Monday, February 28, 2005

Mondays with Maida - Giant Ginger Cookies

Page 40 in the old book / page 71 in the new book

These truly are giant cookies. I was afraid I was making them too big, but I ended up with a couple more than the 28 that the recipe says it makes. I'd guess that each cookie has over 1/4 cup of dough. Once again, these cookies were amazing the day they were baked. They had a crunchy exterior and were soft on the inside. They are the most strongly spiced of the last several spice cookies, with cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and mustard. They are beautiful mahogany-colored cookies studded with currants and, in addition to the spices, flavored with molasses and coffee.

You might be tempted to make these cookies smaller, but I think that would be a mistake. I expect the inside of the cookies would be harder or at least drier. Better to share one with someone and enjoy the cookie as it was intended.

Although these were well received at work, I was less fond of them the day after baking. The outside had softened up a bit and I think that the flavor may have intensified (is that possible?). I prefer a more mildly spiced cookie, but others in my office seemed to really enjoy these. If you like strongly spiced cookies, I guarantee you'll like these. If you serve them the day they're baked, I think most anyone would find them hard to resist.

Next week – Sunflower Coconut Cookies

Nutrition Facts

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers – February 23rd

This week Zarah and I decided to try some Asian recipes. With the exception of an occasional stir fry, I have seldom cooked Asian food at home, so this was a welcome opportunity to try something new.

I was immediately intrigued with the idea of making soy milk from scratch when I first read pinkcocoa’s IMBB 11 post. I don’t drink soy milk very often (and when I do it is of the chocolate persuasion), but I have cooked with it from time to time. Mostly, though, I was just curious to try homemade soy milk. I also wanted try pinkcocoa’s okara pancakes which are made with the ground soy (okara) that is a by-product of making soy milk. I found that pinkcocoa’s instructions for making soy milk were quite easy and I was very pleased with the results. This soy milk has a pleasant beany flavor which is unfamiliar to me, but is something I think I will grow to like. I used it in the okara pancakes and also made some chocolate pudding – both were quite good. The pancakes were moist and delicate with a sort of nutty texture that I really liked. Using okara in cookies or quick breads would add an interesting texture as well as nutrients and fiber. If you drink or cook with soy milk, do give pinkcocoa’s recipes for soy milk and okara a try!

With this week’s Asian theme in mind, I started wandering around the numerous Asian food blogs out there that are written in English (Santos’ list of Asian women’s food blogs is an excellent starting point if you are similarly inclined) and came upon Ruth’s my little cyberspot. I was exploring her recipe archive and thought her recipe for Zha Jiang Mian (Beijing noodles with thick minced beef sauce) sounded easy and yummy – a perfect weeknight dinner. I made it last night, substituting Udon noodles for the Taiwanese noodles. I had originally intended to add some chili flakes since Ruth mentioned the dish would normally include something spicy, but I forgot. Even so, I thought it was delicious. It is a hearty meat sauce flavored with hoisin sauce, sherry, ginger, onion, and garlic. I don’t know how Udon noodles compare to Taiwanese noodles, but I thought they worked well with the sauce. This is a recipe that I will definitely make again.

That’s all from here – now hop on over to Zarah’s to see what's cooking at her place.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Mondays with Maida - Sour-Cream Ginger Cookies

Page 39 in the old book / page 74 in the new book

OK, first off I have to say – these were really good cookies. They smelled really wonderful while they were baking, they had great flavor and perfect texture, and they even had ICING! But...they did cause me a little anxiety. I had the last batch in the oven and was mixing up the icing when it suddenly dawned on me…the egg white in this icing isn’t going to be cooked. It was quite late and running to the grocery store for pasteurized egg whites wasn’t an option. I was willing to eat the cookies, but I wasn’t sure if I should bring them to work. I had visions of making the evening news…” officials announced earlier today that the salmonella outbreak that affected 26 in suburban Maryland was traced back to a single uncooked egg white…”

After agonizing over it for a little while, I finally decided to bring the cookies in to work but to assuage my guilt I would fully disclose the potential risk associated with eating them. I sent the following email:

From: Cathy
Sent: Tue 2/15/2005 10:53 AM
To: everyone
Subject: cookies up front - please read below...

These have uncooked egg whites in the icing – it shouldn’t be a problem for most people but there is a small risk of salmonella. Anyone who is immunocompromised (big word from Phil) shouldn’t eat these – this includes people with certain medical conditions, the elderly and anyone who’s pregnant.

