Friday, January 31, 2014

Spinach Bites with Spicy Mustard Sauce

Using frozen chopped spinach and herb-stuffing mix makes these savory bites easy to prepare. 

Spinach Bites with Spicy Mustard Sauce:

One 10-oz. (284 g) pkg frozen, chopped spinach
1 c. commercially made herb-seasoned stuffing mix
½ c. grated Parmesan cheese (see Note)
Dash nutmeg
3 eggs, beaten
⅓ c. plus 1 tbsp. butter or margarine, softened

When almost ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Thaw spinach, squeezing out excess moisture. Place spinach and remaining ingredients in blender or food processor, pulsing until smooth. Shape into walnut-sized balls. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 min. 

Place balls about 1-in. apart on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake 10-to-15 min. Drain on paper toweling. Serve with Spicy Mustard Sauce using dipping forks or picks.

Note: Use the powdered stuff to make these! 

Spicy Mustard Sauce:

⅓-to-½ c. powdered mustard
½ c. white vinegar
½ c. granulated sugar
1 egg yolk

In a small bowl, combine mustard and vinegar. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight. In a small saucepan, combine mustard-vinegar mixture with sugar and egg yolk. Simmer over low heat until slightly thickened. Cover and store in refrigerator up to 1 month. Yields 1-⅓ c. sauce.

Tomorrow: Ants on a Log

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Toasted Snack Mix

Heres yet another version of the ever-popular Nuts and Bolts - and a very different version, it is! 

Toasted Snack Mix:

4 c. small cheese crackers such as mini Ritz or cheddar Goldfish
4 c. oyster crackers
4 c. thin pretzel sticks
16 oz. (454 g) mixed nuts (about 4 c.)
½ c. butter or margarine
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1-½ tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1-½ tbsp. seasoned salt
½ tsp. powdered mustard
½ tsp. hot sauce

Preheat oven to 275 deg. F. Combine crackers, pretzels, and nuts in large roasting pan. Add butter and garlic to small saucepan over medium-low heat, cooking garlic 3-to 4 min. or until butter starts to spit. Stir in remaining ingredients, allowing to simmer about 2 min. Remove from heat. Strain out and discard garlic. Pour butter mixture evenly over cracker mixture, tossing well to coat.

Divide and spread buttery mixture evenly over two parchment-lined large baking sheets. Bake 30 min., or until toasted, stirring once or twice during baking. Serve warm, if possible. Yields 10 generous snack-size portions.

Tomorrow: Spinach Bites with Spicy Mustard Sauce

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pecan Crunch

This is the first of several snack recipes for the upcoming Super Bowl game! This taste-pleasing snack combines a hint of both Nuts and Bolts and Sister Mabels Caramel Corn. Youll find the N&B recipe indexed under Appetizers: Nuts and that great popcorn recipe indexed under Appetizers: Popcorn. All of the above strike me as great football-watching food. Bring it on! 

Pecan Crunch:

5 c. un-iced miniature shredded wheat cereal (such as Shreddies)
¼ c. coarsely chopped pecans, untoasted
2 tsp. cinnamon
½ c. firmly packed brown sugar
¼ c. butter or margarine
¼ c. light corn syrup
¼ tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 250 deg. F. Combine cereal, nuts, and cinnamon in large roasting pan. Set aside. In medium saucepan over medium heat, combine brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup. Bring just to the boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Without stirring, boil 2 min. Stir in baking soda. Immediately pour over cereal mixture, stirring rapidly until all pieces are well coated. Bake 30-to35 min., stirring occasionally. Cool, storing at room temperature in airtight containers. Yields about 5 c.

Tomorrow: Toasted Snack Mix

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Blue Cheese Dip

Hardcore blue cheese lovers will really go for this! 

