Kitchen Sink Cookies
January 22, 2011, 12:22 pm
Filed under: Cookies

These are not your great-aunt Bessie’s dainty tea cakes. Big, chunky and full of nearly everything that makes a cookie good, these are grab-a-fistful-and-carry-one-in-your-mouth-as-well and I like to think of them as zero-sum gain cookies, because they have nuts and oats and dried fruit in them to balance the butter, brown sugar and chocolate chips (only it’s DARK chocolate, which EVERYONE knows is GOOD FOR YOU).

Grab you a handful!

I have a friend who’s going through a rough time. Since she lives in Connecticut and I live in Georgia, it’s impossible for me to hold her hand, buy her a coffee, or babysit her kids. That frustrates me because I am a Martha. In Luke 10:38-42 (in the Bible) there’s these 2 sisters, Mary and Martha. Jesus is at the house and Mary is busy hanging out with Him while Martha’s in the kitchen doing all the work and getting annoyed at Mary for not helping fix the casseroles. So now, in Christian churches, someone like me, who prefers to be DOING SOMETHING is called a Martha, and when I can’t DO SOMETHING I get very frustrated. Then The Ladies tell me I should be praying, that *that* is DOING SOMETHING, but I’d rather bake cookies or make a casserole because it’s hard to get past the idea that a tangible result is what’s optimal. And let me tell you what, these cookies are certainly tangible, and I’m sending them to Connecticut.

When I bake cookies, I like them crisp, not soft. I like to use butter, not shortening, because it adds flavor and is SO GOOD with dark brown sugar. Most cookie recipes call for light brown, and I almost always use dark brown and have been know, from time to time, to even add a swirl of dark (not blackstrap) molasses, because the earthy flavor is SO GOOD. This is your basic cookie recipe of butter, sugars, eggs and flour, with oats and goodies. You can use either vanilla or almond extract and one time I didn’t have either (hush) and used bourbon, which was a totally different flavor but pretty fine in it’s own right. Use whatever kind of nuts you like. My friend requested walnuts, and since she’s a food person too, that’s what I used. Pecans,actually, are my favorite, but I am out of them until I find someone with a pecan tree who’s willing to share. Dried cranberries are excellent,especially if you add a bit of orange zest to the dough. I used dried cherries because seriously, people, DRIED CHERRIES. YUM. Raisins,of course, are the old standby for oatmeal cookies. But dried cherries…seriously, people, DRIED CHERRIES.

Anyway,here we go,

Kitchen Sink Cookies
Preheat the oven to 375F and grease a couple of cookie sheets.

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or almond,or even bourbon)
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups old fashioned rolled oats (or the 5 minute kind…whatever you have)
1 cup chocolate chips (I used dark)
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup dried cherries

Cream together the butter and sugars. Add the eggs and vanilla and cream some more.

Stir the flour, soda and salt ina separate bowl

Mix together the creamed stuff and the dry stuff

Then add the oats and stir until completely combined

Add the nuts, chips and cherries. Stir until well combined

Glob onto a well greased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart because they spread a bit.

Bake 15-18 minutes at 375F, then immediately remove from the pan onto a towel or rack to cool.


Vegetarian recipes
January 20, 2011, 4:25 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I have a request of the 3 people that read this. I am looking for cheap, fairly easy, cheap (did I mention CHEAP) recipes that are vegetarian. My Son On A Limited Budget has discovered the economical nature of vegetarian cooking, and I am looking for tried-and-true (and cheap) recipes he can fix for himself and his 2 roommates. He recently discovered the delights of 15 bean soup, and said “Mom. For less than $5 I fed all 3 of us and that INCLUDED the loaf of bread I made.” So I’ve cobbled him together recipes for red beans and rice, black beans cooked with beer, and Tuscan white bean soup. Also cornbread (always good with beans), oven fried potatos, and what I call “Cowboy beans”, that is, pintoes with lots of spices and a couple of shots of liquid smoke, since I don’t actually have a dakota hole to cook them in. I am looking for other recipes that involve potatoes, rice, different types of beans and peas, and do NOT require seasonings or ingredients you can’t find at the local Bi-Lo…which essentially means if the name of it has more than one syllable, it probably can’t be found. Unless it’s turnip greens. If you have a particular web site that carries such recipes, I’m open to that as well. I will say this, tho, Lentil Loaf is not a suitable suggestion. However, crock pot cookery is very much suitable!

