Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Joyful Macaroons

I SHALL CONCLUDE 2013, MY FIFTH YEAR of blogging with one last cookie. I made this one especially for my husband, Pritchard Parker, who also happens to be my best friend, lover, caretaker, accountant, landscaper, handy-man, bed warmer, chauffeur, entertainer, mechanic, singer, protector, shopper extraordinaire, recipe taster, and all around great guy.  And he's good looking too.

Joyful Macaroons
5 1/2 cups flaked coconut
2/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp. vanilla
whole almonds
melted chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line sheet pans with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the coconut, flour, and salt. Add the condensed milk and vanilla. Mix well (using your hands is messiest and easiest). Drop by heaping tablespoonful onto parchment. Top each macaroon with a whole almond.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the pans and pressing down the almonds half way through baking. Let the macaroons cool on pans for a couple of minutes, then place on cooling racks.

When completely cooled, dip into melted chocolate.

A Fondly Compiled Compendium of Black-Eyed Pea Recipes

Black-Eyed Pea Curry

Baked Sweet Potato with Black-Eyed Peas
Texas Caviar
Hoppin' John

Crock Pot Black-Eyed Pea Soup

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Clementine Ambrosia

IF YOU HAVE THE WHEREWITHAL, as my Grandmother did, to wrestle and conquer a fresh coconut, I highly recommend you do it. There is really nothing like the taste of fresh, right out of the shell, coconut. I have done it in the past, but I'm afraid I have become a wimp and now used frozen coconut, which is a fine substitute. 

My Grandmother always made a big bowl of Ambrosia for Christmas. The aroma of the oranges and the sight of the sunshiny colors bathed in a sweetened creamy sauce always provides for me fond memories of her. 

Southerners love something sweet right along with dinner which is why you see so many sweet salads in Southern cuisine. Such is the case with Ambrosia which tastes marvelous with your Christmas ham.  It can also be served for dessert along with a slice of pound cake, or for a snack with a cup of hot coffee. Dare I say this salad can be served over ice cream? 

Clementine Ambrosia
8 - 10 Clementine tangerines, peeled, sectioned, and sections halved
2 cups fresh chopped pineapple
2 cups fresh (or frozen, thawed) coconut
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 cup sour cream

Mix all ingredients and chill overnight. The acidity of the fruit and sour cream melt the marshmallows forming a sweet, creamy sauce. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Chocolate Dipped Ribbons and Wands

TURNS OUT, THIS WAS my favorite Christmas cookie. Especially the ones dipped in crushed peppermint. I used the same recipe as the Chocolate Pillows I made, but finished them differently

For the wands, I fitted the cookie press with the star tip and extruded the dough slowly making a fat, wiggly line. I then scored the lines and baked as usual. After the cookies cooled, I dipped them into melted chocolate and sprinkled with chopped, salted, roasted peanuts. So pretty and so tasty. 
The Ribbons were made by fitting the cookie press with the stencil that makes a continuous ridged line of dough. Score the cookies before baking. After cooling, I dipped them into the same melted chocolate as the wands but this time I sprinkled them with crushed peppermint candy.

The taste is reminiscent of Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Toffee Bars

There is no telling how many batches of these cookies I have made over the years. It is one that I bake at times other than Christmas and it is always a crowd pleaser.

A bar cookie, consisting of brown sugar shortbread covered with chocolate and nuts, this recipe is very flexible and simple to bake.  I have made them thicker and thinner, softer and crunchier. I have used milk chocolate and pecans (my personal favorite), white chocolate and sliced almonds, semi-sweet chocolate and walnuts, dark chocolate and pistachios. All combinations seem to work swimmingly.

Toffee Bars
(From Betty Crocker)
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
4 oz. chocolate chips or bars broken into pieces
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 13x9 inch baking pan.

Mix thoroughly butter, sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla. Blend in flour and salt. Press evenly in bottom of prepared pan.

Bake 25 - 30 minutes or until very light brown. Crust will be soft. Remove from oven; immediately place chocolate chips or pieces on crust. Ass soon as the chocolate is soft, spread evenly. Sprinkle with nuts. While warm, cut into bars.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pretzel Kisses

 Last Christmas, our niece gave us a dishful of these dandy tidbits. I'm not exaggerating when I say, we could not stop eating them. Every time either of us passed by that little bowl, our hand went out. Finally, after about three days, they were all gone.

