Saturday, December 12, 2009

Shortbread Cookies

Can there be anything as delicious, delicate and delightful as a good shortbread cookie and a big cup of milk or hot cocoa? These cookies are one of our standards for Christmas. Sometimes we sprinkle them with a bit of sugar before baking, and sometimes we dip them in melted milk chocolate. However you choose to make them, be sure you start with good quality room temperature butter and real vanilla. Using a 1/2 cup of cornstarch makes these cookies melt in your mouth even faster!


Shortbread Cookies:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered (confectioners) sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter on medium speed until smooth, 1 minute. Add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth, another 2 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and mix. On the second lowest speed of your mixer, add the flour, cornstarch and salt until combined with the butter. Flatten the dough into a disk shape and place in a baggie, then chill for an hour, or more, if you want to make the cookies later.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick. Using a lightly floured cookie cutter, cut the dough into shapes. Place cookies on the parchment-lined sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until edges of cookies are lightly brown. Place on wire rack to cool.

Makes about 2 dozen small cookies.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Turkey Carcass Soup

One of our favorite Thanksgiving traditions is to make Turkey Carcass Soup the day after the Big Feast. First of all, I just love the name. It sounds so...barbaric and medieval. Secondly, it's absolutely delicious and feels very resourceful to use all of the turkey this way. I discovered this recipe years ago in Jane Brody's Good Food Cookbook, one of my all-time favorite cookbooks.

Add a loaf of homemade bread, and you've got yourself an amazing meal.
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Turkey Carcass Soup

  • Stock:
  • Turkey carcass, broken into pieces
  • Any defatted pan juices or leftover gravy
  • 12 cups of water, or enough to cover the carcass completely
  • 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 ribs of celery with leaves, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup diced carrots
  • ½ cup diced well-washed leek (optional)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt, if desired
  • Bouquet garni, made by tying in cheesecloth:
  • 6 sprigs fresh parsley (or 2 tsp. dried parsley flakes)
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Soup:
  • ½ onion, finely copped
  • 2 - 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • ½ cup diced celery
  • 1 ½ tablespoons flour
  • 6 - 7 cups turkey stock
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • ⅓ cup raw barley or rice
  • 1 cup diced turkey meat
  • Hot pepper sauce, to taste (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley or chives
For the stock, combine all the ingredients in a large stock pot, bring the stock to a boil and simmer it, partially covered for 2 to 3 hours. (It tastes better the longer it simmers, but be careful not to cook away the liquid.)

Strain the stock; cool, then skim off the fat.

Remove all of the meat from the bones and refrigerate for adding to the soup later. Discard other vegetables, bones, turkey skin, etc. Makes 10 - 12 cups.

To make the soup, in a large stockpot saute the onion and garlic in oil until soft. Add the carrots and celery and mushrooms and cook the vegetables for an additional 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Add the flour and stir for one minute.

Add the stock, marjoram, salt and pepper, and barley or rice. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce heat, partially cover the pot, and simmer the soup for about 1 hour. Add the turkey meat and hot pepper sauce. Adjust seasonings, and heat the soup to boiling. Sprinkle the soup with parsley just before serving.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Aunt Marilyn's Potato Soup

The girls visited with their Aunt Marilyn over the summer. What a wonderful time they had! They talk and talk and talk and talk about the fun and the arguments and the adventures. And they also talk about the food! Specifically, they talk about the potato soup.

So I called Aunt Marilyn for her potato soup recipe, and she gave it to me over the phone. She has that gift of cooking without recipes, a gift that I just didn't get in my life. So her recipe was "some of this," and "add that." I did it...and it worked!

Here's my version of Aunt Marilyn's Potato Soup. Enjoy!


Aunt Marilyn's Potato Soup

Take a big soup pot and fill it with cold water.
Wash 5 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes and cut them into bite-sized cubes.
Put the potatoes in the water as you go.
When they are all cut, drain the water, rinse the potatoes in the pot, drain again, and then fill the pot to just above the potatoes.
Cut up two large onions into bite-sized pieces. Add to the potatoes. Add more cold water to cover, if necessary. Don't add to much water because you won't be removing any from the pot when the potatoes are done cooking.
Salt well.
Bring to a boil, and then turn down to a slow boil or fast simmer.
Cook until potatoes are fork-tender but not falling apart.
While potatoes are cooking, crisp 1to 2 pounds of bacon (depending on how much you like bacon) and crumble when done.
When potatoes are finished, add 2 sticks of butter and a pint of heavy cream (or more, if you want it creamier).
Add salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste.
OPTIONAL: If you want a thicker soup,  remove three cups of potatoes and put them into a blender or food processor and puree, then add back to the soup.
Add 2 cups of grated high-quality sharp white cheddar cheese, stirring constantly so that cheese doesn't sink to the bottom unmelted. 
Top with more shredded white cheddar and crisp bacon bits and a twist of fresh black pepper.
Serve with warm, crusty bread.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Classic Pesto, aka, "That Green Stuff"

Woe unto me for neglecting my beloved food blog for so very long. As one reader wrote, "The guacamole song was great, but isn't it time for an update?"

