Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mind Control

It's terrible. I went to school and studied hard and got good grades. I went on to college. I attended lectures, took notes, read the texts, and learned the fine art of cramming for tests. So what pops into my head when I'm in the shower? Is it the periodic table? No. Is it the names of all the cranial nerves in order? No. Is it Sonnets from the Portuguese? No.

"Have another Nutter Butter Peanut Butter Sandwich cookie. From Banisco!"

Yes, lame TV theme songs and commercial jingles have so crowded my brain that there's no room there for useful information. Like where my glasses and the car keys might be.

But, as long as I have advertising jingles from the 70's controlling my brain, I might as well roll with it. If my brain thinks I need Peanut Butter Sandwich cookies, that's what I'll give it. But I'll make them myself. That'll show them who's boss!

You can make these as simple round sandwich cookies, but how much more fun to make them in the peanut shape? And, if you're feeling totally Martha, you can imprint a grid on the cookies before baking, to simulate peanut texture. I tried a plastic grid, the kind used for stitchery, on a few of the cookies with OK results.

Homemade Nutter Butters
- adapted from Top Secret Recipes

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp peanut butter
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup all-purpose flour


1/2 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp fine graham cracker crumbs (from about 1 cracker)

1- Preheat oven to 325 deg. with oven racks dividing the oven into thirds.

2- In a large bowl, cream together the butter, shortening, and sugar with an electric mixer.

3- Add the egg, salt, and peanut butter and beat until well blended, scraping down the bowl as necessary.

4- Put the oats in a food processor and pulse until it's almost as finely ground as flour. A blender on medium speed will work as well.

5- Add the oats and flour to the butter mixture and blend well.

6- Cover the dough and chill well (for at least an hour) for easier handling.

7- Roll small portions of the dough into 1-inch balls. Press these flat on ungreased cookie sheets so that they form 2-inch circles. Pinch in the sides to make a peanut shape. Flatten and press with a grid, if desired.

8- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until light brown around the edges.

9-Let cool briefly on the cookie sheet then remove to a cooling rack while still warm.

10- Combine the filling ingredients in a small bowl. It will make a stiff paste, similar to putty in texture.

11- When the cookies are cooled, pair up cookies so they'll match in size and shape. Divide the filling into 24 small portions. Working with your hands, take a portion of filling and press it flat, pressing it onto one half of a cookie pair. Top firmly with the other cookie. Repeat with the remaining cookies.

Makes 24 cookies

Sunday, April 26, 2009

April Fools, A Bit Late

One of the best April Fool's pranks that I've ever seen was done by my husband. My 10 year old son wanted to do something funny to one of his buddies, so my husband called up his friend, David, and identified himself as a disc jockey from Radio Disney. My husband has a fabulous announcer voice and he really sold it.

With his suave patter, he told David that he could win a trip to Disneyland if he could correctly answer all the questions he asked. David was excited at this opportunity. First my husband asked him to name all the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. David was into the Turtles in a big way and had no problem with this one. Then several other softball questions followed to build David's confidence and excitement.

When he could almost taste and touch that trip to Disneyland, my husband hit him with the final question, the one that would clinch the trip for him. "David," he asked him, "what is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and how does it impact the orbit of sub-atomic quantum particles using non-Newtonian physics?" In the silence that followed we could almost hear David's face falling.

My husband, still in d.j. mode, said, "Oh, that's too bad, David. So close, so close! Just one more thing, David. April Fools!"

This April I had a Fool that was much nicer. It had fresh strawberries and cream. Mmmm. It was creamy, dreamy delicious. I only felt like a fool for not having tried this sooner.

Berry Fool
- adapted from Williams-Sonoma Desserts

9 strawberries (small to medium in size)
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup frozen blueberries
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Pinch of kosher salt
1/4 cup heavy cream

1- Place a mixing bowl and beaters into the freezer.

2- Rinse, stem, and hull 7 strawberries, then quarter them lengthwise.

3- In a small bowl, toss together the quartered strawberries and the 1/3 cup sugar. Then using a fork, smash the berries until they are jamlike and mostly puréed. Add the blueberries and crush lightly with the fork. Stir in the lemon juice and salt. Taste and add 1-2 more tablespoons sugar, if desired.

