"This recipe is certainly silly.It says to separate two eggs, but it doesn't say how far to separate them."Gracie Allen
"The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude."~ Julia Child
Don't be a fuddy-duddy with your hollandaise;be bold, dunk your pretzels in it!"~ Miss Piggy

10 December 2011

OK Cookie...Let's SWAP!

A Little Sussy

No SAD Faces...I know the days are flying but come on Grab the Oven Mitts and Let's Swap!

Each year around this time I reach for one of my most dog eared cookbooks. It is covered in spatters of batter, some of the pages have confectioner's sugar dust and flour prints, a few even have a smear of chocolate...I have marked the pages with pieces of paper towel so I can find my recipes and clean up! I have owned The Wellesley Cookie Exchange Cookbook forever and I would never part with it.

The story of the Wellesley Cookie Exchange is classic...Mary Bevilacqua saw an article in Family Circle magazine about friends who got together to swap cookies each year. Mary got a group of her friends to do the same and now almost 40 years later, and countless crumbs devoured, the Wellesley Cookie Exchange is still baking on.

Over brunch or tea or...40-50 guests bring a few dozen cookies each and Mary's house fills with trays and trays and boxes and tins... Stories are shared, recipes swapped and friendships grow and rekindle as everyone leaves with a wonderful assortment to serve and give that season.

It is a wonderful tradition that continues on and Mary's daughters, Kristen Weiss and Ann Flanigan have kept the tradition going and have published a Favorites collection which includes some of the all time "Must Bakes" of their Mom's exchange along with some new favorites from their own cookie groups.

The original The Wellesley Cookie Exchange Cookbook is out of print but you can find copies on Amazon and Ebay...you have to own both!

Each cookie recipe, and its baker, has a story. Mary's recipe box is legendary with almost 40 years of Cookie Exchange ideas-rolled cookies, bar cookies, icebox favorites, tea breads, cut cookies, good old fashioned sugar cookies, butter cookies, filled cookies, and of course Gingerbread People!

I love how Mary would lock cookies in the trunk of her car before the party to ensue they would be "safe" from harm or hungry cookie thieves.

One of the All Stars of the Exchange are Lemon Meltaways!!
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut, toasted and cooled
Confectioners' sugar

In the bowl of a standing or electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in lemon zest and extracts. Add flour and salt and beat well. Stir in coconut.

Cut dough in half and place each half on a sheet of waxed paper. Form each half into an 8-inch log. Wrap each log in waxed paper and refrigerate at least 4 hours (or overnight).

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 300 degrees. Cut logs into 1/4-inch-thick slices with a sharp knife, and arrange 2 inches apart on lightly buttered baking sheets. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until pale golden.

Transfer cookies to racks and sprinkle generously with confectioners sugar. Let cool and dust lightly with more confectioners sugar.

I have so many favorite recipes from the book but probably the one that I return to again and again is one I renamed Chocolate Snowballs or Secret Kisses-this one is a huge hit in every cookie basket I give...Take your favorite basic cookie dough recipe, roll a good tablespoon of dough around a Hershey's Kiss then roll in chopped nuts or coconut if you like and dust with confectioner's sugar...bake until firm at about 350-375. Let cool then dust again with confectioner's sugar.

Other great cookie resources include the fabulous Dorie Greenspan's Baking from My Home to Yours, Ina Garten of course does everything with style and Sarabeth Levine's Bakery: from My Hands to Yours

Plan your own Cookie Swap-and remember to invite all the good bakers!! you have always wanted to steal recipes from... have plenty of tins, wrap and boxes on hand...give each guest a cute package of recipe cards and be sure to remind the guests to come with copies of their recipes to share. In one afternoon you will have a freezer filled with cookies! By the way it is a well known fact that a broken foot or arm of a Gingerbread Person has NO Calories! Happy Icing

13 November 2010

Ina Makes it Easy!

This week was filled with dreary!! days and 3:30 started to feel like bedtime!  As the days grow bleak and the colors start to turn to yuck...I guess it is finally time to come inside... and find my kitchen again!

 I think Fall and Winter are the best kitchen seasons---is there anything better than crisp days outside and warm cinnamon days inside?  Apples, spices, squash, a little caramel...Yum!