Tasty, Tasty Thai
January 19, 2011, 12:57 am
Filed under: Easy but not quick, Poultry, South Asian

I love Thai food. That delicious combination of heat and herbs and creamy coconut,balanced with sticky rice and cool, crisp vegetables…YUM. Statesboro, Georgia is not exactly a culinary mecca. If you want Thai you have to make it yourself,from ingredients horded and carefully rationed until the next trip to Atlanta, where one can restock on lemongrass and bird chilis. In the mean time, I like those premade curry pastes. You can throw together pretty quickly a Thai-approximating meal that heathens like mine will never know that it’s a Southern White Lady’s attempt at being exotic. All you need are a few ingredients that happen to keep FOREVER in the fridge.

coconut milk, limes, fish sauce, massaman curry paste, peanut butter

With these ingredients you can make a delicious marinade for chicken, and a peanut sauce to dip the cooked chicken into.

For the marinade:
3/4 can of coconut milk (the rest will go into the peanut sauce)NOT Coco Lopez coconut stuff…unsweetened coconut milk!!
2 tablespoons massaman curry paste
2 tablespoons fish sauce
juice of 1 lime
Mix everything together in a gallon ziploc bag and add
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips.
Let this sit for a couple of hours, then thread the chicken onto skewers and grill or broil.

The chicken is marinating in the bag.

For the peanut sauce
Mix in a small pot
The remainder of the can of coconut milk
about 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
about 1/4 cup red onion diced very small
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons of massaman curry paste
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon palm sugar (or turbinado or plain ol’ white if you live in Statesboro, Ga)
juice of 1 lime
Warm slowly over low heat until it is bubbly. Serve on the side with the grilled chicken skewers. You can also add the leftover marinade from the chicken, since you’re cooking it anyway.

Yummy peanut sauce!

I like to serve this with sticky rice or regular white rice, sliced raw cabbage (my husband likes to take a cabbage leave and wrap it around some rice and a piece of chicken like a little package) and peanut sauce.

Terry likes it as a cabbage packet

Now, in this household, one member is allergic to coconut. So, in order to accomodate his needs and love of all food Thai, I simply replace the coconut milk in all these recipes with homemade chicken broth. Granted, it’s not quite the same, but it works for him. I make his own little bag of marinade and his own little pot of peanut sauce.

Here’s how you make sticky rice! I remember the first time I tried to make it, I had no idea that you didn’t fix it the same way you made any other kind of rice, and I wound up with a gelatinous and amorphous mass of white goo. Tasty white goo, but definitely not rice-like. So…here’s what you do:
First, make sure you have the right kind of rice. It’s also called sweet rice or sticky rice or glutinous rice.
Measure out about 1 cup of rice per person and wash it really good- keep rinsing it until the water runs clear.
Then put it in a pot and cover it with water by about 2 inches above the rice.
Let it soak 4 hours or so (more won’t hurt it)
Drain the rice and put it in a steamer basket. They suggest lining the basket with cheesecloth, but I have never done this because I never have cheesecloth.
Put a few inches of water in a large pot and set the steamer basket on top.
Cover with a lid and turn on the stove to medium high.
Steam the rice for 45 minutes or so, until the rice is done and has kind of a translucent quality. It will be nice and sticky (easy to eat with chopsticks!)

