Category Archives: Cooking

To a Tea

I post so much about tea that I thought I would expound on it because, well, because I can.

I did a tea portion of a class before a formal Leather dinner and it was, apparently, a revelation to a lot of people, so maybe it will have some value here, too.

Tea is a lovely beverage.  It is the second most consumed drink in the world, after water.

Experts say tea provides as many disease-fighting flavonoids antioxidants as fruits or vegetables.

Antioxidants are naturally occurring chemicals that promote a healthier immune system.

White tea contains the most antioxidants, followed by green tea. Black tea undergoes a fermentation process, which severely decreases its antioxidant content (though it still has more than coffee).

Additionally, tea contains a lot of other natural compounds that promote health, including vitamins C, D and K, amino acids and fluoride.

Tea has a long history of ceremony around it.  According to the records, tea was first introduced to Japan from China in the early ninth century by Japanese Buddhist monks.

According to the evolution of the tea ceremony, which you can read in its entirety here, “Powdered tea is used only in the Japanese tea ceremony (chanoyu), which was created in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in the midst of Japan’s samurai-dominated medieval age (1185-1568). It is green powdered tea, which is scooped into a rather large bowl and whipped into a frothy, bitter-tasting drink with hot water poured from a kettle.”

While coffee has some of the same health benefits as tea, most health professionals agree that more than two or three cups a day is excessive and is bad for your teeth, reduces the flow of blood to your heart, can cause headaches, indigestion and constipation, and also increases blood pressure. Coffee has even been linked to greater frequencies of sterility in men.

So, in general, tea is better for you than coffee.

My information is from here, but basically all tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. What makes each tea different is the way it has been processed.

Tea can be classified according to the amount of processing that goes into the final product.

Black tea goes through the most processing, and is actually fermented.

White tea leaves are the youngest and most tender leaves that are much more rare because they are only harvested at certain times of the year. After harvest, the young tea leaves are fired immediately before any oxidation can occur which results sweeter and naturally mild product.

Because of the use of only select leaves, white tea tends to be more expensive than other tea.

Green tea is produced by preventing oxidation from occurring. The harvested leaves are initially steamed, which stops the fermentation process, before being fired. As it has been for centuries, green tea is the beverage of choice in many Asian countries.

Studies indicate that green tea may be more healthful than other varieties as well.

Let me make a statement that for me, herbal tea is not tea.

It is, in fact, an anathema and an abomination.  Ick.

I like flavored teas, but I’m particular about the flavor.  No mint.  No apple.  No pumpkin.  No chocolate.

I’m lukewarm about vanilla.

I like berry flavors, though not usually strawberry.  I like citrus, but I prefer grapefruit over orange.

Earl Gray is disgusting.  Might as well pour perfume into a perfectly good pot of tea.

Decent tea is worth the price.

If you don’t drink tea but you’d like to have tea around for others, buy a tin of decent English or Irish breakfast tea.

Notice I said tin, not box.

Tea gets stale much faster in a cardboard box, or a paper envelope.

I am quite fond of The Republic of Tea brand.  They run about $10-$14 for 50 tea bags or the equivalent of loose tea.  My longstanding favorite tea is their Blackberry Sage, which I have been drinking for, literally, more than 20 years, and a new variety which I’m also liking a LOT, a Rose Petal tea, with black tea blended with rose petals and buds.

It’s sold in a tin with a tight-fitting lid, meaning that the tea will stay fresh, even if you don’t use it for a long time, and it’s a good quality tea.

If you like coffee, you know that if you come to my house and I offer you coffee, you know that if I pull out an old bag of cheap coffee from the cupboard, one that’s not been sealed or stored in the freezer, or, worse yet, a jar of cheap instant coffee, you’re probably not going to get a decent cup of coffee.

You’ll likely say thanks but no thanks, and have a soda or a glass of water.

If you pull a half open box of Lipton tea from the cupboard, boil a mug of water in the microwave and dump the tea bag in it, then bring it to me with nowhere to get rid of the tea bag, I’m not going to get a very good cup of tea, either.

Water has to be boiled over a fire.  I don’t know what happens to water when you boil it in a microwave, but it does something.  It makes the water flat or something.  It’s disgusting.

I *love* an electric tea kettle.  I use this one, and yes, I know it’s expensive.  It’s worth every cent.

We use the tea kettle on average at least three or four times a day.  It boils water fast and, in my view, the best thing is, it turns itself off and I don’t have to think abut it again.  If you let water boil and boil, it loses oxygen and the tea isn’t nearly as good.  Like in a microwave, it tastes flat.

