Friday, December 30, 2005

BBM3 - Mickey's Package from Shelley Arrives

Far away in The Netherlands, another BBM3 package finally finds its way...

hi Cathy,

I received the most wonderful package from Shelly, packed with local goodies from Virginia!

There was Virginia wine, chocolate, bbq-sauce, mustard, honey, lemon curd. There was a mix to make my own bread from a local historical tavern (loved that!). Ginger snaps, pecan blend coffee. A wonderful hot jalapeno pepper jelly, a can of 'brunswick stew', traditionally that contains squirrel, this one, thank god, is chicken :-). Then there was a herb-and-salt mix, a Virginia ham paté and lots of peanuts.

And local papers and a magnet and recipes and-and-and...I just received THE best parcel!!!

It took 7 weeks to reach me, but boy, was it worth the wait!


You can see photos and more details about the package on Shelley's blog.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Mondays with Maida - Christmas Fruitcake Bars

Page 97 in the old book / page 139 in the new book

I realize I am in the minority, but I like fruitcake. No, not those horrid plastic-like things sold in the grocery store (though, Whole Foods has a fruitcake that has sorely tempted me all season with apricots, prunes, and a couple of pounds of other dried fruits), but the one my Mom used to make every year and ration out in slim little slices. I admit that those tubs of neon-colored candied fruits sold for the purpose of making fruitcake hold less appeal for me now than they did in those days of blissful-ignorance many moons ago, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for fruitcake.

For most of the rest of the world, it seems that any variety of fruitcake is automatically regarded with deep suspicion. Consequently, this cookie came out of the gates with one big strike against it. In spite of that, all the cookie panelists and many others in my office gave them a chance and tasted them without too much arm-twisting. No one came away from the experience a fruitcake convert, but just about everyone commented to me that they liked the cookies much more than they expected to.

A small amount of thin, orange-scented batter holds together copious amounts of candied fruits, dates, raisins, and walnuts. Maida notes that candied cherries may be used, or a mixture of candied pineapple and candied cherries, or the prepared mixed fruits can be used. I used the mixed fruits (orange rind, lemon rind, citron, cherries, and pineapple). If you like fruitcake, you're bound to like these.

Here's the panel...

Suzanne: "I'm not a fan of fruitcake, but this was probably the best fruitcake I've had. The dates and loads of nuts saved this cake; and it was actually moist. Rating - 2.5"

Denny: "Very high potential. Should have liked it more, but tasted like fruitcake! Rating - 3.0"

Terri: "I don't usually care for fruitcake, but these are delicious. Not too fruity, but crunchy and sweet. Very moist and chewy with fruit pieces being just the right size. Rating - 4.0"

Phil: "While this lighter and powdery version is better than the traditional cake, it still triggers those longstanding questions about its remarkable shelf life - is there really only one cake that keeps getting passed around in different forms? Can a covering of cheesecloth doused with a good shot of brandy help revive it? Was it fruitcake that sustained a musher fighting a blizzard during a prior Iditarod competition? Rating - 3.0"

Overall rating by the panel - 3.1

Next week - Hermit Bars

Nutrition Facts

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Meeting Nupur

A week ago Sunday I had the priviledge of meeting Nupur, her fiance V., and their beloved Dale. If you read Nupur's blog or have come to know her through her comments on other blogs, you probably already have an idea of what a nice person she is... and so did I. But I had no idea as I approached her apartment in New York City of how much I would enjoy our visit, how easy our conversation would be, or how warm her welcome would be.

I had contacted Nupur a few weeks back when I knew I'd be spending a day or so in New York on the way up to Vermont. I suggested we meet for coffee or something, but Nupur immediately extended an invitation to me to have tea with her in her home. As the date approached she sent me another email and suggested that I select a recipe from her blog for something I'd like to try during my visit. Of course, I had trouble narrowing it down to a single recipe and I wound up listing several that appealed to me. Deep down though, I knew which one I was hoping she'd make - her Batata Vadas, potato fritters with chiles, onions, and many other wonderful flavors. To my delight, the fritters are what Nupur decided to make! I wasn't the only one thrilled at the prospect of eating them - V. was pretty happy as well. He said they reminded him of college where these treats, readily available from street carts, were always just a few steps and a small amount of money away.

