Saturday, November 29, 2008

The best appetizer ever, and why I'm an idiot

So here it is. The best appetizer ever. I have a cast of characters. I have the in process photos. I have the all ready to go in the oven photo. What I don't have is a photo of the finished product. Idiot. So, you're going to have to make these yourself and see what they look like.

Ready for all the ingredients? Here we go: pitted dates, parmesan cheese, thick-cut bacon.
Yup. That's it.

Pitted dates

Parmesan cheese cut into matchsticks

Thick cut bacon cut into thirds

Here's the instructions: Take a matchstick of cheese and put it inside the date. See how the pitting makes a nice hole just waiting for cheese? Ok, blurry hole.

And here it is all filled

Then you take a piece of bacon, wrap it around the date, and stick a toothpick through it. Strictly speaking, if your bacon is long enough, you don't need the toothpick. Put it on a foil-lined baking sheet. Put it in a 350 degree oven, and bake until the bacon is cooked. Usually that's around 20 minutes.

Now, if I wasn't such an idiot, you'd have a picture here of golden crispy bacon wrapped around a sweet, chewy date with just a hint of parmesan leaking out. These are best served warm. But seriously, even if they were cold I'd eat them.

They take very well to being made ahead of time. The day or two before you need them, but them together and throw them in a plastic bag and refrigerate. Bake them as needed.

I hope that was worth the build up! Enjoy!

Cookie Carnival: The Ultimate Chewy and Soft Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Whew! That's a name to rival Dorie!

I'm a chocolate chip cookie baker from waaaaaay back. It's the first cookie I ever made. I have the Toll House recipe memorized. I'm savant like that way. There are lots of Johnny Come Lately chocolate chip cookie recipes, but I tend to like my Tollhouse version.

Still, I was game to try this recipe. I do have a quirk about my chocolate chip cookies. I tend to halve the amount of chips needed. I really like the brown sugary taste of the cookie with just a hint of chocolate.

This was fairly similar to most other cookie recipes like it. There was the usual cast of characters. It made a medium size batch. They came together easily.

Here's what was interesting. I didn't really like these cookies when they were warm. I know! I was just as surprised. I thought it was just as well. I certainly didn't need any more cookies on my hips. Then, as I was walking past the jar the next day, I decided to try one. What a difference a day makes! The cookies had taken on a deeper flavor with a caramel note. They were really good! I may have to give these another go.

Cookie pyramid!

Mmmmm. Chewy and brown sugary and chocolatey!

You can find the recipe in this cookbook.

See you next month!

Monday, November 24, 2008

TWD: Waiting for Thanksgiving

Well, I'm not making the pie.  (Pumpkin aversion, tree nut allergy at host's house)  But I am making a roasted vegetable salad, an appetizer, and gingersnaps.  When all is made and photographed, I will post.

See you all on Thursday!  Or Friday.  I may need a day to recover.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

To all my TWD friends

I'm just going to apologize here.  Normally, I try to comment on as many TWD blogs as possible.  I love seeing what people have done.  The variations and flavor combinations are interesting and adventurous.  

But here's the thing.  I have nothing good to say about rice pudding.  Nothing.  I tried to muster up some positive comments.  Really.  I did.  But the thought of the stuff just creeps me out.  Again, no good reason, but I can't do it.  Looking at posting after posting of it was just too much for me.

So here's a blanket "Nice job on the pudding!  I'm glad you enjoyed it."  I'll be back next week oohing and aahing over the Twofer pie.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

TWD: Arborio Rice Pudding

I have a confession to make. Rice pudding gives me the heebie jeebies. I have no good reason for it. I'm pretty sure I've never eaten it. But the thought of it makes me shudder.

However, my family has no such aversion, so rice pudding it is. I happened to own some Arborio rice from my one and only attempt at risotto. I think I need to try that again. Anyway, there were a few cooking steps. The rice is cooked with water, then drained and cooked further with milk and sugar. That was pretty much the main ingredients and steps. I found out through a comment that Dorie herself made that there was a typo in the book. The rice and milk are supposed to cook for
55 minutes and not the 35 minutes listed in the book. Oooops. Have I mentioned how much I can't stand the smell of boiling milk? No? Ok. I cooked my rice and milk for about 60 minutes. The liquid looked pretty well absorbed.

I decided to make two versions, the black (chocolate) and the white (vanilla). The chocolate version added chopped bittersweet chocolate, the vanilla version called for vanilla extract. Then it was into the fridge for a cool down. Plastic wrap went on top. I am anti-skin even on pudding I refuse to eat.

I dished out a little bit for the three members of the family who will eat rice pudding.

See, this week I got smart and put all the bowls together. Now we'll never know which was the boy's, girl's, or husband's. Bwah ha ha ha.

The verdict was pretty unanimous. Everyone liked the puddings. The rice was cooked enough, and it wasn't soupy as I'd heard from other bloggers. There was a strong preference for the vanilla version. I'm not sure I'll ever make this again, but if I do, it's the vanilla. I think if I'm making pudding again, it's Dorie's chocolate pudding.

I'm not making the next recipe. It's a Thanksgiving Twofer Pie. It's a double layer of pumpkin and pecan pie. First of all, my dislike of pumpkin is well documented, and second, we have a tree nut allergy at our Thanksgiving host's house. I will be making Double Gingersnaps, Cashew Brittle (for our house) and my favorite appetizer ever. Come back to see what it is!

Check out the recipe on Isabelle's blog:
Les Gourmandises d'Isa.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Waaaaay behind on my big bags 'o veggies

It's been a very long time since I've posted about much other than Dorie.  We've been getting our Friday bag of fruits and veggies all fall.  We've really enjoyed some of the pickings.  

