I realize that I’m a few days late for writing a post about an easy party snack that takes very little effort, is tremendously delicious, and is great for sharing since it is HIGHLY addictive and calorie-dense. My bad.
But lucky for us, there are more reasons to celebrate and indulge coming right up. Valentines Day! The Olympics! Saturday!
If you don’t have a good roasted nut recipe in your arsenal, this is an excellent candidate. I’ve previously relied quite heavily on these little gems, but I’m glad to now have another that doesn’t scream “HOLIDAYS!” quite so loudly. You can use any mix of nuts you like: I had planned to only use cashews and tossed in pecans on a whim, but I now think I like the pecans even more than the cashews.
I’m finally clearing out the dust bunnies and cobwebs from my little food blog, which has been somewhat abandoned on a shelf for a while while my job has been the focus of my creative energy. The last six months have been exhilarating, exhausting, and exciting, but as a result, I’ve felt culinarily dead inside. I’ve been in triage mode: cooking only the fastest and easiest recipes in my arsenal (that is, when I cooked at all) and focusing on meals that made lots of leftovers so I only needed to cook every few days. Finally though, the muse is slowly re-awakening. I am interested once more in trying out new recipes, and more importantly, taking twice as long to make them so I can take pictures of the process to share with you.
But I’m not jumping back into the deep end, exactly. What I needed was some granola, and when I felt pretty meh about the options available in the cereal aisle, I grabbed a canister of oats ran for it, deciding I’d figure something out when I got home. And thanks to my sister’s excellent Christmas present, I found the answer pretty quickly: a ridiculously easy granola recipe with only three ingredients. I decided to add a fourth, but only because I had some cranberries in the pantry.
I’ve made granola before, and I’ll be honest, there are a few reasons I don’t make it very often. First, I go through phases with yogurt, so it’s not something that strikes my fancy very often. Second, it’s kind of a hassle to round up all the ingredients. So this recipe, with only oats, salt, and maple syrup, sounded too good to be true. BUT IT ISN’T.
I’m horrified to report that as a child, I didn’t care for banana bread. I don’t know what about it displeased me, but frankly, I was a fairly picky eater for many years and shunned off a number of foods that I now find delicious. Lately, we’ve been on a bit of a banana kick in our house, but we inevitably end up with a couple of bananas that reach their prime too quickly and end up getting blacker and more shriveled on the counter as the days go by. Fortunately, the cooking gods have a perfect solution for this problem. As bananas ripen and their sweetness becomes far too over-powering to eat them on their own, they become the perfect mix in for a loaf of sweet, tangy, breakfast bread.
There are a few things I really like about making banana bread. One, I hate wasting food, so I find it extremely satisfying to re-purpose over-ripe fruit to make something new and magical out of them. Two, this old recipe (given to me from my mother, who got it from HER great-grandmother) is extremely straight forward. The ingredients are quite basic, and the instructions are fast and easy. No complicated folding, alternating, sifting, or resting required.
On our brief trip to California a couple weeks ago, I had a few goals: relax, spend a day in Disneyland, and visit a local farmers market to buy come citrus. I am pleased to say that I achieved all of the above. The following weekend I spent the majority of my time in the kitchen getting to know citrus in way I never really have before. Aside from acidifying canned goods, or zesting the occasional lemon cookie, I’ve never really thought about citrus as an ingredient before. Sure, I’ve had my fair share of lemonade, orange juice, and grapefruit halves, but when I found myself pondering the best way to use five pounds of lemons, I had no idea where to start.
It only took a few minutes of consulting my favorite cookbooks and cookblogs to see the overwhelming consensus: lemon curd seemed to be square one for entry into the lemon-y baking world.
And to be honest, I had NO idea what lemon curd was. I couldn’t recall tasting it, though in hindsight I now realize that almost every lemon-y dessert I’d had probably used lemon curd as a base. Lemon curd, it turns out, is the happy marriage of lemons, sugar, butter, and eggs. Somewhere between the consistency of a jam and a pudding, curd can be made with any combination of citrus, though lemon seems to be the most popular.
A lot of the recipes I post on this blog are ones that I cook quite often. Lots of dinners, side dishes, breakfasts, and even desserts that you’ve seen in the last three years make regular appearances in my kitchen or in the kitchen’s of friends and family when I’m visiting. It’s actually pretty convenient to have my very own personal recipe book at my fingertips in any kitchen, grocery store, or farmers market that has data or free wifi.
But I’ve been holding out on you. I haven’t shared with you one of the treats I cook most often, a recipe that I know so well I haven’t looked at the recipe card in years, a recipe that continues to be Brad’s most-requested dessert.
My mom’s chocolate chip cookies.
My mom has been baking these cookies since long before I was born, and truth be told, they’ve gained rather a lot of fame at the staff meetings, potlucks, and holiday gatherings in her little corner of Southwest Colorado. This is also one of my mom’s memorized recipes, complete with a snappy little mnemonic jingle that I learned growing up and use to this day to remember the order of ingredients.
So why wasn’t this recipe at the top of my list to share when I started this blog? I’ve shared numerous other treasured recipes from my childhood: Almond Toffee, Lasagne, Favorite Party Mix, to name a few.
Here’s the truth. Most of my life, my mom used butter-flavored Crisco for her magical chocolate chip cookies. And while I had tried using butter and liked the results, it just felt odd to make such a vast departure from her recipe and then post it as “hers”. Irrational? Probably. But it held me back. I was writing a blog about eating less-processed, locally sourced ingredients. Butter-flavored Crisco is none of those things.