Needless to say, the fritters were incredible. Nupur had prepared the potato mixture and the chickpea flour batter ahead of time, but shaped and cooked them as I watched. She made the assembly and frying of the fritters look so easy that I am determined to make them myself, even if it does involve deep fat frying! Nupur also served a couple of other things which I'm afraid I don't have names for. The first was a mixture of rice flakes (sort of like rolled oats, only rice), peanuts and raisins (if I'm remembering right). This was also seasoned with some spices. A very tasty and addictive snack! She also served me a sweet which she characterized as a "dry pudding". It was a sweetened mixture of cream of wheat, nuts, and I'm not sure what else. It was just moist enough so that when lightly pressed into a cup, it held its shape when turned out onto a plate. It was delicious. Finally we had tea - a sweet milky tea with ginger and I think some other spices - yum!

While the food was fantastic, it is the opportunity I had to talk with Nupur and get to know her a little better that I will treasure most. What a kind, generous, and intelligent woman she is! I instantly felt at ease talking with her and really got a kick out of comparing notes with a fellow food blogger. As I was about to leave, Nupur gave me a gift from India - the beautiful bag you see pictured above. Meeting Nupur was a wonderful, wonderful experience.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Mondays with Maida - Palm Beach Pineapple Squares

Page 96 in the old book / page 138 in the new book

These cookies were actually made the week before I left on vacation and I'm afraid my memories of them are dim. I do recall that I wasn't really wowed by them and that they were cakey with neither the chocolate nor pineapple especially pronounced.

For these cookies, you prepare a plain vanilla batter which is divided into two portions. To the larger portion, melted chocolate and walnuts are added, and to the smaller portion, lemon rind and drained pineapple are added. Chocolate and pineapple may seem an odd combination, but in this cookie they are quite compatible.

Here's the panel...

Suzanne: "Chocolate cake bottom, a yellow cake top and pineapple make this a yummy cookie. Rating - 4.0"

Denny: "Very good. Rating - 4.0"

Laura: "Tasty and sweet topping, but not really my cup o' tea. Rating - 2.0"

Phil: "This unusual looking blond on brown layered transplant was not the most inviting among the bar crowd yet the different forms of sweetness seemed to work with a little added moistness from the pineapple. Rating - 3.9"

Overall rating by the panel - 3.5

Next week - Christmas Fruitcake Bars

Nutrition Facts

Friday, December 09, 2005

Mondays without Maida

I'm headed out of town tomorrow morning... I'm making a brief stop in New York (and will get to meet Nupur!!) and from there it's on to Vermont with Bob and Chuck (yay!). I'll be back here on the 19th with the next installment of Mondays with Maida. In the meantime, I leave you with this...

I had a dentist appointment last Monday and didn't get in to the office until close to noon. Meanwhile, Phil and Suzanne came to the conclusion that there would be no cookies that day and Phil sent this out to the cookie panel:

From: Phil
Sent: Monday, December 05, 2005 10:26 AM
To: Suzanne; Laura; Denny; Terri
Cc: Cathy
Subject: Mondays without Maida

Wondering where that next Monday morning fix will come from?

Feeling confused or irritable? You may have CFS!

Cookie Fatigue Syndrome

How do I know if I might have cookie fatigue syndrome?
If you answer yes to any of the questions listed below, you may have cookie fatigue syndrome (CFS), which is also called cookie fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS).

1. Have you missed your weekly feeding of those Monday with Maida cookies?

2. Are you able to do less than half of what you used to do because you feel tired or cranky?

3. Have you had problems that keep coming back or don't go away with any of the following signs and symptoms?

* Confusion or irritability
* Shakiness followed by a tendency to pace back an forth in your cube
* Trouble with short-term memory or concentration
* Trouble composing meaningful emails or in badgering your coworkers

People with CFS may have other symptoms as well.

What causes cookie fatigue syndrome?
No one is certain about what causes CFS. Although a chemical dependency on large quantities of sugars and fats may be contributory factors. Researchers are still looking for the cause of CFS.

How is cookie fatigue syndrome treated?
The first step is to eat a cookie and preferably several – but not just any cookie. Your doctor will probably want to review your symptoms and medical history, and give you a physical exam. Your doctor may also want to do some blood tests, but lab testing is not often helpful.

Some of the symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, or excessive mumbling can be treated with Maida cookies. Although dose response studies have not yet been completed on the appropriate number of cookies required. So far, there is no other treatment for this chronic condition.

How can I help myself?
* Keep a daily diary to identify times when you have the most energy. Plan your activities for these times.
* Give yourself permission to recognize and express your feelings, such as sadness, anger and frustration. You need to grieve for the energy you have lost.
* Ask for support from family and friends. Look for cookie support groups or counseling in your community.