These morsels are super simple to make and deceptively delicious to snack on--crunchy, salty, sweet, and chocolatey and a great project to make with the children. The most time consuming part of it is unwrapping all the candies. 

Pretzel Kisses
Small pretzels
Hershey's Kisses
M&M candies
Toasted pecans, if desired

Preheat oven to 175 degrees. Arrange pretzels on a sheet pan and top each with a kiss. Place into the oven for 5 minutes. The candies will not look melted but they will be soft. Place an M&M, pecan, or another pretzel on top of each and press lightly.  Chill until the chocolate has hardened. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Chocolate Pillows

 These buttery vanilla cookies have a secret center. They were made with a cookie press and I loved making them!

A continuous line of cookie dough is extruded then a piece of chocolate candy is placed along the line of dough. That line of dough is topped with another and the pieces are sealed together and scored to make individual cookies.

The recipe was new to me and since I made them I have thought of all the variations that could be made using this method. Peanut butter dough could be used and filled with jam. Chocolate dough filled with a cherry. Spice dough filled with dried fruit. Cheddar dough filled with a pecan to make cheese straws.

They could also be decorated with sprinkles, jimmies, or icing. I'll be baking more of these.

Chocolate Pillows
1 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
4 Hershey bars, broken along score lines

Cream butter and sugar until smooth. Add egg and vanilla and beat well. Stir in flour and salt until combined.

Fill cookie press and fit with the ribbon stencil. Press a continuous line of dough onto an ungreased baking sheet with the ridged side down.  Place a piece of the candy along the strip of dough spacing them about 1/4 apart. Press another strip of cookie dough on top of the candies, this time with the ridges up.

Press the two strips together gently.  Score the dough between the chocolate pieces and trim the ends to make them straight. (The trimmed off piece of dough can be used again).

Bake at 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. Cut into pieces along each scored line. Let them cool on the pans for a couple of minutes them remove to racks to cool completely.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Peanut Butter Spritz Cookies

If you want to make large quantities of shaped cookies for your cookie trays, the cookie press can be your friend. I received one as a gift and have really been enjoying using it. So much faster than rolling and cutting out and the cookies are really pretty.

This recipe makes a lot of cookies--16 dozen! And they are quite good; everything you want your homemade peanut butter cookies to be.

I decorated them a few different ways. On some I placed an M & M in the center, others a dark chocolate chip, and on some I dabbed a small spoonful of raspberry jam. Also, as an experiment, I attached a star tip to the press and made rosettes and ribbons.

Peanut Butter Spritz Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

Place butter and peanut butter in large mixing bowl and cream thoroughly on medium-high speed. Add sugars gradually. Beat until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla; mix well using medium speed.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Add to peanut butter mixture in 3 additions, mixing well after each.

Assemble and fill cookie press with dough following the directions for your press. Select desired disc and press cookies onto ungreased baking sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8 - 12 minutes or until golden around the edges.

Have one of each, I'll be right back. I am off to the kitchen to bake Gingerbread Spritz. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Big Crispy Chocolate Dipped Oatmeal Cookies

I like to start my Christmas cookie baking each year with a big, sturdy, bold cookie for my husband. I don't want him to feel trepidation about digging into as many freshly baked cookies as he wants to eat.

Knowing him as I do, I know he would hesitate about seeing some prissy and fragile looking little dainties that appeared like they were difficult to make. I'm not saying he doesn't enjoy and savor those cookies--oh he does. I just like to start the season with a no holds barred eat with enthusiasm and vigor model.

I am not one to bake cookies and forbid anyone from eating them--saving them for gifts, planning to serve them another day. I plan for those things and plenty to "sample" all along the way. Can you imagine coming into someones home, seeing cookies and smelling cookies, and not being able to EAT any cookies? Or someone grudgingly saying, "Well OK, but just one". 

Nope, not happening in Rocquie's kitchen. When I bake cookies, we eat cookies.

This is a very flexible oatmeal cookie recipe. I added dried cranberries and chopped roasted walnuts, then dipped them in melted dark chocolate. And I made them big. You can make them smaller and thinner if desired. You can add any nuts, fruit, or chocolate chips you wish, or you can leave them plain. Bake them a little longer if you like them more crisp. Add spices if you like. I've done all those things very successfully with this basic recipe.

