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.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Cook's Country Comfort!

Last year I started watching Cook's Country on PBS and fell in love with the show and recipes. I then received the cookbook as a gift last Christmas, and it is now by far in my top five favorite cookbooks ever. It came with a dvd collection of the episodes as well, and I admit that I can watch them over and over and never tire of Chris Kimball's food snob commentary!

Two months ago, Supper Club did a brunch theme and I made this recipe from the cookbook. It is a perfect bread to make in the wintertime. There are two variations in the cookbook, and this is the one I did. The cheese oozed out of the top of the bread (see above) as it came out of my oven, looking perfectly gooey and tasting even better!

Beer-Batter Cheese Bread (courtesy of The Cook's Country Cookbook)

1 cup shredded smoked gouda
8 slices of bacon, cooked until crisp and then crumbled
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/4 cup light bodied beer (I used Budweiser - worked perfectly)
4 tablespoons melted butter, plus 1 more tablespoon for brushing the top

-Preheat oven to 375 and place rack in the middle. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan.

- Combine the cheese, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Stir in the beer and melted butter and mix until well combined. Fold in the bacon. Pour into the loaf pan, spreading the batter evenly into the corners. Brush with the melted butter.

- Bake until deep golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean from the center (about 40-45 minutes). Rotate the pan halfway through the baking process. Cool on the pan for five minute and then turn it out onto a wire rack. Cool completely and then slice and enjoy! Once the bread is leftover after the first day, it is best to toast it!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Leftover Love

Still coping with a breakup less than two weeks old of a relationship almost two years old, I was not able to carry myself out of bed yesterday morning for Thanksgiving.

Rather, my family and loved ones did.

If it were not for their words of support and love, I physically could not have done it. I somehow managed to cook parmesan mashed potatoes and homemade cornbread and even found the strength to make the candied carrots he was supposed to make for the feast. Finishing the carrots felt like a kitchen accomplishment like no other I have ever had.

It is good to be here at home on a rainy, quiet day and finishing a lunch of Thanksgiving Dinner Pie. I concocted the idea in my head a few days ago of creating a pie that was a thick slice of Thanksgiving. I didn't want a gooey and runny consistency of a pot pie at all, nor did I want it to be chunky like one either. I wanted it as smooth as a cheesecake. The idea worked, and it is an absolutely delicious way to eat leftovers.

I took leftover mashed potatoes, turkey, and stuffing and gave them a few quick turns in a food processor. I did not add any liquids - that was key. I cut corn of a cob my sister grilled yesterday and lined the bottom of a store-bought pie crust with that. I then patted and mashed in the filling. I took leftover cornbread and crumbled it, then added some melted butter so the top of pie would be golden. I popped it in the oven at 350 degrees for about a half hour. I served it with cranberry sauce on the side, drizzled it with hot gravy, and had a small glass of a 2007 Bloom riesling.

This could have many variations, such as using green beans to layer the bottom and instead of corn bread on top, using caramelized onions. I think you could used mashed sweet potato as a substitute so long as its more savory than sweet (i.e. no marshmallows in the mix). I would love to hear how other people would do this.

Thanksgiving Dinner Pie is definitely great comfort food, and I am thankful for the comfort I received this Thanksgiving from my loved ones on a difficult day that I am thankful I made it through.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The One Upside of Breaking Up: CHOCOLATE

The only upside to a breakup is you can eat tons of chocolate and no one can say a word to you as you shove M&M's in your mouth at your desk at work or pile up the bags of York Peppermint Patties at the checkout counter at Waldbaum's. If its over, than I am bringing the cocoa with me and I am making sure I get full custody of the Cadbury.

If I had to choose chocolate in my favorite form, it would be cake. Ironically, not one of those chocolate lava cakes with gooey goodness oozing out of the center. The best chocolate cake is...well...the classic back of the box Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake. I made it for the first time two summers ago (see photo above) for my best friend's birthday and since then have also put it into cupcake and layer cake form. This was a bundt pan and then I filled the center with and decorated the top with chocolate kisses.

I think this is a good time of year to share this recipe since I can see it utilized in various formats, from dessert at Christmas dinner to cupcakes with vanilla frosting and crushed peppermint on top to a nice layer three layer cake with mocha frosting. If you go the classic route, double the frosting recipe. Two cups will not be enough, but four is enough for the cake and a nice spoonful or two to lick.

Of course, if you had a recent breakup, I would triple the frosting recipe so you have a nice cup to eat.

Hershey's Chocolate Cake and Frosting (courtesy of every box of Hershey's cocoa powder on every supermarket shelf)
  • 2 cu ps sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with "PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE FROSTING. 10 to 12 servings.

ONE-PAN CAKE: Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.

THREE LAYER CAKE: Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.

BUNDT CAKE: Grease and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost.

CUPCAKES: Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

It's The Great Pumpkin

I love football, so cooking on football Sundays in the fall is always an event I am excited about. It has been a long time since I have watched football alone and cooked for myself - I usually tailgated with the ex and tried to plan elaborate meals days in advance. While today was not an easy day watching the Giants game alone, I refused to give up my tailgating tradition. It wasn't elaborate, but I did it and that is all that matters.

The pumpkin trenette I purchased from Williams Sonoma this past week was the dish of choice. Unfortunately, the fiore pasta from Italy is not available to order on the website. If you do not have a store by you, try and order it online here. Its not the same, but I am sure it is good enough as a substitute unless you enjoy making your own fresh pasta (in which case there are plenty of recipes out there).

So I cooked it according to directions and made a brown butter and sage sauce. I brown unsalted butter and added a pinch of freshly chopped sage and let it brown for five minutes. I then grated some parmasean cheese, poured myself a nice hefeweizen, and had some good comfort food. At least the Giants did not break my heart and won the game today.

As for dessert...that will be a slice of bakery made pumpkin pie.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Jack & Eating Beanstalks

My nephew, Jack, is four years old. I love him to bits, and I also love photos of him with food. Here is a picture I took of my Supernephew eating a good ol' New York bagel!