Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Cookies

Clockwise from the left: Pine Nut Biscotti, Butterscotch Blondies with Cranberries and Pecans, Chocolate Coconut Almond Merengues, Grandma's Christmas Cookies, Curried Peanut Brittle, Chai Shortbread, and Sweet and Salty Peanut Chocolate Chunk Cookies.

My final review on each cookie:

Pine Nut Biscotti: Personally, I love these cookies. They are slightly sweet, subtley lemon-flavored, and dunkable but not too crispy to be enjoyed on their own. However . . . no one seems to like eating biscotti besides me! Argh. I'll rethink including a biscotto recipe next year.

Butterscotch Blondies with Cranberries and Pecans: YUM. People gobbled these down, and they were pretty easy to make. Next year, I want a bar pan with a removeable bottom -- I'll put it on my long-term shopping list, so I don't have to wrestle with the foil any more!

Chocolate Coconut Almond Merengues: Despite the fact that these baked too long, the flavor combination was spot-on. I will try a different merengue recipe next year, with the same ingredients.

Grandma's Christmas Cookies: These were easier with the streamlined single shape and half-recipe. People also gobbled these down, which they almost always do.

Curried Peanut Brittle: After learning my candy thermometer lesson, the only thing I'd change about this recipe is increasing the amount of curry powder, or grinding my own from whole spices. We shall see . . . !

Chai Shortbread: I love these, and they were super easy. 'Nuf said.

Sweet and Salty Peanut Chocolate Chunk Cookies: The idea behind these cookies is great, but the actual recipe is not all that fantastic. I'll use my own chocolate chip cookie recipe next time, (and I'll use better-quality chocolate,) and a different nut -- maybe almonds? Maybe hazelnuts? Love the salt, though -- that part was to die for!

Overall, it's been an adventure, baking so many different kinds of cookies this year! Having them all on hand has been incredibly helpful for my contribution to work potlucks, church choir potlucks, and family get-togethers. I may expand my candy-making repertoire next year -- truffles, perhaps? :) Who knows . . . !?!?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

kids say the darndest, plus food

A great work story:

One of the new little girls in my class came up to me yesterday, pointed at my stomach, and said, "you don't have a baby in there -- just a bellybutton."

Sweet. Nice to know my stomach's flat enough that the kids aren't confused! :)

On to the food.

First, Dan cooked:
He made miso soup for dinner on Monday night. Yum! Like me, he's more critical of his own cooking than other people are. Regardless, it was wonderful to come home from work and have dinner already ready!

Second, Dan and I cooked:
We made a recipe from an old issue of Cooking Light called "Tempeh Coconut Curry." It was excellent! (Especially coming from someone who doesn't always like tempeh.) We followed the recipe pretty closely, although Dan admitted that he added more chili flakes than the recipe called for. :) I had intended on making a side of kale with this one, but promptly forgot. Maybe I'll add the kale directly to the curry next time? (P.S. that's actually a yellow-fleshed sweet potato in there -- yum!)

I apologize for the great delay in photographing and posting the final results of my holiday baking, but I've taken trays of cookies to two different parties already, and have forgotten to snap a picture both times. Sheesh. :) I'll remember eventually!

Friday, December 14, 2007

one more . . .

. . . holiday baking preview photo:

last of the previews


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

some food and a funny

First, a funny food story:

(You'll find this especially funny if you're familiar with the children's book "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom")

I took some leftover Moroccan Chickpea Stew to work for lunch yesterday, and the kids asked me what I was eating. I told them, "Moroccan Chickpea Stew." One little girl looked at me with a puzzled look on her face and said, "You eating 'Roccan Chicka Boom?" My coteacher and I both giggled about that one!

Ok, on to the food . . .

Since I have been eating so much JUNK lately, (mostly at work,) I decided to make muffins the other night, in an attempt to tempt myself with healthier fare. Spicy Seven-Grain Muffins:
The recipe was off the back of the Arrowhead Mills seven-grain hot cereal box. Easy and tasty!

Dinner tonight:
Pasta Alla Puttanesca, technically, alla Bazu! (Thanks for the awesome idea!)

More holiday baking:
(Nice to have two more cookies checked off the list! I'm over half done, now!)

Happy Hump Day, and payday, for those of us who get paid every-other Wednesday!

Monday, December 10, 2007


Dinner last night:
Honey-Glazed Tofu over couscous with carrots, edamame, and pistachios, and a side of brussels sprouts. My first time making b-sprouts, and they turned out quite well! I halved them and steamed them for a few minutes, and then tossed them with a little bit of garlic butter. YUM. Well, really, the whole meal deserves a big gigantic "YUM" -- this easy, super tasty meal will definitely be a repeat at my house!

Dinner tonight:
Moroccan Chickpea Stew, over brown rice. This meal also deserves a big gigantic "YUM!" Another definite repeat.

It's been a good week of dinners so far, and it's only Monday! Wahoo!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

SUGAR, a package, and some regular food

Even though I worked nine hours yesterday at the store, I've been trying to stay on top of my holiday baking prep this weekend. Biscotti Friday night, brittle on Saturday, and two more doughs for the freezer today. Photos:

The second batch of brittle:
Yes . . . the second batch. Why? Because I ruined the first batch, and no, I did not burn it. I followed the recipe instructions, instead of trusting my gut and using my candy thermometer. I learned a valuable lesson -- go with my gut! The first batch was cloudy, greyish, and not really crispy at all. Argh. Anyhow, after throwing out that batch, I pulled out the candy thermometer and started again -- and the second batch turned out wonderfully, as you can see. The catch? I didn't have enough sunflower seeds for the second batch, so I used peanuts. Alas. The curry powder still makes for a unique treat, though!