Crisp Oatmeal Cookies
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup milk
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup dried fruit

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cream butter, shortening, and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and eggs, then beat until the mixture is light.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. Stir in the oats until combined well.

Add one third of the oat mixture to the butter mixture, then add the milk. Blend well then stir in the remaining dry ingredients. Fold in nuts and fruit.

Drop dough by teaspoon for smaller cookies or tablespoons for larger cookies. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes, depending on size, until the edges and tops are beginning to brown.

Let cool for a couple of minutes on the pan, then place on racks to cool completely.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Broiled Ruby Grapefruit

I am not a breakfast eater and never have been. I am not hungry and I don't like the fuss involved. I like to awaken slowly and quietly, sip my cup of tea, and think my thoughts. Morning, when undisturbed, is when I remember my dreams.

A beautiful Ruby Grapefruit on a cold and dreary winter morning is a breakfast I can embrace.  I enjoy the preheating of the oven and the brewing of the tea as the chilly kitchen warms for the day. As I slice the grapefruit sections free from the membrane and sprinkle brown sugar atop, the cheery citrus aroma is gently released, with a sweet, tart, juicy promise. 

A fantastic way to ease into your day.

Broiled Ruby Grapefruit
1 grapefruit
2 - 3 teaspoons brown sugar (to taste)

Preheat your oven's broiler and position a rack so the cut grapefruit will be about 3 inches from the heat source.

Cut the grapefruit in half horizontally. Cut each section free from the membranes. Sprinkle with desired amount of brown sugar.

Place the grapefruit halves on a small baking pan and broil for about 10 minutes, until the sugar is melted and the edges are beginning to brown.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pound Cake French Toast Muffins (with Chocolate)

 My 4-year-old Sous Chef had spent the night and when I asked her what she wanted for breakfast, she declared, "French Toast"!

I knew I had some leftover pound cake from one of my cake classes,  denuded of its frosting, hiding in the back of the refrigerator for just such an occasion.

Little Sousie is getting quite good at her cooking skills. She stands on a chair at the kitchen counter. She cracked 6 eggs and only got one bit of shell in egg #1. I gave her a cutting board and a butter knife to cube a few pieces of pound cake and she did a fine job while I worked on another board making the remainder of the cake cubes.

I measured the milk (carton is still heavy for her) and she poured from the cup into the bowl with the eggs. Then she whisked to blend. I handed her a half bag of chocolate chips and suggested she add as many as she wanted. She made herself a little pile of chips on her cutting board to sample and dumped the rest into the egg mixture.

I poured in a little vanilla and asked (silly question) if she wanted cinnamon. She loves sim-a-non! Again, I let her decide how much to add.  Lastly, we tossed in our cake cubes and stirred to coat them. A couple of little hands might have been used.

After the muffins came out of the oven, and we waited a few minutes for cooling,  she enjoyed sprinkling them beautifully with powdered sugar. 

Just in case her mother is reading this, I want it to be known that we drank a smoothie made with fresh pineapple, banana, pear, yogurt, and almond milk while we waited for the muffins to bake.

Pound Cake French Toast Muffins (with Chocolate)
8 - 10 cups cubed pound cake or dense bread
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
Chocolate chips, to taste
Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease 12 cup muffin pan.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Mix in the vanilla, cinnamon, and cake cubes. Divide into the muffin cups.

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes until set and golden brown. Let cool in pans for about 10 minutes. Remove muffins to a cooling rack and dust with powdered sugar.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Fresh Fig Compote

When I was a small girl, my parents bought their first home, a fixer-upper. It was a rather wild place and they set about taming it. The yard was overgrown and included a couple of abandoned "out buildings".  I believe the one I adopted as a playhouse had been a storage shed, with two rooms and a primitive wooden latch which spun on a nail to keep the door closed.  There was also an old hen house; that one was unmistakable.

While workers came to do extensive work on the actual house, I set about exploring the very large yard which was on a dead-end street right next to some woods. As carpenters dropped scraps of lumber, I confiscated them. For my playhouse, I made old wire spools into tables. I made "seats", "lamps" and more. With an old straw broom from the shed, I swept pine straw into a perimeter for my yard.

