Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mama's Broccoli Salad

A few days ago, I told my husband, after all the sugar, butter, and chocolate of my cookie baking marathon, I had strong cravings for vegetables.  The next day, I hit the produce department heavily. I bought sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, artichokes, broccoli, green beans, red new potatoes, three kinds of onions, carrots, celery, spaghetti squash, and butternut squash. I also bought my bag of dried blackeye peas for New Year's, but held off on the collard greens until closer to time.   

At the same time, I had been thinking about Melynda's Culinary Smackdown, for which the December ingredient is raisins. Melynda asked me to submit my favorite raisin recipe. First, I had to decide what my favorite raisin recipe is.  Ultimately, I decided it is Rice Pudding, but after the aforementioned baking, I could not even think about making anything sweet.

That is when I came up with the idea of making my Mother's Broccoli Salad. I don't know where she got the recipe, and there are many similar recipes out there, but this is how we make it. Plunging the broccoli into boiling, salted water for 60 seconds only, takes the raw broccoli taste away and turns it a vibrant green color, without actually cooking it.

Mama's Broccoli Salad
1 head fresh broccoli, cut into bite size pieces
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 cup toasted pecans
10 slices bacon

Cut bacon into bite size pieces, and cook until crisp.  Drain on paper towels and set aside.

Put broccoli into a pot of boiling, salted water for 60 seconds only. (The water will not even come back to a boil).  Pour broccoli into a colander and immediately rinse with plenty of cold water.  Place on clean kitchen towels to dry. 

Toss together, in a salad bowl, the broccoli, onions, and raisins.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the honey, mayonnaise, and vinegar. Pour over the broccoli mixture and stir well to coat. Refrigerate for an hour or more.

Before serving, sprinkle salad with pecans and crisp bacon. 

Carrot & Raisin Salad

Continuing with my theme of wanting to eat nothing but vegetables, and still thinking about Melynda's Culinary Smackdown, not to mention my little carrot fetish, I made a carrot and raisin salad.

The salad is simply dressed with extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon, where a lot of recipes call for mayonnaise and other creamy ingredients. Use the best quality of olive oil you can and know that fresh lemon really brightens the taste of the salad and balances the sweetness of both the carrots and the raisins.

The salad can be eaten right away, but I like it best the next day when the raisins have gotten really plump and juicy.

Carrot & Raisin Salad
1 pound carrots, finely and freshly shredded
1/2 cup raisins
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. lemon zest
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Toss together the finely shredded carrots and the raisins. Sprinkle with the lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice, pour over the carrot mixture and stir well to coat. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Pizza

While I was baking so much for Christmas, I was also cooking meals for us. One night, when Alice and the baby were visiting, I made pizza. Because I know Alice loves green olives on her pizza and is also quite fond of sausage, I decided to build a pizza around those ingredients.  I called it Christmas pizza because of the colors.

I have made the crust recipe several times. It is quite easy, turns out great every time, and most importantly, tastes delicious.  The crust is also versatile. I press mine into a lightly oiled 12-inch cast iron skillet, but any deep dish oven proof casserole or pan would work just fine. Or you can roll or toss it to make a thinner crust. 

This combination of ingredients turned out to be quite tasty. In fact, Alice swooned and said it was the best pizza she'd ever had. I considered that a very fine compliment. 

Christmas Pizza
1 pound bulk sausage
1 medium onion, very thinly sliced
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, freshly shredded
1 (15 oz.) can fire roasted tomatoes, drained
1 cup (approx.) pimiento stuffed green olives, sliced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Prepare crust and place into pan of your choice. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Crumble sausage into a skillet; cook and stir until evenly browned. Remove sausage to paper towels to drain.

Sprinkle the sausage evenly over and press into the crust. Scatter sliced onions over the sausage. Spread the mozzarella cheese over the onions, then top with the drained fire roasted tomatoes. Top with the sliced olives and finally, sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. 

