), "Cassoulet is made with white beans, duck, pork, and sausage, not black eye peas and turkey!" I made it anyway. It was wonderful. Rich, savory, smoky, and lovely. Sigh.

As usual, I cannot take credit for thinking this up all on my own. Cooking Light ran a story on Reveillon - a 19th century Christmas-meal tradition among French Creoles that is still around in New Orleans. Part of the menu was a duck and black eyed pea cassoulet. I did not use this recipe, really just the inspiration of the black eyed peas standing in for the white beans.

Here is my recipe-

Turkey and black eyed pea cassoulet

4 thick slices of bacon, cut into small pieces
1 pound of smoked sausage, cut in half and then sliced
1 medium onion, diced
4 stalks of celery, diced
3 medium carrots, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
4 cups of low sodium chicken broth
32 ounces of frozen black eyed peas
2 teaspoons of dried thyme
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley
2 cups of shredded left over Thanksgiving turkey meat
1 cup of bread crumbs
3 tablespoons of olive oil

In a dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until it is crispy. Remove the bacon reserving all of the rendered bacon drippings. Add the sausage and cook, stirring often until browned. Remove the sausage again reserving the drippings. Add the carrots, onions, celery, garlic, salt, thyme and 1 tablespoon of the parsley. Cook this, stirring often until it is all tender - about 10 minutes. It should smell really good in your kitchen now!! Add the broth and peas. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes or until the peas are tender and the mixture is quit thick. Using a potato masher or fork, mash some of the peas. Add the sausage and turkey, stirring gently. Bring this to a simmer and cook for another 15 minutes or until the turkey is warmed through and the mixture is really thick. Top with the bread crumbs, the remaining parsley and then drizzle with the olive oil. Place uncovered under a preheated broiler to brown the bread crumbs. Once it is browned, top with the bacon pieces. Let this stand for about 5 minutes and then serve. Serve with a citrus dressed salad, rice with a toasted pecans and bread. I served mine with biscuits since we did not have any good bread, which was really good, too.