Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Fat is Flavor!

It's true.  And I won't have it any other way.

My daughter had her 18 month old check-up a few weeks ago, and she's risen from the 3rd all the way to the 8th percentile - woohoo!  Dr. Bell asked about breastfeeding and cow's milk - both of which my daughter drinks without a problem - and clarified that she should only be drinking whole cow's milk.  That was very important.  I laughed out loud, and told him we girls were a whole everything kind of family.  He looked at us all, smiled, and said: "With you girls, that's probably just fine."

See?  Fat doesn't mean fat.  (Not that it didn't boost my ego just a little bit.)  But fat is healthy - and flavorful and good.  And you can't keep me away from it!  Given the choice between a "healthy" version and a full-fat, take a guess at which one I go for...  FATTY-FAT-FAT!!  Because ten times out of ten, it will taste better.  And what's more?  Your body compensates by telling you that you're full sooner.  I'd rather have less of something wonderful than more of something gross.  Wouldn't you?

Things you can always find in my fridge: heavy cream, whole milk, real butter, cream cheese, some kind of Italian cheese, and bacon.  Always.  (And even though she's a constant and great eater, my daughter is still only in the 8th percentile.  See?!)

And realize, that in my recipes, I always, always mean the following:
milk = whole milk
butter = butter!!  (not margarine, butter spread, or anything else)
cheese, cream cheese, etc. = full fat versions of these things
heavy cream = heavy cream (not half & half)

So here's a recipe with three of my staple ingredients, cream cheese, Italian cheese, and bacon.  (And really, what isn't better with these things?)  It was a hit at the party - which means there's only a measly peasly bit left.... my apologies for the crummy picture.  But take it to heart that it just means it's great.  Really great.

Spinach-Artichoke Dip With Bacon
Preheat oven to 325*

In a stand mixer, combine:

  • 16 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 9 ounces chopped spinach (frozen is fine)
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped 
  • 6+ slices cooked bacon

Pour into a serving dish - I use an 11" tart pan - and sprinkle with more Parmesan and bacon.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Serve immediately with crackers of your choice.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

What Did You Do Today?

When I woke up this morning, I thought: "I'm going to throw a party tonight!"  Seriously.  I know, I'm a little nuts.  But I needed [wanted] some good friends and good food.  And so I did.
The menu was simple: date rolls (a Christmas tradition), poundcake, almond croissant bread pudding, pâté, and spinach-artichoke dip with bacon.  And hot cider.  Mmmmm.
Gratefully, I have a well-stocked pantry, and only needed to make a quick trip to the store for only one item.  (One Mommy, two littles = 10 minutes.  A miracle if there ever was one.)
So we ate, we gabbed, the girls played with little friends, then everyone went home and I fell asleep while putting the girls down.  Now isn't that just a perfect day?

Date & Nut Rolls
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
Stir in:
  • 1 3/4 cups fine graham cracker crumbs
Mix well and roll into about 4 logs.  Dough will be very sticky.  Cover in fine shredded coconut and wrap tightly with saran wrap.  Store in fridge and slice in rounds when ready to serve.  

*History:  This recipe comes from my Great-Great Aunt.  When my mother first made them, she would roll individual bite-sized balls...  it took forever!  When she was pregnant with me, she started making the logs, and we've been doing it that way ever since.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Happy December First!

To say that I like December First is a bit of an understatement.
It may even be better than Christmas.
It is the welcoming of the season, the snow; of clean white beauty and joy in the world around us.  I love it.
Traditionally, we start of the morning with cream of wheat parfaits (1 cup whole milk + 1/3 cup cream of wheat - simmer about 2 minutes until it begins to thicken.  Layer in a pretty glass with raspberry preserves and whipped cream).
We open an advent calendar to begin the countdown.  This year, I decided to put a little activity in each bucket - story time with a Christmas book, singing carols, making cookies; we started off the season by bringing treats to some friends!  We open some gifts, have some [more] treats, and make the house look like Christmas.  It's a lovely all-day affair.  This year, we'll be vacationing over Christmas so we didn't cut down our tree, but that is also a December First activity.
We did hang our garland with lovely glass icicles and  my favorite glass mercury ornaments (and my fairy - I've never found an angel I like, but this pretty little thing just... fits).