Anyway… they are sour cream ginger cookies

(My friend Phil put it much more succinctly…anyone who qualified for the flu shot should not eat these cookies.)

Happily no one got sick and all the cookies were eaten. These really were very tasty cookies - they have brown sugar and molasses and are spiced with ginger and cinnamon. The icing has vanilla and a touch of butter in it and was quite good. The recipe was recently reprinted in the Seattle Times (which oddly enough, didn't mention the egg white concern), so you can try them too!

Next week – Giant Ginger Cookies

Nutrition Facts

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - February 16th

This week Zarah and I decided to try out some ingredients we’ve never cooked with before. My first new-to-me ingredient is pomegranate molasses. Amy at Cooking with Amy has been raving about this stuff for quite some time now and had really piqued my interest. It is a reduction of pomegranate juice that is sweet and tangy and is commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking. I couldn’t find any in the stores near me, so I mail ordered some (definitely NOT the cheapest way to get it!). It arrived last week and I turned immediately to Amy’s blog for some ideas on how to use it. I found her very easy recipe for Tangy Pomegranate Barbecue Sauce, which is so good I could eat it with a spoon. I broiled some boneless chicken breasts and brushed on some of the barbecue sauce near the end. That was good, but I think I enjoyed the leftovers even more…I cut up the chicken and reheated it in a little more of the sauce and served it over rice.

Looking around on the web, I found this comparison of several different brands of pomegranate molasses. Turns out the brand I bought, Sadaf, is one of the sweetest (it is made from sweet American pomegranates) and most suited to desserts. Guess I’ll have to hunt around some more for one of the other recommended brands – Cortas is highly recommended in this comparison and by Amy. I look forward to trying pomegranate molasses in some other recipes and playing with it on my own. Thanks to Amy for introducing me to this wonderful ingredient!

I’ve tasted fleur de sel before, but had never cooked with it. Over a year ago I printed a recipe from Clotilde’s Chocolate & Zucchini for Lemon and Fleur de Sel Butter Cookies. I can’t remember now if it caught my eye because I had recently purchased some fleur de sel, or if I purchased some fleur de sel because I wanted to try these cookies. Whichever it was, both the recipe and the fleur de sel languished in my kitchen for quite some time, but Valentine’s Day and our try-new-things theme brought this recipe to mind. These are delicate butter and almond cookies that have a thin sugar and lemon glaze. I was disappointed that I couldn’t detect the fleur de sel, but the cookies were very good. The recipe calls for 5 to 7 pinches of fleur de sel. I used 6 pinches and I would guess my pinches were a little stingy – next time I would definitely use more. These are rolled cookies, but the instructions are quite different. Rather than chilling the dough and then rolling it, you roll it between two sheets of parchment (I used waxed paper) and then chill it. This is a neat trick, which makes rolling them out nearly fool-proof. I used two sizes of heart cookie cutters (small and really small) and they were very cute. I presented a plate of the cookies to my parents for Valentine’s Day and brought the rest to my office. If you follow my blog, you know my coworkers have been eating a lot of my cookies lately, but that didn’t dampen their enthusiasm for these cookies – I even received one request for the recipe.

Don’t forget to stop by Zarah’s for another sweet new ingredient.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Mondays with Maida - Mountain Honey Gingersnaps

Page 38 in the old book / page 73 in the new book

I was a little disappointed in these cookies. For some reason, between the description given in the book and the list of ingredients, I had high expectations. I was hoping for a crunchier cookie, but the two I had weren't especially so (someone else said the one they had was, so the batches may have come out differently). Everyone at work seemed to like them OK, but nobody was gushing. I thought they were altogether ordinary.

In addition to ginger, these cookies are spiced with cinnamon and cloves. There's not a tremendous amount of ginger, so they don't have the punch you might expect from something called a gingersnap. The instructions said to bake them from 13 to 15 minutes, but I had them in the oven about 10 or 11 minutes. That may well have been my problem. Based on their color I assumed they were done, but I expect the additional time was necessary to achieve the crunchiness they are supposed to have.

If there weren't so many other cookies I like better (not to mention all the others yet to try) I'd say these were worth another try. If I did make them again, I would try leaving them in a little longer. If you're fond of spice cookies but prefer them on the milder side, you might be very happy with these.

