Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween - Ischl Tartlets

Happy Halloween!!! To 'celebrate,' we made Halloween Ischel Tartlets.

Usually, I only make these cookies for Christmas, but during our quest for orange colored sprinkle sugar for the Spice Spritz Cookies, we stumbled upon these Halloween cookie cutters:SP bought them, thus ensuring himself of rolling dough at Halloween and Christmas time (and maybe Easter, too, since I have bunny & chick cookie cutters!)! Have I mentioned that I don't like rolling cookie dough? I don't. I dread rolling cookie dough.

These cookies are definitely a bit time consuming but not too difficult. Of course as I type that, I recall the last two times we made these and I swore up and down we'd never make them again.It seems I have a love/hate relationship with Ischel Tartlets: I love eating them. I hate making them. The dough can be sticky and it seems to frequently be difficult to get the cut shapes from the waxed paper and onto the cookie sheet, which is my job.

But the end result is delicious, raspberry filled almond-lemon cookies:I started making these when I was 14 years old. My grandmother gave me her recipe & the special cookie cutter. I always assumed that my grandma made these cookies at Christmas time because her family is German and that these are German cookies, but my research has shown that some people say these cookies are a German treat while others say they are an Austrian treat. Whether these are German or Austrian doesn't really matter -- the only thing that matters is that they are delicious!

It all starts with these ingredients:The almonds are supposed to be ground, not slivers like in the package. We ground our almonds in a coffee grinder that we use exclusively for nuts and herbs.I guess I forgot to take photos while we made the dough because there weren't any photos on the camera! It's pretty straight forward. We made the dough Thursday night because it has to chill overnight in the refrigerator. We baked and assembled the cookies Friday night.

SP was in charge of rolling the dough:And I was in charge of cutting the cookies out of the dough and transporting them onto cookie sheets. As I said before, the dough can be sticky and softens quickly. It was tough to get the cookie shapes from the waxed paper to the cookie sheet. This is the part where I get frustrated, some bad words come out of my mouth, and I swear we are never making these cookies again.

Some just smushed up into strange shapes and got tossed onto the dough scrap pile. Others made it OK: And others made it with minor imperfections:They bake for about 8 minutes and then cool. Be careful when removing the cookies to cool, especially the cookies with the cut out centers as they can be fragile and break. If any break, you'll need to make an extra top cookie since you need the same number solid bottom cookies and top cut out cookies.

When all the cookies are cool, it's time to assemble them. This is the fun part, starting with heating the raspberry preserves to make them easier to spread onto the solid cookies.Our top cookies had cut outs of bats, owls, ghosts, witch hats, and pumpkins. There is a cat cut out, too, but I forgot to use it. The last step is sprinkling on the powdered sugar, which you can't really see in the above photo.

When we had just a wee bit of dough left, we used the mini center cutters to make tiny cookies for snacking. They got a little crispy brown because the dough was thinner. But dipped in some heated jelly - yum!These cookies make an excellent breakfast treat. And afternoon tea treat. And evening dessert treat. I am ashamed of just how many I ate yesterday. It was enough that when SP found out, he raised his eyebrows, patted my tummy, and laughed before asking if he needed to hide the cookies from the cookie monster.

Ischl Tartlets

2 & 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter, softened
3 ounces cream cheese
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup ground almonds
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 (12 ounce) jar raspberry preserves
powdered sugar for sprinkling

Sift together flour and baking powder. Beat butter, cream cheese, sugar, and egg until fluffy. Add flour mixture and blend. Stir in ground almonds and lemon rind. Turn dough out onto waxed paper and shape into ball. Chill overnight.

Roll out dough to 1/8 inch thickness on lightly floured waxed paper. Cut out and equal number of solid bottom cookies and top cookies with cut out centers. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cool cookies. Heat preserves in saucepan. Spread heated preserves on bottom cookie. Put on top cookie and sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.