Bake to 25 to 35 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lime Meltaways

I love citrus at Christmas time.  When I was a girl, I always got tangerines in my Christmas stocking. The aroma of an orange being peeled can really brighten spirits on a cold and dreary winter day. Did you ever cut a hole in an orange, then insert a soft peppermint stick to suck the juice through?

I have already made a couple of orange cookies and decided to use lime for an additional citrus note. This is a dainty cookie which really does melt in your mouth. It is quite tangy and was a new recipe for me this year.

Lime Meltaways
(A Martha Stewart recipe)
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp.) butter, room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
Grated zest of 2 limes
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 3/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt

Cream butter and 1/3 cup sugar, with an electric mixer, until fluffy. Add lime zest, lime juice, and vanilla; beat until fluffy.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, and salt. Add to butter mixture, and beat on low speed until combined.

Divide dough in half and roll each half, in plastic wrap, into 1 1/4 inch-diameter logs. Chill at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Place remaining 2/3 cup sugar in a plastic bag. Remove plastic from logs and slice into 1/8 inch rounds. Place on baking sheets, spaced 1 inch apart.

Bake cookies until barely golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to  a wire rack to cool slightly, 8 to 10 minutes. While still warm, place cookies in the sugar filled bag and toss to coat. Return to wire racks to let the cookies cool completely.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Party Mix

Woohoo! Party Mix. This one is for me. I love this stuff. I can't stop eating it once I get started. I could easily eat it for three meals a day. All the cookies and sweets I'm making? I don't eat them. I am making them as gifts for the sweet-toothed people I love. I taste everything, but I am not tempted, at all, to indulge. Bring out the savories and I'm in trouble. 

I remember my Mother making this when I was  girl. The aroma was dizzyingly delicious. She was actually making it for the "grown-ups", but I did get to sample some.  Mama baked the mix, stirring every few minutes, which is what smelled so divine, wafting through the kitchen.

A super easy version of the snack mix can be made in the microwave. 

Party Mix
3 cups corn chex
3 cups rice chex
3 cups wheat chex
1 cup mixed nuts
2 cups cheese crackers
1 stick butter
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. each: sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder

Mix cereals, nuts, and crackers in a large microwave safe bowl.

In a small bowl, melt butter in microwave, uncovered for 30 seconds or until melted. Stir in seasonings, then pour over cereal mixture, stirring until evenly coated.

Microwave, uncovered for 6 minutes, thoroughly stirring every 2 minutes.  Spread on paper towels to cool.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fantasy Fudge

This is a very old recipe and a Christmas favorite in my family.

My Mother's recipe called for "1 jar Hipolite".  I knew she used marshmallow creme, so I was surprised last summer, when I discovered, in that box from the garage, her original recipe. What the heck is Hipolite?  From what I have learned, the Hipolite family were in the candy making business and manufactured, among other things, marshmallows.  So Hipolite was a brand of marshmallow creme.

I use the recipe on the back of the marshmallow creme jar.  It couldn't be easier.  The recipe calls for one 12 ounce package of semi-sweet chocolate chips.  I had about a cup of bittersweet chocolate chips leftover from another recipe and tossed those in as well.  Extra chocolate never hurt anybody. 

Fantasy Fudge
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 12-oz. package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 7-oz. jar marshmallow creme
1 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine sugar, butter, and milk in heavy 3 quart saucepan.  Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Continue boiling 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate until melted.  Add marshmallow creme, nuts, and vanilla and stir until well blended. Pour into a greased 13 x 9 inch baking dish.  Let cool and cut into 1 inch squares.

Mama's recipe written on the back of a party invitation

Monday, December 13, 2010


This is the first time I've ever made Snickerdoodles. In fact, it is the first time I have ever eaten one.  Although I've always thought the name very cute, I really didn't know what they were.

Some years ago, there was a local grocery store which gave out samples of Snickerdoodle coffee. Apparently, it was wildly popular, but it smelled horrible.  I always thought, if that's what a Snickerdoodle cookie smells like, I'll pass.

