Monthly Archives: February 2011

Peanut Butter Crinkles & A Story…

As you all know, I’ve had a great time recently cooking from my grandmother’s recipe book. So imagine my excitement when I got a package in the mail from Kimmie over at Full Circle with a wonderful hand-written note (rare in itself these days) AND a copy of her great grandmother’s recipe book full of Southern Louisiana classics. After seeing all the fun I’d had of late making my grandmother’s meatloaf and cherry snowballs, Kimmie assumed (correctly) that I would love to catch a glimpse of her family’s history as told through food.

As soon as I saw Southern Louisiana, I knew I’d be encountering a lot of dishes that involved sugar and more sugar with a side of Southern hospitality and I was right. In her note to me, Kimmie wrote “There is nothing fancy or cutting edge about these recipes and most are sure to you give you a heart attack but they were made with soul and love throughout many generations in the South.” Now I don’t know about you, but that’s simply deep-fried music to my ears.

I knew I had to start by baking great grandmother Verda’s Peanut Butter Crinkles. I’m not sure why I had to begin with this recipe, maybe because it called for white sugar and brown sugar or maybe it was the jam in the middle or maybe I could just sense this was a perfect cookie for eating amongst friends.

These Peanut Butter Crinkles are absolutely wonderful. They are soft and crumbly with the slightest crunch that is neutralized by the jam in the middle. Accompanied with a cup of tea, they are perfect for an afternoon of catching up with old friends or sharing stories with new friends.

Peanut Butter Crinkles (From the Kitchen of Verda Baker)

My comments are in italics

  • 1 cup of margarine (I asked Kimmie why margarine was used rather than butter. Margarine was more commonly used because it was  less expensive)
  • 1 cup of peanut butter (I used chunky peanut butter. I figured it would give it some additional texture)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • sugar
  • nuts, chocolate kisses (I used walnuts and chocolate chips)
  • jam or jelly (I used mainly strawberry jam, but I did experiment with fig jam and lemon jelly and all three complimented the peanut butter exceptionally well)
  1. In bowl with mixer at medium speed, beat first 6 ingredients until fluffy.
  2. At low speed, beat in next 3 ingredients.
  3. Shape into 1″ balls; roll in sugar. (Makes approximately 48 cookies)
  4. Place 2″ apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
  5. Bake in 350F oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until browned. (For me at least, 12 minutes was the perfect amount of time in the oven)
  6. Immediately press nuts or candies into cookies or press with thumb and fill with jam. (I put nuts in half of them and chocolate chips in the other half. As I mentioned earlier, I used mainly strawberry jam, but I’m convinced any jam would work wonders with these cookies, so experiment!)
  7. Cool.

Kimmie, thanks again for sharing your family’s treasure with me. Have a seat and let’s have a Peanut Butter Crinkle or three.

Advertisements

27 Comments

Filed under Friends, Louisiana, Peanut butter, Peanut Butter Crinkles

Deep-Frying Everything But The Kitchen Sink

Warning! Please proceed at your own risk. If you choose to continue on, I commend your bravery. We are about to go on a deep-fried ride together and in the word’s of Colonel Sanders it’s going to be “finger lickin’ good.” With that said, let’s bring in the undisputed King.

I love deep-fried food foods and yet, my experience with fried foods has been limited so far to onion rings, fish  & chips and calamari. Recently though, it seems as if frying foods is “en vogue” or at least it is to this “Northerner.” After a recent trip to Alabama, I came home to deep-fried pickles and the Deep-Fried Choir angels sang as I bit into one. They were an absolute treat and I was convinced the beer-batter made it taste as good as it did. It was just so light and cripsy, yet it let the pickle shine through. I was convinced this beer-batter could make anything deep-fried taste amazing! So with the angelic chords of the deep-fried pickles still ringing through my ears, I set off to do some more traditional and experimental deep-frying.

Deep-Fried Experiment #1 – Gummy Bears

If you put a bag of Gummy Bears in front of me, the contents of the bag will disappear, regardless of its size. It seemed like a good idea, but sadly the oil melted the poor little guys to nothing and I was simply left with an empty airy burnt sugar bite of deep-fried nothing. Thanks for sacrificing yourself guys, RIP.

Deep-Fried Experiment #2 – Allsorts Licorice

I had a feeling the Gummy bears would be a failed mission, but I still wanted to see if licorice could be deep-fried. With that in mind, I turned to Allsorts licorice and while they’re not my favorite, they do fall into the “hard” category licorice. Thankfully, the Allsorts did not have the same fate as their bear brethren and they withstood the oil as they more or less held their form. It was actually enjoyable to eat as well. The licorice had become soft and more sweet than its non-deep-fried version.

