Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Too. Much. Food.

The last few days have been a blur of food and family and presents followed by more food, more family and more presents! I can't remember what day it is, I ate chocolate covered cherries for breakfast and I have a lovely stack of new books (including some cookbooks, but ugh - who wants to read about food right now?) waiting for my attention. Went skating at Victoria Park today, fighting the reality that is tomorrow when one of us has to go back to work. Luckily New Year's Eve/Day is right around the corner. Happy Holidays!

Psst! You can click the image to make it bigger.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Julecake, with a side of potato salad.

A couple of weeks ago when we were snowed in I went on a cooking/baking rampage. See here. And here. Oh - and here too. One of the things I made (and have yet to blog about) was Julecake. Julecake is a Norwegian Christmas bread. D. and I have seen searching for the perfect Christmas morning breakfast and julecake seemed like a decent contender. A Google search revealed plenty o' julecake recipes. I decided I was 'feeling lucky' and went with the first recipe that was returned, which I found here.

I don't bake a lot of bread. Particularly yeast breads. Don't have the patience, don't have the time. But when you're snow bound, suddenly you have oodles of time. Here's what the recipe tells you to do:


To make the bread, start by using a large, flat mixing bowl. (I used a large, flattish bottomed wooden salad bowl) In this bowl, put:

5 c. white flour
1 T. cardamom
2 c. candied fruit and citrus
1 - 1 1/2 c. raisins.

Mix these dry ingredients until blended. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Set aside.

In a Pyrex measuring cup, combine the following:

2 c. milk, scalded (I figured out this pretty much means heated)
1 c. sugar, dissolved in the scalded milk
1 c. butter (I used unsalted), melted in the scalded milk

Let the mixture cool to lukewarm. Pour a little over:

1 T. active dry yeast

Stir to dissolve. It may begin to bubble a bit; that's OK. (I'm not sure my yeast actually dissolved all that well. I stirred and stirred, and when I got bored of stirring (as noted, no patience) I stopped.) When smooth, add the dissolved yeast mixture into the main milk/sugar/butter mixture. Then add the whole kit and caboodle into the flour mixture, and begin to combine all to make a soft dough. You'll probably add another cup or so of flour, but your goal is to knead this all together to create a soft, pliable dough that doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl. If your bowl is too small, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead further.

When well but not over-kneaded, place in the buttered bowl, turn it over once so the oiled side is up. Place a cotton dish towel over the top, and place the bowl in the pre-heated oven. It shouldn't be too hot; just warm enough for a good, protected rise. Let it do its work for 1/2 hour to 45 minutes. Punch down and knead again. This time, you can separate the dough however you like; 2 loaves, 2 rounds, or 4 smaller loaves and 1 small round. Do whatever blows your hair back. (Can I just say this is one of the best directions I've read in a recipe...'whatever blows your hair back'. Brilliant! For the record, I made two small loaves.) Cover with a dish towel again and let it rise once more for 1/2 hour to 45 minutes. You may have to do a brief second pre-heat on the oven for rise #2 to keep it nicely warm.

Once risen, bake in a 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes. I generally put a piece of foil over the tops after about 25 minutes as otherwise I feel it gets too dark. (I would agree - I 'foiled' mine and they came out pleasantly but not overly dark.

The author of this recipe further suggested that Julecake is best toasted with some butter. I would have to agree. This bread was lovely on its own, but toasted and buttered it was even better.

Now. About that potato salad. I haven't actually made potato salad for several months. It's just that I forgot to include a post about it back in the Summer, and because I plan to print/bind all of my 'my sunday dinner' posts at the end of the year so I can have a quasi-recipe/memory book on the shelf, I don't want to forget the potato salad. Because it was very, very good. It's a Julia Child recipe that you can find here through Epicurious.

This was seriously good potato salad, which is why I don't want to lose track of the recipe. If you want to eat it with some Julecake, by all means...