Blue Cheese Dip:

½ c. sour cream
¼ c. mayonnaise
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
1 small clove garlic, finely minced
2 tbsp. finely crumbled blue cheese

Combine all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hr. (and no more than 24 hr.) to allow flavors to blend before serving

Tomorrow: Pecan Crunch

Monday, January 27, 2014

White Bean and Pine Nut Spread

As well as tasting delicious, bean spreads have the added advantage of being low in fat. I’m particularly partial to this high-protein spread! 

White Bean and Pine Nut Spread:

1 head garlic (8-to-10 small bulbs or cloves)
One 19-oz. (550 mL) can white beans, drained, rinsed, and drained again, to equal about 2-¼ c. (see Note)
3 or 4 large fresh basil leaves (no substitutes)
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
½ tsp. walnut oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
⅓ c. toasted pine nuts
Baguette or small crackers

Remove 2 cloves from head of garlic; peel and set aside. With remaining cloves intact, roast garlic head in conventional oven (see Further Note). Squeeze slightly cooled roasted cloves into food processor. Add reserved cloves, well-drained beans, basil, olive oil, lemon juice, walnut oil, and seasonings. Whirl in processor until smooth. Manually stir in toasted pine nuts (see One More Note) and transfer to serving bowl. Serve with baguette or crackers. Yields 2 c. spread.

Note: Use cannellini, white navy, or white kidney beans.

Further Note: See Index for How to Roast a Head of Garlic

One More Note: See Index for How to Toast Nuts.

Tomorrow: Blue Cheese Dip

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Smoked Salmon Dip

Gng-gng-shlps-gng-gng-schloop! (Sounds of lip-smacking) How better to introduce this excellent recipe for … 

Smoked Salmon Dip:

8 oz. lox (thinly sliced smoked salmon)
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1-½ tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh dill or 2 tbsp. dried dill weed
Dash hot pepper sauce
½ c. finely chopped red onion

Blend lox, cream cheese, and lemon juice in food processor until smooth. Manually stir in dill and hot pepper sauce. Cover and refrigerate up to 2 days. Stir in onion just before serving. Yields 2 cups.

Tomorrow: White Bean and Pine Nut Spread

Dinner Party Series: Robbie Burns Day

As regular readers know, I often encourage you to break bread with others by hosting dinner parties as the urge strikes. They needn’t be fancy, they needn’t be formal, but they should be fun. It is still (almost), Robbie Burns Day in the Time Zone and at the Latitude Where I Live. And so it was that a friend and I were reflecting on an infamous Robbie Burns dinner I hosted seven or eight years ago, to which the women wore tartan skirts and the men wore kilts. 

It was the one and only time I’ve held a dinner to honor the Bard, and the scotch and merriment got the better of me. I forgot about the haggis burbling on the stove - boiling furiously rather than simmering slowly. The inevitable explosion sounded like a cannon, blasting bits of haggis and sheep’s intestine into the kitchen ceiling like meaty shrapnel. 

At almost exactly the same moment, I lit the flaming whiskey punch I expected to awe and amaze my guests. The simultaneous boom of the haggis loosened my grip on the whiskey, so that a column of blue flame shot straight to the ceiling, dancing inches from disaster. 

I was single at the time - a blushing lass of 60 with uncertain prospects - but still had no clue that one of my kilted guests (a single schmaltz Scot) had his eye on me. After he’d patched up and carried the shredded haggis (most of which remained stuck to the ceiling) into the dining room, and after he’d recited Burns’ Ode to the Haggis and Ode to the Lassies, and after he’d poured yet another of many tipples, he decided to declare his feelings for me to everyone in the room.

Squatting beside me, kilt creeping up his wide-open legs, he began to warble Scottish love songs. Another Scot - also male but happily married - felt it might be time to say the usual pleasantries and depart. In the vernacular, he said he thought I might want to 
get a leg over.”

I did not. I had no interest in the single Scot. Red-faced, I threw him out. All these years later, I continue to feel I wasted a great opportunity, because I alone was left to scrape the haggis off the ceiling. I should have let him do it - averting my eyes as he climbed the ladder - and then thrown him out.

