Sunday, December 30, 2007

Spiced Up Pancakes

When making regular old pancakes, add a dash of ginger, cinnamon or cloves to the mix (not all three at once). It gives the batter a little kick and makes for some really exotic and tasty cakes!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Sweet Carrot Slaw

1 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup maple syrup, preferably dark amber or grade B

1/3 cup white vinegar

2 teaspoons dried sweet basil or 1 tablespoon fresh opal basil

¼ cup diced onion

2 pounds carrots, peeled, shredded, and chilled

½ cups sliced scallions, including greens

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Slat and freshly ground pepper to taste

To Make the Dressing

  1. Combine the vegetable oil, maple syrup, vinegar, basil, and onion in a blender, about 5 to 8 seconds. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using (see Note).

To Make the Slaw

  1. In a large bowl, toss the shredded carrots, scallions, parsley, and vinaigrette until well blended. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve chilled.

Serves 6 to 8

Note: The dressing may be made the day ahead; however, the salad is best served the day it is made.

This is another traditional Shaker recipe that Julie busted out for Thanksgiving dinner. It's so good I almost licked my plate clean. Instead I put my fork down and demanded that she send me the recipe.

Baked Onion and Apple Cider Soup with Smoked Cheddar Cheese

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

5 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced

4 cups beef stock

4 cups fresh apple cider

2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

8 slices of French bread 1/8 thick

8 thin slices of Gruyere cheese

3 to 4 cups grated smoked cheddar cheese

1. In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook until well browned, about 15 minutes. Taking care not to burn them. Add the stock, cider, and thyme, bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer the soup for 1 ½ hours. Skim the top of the soup periodically.

2. Season the soup with salt and pepper.

3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put oven proof soup crocks in a large roasting pan and fill the crocks with the hot soup. Pour hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the crocks. Top each crock with a slice of bread, a slice of Gruyere cheese, and 1/3 to ½ cup grated smoked Cheddar cheese. Bake until hot and bubbly.

Notes: I haven't made this yet, but my foodie friend, Julie has and it's fabulous. This is a traditional Shaker recipe that she served at her Thanksgiving dinner. I was lucky enough to partake of the leftovers a few days later. Trust me, this stuff is excellent.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Mary's Sugar Cookies

1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 c. butter

1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla

2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp cream of Tartar

Mix the sugar and the butter. Add the egg and the vanilla. Mix in the flour, soda and cream of Tartar.

Chill 2-3 hours. Use flour to coat hands before forming into 1" balls.

Flatten with sugared glass bottom and sprinkle with colored sugar.

Bake at 375 degrees 4 1/2 minutes tops. Cool before removing.

Notes: I have no idea who Mary is, it's just what we've always called these cookies.

This is a very simple recipe. What I always do is put the sugar into the mixing bowl while the butter softens in the microwave, and then put the egg and vanilla into a cereal bowl until I need them, and keep the flour, soda and cream of Tartar in another bowl in the counter, pre-measured and ready to go for when I need them.

The hardest bit of this recipe is dealing with your very tired arm because stirring once all the flour is in there isn't a piece of cake. It's totally worth it in the end, though. These are the best sugar cookies I've ever eaten.

Softening Brown Sugar

You know when you have a bag of brown sugar that you only use once in a while to make special stuff like cookies or frosting, and when you pull it out you find that it's all in hardened chunks?

Well, here's a tip for you: put as much as you think you'll need into a microwavable bowl, cover the bowl with a dampened but not dripping paper towel that's been folded in half and microwave for 30-60 seconds. The sugar will be very hot when done but it should also be nice and soft.

Mom's Awesome Gingersnaps

3/4 c. shortening
1 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 c. molasses
2 1/4 c. flour (2 c. for less fat cookie)
2 tsp. soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
granulated sugar

Mix thoroughly: shortening, sugar, egg, and molasses. Blend remaining ingredients except for granulated sugar. Cover and chill for one hour.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Shape dough by rounded teaspoonfuls into balls. Dip tops in granulated sugar. Place balls sugar side up 3-inch apart on a lightly greased baking sheet.

Bake ten to twelve minutes or just until set. Immediately remove from baking sheet.

Notes: I think these are my all-time favorite Christmas cookies. I only used 2 cups of flour and I didn't refrigerate them like the instructions say, and to get a flatter, softer cookie, once I had shaped balls of dough on the cookie sheet I flattened them somewhat with the sugared bottom of a regular kitchen glass. Ten minutes was the maximum I let them stay in the oven and they turned out perfectly.