Julia's American Style Potato Salad

  • 2 pounds large Yukon Gold potatoes, or other waxy, boiling potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock or potato-cooking water
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 3 or 4 slices crisply cooked bacon, chopped or crumbled
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped pickle, sweet or dill
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced thin
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives or scallions, including a bit of their tender green
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 cup or so mayonnaise, homemade if possible (yeah - no)

  • Peel the potatoes and slice each one lengthwise in half, or in quarters if very large; then cut crosswise into half-round or quarter-round slices, about 1/2 inch thick.

    Put the slices in a saucepan with water just to cover and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt per quart of water. Heat to a simmer, and cook the potatoes for 5 to 6 minutes, or until just cooked through. It is essential that they be just cooked through. Bite into a slice or two to be very sure. Immediately remove from the heat and drain the potatoes into a colander, but save a cup of the cooking liquid for dressing the potatoes. Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl. Stir the cider vinegar with ⅓ cup of the potato water or chicken stock and drizzle this over the potato pieces, turning them gently to distribute it evenly. Let sit 10 minutes to absorb the liquid.

    Add the prepared onion, celery, bacon, pickle, hard-boiled eggs, and chives, and season carefully to taste. Top with ⅔ cup of mayonnaise and, with a large rubber spatula, gently fold everything together until well blended. Taste the salad and add more salt, pepper, or mayonnaise as needed.

    Cover the salad and set aside in the refrigerator for at least an hour or so before serving. If it is refrigerated longer, let it come back to room temperature before serving. Taste and adjust the seasoning again.

    Sunday, December 19, 2010

    Sunday Dinner - Breakfast Edition

    I have quite a collection of holiday food magazines and cookbooks. Whenever I leaf through them I always marvel at the breakfast menus that are trotted out for Christmas morning. At our house, we eat breakfast every day but never a huge feast. Just enough fuel to get us up and out the door and keep us satisfied until lunch. So I like the concept of Christmas breakfast but don't think I have the appetite to pull it off. That includes getting up early enough to prepare the darn thing.

    Then I had a brain wave. Why not make breakfast for this week's Sunday dinner? It's a week before Christmas, the kids are off school for two weeks - there are no rules right now! So that's what we did. Gingerbread waffles, diner style potatoes and turkey sausages:

    Everyone loved the gingerbread waffles, which I found at Tasty Kitchen. These smelled amazing when they were cooking (waffling?) and really, it's like demanding your children eat cake for dinner. Who's going to refuse? The potatoes are another Cook's Illustrated find from America's Test Kitchen TV Show Book 2010-11. They were wonderful. I've tried dicing / frying potatoes for breakfast before and they never seem to turn out. With these babies you dice the potatoes then cover them with water, add some salt to the pot, and just as they start to boil you take them off the heat and strain them. Then you put them in a hot skillet with both butter and oil. Delish.

    So that's our last Sunday dinner before Christmas 2010. So no blog posts about holiday heroics in the kitchen, or at least none relating to 'official' Christmas dinner. Although I am on tap for dessert. I already made a Sticky Date Pudding for our dinner with D.'s family but I plan on making one more thing...for a Christmas food craving I have yet to satisfy.

    Gingerbread Waffles
    • ⅔ cups Brown Sugar
    • 2 whole Large Eggs, Yolks And Whites Separated
    • 1-½ cup Buttermilk (or Regular Milk Plus 1 1/2 Tablespoons Vinegar)
    • ½ cups Molasses
    • 6 Tablespoons Butter
    • 2 cups Flour
    • 3 teaspoons Baking Powder
    • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
    • 2 teaspoons Ground Ginger
    • 1-½ teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
    • ½ teaspoons Salt
    • ¼ teaspoons Ground Cloves
    • ¼ teaspoons Ground Nutmeg
    • ¼ teaspoons Ground Cardamom (optional, But Recommended)
    In a small bowl, mix brown sugar and egg yolks until smooth and creamy. Stir in buttermilk, molasses, and butter.

    Into a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, salt, cloves, nutmeg, and cardamom.

