Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gingerbread Cookies


You'd think with all the food that appears on this blog that there would be clouds of flour and aromas of cinnamon wafting throughout my home. But, like everyone, I'm scrambling to find the balance of working, blogging and family life.

One year, I made over 500 cookies before Christmas for friends and family. This year, I was able to pull off a batch of gingerbread and shortbread!

My girls love decorating gingerbread cookies. So one night we spread out all the sprinkles I've collected and tinted some white icing with food coloring. We have cute gingerbread men, gingerbread Dr. Seuss characters, ghoulish ones with missing legs, and ones with more icing and sprinkles than cookie for the sweet tooth in the bunch (my youngest).

So, though our cookie jar isn't overflowing, we have a table that's still sprinkled with dragees, sugar and dried icing. But best of all we have sweet memories.

Recipe for Gingerbread

From Epicurious

Makes about 50 regular-sized gingerbread cookies

6 cups (about) flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1½ teaspoons ground cloves
¾ teaspoon salt
11 tablespoon (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup mild-flavored (light) molasses
1½ teaspoons grated lemon peel
1 large egg
¼ cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons water
1 teaspoon soda

Whisk 5¼ cups flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt in a bowl.

Using a stand mixer, blend the butter and shortening. Add sugar, molasses, and lemon peel and beat until smooth. Beat in egg and buttermilk.

Blend 2 teaspoons water with soda. Beat into butter mixture. In two additions, beat in flour mixture. Add more flour, ¼ cup at a time, until the dough feels slightly firm.

Divide dough into three equal disks. Wrap them and chill until firm enough to roll, at least 2 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated. Soften slightly before rolling out.)

Roll out one disk of dough at a time, between sheets of waxed paper.

Either cut the dough using cookie cutters (or another shape) or press the dough into a heat-resistant shot glass or silicon shot glasses. (See blog post for Gingerbread Cookie Cups.) Chill the dough again before baking. (Cutout cookies can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and keep chilled.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, turning the pan halfway through the baking time.

========================

Head on over to Natalie MacLean's blog to check out my simple but tasty holiday brunch idea: Salmon Dill Crepe Recipe Paired with Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand



========================

Here are some other delicious Christmas treats:


Linzer Sablés

Rice Pudding
(which is what we like to have for dessert at Christmas)

Shortbread

Spiced White Chocolate Cappuccino
 
Happy Holidays!


If you like this post, share it!


If you like this blog, you can subscribe and get updates automatically.
  • Click here to learn about subscribing.
  • Click here to subscribe.

  • To see an index of recipes, click here.
    To see a visual index of recipes, click here.
    To see an index of Julia Child-inspired recipes, click here.



    Monday, November 28, 2011

    Bringing Mexico Home: Huevos Divorciados


    I haven’t touched a palm tree in many years. For me, a palm tree is my centering thought, the one thing I visualize when I’m tense or stressed. It was the image I was going to use during labor, but now it’s one I use during everyday life. It had been too long since I felt the bark of the palm. And I don’t intend to let time slip away before I’m shaded by a palm tree again.








    Hotel Riu, Mazatlán, Mexico


    I have long been a fan of Huevos Rancheros, that popular Mexican dish consisting of eggs served with a fried corn tortilla and topped with a spicy chili or tomato sauce. But I had to go to Mazatlán, Mexico in person to experience “divorced eggs” known as Huevos Divorciados.

    This dish, a spin-off of Huevos Rancheros, features two eggs situated on opposite sides of the plate, each egg preoccupied and bathed in a sauce of its own – usually one adorned with green chilies and tomatillos while the egg on the other side of the plate is dressed in a saucy red chili creation. The plate is further decorated with delicacies such as refried beans and rice, strong cheese, pinto beans, guacamole, or rings of onion. These accompaniments are often placed down the middle of the plate, further separating the two divorced eggs, which have so obviously gone their separate ways. Instead of two salsas, I used one salsa on one side and guacamole on the other.

    And though I can’t bring the palms or the sand home, I can bring the food home to share.

    Recipe for Huevos Divorciados

    Serves 6

    For the salsa:
    3 medium tomatoes, quartered
    ½ onion
    ½ hot green chile or 1 teaspoon canned green chilies
    3 sprigs cilantro leaves
    ½ red bell pepper
    2 cloves garlic
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    ½ lemon, squeezed

    For the guacamole:
    ½ large ripe avocado
    2 tablespoons green onion, minced
    1 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
    ½ teaspoons Asian chile sauce
    2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
    ¼ teaspoon salt

    For the tortillas:
    6 tortillas, cut into rounds that will fit a muffin tin

    For the poached eggs:
    12 eggs, poached

    Prepare the salsa:
    Put all ingredients in a food processor and whiz until chunky. Drain.

