Friday, December 29, 2006

I'm not dead, I swear

Tulum, a Mayan ruin located south of Playa Del Carmen.

Things have been pretty slow around here lately -- just kind of hanging out and enjoying the post-Christmas quiet. They'll continue to be quiet on the blog until mid-January or so, as Shane and I heading to Playa Del Carmen in a few days. To say we're pretty excited would be a gross understatement. (I could try to transcribe my squeeing, but as my friend Jenny noted last night, even our dog Flurry can't hear sounds so highly pitched.)

So I'm signing off until 2007 but before I do, I just wanted to wish you a very happy New Year. Yay, 2007!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

'Tis the Season for Tasty Gifts!

We have been a lucky family this week.

First, my Uncle Anthony and (Aunt) Teresa sent us an annual Christmas ham from Heavenly Hams. It's Christmas dinner every year, and we love it!

Then, my Aunt Linda and Uncle Matt sent a Mrs. Field's Cookie Basket. The chocolate chip cookies disappeared rather quickly...

Next, an employer sent us a tower of pecan goodies from River Street Sweets. You can't go wrong with a crunchy pecan dipped in milk chocolate.

And then came the most surpristing gift of all -- especially because I'm not sure who it came from (no gift note): Two dozen bagels from H&H Bagels Midtown East, with cream cheese, lox AND about half-a-dozen black and white cookies! It's like being in New York again! All I need is a Sunday New York Times and a nagging nuerosis and I'm THERE!

Two final food mentions: the four of us went to Rochester today for a little Christmas shopping and stopped at the superlative KC Tea & Noodles for lunch. It's a tiny Chinese cafe, and I haven't had anything there that wasn't delicious. My favorite order is their garlic shrimp with white rice and a Taro bubble milkshake. Delicious, and I can get another NY fix by reading the ubiquitious copies of the NY Post scattered about the shop. (They make a wonderfully fragrant cup of jasmine tea, too.)

A little while later, we stopped in at Stever's candy shop. We were blown away by the variety of moulded, dipped, filled, and sprinkled chocolates. We picked up several foil-wrapped ornaments, a chocolate lollipop, a lemon lollipop (Kian still hates chocolate - sigh), a bag of spiced hard candies, and a box of chocolate Christmas miniatures filled with peanut butter.

I don't know what we're going to do with all this food, but it's a happy problem to have.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Les Petite Madeleines

Ready for their date with a cup of tea.
Sadie's class is exploring the world again, and this week, it was her group's turn to present on France. Her portion of the presentation was on food -- can you imagine a better topic for France?

Being in third grade, however, she didn't focus on coq au vin, baguettes, or crepes. She presented on French cooking techniques for "snails, frog legs, and sheep brains." Nothing like a little elementary school "Fear Factor."

Not willing to make les cuisses de grenouilles, I made a batch of madeleines for the class. According to Sadie, "everybody in the class LOVED them. But two kids hated them." (Heh. But now we know who the next Frank Bruni will be.)

Here's what I sent in with these delicate French cake-cookies: Madeleines (or petite madeleines, which the class is eating today) are a traditional French cookie from Commercy, a town of the Meuse département in northeastern France. More like a cake than a cookie, madeleines are usually eaten with tea or coffee and are identified by their shell-like shape. Traditional madeleines have a butter and lemon flavor, similar to pound cake. They can be made, however, in different flavors including vanilla, orange and chocolate. (Source:

Imagine: the next time a friend comes over for tasse de thé or café, you could offer them a plate of fresh-baked madeleines. Trés chic!

Madeleines (Recipe adapted from

2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
Pinch of salt
1 cup all purpose flour
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375-degrees F. Generously butter and flour a Madeleine pan.* Using electric mixer, beat eggs and 2/3 cup sugar in large bowl just to blend. Beat in vanilla, lemon peel and salt. Add flour; beat just until blended. Gradually add cooled melted butter in steady stream, beating just until blended.

Spoon 1 tablespoon batter into each indentation in pan. Bake until puffed and brown, about 16 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Gently remove from pan. Repeat process, buttering and flouring pan before each batch. (Can be made 1 day ahead.) Dust cooled cookies with powdered sugar.

*A metal mold with scallop-shaped indentations, sold at cookware stores. I think you might be able to use a mini muffin pan in a pinch.

Grade: A

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Butter and Jam Thumbprints

Fresh out of the oven.

Buttery and sweet, these are lovely holiday cookies. The best part, however, is the dollop of jam in the middle. Next time, I'll make bigger thumbprints to fit in more jam!
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar, plus more for rolling
1 large egg
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped from pod, or 1/8 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup raspberry, cherry or strawberry jam
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.

In another bowl, whip the butter and the sugar with a hand-held mixer until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla until just combined. Slowly beat in the dry ingredients in 2 additions, mixing just until incorporated.

Scoop the dough into 1-inch balls with a cookie or ice cream scoop and roll in sugar. Place about 2-inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Press a thumbprint into the center of each ball, about 1/2-inch deep. Fill each indentation with about 3/4 teaspoon jam.

Bake cookies until the edges are golden, about 15 minutes. (For even color, rotate the pans from top to bottom about halfway through baking.) Cool cookies on the baking sheets. Store cookies in a tightly sealed container for up to 5 days.

Grade: A

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Retro Recipe Challenge #5: Boozy Holiday Round Up!

On the Eighteenth of December, Teresa of Vintage Style Files sent to the RRC a Cornish Hens Plymouth entree!