    In a glass or metal bowl, whip egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks have formed.

    Add liquid mixture into sifted dry ingredients and stir together. Fold in egg whites.

    Cook according to waffle iron instructions.


    'Fudge' is one of those great food words that seems to perfectly describe itself. When I say the word 'fudge' I immediately think thick, rich, sugary goodness. I've not made a lot of fudge over the years; I don't tend to do a lot of candy type baking/cooking, but when plotting out our must- make holiday treats last week D. suggested we try to make fudge. He was specifically thinking of his grandfather's fudge, which used to be sent to us every Christmas, homemade from Hugh's kitchen in Kenora.

    I got the recipe for Hugh's Fudge from my MIL, who had it written down as dictated over the phone years ago. It comes with a few warnings (use a heavy pan, don't stop stirring, keep it at a high heat, it burns quickly) so we were prepared to have to work for our fudge.

    First our equipment. We used the heaviest pot we have, which is actually my roasting pan. I wanted to use it for a couple of reasons. It's a Calphalon Contemporary Nonstick roasting pan and when it says 'nonstick' it means it. I swear we've roasted turkeys in the thing and clean up could have been accomplished with a paper towel. Whatever the nonstick surface is made of (which is likely shortening my life span) it means business. So I figured if we did end up with a sticky mess we would at least be able to to clean the pot without too much trouble. Also it is heavy, so I hoped the heat would distribute more evenly then in one of my regular saucepans. Happily my new oven has multiple burner sizes; in fact it has a front burner option that is way larger than the one on my old oven, big enough to accomodate most of the roasting pan.

    Here is how things looked once we had combined all of our ingredients and turned up the heat, stirring, stirring, stirring:

    And here it is after we had poured it into a dish to set. After about 2-3 minutes I started to cut it, another recipe directive: it's easier to cut when it is slightly soft:

    I will admit to having tasted the fudge during several stages of its development. At this stage, it tasted exactly like a Kraft Caramel. Chewier than the fudge D. remembered. As the fudge cooled and set the texture became more granular, and therefore familiar, to D.'s tastebuds. Here is the final product:

    We are definitely going to have to gift some of this fudge. It is seriously delicious and I could eat every single square myself, if challenged to do so. Go ahead - dare me.

    Hugh's Fudge

    1 can Eagle Brand Milk
    2 cups white sugar
    1/2 cup butter, melted
    5 tbsp corn syrup
    1/2 tsp vanilla

    Combine ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Heat on stove at a high temperature 20 minutes, stirring constantly (we started at about an 8, reduced to a 6 and ended up at a 4). Take off the heat and add 1/2 tsp vanilla, continuing to stire 2-3 minutes. Pour into a greased 9x13 pan (we used a Pyrex dish). Let cool; cut fudge before it gets too hard (3-4 minutes after you pour it into the pan).

    Saturday, December 18, 2010

    Christmas Snacks

    I can't believe that by this time next week Christmas will be, for all intents and purposes, over. So we really only have another seven days to soak it all in, including noshing on once a year snacks like Nuts and Bolts.

    Our version of Christmas Nuts and Bolts omits the nuts. A casualty of the nut-free environment my kids now occupy at school. As such our Nuts and Bolts might more aptly be called cereal mix, since it relies heavily on cereals - Shreddies, Chex and Cheerios. I tend to call it snack mix. Here is how you make it:

    Christmas Snack Mix

    4 cups shreddies

    4 cups chex
    3 cups cheerios

    1 cup pretzels (I like to use Alphabet Pretzels)
    6 tbsp butter

    2 tbsp wooster sauce
    1 1/2 tsp seasoned salt
    3/4 tsp garlic powder

    Combine the cereals and pretzels in a large microwave safe bowl. In another smaller microwave safe bowl, melt the butter. Add wooster and seasonings, stir to combine. Drizzle over the cereal/pretzel mix, stirring well to coat. Heat in microwave for 6 minutes, stopping every 2 minutes to stir. Spread mixture on paper towels to cool, store in airtight container(s).