Makes about 3-3.5 dozen cookies

**This is my handwritten recipe from my grandma, but I've found the exact recipe online at several sites.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friendship Soup

Back in April, a friend of mine made favors for my surprise bridal shower. She & her daughter made jars of Friendship Soup. They even tied peach ribbon around the lid and attached a poem 'Door to Happiness.'Thanks to rearranging the kitchen/pantry this past July, SP & I had nearly forgotten about our jar of Friendship Soup. It was hidden in the back of a cabinet. We pulled it out this past week and decided to make it.I don't have any photos of 'Making the Soup.' All the ingredients are pre-measured and in the jar. We cooked a pound of ground turkey (not beef), added the tomatoes and water, dumped in the jar of stuff, and let it simmer away for 45 minutes. There's lots of stuff in this soup: the ground meat, tomatoes, split peas, lentils, rice, barley, pasta.And this one jar made a lot of soup! Two huge jars! We ended up freezing one jar of soup. It's very tasty and filling. Sometimes we take things, and people, for granted. Making this soup made me remember what wonderful, thoughtful, caring friends I have and how very lucky I am.

Friendship Soup Mix in a Jar

Ingredients for in jar:

  • 1/2 cup dry split peas
  • 1/3 cup beef bouillon granules
  • 1/4 cup pearl barley
  • 1/3 cup dry lentils
  • 1/4 cup dried minced onion
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup uncooked long grain rice
  • 1/2 cup small macaroni
Additional Ingredients:
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 can diced tomatoes

To Make:

  • In a 1 1/2 pint jar, layer the first eight ingredients in order listed. Seal tightly. Yields 1 batch.
  • To prepare soup, carefully remove macaroni from the top and set aside.In a large saucepan, or Dutch oven, brown beef and drain. Add the water, tomatoes and soup mix. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Add the reserved macaroni, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until macaroni, peas, lentils and barley are tender.Yields 4 quarts.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Creamy Chicken & Rice Bake

Last Sunday, after the Steelers squeaked by Miami on questionable and confusing calls & explanations, we made our way into the kitchen and opened a bottle of Frog's Leap Sauvignon Blanc. Check out the cork:Ribbit!

As we sipped our wine, we started chopping vegetables (onions, celery, carrots), cubing chicken, and gathering ingredients to make Creamy Chicken & Rice Casserole with Peas, Carrots, and Cheddar, another recipe from the Cover & Bake cookbook.

This recipe takes a bit of time -- probably about 1.5 hours total from start to finish. But it makes a deliciously creamy casserole, if a bit rich. The Cook's Illustrated folks again succeeded in making a comforting, tasty, moist, non pasty dish.The recipe says to sprinkle parsley on top of the casserole and serve with lemon wedges, but we added the parsley to the dish prior to baking. I scooped out some casserole and plopped it on my plate:Then I remembered to squeeze a bit of lemon on top, so I took a another photo, with the lemon wedge perched on the side of the plate:I really enjoyed this casserole. It was sort of like a risotto, loaded with lots of goodies. I would definitely make this again.

SP has a slightly different opinion. He likes it. It's very tasty. He would make it again. But, as a Type 1 diabetic, he thinks it's not a great dish for him. SP was diagnosed when he was 3 years old. He has lived for many years managing this disease. He is perfectly capable of monitoring his blood sugar level and taking insulin or eating something when his glucose monitor beeps. He does not need me to fuss over him or to try to change his diet or tell him how to eat. In fact, I should be taking lessons from him on how to eat healthier.

Since I trust him, I don't really pay too much attention to the components of our meals. I figure he'll veto anything that isn't 'good.' I see this dish and think, hey lots of veggies, it's got carrots and peas! White rice - yum! Just like when I lived in Japan! Bread crumb topping - yum yum!

He has a different view of this dish. Apparently carrots and peas are veggies but veggies that are high in carbs/starch. Plus this dish has white rice (not brown) and the cheese and whole milk -- not exactly healthy ingredients. This dish is very difficult for him to calculate/judge how much insulin to take. He was correct in his prediction: after dinner his blood sugar spiked.

So I think that if we make it again, we'll make just half a batch and maybe some tasty steamed greens or broccoli on the side. Or even a salad to go with it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

CSA Week #29

This week: Easter egg radish bunch, parsnips, sweet potatoes, kabocha squash, carrots, red beets, lettuce mix, and Gala apples.

Crab Cakes

Crab cakes. They seem simple. But a good crab cake is quite difficult to make. They can be too dry. They can be too moist. They can fall apart. They can have too much filler and not enough crab. They can lack flavor. They can have too much flavor. By too much flavor, I mean that sometimes, they have lots of chopped ingredients, some combination of onions, celery, peppers. I've never really liked crab cakes with chopped veggies - I think it takes away from the crab-i-ness of a crab cake. The crab should be the flavor that shines through.