I boil water in the tea pot for pasta, too.  It’s faster and more efficient, and you KNOW slave drew is all about efficient use of energy.

If you wouldn’t drink your water in a glass with ice, then you probably don’t want to drink it boiled for tea, either.  I wouldn’t, anyway.

Louisville is very lucky, we have very good water, I don’t bother to filter it, it tastes fine straight from the tap.  If yours doesn’t, then you need to at least use water that’s gone through a filter.

Technically, green and white teas should be steeped with water JUST before it boils.  I do use fully boiled for all of it, unless I happen to be standing by the tea kettle.

Tea made in a mug is usually too strong.  We have three teapots, because we might have a pot of black tea and a pot of green all going at once.  One teabag makes one pot of tea.

Before you pour the boiling water in the teapot, you should rinse it out with warm water, so it’s not a cold pot.  You shouldn’t make tea in a silver or metal pot, because it will taste metallic.

Black tea is usually steeped for three to four minutes, green and white for one or two, but I’m really not a purist about that.  It depends on how strong the tea is.

If you’re using a tea bag, you’re supposed to take it out after that length of time, though I don’t bother most of the time.  If it’s very strong, or very black, I do take it out because it gets bitter.

If you’re a real tea drinker, too, you probably have a tea cozy, to put over the tea pot to keep it warm.

We have two.  One for black, one for green.

We do a lot of loose tea, too, and because of that, we do a lot of blends.  We have three or four tea infusers, the little cup of plastic and mesh that fits down in the pot to hold the tea leaves.  We use about a teaspoon of tea for a pot, maybe a bit more, depending.

I don’t like small cups, I like a big mug,  People who like big mugs tend to not want to refill it as often, people who like small cups really often hate cold tea.

I really dislike coffee, always have.  I have my own travel mugs for tea that are not EVER used for coffee, ever, ever, ever.  Once you’ve put coffee in a travel cup, it always smells of coffee.

I can’t make tea in a hotel room using the coffee pot, either, the water tastes disgusting.

I’ve been known to take a tea kettle with me to a hotel room.

I will warm a cup of tea in the microwave, but I don’t boil it.  I prefer not to have to, but I won’t turn my nose up at it.

Now, have I totally intimidated you so you’ll never make me tea?

Christmas Eve

So, it is the night before Christmas.

slave drew got home from his lake house, I made dinner for us tonight – pasta with salad and rolls – and also a Mediterranean Fish Casserole and Orzo Pilaf for tomorrow’s meal with friends.  I’ll make a pumpkin pie during the day tomorrow.

drew opened one of his gifts from me, a book on insects.  If you know slave drew, you know the thing he likes the most is information.  He’ll pour over it and in six weeks know more than is really appropriate about insects.

The puppies got to open one of their presents, some greenie bones.  They have a couple more gifts under the tree for tomorrow, but if I told what they were and the puppies happened to read my blog, then the surprise would be ruined.

We ate some of the candy I was given yesterday, until I made drew move them into another room lest I eat them all.

We are happily home until dinner tomorrow with friends, though if slave drew actually stays home all day, I’ll be surprised.  There will be, I imagine, recycling that simply must be done, or a run to Starbucks, if Starbucks is open on Christmas day.

Disliking coffee, I have no knowledge of or interest in the answer to that.

When I was a kid, we would open one gift on Christmas eve.  Over the years, sometimes I’ve done that, sometimes not.

We didn’t really have a lot of other traditions.  We usually did a jigsaw puzzle over the holidays, played cards.  I learned to play Pinochle young and we played it a lot.

I don’t remember what Christmas dinner was, probably a ham, given that my mother didn’t eat poultry of any kind, or fish.

There were no traditions of an ornament every year, or pancakes for dinner on Christmas eve, or a day watching movies in pajamas.

Our Christmas tree was always a pinyon pine, the state tree of Nevada.  Pinyon pines are one of the pitchiest trees in the world, it seems.  We never bought one, that I remember – poor, remember?

Our tree was usually one from a classroom.  Do schools still do that, have a tree in the classroom?  Probably not, but we did then, and by the time school let out, there were trees for free if you wanted them, so that was usually our tree.

1960 - Christmas - CB Colman with Poodle

1962 - Christmas Tree - CB Colman 1965 - Christmas - CB Colman 01

I looked through my photos and these are nearly all the photos I have of my childhood Christmases.  There were maybe three or four photos more, but not from other years.

The thing that strikes me is that I am rarely smiling in the photos.