That Robbie Burns dinner may have been memorable - but it was not my biggest failure as a hostess.

The most disastrous - literally - was a dinner party in which the guest of honor rose from the table, pronounced my meal the worst he’d ever eaten, put on his coat, and left. True story.

I’m still travelling, Dollinks, but will have recipes for you through early February. 

Later Today: Smoked Salmon Dip.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Golden Glow Vegetable Dip

This absolutely marvelous dip has been one of my top, top, top favorites for years and years. The blend of flavors couldn’t be better! Please don’t try substituting any ingredients … This dip is perfection itself.
Golden Glow Vegetable Dip:

1 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tbsp. garlic salt
½ tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. horseradish
1 tsp. grated onion, fresh or dried
1 tsp. cider vinegar
½ c. sour cream
½ c. mayonnaise

Combine all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hr. to allow flavors to blend. Yields 1 c.

Tomorrow: Smoked Salmon Dip

Friday, January 24, 2014

Smoked Oyster Dip and Spread

This delicious dip works beautifully as a spread, too. As many of you know, were enjoying a bit of a get-away, so any food I prepare tends to be quick and easy. When we recently invited guests to share some nibbles, this is what I made. It doesn’t get any easier than this! 

Smoked Oyster Dip and Spread:

One 3-oz. (85 g) can smoked oysters, undrained
One 8-oz. (250 g) pkg brick-style cream cheese, softened

Combine smoked oysters and their oil with cream cheese, processing or blending until smooth. 

Note: I used a hand blender for this task. This versatile dip is great served with crackers or chips or spread over cocktail toasts. Its also terrific piped into hollowed-out cherry tomatoes topped with a small sprig of parsley.  

Tomorrow: Golden Glow Vegetable Dip

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Spicy Herb Dip

What can I say about snack dips other than they’re cheap, quick, easy to make, and delicious? Which is probably enough. A couple of dips will go a long way to soothe the savage football-watching beast during Super Bowl XLVIII. 

Spicy Herb Dip:

1 c. mayonnaise
½ c. plain yogurt
1 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
1 tbsp. finely chopped chives
1 tsp. chopped fresh dill or ½ tsp. dried dill weed
¼ tsp. salt
⅛ tsp. curry powder
1-½ tsp. lemon juice
½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. capers, drained and chopped

Combine all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate up to three days before use, allowing flavors to mellow. Yields 1-½ c. dip.

Tip: For a great sandwich spread, combine leftover dip with well-drained canned salmon, tuna, or shredded chicken.

Tomorrow: Smoked Oyster Dip and Spread

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Garlic-Herb Goat Cheese Dip

Wow! Super Bowl Sunday is right around the corner! The Broncos are playing the Seahawks - fine by me, because I’m an animal lover. I’ve just learned the game is played with pigskin, which is why I’m launching a campaign to demand that the NFL replace pigskin footballs with ya-gotta-love-’em whiffle balls. 

Do you prefer this???

Or this???

The person submitting the most votes for whiffle balls is the winner of the all-expenses-paid trip to Fiji. Let the voting begin!

As a lover of pigs - Ive known many - Im compelled to say that the next several days’ blogs for Super Bowl dip recipes use no bacon. Nor is there any pork crackling in next week’s yummy snack mixes. Unless you discover me recipe-testing a bacon burger in the closet, of course.

Garlic-Herb Goat Cheese Dip:

28 (yes, 28!) large garlic cloves, unpeeled
16 oz. (500 g) chèvre (soft goat cheese), crumbled 
½ c. finely chopped fresh basil or 2 tbsp. dried, crumbled basil leaves
¼ c. extra-virgin olive oil
¼ c. finely minced fresh chives or tops of green onions (“spring onions”)
2 tbsp. finely chopped cilantro
4 tsp. finely chipped fresh rosemary or 1 tsp. dried, crumbled rosemary
Salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 425 deg. F. Roast garlic (Consult Index for How to Roast a Head of Garlic) in oven standard oven method. Cool slightly before squeezing each bulb or clove into food processor. Add goat cheese, blending well. Add all remaining ingredients except salt and pepper and cayenne. Mix in using several pulses of the food processor; mixture should be slightly chunky, rather than smooth. Season to taste. Cover and refrigerate up to three days before use, allowing flavors to mellow. 