4- In the chilled bowl, with a mixer on medium to medium-high speed, whip the cream until firm peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Scoop the chilled fruit onto the cream and with a rubber spatula gently fold the fruit into the cream, just until incorporated.

5- Spoon into dessert bowls or glasses and serve immediately or cover and refrigerate overnight.

6- To garnish, cut the remaining 2 strawberries in half and put a half on top of each fool.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Another Blog Crush

Sometimes when you stumble on a new blog you just know right away it's a keeper. The writing is fresh, the recipes are wonderful, and the pictures make you wish you were there to share. Under The High Chair is such a blog. Aimée, the author of the blog, is a fabulous baker with amazing stories to tell, a dedicated mommy with darling boys, and a talented photographer with beautiful pictures that inspire me.

Imagine my surprise and pleasure, then, to hear from Aimée that I had won a gorgeous, handmade apron, embroidered with Under The High Chair on the pocket! Wow!

To celebrate, I had to put on the apron and bake up a batch of Aimée's family recipe bagels. It's an easy recipe and my family was delighted with the results. Fresh out of the oven they were a bit on the crunchy side (I was too eager to wait), but after they'd cooled, they transformed absolutely perfect bagels. Dense, chewy, bready, and utterly delicious!

Thanks, Aimée, for the apron and all the great recipes, stories, and pictures on your blog.

Check out Aimée's blog, try the bagels, and see for yourself how great they are.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Feasting With The Family

When Mary of The Sour Dough announced the Bread Baking Babes' challenge for this month I seriously considered bowing out. It had two elements that I just couldn't see working in my home. The first was a obnoxiously smelly starter sitting on the counter for 5 days. My husband has a very sensitive nose and he would not be a happy camper with the kitchen smelling like old gym socks for almost a week.

The second issue was with the end product. Not that it was bad bread, but that it was designed to be eaten as part of a meal of "foreign" food. My family is not very adventurous when it comes to trying the food of other cultures and I was afraid of going to great effort, spending lots of money of ingredients I don't stock, and ending up with a meal that got thrown away because it "looked yucky."

Then, happily, a fellow Babe told of how she'd served the meal for her extended family and even the least daring of them enjoyed the meal, especially eating with their hands. I loved the happy family reunion picture she painted and suddenly it clicked in my mind - I was going to visit my family and we could do the feast at my sister's house! They love "foreign" food, we'd have lots of happy family to share the feast with, and, best of all, the smelly starter could sit on my sister's counter instead of mine because there was no way I'd be able to take it on an airplane as carry-on!

So, with my wonderful sister's help, the starter percolated and was fed for five days. Then we cooked up the injera. It is kind of like a sourdough pancake, although since Teff flour is used (a staple of Ethiopian cooking), the bread is gluten-free. Then we made a vegetarian version of the stew. And to round out the meal we recycled a previous dinner of barbequed turkey (renamed for the feast as Thompson's Gazelle) and homemade coleslaw (rebranded as Ethiopian greens).

The result? It was a wonderful feast. Everyone enjoyed scooping up the food with torn bits of injera, feeling a bit like naughty children for not eating with forks. Even though it looked like something the dog horked up, it was all delicious and I might even be able to convince my family at home to try it. Maybe. But at least I got to. Thanks, Mary for this fun and truly different recipe. The great thing about being a Babe is having the envelope pushed a bit, and this month was no exception!

Be sure and check out what the other Babes did with this fun challenge (their blogs are listed on the sidebar), and if you'd like to try your hand at an Ethiopian feast, you have until May 9th to make and post your version and send a link to Mary. She'll send you a handsome Bread Baking Buddy logo to post on your blog. Have fun!

Teff Starter:
This takes five days. If you want to have some starter left over to keep to make injera again, wait seven days. Follow Day 3 directions for Day 5 if you do a seven day starter.