The first one was when I was about three.  Family friends – Aunt Bess and Uncle Charlie – had given me a ceramic poodle, with rabbit fur for a coat and a rhinestone collar.  I had it for years.  I don’t know what ever happened to it.  It was a very frivolous gift, the kind I never got from my mother.

You can see our wild Jetson-esque curtains in the next photo.  I was about six.  I don’t remember anything I got, other than a baby doll that another family friend, Aunt Rose, had given me.

There’s another photo showing it, but not the cool curtains, which I’m sure were second hand from someone.

The last photo is probably the Christmas I remember best.  I don’t know if my mother happened into some extra money or what, but it was the only Christmas I ever remember a gift from my mother that was really special.

I’d seen the doll in the local variety store, the only one in the town, really, where you could buy toys.  I remember going in to look at it weekly, knowing absolutely that I would never have it.

It was some price so beyond the realm of what was possible that it never honestly occurred to me that I would get it.  I don’t remember how much, maybe $20?  But this was the early 1960’s, $20 was a lot and my mother was not the sort to sacrifice what she wanted in order to give her children special surprises.  Not in her nature.

So, I would go and look at the doll, and never ask for it, because I knew I couldn’t have it, so what was the point?

Then one week, two or three before Christmas, it was gone, and I knew it had been bought and I’d never see it again.  I remember feeling bleak about it, even that young, because at least I could visit her before, now she was gone forever.

And then, on Christmas, there was a box, a large one, and the doll was in it.  There wasn’t much else, it wasn’t really a big Christmas, though I remember the container of Felix the Cat bubble bath you can see there.

I remember being kind of stunned.  Note the expression isn’t one of a child jumping up and down with excitement, or gleeful.

I had the doll for years, she wore some of my baby clothes, and I made clothes for her.  I kept her in pristine condition – I took care of my toys because I knew that there’d not be replacements if I ruined them.

So, that’s my memories.  Tomorrow will be busy, and I hope joyous for all of you.

I hope that you and yours are also comfortably ensconced somewhere.

And for all of us, I wish for peace.

Cookie Insanity

I am a crazy woman.

This is what I baked today:

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They are, beginning at the triangular shaped plate and going clockwise around the outside of the table, Chocolate Covered Nuts, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Cheery Cherry Cookies, Rosemary Shortbread, Lucye’s Persimmon Cookies, Peanut Butter Dog Cookies, Confectioner Sugar Cookies, Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies, Cranberry White Chocolate Chip, Santa’s Whiskers, Buttery Brown Sugar Slices, and Pomegranate Butter Cookies.

The three in the middle, left to right, are Lucye’s Peanut Butter Cookies, Lucye’s Oatmeal Craisin Cookies, and Plantation Chews.

Yes, that is fourteen varieties of cookies, and Chocolate Covered Nuts.  I baked at least three dozen of every variety, meaning 14 times 3.  That’s at least 42 dozen, and that would be something over 500 cookies.

A woman obsessed.

Now, to be clear, I also put together 15 cookie trays this morning.  A half dozen have been delivered to friends and neighbors, some will go to the party I’ll be going to tonight, and the rest of that batch will go to the SIG group party tomorrow.

There are still unbaked cookies for most of the varieties in the fridge, though I have baked all the pomegranate and the rosemary shortbreads.

I am done making cookies, too, unless something irresistible strikes my fancy, but tomorrow the cookie baking supplies will get put away – I leave things out while I’m making cookies regularly, but now that I’m done, it can be put away.

I’ve used almost all the flour I had, and there are a few other things that need to be replenished.

So, I made dog cookies and baked the Confectioner Sugar Cookies and the Rosemary Shortbread, and made Chocolate Covered Nuts.

The dog cookies are easy.

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Peanut Butter Dog Treats

3 cups whole wheat flour
½ cup rolled oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ cups milk
1 ¼ cup peanut butter
1 Tablespoon molasses or honey

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine flour, oats and baking powder in a large bowl.  Mix the milk, peanut butter and molasses or honey until smooth.  Add dry ingredients.  Knead dough with hands.  It will be stiff.  Roll out to ¼” thickness and cut into shapes.

Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.  Turn oven off and leave in oven until cool.  Store in airtight container.  Makes about 3 – 4 dozen treats.

I baked the Confectioner Sugar Cookie, too.  I made some slight adjustments, nothing much, but I did add a healthy dose of almond extract.  I think these would actually be a nice basic dough – it suggested using them for pinwheels or checkerboard cookies, but the dough didn’t seem that firm to me to make that doable.  But the cookie is a nice, light, sugar cookie.

