The Best Christmas Cookie EVAR.

I know that’s a bold statement. I am no great Friend of the Kitchen, let me tell you, yet I still find time to make these cookies every December, year after year. Since I was in elementary school in fact…I think they were in a class cookbook or something. Mr Rae calls these his Kryptonite. And he doesn’t even really like sweets that much. My kids love them. I eat them five at a time (see picture below).

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These are no-bake so they take almost no time, and they are seriously delicious. Something about the combination of white chocolate and peanut butter, and then the crispy rice krispies, mini marshmallows, and peanuts inside. Ground Control to Major Yum. You can use a microwave to melt the chocolate or stovetop, and the amounts are suggestions…I usually try to cram as many mini marshmallows in as I possibly can (not too many though or they start to fall apart). This is always my go-to for anything I have to bring cookies to during the holiday season. And they are always, always gone by the end of the night.

Ingredients:

  • 10 or 12 oz bag (300 g) white chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1 cup each: mini-marshmallows, salted peanuts, puffed rice cereal (+ a little more to throw in until perfectly coated)

{Click on each picture for instructions. A “next” button appears on each photo if you hover over it. You can also click through to the flickr photo for more details on each step}

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Enjoy!

It’s a MIRACLE I tell you I made BREAD!

This is completely unrelated to sewing, but I am so excited I have no choice but to share. I want to shout it from the rooftops. I have finally made not one but four successful loaves of bread. Yes, the kind you eat and make sandwiches with. Stop rolling your eyes and get excited with me. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaay! Kermit arms everyone! Yes you!!

Photographic Proof. Exhibit A:

This may seem rather silly, but to truly understand how big this is for me you need to know how poorly my many, many attempts over many, many years at baking bread have been. Deflated, dense, or weird and beery, you name the Bread Failure, I’ve had it. Then I’d take a break for a year or so but eventually read a blog post, someone saying “Its SOOO easy to make bread!” or stumble across a recipe in a book and get sucked in and try it again. I actually amaze myself a little when I think about how persistent I’ve been despite my pathetic track record. Perhaps delusions of someday becoming Martha blinded me to reality. In my head, I’ve always been just a loaf of bread away from becoming the woman who makes her own yogurt and whole grain snacks for my kids before hopping on my thrifted bicycle with side baskets to go pick up the organic CSA box from the Farmer’s Market. The only thing in that previous sentence that is true of me is that I own a bicycle, and that I occasionally go to the Farmer’s Market. I’m trying to think if I’ve ever actually ridden the bike TO the Farmer’s Market, and again, it’s hard to even tell if the time I am picturing actually happened or was just a daydream of my Amazing Self.
Exhibit B:

Amy Karol has blogged a number of times about her positive results with Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a Day, but I pretty much wrote that off immediately because come on the woman is so very nearly Martha, totally in a different tier of capability than me (she makes her own deodorant for crying out loud). Honestly I was dubious that her results could be due to anything other than her general Amazingness. I am happy to report that this is not the case. I believe I have (despite forgetting several steps and not even using the baking stone they recommend) managed to make four loaves of bread, all of which have disappeared within a day of being made. I offer to you visual proof that this book is pretty stinking awesome (see Exhibits A, B, and C). My sister Kricket and her husband Ross came over the other day for dinner and they were shocked, shocked I tell you that the loaf of bread they were consuming was not only made by me but was also easy. And I can’t even believe I’m about to say this because it sounds so cheesy but I think the recipe/technique offered by this book is very nearly foolproof.

Exhibit C: (Mr Rae is starting to make fun of me when he sees me photographing my bread. He’s definitely impressed though. Or so he claims.)

Without giving too much away because that would not be cool, the basic concept is that you mix up a batch of wet dough that is enough for multiple loaves and store it in a covered container in your fridge. Then you just pull off the amount of dough you need when you need it and bake it. No kneading, no kidding. And though it’s a wee bit more complicated than what I have just outlined here, it is most definitely easy. The first few chapters outline the basic concept/tools/recipe and then the rest of the book is full of variations, including desserts (!) that are all built off of the basic recipe. If you’ve been burned by Bread Failure like I have, you owe it to yourself to go get this book from your library. But not from MY library, because I’ve got their copy and plan on renewing it as many times as necessary until the copy I ordered the other day arrives. Hneh-hneh-hneh, booyah!

So let’s debrief. Am I the last one to the party with this? There must be other fans of this book unless there’s some other bread craze I’m missing. And then, the question I’m really interested in: what’s your Amazing Self like? I know I am not the only person who has this. Do you think it’s better to set your expectations low so that you don’t get depressed when Amazing Self never materializes, or is it better to set high goals? I go back and forth on this.

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Rae goes into the kitchen and emerges with something other than an empty oreo box

Warning: this post is about food and not at all about sewing (I know, right? where did THAT come from?)