Ina Garten's Pumpkin Cupcakes

I admit to not paying a whole lot of attention to my kitchen of late--I tend to walk through on the way somewhere else...November,however, is the perfect time to dust off the pans and baking sheets...and Ina makes it easy!  The Barefoot Contessa has a new book-reason enough to celebrate!

I am a cookbook lover, a passionate Recipe Reader, even when I don't have time to reach for the measuring spoons. One of my all time favorite kitchen muses is Ina Garten, aka The Barefoot Contessa. Once upon a time Ina Garten was working in the White House Office of Management and Budget thinking she should be doing something more creative with her life.  She saw an ad for a food shop for sale in the Hamptons and before she knew it...she was The Barefoot Contessa which has become a brand featuring not only her cookbooks, but also specialty food products and mixes,and the television series that is a cornerstone of the Food Network's programming.  The Barefoot Contessa books  for me are the "Go To" source whenever I am planning for company be it lunch, brunch a casual supper, a gift from my kitchen or an elegant evening.   Ina defines "gracious comfort" and  it is tempting to just curl up with her books,become transported to her home and table and spend a lovely afternoon in Ina's kitchen!

 One of the many  things I love about Ina Garten is that she embraces you, takes you by the hand and invites you into her comfy Hampton's lifestyle-no stress, nothing intimidating, just a warm friendly visit in one of the country's yummiest kitchens. Ina's new book is filled with her signature easy elegance- recipes that are all about the flavor and nothing about fuss-- whether it is a dinner party or supper for two by the fire Ina makes it easy!

"This book is all about saving you time and avoiding stress. These aren't recipes with three ingredients that you can throw together in five minutes before dinner. These are tried-and-true Barefoot Contessa recipes that are easy enough to make but still have all that deep, delicious flavor that makes a meal so satisfying."Ina Garten

Mmmm... Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake, Roasted Figs with Caramel Sauce, Herb Roasted Turkey Breast, Apple Cranberry Cake, Fleur de sel Caramels, Provencal Lamb, French Toast Bread Pudding... just some of the recipes already marked with sticky notes!

Ina of course also  includes great planning tips to stagger your schedule and make entertaining scrumptiously simple. Ina creates recipes that are  filled with divine flavor and don't make you frazzled, all with the best ingredients that you do not have to fly to France to buy.

Other favorite Barefoot Contessa books ...curl up with one this weekend and plan your next visit back to your kitchen!

Barefoot Contessa Family Style: Easy Ideas and Recipes That Make Everyone Feel Like FamilyBarefoot Contessa at Home: Everyday Recipes You'll Make Over and Over AgainBarefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple IngredientsThe Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

07 August 2010

Just Pack a Basket-Ants Optional

I love picnics but I know better than to plan elaborate menus weeks in advance. The best picnics are spontaneous, easy and weather proof. Living in New England where the weather can change around every corner you learn to be prepared. Pack for a beach day but prep for a picnic on the kitchen floor! Actually one of my favorite picnics of all time ended up taking place on the dash of the car while rain and fog totally obscured the view we drove 2 hours to see. Balancing plastic tubs of salads and snacks without dropping a chip in a 2 seater is a talent! It was a wonderful day and no ants!

Hollywood and classic literature are filled with ideal picnic outings, of course there is often a storm and a convenient gazebo so a kiss can be mixed in with the potato salad. It would be lovely to have a Jane Austen-esque outing, loved the one in Emma, complete with china and a staff to clear-be sure to read how a Jane Austen Picnic would be done---- but let's be a bit more realistic ---without losing any of the romance of course!! So let's pack...

THE quintessential basket from Longaberger

1. I own 2 picnic hampers-love them but to tell the truth they really aren't very practical but if you want romance..then go for it...visit Picnic Basket.com Actually a great option is a cooler tote is perfect, there are backpack styles, totes, some with wheels and even with built in grills..check out Keepyourcooler.com
2. Now let's fill it up!...What to eat with. In this day and age we may still live in a very disposable world but don't you feel guilty doing it? and who wants that stress on a picnic! China of course is a bit much, of course if you can pull off the candelabra and linen go for it! My choice...Melamine. Usually found in the nursery melamine is perfect for outdoor entertaining and of course picnics. Inexpensive and easy to find at stores like Target and Pier 1 etc. Good melamine dishes should be shatter proof, scratch resistant and yes! dishwasher safe. Pier I did these that mimic the look of paper plates as well as sets that work inside and out.