    This year I jazzed up one batch of our Christmas Snack Mix by adding some peppermint M&Ms, which add some nice colour and are a great sweet complement to all the salty goodness that is snack mix.

    I give out a lot of snack mix this time of year. People seem to love receiving it and it's a real no-brainer to make. Our next batch of snack mix will be extra special because I'm pulling out all of the stops and adding...Bugles! Remember Bugles? I once loved Bugles. I haven't seen them in stores for years. A friend at work mentioned them this week and I couldn't stop thinking about them...then he offered me two whole bags of my own, acquired during a trip to the States. Which I left in my office Friday, or I would have included them in this batch of snack mix. Which makes for a great excuse to make more next week.

    Wednesday, December 15, 2010

    It's beginning to look a lot like...

    ...Christmas! And not because we have a ridiculous amount of snow. Although we do. Still. More today, knee deep when I finally decided to face it at 8 a.m.. I had to shovel my yard today. My yard. So I could make room to pile more snow from the driveway on to said yard. Ridiculous!

    And yet I am still in a good mood because today, despite the snow, I received an early Christmas present. Voila -

    Wowza. That be a double oven. I did not need a new oven. Hadn't even considered a new oven. Then D. got an e-mail a few weeks ago through work. Appliance sale! Still not tempted. Then D. points out the (on sale) double oven. Points. It. Out. What was he thinking? Before pointing it out I could have gone on quite happily with my regular ol' oven. But now the double oven is stuck in my brain. Can't get it outta my head. When I go to make dinner I think of how nice it would be to be baking cookies while also making lasagna. At the same time. Think of how efficient I could be...if only.

    And now, here it is. A Christmas gift for both D. and I, since he feels he will benefit from the double oven. So to make sure he gets value from his gift the first thing I made is for D.; a belated birthday cake:

    In addition to the cake I made D. a playlist of songs, one a year from 1973 - present, all from the top 100 songs for that year. It's kind of hilarious. Like, Kenny Rogers hilarious. The Eagles. Air Supply. Nelson. Nelson!! Which I'm totally not listening to while I type this. Happy birthday, sweetie.

    Monday, December 13, 2010

    Christmas Cookie Fail

    Really Martha? Really?

    Shira's Cranberry Thumbprints sounded promising. I even got over the fact that my CT might not look the same as those pictured with the recipe before I started baking. Been there, done that. What I wasn't prepared for was an inedible cookie. Which is what I produced.

    I'm willing to accept some responsibility for these cookies not turning out. I suspect I might have overmixed the dough since it resembled sand, which didn't work out so hot when I started trying to shape the cookies. Apart from that, I'm not sure what went wrong. Here is what I ended up with:

    I did try one before ditching them. They're all squished together because I was about to sweep them off into the garbage then decided I should record my failures along with my successes. They tasted like sand. Or what I imagine sand might taste like, having never tasted sand before. Which shouldn't have surprised me given that's what they looked like earlier. Not destined to become a holiday classic at our house.

    I had to recover quickly from this little setback, having made a promise of holiday goodies to deserving co-workers. So I went back in the archives for something festive yet simple. These should do the trick:

    I first made these Triple Chocolate Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies in 2004. They are meant to be drizzled with white chocolate, which would make them extra festive, but I had to work with what was in my pantry so they will be served unadorned. They still taste good - three kinds of chocolate chips, chopped fresh (okay, frozen) cranberries, oatmeal...cinnamon. I have a whole whack of yummy homemade Christmas fruitcake to serve alongside.

    Now I'm trying to figure out what to make D. for this birthday dinner. Decisions, decisions...

    Saturday, December 11, 2010

    Christmas Cookies 1.2 - Sugar Cookies

    I found the cutest snowman cookie jars a few weeks ago and decided they would make great teacher gifts for the holidays. I bought them and stashed them away with visions of a pleasant afternoon spent baking holiday cookies with the boys to fill up the round tummies of my jars. It was a pleasant afternoon of baking but my 'help' was rather hit and miss. P. likes cracking eggs and running the mixer, but once those tasks were done he was out. D. strolled through the kitchen once or twice, his nose glued to his DSi, and peeked at my progress but I suspect he was just trying to see if there were any cookies ready to consume.

