Vamps, I'm super excited about The Darlings, the debut novel from my friend and former classmate Cristina Alger. It's getting such great reviews across the board, and while I just got my hands on a copy, I can already say it's well-written and gripping. We're also super excited to be giving away four signed copies for your book club's next meeting (the books alone are valued at over $70!)! To enter, all you have to do is comment here about how excited you are for this book. Every site user is eligible to enter once by commenting. A random winner will be drawn on Monday, March 5th, 2012 at 12noon EST, so enter for your chance to win before then.
Well, somehow it's mid-February. Late February even. What have I been doing??
Perhaps some of you remember that we moved at the end of August. Remember how I used to hate my kitchen? And how now I'm obsessed with it? Yeah, I've been super busy in my kitchen. Baking and cooking up a storm. To a point where J has actually asked me to cool it. Our waists can't take it anymore. So the good news is, I can now use my time for myself during the week to start catching y'all up on what I've been up to. It's not all fattening, I promise.
First up: breakfasts.
As part of my New Year's Resolutions, which never really change from year to year, I've once again decided to eat better. So for me, that starts with breakfast. Because here's what happens when I don't eat breakfast: I'm out running around with E and it's around 10am. I start to get ravenously hungry. But I don't want to stop and buy a pumpkin bread from Starbucks because it's 400 calories which I don't really need. I keep running around and push through. Then it's 11am, and I'm past the point of hunger; I'm just so, so tired. So I stop at get another coffee around 11:30am. And then I realize that I am, actually, really hungry, so in addition to my coffee I also get a carb-heavy snack. Pumpkin bread if I'm at Starbucks. A filled croissant if I'm at LPQ or my local neighborhood coffee shop. Then it's lunch time, and I'm not actually hungry anymore. So I snack for lunch and find myself ravenous again around 3pm, just about when I need to go to work. So I get something on the go . . . and you can see where this is going.
So this year, I'm eating breakfast. I'm newly obsessed with a recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbook, My Father's Daughter, called Seed Mix. Here it is:
1 part each pumpkin and sunflower seeds
2 parts each almonds, goji berries, and flaxseeds
Finely grind everything together. Eat it all the time.
I made an obscene amount of this last month and I'm nearly out. When I make it again, I'm going to grind the flaxseeds by themselves first, or use 1 part ground flaxseeds instead since they stayed more or less whole when I made it.
I eat it with: oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies, mixed into pancake batter, on top of muffins, and sometimes I even throw it on my salads when I don't have another protein source. It's delicious and filled with protein and antioxidants.
Other favorite breakfasts: Easy Eggs (scrambled eggs with fat free cottage cheese and steamed spinach); smoothies made with yogurt, almond butter, fresh fruit; oatmeal with yogurt (and the seed mix); Complex Yogurt (deceptively easy to make) with pureed fresh fruit (I freeze it in batches like I did when I was making E's baby food) and seed mix or granola; Easy Apples; and the occasional freshly baked muffins or bread.
And my choice for this year's cookie swap cookie is . . .
My great-aunt Thelma was a finalist in the "drop" category of the Akron Beacon Journal's 2002 Holiday Cookie Collection. My grandmother gave me a copy of the insert with my sweet aunt's face next to her winning recipe, and I've been meaning to try the recipe ever since. When I signed up for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, I thought it'd be a perfect time to try this family recipe. While they may not be a traditional Christmas cookie, Aunt Thelma wrote about the cookie that her "mother made soft, iced Butterscotch Cookies when [she] was a girl, and [she] continues the tradition. 'It has been a favorite at Christmas since I was a child, and I am now 85 years old,'" she wrote in 2002. Aunt Thelma now lives in an assisted care facility, so the best part of this recipe for me was that it made so many cookies (the recipe makes at least 4 1/2 dozen) that I could easily send off the three dozen I needed for the cookie swap and send her a dozen. I remember as a little girl that she used to always send our family a box of Christmas cookies and her lemon poppy seed cake which was wrapped in so much wax paper and Saran Wrap, but it always tasted fresh when it got to us from Ohio. I'm happy that now I can send her some Christmas treats!