The squash has been really good.  I've roasted it with butter and maple syrup.  We've tried spaghetti, acorn, butternut, and one other that I couldn't quite identify.

We've had greens in many many forms.  Lots of kale, lettuce, cabbage, and a plant that I didn't know you could eat.  Seriously, I thought this stuff was ornamental.

Flowering Cabbage and Kale

We've made carrot soup a couple of times.  I've used fresh tarragon, oregano, and chives in soups and pasta dishes.  

The apples and pears we ate out of hand.  The onions, red and white, have been chopped, diced, sliced, and quartered.

I'm glad that we did this.  We've eaten many things that I never would have looked at twice at the supermarket.  I haven't liked them all.  There are some I don't want to eat again.  There are some that I've purchased again.  I'm not sure we'll continue through the winter.  What do you think?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

TWD: Kugelhopf

Now, there were some people last week who were a tad unfamiliar with rugelach. This week was my turn to scratch my head. Here is an excellent NY Times article that gives some good information. I figured out that it is a sweet yeasted bread, similar to a brioche, but a little different. It even has its own pan. Which I did not buy. I had a lovely nine-cup Bundt Festival

This is a finished kugelhopf.

Anyway..... This was a good recipe, but I don't feel the need to really make this again. Now, had I actually really followed the recipe, I might have liked it better. To start, READ THE RECIPE! The ingredients weren't very fussy. I didn't have whole milk and used the skim that I had. I have a five-quart KitchenAid mixer. There wasn't quite enough dough to really follow the directions. My dough hook (
the new one!) wasn't quite reaching the ingredients in the bowl. I used the flat beater instead. The mixing times were, to put it nicely, slightly long. I'm pretty sure that my mixer was running for a good 20-25 minutes. There was an interesting instruction: beat the dough until it climbs up the hook. You know my new dough hook? DOUGH DOES NOT CLIMB IT! But after all the mixing, it looked pretty good. I added my dried mixed fruit (blueberries, cranberries, golden raisins, and cherries) and set it aside to rise. It did actually double in about 90 minutes. Then for the next two hours you have to slap it around until is stops rising. I did this Friday night, and put it in the fridge to be ready to bake on Saturday.

Well, Saturday came along, and I just threw my bowl from the fridge into the oven (unlit. that's where I put dough to rise) to do its two hour rise. This is where reading the recipe would have been a good thing. See, I was supposed to put the dough in the pan and then let it rise. Because when you let it rise in a bowl and then transfer it to a pan, it deflates. I figured at that point that I didn't have much to lose. So I stuck it in the fridge and left it for Sunday.

Sunday morning, I put the dough, now in the pan, back in the oven to rise. Three hours later it had risen some. I set the oven, took over the wax paper, and hoped for the best. I followed the baking instructions, and what I got was a pretty nice looking bread. I did the butter/sugar topping, and we let it cool as long as we could. I forgot the powdered sugar, but I don't think it mattered. The boy, the girl, and the husband all gave it a big thumbs up. I enjoyed it as well. It certainly didn't last long. It was a cross between a croissant and a brioche. Kind of flaky and buttery with a delicate crumb. The four of us finished it in a day. While I did enjoy it, I thought it was quite fussy for what it was. Yes, I made a mistake. Even so, for all the rising time and slapping and mixing, it wasn't worth the work. I'm glad to have made it, though. Now I know!

The finished product. Golden brown and delicious.

The boy's slice.

A cross section of the finished kugelhopf.

The girl's slice.

(If I posted one child's slice and not the other's, it would get ugly around here)

I'm glad that Yolanda of
The All-Purpose Girl chose this, because I never would have picked it out on my own. You can get the recipe at her site if you'd like to try this one for yourself. Next week is not one I'm looking forward to. It's Arborio Rice Pudding. Rice pudding is not a food I ever want to eat. We'll see if Isa of Les Gourmandises d'Isa can get me to try it.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

TWD: Rugelach

I love rugelach. I don't tend to make it very often, because I think of it as a time-consuming, difficult recipe. I've made a great rolled up version recently, but I haven't made the crescents in a looooooong time. This recipe could get me to change my mind.

The dough was incredibly easy to make. It came together very quickly in the food processor. I divided it into two discs and put it away overnight. I decided to make two versions. One was with apricot jam and pistachios. The other contained almonds, raspberry jam, and chocolate chips.

The construction of the cookies was both fussy and forgiving. The fussy part: For future reference, I need to make sure my nuts and chips are chopped into smaller pieces. It made it tough for me to cut my dough circle into wedges. I kept running into too-large pieces and it gummed up the works some. The layers of ingredients (jam, then cinnamon sugar, then nuts, then chips) made for quite a bit of juggling. There was a lot going on. The forgiving part: My "circle" was not too precise. And my wedges were a little less than even. But when you roll it up, it gets pretty well hidden. I enjoyed the sweetness of the apricot jam paired with the pistachio. Remember, the dough has no sugar, so the toppings are what bring the sweet. I did forget to sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture on the raspberry jam version. Truthfully, we didn't miss it.

Here's an apricot pistachio version.

Here's a shot with both flavors.

And a little further away shot.

On the boy's scale, these were an 11. (It goes to 11. It's one louder than ten) The rest of the family enjoyed them as well. I would certainly make these again. I'm thinking of new jam/nut combinations.

Thank you Piggy, from
Piggy's Cooking Journal for choosing this great recipe. Next week's goodie: Kugelhopf chosen by Yolanda of The All Purpose Girl. This one may require a new pan. We'll see.....