Tomorrow: Spicy Herb Dip

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Chicken Wings in Plum Sauce

This tremendously easy recipe is an appropriate bridge between the Chinese New Year recipes Ive been featuring for the past several days and early February’s Super Bowl game. These Chicken Wings work well for either occasion! 

Chicken Wings in Plum Sauce:

5 lb. (2.2 kg) meaty chicken wings, rinsed and blotted dry
1 c. commercially bottled plum sauce
⅔ c. water
2 tbsp. finely minced fresh ginger
⅓ c. sherry
1 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. hot sauce

Remove tips from wings, cutting wings in half lengthwise. Place everything except wings into large, heavy-based saucepan. Add wings, mixing until wings are evenly coated. Bring just to boil before reducing heat to medium. Cover and cook, stirring often, 20-to-25 min. Increase heat to medium-high. Uncover and cook a further 5 min., stirring constantly until wings are glazed and caramelized, with no sauce remaining in pot. 

Tomorrow and Beyond: Super Bowl dips and snacks!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Chinese-Style Sweet and Sour Sauce

Many of us have one or two commercially made sauces in the fridge, but if you have the time and inclination, here’s a popular sauce you can easily make yourself! As a great compliment to fish, poultry, or Chinese food, this chunky sauce should be used within 10 days because of the fresh tomato and bell pepper it contains. 

Chinese-Style Sweet and Sour Sauce:

½ tsp. finely chopped fresh ginger or ¼ tsp. dried ginger 
¼ c. honey
½ c. water
¼ c. white vinegar
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. cornstarch or tapioca starch
1-½ tsp. canola or peanut oil
1 small garlic clove, minced fine
¼ c. chopped green bell pepper (“capsicum”)
¼ c. chopped onion
½ c. canned pineapple chunks, drained (or use fresh)
1 small tomato, peeled, chopped, and seeded

Prepare all ingredients in advance. In small bowl, combine ginger, honey, water, vinegar, and soy sauce. Set aside. In second small bowl, combine starch with 2 tbsp. cold water. Set aside. Heat oil in wok or skillet over medium heat. Sauté garlic in oil until lightly browned. Add bell pepper and onion to skillet, sautéeing just until onion is soft and translucent. Add ginger-honey-soy mixture, cooking 1 min. over medium heat. Gradually stir starch mixture into sauce. Add pineapple and tomato. Cook 6-to-8 min., until sauce thickens.

Tomorrow: Chicken Wings in Plum Sauce

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Lemon Chicken

You’ve eaten this in Chinese restaurants. Now you can make it, too! 

Lemon Chicken:

6 dried Chinese mushrooms such as dried shitaki or black mushrooms
2 whole chicken breasts (about 2 lb. or 1 kg), boned, skinned, and sliced as ½-in. wide strips
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 tbsp. canola or peanut oil, divided
2 tsp. peeled, finely minced fresh ginger
1 red bell pepper (capsicum), cut into strips
Thin strips of rind from 1-½ lemons
4 green onions, angle-sliced into 1-in. lengths
¼ c. sherry
1 tsp. granulated sugar
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. cornstarch or tapioca starch dissolved in 1 tbsp. cold water
2 tbsp. lemon juice

Have all ingredients prepared and arrayed before starting. Reconstitute mushrooms as per Note. Set aside. Dust chicken with salt and pepper, sprinkling with 1 tbsp. oil. Heat remaining oil in wok or large skillet over high heat. Add chicken strips. Stir-fry 2 min., tossing constantly, until cooked through. Remove from work and set aside. Stir-fry ginger, bell pepper, and mushrooms 1 min. Add lemon rind and green onions, stir-frying 1 min. longer. In a small bowl, combine sherry, sugar, and soy. In a second small bowl, combine starch and water. Add sherry mixture to skillet, tossing to coat. When mixture boils, stir in cornstarch mixture. Return chicken to wok, stir-frying 1 min. sprinkle with lemon juice. Serve at once. Yields four servings.