The recipe itself was pretty easy to follow, though I'd never used vinegar in a cookie recipe before, so I wasn't sure what kind to use. I settled on a white balsamic, but I think just about anything could have worked. The batter is so light and fluffy that the cookies definitely do "drop" onto the cookie sheet.
Also new for me with this recipe was browning butter for frosting. I usually brown butter with salt in a skillet to then put on top of veggies (like Dad's Green Beans), so I didn't really know what to expect doing it with no salt and in a saucepan. After the butter bubbled for a while (almost like a boil), it then got sort of still, and then it was brown. The result is an icing that tastes more like a caramel than a vanilla buttercream (plus it's called "Golden Glo Frosting"--how can you not love that?).
For the full recipe, click here or read below. I hope to continue my great-grandmother's tradition of making them at Christmastime each year!
Aunt Thelma's Butterscotch Cookies
makes about 4 1/2 dozen cookies
2/3 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp vinegar
1 cup evaporated milk
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
Golden Glo Frosting Ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
3-4 cups confectioners' sugar
3/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 c. water
Preheat oven to 350.
For the dough: Cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy, about three minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla.
Combine milk and vinegar in a measuring cup. In a bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture in three batches, alternating with milk and ending with flour. Stir in walnuts
Drop by teaspoons onto greased cookie sheets (or cookie sheets lined with Silpat or parchment paper). Bake for 12-15 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Transfer to wire drying racks and cool completely before frosting.
For the frosting: Melt butter in a small saucepan. Simmer over medium-low heat until butter begins to brown. Transfer to mixer and gradually beat in confectioners' sugar and vanilla. Add enough water to achieve a creamy spreading consistency.
Frost cookies and allow to dry before storing in an airtight container. Cookies may be topped with a walnut if desired.
I came across the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap (#fbcookieswap) on Instagram last month, and I got really excited. For years, my mother has always hosted a cookie swap around Christmas, and it's something I look forward to each year. (For a how-to on hosting your own, check out this article.) So this "virtual" cookie swap sounded like a great idea--send three other food bloggers one dozen cookies each (of the same recipe), blog about it, and get three dozen different cookies in return! I figured not only would I get to try different cookies, but I'd also learn about different blogs, which is exactly what has happened. So far, I've received cookies from Stacy at What The Cupcake. She made Mint Middles Cookies which she claims are adapted from a Cooking Light recipe and therefore fewer calories--but I'll tell ya, there's nothing about them that tastes "light"--they are so delicious and rich!
I'll keep you all updated on other cookies I get as I get them!
Vamp Robin recently shared this picture of her mother's Thanksgiving Centerpiece. She took the gourds she'd been using to decorate her house all fall and spray-painted them gold. Paired with vibrant fall flowers, this easy centerpiece looks classy and pretty shmancy, and costs next to nothing.
Hi! I'm Melissa from The Fauxmartha where I obsess, maybe a little too much, about baking everything from scratch. I'm honored Vesta invited me over here today despite my cooky-ness in the kitchen. Speaking of cooky, Halloween is right around the corner, and I have yet to prepare. I've been a little preoccupied with apples as seen here, here, here, and here. Now that it's only days away, it's time to switch gears.
This time of year conjures up so many good memories. I'm not sure if it's the new sights and smells from the changing of seasons or knowing the holidays have arrived, but my mind is flooded. Besides trick-or-treating, another fond Halloween memory floats to the top, also involving doorbell ringing. It goes a little something like this—your door bell rings. Who could it be?, you wonder. You open the front door only to find an empty doorstep. Upon second glance you see some yummy baked Halloween treats as well as a sign reading "You've been hit by the Halloween Goblin." How spooky yet lovely, you think. And the next thing you know, you find yourself standing on someone else's doorstep with freshly baked treats in your hand. Adrenaline rising at the thought of ringing the door bell and running. And the Halloween Goblin strikes again!