I decorated them with dragees when I baked them.  There was a period of some years when you could not find dragees.  They apparently have enough heavy metal – lead – in them that they had been outlawed.  Bear in mind, you’d be eating an enormous amount of dragees if you consumed a tablespoon of them, and they had only a trace to begin with.

They must have decided a few years ago that they do not represent of horrific public health threat, because they’re available again, and I am all in favor of that.

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Confectioner Sugar Cookies
Makes: 3 dozen

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Cream of Tartar

Cream butter. Add sugar. Beat until light. Add egg and vanilla. Beat until fluffy. Add dry ingredients. Stir just until mixed. Refrigerate. Roll, cut and bake for 6 minutes at 350. (ungreased cookie sheet) Cool, frost and decorate.

Variations: Spread unbaked shapes with egg white and decorate with sprinkles-then bake. Add 1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans here in Texas). Roll in 1″ balls. Bake, cool and toss in a paper lunch sack with confectioner’s sugar to coat.

Roll dough in 1″ balls. Bake, cool and toss in paper bag with sugar/cinnamon mixture to coat.

Add 1 cup of candied fruits to dough. Roll in 1″ balls. Bake and cool.

Divide dough in half. Color dough and use dough as basis of pinwheel cookies or checkerboard cookies.

I baked my Rosemary Shortbread.  The rosemary was freshly snipped, and I used some vanilla sugar around the edges.  I’d originally planned to roll them out, but they never reached a consistency that you could do that with while I still had the ambition, so they became roll cookies, and that’s just fine, too.

They are NOT sweet cookies at all.  More savory.  I imagine they’d be really good with cheese added, too, Parmesan, perhaps.

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Rosemary Shortbread Cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, chilled
1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Process first 4 ingredients in a food processor until mixture forms a ball.  Roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut with a 2-inch cookie cutter; place on lightly greased baking sheets.

Bake at 325° for 18 to 20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Sprinkle with granulated sugar. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Finally, I made Chocolate Covered Nuts today.  There isn’t really a recipe for it.  You take the chocolate you find in the grocery labelled as “Almond Bark.”

Melt it in the microwave, I use a glass measuring cup.  I used about three and a half squares of it, but I’ve no idea how much that is.  Maybe three or four ounces.

I took a can of salted mixed nuts, the “deluxe” kind that has less than 50% peanuts.  Dump them in your melted chocolate, and mix it up with a fork.

Drop them by spoonfuls onto wax paper.  I let them set for a few minutes, then tuck them in the fridge for a few minutes to set them.

Once they’re set, they don’t re-melt unless they get fairly warm.  It made about 48 of them, but you could make more or less, obviously, depending on sizes, etc.

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And that is, I think, mostly the end of my foray into cookie blogging.  That’s not to say that I might not post recipes in the future, but I think I have been an over-achiever in terms of cookie making.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the recipes, and you are all welcome to take them and try them.  If you publish them somewhere, I”d like a link back here, but nothing else.  Beyond that, I only hope you enjoy them.

Some of you reading this will actually get cookie trays, so now you have the recipes for them, too.

I have a party tonight, and I’ve been up since very early, so getting this done before I go will be a very good thing.

My oldest Scottie, Belle, turns 11 today.  Thankfully, she seems to act and feel like a pup most of the time.

Have a great day.

Not Cookies

I think we’re all a bit in shock because of the shooting today.

Perhaps the positive that can and will come from this horrible incident will be that we as a country will finally stop listening to the idiocy of the NRA and the Cold-Dead-Hands people and develop rational and enforced gun control legislation.

There’s nothing to say, really, other than what we all are feeling, that this is a tragedy of unimaginable horror.  I will keep the families of those affected in whatever way in my thoughts, and I hope you will do the same.

So, I came home today from getting my nails done, and made two batches of which I have baked none yet.  Tomorrow will be baking.  I made today a Rosemary Shortbread, which is likely to be almost savory, but sounded very interesting, and a batch of Confectioner’s Sugar Cookie, to which I added a fair dose of almond extract.

I’m not sure if I’ll make them as drop cookies or rolls, but tomorrow they’ll be baked, and I plan to make some dog cookies, too. And chocolate covered nuts, possibly the easiest thing in the world to make.

That will bring the total to 15 varieties of cookies and candy this year.  I think that’s my biggest variety.  Tomorrow will be a baking day, to get the cookies made for some of the baskets that will likely get delivered tomorrow.