Note: To rehydrate mushrooms, cover them with boiling water, allowing them to sit 25-to-30 min. Remove stems before slicingLabel and freeze mushroom stems for future use in making soup stock. 

Tomorrow: Chinese-Style Sweet and Sour Sauce

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Cantonese Scallops

With Chinese New Year in mind, heres yet another easy microwave recipe! I serve this over long grain white rice.

Cantonese Scallops:

About 1 lb. (450 g) fresh or thawed scallops
1 tbsp. canola or peanut oil
About ¾ c. halved, angle-sliced fresh pea pods
½ c. celery, angle-sliced
8-oz. (227 mL) can sliced bamboo shoots, drained
½ c. green onions (spring onions), angle-sliced
1 garlic clove, minced fine
½ tsp. peeled, finely minced fresh ginger
2 tbsp. poultry broth
1 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. hoi sin sauce
2tbsp. oyster sauce
3 tbsp. cornstarch or tapioca starch
1 c. sliced mushrooms
4 c. fresh bean sprouts, rinsed and drained

Rinse, drain, and blot dry scallops. 

Fresh from the sea (Er ... supermarket)!

Halve large scallops horizontally. In a 2-1/2 qt. (2-1/2 L) microwave-safe casserole, toss together oil, pea pods, celery, bamboo shoots, green onions, garlic, and ginger. 

Toss, toss, toss in microwave-safe casserole!

Cover and microwave at high power 2 min., stirring once. Stir in scallops. 

Ohhhhh! Delicious!

Microwave, covered, at medium power 5 min. In a small bowl, combine poultry broth, soy sauce, hoi sin sauce, oyster sauce, and starch, stirring well. Pour over scallops. Add mushrooms and bean sprouts. Microwave, covered, at high power 3-to-5 min., stirring once. Cover and let stand 2 min. Serves 4.

Tomorrow: Lemon Chicken

Friday, January 17, 2014

Chop Suey with Roast Beef

Plan-Overs! I couldn’t manage without them. There are many ways to use leftover roast beef to create something new. This easy Chinese-style dish is one of them. 

Chop Suey with Roast Beef:

About 2 dozen 3-in. strips roast beef, cooked rare
3 tbsp. soy sauce
3 tbsp. sherry
1 tbsp. cornstarch or tapioca starch
2 tbsp. canola or peanut oil
2 medium carrots, thinly angle-sliced
1 medium turnip, thinly sliced into strips
1 medium red onion, sliced lengthwise
10 mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tsp. granulated sugar
¼ tsp. salt
1 c. fresh bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
½ c. thinly sliced water chestnuts, drained

Prepare and array all ingredients before starting. Combine soy sauce and sherry. Pour over beef strips and set aside. Mix starch with 2 tsp. cold water until dissolved. Set aside. Heat oil in wok or deep skillet over high heat, almost to smoking point. Stir-fry carrots, turnip, and onion 2 min., adding mushrooms in last 30 sec. 

Reduce heat to medium-high. Remove and set aside beef strips from soy-sherry marinade. To this marinade, add 2 tbsp. cold water, sugar, and salt. Cover and simmer 2-to-3 min. Add and stir-fry bean sprouts, water chestnuts, beef, and well stirred starch mixture. Tossing vegetables and meat constantly, cook until sauce thickens.