Day One:
3/4 cup water, room temp. (70 degrees)
1/2 cup teff flour
A pinch active yeast (about 1/8 tsp)

Combine ingredients in a 4 cup container with a lid. Loosely cover the starter with the lid and let ferment for two days on the counter or someplace that is about 70 degrees. You should see some rising in about four hours.

Day Two: Do Nothing. You can look and check it out but it should just be sitting there starting to smell funny.

Day Three:
1/2 cup water, room temp. (70 degrees)
1/3 cup teff flour

Stir up starter to combine any hooch on top and feed the starter. Loosely cover the starter with the lid and let ferment for two days on the counter or someplace that is about 70 degrees. You should see some rising in about four hours.

Day Four: Do Nothing. You should start seeing layers of thick gunk on bottom, brown/gray liquid middle, and foamy stuff on top. It should smell um..bad.

Day Five:
1/2 cup water, room temp. (70 degrees)
1/3 cup teff flour

You should definitely have layers. When you stir up the starter it probably will fizz. Good! It will smell pretty bad. Feed it, stir it up, and let it sit until you are ready to make the Injera batter.

Make the batter about 4 hours before you plan on making the injera.

Cook the injerra just like you would a crepe. When the bubbles have stopped popping on the surface, it's done. Do not flip over and cook on the other side. Stack the cooled (important) injerra between pieces of waxed paper.

To serve with the injerra:


2 sticks butter (16 ounces), unsalted
1/4 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ginger, grated,peeled,fresh
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
4 cardamom seeds, crushed
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves, whole
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1 tablespoons fresh basil or dried basil

In a small saucepan, gradually melt the butter and bring it to bubbling. When the top is covered with foam, add the other ingredients and reduce the heat to a simmer.
Gently simmer, uncovered, on low heat for about 45 minutes or until the surface becomes transparent and the milk solids are on the bottom.

Remove from heat and pour the liquid through a cheesecloth into a heat-resistant container. Discard the spices and solids.

Covered tightly and store in the refrigerator. Niter Kebbeh will keep for up to 2 months.

Note: A good quality olive or other oil may be substituted for the butter.


Note: This is the "heat" in all recipes. If you don't like it really spicy, reduce red chili pepper flakes to 1/8 cup. Or you can leave it out all together to make it not spicy at all.

1/3 cup red chili pepper flakes
2 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoons dried onion flakes
1 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Store mixture in an airtight container.

Wot/Wet (Stew)

1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons berbere
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
2 tablespoons niter kebbeh
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 16oz can of diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cup vegetable stock
black pepper
1/2 cup green beans, cut into thirds
1/2 cup carrot, chopped
1/2 cup potato, cubed
1/2 cup tomato, chopped
1/2 cup cabbage, roughly chopped

In dutch oven or stock pot: Saute the onions, garlic, berbere, and paprika in the Niter Kebbeh for 2 minutes.

Add the veggies, continue to saute for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, and the vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes, or until all of the vegetables are tender and the stew is thickened.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Travel Temptations

The toughest part about traveling by air (aside from the friendly TSA inspections) is finding a way to get all your swag into your suitcase for the flight back home. On my recent trip I took a few small gifts for my family, but once I handed them out, that didn't really free up a lot of room in my luggage.

I was OK when we went to the thrift stores, buying only 2 small blog plates. Then we went to the kitchen store. Oh, sigh. As I wandered aisle after aisle of pots, pans, knives (carry on? I don't thinks so!), utensils, and gizmos, I had to keep repeating, like a mantra, "suitcase, suitcase." I was proud of myself for walking out with only a very small sack of things I really couldn't find elsewhere.

I thought I'd safely navigated the worst of the shopping temptations. Then my sister took me to her favorite got-to-know-it's-there-or-you'll-never-find-it store, the Baker's Cash & Carry. Very industrial looking. Nothing fancy. Just rows of plywood shelves holding bricks of chocolate, chunks of chocolate, chips of chocolate, and all types of chocolate for dipping, baking, and grazing. 2 lbs of white chocolate jumped into my basket. It really is hard to find here in bulk. And it was a great price, too. Am I justifying here? Quite possibly.

