Monday, January 2, 2012

White Christmas Cookies

1 box white cake mix
1 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped peppermint Andes candies (you can buy this at the grocery store in a bag in the baking aisle), set aside some for the top of the cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, stir together the cake mix and baking powder. Add eggs and oil and blend well. The dough will seem crumbly or grainy. This is normal, but be sure to blend very, very well. Use your hands if necessary. Stir in the chocolate chips and peppermint candy. You may use more peppermint candy if you wish. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls on a cookie sheet. Bake 10 minutes. Allow to cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes, meanwhile decorated tops of cookies with the extra peppermint candy. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Biscuits, Galettas, Keks, Platzchen, Biscotti, Koekje, Bis Coctum.....COOKIES!!!!

Where did cookies come from? Duh...they came from the oven! HaHa...

No, really...who invented the cookie. Well, the Persians did, but they were actually more like little cakes. Due to the expansion of the world with the Muslim invasion of Spain, the Crusades, the spice trade, and the migration of explorers and people to the west, the "cookie" spread across the world over time. The "cookie" grew from the sweet little cakes in Persia to endless variations from country to country. There are now too many cookie varieties to put into one book!

Where does the tradition of making dozens of cookies around the Christmas holidays originate? Well, I have no idea! If you know, please fill me in. I'm sure one of you knowledgeable people knows the answer to this burning question.

I make dozens of cookies, breads, bars and other goodies for friends and family every year. Sometimes I make the tried and true cookies that I have made time and time again. But other times I make cookies that I have never made before. Each variety is taste-tested for quality control by a 10 year old. If it passes the test, the cookies are wrapped and bagged and delivered the week before Christmas.

I must admit that this year was the first year that I did not do as much baking as I normally do, plus I had some baking flops (yes, not fit for eating flops). So, I was not able to bake as much as I normally do and only baked for family gatherings. I will have to make it up to my people for the resulting guilt that I feel. This just means that when they least expect it I will show up on their doorstep with an armful of goodies. Baking is love!

In the next week, I will post some of the recipes that got the seal of approval.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

When the Moon Hits Your Eye Like a Big Pizza Pie That's Amore

My son is a pizza connoisseur. Several years ago, when he was 7, we took an Italian cruise. He declared that he was going to try a different pizza in every port. I was confused by the word "different" because all he ever puts on his pizza is cheese and pepperoni. But the boy surprised me. He tried pizza with different kinds of cheeses and different kinds of crust. Those are the things that made them different to him.

Pizza was supposedly invented in Naples, Italy. So you can imagine the thrill of a little boy pizza lover when he learned that little nugget of information. I don't think that it mattered what kind of pizza he was eating while in Naples. It was just the fact that he was eating a slice in the place where it all began. That was such an empowering moment for him. And I bet you, if you asked him where he found the best pizza, he would say Naples, not even remembering what was on it.

So you can imagine how my heart sang when he told me I make the best pizza he has ever had. Honestly, I can't take the credit because I make the Pioneer Woman's pizza crust and then throw whatever toppings I'm in the mood for on top. I have made many a pizza dough in my life, but by far the best I have ever tried is the Pioneer Woman's recipe. The woman knows her dough!

The sauce is important too. I use a blend of dry herbs: thyme, crushed rosemary, pepper, salt, oregano, and basil. I mix this into an 8 ounce can of tomato sauce. That's right! I put the herbs right in the can and stir it up. I find that an 8 ounce can of sauce is just perfect for a pizza.

As far as toppings are concerned, the sky is the limit and the variations are endless. I even put corn on a pizza once, but my husband staunchly told me how wrong it was. You can include any of the following:

any kind of cheese
ground beef
canadien bacon
any kind of onion
artichoke hearts
bell pepper
fresh spinach
feta cheese
fresh mozzarella
roasted red peppers

This is just a short list, but offers an endless supply of possibilities. What do you like to put on your pizza? I bet there is a combination of ingredients that you find to be definitely divine.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

Remember in an early scene of Gone With the Wind when Mammy is cinching up Scarlett's corset? After the corset is as tight as it will go, Mammy presents a plate heaping with food and tells Scarlett to eat. Scarlett promptly refuses because she wants to eat at the party she is getting ready for. But Mammy tells her "it ain't fittin" for a young belle to eat like a pig at a party. She needs to eat like a bird. After Mammy does a fair amount of fussing at Scarlett, she complies. What is the first thing she grabs off that plate? A big ole biscuit! White, fluffy goodness! And then she does something completely unladylike. She stuffs the whole thing in her mouth! I think that's awesome!