I got photos printed, too, and my Christmas cards are on my desk, waiting to be written, which I will start after I finish this.

What I did make and complete today, though, was a batch of Black-Eyed Pea Salsa.

Let me say I don’t like this recipe.  I can eat it, and may have a but I think it’s pretty blah, frankly. I will have a spoonful to make sure it’s “good,” but it’s not one I eat much of.

The recipe came from slave drew’s mother originally, but over the years, I have changed it.

So, you might ask, if I don’t like it, why make it?

Because, I answer, everyone else loves it.

First, I don’t like black-eyed peas.  Never did.  I’m not overly fond of cold beans of any kind, either.

However, I have honestly never made it to take to something, and I do often make it, that I haven’t been asked for the recipe.  I usually end up sending the remains home with someone who has fallen in love with it, and emailing them the recipe.

My friend, Ms Kendra, LOVES it.  She can eat it like a soup, almost.

My friend marsha LOVES it.  Same for her.

slave drew likes it a lot, and it’s a good thing to bring to potluck suppers because it’s vegetarian – you could make it vegan if you wanted, by eliminating the sour cream, too, or adding a vegan variety – and because it’s beans, it’s a good protein option.

It can be a sort of side dish, a dip thing, or you can eat it as more of a main dish.  You could probably serve it on a bed of lettuce, too, slightly drained, as a salad.

You also can do anything you want to the recipe in terms of adding or subtracting.  I always add garbanzo beans, and often black beans, too.  I like the variety in beans.  Serve it with tortilla chips, and it is SLIGHTLY better if you make it a day before, but if you make it on the way out the door, no one but you will know.
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Black-Eyed Pea Salsa

2 – 15 oz. cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
2 medium tomatoes chopped
1 cup Italian dressing
1 cup chopped green pepper (I don’t like green pepper, so I left it out)
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
4 green onions sliced
minced garlic (your guess of how much you like…lots!)

Tortilla chips

In a bowl, combine the peas, tomatoes, green pepper, red onion, green onion, garlic.  Combine Italian dressing, sour cream and parsley.  Add to pea mixture; toss to coat.  Cover and refrigerate 24 hours.   Serve with the chips.

Another Cookie Post

So, I made it another cookie making evening.

I keep meaning to mention, too, in the vein of making your own vanilla extract, it’s also quite simple to make vanilla sugar.

Want the recipe?

Take some sugar and put it in a jar with a tight fitting lid.  However much you want, probably between a cup and three. Take a vanilla bean or two, slice it lengthwise in half, and drop it in.  If your jar is too small, cut them in pieces.  Close the jar.

You have now made the sugar.  You can let it sit however long you want, but probably at least a week.  It’s lovely on cereal or fruit or in tea or coffee.  When you’ve used half of it or so, add more sugar.  Every six months or so, add another bean.

How complicated is that?

So, anyway, I made three kinds of cookies tonight.  I made my mother’s persimmon cookies.  I imagine if you didn’t have persimmon, you could use pumpkin and it would be pretty similar, if not quite the same.

The cookies taste very old-fashioned, in that they are very spicy, the kind of cookie your grandmother might have made.  I have only made them a few times because I’ve only had persimmons a few times.  They turned out well, and slave drew was fond of them.

The are the small, darker cookies on the bottom of the plate.

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Lucye’s Persimmon Cookies

1 cup persimmon pulp
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 egg, beaten
2 cups flour
1 cup broken nutmeats
1 cup raisins
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream together butter and sugar; add pulp, baking soda and egg. Add flour, nuts, raisins and spices.  Heap by spoonful on a greased baking sheet and bake in a 375 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes.  Makes 6-8 dozen, depending on size.

The next two I made were new recipes, ones that I had not made before.  One was more successful than the other.  I made a

Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
Makes about 4 1/2 dozen cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2-3 Tablespoons orange juice
2 teaspoons orange zest
3 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
1 1/2 cups chopped cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Orange Icing

Heat oven to 375.  Mix sugars and shortening.  Stir in milk, orange zest and egg.  Stir in remaining dry ingredients.  Add cranberries and nuts and mix well.  Drop by rounded teaspoonful about 2 inches apart onto greased cookie sheet, bake until light brown, 10-12 minutes.  Cool; dip in orange icing.  Makes 4-6 dozen cookies

Orange Icing
Stir together 2 cups powdered sugar and 1 teaspoons orange zest, ½  teaspoon vanilla and 2 to 4 tablespoons of orange juice until smooth and of desired consistency.

