We are pausing here until after the holidays. We’ll all be in California, spending Christmas together for the first time in seven years. We hope you are hunkered down with those you love, too. Thank you for visiting us here all year. We are oh so grateful to share this space with such lovely folks.
Eat, drink, and be merry!
Janet and Rachel
So, we’re taking a break. Not a long one, but one long enough to nap after we eat holiday meals and long enough to allow time for the bloody mary’s to wear off before we write to you again. We’ll be back in 2012 with bells on (and a new fangled look, so get excited!) and we can’t wait to see you all here then.
In the meantime, here’s wishing you all a holiday season filled with love and happiness. Whether on the grandest of scales or tucked into the quietest of moments, we hope you find a little bit of sparkle to pocket away and carry forward into the new year with you.
For years (or at least the two we’ve been writing this blog) I’ve lorded my lack of bona fide cooking equipment over Rachel. Yes, she of the gigantic, semi-professional KitchenAid stand mixer can make good pie crust, etc. but is she really sure it’s not at least somewhat related to the equipment? I mean, could she really make tasty pie crust using a fork the way I do (badly I admit)? HA!
But since writing this blog and reading a ton of other cooking blogs and interviewing cookbook authors and reading more cookbooks than is probably normal (not to mention foodie magazines), I’ve got to admit I’ve been wondering if maybe, just maybe, having some equipment might be okay. I mean, do I really have to recreate the 19th century when I cook?
So last Christmas I asked Santa for — and received! — my little Cuisinart and I have been an electrical chopping wizard ever since. It is simply one of the best devices ever.
Ok, so first off, is it noon yet? Because if it isn’t, and if you haven’t already entered yourself in our giveaway, then click here and go get that done before reading any further. If it’s after noon, then just keep reading while relishing the fact that you entered with time to spare, or while kicking yourself for missing the deadline.
I don’t have a recipe to offer today. I’ve had a sick kid and we’ve been eating pizza and crackers and other conveniences instead of cooking. M’s dinner tonight is, no joke, a sweet potato. Maybe we’ll throw some beans on that plate for our own self-esteems.
This doesn’t mean that I’m not thinking about cooking, though, because I am. There are two things on my mind specifically right now: Christmas dinner and Christmas baking. And yes, in that order. Which is definitely problematic. The baking should be first–it will be wrapped up and delivered to neighbors and friends in the brisk evenings between now and Christmas. The dinner dominates, though, because this year we just might make a whole pig for the very first time (and yes, I bring this up on the day that our vegan cookbook giveaway wraps up…).
It’s the last minute before Christmas and you’re heading to a friend’s house but don’t have time to cook but need something for a hostess gift, or you just need to make one more dessert for the relatives and you’ve run out of steam, or you’re just plain lazy. Have no fear. Here’s a recipe that will take you minutes and make you look like a culinary rock star.
Rachel, I got this recipe from Susan — she of fake cake fame, which kind of makes me see a pattern here — who brought a candy box of this to dinner on Saturday and it was literally all gone before Peter could even take one bite. I didn’t even have time to take a picture so you’re just going to have to use your imagination. Trust me. Make these and then try to just eat one. Read the rest of this entry »
Long ago and far away, I was, as you know, married to someone else. We were good people, just not good for each other. But a happy side note to that short-lived relationship were the Swedish recipes from his mother, who was a wonderful baker. At Christmas time in particular, she made certain Swedish treats. Her pepparkakor (paper-thin gingersnaps) were made in shapes for each child (she was quite artistic). I remember one Christmas when mine was shaped like a horse. I have never even attempted that for you all. Cookie cutters have worked just fine for the pepparkakor thank you.
But even better than the pepparkakor was the mjuk pepparkakor — basically Swedish gingerbread — a recipe that has attained superstar status in our family ever since you all took your first bite and one that has never failed to elicit rave reviews from anyone who ever put a bite in his or her mouth. I’ve had many ask for the recipe over the years, but only you have been lucky enough to receive it.