Deep-Fried Experiment #3 – Jalapeno

This excited me. I’ve had deep-fried jalapeno before and in a word, “magic.” Imagine everything good about a jalapeno, the heat, the crunch, the tingle on your lips and multiply it! With it deep-fried, you get all that plus, an additional crunch and a slightly delayed reaction on your tongue from the heat. They are perfect on their own or of course on a mound of nachos!

Deep-Fried Experiment #4 – Avocado

I’d honestly never thought about deep-frying an avocado until just recently when Pam over at My Mans Belly wrote about avocado fries. Pam’s looked amazing with a simple egg wash and Panko crumbs. I can’t wait to try out her version sometime soon, but not that soon since I ate a lot of fried foods if you’re noticing a trend here. The key is to find a ripe, yet still relatively firm avocado for deep-frying. Surprisingly, the avocado loses nothing in terms of its flavor, it tastes exactly as it should. It was still smooth and rich, but warm and slightly soft with a great texture from the batter. And it’s sort of healthy!

Deep-Fried Experiment #5 – Nutella

Like the Gummy Bears, I wasn’t sure about this one. I knew it had to be frozen though for it to have any chance of working. With trepidation, I placed the frozen Nutella in the deep-fryer and after a very short time in the oil, I rescued it. Unfortunately, it couldn’t withstand the heat so it did shrink considerably. After letting it cool for a few moments, I took a bite and I heard the Deep-Frying Choir sing a sweet sweet tune. The light batter was perfect since it let the Nutella shine through. I encountered Nutella Nirvana when the warm Nutella essentially melt in my mouth. If Nutella could sing, it would sound like this.

Deep-Fried Experiment #6 – Brownie

So this one was supposed to be deep-fried cheesecake that I made for my birthday. It was perfect since it has been kept in the freezer, but I called an audible after seeing what happened to the Nutella. So, I took off ate the “cheese” portion of the cake because I didn’t think it would handle the oil. Thankfully the “cake” portion of the cheesecake is a great dense brownie-like cake. This turned out incredible! The “brownie” was up for the challenge and then some! The proof…I was smiling as I ate the entire thing. This is worthy of being served anywhere, that’s how great it was!

Deep-Fried Experiment #7 – Hamburger

I’d like to think of this as the “pièce de résistance.” No build-up, just the facts. I thought it would be great and it was! After grilling up my homemade patties packed with blue cheese, Tabasco and honey, in they went into the beer-batter with the bun, of course. I learned a valuable lesson. Deep-fried bread is a brilliant invention all by itself, but adding the deep-fried burger along with it is simply genius. Like you, I’ve seen it on television and scoffed at the notion, but it’s something that should be experienced at least once in a lifetime.

Needless to say, I went for a long run the day after eating my seven deep-fried experiments. And yes, my yearning for fried foods has waned slightly over the last 24 hours, but I don’t expect that feeling to last too long. In fact, I know the feeling won’t last too long since I’m already thinking of the Mars bar I didn’t get around to on my t0-fry list.

Inspired Beer-Batter For Anything (Recipe adapted from Southern Living – 1,001 Ways to Cook Southern)

Ingredients

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 (12-oz.) can beer
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. seasoned salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Vegetable oil

Directions

  1. Whisk together egg and next 3 ingredients in a large bowl; add 1 1/2 cups flour, and whisk until smooth.
  2. Pour oil to a depth of 1 1/2 inches into a large heavy skillet or Dutch oven; heat over medium-high heat to 375 F. (I used a small portable deep-fryer with a lid which prevented oil from splattering everywhere. My suggestion for the skillet or Dutch oven route would be to invest in a splatter screen.)
  3. Dip item of your choice into batter, allowing excess batter to drip off. Fry in batches, 3 to 4 minutes or until golden. Drain and pat dry on paper towels; serve immediately.

Thanks for joining me y’all, I hope there was some finger lickin’ going on.

53 Comments

Filed under Brownie, Deep-Fried, Deep-fried avocado, Deep-fried hamburger, Deep-fried Nutella

Inspired Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

Inspiration comes from funny places. Of all places, it recently came in the form of a cheddar rye muffin from Jennifer Perillo. If you don’t know Jennifer, she is an innovative recipe developer from Brooklyn and simply a wonderful person. In her post, she talks about the process of how she develops her own recipes and how with a simple twist they can morph into something totally different.

While I love flipping open and cooking from my ever-growing collection of cookbooks,  I’ve lately felt the need to push the cookbook aside and to borrow a phrase “Just do it.” With Jennifer’s encouragement, I found the inner recipe developer that resides in me. On this particular day, I was in the mood for something comforting and filling so my mind wandered to Shepherd’s Pie and vegetarian at that. So with that, I got to work and this is what I came up with.