Those are the ones on the left with, surprise, icing on them.  slave drew was quite fond of these, and I suspect they will be a returning Christmas cookie.  It uses basically a bag of cranberries, but be sure to pick over them a bit.  The mix of the tart berries and the orange is nice.  I actually used an tangelo because it was what I had.

Finally, I made one that probably won’t make again, not that it’s bad, it’s just too sweet for either of our tastes, or at least, too sweet without much else in there to cut it.

In the end, I just don’t much like white chocolate chips, and maybe now I can remember that.

Again, they weren’t BAD, if you like pretty sweet cookies, these are fine, but I’ll make a note on the recipe that they were really too sweet for us.

White Chocolate Chip-Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups uncooked regular oats
2 cups (12 ounces) white chocolate morsels
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugars, beating well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until yellow disappears after each addition. Stir in vanilla.
Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Stir in oats, morsels, and pecans. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto greased baking sheets.
Bake at 350° for 12 minutes. Cool on baking sheets 3 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes 4-6 dozen cookies.

We have the Special Interest Group meeting this weekend, and it will be a Christmas party gift exchange thing.  I have another party on Saturday, one I’ve gone to for years that’s also a benefit for one of the local AIDs hostels.  I have to make something to take, and if this continues to be as much cooking blog as kinky blog, maybe that will get posted too, who knows.

I Heard a Bird Sing

I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.

“We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,”
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.

So said Oliver Herford,

I memorized that poem as a kid, and I have thought of it every single December since, as well as other times, too.  Today was the first cold day we’ve had, the first day I actually wore a coat out during the day to run errands.

Actually, yesterday was a bit more of a dark of December kind of day, today was brighter.

I made no cookies today.  I did look at cookie recipes and got some cookie ingredients.

One of the places I looked was an old cookbook I had picked up at a yard sale somewhere, the kind that was some mother or grandmother’s COOKBOOK, the one where she stuck the recipes she really wanted to keep, the ones written in various hands, or with the notation of who had given the recipe.

There were some very early Weight Watchers menus which seem to have adopted the policy of making food so unappealing that no one would want to eat it and you would thus lose weight.

While this may seem like an unlikely theory, it’s the only one I can come up with to explain recipes such as Liver Royale (boiled chicken livers with garlic, onion and a dill pickle made into a sort of pate), Sweet and Sour Liver (liver with a sauce made of pineapple, vinegar, tomato juice and artificial sweetener), and Liver Chop Suey (cooked with celery and cabbage, on a bed of bean sprouts.)

And I like liver.

Not THAT liver, but I like liver.

And then there are the recipes where they are trying to make you think it’s going to be something good.  Cheese Danish is actually cottage cheese with cinnamon and artificial sweetener broiled on toast.  The Popcorn Bowl is actually sliced green peppers, cucumbers, celery and chunks of cabbage, which you can “nibble to your delight.”

Then there are just the dated recipes, like Barbecue Tuna, Chess Pie – Oh My!, or Six Cans Casserole, made of cans of cream of celery, mushroom and shrimp soup, with a can of crab meat, shrimp and mushrooms, served over rice.

One thing I found that I enjoyed was three menus from Christmas Coffees, some kind of ladies luncheon that had a typed menu with recipes and the name of the people making it.

There was a tea or coffee punch, or a rosé wine punch, always a country ham with biscuits or rolls and then very civilized luncheon foods like crab meat dip and melon balls soaked in wine.  They are dated 1966, 1968 and 1973.

There are recipes pulled out of magazines and newspapers, including one from 1974 which advertises a two-carat solitaire ring for $6,000

It amazes me that someone would put this in a yard sale, because surely those recipes meant something to the family, but obviously not.

My favorite thing, though, was this poem, written in painfully neat script on a large index card.  I began with a poem, I’ll end with one, too, though “poem” is a bit of a stretch.

“A favorite recipe for a starry-eyed bride,
Who has, it is told, captured Somerset’s pride.
I wish them the blessings which life can bestow
And hope they’ll return to ‘ole Louisville’s depot.

We’ll miss ’em while living in yonder peach state,
And an unexpected visit might be this couple’s fate.
If chance we don’t see them in many a day,
We’ll listen for news of triplets in May.”

More Cookies

So, today was the day to bake my peanut butter cookies.

I have been baking these cookies all my adult life.  I’ve no idea where my mother got the recipe, I’ve never thought about asking her that until this moment, and it’s way too late for that.

My mother had good qualities and bad, though I tend to remember the bad ones.  She was smart and educated, which was good.  She was not pleasant, which was bad.