Next week – Sour Cream Ginger Cookies

Nutrition Facts

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - February 9th

When Zarah suggested that we focus on breads this week I knew immediately which recipe I wanted to try. Just before Christmas, Alberto from Il Forno posted about his recipe for flavored dinner rolls. The picture was beautiful, the rolls sounded delicious, and Alberto had what struck me as a really great idea for flavoring them – green pepper! I made them last weekend and I swear – they are the most beautiful rolls I have ever made. If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, this is such an easy recipe – the mixer does all the work. The first rise is done overnight in the refrigerator. I’ve never done this before and had a few moments of doubt when I pulled the dough out of the fridge the next day (it had dried a little on top and was a little soggy on the bottom), but I shaped the rolls, left them to rise again, brushed them with an egg wash and baked them. When I pulled them out of the oven I was completely awed. They were a gorgeous shade of brown, all shiny from the egg wash, and perfectly risen. They were delicious too – poofy, eggy and (since I used green pepper) just slightly peppery. I stuck most of them in the freezer and plan to impress my parents with them when they come for dinner this weekend! Thank you Alberto!

Every so often I wish I had a recipe for a whole grain quick bread. I’ve gone looking for one a few times and come up empty each time. I went through this again last week and luckily thought to include my folder of printouts and magazine clippings in my hunt. There I found a recipe for Toaster Oat Bread that I had printed from Kelli’s blog, Culinary Epiphanies, way back in August. I checked to see what I needed from the store, but didn’t really pay close attention to the recipe until I actually started making the bread, and then I did a double-take. There is no added fat – no butter, no oil, no eggs – nada. This wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but I went ahead with it and, guess what… it was good! The bread is surprisingly moist and the texture is much lighter than I expected. The only adjustment I think I would make next time around is to add a little more salt. Out of curiosity, I entered the recipe in my cookbook software to see how this bread weighed in for nutritional value. Figuring 16 slices to the loaf, each slice has 106 calories, less than a gram of fat, almost 2 grams of fiber, and about 4 ½ grams of protein.

If you haven’t already, stop by Zarah’s and see what goodies she’s found this week!

Monday, February 07, 2005

Mondays with Maida - Connecticut Nutmeg Hermits

Page 37 in the old book / page 71 in the new book

I love nutmeg - so I wasn't surprised that I liked these cookies so much, but I was surprised that I couldn't taste the nutmeg in them. The recipe calls for 3/4 teaspoon of nutmeg and no other spices. Perhaps I was tasting the nutmeg but not recognizing it.

These are simple cookies with brown sugar, raisins and walnuts. They are cakey with a slightly crunchy exterior. That little crunch was still there the next day, too. Both the mixing and baking of these cookies were uneventful. The dough went together easily and the timing given in the recipe worked well.

I wasn't the only one that liked these - they went over well at work also. This is one I would make again. I may try using more nutmeg, but I'm also curious to try no nutmeg, just to see if I can tell the difference.

Next week – Mountain-Honey Gingersnaps

Nutrition Facts

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Vintage Savory

Not long ago I was trying to get the shelf where I store my spices under control (they’re so packed in there it doesn’t take long before it gets completely topsy-turvy), when I once again came across my jar of savory. I’ve only used savory for one thing all these years – to season mashed potatoes – so I don’t go through it very fast. I’m not sure if using savory in mashed potatoes will sound strange to the rest of the world, but I grew up with savory-seasoned mashed potatoes. In fact, I must have considered it essential when I was younger, for I believe this is the first spice I ever bought. And I don’t mean just any old savory; I mean this particular jar of savory!

I realize that in this food-loving community of food bloggers, owning, not to mention using, a nearly 30 year old jar of savory (yikes – that dates me big-time!) is heresy, but I assure you that the remaining contents of that jar have not yet been reduced to sawdust. I don’t make mashed potatoes very often any more, but when I do, I still add a little of that savory and while its scent may have become muted over the years, the familiar taste and aroma are there and can still evoke powerful memories.

If I remember right, I bought this jar of savory the summer before my sophomore year of college when I first began cooking for myself. I can no longer recall that shopping trip, but because of the now yellowed price sticker which reads “our low price” (the price itself is now illegible), I know I purchased it at Memco. My little kitchen back then consisted of a hotplate, a toaster oven, and some shared space in my roommate’s small refrigerator. My pantry was the bottom drawer of my dresser, which housed not only canned goods and other food items, but my trusty Swing Away can opener (which I still have), a single pot, and a few other essentials.

So, you see, I can’t throw out this jar of savory. Perhaps twenty or so years ago it might have been possible, before it and I had lived in four homes and two states together. Now we have too much history to part ways like that. The only way now is for me to use it up … not that I’m in any hurry.