    I've made sugar cookies a few years now for the holidays. The most reliable recipe I've found comes from a Williams Sonoma cookbook called kids baking that I was gifted for Mother's Day in 2005. It's a nifty little book that has provided us with a few reliable treats. The sugar cookie recipe is definitely a keeper. The cookie dough is easy to work with, which I appreciate because I'm not a huge fan of rolling out cookie dough. To me, cookies are best when I can scoop, plop and bake. No fuss, no muss. I'll put up with a little fuss at Christmas, especially when the results are so tasty. Here's how to make some pretty excellent sugar cookies.

    sugar cookies

    2 cups flour
    1/2 tsp baking powder
    1/4 tsp salt
    1/2 cup butter, room temperature
    1 cup sugar
    1 large egg
    1 1/2 tsp vanilla

    In a medium bowl, mix together dry ingredients. In large bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy (about 3 minutes). Add the egg and vanilla, beating until blended. Add the flour mixture (on low speed) just until blended. The dough will look lumpy. Dump the dough out and form into a solid mound. Divide in half, wrap in plastic wrap and flatten into a disk. Refrigerate until well chilled, about 1 hour.

    Preheat oven to 350F. Grease baking sheets.

    Sprinkle work surface with some flour. Place unwrapped chilled dough on flour surface, sprinkle with a bit more flour. Roll out dough with rolling pin until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Then use cookie cutters to cut out desired shapes. Like so:

    Bake each full sheet of cookies for 8-10 minutes or until the edges begin to become golden brown. (I found 8 minutes sufficient, particularly for the smaller cookies.)

    The fun part is icing and decorating your cookies. To be honest I tend to be minimalist with sugar cookies. Most of the time I just leave them plain. I hear no complaints and have none left after a couple of days, so icing and sprinkles are apparently optional, right? Since these cookies are gifts I decided to tart them up a bit, like so:

    I used an icing recipe from the same cookbook that is super simple (see below). After applying the icing I then coated each cookie in coloured sugar sprinkles. Buttery, sugary goodness all set for gifting!

    super simple sugar cookie icing

    2 cups icing sugar
    2 tbsp + 2 tsp warm water
    1 tbsp light corn syrup

    Combine the above in a bowl and mix with an electric hand mixer.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010

    Peppermint Cheesecake Brownies

    I know. By the time it's safe to leave my home, I'll be rolling out the front door. We haven't left the house since Sunday (except to shovel, shovel and shovel) but it appears that tomorrow schools are open, work is open and we can resume our 'normal' routine. When I do finally get back to work, I'll be armed with a nice big tray of Peppermint Cheesecake Brownies. I was flipping through my holiday recipe file when I came upon this treat from the December 2008 issue of Cooking Light. I looked in the fridge and found I actually had all the ingredients needed (I knew buying a random brick of cream cheese was going to come in handy) so what the heck...snow day calories don't count, right?

    These are seriously moist brownies. They are so moist I was almost worried I hadn't cooked them enough. They are a very fudgy brownie - not as cakey as some I've tried...more...what's the word? Oh yeah. Moist. The peppermint cheesecake is a nice surprise. You're eating a perfectly wonderful (and did I mention moist?) chocolate brownie when suddenly, yum! Peppermint cheesecake! So hopefully these do the trick and get everyone in the office over the disappointment of having to miss work for three days. The two day work week...think that will catch on?

    Peppermint Cheesecake Brownies

    Cheesecake batter:
    • 1 (8-ounce) block 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
    • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
    • 1 large egg
    • 1 large egg white
    • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
    Brownie batter:
    • 4.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
    • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup canola oil
    • 1/4 cup buttermilk
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 2 large egg whites
    • 1 large egg
    • Cooking spray
    1. Preheat oven to 350°.