Tomorrow: Cantonese Scallops

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Oriental Beef and Broccoli

Yesterday’s readers will know that Im off on an adventure far from my kitchen! Should we ride an elephant today? Should we hike up a mountain? Should we run up a sand dune? None of the above. Were in the center of large, modern city overlooking extraordinary architecture, verdant mountains, and parks. The weather couldn’t be better and … and … Who wants to cook? 

If you’re dashing about as I am, you’ll appreciate that this dish is prepared in a microwave oven. Turn on your rice cooker now

Oriental Beef and Broccoli:

¾ lb. boneless round or blade steak, uncooked
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. sherry
½ tsp. granulated sugar
Dash salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 large or 2 small stalks broccoli, trimmed as flowerets
2 stalks celery, angle-sliced
1 medium onion, sliced lengthwise
½ green bell pepper (capsicum), cut into strips
1 tbsp. cornstarch or tapioca starch dissolved in 1 tbsp. cold water
1 firm medium tomato, cut into wedges

Sliver steak across grain as 4-in. strips. In a 1 qt. (1 L) microwave-safe casserole, combine soy sauce, sherry, sugar, salt, and garlic. Add bean strips, tossing to coat evenly. Cover with cello wrap, marinating at room temperature at least 30 min.

Prepare vegetables, placing all except tomatoes into a 2 qt. (2 L) microwave-safe casserole. Cover with cello wrap, turning back a small corner to vent steam. Cook 3-to-4 min. on full power, stirring partway through until vegetables are crisp and broccoli is bright green. Set aside, covered.

Turn back a small corner of cello over marinated beef strips. Cook 3-to-4 min. on full power, stirring partway through, just until beef loses its red color. Combine some of the hot beef juice with the dissolved starch and water paste. Stir beef strips and dissolved starch mixture into vegetables. Cook 1-to-2 min. on full power, until sauce is smooth. Add uncooked tomato wedges. Cover and let stand 5 min. before serving. If necessary, reheat 2 min. on full power. Serve over or with hot rice. Yields 4-to-6 servings.

Note: If you need to, see the Index for How to Cook Rice.

Tomorrow: Chop Suey with Roast Beef

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Chinese-Style Vegetables with Pork

In the Time Zone and at the Latitude Where I Live, numerous Chinese restaurants and supermarkets liven up our food choices. Many people of Chinese extraction live in the region, so that’s one reason. Chinese food is easy to prepare and its ingredients are easily available, so that’s another. Chinese food uses a relatively small amount of meat, making it quite economical - another plus. All of that aside, I suspect the # 1 reason people clamor for Chinese food is because its so delicious! 

With Chinese New Year just two weeks away, this blogs readers are already searching for recipe ideas. I love throwing Chinese New Year dinner parties, but am away from home for the next three weeks, with no access to a properly equipped kitchen. The task of photographing anything I cook is daunting and may prove impossible. 

I dug through my recipe files before we departed, and have brought along quite a few Chinese recipes that will appear over the next several days.  

Please remember to use the search engine at the top left of this page: Many past recipes will pop up if you search the word Chinese,” or search for an Asian-inspired sauce or spice. Your other search choices are to check the Index under Main Dish and Side Dish and Soup (a great recipe for Hot n Sour Soup).

By omitting the pork, this excellent dish can also serve as a vegetarian entrée or as a side dish. As with all Chinese cooking, this recipe proceeds very quickly. Be sure to pre-measure your ingredients and have everything at your fingertips. You should have turned on your rice cooker 10 minutes ago!