I am always suspicious of restaurants that claim to serve 'our famous crab cake.' Invariably, when I order crab cakes at a restaurant, I end up disappointed and wishing I'd ordered something else (the lone exception being the crab cake appetizer at The Charleston Grill).

I was very excited when I read the Crab Cakes, The Right Way post at Pittsburgh Hot Plate. Someone with a crab cake recipe that didn't call for peppers, onions, other fillers and flavors!

Since we just bought some canned crab at Giant Eagle's Seafood Stock Up Day, we decided to try making crab cakes. My first time ever making crab cakes!
We needed bread crumbs for both the crab cakes & a chicken-rice bake that we were planning to make, so we took the last 8 slices of white bread from the freezer, toasted them in the toaster, cooled them on a cooling rack, and then pulsed them in the food processor.

Then we gathered our crab cake ingredients:We cut the recipe in 1/3 since we were using just 1 can of crab. It's so simple - just measure everything out and dump it into a bowl, gently mix, and then form into balls. We used an ice cream scoop to get uniform crab scoops.
Mmm these looked so good and I kept sneaking tiny tastes of the crab bits that flaked off until SP reminded me that I have a sensitive stomach and that the crab mixture contained raw egg. Oops.Time to fry them. We fried 3 at a time, not one at a time, in a bit of olive oil & butter. Soon, the smell of sizzling crab wafted through the house.We ever so carefully & gently flipped them over:Then they baked in the oven at 350 for about 10 minutes. Finally, they were ready to eat! We each ate 1.5 crab cakes. Here's a photo of the inside of the one we cut in half:A thing of beauty -- just crab and parsley. No pepper chunks, no onion chunks. We did not serve them with tartar sauce or lemon wedges.

Along with the crab cakes, we ate the ground cherries. We peeled off the husks, washed them, and ate them like blueberries. They do have a faint fruit taste, though it's hard to pin down if it's strawberry or pineapple or something else.We also had some of the Fully Loaded Cheesy Potato Soup and a mixture of wilted spinach & kale with red pepper alongside our crab cakes.A delicious meal.

For crab cake recipe please see Pittsburgh Hot Plate's post 'Crab Cakes, The Right Way' here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fully Loaded Cheesy Potato Soup

I wanted soup this week. This is unusual for me since normally I am not a huge fan of soup. As I thought about soup, I remembered that once upon a time, I made an asparagus & potato soup. So I started googling asparagus & potato soup recipes. Then I got side tracked into lots of potato soup recipes. Potato & Ham. Potato & Cheese. Potato & Shrimp. And finally, the one that really grabbed my attention: Fully Loaded Cheesy Potato Soup.

I think it was the cheese, beer, and Worcestershire that drew me to it. Saturday afternoon I gathered the ingredients and chopped the vegetables. I used the celery from last week's CSA and it was the slimmest celery I've ever seen!! It was cute, if celery can be called cute.Once the veggies were chopped, it was time to start making the soup.Like my Photoshop attempts?!! I've been experimenting in Photoshop, trying to add captions, trying to make a collage of photos. I have no how to manual, I've never taken a class, and I never bother clicking on help. I just keep mucking around until I get something sort of close to what I wanted. Note to self: next time, don't bold the text under the photos. I was too lazy and frankly, a little Photoshopped out, to try to unbold the text. You'll just have to deal with the fuzzy, bold text and other odd photoshopping creations as I continue to self-teach myself!

The final step in making this soup: enjoy. The soup can be topped with bacon and/or sour cream and/or chives. Our sour cream looked funny so we tossed it. We didn't feel like cooking bacon just to garnish the soup. But I did sprinkle on some chives. This soup is delicious!!! I can taste the beer, and beer & cheddar cheese is a terrific combination. The hot sauce adds a bit of heat and the Worcestershire adds that extra zing to it. I like that it's pureed - so nice and smooth and creamy. Yum! I realize it's not super healthy with the milk & cheese, but it sure is tasty and comforting!