In honor of the start of this wonderful season, today's recipe is one of my favorites.  I serve it as breakfast, though some people insist that it is a dessert.  Warm comfort, and just makes you want to share.  It's that good.  If you've never had good bread pudding - and trust me, if you didn't like it, it's because it wasn't good - give this one a shot.  After all, it's Christmas!

Almond Croissant Bread Pudding

Preheat oven  to 350*.

Microwave until hot (about 3 minutes):

  • 1 1/3 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/3 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 T. sugar
Whisk in:
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons amaretto (in a pinch, amaretto syrup will do, but it will make your pudding a bit sweeter)
In a buttered deep dish pie plate:
  • 3 croissants, cut into 1" pieces
  • pour liquid on top
  •  sprinkle liberally with sugar (coarse sugar is divine and gives a lovely crunch, but lacking that, granulated works just fine)
Bake until set and golden, about 40-50 minutes.  It will deflate when you serve it.  Best warm.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

...and this one's for you

I love my life here.  My new friends, old friends that have come to visit, friends I haven't met yet, my gramma, the mountains, walking to 7-eleven for pina coloda slurpees, Bear Lake.  It's great.  My girls are happy; I'm happy.
But I also miss some things.  The country.  Walking around in my undies without worrying who can see in my windows.  My sister.  My parents.  Diversity.  My hair dresser.  But more specifically tonight, people.  We made a treat for some new friends, which was delicious, but made me crave some old friends.  (Happy Birthday, Grace Money.  We made these with you in mind.  Hope it was fab.  Now come visit us!) 
In life, there are some people who are family, even though they're not family.  You know.  I am so grateful for those people.  It's the little things...and the big things.  I am so blessed to know them; to have such a wonderful family. 
Thanks for being so gosh-darn inappropriate at all the right times.  You know who you are.  We love you, and wish we could cook for you always.  xoxo, Me & the Nuggets

Chewy Gingersnaps
Preheat oven to 375*

  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses (not blackstrap*)
  • 1 egg
Stir in:
Add and mix well:
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Form 1" balls and roll in granulated sugar.
Place on ungreased cookie sheet, 2" apart.
Bake 8-10 minutes.  Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

*If you only have blackstrap molasses, use 1/8 cup blackstrap and 1/8 cup honey.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

When Life Hands You Lemons...

...rejoice!  Squeeze them and drift away in the bliss that is pure, unadulterated citrus.
We've moved, life is good, and I'm still finding things to feel good about.  Including beautiful lemons.

We were at the grocery store this week, perusing the produce.  I bent down to pick up whatever it was that was supposed to be keeping my Ellie's attention - but let's face it: gravity is far more exciting - and had the most beautiful whiff of lemons I kind of stood there for a minute, dreaming of the delicious citrus trees that I will never be able to grow on my new balcony, until Chloe patted my bum and said, "You are a Mommy.  You have a big bottom.  I am just a Chloe with a tiny bottom." 

I told her she was right, and that one day, if she was lucky, she would have a big bottom just like Mommy.  So we laughed and filled  a bag of lemons to take the memory home with us, and to make a treat to keep our bottoms perfectly sized. 

Creamy Lemon Bars
Preheat oven to 350*.

Stir together:
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
Gradually stir in:
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans (today I tried walnuts, as pecans are so expensive right now... definitely a delicious substitute!)
Press dough firmly onto bottom of buttered 9"x13" pan.  Bake for 15 minutes. (You will begin to smell the nuts, and it will be lightly golden around the very edges.)

In mixer on high, beat until smooth:
  • 8 ounces softened cream cheese
  • 2 cups sugar
Add until blended:
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour
Stir in:
  • 2+ tablespoons lemon zest/rind*
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice*
*this is about 2 lemons

Pour filling evenly over prepared crust.  Bake for 30-35 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool at least one hour.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Something to Feel Good About

In a month (ish) I am moving, and everything will change.  [My home, my friends, my plans, my life.]  There will be fabulous new things, and disappointment for things lost.  But it will be fantastic, and lovely.  We will explore new places and learn new things.

Every day, I need something to feel good about.  It keeps me going; makes me laugh and grin and my heart soar.  [My girls, my home, my family, my friends, my plans, my food.] 

In celebration of feeling good about all of these things today, and the changes to come, here's a cookie to feel good about.  (I promise.  Eat as many as you like and feel good about doing it.)

Oatmeal - Flaxseed Meal Cookies

Preheat oven to 350*.