    Prepare the guacamole:
    Put all ingredients in a food processor and whiz until smooth.

    Prepare the tortillas:
    Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut the tortillas into rounds that will fit a muffin tin. Carefully push a round into a muffin cup. Bake until golden, about 5 minutes.

    Prepare the poached eggs:
    Poach 12 eggs.

    To assemble:
    Put the poached egg into the baked tortilla cup. Top with salsa on half of the cups. Top with guacamole on the other half. Garnish each plate with refried beans and cilantro along with a tortilla cup of each type. Serve immediately.



    Tips
    If you don't feel like making this at home and if you happen to be in Ottawa, Canada, you should check out the Huevos Rancheros at Edgar. The best in the city.



    And if you're in Mazatlán, Mexico, you can get this dish at several places. Here is the one I had at the Shrimp Bucket in Olas Altas.



    If you like this post, share it!


    If you like this blog, you can subscribe and get updates automatically.
  • Click here to learn about subscribing.

  • Click here to subscribe.


  • To see an index of recipes, click here.
    To see a visual index of recipes, click here.
    To see an index of Julia Child-inspired recipes, click here.

    Disclosure: I would like to thank www.gomazatlan.com for inviting me to the 2011 Gran Fiesta Amigos. All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared on my blog are completely my own.



    Monday, November 14, 2011

    Bringing Mexico Home: Horchata

     
    Horchata


    I love food, and I love travel. Experiencing life in a different place, tasting new flavors, smelling salty or unfamiliar air and trying to capture it in my memory or through the lens of my camera resets my soul, makes me smile and reminds me of what life offers.


    sunrise in  Mazatlán, Mexico

     
     sunset in Mazatlán, Mexico


    One year ago, I was recovering from surgery to remove more thyroid cancer. A year later, I’m feeling the sand between my toes, listening to the waves crash on the beach, and enjoying a culinary tour of Mazatlán, Mexico.

    One thing I love to bring home is a favorite taste to make in my own kitchen. Mazatlán is known as the Pearl of the Pacific. For me, the pearl-colored beverage, Horchata (or-CHA-tah), will always remind me of Mazatlán and Mexico. It was also one of the first things I looked up when I got home.

    If you love rice pudding, then Horchata is rice pudding in liquid form: rice (along with nuts sometimes) and cinnamon are soaked in water (or milk) and then sweetened and flavored with vanilla and other spices and finally strained and poured over ice.

    “In Spain horchata was made with with ground melon seeds but given the seeds were not available in the new world the Spaniards substituted the readily available squash seeds. Later almonds and rice were brought to the new world and incorporated into the drink as it is prepared today.”
    (from link)

    I tasted the best Horchata at a small village restaurant called El Mesón de los Laureanos in El Quelite just 45 minutes outside of Mazatlán. It wasn’t too sweet and quenched my thirst after a hot morning of sun and tequila tasting.



    Horchata (from the Latin word hordeum, which means "barley" or Orxata in Catalan) was introduced to Spain by the Moors. The original Spanish version is made with ground tiger nuts (chufas) and is popular in Valencia (from link). Legend says that James I the Conqueror, King of Aragon, tasted the drink and exclaimed:

    "Açò és or, xata!"
    "That's gold, darling!"

    Variations include almonds, lime zest, or even pecans and popcorn. Momofuku Milk Bar serves a Horchata Soft Serve Ice Cream with Cinnamon. And adding a dash of Tequila can improve its already soothing qualities. Salud!



    Recipe for Horchata

    For Horchata Base:
    6 tablespoons long-grained rice
    2 cinnamon sticks
    2½ cups warm water

    For sugar syrup:
    ½ cup sugar
    1 cup water
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

    To finish:
    Milk, to taste
    Ice
    Ground cinnamon and nutmeg, for garnish

    In a blender, blend the rice to break it up into small pieces. In a large bowl, blend the rice, cinnamon sticks and water. Cover and store in the refrigerator for 6 hours, or overnight.

    To make the sugar syrup, melt sugar and water in a medium-heavy pot over medium-high heat until the sugar is melted. Add the vanilla. Let cool.

    Remove the cinnamon sticks from the rice mixture. Strain the rice mixture through cheesecloth and squeeze out the rice to get the entire flavor out of the rice. Add the sugar syrup, to taste.

    To finish, in a blender add 1 cup of the strained-rice/sugar-syrup mixture and ½ cup milk (or to taste). Blend until frothy. Pour into a glass and garnish with ground cinnamon and nutmeg.

    For Horchata Coffee, prepare a double espresso. Froth ½ cup milk with ½ cup Horchata. Mix and garnish with ground cinnamon and nutmeg.