Pier 1

Love these customized and monogrammed plates from Kates Plates

Visit your local Party store for utensils, cups and mugs that look like plastic but can be tossed in the dishwasher and reused!! No guilt...

3. Sit on it! You need to be comfortable but you don't want to carry your sofa with you. So... try the Metro Seat

and if you do love the look of a picnic blanket in your basket go for one with a rubber or nylon backing or be sure to place a line underneath.

4. Setting the mood..If picnicking at dusk or at an evening concert you need candlelight, but maybe the candelabra should stay at home. Go for Flameless candles and don't worry if they tip. Made from real wax these are battery operated and set the mood well.

(Candle Impressions)

5. Pick a Spot...I like to toss the basket in the car and just head out. Some of the best spots happen by wandering about. If you like to plan a bit more head for one of my favorite picnic spots, and I know I am not alone with this one,

-Tanglewood, the Berkshires are wonderful in any season but in the summer you will share it with tens of thousands of music lovers and the Boston Symphony. I don't care if you have to step over a few classical fans to find a spot the lawn at Tanglewood is a magical place and a summer concert on the lawn at Tanglewood is a picnic lover's paradise..not to mention pretty competitive, those are some serious picnics happening out there. You can also take your picnic to Edith Wharton's house The Mount (Edithwharton.org),The Norman Rockwell Museum

So...I bet you are wondering when do we eat??? OK...here's a quick Pick your Picnic Menu -Nothing elaborate just portable,easy, fast and not a lot of need for cooking or extra chilling-Enjoy!!

-Mustard Green Beans-simply marinate snap beans the night before in a good seedy mustard and chill

-Homemade Pickles-Slice up some pickling cucumbers and marinate overnight in a good vinegar and sugar cover and chill

-Potato Salad -We all have our favorites but try baby bliss with some celery bacon sliced and toss with a dijon vinaigrette -let sit overnight

-Snap Peas in Poppy Seed and Goat Cheese-Toss snap peas with a poppy seed dressing and goat cheese

-Greek Tuna Pasta Salad-a summer favorite. Add tuna, green pepper, olives if you like,celery, cherry tomatoes to your favorite pasta..mix with Greek dressing and chill overnight-better the longer it sits

-Pick up Sandwiches...fill baby whole wheat pita pockets with...1. Vegetable humus, grilled veggies 2. Turkey ,avocado, good grainy mustard and jarlesberg 3.Honey ham with honeycup mustard and swiss 4. Natural peanut butter and chunky strawberry jam 5. Sliced hard boiled eggs with dijon, celery and sweet relish

-Cheese-Pack firm cheese like Jarlsberg ..creamy cheeses will run with the weather ,be sure to have good bread on hand

-Carrots,Jicama,Snap Peas, Celery, Grapevine tomatoes, crisp cuke slices with humus or a Greek yogurt dip

-Melon Salad -layer melon balls and drizzle with yogurt and top with mint

-Tomato Watermelon Salad-toss watermelon chunks and grapevine tomatoes with feta or gorgonzola and mix in greek yogurt or raspberry vinaigrette

-Lemon Bars-pat your favorite sugar cookie dough into the bottom of bar pan and partial bake. Mix confectioners sugar with lemon juice,lemonpeel and 2 eggs and pour over crust and bake 20 min then dust with more confectioners sugar

-Peach Blueberry Pie-Use a ready to go crust like Oranoke...partial bake...slice peaches and toss with blueberries some Cinnamon and brown sugar... fill crust then make a crumble topping from butter, Cinnamon and sugar and top and bake til bubbly

-Pink lemonade in sugar frosted picnic friendly glasses

20 December 2008

Gifts without Crumbs-A Few of My Favorite Things

I am a Cookbook addict. For whatever reason I find reading a wonderful cookbook comforting and satisfying...no calories when you look at the pictures. These make perfect additions to any kitchen and your favorite Foodie will thank you!