Fully Loaded Cheesy Potato Soup

4 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup whole milk
1 (12-ounce) bottle light-bodied beer
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 cups grated extra-sharp Cheddar (about 8 ounces)
Dash hot sauce
Dash Worcestershire
Sour cream, for topping
4 slices bacon, cooked crisp, for topping
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, for topping

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and saute in butter until the vegetables begin to soften, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle the flour into the pan and continue to stir for 2 minutes to toast the flour. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Gradually whisk in the stock, then the milk and the beer. Stir in the potatoes and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the soup until the potato is tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Return the soup to low heat. Add the cheese a handful at a time, stirring until melted and smooth after each addition. Season the soup, to taste, with hot sauce, Worcestershire, and salt and pepper.

Divide the soup among bowls and top with sour cream, crisp bacon and chopped chives.

Recipe from Food Network, Down Home with the Neelys

Monday, October 25, 2010

Spice Spritz Cookies

We were supposed to bake these cookies last Thursday evening for the Halloween party that we were supposed to go to last Saturday. SP's work had other plans for us...

He had to work late Thursday, got home late, and was on call the rest of the night. Since he was going to be on call all day Saturday, which meant we couldn't go anywhere because if there was a problem, he had to log in within 5-10 minutes to try to fix it, Friday night turned into errand/shopping night.

But cookies are yummy and so even without a party to attend and friends to share them with, we decided to bake them Saturday afternoon. While SP showered, I gathered the ingredients/equipment and measured out the ingredients.These cookies were inspired by the pumpkin disk in the new cookie press (specifically a Wilton Cookie Pro Ultra II Cookie Press). I've been waiting since my bridal shower for the chance to break out the new press and make pumpkin shaped spritz. Originally, I wanted to make pumpkin flavored pumpkin spritz cookies, but turns out we didn't have that can of pumpkin I thought we had. Instead, we made Spice Spritz Cookies.

First step: cream together the spices, sugar, butter, and egg. It smelled so good from the cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg.Then blend in the flour. We used a mixer to get most of the flour incorporated then finished using a wooden spoon.Then it was time to spritz! The new press is a dream compared to the old one that broke last Christmas. I could not use the old press. I just couldn't press it and have the cookie land properly on the cookie sheet. I didn't actually try this press - SP was in charge of pressing while I sprinkled and baked and then put them on cooling racks. But he says the new press is amazingly easy.

In spite of the supposed ease, there were a few issues with the pumpkin disk: sometimes the stem of the pumpkin wouldn't form and we had stemless pumpkins or they just came out a little mangled:I sprinkled on the orange sugar and put them in the 375 degree oven. As we have found with most spritz cookie recipes, ours bake in significantly less time than the recipe says. This time, they took just 7-8 minutes, not 10-14 minutes. I also got to use my new silicone cookie spatula!It's small and cute and a great size for small cookies, but I did find the feeling of using a silicone spatula a bit odd. It felt different as I scooped off the cookies. But it's a lot more maneuverable between the cookies, and other cookies didn't get inadvertently dented or smushed as I tried to scoop off another cookie.

Here are 4 pumpkin shaped spice spritz cookies, waiting to be devoured. Of course we had to taste some (and photograph some). It's quality control.These are yummy! Terrific spice taste. I can taste the cloves most, but also can pick up the cinnamon and nutmeg. These are not as crisp as SP's Christmas spritz, but that's fine with me since I don't like super crisp cookies. But they are not a soft spritz either - there's definitely a bit of crispness.

What fun would a food blog be without photos of the mangled mistakes?Those ones didn't come out of the press nicely. They look appropriately Halloween creepy, right?!

These ones are missing their stems and just look like... well, a spritz cookie:Here's the 'pumpkin patch,' as I am calling the container of cookies:I think we got about 6-7 dozen cookies from this recipe. Spritz cookies are small. It certainly doesn't look like we got 6-7 dozen cookies. And it's way too easy to eat 6 at a time - they're bite sized. It's almost like eating chips!

Spice Spritz Cookies

1 cup butter or margarine
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon, ground
1/2 tsp nutmeg, ground
1/2 tsp allspice, ground
1/2 tsp ginger, ground
1/4 tsp clove, ground
1/8 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour

Preheat oven to 375 deg F. Cream together butter, sugar, egg spices and salt. Blend in flour. Following the manufacturers' directions, load dough into cookie press. Press shapes onto ungreased baking sheet, spacing 2" apart. Note: cookie press works best if dough is at room temperature. Bake cookies in center of oven for 10-14 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Source: The Guenther House website