Sweet and Salty Peanut Chocolate Chunk Cookies:
I love doing this with drop cookies -- scooping them all out onto parchment, freezing the entire batch in little dough balls, and then transferring them to a ziploc once nice and frozen. They take only a couple of minutes to thaw once placed on cookie sheets, and I can choose how many cookies to bake at a time! This time I'll bake off the whole batch, (next weekend,) but in the past, it's been nice to be able to bake just a couple of cookies at a time! (This was especially handy when I used to have a toaster oven -- freshly baked cookies in the middle of the summer! Yum.)

What's that?
Could that be Grandma's Christmas Cookie dough, off to the freezer? Yep. I decided to make half a batch of cut-out cookies this year after all, partially because the brittle didn't yield as much as I was expecting, and partially because, well, I just like these cookies. I figured if I did a half batch all of one "shape," (I'm thinking stars,) frosting and sprinkling will go that much more quickly.

I got a package in the mail yesterday:
My friend Anna and her husband sent me oranges and grapefruit! The oranges are delicious, and I haven't had a chance to get into a grapefruit yet. My immune system will be extra-strong, thanks to all of the vitamin C I'm going to get! Thanks, Anna and Langdon!!

And, of course, packages are fun, even if you're a cat.
(I suppose, technically, Oliver is perishable and should be protected from freezing, too!)

I have been making regular food lately, too.

Baked beans:
This is a simple slow cooker recipe that I haven't tweaked to my liking just yet, but it was quite good the first time 'round. Thanks for the recipe, Courtney!

Agean Eggplant and Lentils:
Awhile back, Vegetarian Times ran an article featuring recipes easily made in a Dutch oven. I loved the concept -- chuck a bunch of stuff in a pot, put the lid on, stick it in the oven, and forget about it for a while. Magically, dinner is ready! This was an excellent recipe, and my first try using capers. (I haven't cared much for them in the past.) I scooped this into a wholegrain pita for lunch yesterday. Tasty delicious!

Cumin-Curried Hummus:
I think Dan could eat his weight in hummus if he tried. A new recipe to try this week!

Have a tasty (and healthy) week -- I'll be busy finishing holiday baking, and will post next weekend, showcasing the results!

Friday, December 07, 2007

holiday baking preview

It's been a busy week, what with work, trainings, choir practice, and general life getting in the way. I have been cooking a little, (I made a slow cooker baked bean recipe Courtney passed my way,) but mostly eating leftovers and simple things for dinner like oatmeal and frozen ravioli, (not at the same meal, I promise!)

Dan and I went to the grocery store last night and stocked up, so my posting dry spell will soon be over. In the meantime, a couple holiday baking preview photos:

I have only very recently acquired a kitchen scale, (this little model by Escali is affordable, comes in a vast array of colors, and gets the job done!), and I have to say, I'm really enjoying baking by weight. Why? Because I don't dirty measuring cups -- I just spoon in the ingredients, until I'm at the right weight for each ingredient. Tare, and spoon again!

Biscotti, after the first trip in the oven. The last tray is finally finishing up its second oven trip, as I type right now. (I'm trying to decide whether it's worth sticking them in the freezer for a week, or if I should just leave 'em alone and assume they'll stay fresh for a while, as long as they are tightly sealed?)

I forget how small my oven is, until I start large baking projects like holiday cookies. Grumble.

Anyhow, the biscotti are fabulous! (I just dipped one into my tea . . . yum!)

Happy weekend, everyone.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

busy weekend!

Don't you just love those weekends when you are super-productive, but not exhausted? I've had one of those weekends. I've caught up on email and snail mail correspondence, done some tidying up and filing around the house, nearly completed my Christmas shopping, wrapped all of the Christmas presents I've purchased, made a (crustlesss) tofu pumpkin pie, done some laundry, mopped the floors, washed mountains of dishes, and finished a book! I've also been cooking and eating, of course. :)

One of my impulse buys at the Wedge on Friday:
Pineapple guavas! I was sold on their bubblegum-like fragrance -- I had to give a few a try.

Guavas are a little strange . . . sweet and tart, with an unusual texture. They may not be on my grocery list on a regular basis, but they were worth a try!

Almond Milk!
I realize this looks remarkably like the batches of soy milk I've made with my Soyabella, but I had to post about almond milk . . . because it tastes SO good, and it takes even less time to make than soy milk. Plus, almonds are a natural source of calcium and iron -- bonus!

Falafel for dinner last night:
I baked my falafel this time . . . ew. I will stick to pan-frying from now on, because my oven baked falafels just got dried out and crumbly. My salad (romaine, tomato, artichoke, olives, oil, and vinegar,) was spectacular, however!

The beginnings of holiday baking:
Chai shortbread dough, off to the freezer for a couple of weeks. See you soon, chai shortbread!

Rescuing falafel for lunch today:
I pan-fried the falafel today, with much better results. Sweet potato fries and more guavas on the side. (I'm full!)

I still can't believe it's only 4:15 or so . . . what will I do with the rest of my day? We shall see . . . !