    2. To prepare cheesecake batter, place cheese in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add granulated sugar and peppermint extract; beat well. Add 1 egg and 1 egg white; beat well. Add 1 tablespoon flour; beat mixture just until blended.

    3. To prepare brownie batter, weigh or lightly spoon 4.5 ounces (about 1 cup) flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine 4.5 ounces flour, cocoa, and salt in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine brown sugar, oil, buttermilk, vanilla, 2 egg whites, and 1 egg in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium-high speed until well blended. Add flour mixture to brown sugar mixture; beat at low speed just until blended.

    4. Reserve 1/2 cup of brownie batter. Pour remaining batter into a 9-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray. Carefully pour cheesecake batter over top; spread evenly to edges. Dot cheesecake batter with reserved brownie batter. Swirl top two layers of batters together using the tip of a knife. Bake at 350° for 26 minutes or until top is set. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

    Tuesday, December 7, 2010

    Dear Weather Gods,

    Who obviously read my blog. Remember a week or so ago when I wondered why we hadn't had any snow yet? Thank you for your substantial efforts to make it a bit more Winter-y around here. I really appreciate it. I think. Thing is, we're good for snow now. In fact, we've likely had enough for the rest of the season. So if you could, you know, make it stop snowing, that would be great.

    Girl who really just wanted a dusting of snow. Not this:

    Monday, December 6, 2010

    Martha, Martha, Martha...

    Yes, I do remember the Brady Bunch. But I'm not upset with Marsha, rather it's a certain Martha who has me a bit wound up. See, I decided to get radical and try new Christmas cookie recipes this year. I attempted my first newbie this weekend: Chocolate-Espresso Snowcaps. Now, I have no quibble with how these turned out taste wise. The espresso powder definitely adds a little something to the overall taste of the cookie, which is chewy, chocolatey deliciousness. No, my quibble is with the presentation. My cookies looked nothing like Martha's beauts. Go ahead. Click on the recipe link above and see how pretty her cookies look. Now look at mine:

    Even my cuter than cute polar bear doesn't look so impressed. I mean, he's trying to be supportive and all but he can tell something is a bit off. My cookies don't look nearly as snowy. And I followed the instructions; I rolled my cookie balls in sugar twice, I even tried a batch where I made my balls a tiny bit smaller. But to no avail. My cookies are at best Chocolate-Espresso Snow(dusted)caps. So I'm a bit irked, although really how they look is really a moot point since they are all gone, less than 24 hours after they were baked. So that's gotta count for something, right? I do think these are a keeper. They are quite divine.

    Chocolate-Espresso Snowcaps

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 teaspoons instant espresso
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar, for coating

    1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, espresso, baking powder, and salt. With an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg until well combined; mix in cooled chocolate. With mixer on low speed, gradually add dry ingredients; beat in milk just until combined. Flatten dough into a disk; wrap in plastic. Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes.
    2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place confectioners' sugar into a medium bowl; working in batches, roll balls in sugar twice.
    3. Place balls on prepared baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies have spread and coating is cracked, 12 to 14 minutes; cookies will still be soft to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
    From The Martha Stewart Show, December 2006

    Snow Day!

    So remember when I said it started snowing Sunday afternoon? Well it hasn't stopped since, which means we've shoveled our driveway a bazillion times and we have a backyard that looks like this:

    After rolling out of bed this morning I checked the web and discovered that school was closed as was my place of employment. Woo-hoo! Snow day! Serious snow day. In fact I'm not sure where we're going to put all of the snow that is rapidly (re)filling our driveway. The kids went out to play this morning and I briefly considered attaching some kind of lead to the younger one in case he went under. Between no school, unlimited snow play and discovering Netflix can stream SpongeBob cartoons the boys are pretty much in heaven. My idea of heaven on a snow day? Baking, of course! I thought it might be a good afternoon to try out Julekake, a recipe that caught D's eye in his quest for a Christmas morning breakfast treat. More on that in another post.