Will the Halloween Goblin be striking your neighborhood this year? If so, you'll be needing a cute sign like the one here. And a good old fashion chocolate cookie recipe turned Halloween like the one below. Happy Halloween!
Ingredients: 1 1/4 c. all purpose flour 1/3 c. natural unsweetened dark cocoa powder 1/2 tsp. baking soda 11 tbsp. (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature 2/3 c. (packed) golden brown sugar 1/4 c. sugar 1 tsp. vanilla extract 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt 5 oz. extra-bittersweet chocolate (Reese's Pieces for Halloween or for the peanut butter lovers)
1. Sift flour, cocoa, and baking soda into medium bowl. 2. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth but not fluffy. Add both sugars, vanilla, and sea salt; beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. 3. Add flour mixture; beat just until blended (mixture may be crumbly). Add chopped chocolate; mix just to distribute (if dough doesn’t come together, knead lightly in bowl to form ball). 4. Place dough on a sheet of parchment paper. Roll into 1 1/2-inch-diameter log. Chill until firm, about 3 hours or freeze for 30 minutes. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep chilled.) 5. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat. Using thin sharp knife, cut logs crosswise into 1-inch-thick rounds. Space 1 inch apart on prepared sheets. Bake 1 sheet at a time until cookies appear dry (cookies will not be firm or golden at edges), 11 to 12 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool.
So the other day, I realized the thinly sliced bread I buy for E's sandwiches was super stale, so I tried to channel my inner Mom and decided to make bread pudding instead of throwing it away. I had a great recipe from my friend (and Vamp) Katie, which called for croissants, but I thought I could give it a try with the whole wheat I had instead. The result? A pretty good bread pudding. Albeit it wasn't the same as the traditional bread pudding my dad used to make (with raisins, the bread stacked neatly, served with a warm apricot sauce), but it was still pretty tasty. It called for egg yolks, so I found myself staring at the egg whites in my fridge for a few days before I found the motivation to make meringues.
Well, it was motivation and it was also finding a recipe. I couldn't believe none of my cookbooks had one. My dad was the meringue-maker in our house, and I still can't imagine what cookbook he had the recipe in that I don't have. I found a very complicated recipe for Meringue Mushrooms from Maida Heatter, but I really didn't have the motivation to try those, so instead i just modified it to be straight meringues. My dad used to line his cookie sheets with a brown paper bag, but parchment paper worked fine. He used to just spoon his onto the cookie sheet (and yet somehow still make them pretty), but I used a pastry bag and the rose tip which helped. Otherwise, I once again learned to read through an entire recipe BEFORE starting it, as I had to leave for work when they were still in the oven, but thankfully my sitter took them out for me without a problem. The other thing I learned? You should really make them on a dry day. Humidity wreaks havoc on the poor delicate things.
The other day, E and I were looking through my Martha Stewart Living, when we turned to Martha's guide to creating the perfect madeleines. "Mia mia?" E asked, which roughly translates to "I want to eat that now, please." (We have no idea where this came from, but it's rather catchy.)
"Uh, yeah. Mia mia, pease?"
So I figured, sure, let's try making madeleines. I had a pan for them and had all the ingredients to make the classic recipe, and it was a rainy day, so I figured why not. If you still have your September MSL, hang on to it. It was so incredibly helpful with its step-by-step photos and instructions for making these intimidatingly precise cookies. If you don't have it, the online guide is pretty helpful, too.
While not remotely child-friendly, the recipe was pretty straightforward, albeit a bit exacting. E loved the result, so much so that you can see she inserted herself into the photo shoot for the finished product. J and I ate them with our coffee in the morning, though truth be told, we all snacked on them throughout the day. They're the perfect size to be (misleadingly) guilt-free!