On the Eighteenth of December, Emily from Appetitive Behavior sent to the RRC, a Scarlett O'Hara drink!

On the Eighteenth of December, Haalo from Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once sent to the RRC, a Singapore Sling!

On the Eighteenth of December, Culinarily Curious from Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity sent to the RRC, a Bavarian Mint!

On the Eighteenth of December, Kirsten of Kirsten's Home Cooking Adventures sent to the RRC, a Wassail taste treat!

On the Eighteenth of December, Kevin of Seriously Good sent to the RRC, a Bourbon cake recipe!

On the Eighteenth of December, Brilynn of Jumbo Empanadas sent to the RRC, a Coffee-Chocolate drink!

On the Eighteenth of December, Acme of Acme Instant Food sent to the RRC, a Manhattan cocktail!

On the Eighteenth of December, Breadchick of The Sour Dough sent to the RRC, a Sleigh Bell toddy!

Happy Boozy Holidays to you all!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Brown Sugar Chex Mix

'Tis the season to be a lazy -- no, let's use a better term -- efficient cook. With kids jingle-belling, and everyone telling you to be of good cheer, there really isn't much time to do any cooking other than roasting those marshmallows.

But there's always a need for last-minute gift, and making them in your kitchen is a nice, and potentially economical, way to go. Some recipes even come together in a flash.

This is one of those recipes. In about half an hour, you'll have a tasty treat that virtually everyone will like. (It's not fancy or pretentious, which may be why it's so popular.) It's reminicest of caramel corn, and you can add or subtract treats to add to the caramel. Here's the original recipe, which is a bit different from the one below. For a chocolate (and super sweet) hit, you might even mix in some plain M&Ms after the caramel has cooled. Nuts would be a fun add in, too; I'm not a peanut fan, but pecans would be delicious.

Brown Sugar Chex Mix

8 cups Corn or Rice Chex cereal
1 cup mini pretzels
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. vanilla

In large microwavable bowl, mix cereal and pretzels.

In medium microwavable bowl, microwave butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and vanilla uncovered on High about 2 minutes or until mixture is boiling, stirring after 1 minute. Pour over cereal mixture, stirring until evenly coated.

Microwave uncovered on High 5 to 6 minutes, stirring and scraping bowl after every minute. Spread on waxed paper to cool, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up. Store in airtight container.

Makes about 19, 1/2 cup servings.

Grade: A

Friday, December 15, 2006

RRC#5 Deadline Today

If you've got a retro recipe that shouldn't be near an open flame, today's the last day to send it in! Shoot an email with your blog link to RetroRecipeChallengeATgmailDOTcom by tonight at 11:59pm EST. Full details and resources can still be found here. Cheers!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Peppermint Cacao Cocktail

Well, it's not a retro drink recipe, but it's a lovely little cocktail, chock-full of holiday cheer. Plus, what's more festive than a drink served in a martini glass?

For a prettier (but just as tasty) drink, use white creme de cacao.

Peppermint Cacao cocktail

¼ oz (1 ½ tsp) peppermint schnapps
½ oz (1 Tbsp) vodka
1 ¼ oz (2 ½ Tbsp) crème de cacao
1 small peppermint hard candy

Fill shaker with ice cubes and add cocktail ingredients. Shake until icy cold, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with peppermint candy.

Grade: A

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Little Help?

#1: Sadie's class is exploring the countries of the world, and I've been called upon to make a French recipe for her third grade class. I'm looking for something that won't chain me to the kitchen (it's due next Wednesday - a mere FIVE days before Christmas) and will appeal to the palates of 8 year olds.

#2: Sherry, a friend from high school, is looking for a diabetic-friendly chocolate chip cookie recipe (and any other diabetic-friendly recipes) using Stevia. Does anyone have any tried-and-true suggestions?

If so, please leave a comment below or shoot me an email at LauraRebeccasKitchenATgmailDOTcom. Thanks!

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

Rich in cocoa flavor, these lovely Christmas cookies arepunctuated by crunchy bits of mint. I didn't add the crushed candies to the batter, thinking it would be too much but I regret that decision. An additional minty snap would have added a nice counterpoint to the chewiness of the chocolate cookie.

A note: I chilled the batter overnight (only 30 minutes in the refrigerator caused the cookies to spread too much), then rolled tablespoonfuls of the batter into balls, squashed them into disks, and pushed the tops into the crushed candies.

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
4 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
3 large eggs
45 round swirled peppermint candies, coarsely crushed

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Attach bowl to mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add sugar, extracts, and eggs; mix on medium-low speed until combined. Reduce speed to low; mix in flour mixture. Stir in one-third of the candies. Refrigerate dough until firm, about 30 minutes (or wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight).

Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop, form mounds of dough; dip tops into remaining candies to coat. Place cookies, candy sides up, on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake cookies until just set, about 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days. Makes about 3 dozen.

Grade: A

Monday, December 11, 2006

Five Days Left 'till the RRC#5 Deadline!

When I rolled out this challenge, I said that I loved Christmas-time but found it stressful. And this year is no different: Christmas is fifteen days away, I haven't finished my shopping, I have 4 packages to send out, I have a mound of papers to correct, there's family coming in for a visit on Thursday, my house needs a thorough cleaning -- the list goes on.

So help me and everyone else under the Christmas Crunch relax by sending in your retro drink or boozy recipe to RetroRecipeChallengeATgmailDOTcom by Friday, December 15 at 11:59pm EST. Full details and resources can be found here. Cheers!