Molasses Spice Cookies

Confession time:
I didn’t “make up” the original recipe for these cookies, but because I simply cannot cook anything as written these change up each and every time I bake them. They are consistently great no matter what I’ve tweaked because of mood, ingredient availability, inspiration, general laziness… So I’m posting it in here.

Also because Heather asked for the recipe :)

This is what I put in the last batch, I’ll put some options & hints the end.

But first a cookie secret:
Like many cookies, these get better if you make the dough overnight-36 hours ahead of time. There now my secret is out, I make the dough, saran wrap the bowl & leave it in the fridge til I have time to bake. The sugars & spices marry together with the butter = magic.

Makes about 3 dozen

Prep

375° & rack in middle position

(2) cookie sheets w/parchment paper

1/2 C mix of ginger sugar, turbinado & superfine sugars in a flat bowl for rolling

 

Ingredients

2-1/4 C flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1-1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp cloves

1/4 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp chinese 5 spice

1/4 tsp cardamon

3/4 C softened butter (1-1/2 sticks)

1/3 C sugar

1/3 C dark brown sugar (packed)

1 large egg yolk

1-1/2 tsp bourbon vanilla

1/2 C dark molasses

 

Whisk the flour, soda, salt, pepper & spices and set aside.

Beat butter and sugars on med speed until light & fluffy, about 5 min. Beat in vanilla & yolk until combined, beat in molasses, about 30 sec each addition, scraping bowl & beaters as needed.

Add flour mixture and beat on low until combined, about another 30 seconds, it will be a soft & sticky dough. At this point I scrape the dough into a lump in the bowl, cover & put in fridge til later. That’s not necessary, you can go straight to baking at this point.

Wet hands with cold water and roll rounded tablespoons of dough into balls, then roll balls in the sugar mixture to coat. Place about 2″ apart on the parchment, these will spread out.

Bake 1 cookie sheet at a time until edges are set but the centers are still soft & underdone 10-12 min. Don’t overcook!!! Let them set on sheet another 10 min. they will flatten, crack and wrinkle with a crispy outside & chewy middle. Transfer to rack to cool if you can wait, or eat warm.

Variations

Rolling sugar:
I’ve used regular ol’ granulated, superfine, turbinado, demerara, ginger sugar or orange sugar.

Spices:
I’ve used fresh grated ginger or orange zest in the dough sugar. Also varied spices and amounts. Include? curry powder, nutmeg, chai spice, chili powder, pumpkin spice, different types of vanilla, and substituted rum for part of vanilla.

Frosting:
Glaze cooled cookies with rum & powdered sugar.

Do not use margarine instead of butter. It won’t work.

 

Spinach, Grilled Beets & Feta Salad

Balsamic Dijon Dressing:

  • 1-2 TB Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon Mustard
  • 3T Olive Oil
  • A bit of lemon zest
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

- I just put it all in a jar and shook it up

  • Big ol’ bunch of fresh spinach, washed & dried (other greens could work too)
  • 1 carrot grated
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced very thin
  • 1-2 oz feta cheese
  • Grilled beets (we had 3 small/med in the CSA box):

Peel & slice beets a little less than 1/2 inch thick, coat with olive oil ,sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Fire up the grill & cook on high about 3 minutes per side (I close the lid cuz our grill is a weakling)

Continue cooking until fairly soft then remove to a covered bowl and let steam on for another 10 minutes to get soft.

Combine all those things into one (if I may say so myself) kick ass salad – which I did share with my husband.

Parsnips – who knew?

As a child I was granted by my parents one, and only one, food item I would not have to eat.

I picked cooked carrots.
I still dislike them intensely. So when we received parsnips in our CSA box this week I was suspicious. They seemed entirely too carrot like for my comfort. But since CSA was overly generous with this last box of the season and our refrigerator protests by icing up when the crispers are too full, I needed to move some product in last night’s dinner – quick.

One of my standard go-to’s these days is roasted vegetables – super easy aside from the washing, peeling and chopping. Oven around 400°, toss with olive oil, herbs and spices and roast with a toss or two for about 30 – 45 minutes depending what’s in it. Cut hard dense things (beets, potatoes, radishes,  parsnips!) a bit smaller than light wet things (mushrooms, onions, peppers, broccoli)  and they’ll all get done around the same time. It’s a pretty much fail-safe non-recipe.

I figured that if the parsnips were nasty, at least we had plenty of other veggie nuggets to eat. Well, man was I surprised – they were the best of the bunch. Their texture is like roasted potatoes, crispy on the outside, dense by fluffy on the inside. And the taste (at least to me) is nothing like what happens to poor carrots when they are subjected to heat. There is something spicy and a bit sweet about them that combined with that texture could get addictive.

