Monday, October 31, 2005

Finger Food

Happy Happy Happy Halloween!

This is my absolute favorite time of year... here in Alabama the weather is nice. It is cool in the mornings and warms up to around 65-70 during the day and back to cool (almost cold) each night. Our leaves are beginning to turn and the holidays on the way!! But I have to say that I am a kid at heart and I love to dress up (still) for Halloween. We all had to dress up today where I work and everyone looked fabulous. There were several 50's girls, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, a scarecrow, Winnie the Poo, a cute little cat, The Tooth Fairy (which is hilarious since we work in an orthodontics office), our doctor was a zombie goule and I was the Wicked Witch of the West ( a witch with a western flair)....We all had a great time.

I stumbled across this recipe for these really cool finger cookies on The recipe is really super easy and they look so hilarious. I made these on Saturday night when we went to a friends house to watch Shaun of the Dead ( one of the funniest movies I have seen in a while...) and they went over so well that I decided to make them to set on the reception desk at our office today. The set up looked really cute.... And suprisingly they taste really good. Most "novelty" cookies have that fake vanilla taste, but these have a sweet little butter/vanilla flavor that is so nice and simple. The dough is so easy to mix up and double as needed and would also freeze well......When you mix this up, don't be alarmed if the dough feels too dry... it will soften up with the warmth of you hands....

Cookie Ingredients

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sliced almonds

2 tablepoons Icing Glue (see below)

Icing Glue Ingredients

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon water

1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until smooth and creamy.
2. Add the sugar, egg, and vanilla extract and mix well.
3. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and beat until completely mixed.
4. Cover the dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
6. With your hands, roll a heaping tablespoon of dough into a finger shape for each cookie. If the dough gets sticky and hard to work with, put it back in the refrigerator for a little while. Place fingers on an ungreased cookie sheet about 3 inches apart.
7. Use a butter knife to make knuckle marks on the finger cookies. Slightly flatten the front of the finger to create a nail.
8. Bake 20-25 minutes, until fingers are slightly golden. Remove from the oven and let cool. Meanwhile, prepare the Icing Glue. Mix together powdered sugar and water in a small bowl until the consistency is similar to that of a paste.
9. Attach almond slice fingernails to the tips of the fingers with Icing Glue. Let glue dry for about 30 minutes.

Makes about 50 fingers.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Dark Side

This month's Sugar High Friday is hosted by the very fabulous Kelli at LOVESCOOL. The secret ingredient is Dark Chocolate. When I learned dark chocolate was the thing to use this month I casually mentioned it to my husband. " This month's SHF is on Dark Chocolate... I think I am going to do something out of the cookbook you gave me awhile back....." . " Ugh. Chocolate AGAIN?" *eyes rolling* " What do you mean AGAIN? I haven't participated in a chocolate SHF, yet..." " I know, but you are always making chocolate stuff and I have to be honest with you.......I really don't care for chocolate."
crickets chirping.
more silence.
" WHAT? Did you just say YOU DON'T CARE FOR CHOCOLATE??? What the... how can someone not care for chocolate?"
" I just don't baby... I don't know why."

So.... I dropped the issue and had a fleeting thought of " Why did I marry this man??" But that thought quickly vanished when he flashed that handsome smile of his and said " But I do love all the other stuff you make...."
My challenge had been set.... I had to create something that I could trick him into eating that he would love that had dark chocolate in it....This was going to be fun. I wanted to use the Death By Chocolate cookbook he bought me a few years back when he was on a business trip. All (but one) of the recipes were too chocolate-ey and obvious. I decided on Dark Chocolate Honey Almond Crunch. The name kind of sounds hokey, but the recipe sounded delish. It called for rum and we all know how I feel about rum and cooking.....

The final product is like peanut brittle but with almonds and chocolate and I must say it is quite good.
Even my husband agrees.....and agrees and agrees and agrees.........