I honestly have no idea as to why I chose a rutabaga. I like it, but I’ve never cooked with it. I just knew its consistency would allow it to hold up well to being boiled, sauteed and baked. As for cutting it open, it’s not quite rock-hard, but it was a challenge. There was a moment where I felt I had lost the fight in getting it open, but I prevailed! As for the use of the sweet potato as the topping, well, me and sweet potatoes have a thing. I like it, it likes me and we get along famously.

With regards to everything else, corn is a staple in Shepherd’s Pie or at least it is for me, so that was a no-brainer. I attempted to use other ingredients and seasonings that would compliment one another. I got heat from the chili powder, smokiness from the chipotle peppers and the pot-pourri of flavors from Old Bay Seasoning. If you don’t know about Old Bay, you should definitely keep your eyes out for its yellow can because as their motto goes “1) it’s great on seafood and 2) it’s great on everything else.”

In all, I was very pleased with the Shepherd’s Pie. The creaminess of the sweet potato mash with the light topping from the Panko was silky yet crunchy. It contrasted nicely with the slightly firmer texture of the rutabaga and corn with the seasonings playing their role in the background. Nothing was overpowering, but you certainly knew there was smoke and heat.

Inspired Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients

  • 1/2 of a large rutabaga, diced into 1/2″ cubes
  • 3 large sweet potatoes, roughly chopped into 2″ chunks so they boil at a similar rate
  • 3 chipotle peppers, finely chopped
  • 12oz can of corn, kernels
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 5 tablespoons of heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons of butter
  • Oil
  • 4 tablespoons of Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons of Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Dice rutabaga into 1/2-inch cubes. In a pot of salted boiling water, cook rutabaga for about 20 minutes or until fork tender. Try not to allow them to get mushy. Drain and put aside.
  2. Cut sweet potatoes into 2-inch chunks. In a pot of salted boiling water, cook potatoes for about 20 minutes or until they are tender and ready to be mashed. Drain potatoes and mash with cream, butter, 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Preheat over to 375°F.
  4. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add rutabaga, chipotle peppers, corn, 1 teaspoon of Old Bay Seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon of chili power and 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt. Stir occasionally and let the flavours blend for about 5 minutes.
  5. Spread the rutabaga mixture in a slightly greased 10-inch rectangular baking dish. Spread the sweet potato mixture over top. Sprinkle with Panko breads crumbs.
  6. Bake in 375°F oven for about 45 minutes or until the top begins to brown.

Thanks to Jennifer for the inspiration, cheddar rye muffins tasty and inspirational, who knew?

18 Comments

Filed under Inspiration, Panko Bread Crumbs, Rutabaga, Shepherd's Pie, Sweet Potato, Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

Be My Valentine

Dear single women on Valentine’s Day:

I’ve taken the liberty of preparing a few dishes for you and I’d like to invite you to join me for dinner. Please sit down and know that someone out there is thinking of you today.

Being single is all fine and good while you’re looking for the “right’ one. However, on certain days, such as February 14th, the single people of the world are bashed over the head with reminders they are single. Tonight is simply an invitation to join me for dinner and enjoy singledom together. Who knows what tomorrow shall bring?

In honor of St. Valentine’s day, I went with a menu from the heart. No cookbooks or recipes, I was inspired by you and places we should travel together. For the first course, I prepared an avocado salad with shrimp served in the shell. I had this dish in a restaurant in Montreal. I remember being served this with the avocado being smooth, but I left it a bit chunky to give it a little more texture along with the shrimp. Since we’re in Montreal, I envision us walking hand-in-hand through Old Montreal after dinner on the cobble-stoned streets and maybe sneaking in to a cozy little café to grab an after dinner drink.

I figured if there’s a day to spice up the plate presentation, it’s probably today. So I went ahead and blended up some sugar and cinnamon hearts to add a little red to the plate. Oh and I added a pinch of cilantro in the salad because I know how much you enjoy it.

For tonight’s main, let’s close our eyes for a moment and set out to a little place of heaven in Italy called Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre translates to “Five Lands” and it’s the most incredible place overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. It’s located in the north-west part of Italy in the Liguria region. In addition to its beauty, Liguria is known for their pesto and rightfully so as it’s the best I’ve ever had. I’m hoping to re-create the magic of Cinque Terre for you tonight.

So with Cinque Terre as inspiration, I made a homemade sun-dried tomato pesto to go with the fresh saffron fettuccine I bought at the market. I also couldn’t help myself, so I used a cookie-cutter to make heart-shaped bread.