Just goes to show that it pays to be open to new tastes and experiences.

Say it loud, say it proud – Soyrizo!

photo: Jeff Moser

Although we aren’t vegetarian, life has conspired to prevent us from cooking meat at home, or at least mostly.  This has led to some need for creativity with protein sources and I wanted to share one of our best finds. Soyrizo! Vegan, no GMO, healthy, kosher & absolutely delicious. Not usually a fan of soy meat alternatives, I was surprised and happy about how much we love this. Foodie friends make shake their heads, but they really don’t know what they are missing.

A  favorite way to use soyrizo is fried up with onions and some cooked cubed potatoes in tacos or tostadas with fresh tortillas, salsa, cheese, lettuce, avacado – the works. So good.

The other night I made a version of the traditional Portuguese soup, Caldo Verde, by frying some up with paprika, garlic and onions, adding sliced potatoes and a couple cups of broth and cooking for 15 minutes. Then a big bunch of chopped kale went in and was wilted. This was amazing and perfect for the chilly fall weather setting in.

Also try it with scrambled eggs,  burritos, chile and black or white beans. It’s greasy (but healthy), crumbly and a bit messy to get out of the plastic casing, but worth an extra swipe of the sponge. Trader Joe’s makes a version that is equally tasty and may cost less depending on where you live.

So give it a try – it’s really tasty, I promise! Don’t just take my word for it – even folks at Chow Hound love it (well some of them anyways).

 

How to Make a Potluck Winner (aka Cheesy Veg Bake)

There is a bit of a background story on this one so scroll on down if you just want the recipe. Oh, and sorry I didn’t get photos like I planned :(

Since we joined our local Grange a few months ago one of the highlights has been the food at the pre-meeting potlucks (where all the real work gets done, btw). While I have always had a bit of performance anxiety around bringing something crowd worthy to communal food gatherings, these folks really raise the bar. I live in a community of exceptionally good cooks. With big gardens full of the freshest ingredients. It can be a little intimidating. Last time I brought what I thought was a lovely Caesar Pasta Salad, only to be a middling contender amongst half a dozen pasta salads. We brought home half the dish – which was darn tasty the next day, but still…

You see my goal is to bring home an empty container, and if I’m honest, I wouldn’t be upset if lack of getting seconds of my dish caused some mild grumpiness.

But on the flip side is my “Made Up Food” personality and the fact that I just can’t seem to bring myself to follow a recipe to the letter. Plus we really didn’t have the time or inclination to haul ourselves to the store. So what can be made with this week’s CSA veg?

I’ll be posting more about my methods, and asking for new ones soon, but suffice to say I did what I always do and scoured a bunch of recipes to steal bits from. I have come to believe that most vegetables taste best roasted, so instead of the common boiling, that’s what I did. It does take a bit more time and effort but I think it is the key for this dish. I hold up the fact that my big Pyrex casserole was squeaky clean before anyone had seconds. And it had some serious competition at what was the best potluck yet.

Roasted Cauliflower, Broccoli & Potato Cheese Bake

  • 1 small head cauliflower
  • 1 small head broccoli
  • 3-4 medium/small potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • fresh herbs or dried such as rosemary, thyme, basil and/or oregano
  • sprinkle of chili powder
  • salt and pepper

Clean and chop vegetables in bite size pieces, toss with olive oil, herbs & spices on lightly greased baking sheet and roast in 375 ° oven for 15 minutes, check and stir/flip pieces.

Roast for another 15- 20 minutes until browned and tender. When they are done transfer them to a casserole dish. I used a big 13 x 9 but you can do a thicker layer in a square or round if you increase the backing time.

Once they are on the final stage you can get busy with the
Cheese sauce

  •         2 tablespoons butter
  •         2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  •         3/4 – 1 cup milk
    - OR -
  •         2/3 cup milk + 2 TBSP plain Yogurt ( because I ran out of milk, a happy accident)
  •         about 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (I added a bit of Parmesan)
  •         1 teaspoon good mustard
  •         1/2 tsp mustard powder (if you have it)
  •         chili powder ( I think about 1 tsp)
  •         cayenne pepper to taste
  •         salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt butter, and stir in flour. Gradually whisk in milk, and increase heat to medium. As the mixture thickens, whisk in the spices. Add the mustard and continue whisking until a thick sauce has formed, being careful not to allow the mixture to boil. Sprinkle in 2/3 of the cheese, and stir until melted.