On Monday, in a not entirely unprecedented flurry of domesticity I decided to make whole wheat crackers.  I know, strange.  I’m not a huge cook, although baking is a little more up my alley. But you’re still thinking, crackers?  Let’s just say my kids (yes, both of them) eat about a metric ton of crackers each week and as most store-bought crackers have next to no nutritional merit I’ve been looking for a heathier replacement. Also: I always keep a box of flaxseed meal in the house and this seemed like a decent way to get it into our bodies where it could do some good.  I was pleasantly surprised a) at how easy they were and b) that they actually resembled crackers when I was finished. The key to a really good cracker is rolling it really super duper double dog thin and then baking the heck out of it so it’s nice and crispy.  Listen to me, I sound like a pro already.

Sorry if this grosses you out, I’m not exactly a food photographer.  Oh, did I mention I also made spinach and artichoke dip?  I mean, you can’t eat wheat crackers alone!?!

The crackers are a combination of this recipe from All-Recipes.com (yes, yes, the poor man’s Epicurious, but I am way too amateur for all that foodiness) and the comments that people left on the recipe, which you might want to peruse for tips and variations and such.  And would you also like my spinach dip recipe?  OK, OK. I made this one up myself after failing to find a single spinach dip recipe that does NOT call for frozen spinach.  We eat fresh spinach all the time over here and it seems like we always have the end of a bag sitting in our crisper.  Frozen spinach, on the other hand is something I would have to make a concerted effort to find at the store (or rather Mr Rae would, as it is he who buys all of our groceries) and is therefore, in my opinion, more annoying.

WHOLE WHEAT CRACKERS

1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/4 c flaxseed meal
3/4 tsp salt
1 c water
1/3 c olive oil
salt and garlic salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C.  Combine ingredients until just blended (I ended up with some extra flour at the bottom and pretty dry dough.  Just toss the extra flour, you’ll still get plenty of crackers).  Divide dough into quarters and roll between two pieces of wax paper or parchment paper until it is super duper double dog thin, like a wheat thin.  If dough is a little sticky lightly flour it before rolling.  Place each rolled quarter of dough on an ungreased cookie sheet (you can bake it right on the parchment paper if you want but I reused mine for rolling).  Score with knife but don’t cut all the way through.  Poke holes with fork to give professional-cracker look.  Sprinkle with salt and/or garlic salt.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until brown and crispy (tap them with a fork to check).  Cool a bit and then crack them apart by hand.  If they are bendy at all and don’t crack apart easily, put them in for another 5 minutes.

SPINACH AND ARTICHOKE DIP

2 c chopped fresh spinach (doesn’t have to be exact, I think I used roughly a 1/4 of a small bag)
1/2 jar artichoke hearts, drained and chopped (12 or 14 oz jar)
2 garlic cloves, minced (this is really garlicky, maybe just use one if you’re not a huge garlic fan)
1/2 c plain yogurt*
1/2 c cream cheese*
1/2 c mayonnaise*
1 c mozzarella cheese*
1/4 c parmesan cheese*
1/2 tsp worchestershire sauce (“wooster”)
dash cayenne

Throw ingredients in a saucepan on low to medium-low heat until spinach wilts and cheese melts and it bubbles a bit. You can also bake this in the oven in a baking dish but I find that too fussy.  Let it cool and serve.  It’s good warm or cold.  With wheat crackers.

*I’ve found you can adjust the amounts of the creamy stuff and the cheeses quite alot without changing this dip.  For instance you can put more mayo in if you don’t have cream cheese, and one time I used sour cream instead of the yogurt and cream cheese and it was still great.  The mozzerella and parmesan are the same way; there’s a lot of play here which makes this recipe pretty fail-proof.  I mean honestly it’s just a bunch of deliciously bad things thrown in with spinach and artichokes.  Easy, peasy.

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In the Kitchen

Thanks for all the good suggestions on dealing with the lack of plastic bags…I think I’m going to go without in a few rooms, use a brown bag in a few other rooms, and look into some of the recycled options for the kitchen. I also bought a tumbler composter on Craigslist this week so we’re starting that up too.

And now for something completely different…food! I do read a few baking/foodie blogs here and there (I love Orangette) although I do admit to feeling completely inept by comparison. But every once in awhile I can redeem myself:


This is one of my fave easy desserts. I happen to be a pretty big Nigella fan and this recipe is from Forever Summer. I first made it after watching her TV show Nigella Bites. It’s called Slut Red Raspberries in Chardonnay Jelly, and at first glance the recipe (I could only find a UK version here) is a bit daunting, since it calls for a vanilla pod, 5 gelatin leaves, and superfine sugar. But I am here to tell you that not only can you substitute any white wine (1 bottle) for the chardonnay, the sugar (1 cup) can be just plain old granulated, the vanilla can be 1 tsp of vanilla extract (this also allows you to skip the steps where you let the wine and vanilla steep), and 2 packets of plain powdered gelatin works just fine. Perhaps Nigella would gasp in horror at my modifications. Perhaps not.

Anyway, the main gist is that you make Jell-O except with wine instead of hot water, you add a little vanilla, and instead of the Jell-O packet you use unflavored gelatin.

When I made it this time I let the wine boil to remove the alcohol so Elliot could share it with us. He made affirmative noises and pointed to the fridge for more.

BTW, that elephant tray was a birthday prezzie from Mr Rae. He picked it out himself. I love it!

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