4 cups sliced almonds
1/4 cup honey ( I used Lyle's)
6 oz unsalted butter
8 oz dark chocolate-chopped into 1/4" pcs
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
4 oz semisweet chocolate-chopped into 1/4" pcs
1/4 cup Myer's Dark rum

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Toast 2 cups of almonds on a baking sheet in the preheated oven until golden brown, about 12 to 14 minutes. Remove the almonds from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Transfer the almonds to a large dish or other suitable container and set aside until needed.

Melt the butter in a 2 1/2-qt saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly as it melts so it does not simmer or boil. As soon as the butter is completely melted, add the sugar, water, rum, and honey. Increase the heat to medium high. Heat the mixture to a temperature of 220 degrees, stirring constantly. Add the untoasted almonds and continue to heat and stir until the mixture reaches a temperature of 225 degrees.

Evenly divide the honey-almond mixture between the 2 baking sheets. Place the baking sheets on the top and middle shelves of the preheated oven and bake until the mixture is evenly caramelized, about 24 to 26 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets from top to bottom about halfway through the baking time. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.Combine the semi-sweet and unsweetened chocolate pieces and evenly divide and sprinkle over the surface of the caramelized honey-almond mixture. Allow to stand for 5 minutes. Use a spatula to spread the chocolate throughout the mixture. Evenly divide and sprinkle the toasted almonds over the chocolate.

Place both baking sheets in the freezer for 20 minutes. Remove the Chocolate Honey Almond Crunch from the freezer and break into irregular pieces. Store in a sealed plastic container in the freezer or refrigerator.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Rain Drops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens

" These are a few of my favorite things....."

I got the idea to do a favorites list from 101 Cookbooks. Her site is incredibly beautiful and her photography is amazing. I have been thinking of creating a list like this ever since I saw hers.... so here is mine. These are the things I use daily in the kitchen ....

Nigella Measuring Cups

My husband bought the blue set for me for my birthday and I loved them so much I bought the white set off eBay. Unfortunately I dropped the 1/4 cup blue one and it chipped but I still use it for measuring dry ingredients. I love the simplicity of these and the are so sweet to look at. I have several of Nigella's kitchen pieces and I love all of them.

Parchment Paper

I am a recent convert to parchment paper. I use whenever I bake. Nothing sticks to this stuff... nothing. I don't ever have to grease a baking sheet these days. I have had this particular roll for a few months now and it just keeps going and going and going..... I purchased mine from Williams Sonoma, but I am sure you can get it anywhere.

Nigella Canisters

These two large bellied beauties house my sugar and flour. Those little doors of theirs are opened several times each day. They are simple, functional and beautiful to look at. And my husband gave them to me so that makes them even sweeter.

Measuring Spoons

I love measuring spoons. I am always looking for sleek beautiful spoons. I use several of the little silver spoons Kathryn received when she was born as teaspoons and half teaspoons. I also have a set of the Nigella measuring spoons that are just gorgeous. When they all hang together it looks like a little piece of sculpture.

Chef'n Spatulas

I have several Chef'n spatulas along with one spatula/tablespoon combo. I love them. I look for them all the time at discount stores like Marshalls or Tuesday Morning. They always have a few of these lurking around in the kitchen section. These particular spatulas feel really good in my hand and they are double ended for large or small pots. The bend and flex beautifully and resist stains. I want them all in every size and color!

Nielsen Massey Vanilla

You just can't beat this vanilla for the price. The vanilla flavor is clean,pure and not too over powering. For a long time I used Mexican vanilla and the strength and flavor was just too much. Everything I made tasted the same. Nielsen Massey Vanilla seems to have a smoothness to it and it allows the other flavors of the dish come out. I also love that I can find it here at my local Publix. This is the vanilla I use in everyday baking.