    Bucket List
    • Taste tiger nut Horchata in Valencia or Catalonia
    • Taste Horchata Soft Serve Ice Cream with Cinnamon at Momofuku Milk Bar

    Links
    The Bojon Gourmet: Horchata Ice Cream
    TastyType: Horchata Ice Cream 
    Vampire Weekend – Horchata: “In December, drinking horchata | I'd look psychotic in a balaclava”

     


    If you like this post, share it!


    If you like this blog, you can subscribe and get updates automatically.
  • Click here to learn about subscribing.

  • Click here to subscribe.



  • To see an index of recipes, click here.
    To see a visual index of recipes, click here.
    To see an index of Julia Child-inspired recipes, click here.

    Disclosure: I would like to thank www.gomazatlan.com for inviting me to the 2011 Gran Fiesta Amigos. All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared on my blog are completely my own.



    Thursday, October 27, 2011

    October Highlights


    Well, it's almost Halloween, my girls' second favorite holiday after Christmas. We've had our traditional ghost milkshakes (with more whipped cream than milkshake this year!) and the costumes are ready.

    It's been a busy time, and I wanted to highlight a few things that happened in October.

    Natalie MacLean, Ottawa's award-winning wine writer, is promoting her new book: Unquenchable. She's touring Canada and the United States, so check out her schedule.


    I have to thank Natalie for a shout-out in Ottawa Magazine this month. I'm honored to be mentioned along with Holly Burns of Wine Out Loud, another respected wine writer and blogger from Ottawa.


    While you're checking out Natalie's wine picks, videos, and blog, you can also read my October column: Shrimp, Watercress, Bacon and Walnut Salad Recipe Paired with Coopers Creek Chardonnay, New Zealand. The mini Potato Chèvre Sandwiches that garnish this salad steal the limelight.


    Also, just for fun, to practice my photography and to keep inspired, I've started a blog called Laugh Play Live. Last year, though I was going through a separation and dealing with thyroid cancer, it helped to be inspired by words and photography. Facing cancer brings with it a new perspective, and I hope to continue to see the wonderful, wild and whimsical through the lens and in words.


    November is looking good. I'm off to Mazatlan, Mexico for a Gran Fiesta and Culinary Tour. Let's hope the hurricanes hold off while I'm there!



    Monday, October 24, 2011

    Cilantro Salad


    Not all salads are easy. This one is. Just a simple vinaigrette with fresh ingredients. And if you love cilantro, you'll love this combination.

    Cilantro is also known as Chinese Parsley and comes from the leaves of the coriander plant. I know there are people who find cilantro soapy tasting, and it does have a strong flavor, but let it grow on you and you may find that you crave it.


    The Chinese used the herb in love potions believing it provided immortality.

    Recipe

    Makes 6 servings

    For the vinaigrette:
    1/4 cup olive oil
    2 tablespoons lime juice
    1 clove garlic, minced
    salt and pepper, to taste

    For the salad:
    4 cups butter lettuce, cleaned and torn into bite-sized pieces
    1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
    1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

    Whisk the ingredients for the vinaigrette. Mix the salad ingredients. Just before serving, mix the vinaigrette with the salad.



    Monday, October 17, 2011

    Caramel Apple Tarts


    Wondering what to do with puff pastry? Make Caramel Apple Tarts.

    At this time of year when the apples are falling off the tree, I crave caramel apples. At every fair, it's the one treat I look forward to. This is just caramel apples in a crust. Yum!

    If you don't have puff pastry in your refrigerator, just use a regular pie crust. If you don't have that, just make caramel apples!

    Recipe

    Makes one pie or 12 individual tarts

    1 cup sugar
    1 cup brown sugar
    1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces
    3/4 cup sweeted condensed milk (or 300-mL can)
    2/3 cup golden corn syrup
    1/4 cup maple syrup
    1 teaspoon honey
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/4 teaspoon salt

    6 apples, peeled and diced

    Puff Pastry

    In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, stir all ingredients until a temperature probe reaches 236°F. Make sure you stir constantly and ensure the mixture doesn't stick to the bottom and start to burn. Let cool.

    Meanwhile, peel and dice the apples. Stir the apples into the cooled caramel mixture.

    Preheat the oven to 375°F.

    Roll out the puff pastry.

    Fill the tart shell (or individual tart shells). Bake for 50-60 minutes (30-40 minutes for individual tart shells). Let cool. Serve with vanilla ice cream.


    If you like this post, share it!


    If you like this blog, you can subscribe and get updates automatically.
  • Click here to learn about subscribing.

  • Click here to subscribe.


  • To see an index of recipes, click here.
    To see a visual index of recipes, click here.
    To see an index of Julia Child-inspired recipes, click here.