Chinese-Style Vegetables with Pork:

2 tbsp. canola or peanut oil

1 clove garlic, unsliced
1 c. slivered pork, uncooked
1 c. Chinese mushrooms such as dried shitaki or black mushrooms
3 c. angle-sliced celery
1 large onion, sliced lengthwise
1-¾ c. frozen peas
¾ tsp. garlic salt
½ c. slivered almonds, toasted 

Heat oil in wok or deep skillet over high heat, almost to smoking point. Brown garlic in oil until dark brown; discard garlic. Stir-fry pork; set aside. Reconstitute mushrooms (see Note) and slice. Sauté mushrooms; set aside. Stir-fry celery and onion, tossing just until hot. Add frozen peas, tossing just until peas are lightly coated with oil. Season with garlic salt. Cover and cook 3-to-5 min., until vegetables are barely tender. Return pork and mushrooms to wok, stir-frying to combine just until heated through. Add almonds, tossing 30 sec. Serve immediately, over or with rice.

Note: To rehydrate mushrooms, cover them with boiling water, allowing them to sit 25-to-30 min. Remove stems before slicingLabel and freeze mushroom stems for future use in making soup stock. 

Further Note: If you’re unsure, consult the Index for How to Cook Rice and How to Toast Nuts.

Tomorrow:fantastic Oriental Beef and Broccoli

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Gearing Up to Celebrate!

Coming Tomorrow: Jan. 31 marks the Year of the Horse, and this year’s Chinese New Year is galloping fast down the track. I’ve been dipping into my files for recipe favorites that are sure to please over the next several days. 

Super Bowl XLVIII is coming to a TV set near you on Sunday, Feb. 2, so also in late January, I’ll be bringing you a modest clutch of Super Bowl snack ideas. 

I’ve been practising my Hole Mary passes, defensive tackles, squat end runs, dunks, and prayer huddles. When they need an extra player for the game, I want to be ready. 

Frankie - our pet fish, personal secretary, chauffeur, occasional turkey-baster, butler, and Mafia don - doesn’t care for football. While we watch the Super Bowl, he plans to wash the fish bowl. He’d better keep his fins off our football snacks!  

Monday, January 13, 2014

Mixed Peel Cookies

Mixed Peel CookiesHot and fresh
Hermit-style cookies have been around 700 or 800 years - but I’ll let the Old Farmer’s Almanac tell the tale! 

This soft, spicy cookie was often the last thing the baker made from the leftover trimmings on his table. It was made with chopped fruits, raisins, nuts, and seasoned with cinnamon, cloves and other spices; sweetened with either molasses or brown sugar, and usually cut into squares or bars. Some say the spices become more distinct with age, making the cookies taste better if they have been hidden away like hermits for several days. The name may come from this habit. But they also keep longer than most bar cookies and travel well, so perhaps they were the preferred sweet for solitary wanderers as well as recluses and hermits.
Very likely the old recipe for the hermit cookies goes back to the 12th or 13th Century religious hermitages, where these basic ingredients would have been in common usage at bakers tables. The terms for those confines - “hermite” from the Old French or “heremita,” from the medieval Latin — may have been assigned to this treat by the residents.

I made these Mixed Peel Cookies with candied peel left over from the holidays. They’re typical hermit-style cookies, in that they contain butter, eggs, brown sugar, oatmeal, flour, spiced dried fruit, and nuts - the same ingredients used in this little treat for centuries. Historically, hermit cookies were sometimes carried long distances or kept a long time, so that they often tasted like hard little rocks. Unlike those cookies, these are tender and moist, most likely because I took them from the oven at their minimum baking time. I arrived at this recipe by tweaking a couple of other recipes: I hope you’ll enjoy the result! 

Mixed Peel Cookies:

 c. butter or margarine, softened
 c. light brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1-½ c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1-½ c. large-flake rolled oats
1-½ c. mixed peel
½ c. currants

¼ tsp. cinnamon
⅛ tsp. nutmeg
⅛ tsp. allspice
 c. chopped, toasted walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy and no graininess remains when a little of the mixture is rubbed between thumb and index finger, about 5 min. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition and scraping bowl down as you work. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and rolled oats, adding a little at a time until completely mixed in. In a separate bowl, combine peel, currants, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, mixing well. Stir into cookie mixture with nuts. Drop by heaping teaspoons onto parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake 10 min.