Nicely cooked sticky rice

There are many different Thai curry pastes you can buy. Massaman is the mildest and Green curry is the hottest…like NUCLEAR hot. BOOM SWEATY HOT.
They are all delicious, and a bit different from each other, and I have made the recipe above using all of them. If you get the big tub of paste, theyhave recipes on the label that are tasty as well. This bit I’ve come up with is my own Southern White Version that my friend Hae Jun approved of, saying it was “not bad for someone who has never had real Thai” then she took me to a restaurant in Atlanta where I got to experience the real thing. A while later I took Terry (my beloved husband) there, pretty sure he’d love the stuff. He, of course,had to be The Man and order it Hot. The waiter (who was also the cook at that time) looked sceptical and asked if he was sure. Terry did some metaphorical chest thumping and said “absolutely!” When the food was brought out, it was all Terry could do to eat it without a complete meltdown. Afterward he told the cook/waiter that “hot really means hot, doesn’t it.” and the waiter/cook replied “Actually, I brought you the medium. white folks can’t handle the real thing.” Terry thanked him for his kindness and left a big tip.

Pantry Must Haves
January 18, 2011, 11:48 pm
Filed under: Staples

We all have them, those things we gotta have in the refrigerator or pantry in the event some inspiration strikes and we want something for dinner other than Tuesday Night Chicken.

Here’s what I keep:
Sundried tomatoes, both dried and packed in oil
Israeli couscous
red quinoa
brown rice
Sweet (glutinous) rice
Banh pho in assorted sizes (that’s Vietnamese rice noodles, great for quickie soups)
cornbread mix
yellow grits
An assortment of Asian curry pastes
Squid brand fish sauce
Dark sweet soy sauce
sesame oil
ginger, both dried and fresh/frozen
frozen herbs: cilantro, dill, basil, parsley, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves-when I can find them
Other stuff too, but those are the things I ALWAYS have. There’s a wonderful little Asian grocery in Savannah called Mr. Chu’s that carries all the good things, AND it’s on the same street as Brighter Day, who carries all the other good things!

I like to buy things like fresh herbs and roots and berries in bulk, and freeze them right away. I rarely ever use an entire ginger root, and by going ahead and prepping it and freezing, it’s as good as the fresh and not going to waste in the fridge. I can buy huge bunches of the herbs I don’t grow at the Dekalb Farmers Market, and when I get home, I’ll prep and freeze them. There’s nothing like fresh dill on salmon or in refrigerator pickles, and freezing it is a good way to guarentee you’ll have it even in mid winter.

What’re your favorite pantry staples? What makes you unhappy if you’re out of it?

Meatloaf and mashed potatoes
January 18, 2011, 12:35 am
Filed under: Easy but not quick, How To Land A Man, Meat, Supper

Did I take pictures? Of course not. It didn’t last long enough. But I am telling you, on a cold, rainy January, when life is closing in and causing anxiety and angst, there’s nothing like a comfort meal for…y’know….COMFORT.
Not only is it delicious, it’s easy peasy, using ingredients you can find most anywhere. No fancy herbs. No crazy technique. Just plain old simple food, the kind that has people scraping the pan and thrilled to pieces that there’s enough for leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

Meatloaf So Ordinary It’s Extraordinary

1 pound ground chuck
1 pound ground turkey
2 eggs
1 sleeve saltine crackers, crushed
1/4 cup milk
1 package dried onion soup mix
Beat the eggs and milk together in a large bowl. Stir in the onion soup mix, then stir in the crackers until they start soaking up the milk. With your hands, mix in the gorund meats until everything is well blended. Form into a loaf shape in a casserole dish. Bake at 350F degrees for 1 hour, then top with the ketchup topping, bake for 25-30 minutes longer until the topping starts to get crusty around the edges.

1/2 cup regular old ketchup
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons regular old yellow mustard
Mix together in a bowl, and spoon over the top of the meatloaf.

Mashed potatoes
6 medium russet potatoes, peeled
3/4 cup hot milk (I heat it up in the microwave)
1/2 stick butter
salt and pepper to taste
Cut the potatoes up into small chunks and put in a pot. cover with water and boil for 30 minutes, until the potatoes are done and quite soft. Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot. Cut the butter up into small bits and add it to the hot potatoes. Add about 1/2 teaspoon salt and about the same of black pepper. Using a hand mixer, blend in the hot milk, a little at a time, until the potatoes are smooth and thick. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with the meatloaf for a warm and comforting dinner.