When she liked something I did, I got that from her.  When she didn’t, I was just like my father.

She never told me I was stupid.  She frequently told me I was lazy, and often told me I was fat and not pretty, though she rarely used those words.  The message was there, however.

She loved poetry and passed on a love of it to me.  She hated cleaning and was perfectly fine living in clutter of unimaginable proportions.

I use some of her recipes and have since I learned to cook, but she never taught me to cook.  I taught myself.

On that note, however, here are her peanut butter cookies.  They are the best ones I’ve ever had, crunchy and crumbly around the edges, soft and a bit chewy in the center.

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Lucye’s Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
5 cups flour
1 cup oil
2 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
2 cup peanut butter
4 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder

Mix peanut butter, shortening, sugar and eggs thoroughly.  Blend in flour, soda and baking powder.  Cover and chill.  Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Shape dough into 1″ balls.  Place 3″ apart on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Flatten with a fork dipped in flour.  Bake 10-12 minutes, or until set, but not hard.  Makes about 6 dozen.

In a maternal sort of vein, I looked through slave drew’s grandmother’s recipe box tonight.  Lots of old recipes, written by hand, recipes that call for a small cream or a pound of confectioner’s sugar.  What it had, though, that I especially liked, was this little thing tucked in the front.

 

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I agree.

 

There were also some dividers I particularly liked, and since I am still fighting a cold and still feel under the weather, I’m going to dazzle you with photos rather than my usual bullshit.

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Cookie Monster

So, I didn’t make a LOT of cookies today, but I did make one new batch and baked three kinds.

First, since someone asked in comments, please steal any recipes you like here.  That’s the point of posting them, isn’t it?

Also, I found this for free in the Kindle edition:  The Blogger’s Cookbook.  It might not be free forever, or even long, but it is free when I post it and there is a free Kindle reading application for phones, computers, iMac items, etc.  Seemed appropriate to post it.

Ok, so, today I baked, among others, Pomegranate Butter Cookies.  I made these last year because I had a pomegranate and why the hell not?

slave drew really liked them, but I found them too salty, almost, so this year I tried again and increased the sugar just a bit, and I am very happy with them.

They’re VERY good, like a shortbread with bits of seed in them.  You’ll pierce the seeds when you cut it, but it won’t matter.

I should also mention that I never use the salt in cookie recipes, unless it’s something there is baking soda or powder in it, too, because that’s often part of the chemical reaction, and even so, I probably only add about a quarter of what the recipe calls for.

I eat very little salt, I rarely cook with it.  It annoys me on cooking shows when you’re instructed to add salt because it “adds flavor.”  No, it adds salt, and that’s not the same.

Ok, so much for that soapbox.  Here’s the picture and that recipe.  The pomegranate are the smaller cookies on the left.

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Pomegranate Butter Cookies
Makes about 4 dozen cookies

1 cup unsalted butter
3/4cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 large pomegranate

Separate pomegranate seeds from pith and peel and dry.
Beat butter until fluffy, then add sugar and salt and cream together.  Add flour in two stages to the butter mixture, mixing thoroughly after each.  Add seeds to batter and mix well by hand to avoid crushing seeds.
Divide the dough into two and roll into 2” wide cylinders, approximately 8” long.  Let chill in freezer for 45 minutes or the fridge for four hours.  Preheat oven to 325.  Slice cookie cylinders into ½ inch thick rounds, turning every six cuts to maintain round shape.  If it becomes too soft, chill again.  Place slices on baking sheets at least one inch apart and back for 12 minutes.  Switch positions of cookie sheets and bake an additional 10-12 minutes or until set.  Remove from oven and leave cookies on sheets to cool.
Finely chopped almonds, pecans or walnuts can also be added after the seeds.
Very pretty for Christmas with red seeds.

The other cookie on the plate is my mother’s Oatmeal Raisin recipe, which I have altered to use Craisins because I like them better and I like the bit of tartness.

My mother was not a good cook, but she had a few really good cookie recipes, including this one.  Her Peanut Butter Cookies are also the best PB cookies I’ve ever had – that nice mix of sandy and chewy.  Those are made, but none have been baked yet.

These are simple cookies, nothing spectacular about them, except they’re really good.  They are, for me, the best oatmeal raisin cookies I’ve ever had.  And no, there’s no typo, my mother’s name was Lucye.

She was born Lucy, but her name had 13 letters and when she was a teenager someone told her it was unlucky, so she added the e to the end.  Our last name is a bit odd, too, an uncommon spelling of a relatively common name which omits an e.  You have no idea of the issues THAT created.