I don’t have a specific destination in mind for dessert, so I was hoping you’d decide where we’d end up. Where would you like to go? While you give it some thought, I “whipped” up a little something special for you. I gave the strawberries a bath in Goldschläger for a couple hours and tossed in some of that cinnamon heart sugar into the homemade whipped cream to give it a lovely pink tone. It’s sweet with a little bit of heat, just like you!

With dinner complete, I’d like to thank you for allowing me the opportunity to prepare dinner for you tonight, I had a wonderful time and I hope you did as well. It was a pleasure being a part of your Valentine’s Day and I hope we can travel to all those places together very soon.

To all the singles and couples out there, wishing you all a happy St. Valentine’s Day.

I’ll be posting the recipes in a few days. Tonight was simply to live in the moment and not to be concerned with measurements and such. And if you were wondering, I’m cleaning the dishes too.

64 Comments

Filed under avocado salad, cinnamon hearts, Fettuccine, Goldschläger, shrimp, St. Valentine's Day, sun-dried tomato

Applesauce Cookies (350 word post)

I know the words “Applesauce cookies” don’t ring through the ears like “Devilishly decadent triple chocolate cookies.” With that said, if my grandmother’s recipe book has a recipe for applesauce cookies, there’s likely a very good reason for it and that reason is likely because they are in her words “delightful.”

After posting such things recently as Nutella ricotta cinnamon pizza, Deep-fried pickles and Double chocolate cheesecake, I thought it might be time to lessen the caloric-intake for a moment. I suppose I could have done a post about a salad or an incredible tomato consommé, but I thought an applesauce cookie might just get the job done while still getting some cookie-action.

As a bonus, I found out that a lot of recipes tailored to those with their waist-size in mind use applesauce as an alternative to sugar nowadays. Seeing as this recipe is over 50 years old and knowing my grandmother’s fondness for butter and sugar, I don’t think this was her concern. However, maybe even she thought a little balance was needed at times in the kitchen. Don’t be misled, these cookies sacrifice nothing in terms of taste. It’s soft, moist with the perfect texture from the raisins and the nuts. My first thought as I took a bite was that it tasted like the top of a muffin which is always a good thing!

Applesauce Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of applesauce
  • 1 tsp. of baking soda
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. of salt
  • 1/2 cup of raisins
  • 1/2 cup of chopped nuts (I went with 1/4 cup of pecans and 1/4 of walnuts)
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp of ground cloves (I didn’t have it in the pantry, so I forged ahead without it this time)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Cream shortening and sugar, then add applesauce, blending in.
  3. Sift flour with baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
  4. Add sifted ingredients to applesauce mixture and stir until smooth.
  5. Add raisins and nuts and stir until combined.
  6. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased baking sheet, spacing the cookies 2 to 3 inches apart.
  7. Bake about 12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Makes 4 dozen cookies.

(FYI – I recently began an online writing class called “New Media Bootcamp“. My goals are simply to learn and to continually improve my writing, Taste Better With Friends and maybe pick up some fancy tricks along the way. This week’s homework was to write a 25, 100 and 350 word post.)

25 Comments

Filed under Applesauce cookies, Big Salad, Blogging Class, Chocolate Cheesecake, Deep-fried pickles, Nutella, Tomato consomme

Applesauce Cookies (100 word post)

My first reaction after biting into a straight-from-the-oven applesauce cookie was “I just popped the top”.  If you got the Seinfeld reference, your reward is a glass of Bosco chocolate milk! If not, no milk for you!

For those not quite as in touch with their inner-Seinfeld, “popping the top” is a reference from an episode in which the best (and eventually the only) part of a muffin is the top.

Seinfeld fan or not, I know you’ll enjoy this soft (muffin top-type) cookie with raisins, nuts and cinnamon. Serenity now, serenity now…

(FYI – I recently began an online writing class called “New Media Bootcamp“. My goals are simply to learn and to continually improve my writing, Taste Better With Friends and maybe pick up some fancy tricks along the way. This week’s homework was to write a 25, 100 and 350 word post.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Applesauce cookies, Blogging Class, Bosco, Cookies, Muffin Top, Seinfeld

Applesauce Cookies (25 word post)

Applesauce cookies are perfect like a muffin top with a hint of cinnamon, a crunch of a nut and just like grandma used to make.

(FYI – I recently began an online writing class called “New Media Bootcamp“. My goals are simply to learn and to continually improve my writing, Taste Better With Friends and maybe pick up some fancy tricks along the way. This week’s homework was to write a 25, 100 and 350 word post.)

4 Comments

Filed under Applesauce cookies, Blogging Class, Cookies, Muffin Top