Pour sauce over broccoli and cauliflower. Bake in the preheated oven 30 minutes, until bubbly and lightly brown. Sprinkle with remaining cheese during the final 10 minutes of cooking. This part only took 20 min + 5 for me since the big dish yielded a fairly thin layer. This also resulted in more cripsy bits per square inch, so that was a good thing.

There it is, a lick your plate clean potluck option. The only sad part of this story is that dear husband missed out on tasting the final product because he was too polite on the first round and it was gone by the time he went to refill his plate. Based on his dismay, I don’t think that’s going to happen next time.

 

Food Stamp Cuisine

My friend Madeline recently posted about trying the Hunger Challenge – living and eating for a week on the average food stamp budget – $4.72 per person a day September 11- 17. I’m not sure yet whether I am going to do it but it definitely makes you stop and think more about how to get creative with what you have on hand.
Then today my friend from high school Michelle, who is now a gourmet chef posted a link to a blog (Fusion on the Fly)  by a chef that was doing this sort of challenge, but allowing himself only $4 a day for 2 whole months. It is really fascinating to see what he’s come up with and although he is back to a regular budget now the blog continues to offer some great and still thrifty ideas that are in keeping with the spirit of this blog. Check it out and do consider donating locally or to the SF food bank if you are as moved as I am by a new awareness of what hunger means to so many in our country.

Grilled Asparagus Dip

I had a nice warmish evening, some asparagus, a nice BBC tv show on Netflix (Wallender) and pita chips. What to do? Make a grilled asparagus dip of course.

On the grill (aluminum foil and olive oil bed with salt and pepper) or under the broiler roast up the following:

  • 1 largish bunch asparagus, ends snapped, cleaned – guessing about 1.25 lbs
  • 3-4 skinny green onions
  • 3 cloves of garlic, halved

When a bit charred, soft and full of grilled goodness dump these in the food processor with

  • 2 Tb mayonnaise
  • dash Worcestershire sauce
  • dash hot sauce (Trader Joe’s – what else)
  • juice from 1/2 lemon and/or lime
  • more salt and pepper as needed
  • about 1/8th cup Parmesan cheese  (I eyeballed it)
  • a bit of lemon zest (poor thing was nearly naked already or I would have added more)

Whirl until smooth. Chill or if like us you can’t wait just start dipping in some pita chips.

Banana Blueberry Apple Coffee Cake

I have been making a bunch of crumbles and quick breads to use up some of the “on their way out” fruits that we have now that I am trying to up my fruit and veggie intake. Can’t seem to get through them fast enough and I figure this coffee cake has at least 1 tasty serving in it (along with the butter and sugar).

Made Up Coffee Cake

Preheat oven to 350° and butter 8 x8 casserole or other pan.

Bowl 1:

  • 2 apples, diced fairly small
  • handful frozen blueberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • juice of 1/2 sweet lime (or lemon juice to prevent browning)
  • grate of nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp sweet lime zest

Bowl 2:

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 TBsp oil
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp yogurt
  • 1 very ripe banana
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract

Bowl 3:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1  tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • sprinkle salt
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • sprinkle nutmeg

Bowl 4 (topping):

  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2Tbsp flour
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • sprinkle each: ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg
  • small handful honey nut o’s cereal – pulverized
  • 2 Tbsp cold butter

Gently mix bowl one and set aside.
Beat bowl 2 until creamy
Stir together ingredients in bowl 3, add bowl 1 and bowl 2 and mix. Will be fairly stiff batter/dough.

Dump into pan and smooth out.

Crumble cold butter with dry ingredients in bowl 4 to make topping and sprinkle evenly over dough.

Bake about 30 minutes or until skewer in center comes out clean.

Let cool slightly before eating so as not to burn your tongue.

chili soup

I wanted to bring a hearty but not too spicy soup/stew type thing to a friend’s house for lunch today but didn’t have much in the house to work with – especially in the fresh vegetables department. So I concocted a chili type soup from what was around and it really came out well and was very satisfying.

• 1 can tomatoes
• 1 large sweet potato diced into 1 cup water
• 1 cup beef bouillon

Simmer until sweet potato is soft -puree with a hand blender if desired

Fry up in a bit of oil or beef drippings
• 1 rib celery finely diced
• 1 bell pepper diced
• 3 small green onions (since that’s all i had – I would add half an onion diced if I’d had it)
• 1 hot chili pepper very finely diced
• 1 tsp cumin
• 1 tsp chili powder
Add
• 1 can great northern beans
Add veggie bean mixture to stock with one small can tomato paste

Brown & Add > 1lb ground beef – browned last because I needed it to thaw. You could cook first remove beef to side and use drippings to saute veggies.