I recently discovered that Snickerdoodles are simply sugar cookies, which have been rolled in cinnamon sugar.  I imagined the buttery cookies tasting like cinnamon toast, which I love.  One thing that distinguishes them from a regular sugar cookie is that they are leavened (traditionally with cream of tartar), which makes a cookie crisp on the outside and soft and chewy inside.

I saw this recipe in the December 2010 issue of Southern Living. A choice is given for using the bottom of a glass to flatten the dough balls, or to bake without flattening for a "snowball look".  I made some of each and Pritchard Parker and I both liked the pillowy look and texture of the unflattened cookies best.

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
3 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon

Preheat over to 375 degrees. Beat butter at medium speed with and electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add 2 cups sugar, beating well.  Add eggs, milk, and vanilla, beating well.

Combine flour, baking powder, and 2 tsp. cinnamon; gradually add to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended.

Combine 3 Tbsp. sugar and 1 Tbsp. cinnamon in a small bowl.  Roll dough into 1 1/4 inch balls, roll in sugar mixture, and place on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Raspberry Almond Torte Cookies

I have been baking this cookie for over 20 years and everyone always loves it.  They are especially nice for people you love who have dietary restrictions. The cookies are sweetened with maple syrup only, so no refined sweeteners. There are no eggs or dairy so they are perfect for vegans. I use whole wheat pastry flour but alternate flours can easily be used to make them free of gluten. I use grapeseed oil to lend a buttery flavor but any oil of your choice would work  just  fine.

But I never advertise all those facts. I just present and serve the cookies as delicious, which they are.

Raspberry Almond Torte Cookies
3 cups raw almonds, ground in blender
3 cups rolled oats, ground in blender
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 cups grapeseed oil
1 1/2 cups maple syrup, preferably Grade B
1 tsp. vanilla
Raspberry jam or puree

Grind almonds in a blender into a coarse nut flour. Buzz oats into a coarse flour. Combine both flours with the whole wheat pastry flour along with the cinnamon.

Whip together the maple syrup, grapeseed oil, and vanilla, until creamy.

Add the wet to dry ingredients and mix until well coated.  Form into large walnut-sized balls and place on parchment lined baking sheet.  Press thumb gently in center to form a space for filling.  Fill each cookie with about 1/2 tsp. jam.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown, rotating trays half way through baking.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Shortbread

These cookies are the classic combination of chocolate and peanut butter. They look more elegant by dipping them on only half the cookie, and the optional dusting of sea salt looks like snow. 

The dough is very crumbly, so don't become discouraged (like I did) just keep using a piece of plastic wrap to help shape into a log.  Once the dough is thoroughly chilled, they slice like a dream.  I tried to form my dough into a square edged log but was only partially successful. Despite their oblique shape, I think they look very pretty.

And, the cookies are delicious. I love the touch of salt. I love the way biting into one of these feels on my teeth. They are neither crunchy, crispy, or soft--more of a silky sandiness without the grit. 

Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Shortbread
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
4 Tbsp. butter
Coarse salt for sprinkling (optional)

Beat together the butter and peanut butter, at medium speed of an electric mixer, until smooth. Gradually add sugar, beating well.  Stir in the vanilla.

Combine the flour and salt. Gradually add to the butter mixture, beating at low speed until blended.

Divide the dough in half and use plastic wrap to form each half into a log.  Refrigerate until very cold and firm, at least three hours, and best overnight.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Slice each log into 3/8 inch slices and place one inch apart on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake for 40 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. When nicely browned, remove cookies to cooling racks.

When the cookies are completely cool, melt chocolate and butter in a bowl over simmering water. Dip half of each cookie in the melted chocolate and place on a parchment lined tray. Sprinkle immediately with coarse salt, if desired. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What We ARE NOT Eating Wednesday--Tomato Aspic

Photo compliments

Once again, I am blogging with my friend, Melynda, for What We ARE NOT Eating Wednesday. If you want to join the fun, check with Melynda at her excellent blog, Mom's Sunday Cafe.  She is also hosting a Culinary Smackdown which you will probably want to participate in.