Nearby was a great fig bush laden with delightful, ripe, purple, succulent figs. I would sit underneath the shade of  that bush, in the hot Alabama afternoon sun, and help myself to fig after fig. I can remember my fascination as I tore open those figs with my bare hands, to reveal the peculiar pink insides which were oozing with nectar. I would eat the soft flesh, toss the rind onto the ground and pull another. And another. 

I was so sad when Mama had those unsightly old sheds torn down. I was heartbroken when she cut down my fig bush. I cried and I begged but she would have nothing of it. That old abominable thing did not fit into her proper landscaping plans.

In fairness, my parents really did turn that old house and property into a show place. But I will never forget the precious hours of innocent happiness in my playhouse shack and the aroma and taste of those tree-ripened figs still warm from the sun.

Fresh Fig Compote
8 ounces fresh figs
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
3 Tbsp. honey
Pinch of salt

Cut stems off the figs and cut into quarters.

Combine butter, brown sugar, and honey in a medium cast iron skillet. Cook, over high heat, stirring until syrup begins to bubble. Add figs and stir to coat well.

Place the plan under the broiler for about 5 minutes to caramelize the figs.

Delicious served over oatmeal, French toast, pancakes, toasted pound cake, or ice cream.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Pound Cake with Gingerbread Swiss Meringue Buttercream Rosettes

I took a cake decorating class at our local community college. Nineteen people started the class and ten finished it. People gave differing reasons for being there; some wanted to earn money making cakes. The instructor is a professional baker who specializes in wedding cakes. Myself, I was looking for a social outlet, creativity, and fun.

Some of my former coworkers would probably find the concept of me, Rocquie, taking a cake decorating class confounding. You see, I have always shunned those supermarket birthday cakes everyone at the office loves. You know the ones, the garish, brightly colored concoctions made completely of sugar, and artificial flavorings and colors that taste horrible. And let me not get started on the grease factor. (I have cleaned the break room after those birthday parties--it takes much soap and hot water to clean that grease frosting off the cake knife). 

I have always wanted to say that.

Now I have the tools and skills to pipe. I can pipe out those beautiful deviled eggs, that basket weave of mashed potatoes on the shepherd's pie, the twice baked potatoes, and most importantly and what I really wanted to learn, is decorating beautiful Christmas cookies. 

For my final project, I made an old fashioned pound cake (posted here) and piped rosettes with gingerbread flavored Swiss meringue buttercream frosting. No artificial anything. 

Gingerbread Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting
4 ounces liquid pasteurized egg whites
10 ounces dark brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. molasses
12 ounces soft unsalted butter
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
Pinch of ground cloves
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Whisk together the sugar and egg whites. Add pinch of salt.

Heat, whisking constantly, with mixing bowl over simmering water until mixture reaches 160 degrees or until all of the brown sugar has dissolved.

Place the mixing bowl on mixer fitted with whisk attachment and beat on high for 10 minutes.

Switch to paddle attachment, add the butter, and mix on low speed until thick.

Add vanilla and spices; continue to beat on low speed until combined.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Cornbread Casserole

My sister-in-law gave me this recipe, which came from her church's cookbook, quite a few years ago. I like to make it when the cornbread is co-starring in the meal rather than playing a background role. It is perfect with chili and I recently served it with Braised Greens with Apples for a simple supper. 

This recipe makes enough for a crowd and also freezes well to reheat later. 

Cornbread Casserole
2 large onions, chopper
6 Tbsp. butter
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. milk
1 (15 ounce) can cream style corn
1 (1 pound) package corn muffin mix
1 cup sour cream
2 cups (8 ounce) sharp cheddar cheese

Saute onions in butter until golden. In medium bowl, mix eggs and milk. Add corn and muffin mix. Spoon batter into buttered 13x9 inch casserole dish and spoon sauteed onions on top. Spread sour cream over onion and sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 425 degrees for 35 minutes or until puffed and golden. Let stand 10 minutes. Cut into squares to serve.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Braised Greens with Apples

One last apple recipe to close out October, this time savory.

I have been testing out some recipes for the much smaller Thanksgiving we are hosting this year. I will be making all our traditional foods in some new ways. Like these greens.