Cook soup until thick and yummy

I think this would be tasty with cilantro lime and sour cream

Now *That’s* what we’re talking about! T-day cranberry style

photo courtesy cc license Andrew YeeI stumbled across this made-up-food style non-recipe on Wonkette (careful, it’s an irreverent & sometimes potty mouth blog) that has all the hallmarks of Made Up Food – unpretentious, simple, easy and what sounds like gourmet level delicious. So – check out the full post or get the highlights in the heavily excerpted portion below.

There are many recipes you can find “on the Internet” for fresh cranberry sauce, but you don’t need to do that anymore. Just send this one to your xBox or whatever and be DONE, done with the search for the ideal cranberry relish recipe.

THE THINGS YOU NEED:
When you’re at the store, get two sacks of fresh cranberries from the produce section. They are like, a pound each. This will be plenty for eight or so people. Did your relatives refuse to use any kind of birth control, producing a larger family of say, 16 people? Just double the recipe, meaning buy two of whatever, and use twice as much, in the recipe. And “double the recipe” does not mean set the oven to 700 degrees instead of 350. Jesus.

If for some reason you don’t have some basic cane sugar and a decent bottle of bourbon at home, purchase these things in whatever respectable quantity, so next time (Friday morning) you’ll have this stuff handy.
Oranges. Buy some of them.

NOW: Either right now or tomorrow or 30 minutes before carving time — IT DOES NOT MATTER — you wash the cranberries. (The thing that looks like a ’50s space helmet, it is called the colander, fill it with the cranberries and put it under the cold faucet).

Dump said berries in the Pyrex baking dish, like the one people might use for lasagna or baked manicotti. (This is a good time to remove whatever weird stuff the Stephen King characters who pick cranberries might’ve dropped in the bucket: loose teeth, etc.) Get the cheese grater and just grate on some sad-but-firm orange, right on the peel, so that the little bits of orange peel fall down upon the lonely berries. It is fine if some bigger chunks — like, half-inch-long shreds, but no bigger than that — fall down there, too. It adds “color” … orange color, in fact. Do this until you’re tired of doing it, at which point there’s probably about three teaspoons’ worth of orange “zest” in the pyrex, with the cranberries. Don’t pick it out and measure it or anything, just show some confidence. For once.

Cut open that poor orange you’ve just Gitmo’d, and squeeze the juice into your cranberry business. Do not drop the orange seeds in there, come on.

Now drizzle a couple-five shots of bourbon on the berries. And sprinkle about half a cup of granulated cane sugar over all that. (Generally, cranberry relish recipes call for some insane amount of sugar, like three cups. Do not ruin everything, okay? Using not-so-much sugar produces a tart but still sweet-enough relish that is to be served with savory dishes like turkey and dressing, right? If you want to put this on a peanut butter sandwich, by all means use fifteen cups of sugar and chase it with an “energy drink” or whatever. Let freedom reign.)

Cover the baking dish with foil and put it in the oven. Doesn’t really matter, whatever the oven is set to, which is going to be in the 300-425 range for your general Thanksgiving dishes crowding the oven. You also don’t need to be a dick and start yelling about how somebody needs to move the mac-and-cheese or the brussels sprouts under the broiler (and you SHOULD have simple cut-in-half olive-oil-brushed brussels sprouts under the broiler!) because you must get in your cranberry relish. Anytime is fine, and plus who will be impressed if you keep talking about it, beforehand? They might notice how easy it is to make, and then who are you? You are basically Lou Dobbs. So go outside and yell at a Mexican.

Come back inside, and please wash your hands if you were smoking out there, and see what is going on. Are people tense? It is probably time to open a bottle of wine, go ahead and pass around maybe a Petite Syrah, something that will go with maybe some pita chips or apple slices, whatever, try to get people to relax. It is okay to have “Irish Coffees,” too, because it’s daytime.

When the cranberry business is bubbly and the berries have this nice soft-but-firm kind of thing going on, take out the pyrex and let it cool somewhere out of the way. If there’s room in the fridge, you can just put the tray in there once it’s cool to the touch. But there’s no room, jesus just look at all the food in there, plus there are about a million beers for tomorrow, so just scrape it all into something pretty, some kind of thing you might put chutney in, or whatever (ask mom).

Serve and watch how people say, “OMG I only ever had it from a can,” etc.

Read more at Wonkette: How To Make Wonkette’s Actual Awesome Real Cranberry Business

(photo from Flickr creative commons courtesy halfchinese – with Andrew Yee’s own yummy recipe there too)