But then, a few months ago, my mom informed me that she had switched to butter for her cookies. Liberation! Now I could honor this, my “Mom’s recipe”, without the mysterious yellow shortening. I’m so excited to finally share these with you. (more…)
As someone who bakes rather a lot of cake, it might surprise you to know that I actually don’t bake many cookies. If you invite me to a dinner party, you’re more likely to answer the door to find me carrying a teetering stack of tender cake layers, smeared with berries and whipped cream, than a plate of half a dozen cookies. Well, I should clarify: I make a LOT of chocolate chip cookies, as it is Brad’s favorite and one recipe that I could likely make in my sleep. No, I haven’t posted that recipe here yet, but I promise I’ll remedy that situation soon.
In the meantime, though, I desperately want to talk about this cookie.
We start with a pretty basic array of ingredients. Flour, baking powder, and salt combine to form the dry set, butter and sugar cream together to form the base, and egg, vanilla, and just a bit of almond extract wrap it all up.
October is doing that thing again where it goes by too quickly. It’s my favorite month: the peak of autumn on most of this continent, and I may have mentioned once or seven-hundred times that autumn provides me the greatest joy of any season. A plentiful harvest of food to enjoy in the moment and store for the winter, repressed pigments unleashed in the forests in a glorious display of color, a chance to layer every article of orange, green, purple, and brown clothing I own in endless combinations for my daily attire (it is the only season I feel my wardrobe is remotely fashionable).
And of course, autumn recipes. This one in particular is the pinnacle of fall flavor unity: a basic caramel sweetened with maple syrup and punched up with a quart of apple cider boiled down to pure apple goodness. And now is really the best time to make them because it’s the one time of year you can buy fresh-pressed, unpasteurized apple cider.
And while yes, the primary purpose of my annual expedition is a supply of local fruit to get me through the winter, the added perk is access to this incredible cider. Unpasteurized apple cider, contrary to its grocery store counterparts, is thick, opaque, and must be refrigerated. But it’s filled with the most incredible flavor: you can still taste which varieties were used to press the cider. Most apple orchards sell it, but you can also occasionally find it in specialty grocery stores or farmers markets. Get out there and get some!
I also had a bottle of maple syrup that I bought in Wisconsin. It seemed appropriate to add to this autumn candy, right?
I’ve always strongly associated oranges with summer. Their summery orange glow, bright flavors, and balmy geographic origins have all contributed to this perception. And yet I also remember that my dad always brought home the best grapefruits, even in thoroughly NOT balmy Colorado, in January and February. Occasionally, we’d receive boxes of citrus as Christmas gifts, and I even recall the local chapter of FFA selling them to neighbors as a fundraiser in the weeks preceding the holidays.
Citrus is cultivated year-round in many of the southern-most states of our continent, but it really shines in the winter. Not surprisingly, when I was driving back to North Carolina from a late-November trip to Florida with the fam, I simply couldn’t resist stopping at a roadside stand for a bag of this fruit so far outside my normal local fare.
I probably could have just eaten or juiced each and every one of these golden orbs, but I’ve been curious for some time about marmalades. I don’t remember growing up with marmalade in the house, though my mom confirms that she loved it when she was a child. Our spreadables tended to be homemade from the berries and stone fruits my grandma and grandpa grew in their garden, so perhaps that accounts for the marmalade vacuum of my youth. I’ve heard from some that marmalade is an acquired taste, that it’s a bitter product not suited for those who prefer sweet jams. I wanted to give it a shot, but wasn’t sure how I would feel about a bitter final product. I ran across this recipe, a blend of oranges and cranberries, and thought that it might be just the transitional product between sweet and bitter I was looking for.
I’ve got cookies on the brain today. And in the fridge, actually. Today my sister and I are baking the sparkly, classic sugar cookies we’ve been baking (and eating) every Christmas for most of our lives. Each year seems to have its own theme though. There was the year of 1000 fish when we found a tiny fish-shaped cookie cutter in our eclectic mix of shapes. And the year of multi-cultural gingerbread people. And one year when I believe we used the smallest cookie cutters we could find to create a gazillion bite-sized stars, trees, and bells.
I’ll always love my mom’s classic sugar cookie recipe. It tastes like tradition and family gatherings and anticipation for what Santa might put under the tree. But I must admit: these cookies, based on a recipe I’ve been eyeballing for a while, are definitely worth repeating. And while I only make classic sugar cookies at Christmas, these maple-rockin’ ones qualify for year-round baking.
The stars of this little cookie show are maple syrup, nutmeg, and sea salt. I’m not certain I’ve ever tasted cookies so magical and complex in flavor before. I also added a bit of cinnamon to bring even more seasonal flavor to the mix, but the combination of sweet maple and the occasional punch of salt make each bite a pleasure.
I’m not entirely sure where November went, but December (and with it, the holiday cooking season) seems to have arrived quite suddenly. Before Thanksgiving, I felt like I was finally on it for my holiday planning: I had lists, I had a rough cooking schedule (don’t judge me), I had some hard-to-find ingredients ordered. But now we’re here, hurtling through the first week of December, and I feel overwhelmed and scrambled and concerned that I won’t get everything done. As usual, I’ve probably scheduled waaaaaay too many recipes to try, I decided months ago that throwing a food-filled holiday party this weekend would be a good idea, and I have a fantastically busy schedule at work.
However, at least one of my gift-giving projects is already under way and is actually right on schedule. And just in case you think it’s a swell idea too, I’m gonna go ahead and ruin the surprise for those of you on my Santa list this year.
Everyone on my list is getting homemade mulling spices! And, because it’s fun and I like sharing, I’m hosting a little giveaway so that three of you readers can have some too!
Last year, my holiday crafty-gift-project was making these little hot chocolate sticks. They were a hit, and they make a mean mug of hot chocolate, but this year I wanted to come up with something a bit more versatile. After seeing tiny containers of mulling spices being sold at a market in Ohio, I knew I had found my next project.