We both loved these! I cooked these greens, which were a combination of Swiss chard, ruby chard, and kale with apples and apple cider vinegar. I served them with cornbread casserole (recipe following) for a simple and satisfying supper.

Braised Greens with Apples
(From The Fresh Honey Cookbook by Laurey Masterton)
2 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. honey
2 tart apples, unpeeled, cut into chunks
3 pounds mixed braising greens, cut into large pieces, thick stems removed
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until they start to brown, about 5 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup water, the vinegar, honey, and apples, stirring to combine.  Add the greens and stir, folding in the uncooked greens on the top as the ones in the bottom of the pan wilt, until all the greens have been incorporated.

Lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 5 to 30 minutes, depending on the type of greens. Denser and more mature greens like collards will need to cook longer.

Taste, and add salt and pepper, if desired. Too much will mask the sweetness of the greens. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fantastic Apple Bread

 This tasty apple bread was so easy to make. I love simple and delicious recipes for made from scratch foods which are simple to put together, don't involve machinery, and don't make a lot of mess to clean up. This is one of those. 

This moist, sweet and spicy bread is perfect for brunch or for dessert. I served it with quiche and it made a very satisfying light meal. 

The crunchy crust that forms while baking is the best part!

Fantastic Apple Bread
3 - 4 medium fresh apples, peeled cored and sliced
1/2 cup light vegetable oil
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 - 1 cup sugar, to taste
2 cups flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a standard loaf pan.
Combine apple slices, oil, milk, and beaten eggs in a large mixing bowl and stir well. Add flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg, if using. Stir again, by hand, until well mixed.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 - 15 minutes in pan.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sour Cream Apple Pie with Streusel Topping

This recipe may look complicated, but it is really as easy as. . .um, pie. Easy as pie, that's it.  I tried to find out who should be credited for it, but no luck. Many claim this pie as their own, including Gourmet Magazine and Martha Stewart. I have seen credit given to the Amish which seems more likely to me.

The sour cream and eggs are unusual for an apple pie, but really they only serve to uplift and glorify the apple slices. The pie doesn't taste overly rich or custardy. It is a very light apple pie--not too heavy or cloyingly sweet. 

If your knife skills need honing, apples are a great way to practice. They are easy to peel with an ordinary vegetable peeler, they slice easily even if you don't have a great or a really sharp knife, they are fun to nibble on while you work, and they don't make you cry. 

Use any apple or a mix of apples for this pie. The fresher your apples, the better your pie will taste. I used my preferred apple--Gala, which is quite sweet so I didn't use much sugar. Taste and add sugar as desired.

Sour Cream Apple Pie

Fit your favorite pie crust into a 9-inch deep pie dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Streusel Topping
3 Tbsp. butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. flour

Mix together until well combined. Cover and chill until ready to use.

Apple Filling
1 1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup (or more to taste) sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
3 Tbsp. flour
4 -5 large apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced

Whisk together the sour cream, sugar, salt, vanilla, eggs and flour until smooth. Add the apples and stir together.

Spoon the filling into the prepared pie crust and crumble the streusel topping evenly over it. Bake for 1 hour to 1 1/4 hours. Cool completely before slicing.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Applesauce - The Easy Way (A re-post from 10-9-2009)

Since I originally posted this, I have been using Gala apples for making applesauce and apple butter. I find that they are perfectly sweet, without adding sweetener of any kind.

If you want to take advantage of the season's bounty and make your own applesauce, do yourself a favor and get a Foley food mill. It is an old timey, inexpensive, uncomplicated, piece of equipment that couldn't be easier to use. Plus you'll feel like Miz Boone using it and it doesn't make noise.

You don't even have to peel or core the apples, nor worry about the seeds. Simply wash the apples well, with a vegetable brush, then cut them into quarters, and drop them into a pot. Add about a quarter inch of water and simmer, about 10 to 15 minutes, until the apples are soft.

Place the softened apples into the food mill and turn the handle. Viola, applesauce! Taste, and depending on the apples used, you may want to sweeten it. Because I used half Granny Smith apples, I added some sugar. Also I reheated my applesauce because I was canning it.

Making applesauce this way, utilizing the entire fruit, retains all the pectin and nutrients of the apples. Plus, there is suprisingly little waste.

The applesauce is very smooth and has an almost creamy mouth feel.