On cooking with lard
January 15, 2011, 5:09 pm
Filed under: Nibbles, Technique

People hear “lard” and go into panic mode. “OMG!!! CHOLESTEROL! FAT! DEATH!” but truth is, a biscuit made with lard instead of vegetable shortening (which is hydrogenated and bad for you is soft, fluffy and amazing. Use buttermilk as well and it’s like…perfection. Fry something in lard (chicken, okra,pickles…whatever you like to fry) and with it’s higher flash point it gets hotter than shortening or oil before smoking, and the food soaks up less of it so you end up with a crisp crust and surprisingly less grease to drain off. Plus it tastes good.

I figure, since I very rarely fry stuff or make biscuits (not out of laziness but because we are all…shall we say…hm…y’know…not in need of extra poundage,in fact we probably have some to share if you’re wanting any), and lard really makes a superior product in every way, why not use it? Yes, it’s really old school cooking…but fried chicken happens MAYBE once every 3 or 4 months,same with biscuits. So if you’re going to do it, might as well do it right.
Now, if you are worried about it, because you’ve never used it, the proportions are exactly the same as if you’re using oil or shortening. It makes a good roux as well. What you’ll wind up with in a quickbread is a slightly softer result. A biscuit won’t quite hold up to cold butter (and yes,I use realbutter not, partially hydrogenated margarine), but if you soften it to room temp, the biscuit will thank you.

One observation I’ve made about frying with it…and my chemist husband who knows pretty much everything hasn’t been able to tell me why this is so…stuff fried in lard seems to stay hot longer. I can cook chicken and 20 minutes after pulling it out of shortening, it’s room temperature, but after cooking it with lard it’s still hot. Can anyone tell me why? Am I just lucky?

Here’s a quick recipe, it’s my 19 yr old son CJ’s method for fried pickles and they are…oh SO good.

1 jar hamburger dill slices, drained but not dried. You want them still wet
Bisquick biscuit mix
a deep fryer
Put the lard in the deep fryer so it’s about 1/2 full and heat to 400 degrees
Toss a handful of the pickle chips in bisquick so they’re well coated and let sit for a few minutes before putting them in the fryer. Fry a handful at a time until they’re crispy and golden brown. You don’t want to cook more than a handful at a time because you don’t want them crowded, and you don’t want to put so many in that they drop the temperature of the oil. That would make them greasy.

Roasted cauliflower with red peppers
January 14, 2011, 12:30 am
Filed under: Vegetables

I was scrounging through the fridge, looking for something to fix as a side dish alongside some unremarkable chicken. After locating a head of cauliflower, I got online, looking for ideas and came across a recipe for roasted cauliflower. Hm, I thought. I’ve never fixed that before. My prior cauliflower experience involved steaming and mashing it with cream and herbs (a concoction the household heathens labeled “spudge”), and baking it with cheese sauce. However, in my New Year enthusiasm for all things low fat, I was determined to fix a tasty cauliflower dish that didn’t involve high fat dairy products. Well, as much of them, anyway.

So here goes.

Roasted Cauliflower with red peppers

1 smallish head of cauliflower, cut into florets (is that what they’re called?)
the remainder of the jar of roasted red peppers left over from this recipe, chopped
1 heaping spoonful of minced garlic from a jar
not quite 1/4 cup olive oil
some salt and freshly ground black pepper
about 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

put chopped peppers, garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper in a gallon ziploc bag

Add the cut up cauliflower. It's pretty already!

Mix it all up in the bag and dump into a casserole dish.

Bake at 425F for 45 mins, then top with the cheese and broil on low for 5 minutes.

The household food critics gave it their wholehearted approval, even the picky one who generally doesn’t like a vegetable unless it’s coated in cheese and cream. I will probably branch out the roasted vegetable concept and see what happens. I’ve always roasted root veg, but this is the first time for cauliflower. I’ve heard rumors of roasted broccoli but remain dubious. Myfavorite method for broccoli is a quick blanch then make it into a salad with cheese and bacon and mayonnaise…which probably utterly negates any nutritional benefits, tho I prefer to see it as nutritionally neutral, like drinking water, because the ingredients cancel each other out. I suppose this theory could be applied to cauliflower cheese and such as well.