And then there were the shelves of cake making and decorating supplies. Cake pans in every size and shape imaginable. The packet of 8" pre-cut parchment paper rounds was thin and light, so I could easily pack that.

It was hard to resist all the tools and toys for making beautiful cakes. Fondant and tools for shaping and applying it. Every hue of food coloring gel under the rainbow. Luster dust, meringue powder, and beautiful sugar decorations. My eye was caught by the bright, springy sugar daffodils. I had to have them for my Easter cake. I bought two packets and carefully wrapped them and put them in my carry-on. Only one trumpet broke off, and that was easily glued back on with frosting.

With such bright yellow decorations, I had to have a lemon cake. And I found just the right one in Taste of Home. A lovely, lemony chiffon cake with a thick, luscious glaze. Perfect for Easter. Or anytime you have some new cake decorations to show off.

Lemon Chiffon Cake
- adapted from Taste of Home

7 eggs, separated
2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 teaspoons grated lemon peel
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/3 cup butter, softened
3 cups sugar
4-1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
Dash salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
Sugar decorations or candied lemon peel for garnish

1-Separate the eggs placing the whites into a large mixing bowl and the yolks in a smaller bowl. Let eggs stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2- Preheat the oven to 325 deg. F with a rack in the lowest position.

3- In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

4-In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks, water, oil, lemon peel and vanilla; add to dry ingredients. Beat until well blended.

5- Beat egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form; fold into batter. Gently spoon into an ungreased 10-in. tube pan. Cut through batter with a knife to remove air pockets.

6- Bake for 50-55 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Immediately invert the pan; cool completely, about 1 hour.

7- Run a knife around side and center tube of pan. Remove cake to a serving plate.

8- In a small bowl, combine frosting ingredients; beat until smooth. Spread over top of cake, allowing it to drizzle over the edge. Garnish with decorations or candied lemon peel.

Yield: 12-16 servings.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sisterly Sweets

Getting together with my sisters was a grand time. We've been through a lot together. The tattling phase, the biting phase (although who bears the scar and who did the biting does not need to be shared at this time - OK, OK, it was me!), the hormonal teen phase, the dating phase, the new bride phase, the new mommy phase, and now the older, wiser phase where we're much more tolerant of each other, enjoy each other's company more, and can't remember any of the stories the others tell from the earlier phases.

We regaled each other with remembrances of times gone by and laughed at how the memories were never the same. And while we talked we baked. We're really different people, but we worked well together. The middle sister is much more Martha than me. Everything gets done on time and looks beautiful. My oldest sister, since marrying a Brit, is rockin' a Nigella thing. And I, well, I'm the one who makes cookies from curdled frosting.

One of the first things we made was cookies for my nephew to take to church. We picked a recipe from Baking, since Dorie is so reliable. With three people to help, it was a snap and the cookies turned out beautifully. Moist, just the right balance of molasses and spices. I'd recommend you try them. Preferably with people you love.

Sugar-Topped Molasses Spice Cookies
- adapted from Baking by Dorie Greenspan

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
Pinch of coarsely ground black pepper
1-1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
1 large egg
About 1/2 cup sugar, for rolling

1- In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and pepper. Set aside.

2- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the brown sugar and molasses and beat for 2 minutes or so to blend, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the egg and beat for 1 minute more. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing until the flour and spices disappear. If some flour remains in the bottom of the bowl, to avoid overbeating the dough, mix in the last of the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula. You'll have a smooth, very soft dough.

3- Divide the dough in half and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Freeze for 30 minutes, or refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (You can keep it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.)

4- Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

5- Put the 1/2 cup sugar in a small bowl. Working with one packet of dough at a time, divide it into 12 pieces and roll each piece into a smooth ball. One by one, roll the balls in the sugar, then place them on the baking sheets. Dip the bottom of a glass into the sugar and use it to press down on the cookies until they are 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick.

6- Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the tops feel set to the touch. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the cookies to a rack to cool. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Luscious Lemons For Lazy Lynn

I apologize for leaving the same post up so long, but I was taking a mini-vacation. I spent 5 days with my sisters playing, baking, shopping, talking, and having so much fun that I didn't have time to put up a single post.