Lucye’s Oatmeal Cookies

4 cups uncooked oatmeal
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cup shortening
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups raisins or Craisins

Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease cookie sheets.  Cream sugar, water, egg, vanilla and shortening together until creamy.  Combine oatmeal, flour, and soda together.  Add dry ingredients and raisins and mix well.  Drop by spoonfuls onto cookies sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes.

So, the other cookie I made is one I made up on the fly because I had a jar of maraschino cherries in my fridge left over from the ice cream social at GLLA and I wanted to use them up, so I took an icebox recipe and added to it.  It’s on the plate below, and they’re really a pretty pink color, but it didn’t come out in photos.  So sorry.

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Cheery Cherry Cookies
Makes 8-10 dozen

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
3 eggs
4 Tablespoons juice from maraschino cherries
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
¾ cup chopped maraschino cherries

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until smooth and creamy.  Add cherry juice and a drop or two of red coloring if desired.  Beat in eggs one at a time until incorporated.  Stir in vanilla.  Add flour mixture and mix well.  Add cherries and mix.  Drop by Place about 2 inches apart onto prepared cookie sheet.  Bake in preheated oven for 12 minutes at 350 until firm to the touch.  Immediately transfer to wire racks to cool.

And now a storm is brewing, so I’m off.  Good night to all.

The Great Cookie Exchange of 2012

Ok, so this has been a dramatic recipe exchange!

Causing me to dither slightly because I was worried I might not be doing what all the cool kids were doing or doing it right and causing other undue stress.

I can still get all dorky about not being one of the crowd.

Anyway, I went to look for a photo – mine are not made though all the stuff for them is on the kitchen counter – and found a couple that were clearly NOT RIGHT.

So, the recipe is called Santa’s Whiskers and they really are slave drew’s favorite.  They have finely chopped candied red cherries and pecans, which represent Santa’s rosy red cheeks and his twinkling brown eyes, and then you form the dough into a log and roll it in coconut so when you slice it the outside has this frame of coconut representing – you guessed it – Santa’s whiskers.

But one of the recipes I saw in looking for the photo calls for GREEN cherries.  What the fuck would THAT represent, his gangrenous foot?  Clearly, they are misinformed about the whole thing.

Even more disturbingly, it appears many of THEIR Santa’s have gangrenous extremities because many of them use green cherries.

Now I have nothing against green cherries.  I’m sure in their own unnatural way, they’re perfectly nice.

But would YOU eat a bowl of green cherries?  I hope not.  I would not.

So, I am laying down the law here.  Santa’s Whiskers do NOT have green cherries in them, regardless of whatever misguided recipe you might find for them.  If your Santa has a green cast, he is either ill or is about to have something fall off and either way, do you want him in your chimney?

Good, I’m glad I settled that.

Now, the thing is, I found one that is perfect, they don’t even look TOO perfect, it could be my desk as a background, had I not gone through all this, you’d never know I hadn’t made these.

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But I didn’t.

But I could have, and here’s how:

1 cup butter flavored shortening, softened
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup red candied cherries – finely chopped
1/2 cup pecans – finely chopped
3/4 cup flaked coconut

In mixing bowl cream together shortening and sugar; blend in milk and vanilla. Stir in flour, cherries and pecans. Form dough into two 8-inch rolls. Roll in flaked coconut to coat outside. Wrap in waxed paper or clear plastic wrap; chill thoroughly. Cut into 1/4-inch slices. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375F until edges are golden, about 12 minutes.

Seriously, when it says finely chopped, it’s not kidding.  If you don’t chop them pretty finely, they make the cookie really hard to cut without it tearing apart.  I also freeze them before I cut them and use a SHARP knife.  But they’re really good cookies.  You could probably use butter, but I use Crisco and it always turns out.

So, now, there you go.

Here’s the list of other folks who are participating today, and remember, people post at different times, so some may be up already, some may hit later today, but check them out.  I intend to.

Advizor54

aisha

Ally

Autumn in jeans  

Beth

Dana

Elysia

Emi J,

Fiona

Greengirl

Hedone

HisLilAngel

Joey

Julia

Jz

Krissy

lil

Linda Long

Little Monkey

mouse (her recipe here, her blog here

Mrs. Soft Bottom

Ms. Constance

Naughty Kitty 

nilla

Penelope

Ronnie

Ryan Beaumont

Sassy

selkie, (her recipe here, her blog here)

Serenity

sin

Striving for Peace

TemptingSweets

Tom

Veronica