When I was a girl, my Mother and I, with Mama's best friend and her two daughters, would go shopping in downtown Columbus, Georgia. The highlight of our trips was having lunch at Morrison's Cafeteria. This was a time when the cafeteria was a very nice place, with plush carpet, white linens, proper silverware, crystal chandeliers, hushed voices.  Waiters, dressed in immaculate white jackets, would bring the food trays to the table and pour goblets of ice water from silver pitchers.  The food was scrumptious and I would always have the cherry pie.

Mama's friend always ordered the tomato aspic. I would be horrified when the waiter placed it on the table, shimmying with its blob of mayonnaise.  I couldn't watch her eat it.  Tomato aspic is a Southern "delicacy" I never acquired a taste for.  Ugh, tomato jello--with Mayo!  If you want to venture it, here are a few recipes.  Tried and true from the ladies of the Trinity Methodist Church in Opelika, Alabama (my home town). 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cowboy Cookies

These cookies are big!  Many of the cookies I bake are delicate, dainty even. But not these brutes. These are man-size cookies. Cookies for Santa. They beg for a glass of milk. 

These are sturdy oatmeal cookies that lend themselves to a multitude of add-ins. Here, I have used semi-sweet chocolate chips and toasted pecans. Coconut and macadamia nuts are good, raisins and walnuts are good, M&M's are fun. Add some cinnamon if you like.

Cowboy Cookies
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped, toasted pecans

Whisk together, in a medium bowl, the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Stir in the oats and set the mixture aside.

Beat together the butter and sugars, with an electric mixer, until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Add dry ingredients and beat until just blended. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans. Cover and chill the dough for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Form dough into balls, using about 1/4 cup dough for each. Place on greased baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Flatten each ball of dough with the palm of your hand, to a 3 1/2 inch round.  Bake 10 - 15 minutes or until cookies are golden brown around the edges and firm in the center.  Remove to racks for cooling.

Recipe makes 2 dozen 4-inch cookies.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Vanilla Butter Cookies

These cookies are somewhat reminiscent of the European butter cookies that come in tins and are so popular at Christmas.  Only better. 

They are homemade slice-and-bake cookies.  Use a piece of plastic wrap to help form them into logs. As you can see, I flattened my logs to make them more of an oval shape, but you could make them perfectly round. I used turbinado (raw) sugar for decorating, but any coarse sugar will work. You could flatten one log as I did and make the other round, then use two different decorating sugars for variation. 

Vanilla Butter Cookies
2 cups flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg white
1 tsp. water
Coarse sugar for decorating

Whisk together the flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium bowl.  With an electric mixer, beat butter until fluffy. Gradually beat in the granulated sugar and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients in three additions, mixing just until blended each time.  Gather the dough into a ball and divide in half.  Roll each half into a 9-inch log.  Wrap each log tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or up to three days.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and have oven racks in the top third and center positions of the oven.  Brush each log with a mixture of the egg white beaten with a little water.  Slice logs crosswise into 1/4 inch slices, roll each slice in coarse sugar, and place on parchment lined baking sheets about 1/2 inch apart.

Bake for 9 to 10 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking, just until the cookies turn golden brown at the edges.  Cool on pans for 1 minute, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What We are NOT EATING Wednesday-Escargots

I am blogging with my friend, Melynda, of Mom's Sunday Cafe again this week.  She started a new feature called What We Are NOT EATING Wednesday.  I joined her a couple of weeks ago, with a recipe from Gourmet Magazine's first cookbook.  (I missed last week because of the holiday.)

This week I am featuring a recipe from my 1969 Betty Crocker Cookbook--Escargots (Snails).  I am fully aware that this is considered a French delicacy, but my stomach seizes up at the thought of actually eating one of those critters I've seen sliming across the garden and gobbling the marigolds. 

What about you? Have you eaten them? I would love to hear some comments from those who have, as I have never known a single person who had indulged. And please don't tell me they taste like chicken.