Monday, December 28, 2009


Monday, December 14, 2009

The Art of Deconstruction

Although Supper Club was all about cookies, we were healthy in that we gathered and ate salads! Years past had been cookie gorging, but lessons learned via tummyaches led to the women deciding that eating salads and then sampling a few cookies afterwards with some egg nog was the best way to feel good after meeting and eating.

I decided to wing it and make a salad that I consider a deconstruction of hummus. Instead of blending all the ingredients together, I left the chick peas whole and added the seasonings to make a delicious salad that I could not stop eating.

I admit that the aroma of cumin made me miss being in his mother's kitchen, talking to her as she made the most amazing roti and chick peas and dal and saag. Her pantry smelled like my grandmother's, and she reminded me of my grandmother who was strong and tough on the exterior but warm and loving on the interior. I had hoped to learn cooking Indian dishes from her, but it seems that I am going to have to teach myself in the end.

Next month's supper club theme is citrus, and I am already thinking about what to make. So far my list includes Greek lemon potatoes, orange beef, and key lime cookies.

Amy's Deconstructed Hummus Salad
3 15.5 oz cans of chick peas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
1 small onion, finely diced
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and enjoy!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Candyland Peppermint Forest

I loved the game Candyland as a child, and last month I played the game with my nephew, Jack, for the first time together (he had his own rules, which was rather cute). My favorite spot on the board is the Peppermint Forest.

Right now, my apartment smells like one!

The second cookie I chose to make for supper club is Chocolate Peppermint Snaps, courtesy of a recipe by one of my favorite bloggers, The Cookbook Junkie.

I knew I would love this cookie the moment I smelled them baking in the oven. I may have to add these as a third cookie to bake on Christmas Day - I know my family would love them, especially my mom. She and I share a deep love for the combination of chocolate and peppermint flavors infused. I remember being very little during Christmas and baking peppermint brownies with her one holiday using peppermint patties. I still remember them, that is how good they were.

My mom has been a great source of love and comfort during the time. I came home to a card the other day she mailed me, and it meant so much. She did not need to tell me she was hurting, too, because she is the most empathetic person I know. I get my deep empathy from her. Most times it is a blessing, but sometimes, such as this, it can be a curse. I know she knows what I feel, and how deep the wound is.

I look forward to Christmas Day when she and I can forget our cares for a little while and enjoy some of these cookies together. They are a panacea, to say the least!

Chocolate-Peppermint Snaps
(Courtesty of The Cookbook Junkie and The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion)

1 ½ cups unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons peppermint extract or 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon peppermint oil, to taste (I used extract)
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1)Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2) Lightly grease two baking sheets (I used parchment)
3) In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars.
4) Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
5) Mix in the vanilla and peppermint extract.
6) Add the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt, beating to combine.
7) Stir in the chocolate chips.
8) Drop the dough by the tablespoonful onto the prepared baking sheets.
9) Bake the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes, until they’re slightly darker around the edges. 10) Remove them from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sugar, Pumpkin Spice, and Everything Nice

This weekend is the annual Supper Club Holiday Cookie Swap, and the first cookie in the mix I baked is a Pumpkin Cranberry cookie. I had been on the search for a pumpkin cookie since pumpkin is one of my favorite foods to eat around this time of year. I changed my cookie course from my two original choices - PB & J cookies and Chocolate Malt - and will make those for Christmas Day dessert.

I admit I am not fond of baking. There is something about the flour and sugar and spices getting all over my kitchen in crevices that I do not enjoy cleaning. It is also an exact science...once that batter is done, you cannot tweak it. Still, I enjoyed making these cookies, and my apartment smells so good that you should be very, very, very jealous.

I took a chance on this recipe since it was from Recipezaar and only had one review that said to add more salt (and I did). The batter was very sticky and I had trouble sizing it correctly in rounded tablespoonfuls onto the cookie sheets. The cookies came out cakey, which I liked, and the tartness of the cranberries added to each bite. I was happy to use my Penzey's cinnamon that I picked up recently.

I am so thankful to have the club meeting this weekend to keep my busy. I have another cookie to make and a salad to keep me busy today. Each week that gets closer to Christmas becomes harder, and I found out the other day an ex that I loved is engaged...adding fuel to the fire, or rather heat to the cookie sheet.

Pass the milk, because I am dunking my sorrows in cookie eating this weekend.

Pumpkin Cranberry Cookies (courtesy of Recipezaar)
Makes approximately 30 cookies)

1/2 cup butter (softened)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt (I used more - tripled and it still could have used a little more)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground clove

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
2) Cream together butter and sugars with handheld mixer
3) Beat in egg, pumpkin, and vanilla
4) Mix dry ingredients together and add to the wet ingredients and blend well
5) Stir in dried cranberries
6) Drop batter by rounded tablespoons onto greased cookie sheets (I used parchment paper)
7) Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown

Monday, December 7, 2009

Oignons avec Larmes

I cried twice while making this dish.

Once was due to the fresh onion I was chopping that began the tears, and the next was as I crumbled the sausage into the pot as I commenced the actual cooking of the risotto. What is a better dish to make when you need to keep busy and away from your thoughts than the laborious risotto? I would recommend making risotto to anyone feeling heartache. The preparation alone took over two hours and helped me focus on something else besides the pain, let alone the constant stirring that was required once I actually got to the step of preparing the rice. It was nice for a change for something else to be stirring besides my thoughts and emotions in heartbreak.

Although I would qualify risotto as typical tailgating food, the sausage in it made it qualify as a dish to have on a football Sunday. I spent a few evenings last week searching for a risotto that was rated highly as well as time consuming, and this fit the criteria perfectly. I would change very little about the recipe, but I would recommend using half sweet and half spicy sausage instead of all sweet (I had to add red pepper flakes in the end) and perhaps think about going healthier and use chicken sausage. The dish came out perfectly creamy and I served it with a red blend of cabernet, zinfandel, and merlot (I am a huge fan of blends) that was appropriately named Menage a Trois.

The threesome at my stove - me, the pot, and the spoon - did not escape tear free, but we did manage to pull it together in the end and enjoy.

Italian Sausage and Wild Mushroom Risotto (courtesy of Bon Appetit)


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound Italian sweet sausage, casings removed, crumbled into 1/2-inch pieces (I would use half spicy next time)
8 ounces portobello mushrooms, stemmed, dark gills scraped out, caps diced
10 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, diced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (I used dried)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano (I used dried)
1 1/2 cups Madeira (I used Sherry)

6 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups arborio rice or other medium-grain rice (about 13 ounces)
1 cup freshly grated Asiago cheese (I used parmesan)

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and sauté until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Add all mushrooms, thyme, and oregano and sauté until mushrooms are tender, about 10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup Madeira; boil until almost absorbed, about 1 minute. Set aside.

Bring stock to simmer in large saucepan; remove from heat and cover to keep hot. Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add rice; stir 2 minutes. Add remaining 1 cup Madeira; simmer until absorbed, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup hot stock; simmer until almost absorbed, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Continue to cook until rice is just tender and mixture is creamy, adding more stock by cupfuls, stirring often and allowing most stock to be absorbed before adding more, about 25 minutes. Stir in sausage mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving bowl. Pass cheese separately.