Now that I'm home I have to make up for time away from the family. The pile of composting bananas on the counter needs to be turned into banana bread. I need to catch up on reading and cuddling time with my kids. And then I have to put on a hard hat and grab a pickaxe and go tackle Mt. Laundry.

Instead of boring you with my chore list, I'll tantalize you instead with these scones that I made a while back. Luscious, lemony, and just right for a tea break in the middle of a busy day.

Lemon Cream Scones
- adapted from The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger
makes 8 scones

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tblsp sugar
1 tblsp baking powder
grated zest of 2 lemons
1/4 tsp salt
4 tblsp (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 large eggs
1/2 cups cold heavy cream
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease or parchment-line a baking sheet. In a medium bowl using a whisk or electric mixer, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest, and salt. Using a for or electric mixer, cut in the butter. The mixture will resemble coarse crumbs. In a small bowl or 1-cup measure, whisk together the eggs and cream. Add to the dry ingredients, stirring just until a shaggy, sticky dough is formed.

2. Turn the shaggy dough out on a lightly floured work surface and knead gently, about 6 times, just until the dough holds together. Divide into 2 equal portions and pat each into a 1-inch-thick round about 6 inches in diameter. Using a knife or straight edge, cut each round into quarters, making 4 wedges.

3. Place the scones about 1 inch apart on the baking sheet. Place the baking sheet on a rack in the center of the oven and bake 15-to 20 minutes, or until crusty and golden brown.

4. Combine the lemon juice and confectioners' sugar and stir till smooth. Drizzle the glaze over the warm scones.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Refuge From The Storm

Spring is so fickle. I looked out my kitchen window yesterday and saw pink blossoms on my neighbor's tree, yellow blossoms on the forsythia, and snow coming down in gentle but relentless waves. This is the kind of insane weather that makes me want to go back to bed, curl up under the covers, and read a book. So I did. But when I finished the book, it was still snowing. Euwww. I'm done with winter - I want shorts and tank tops and flip flops!

Oh well, while it's cold and dreary out, I might as well make the most of it and bake up something warm, gooey, delicious, and comforting. I tried out a new recipe from Fine Cooking and it was everything that was promised and more. Comfort food at its finest!

Note: I have to explain that I don't do well with pictures of dinner foods. Baked treats I can take photos of anytime, but dinner has to be while it's warm, which is also when my family is hungry and they're circling me like a pack of hyenas waiting to pounce on a carcass, whining, "Mutherrrrr, when can we eat? I'm staaaaaarving!" So, I lay the blame for poor photos squarely on them. And someday I'll learn to take better photos and let them off the hook.

Baked Penne with Tomato, Mozzarella, and Sausage
- adapted from Fine Cooking

Olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb sweet Italian pork sausage, removed from its casing and crumbled
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup dry red wine
28 oz can whole plum tomatoes, chopped, with their juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh marjoram or oregano, or 1-1/3 Tbsp dried oregano
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Pinch nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 lb. dried penne pasta
1/2 lb fresh mozarella, cut into small cubes

1- Heat oven to 425 deg. F. Lightly oil a large, shallow baking dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

2- In a large skillet, heat about 2 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and crumbled sausage and saute until the sausage starts to brown. Season with salt and pepper. If the sausage gives off a lot of fat, pour off most of it, but leave a little to add flavor to the sauce.

3- Add the red wine and let it boil until it's almost gone. Add the tomatoes with all of their juices and cook, uncovered, at a lively simmer for about 10 minutes. The sauce will thicken slightly. Add the marjoram or oregano and taste for seasoning.

4- Meanwhile, cook the penne until al dente. Drain well.

5- In a large bowl, mix the ricotta, about 1/2 the grated parmesan, the nutmeg, and the parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

6- Toss the penne with the ricotta mixture until well coated. Add the sausage and sauce and mix again. Add the mozzarella and toss gently. Pour everything into the baking dish and sprinkle the remaining parmesan on top. Bake uncovered until lightly browned and bubbling, about 20 minutes. Serve right away.

Makes 4 generous servings.