Music in My Kitchen

There’s a little meme going around. If you follow food blogs you couldn’t have missed it – it’s been popping up everywhere. I was hoping it would somehow bypass me, but Zarah tagged me earlier today. So here goes…

What is the total amount of music files on your computer?

Less then 3MB – not counting the sample music files that were on the PC when I got it. There are just three songs: the Amateur Gourmet’s “Meow Mix” to the tune of Memory (which is hysterical and makes me laugh out loud – but perhaps you have to be a cat owner to fully appreciate it), the music for the Maine state song, and (ahem) me singing the Maine state song (it’s a long story).

The CD you last bought?

I haven’t bought any for myself in years. I filled up my CD rack and stopped. Since my interests are primarily in classical and opera, it doesn’t really seem necessary to keep buying more. The last CDs I bought were for my mom for Christmas – they were Josh Groban and Cobalt Blue (Paul Spaeth).

What was the last song you listened to before reading this message?

Gosh, I don’t remember. Sadly, music is not a big a part of my life these days, though it was at one time. Maybe I need to do something about that!

Write down 5 songs you often listen to or that mean a lot to you.

  1. L’improvviso from Andrea Chenier – (Umberto Giordano, sung by José Carreras) this and the rest of the Three Tenors concert turned me on to opera back in 1990. It was a gradual thing, but over the course of the next couple of years I became immersed in it. I subscribed to and also became a volunteer at the Washington Opera. There I got to work in the costume studio, assist with auditions, work in the business office, and get a fantastic behind-the-scenes view of the opera world.
  2. Ride On, King Jesus – (Traditional, sung by Denyce Graves) I attended a vocal competition in the early 1990’s in which Denyce Graves was competing. In an early round of the competition I had a seat just a couple rows from the stage and Ms. Graves sang this spiritual. It was a performance I’ll never forget.
  3. Knoxville: Summer of 1915 (Samuel Barber, sung by Dawn Upshaw) – this is somewhat arbitrary. I wanted to include something sung by Dawn Upshaw since she is another performer that made a huge impression on me when I saw her in recital. She has a beautiful, clear voice and an extremely warm presence. She sang mostly German lieder in the recital in which I saw her, but this song is on a CD I have and is one I’ve always liked. The text (from James Agee’s writing) and music go so well together and both are incredibly beautiful…“…it has become that time of evening when people sit on their porches, rocking gently and talking gently…
  4. West Side Story – (Leonard Bernstein) I know, this isn’t a song, but I can’t pick just one.
  5. Yesterday – (The Beatles) I don’t know why, but I’ve always loved this song.

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?

The first person that came to mind was Renee, since I miss her so badly at Shiokadelicious, but Alberto has already asked her. So begging their forgiveness in advance, here’s my list…

  1. Alice – because she was one of my first friends in the food blogging world and I’d love to hear her answers.
  2. Adam – because he’s so funny and I really enjoy his blog and he was such a good sport when it took me forever to get to his IMBB entry. I’m sure he will put an amusing spin on this.
  3. Laura – because she leads such an interesting life – I expect her answers will be fascinating (either that or she has no time for music!)

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - February 2nd

Zarah of Food & Thoughts and I have decided to team up and co-host Dining with the Bloggers. Each week you’ll hear from both of us about tried and true Blogger recipes. So when you finish up here, head on over to Zarah’s for the next course!

My first experience with a bean burger was some sorry excuse from the frozen foods department. I’m pretty sure I never even finished eating the contents of that package. It was quite some time before I tried another and when I did it wasn’t out of the freezer case. It was actually just a few months ago at a time when I was well into my current love affair with beans and that bean burger, another wonderful recipe from Alice, was a revelation.

Flash forward to IMBB 11 when I laid eyes on Lenn’s big (dare I say beefy?) bean burgers. Who needs hamburgers? Lenn’s Southwest Blog Burnin’ Bean Burgers are delicious – spicy, smoky, and completely satisfying. They are mixed in a bowl by hand, so you don’t need to drag out the food processor, and the mixture holds together quite well, so frying them is a breeze. I enjoyed them as leftovers as much as I did the first night. I highly recommend this recipe!

Alongside the bean burgers, I had some of Esurient’s Crash-hot Potatoes. This is almost more a technique than a recipe – partially cooked little potatoes are squooshed, brushed with oil, seasoned, and then roasted to perfection. They’re a lovely combination of soft and crispy. I’ll definitely be making these again.