On a cookie sheet, sprinkle 1/3 cup walnuts.  Place in oven to roast for 7-10 minutes, or until they smell good.  Set aside.

Microwave in bowl covered tightly with plastic wrap on high for 30 seconds, then set aside (still covered):
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/3 cup craisins or dried cherries (cherries preferred)

In a mixing bowl, cream:
  • 1/4 cup softened butter

Add and beat until combined:
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Add and mix:
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Add and mix:
  • 3/4 cup flour

Add and mix:
Stir in with spatula:
  • prepared roasted walnuts
  • prepared dried fruit (dump them onto a cloth or napkin first to remove excess water, but beware: craisins and cherries will both stain red)
  • 2 ounces chopped dark chocolate (optional)

Drop large teaspoons on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 9-10 minutes. 
Makes about 18-24 cookies.  (Unless you like the dough as much as my girls and I.... we usually get a dozen baked cookies.  If we're lucky.)
These cookies are best warm, but good all the time. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Liver and Onions? Mais, Oui!

So the two weeks of kitchen rights just flew by, and now I'm right back where I started from.  But lest you think I didn't take full advantage, I just wanted to let you know.... I did! 

When we were little, living in Hawaii, there was this classy restaurant my mother used to take us to - me and my sister, ages 1 and 3.  She would order who knows what for herself - maybe she doesn't even remember - but what she always tells us is the little girl menu: bowls of black olives (eaten from ten tiny fingers) and pâtéBecause what 1 year old doesn't appreciate some good foie gras every now and again? 

We loved it so much that my mother came up with her own version, using chicken livers, which has continued to serve us well.  Somewhere along the line, we stopped eating it at the French restaurant and started serving it at home with saltine crackers - don't knock it before you try it - and it's become a generational thing.  Last week, I made a batch to take to my sister's.  She went out while I watched the girls, who found the pâté and ate almost all of it before she returned.  (Good thing I had stashed some of it in my own fridge...) 

Next time, I'll have to remember the olives, too.

It's delicious and deliciously easy to make.  So go ahead.  Add some class to your life, a pound of chicken livers at a time.

Chicken Liver Pâté

Sauté over medium heat for 15 minutes:
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 small chopped onions
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 pound chicken liver

In blender, combine with liver mixture until smooth:
  • 1/2 to 1 1/2 cups butter (the more butter, the creamier it will be)
  • 2 hard boiled eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon mace
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

 Pour into lidded container and chill overnight.  Serve with saltines.  (*I prefer to eat it not quite chilled, so I take it out of the fridge a good 20-30 minutes before serving.)

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Price of Eggs

I don't actually know what the going rate is for a dozen eggs these days, but let me tell you:  I'm paying out the wazoo for mine. 

It is my mother's hobby, but my mother is not here and as such, cannot care for her own.  And I love the snow.  And going out in the snow.  And truth be told, I don't even mind the actual chickens.  In the spring.  Or summer.  Or fall.  You get my drift (ha!): chickens in the winter are miserable little buggers.
This morning, I thought I was a goner.  I had misplanned with disastrous consequences.  Baby was asleep - time to suit up toddler and collect eggs - but all my pants were in the wash.  As in, in the washing machine.  Wet.  (Oops.)  There goes a dozen eggs, to be found tomorrow frozen and cracked where they lay.

But then - bliss happened! - and I had two littles sleeping simultaneously, and as luck would have it, dry pants.  (This is preferable in 2* weather.)  So off I went, into the white wonderland (it IS gorgeous), making my exit through a side door so as not to open the garage door beneath sleeping baby.  I lept gracefully over the first drift only to land/slide on a sheet of ice and fall.  I got up and started running - lest anyone think I have a true miracle where baby naps for more than 20 minutes - this is a marathon, baby, and my clock is ticking.  All went well until I hit the first of many drifts which came to mid-thigh.  The running stopped quicker than it started and I struggled to continue forward.  (Inertia, what?)  I finally made it to the cat's house to feed him, where he caught a ride on my back to the chicken coop for some fresh water.  Refilled their food and water, fluffed straw, and collected eggs.  Then back through the wicked wonderland.  (Back to the side door, which has one of those electric lock keypads that I couldn't get to work, so had to open the garage door anyway.  Grr.) 
Back inside, with my dozen eggs and a wakeful baby.

How much do your eggs cost??

(But at least I can make these.  So it's almost worth it, right?  I keep telling myself...  Please note: I know these look rather uninteresting, but they are divine.  Just try them and see.)