How can my doctor help?
Your doctor can work with you but only a good long term relationship with a competent cookie chef can really help.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

BBM3: Chiara's Package from Mickey Arrives

Hi Cathy,

finally I got my BBM3 from Mickey from Amsterdam! Fabulous, thanks a lot Mickey! She sent everything to celebrate Sinter Klaas (ST. Nicholas feastday): the instructions to celebrate well, Peppernoten (cookies with spices), chocolate letters, almond marzipan, chocolate sinter klaas, spekulass, cinnamon candles and a fantastic cinnamon mustard. But most of all I liked a very dutch magnet. If you want to know all about Sinter Klaas - and on my italian blog


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

BBM3: Nancy's Package from Ruth Arrives

Hi Cathy,

I got my package from Ruth in Philadelphia- thanks Ruth! She sent a few bottles of Olde Philadelphia Ben Franklin Black Cherry Soda, a can of snapper soup from Bookbinders in Philly, some delicious raw Delaware honey (I love this with some hot water and a slice or two of a meyer lemon-yum!), a bag of Herr's chips, and Tastykakes, which apparently are rare here on the west coast. All this AND a jar of home made peach melba jam. Thanks again Ruth, this was so much fun to recieve!


Monday, December 05, 2005

Mondays with Maida - Florida Lemon Squares

Page 94 in the old book / page 137 in the new book

OK, these are the cookies Niki made a month or so ago and my pastry mixture did turn out crumbly, so I stand by my theory that it has something to do with the temperature of the butter. After all, it is nearly summer down under and verging on winter in these parts. As I typically do, I started with cold butter. This is due as much to my failure to plan ahead as any method on my part. My mother taught me to take the butter out ahead to soften, but my mixer has a paddle which I've found is capable of creaming cold butter with little difficulty (but with a considerable racket). Of course, I haven't checked with Niki to see if she did soften her butter, so I could be completely wrong.

Most everyone liked these better than last week's cookies. The cookie base was much more interesting - sweet with a higher proportion of dark brown sugar, and nutty with the addition of oatmeal. The filling was equally good and even more lemony than the cream cheese filling of last week. As Niki mentioned and Maida suggests, these are best served cold.

Suzanne: "The best part of the cookie was the crunchy topping. The cookie was too lemony for my taste. To use Phil's word from last week, it was too "puckerable." Rating - 2.5"

Denny: "Very good, crunchy and lemony, but could have used a touch of cream cheese. Rating - 4.0"

Laura: "Tasty and crunchy... with just the right amount of lemon! Rating - 4.0"

Phil: "Comparable to last week's Florida cream-cheese squares with a slightly thicker crust and tarter filling. As with key lime pie, the tart/sweet contrast really works, although key limes seem to offer the ultimate in pucker. Rating - 4.3"

Overall rating by the panel - 3.7

In two weeks - Palm Beach Pineapple Squares

Nutrition Facts

Friday, December 02, 2005

BBM3: Kim's Package from Stephanie Arrives

There have been some interesting stories behind the scenes at BBM3 central and Kim's was certainly among the most interesting...

Kim was in Albania when BBM3 started, but the situation with the power there got so bad (a severe drought disrupted the operation of hydro power plants resulting in daily blackouts of 4 to 18 hours), that she decided to pay an extended visit to her family in Canada. Unfortunately, Stephanie had already mailed her BBM3 package, so most of the contents will be enjoyed by Kim's husband who is still in Albania.

Hi Cathy!

I can't send a picture because I'm not at home (but I did see the contents via my webcam), so here is the list:

A big bag of various Halloween Candy (Halloween is Stephanie's favourite holiday!)
Halloween Glowsticks
Skull wine goblets (these are so weird! haha!)
A lovely jar of Stephanie's own homemade Lemon Marmalade
A big bag of M & M's
2 CD's of Stephanie's favourite music (I can't wait to listen to these!)
and Flyers from her local shops.

Quite an interesting package and a surprise for me since I just assumed everyone's favourite holiday would be Christmas (silly me!)!

Thanks Stephanie- my hubby will make short order of all the edible goodies I'm sure!


BBM3: Lauren's Package from Lisa Arrives

Hi Cathy,

I loved everything Lisa sent me. She wrote that she put together a package intended to get me through the stress of the holidays. It got me through one holiday at least--nearly everything is already eaten! She purchased chocolate bars, toffee, holiday-flavored Luna and Cliff bars (always a welcome addition!), plaintain chips, biscotti, apple-cranberry tea and dried cranberries (soon to become rugelach) at Trader Joe's. She also sent a bag and a recipe for her favorite homemade granola, and a recipe for brownies. It was all wonderful--I couldn't have chosen better myself. Here's a picture.

Thanks for organizing!