    Another great thing about having a snow day is that you can have Sunday dinner leftovers for lunch. I made the most scrumptious Skillet Chicken Pot Pie last night. It's from The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook (page 40) which I picked up for half price on Boxing Day last year. I love this cookbook, which is brought to you by Cook's Illustrated. I also love Cook's Illustrated, although they are one of the few recipe sites on the web that require you to pay for access. Which I totally understand since a revenue model of 'let's give away everything we do for free' isn't all that sustainable. So I'm not going to reproduce the recipe here. I'll show it to you though:

    This Chicken Pot Pie is such a great concept. It's made in one pan (apart from the biscuits, which are baked separately) and uses convenience products like boneless chicken breasts and frozen peas/carrots. The sauce is butter, flour, chicken broth and cream. You can likely note specks of thyme in the sauce as well, along with some chopped onion and celery. This is seriously good stuff. I'm glad I took a picture of this dish in the kitchen because by the time I got to the dining table with my portion, the plate beside me looked like this:

    Happily there was more than enough for seconds. D. actually made the biscuits for this dish since I was working on a new Christmas cookie recipe, the details of which I will share later. I even caught him in biscuit-making action:

    Why yes, that is a 'vintage' Tupperware pastry rolling mat. I stole it from my mom and she either hasn't noticed or is too polite to say anything.

    Sunday, December 5, 2010

    Christmas Cookies 1.0 - Ginger Cookies

    Friday night I decided to launch the Christmas baking season with a classic - ginger cookies! Yeah. No big surprise. I have made this particular ginger cookie for a couple of years now. It's based on a recipe from The New Canadian Basics cookbook and it's fabulous. If you need a fool-proof cookie that tastes like Christmas, look no further...

    Ginger Cookies

    3/4 cup shortening, softened

    1 cup sugar
    1 egg
    1/4 cup molasses

    2 cups flour
    2 tsp baking soda
    1/4 tsp salt
    1 tbsp ground ginger

    1 tsp cinnamon
    1 tsp ground cloves
    sugar for coating

    In large bowl cream together shortening and sugar. Beat in egg and molasses. In separate bowl mix together flour, baking soda, salt and spices; blend in to creamed mixture. Shape into balls 1 inch in diameter. Roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets.

    Bake in 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Cookies will be slightly soft when removed from oven. Let cool on baking sheets for a few minutes then remove to racks to cool completely.

    This batch of cookies will likely find their way into school lunches this week. We also enjoyed a few (okay, maybe more than a few) while we decorated our Christmas tree. We finally received a dusting of snow that made our outside Christmas greenery look particulalrly festive so we couldn't resist brightening up the inside as well.

    Baby, it's cold outside...

    Seems we are smack dab in the middle of 'isolated flurries' at our house today. The yard is still filling up with snow (not to mention the driveway) and the view out of the kitchen window all afternoon was a blur of white flakes dancing madly about. The boys spent large pockets of the afternoon outside rolling in the snow, popping in to the house to thaw frozen fingers and toes every now and then. I made gingersnaps yesterday (yes, more ginger!) which were happily gobbled up during afternoon snack along with a 'first of the season' mug of hot chocolate.

    Following in the footsteps of my 'I don't like using boxed pancake mix' rant I bring you 'I also can't stand commercial hot chocolate mixes'. It's one of those products that has an ingredient label containing too many words I can't pronounce. And if I can't pronounce it, I really don't want to ingest it. So around this time of year I make my own hot chocolate mix. It's really easy - all you need is skim milk powder, sugar, cocoa and a pinch of salt:

    Hot Chocolate Mix

    3 cups powdered milk

    3/4 cup sugar

    1/2 cup cocoa

    pinch salt

    Combine ingredients and store in air tight container.

    To make your hot chocolate add 4 tbsp of mix to 3/4 cup of hot water and you're good to go. My guys top their hot chocolate with mini marshmallows, enough that they form a kind of sticky crust. Luckily it is just a sometimes treat...