Cherry Pitter

I guess I am stretching it a bit when I say I use this daily.... but I did use it quite a bit in the summer time when cherries were at their peak and you could buy them fresh in the market. I would sit with a bit bowl in the living room floor and each time I would pit one Kathryn would sneak into the bowl and eat it... She would look at me smiling with the black red juice of fresh cherries all over her face. This is a handy little gadget. It really does a fabulous job at pitting cherries and also olives.

Lyle's Golden Syrup

Ahhhhh... Lyle's. This is such a gorgeous syrup. I use this in cakes to add moistness and in ice cream for flavor. I pour this over pancakes and English muffins. It has a delicious carmelized flavor that puts Aunt Jemima's to shame.

Citrus Reamer

We juice ALOT of limes and lemons around here. I, forever, squeezed by hand. Then I saw the light.... and it shone on this lovely little piece of carved wood. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this little gadget. The Citrus Reamer is something that everyone should have in the kitchen and bar area. This will get every ounce of juice out of a piece of fruit. This is fabulous for mixed drinks, for making fresh lemonade, for anything you need fresh juice for. And the best part is that it will only set you back a few bucks.

Reef Flip Flops

I know, right! I swear, these are the most comfortable pair of shoes I own. I CANNOT cook in anything else. I have to have these shoes on if I am in the kitchen. Even first thing in the morning... if I am getting up early to cook breakfast... I have to have these on. I have had them for several years and I think they have many many more cakes to bake with me!

Taste Tester

My little love bunny is always in the kitchen with me. She sits in her little high chair and colors and acts like my own personal taste tester. Mostly she licks the frosting off of everything but I figure that really is the best part... right?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Cajeta and Angelfood

I haven't had much time lately to devote to hardcore desserts like tarts, or layer cakes with homemade frosting.... but dinner just isn't dinner without dessert these days. So I have been on the look out for delicious sounding desserts that don't take half a day to make.
Last night my husband made delicious carne asada, Mexican rice, boracho beans, and tortillas... it was sooooo delicious! My family came over to eat with us.... we all love it when he cooks!! So I was in charge of dessert... as usual! I wanted to do something easy and quick and something NOT FLAN.... I have a great Mexican cookbook that I picked up during one of our visits to San Antonio called Los Barrios, A Family Cookbook. I have yet to make anything out of this cookbook... I feel a bit intimidated. Art's mother is such a wonderful cook... and believe me, I cannot compete with her homemade Mexican cooking! So I really don't even try! But I figured I would give a dessert a try...
I found a simple and delicious sounding recipe called Mango-Cajeta Angelfood Cake. The angelfood cake was store bought and the cajeta was as well... so nothing here is from scratch....
It was really delicious. I substituted strawberries for the mango because the mango I bought was not good... no taste what so ever. Such a shame that produce is as bad as it is in supermarkets. Anyhow the strawberries were a delightful partner with the cream caramel sauce and the walnuts. I think it would even be good with some great homemade chunky applesauce.

Here is the recipe....give it a whirl on your next Taco Night. It is so easy and quick... but doesn't taste that way at all!

Mango Cajeta Anglefood Cake

3/4 cup milk
2 cups cajeta or caramel sauce
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 prepared anglefood cake
2 cups diced mango or strawberries

Bring the milk to a boil in a large saucepan. Add in the cajeta, condensed milk, and walnuts. Stir until smooth and well mixed. Remove from heat.

Slice the angelfood cake and place on dessert plates. Spoon the sauce over the cake and top with mangos or strawberries.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

White Trash

Yeah, I did make those. And yeah I am actually blogging it.... Call me white trash, call me unsophisticated, call me simple.... Just don't call me crazy because you know deep down in your heart of hearts that you too have a deep appreciation for the simple beauty that is The Rice Krispies Treat.
I think Rice Krispies Treats were the first "dessert" I made as a child. When I was in college I would make mini batches of them in the microwave and would eat them straight out of the bowl... still warm and very very gooey.
I haven't made them in so long... and I am not really sure what possessed me to make them tonight... I was at the grocery and there were all the ingredients (all 2 of them) set up together and the craving hit me. I thought I may get creative with it and add in some other "gourmet" ingredients. But then I realized I was trying to turn them in to Britney Spears... White Trash with Money. So I said forget it and let them be the root showing, cut off shorts wearing, chain smoking little treats they were meant to be. I am actually going to post the recipe... just in case you are feeling a little red.