Yes, it is. And since I'm taking care of neglected things, I'll share a recipe I've neglected to post.

My young friend Lemony happened to be visiting us during basil season last year, and she was grateful for her very first taste of pesto. This year, I direct-seeded a whole row of Profuma di Genova and Italian Pesto basil from seed purchased from Renee's Garden Seeds. I was worried that I had planted a bit too early, since basil doesn't care for cold, and then, when the tiny, fragrant leaves emerged from the ground, I was worried that I had planted them too closely at the front of the row and too sparsely at the back. But after transplanting a few and reseeding a few more, I have a full, beautiful crop of basil with enough to spare to anyone who asks (so feel free to ask!).

Last week, dear Lemony was here again. For the past year, she has been asking me to post the recipe for that "delicious green stuff," but I was certain I'd already posted it. Alas, I had not. But I did make two batches, one for immediate consumption and one for my two eldest, Lemony and their other friends to take to Lollapalooza. I just received a tweet from Lemony saying, "We're out of pesto. Send help."

As much as I'd like to take all of the credit for this delicious "green stuff," I have to admit that this pesto recipe comes from Renee's Garden's cookbook, Recipes from a Kitchen Garden. This book, along with More Recipes from a Kitchen Garden, are simply necessary for those who eat seasonally, whether it's from your own garden or from the local farmer's market. Uses for all of that delicious fresh produce and herbs pack each book. There is a generous sampling of the recipes on Renee's Garden's website as well. As you might be able to tell, I'm a big fan of Renee's Garden, seeds, cookbooks and all. If you read about Renee's Garden, I think you'll see why.

And now that I have searched my blog, I see that I've failed to share Renee's Garden's recipe for Orzo Casserole, too! Oh, my. Maybe tomorrow? Look for it!


Classic Fresh Pesto Sauce
(slightly adapted)

Can be frozen for later use!

3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 large cloves garlic (more if you love it!)
1/2 cup pine nuts or pecan meats
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (be sure to use freshly grated cheese from a block, not the pre-grated stuff in plastic containers)
1 tsp fresh oregano or marjoram
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 to 1/3 cup fruity olive oil
salt to taste

Combine all ingredients, except olive oil and salt, in a food processor or blender. Slowly add enough olive oil to make a thick, smooth sauce. Add salt to taste. Serve on fresh pasta or toasted rustic bread. Makes about 2 cups.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Guacamole Song (with Recipe)

Okay, I'm breaking my own rule here because Guacamole really doesn't take long to make at all, but maybe if you count loading this video, writing down the ingredients, and *then* making the recipe, it will take long enough to qualify as something that takes "time to cook," even though there's no cooking involved. If you have dial-up, that's even better. Make sure you check out Rhett and Link's other videos, too.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Potted Chicken: An Update!

We've really been enjoying potted chicken recently. Today, I'm making two chickens in my electric roaster and I've heaped it full of russet potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic. While teaching 17-year-old Zach to make it today, I decided that I needed to update it a bit with the variations I've made.

For one thing, I've taken to rubbing the chicken with a rosemary spice rub before putting it in the pot. Secondly, I've adapted the way I do the lemons--I don't take the peels off. I've found that it's not only a royal pain, but it also makes it hard to use that wonderful golden goo that's leftover because there's too much lemon pulp in the goo. Also, because it's not in season, I'm omitting the fresh rosemary, and because I'm using the spice rub, I'm omitting the pepper and salt. Also, since oranges are inexpensive right now, I'm substituting some of the lemons with oranges.

Here's the variation:


Potted Chicken with Rosemary Spice Rub


1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbs. onion salt
1 Tbs. seasoned salt, such as Lawry's
1 Tbs. garlic salt
2 Tbs. paprika
1-1/2 tsp. chili powder
1-1/2 tsp. lemon pepper
1 Tbs. dried sage
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, crumbled
1/4 tsp. cayenne

Combine all the ingredients and blend well.

1 locally-raised, free-range (preferably organic) roasting chicken
6-10 whole heads of garlic, rinsed, cut in half side-to-side (giving a cross-section look). Remove any loose papery skin, but leave heads as much intact as possible
2 large lemons
1 large orange
4 large onions, sliced
olive oil
heaps of baby carrots or cleaned carrots cut into small chunks
handfuls of chunked potatoes, either Yukon Gold or red-skinned potatoes

In a dutch oven, lay the sliced onions and 4 of the cut heads of garlic. Rub the spice rub all over the chicken, inside and out. Cut lemons and oranges in quarters (or eighths, depending on the size of the fruit). Stuff the chicken with the lemon and orange wedges, several more of the heads of garlic, more onion, and then sprinkle with spice rub.