Walnut Cookies
 Preheat oven to 375*.
• 1 cup butter
• 1 cup sugar
• ¾ cup brown sugar

Add and Mix:
• 2 eggs
• 1 teaspoon vanilla

Add and Mix:
• 3 cups flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• ½ teaspoon salt

Add 2 cups mix-ins (walnuts, chocolate chips, etc.)  I love them chock-full of whole walnuts, and nothing else.  They also make mean chocolate chip cookies. 

Roll into golf ball sized balls, flatten slightly, and cook for 7 minutes.  Don't try to overcook these.  You will regret it.
Won’t be brown. Will be soft and so delicious!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

"Memory...All alone in the moonlight" (Just Me and My Shovel)

The List.  You know the one.  Of all the things you get to do by yourself after the children are fast asleep and down for the count.  Check your email.  (Send an email!)  Read a book.  (Without pictures!)  Take a bath.  (With bubbles that don't smell like cotton candy!)  Relax.  Indulge.  Five Minutes' Peace.
Depending on their bedtime - I aim for 7pm - that gives you up to four whole hours to do with what you please.  Except I find that increasingly - distressingly - I am unable to complete the items on The List.  It has been taken over by The Other List.  The one that consists of things that you have to do, and certainly don't want to, but can't, while your children are conscious.   
Like wash dishes, meal-plan for the week, throw in one last load of laundry - okay, maybe two, take care of the chickens and cat in the snow.  Or, as I found myself tonight, shoveling the driveway.  By moonlight.
"Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'entrate: Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.I am fairly certain that  my sister would have this posted at the end of our driveway in the winter if she had her way.   I am equally sure that Dante was, in fact, referring to Hell, and not the drive.  But, because she is coming to visit me tomorrow - because she is the one packing up a 3 year old and a 7 month old for the hour-plus drive, and not me! - and because she hates the driveway (and because I'm just that nice), shoveling was on The Other List tonight.  Because it's just too cold to have a toddler and an infant out there for as long as it takes to shovel the drive.  Which is LONG.  (I seem to recall at one point in my teenage years measuring it, and I somewhat recall that is was .1 mile.  After shoveling tonight, I am positive that is a far smaller number than the actual distance.)  And I didn't even finish it all.  But seriously, I drive a minivan for pete's sake, and make do just fine.  She has a Subaru. 
So after freezing my patootie off (did I mention I grabbed the pair of mittens with a hole in the thumb?  Cold!), I returned inside to a balmy 65* house - I'd already turned down the heat for bedtime.  At least there are treats.  There's nothing like berries and cream to warm me to my toes. 
Try this one, served warm with cream on top. 
It warmed me right up.  Twice.

Blueberry Cake
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup soft butter
Fold in:
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups blueberries
  • 1 cup walnuts (I prefer mine whole)
Grease an 8" square pan and spread in the batter - it will be thick.  Sprinkle on topping:

Cut with fork or pastry blender:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup cold butter, in slices
Bake at 375* for 35-40 minutes.

Alternately, you can make these as muffins, which freeze well (if they last that long).

Thursday, January 13, 2011

This is Not My Kitchen

On Thanksgiving, my children and I moved back in with my parents for six months.  Among the many difficulties that arise when returning home, none are truly awful.  Well, none except one. 

It is the loss of my kitchen.  I love to cook. 

Just ask my friends - I'm not half bad, either.  In fact, I'm pretty amazing in my own right.  So it's always a shock to me when I come home - for 6 months, this time around - to find myself feeling like the kitchen it off limits.  Is it because I'm the youngest, and will always be the baby, even at 29?  Is it because I like letting my 2 year old help?  Is it because Mother would rather do it herself, or that she's so anal about her cleanup rules?  No, no, no, and no.  It is because I am considered the "un-cook" in my family.  Me!  It's simply unspeakable.  I take affront.  They tell me, "Well, you make the good bread."  As if that's a consolation prize.  As if I cannot - would not even presume to try to - do anything else.  Instead, I am the designated babysitter. 
So, Wednesday morning at 4am when I woke up to drop off my parents at the airport for a 2 week jaunt to Mexico, was I grumpy?  No!  Jealous?  A little bit.... but!  But I have a kitchen for two weeks.  And it may not be my own; I may not know where everything is; but it is mine for the using. 
For two glorious weeks. 
Non si fanno frittate senza rompere le uova.