Rice Krispies Treats
3 tablespoons butter
1 bag marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispies

Melt the butter in a large pot. Add in the marshmallows and allow all the melt. Stir in the Rice Krispies. Press into a buttered glass dish. Makes 24 squares. Enjoy with a Bud Light.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Cheesecake... But Not Like That.

Nigella, Nigella, Nigella.
I take back the comparison to Donna Hay. I never had any true doubt, but I did wonder (only for a minute) if she could maybe possibly surpass you as a fabulous cook with a fabulous accent. But then... then... then.... Cheesecake Ice Cream. Holy Mary Mother of God.... this ice cream was heavenly. Smooth white velvet coolness with that distinct cheesecake flavor. Custard like and melting in your mouth before you can comprehend what had just happened and then... the taste. The beautiful authentic cheesecake flavor bursts into your mouth just as you take another bite... and the process starts over.

We drizzled slightly sweetened strawberries over the top with a sliver of graham cracker and that was all it needed.
For all of those out there who wonder if they should buy a Nigella book.... please do. Buy them all and read them like novels.

Cheesecake Ice Cream
3/4 cup whole milk (or half and half)
3/4 cup sugar
4 ounces cream cheese
half teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 egg
juice of half a lemon
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Heat the milk in a pan and while it is getting warm, beat together the sugar, cream cheese, vanilla and egg in a bowl. Wisk in the hot milk and pour the mixture into a clean pan and make custard. Cook until slightly bubbly and velvety... use your instinct. Pour into a bowl and let cool. While custard is cooling, beat the cream slightly (soft peaks) and juice half a lemon. Combine the cooled custard, whipped cream and lemon. Freeze following ice cream maker directions.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Holy (Brownie) Grail....

Listen. I have tried and tried and tried all the brownies out there.... I have made them from a box, I have made them from a bag, I have made the from scratch and I have made them after a good shag.... and still I have not found THE brownie. How can something so simple and common be so elusive? I made the ArtPark brownies from Ruth Reichel's Tender at the Bone a week or so back and had very high hopes for them. Hmmmm..... I think maybe a half of one was eaten. It seems that brownies have a way of making it in to the hands of evil.... everyone thinks "I'll just make some brownies..." and we all end of having to eat chocolate flavored cardboard.... and sometimes the evil doer will try and FROST the brownie. What is this? Why do people do that? Aghk!

Brownies can easily become coingly sweet and are always cut too large. I do not want half the pan at one sitting... a nice
little 3 bite morsel to savor and cherish is what it should be about. Chocolate should lick the tounge ever so delicately... not give you the smackdown. And yes, I think nuts should be involved in a brownie... a nice little crunch in the middle of a fudgy center.

I want a meaningful brownie... and this my friends, is it.

Nigella' s Brownies

1 2/3 cup soft unsalted butter
13 ounces of very fine chocolate
6 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350. Line your brownie pan (13x9") with parchment paper. This is a little extra step but makes the brownie a breeze to get out of the pan....

Melt the butter and chocolate together over medium-low heat. Let this cool a bit after melting. Mix together the eggs, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl. Measure the
flour into another bowl along with the salt.

Mix together the cooled chocoalte/butter mixture and the eggs/sugar mixture. Add in the nuts. Mix in the flour and beat to combine smoothly and scrape into lined pan.

Bake for 25 minutes and be vigilant. Brownies can go from delish to dry in about 2 minutes.... They will continue to cook a bit as they cool....