Top the whole thing with as many heads of garlic and slices of onion as you like. Tuck as many carrots and potatoes as you would like or can fit around and on top of the chicken. Sprinkle with more a bit more spice rub. Drizzle with olive oil.

Bake, covered, (I use the cast iron dutch over my mother-in-law got me last Christmas) in a 350 degree F oven for about 3 hours. The chicken will literally fall off of the bone. Dig the garlic heads out, scoop the buttery-soft garlic out of the skins and spread on the chicken or on pieces of crusty bread, like the No-Knead Rosemary Bread or Genovese Basil Bread. Serve the carrots and potatoes on the side. When you've finished the meal, separate the chicken from the bones and skin and use it later for delicious chicken salad. Transfer all of the garlic pulp, juices and soft onions to another container and use it for a stock base or a fabulous gravy for your next batch of redskin mashed potatoes.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

How About You: What Are Your Favorite Pizza Toppings?

Last night, we had another one of our pizza-making marathons. 13-year-old Aleks made the crusts, I made the sauce, and everyone pitched in making a pizza.

Having a pizza night is a lot like opening gifts on Christmas morning. I peek into the oven, see that the pie is done, grab the tongs and ease the creation off of the pizza stone, and transfer it to our butcher block island where it's cut and served right from there. Each new pie holds surprises. Last night, Aleks made a buffalo chicken-ranch pizza with fresh sliced garlic and basil, frozen from our summer's bounty. Mine was a white pizza with lots of mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano and minced garlic. There's always a combination of interesting flavors. We toss on marinaded artichokes, green olives and feta, or a simple garlic butter, basil, feta, kosher salt and red pepper flakes. Aleks loves to make a dipping sauce for the crust out of olive oil, salt, basil, italian seasonings and red pepper flakes.

What are your favorite pizza toppings? What's the most unconventional pizza you've ever made? If you've never made pizza from scratch, what's stopping you?

Can't wait to hear your responses!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

My Current Obsession: MacGourmet

Don't you love it when you're not even looking and a great tool falls right into your life? The other day I was searching for some killer writing software, and MacGourmet Deluxe politely waved to me from my Google Search window. Of course I had to go check it out. And since it was designed for Mac, I really had to check it out. And since there's a 20 session full-version free trial, I had to really, really check it out.

Downloading is easy. The learning curve is gentle. Within just a few minutes, with the help of Safari, I was importing recipes from Time to Cook as well as many of my other favorite food blogs.

This is a fabulous find for me because one of my life's goals is to collect all of my recipes in one place, create a cookbook, and give a copy to each of my five children. MacGourmet makes that very easy and even pretty fun.

From the Mariner website, creator of MacGourmet and MacGourment Deluxe, you can:

MacGourmet Deluxe, you can bring your recipe collection into the digital age and back to paper. • Build, print, and share your own cookbook from your recipe collection.

• Use the Mealplan feature to plan and organize meals. Since this is a Mac program, you can Sync your plans with iCal.

• Easily calculate the nutritional content of your recipes.

• Publish your recipes to your .mac account or to your web site.

• Manage your wine collection by recording notes about your favorite wines.

• Import recipes from your favorite online source.

• Create shopping lists from the Weekly Meal Planner or from one or more recipes.

• Store and manage all your cooking notes.

• Organize your collection with SmartLists.

• Plan a meal using the Cupboard find or Potluck find features.

There are a few things about the software that I don't care for, like the inability to customize the layout before creating PDF files, or to customize the preparation, course or categories lists (I'd like to add courses, equipment and categories) and the limited "help" files, but it's definitely miles above my current system of throwing my recipes in a ring binder or in a drawer in the kitchen. Plus, the "Clippings" feature, which allows you to go to any website, select the recipe and import it into the recipe editor, is simply killer and in itself is worth the $44.95 purchase price (you can only do five clippings per session with the trial version). This feature only works with Safari, Camino and Opera web browsers.

When I've entered all of my favorite recipes, I'll print them on cardstock, laminate them, and put them together with a single binder ring. They can even be color-coded according to category, like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Kids' Recipes, etc. I have a few recipes like this from years ago and they've held up perfectly.

I also plan to create a cookbook which can then be sent to self-publishing services like Lulu, CreateSpace and CafePress and then given as gifts to friends and family.

If you have a Mac, you really must give MacGourmet Deluxe a try.