Now, I’m throwing it out there to the blogosphere. Make this. I guarantee you will love it, as will anyone who ever takes a bite. God Jul to all and to Jenny, tack sa mycket, for originally sharing this recipe.
makes two loaves…which is a good start
1 3/4 sticks melted butter
4 deciliters brown sugar (I use a liquid measuring cup for all — yes, dry ingredients too — and actually use the milliliter lines; so 4 dl is actually 400 ml on my cup. Don’t try to convert to metric, folks. Just use the liquid measuring cup and the ML lines and you’ll be fine)
4 deciliters white sugar
7 deciliters flour (or 700 ml)
5 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons cloves
1 3/4 teaspoons ginger
3 teaspoons baking powder
3 deciliters heavy cream
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
You must use two bowls and follow these directions to a tee. Believe me, I have tried doing my normal who really cares if they say mix in different bowls etc and it has not fared well. I am now a convert–for this recipe anyway.
In one bowl combine the eggs and sugars.
In a separate bowl combine the flour, spices and baking powder.
Add the butter to the sugar bowl and mix. Then add the flour and cream alternately, about half at a time, mixing well in between.
Grease two loaf pans. Pour the mixture into the two pans. Bake for 45 minutes. Then, place some aluminum foil on top of the loaves because they will be brown but not quite done. Bake for another 5-10 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Freezes well.
As I was putting this post together, I remembered something that I forgot to mention when we kicked off our virtual holiday recipe swap with the post about my dad and his amazing homemade candy. He was a severe diabetic when he first made this candy in his retirement years. In other words, he couldn’t even eat it and yet he made batches and batches of it for me and my sister and others. I’m not saying a piece never passed his lips, but it just struck me how much it was a labor of love in its most pure form. The only thing he got from making this amazing candy was the enjoyment of watching people he loved eat it.
I can’t remember if you’ve made this candy yet — I know you regularly make some of our other holiday dishes — but some day when you make this for Miss M and she smiles eating it — because there is no other option — be sure to tell her about Pop Pop and the story of the candy. You were only a few days from your third birthday when he died so you don’t remember him. But now you know how much he loved to cook and how much he cooked with love.
Bristol Road Kitchens Toffee
makes one pan (which is never enough, by the way)
2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
16 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped almonds
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
Line a rimmed 15 1/2″ X 10 1/2″ baking pan with a rim with foil. Leave an edge you can grab. This makes it easy to A)take the candy out to break it later and B) clean the pan.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the sugar, salt, corn syrup and water. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. Then lower the heat and boil slowly without stirring until the candy thermometer shows 290 degrees. This takes anywhere from 30-45 minutes. Some words of caution: Once the thermometer reaches about 270, it moves very quickly to 290 and if you aren’t paying attention, you will miss your moment AND you will scorch your pan — irreparably. I speak from experience.
Remove from the heat, add the vanilla — it will sputter — and the coarse chopped nuts and stir. Then pour into the pan and let cool until the candy is hard. (I put mine in the garage but you may have a bigger refrigerator than I do.)
After the candy is hard — usually after a couple of hours — melt the chocolate in a saucepan. Spread it over the toffee and sprinkle the finely chopped almonds over the top. Let cool again.
When the candy is hard, take it out of the pan and break into bite-size pieces. You will need to keep it refrigerated or in your garage if you’re like me and live somewhere cold. Making it harder to reach is just as well because it gives you a little exercise as you walk over to get your bazillionth piece. Enjoy!
It’s that time of the year again. That time of hanging out with friends and family, staying up late, sleeping in, feeling cozy…and eating lots and lots and lots of food.
In our family there are foods that get made every year. There are gingery treats that appear in each of our homes, chocolate candy that I have to go to my mom’s house in order to devour, and my Grandma’s shortbread that barely makes it through November here in California. There are also lost recipes, like my Grandy’s red cabbage, that we try in vain to recreate since she didn’t leave a recipe behind.
The point is this: the holidays are about many things, but one of the main ones–that spans denominations, traditions, families…the list goes on–is coming together over cherished annual recipes. We’ve been thinking that it would be really cool if during this holiday season we all–that means YOU all, too–shared some of our favorite recipes. We’d love them with a memory attached, we’d love them alone. Just shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll post your recipe to spread the holiday cheer across tables. We can post it anonymously if you’d like, we can credit your great great great aunt Betty…you tell us how you want to share it and that’s how it will appear here on the blog. Our idea is to create a big communal holiday cookbook here and a space for us all to come together and pause–however briefly–and reflect on what fortune we find in holiday feasts.
So, get out those recipe cards and send us an email. We can’t wait to hear from you. And in the meantime, enjoy these really awesome photos from holidays past of each of us (you’re welcome, Ma and John).