Gone With The Wind Pictures, Images and Photos

There are so many different variations of biscuits. But nothing really beats the garden variety plain version. It's simple. It's basic. It's good. I think some people would sell their soul for a perfect biscuit. Some people like them all by themselves. Some people drizzle honey on them or slather with butter. Some people use them as a sopping (yes...sopping is a real word in my world - it kinda makes me hungry) up tool for gravy and such.

There is definitely a trick to making them though. And that trick lies in the butter. It has to be super cold. If your butter is at room temperature, don't bother. Stick it in the freezer for a while until it hardens up. Then you are ready to proceed.

So without further ado, I give you White Fluffy Buttermilk Biscuits!

White, Fluffy Buttermilk Biscuits
2 cups self-rising flour
1 stick of very cold butter
3/4 cup buttermilk
melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine flour and cold butter cut into slices or cubes. With a pastry fork or with your hands, mash the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add the buttermilk until moistened. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 2-3 times until dough comes together. Lightly roll or pat the dough into a 3/4" thickness. Cut with a 2" biscuit cutter. Place biscuits on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 11-13 minutes until golden brown. Melt some butter and brush on top of cooked biscuits. Serve warm.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Easy Red Beans and Rice

My husband and I are both Louisiana natives. Louisiana has a food style all its own. Somewhat spicy, somewhat southern, and somewhat cajun/creole. It's a happy combination! My husband was born in New Orleans and lived there until he went off to college. I, however, was a transplant from the north. I moved to central Louisiana when I was 6 years old. My mother was from Tennessee and my father was from Kentucky. So, when I was growing up we didn't eat Louisiana style food in our home because that is not what my mother knew to cook. But we certainly did enjoy eating the Louisiana fare when we were given the opportunity.

In Louisiana, gumbo and red beans and rice were a staple in most families. Red beans and rice were traditionally made by good Louisiana families on Mondays...the day they did the laundry. Wash day. Making red beans and rice from scratch was an all day affair that started the night before with soaking the beans. Every family had their own recipe because red beans and rice is what I call a Mawmaw recipe (a recipe that has never been written down and is always remembered). You know, it's like something your grandmother used to make from memory with a little of this and a little of that.

So as my first post, I am giving you my Mawmaw recipe for a quicker version of red beans and rice that doesn't take all day. My husband actually came up with this recipe and he taught me. You will have to adjust the spices to your taste because there aren't really any measurements.

Red beans and rice is not a very pretty dish, so I won't show you a picture. Oh...and by the don't have to make it on Monday. You can make it on any day that you do the wash. :)

Red Beans and Rice

2 ribs celery
1 medium onion
2 large cloves garlic
2 cans Blue Runner Beans (available at Wal Mart)
2 cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 large red beans from Popeyes (make sure they don't put any rice in it; make sure you request
it with no rice), this is my secret ingredient. I hope you can get it where you live.
1 lb smoked sausage of your choice, sliced or cubed
3 bay leaves
cajun seasoning
salt, to taste

In a food processor, process the celery, onions, and garlic very fine. Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a Dutch oven. When hot, saute the vegetables in the oil until tender. Add the Blue Runner beans, kidney beans, and the Popeye beans. Stir to combine. Add the sausage and bay leaves. Douse it with cajun seasoning. You can make it as mild or spicy as you like. If you think it needs salt, add a little salt. If it is too thick add a little water.

Serve over cooked rice and with a biscuit.

I'll share my biscuit recipe tomorrow. They are divine!