Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Recap-We Survived!

This year was a particularly monumental Christmas for me.  As many of you know it was my very first Christmas married, which is amazing, but the Holiday pressures can also amplify when its your first Christmas together.  We spent Christmas Eve over at Mr. Love from Scratchs' parent's home, which was lovely.  We were there with his siblings and their spouses and kids, so it was a crowd.  In my own family I like to think of myself as the "fun" or "cool" aunt.  My nieces and nephews all tell me I am too, not sure if they are sincere or buttering me up for a treat, probably the latter since I am a total pushover with my  nieces and nephews who I adore.

As I have mentioned before I have all brothers, and I love having all brothers.  When I was little I used to always ask Santa for a baby sister, I got a baby brother instead, thus ended my fascination with Santa.  No really I used to always want a sister, but my mother told me as a little girl that it just wasn't in the cards.  I went on for years totally happy in my "only girl" status, (yes I was indulged and well-loved)  my brothers say spoiled, but really what do they know?  As we all got older it occurred to me that someday my brothers would get married and my "only girl" status would be obliterated as new daughter in laws joined the family.  As the first got married I still got to stay on my pedestal for awhile, and enjoyed that status, though I was fiercely protective of my brothers and didn't want just anyone joining my family, mercifully so my brothers have excellent taste so I didn't have to go "Mommie Dearest".  However as soon as grand kids came into the mix, I fell completely off the pedestal, there is no competing with a beautiful grand baby, so I don't even try.  I do however try very hard to be a favorite Aunt.  One of my greatest joys in life are actually watching my brothers with their children.  I never would have expected them to be the great fathers that they are.  My brothers who made fun of my dance lessons and girly stuff, I now see playing with their own daughters and actually enjoying it.   I have been very blessed that as my family expanded it only got better and better, and I adore every niece and nephew I have, and am very blessed to have them in my life.

So onto my new family that I have joined into.  Mr. Love from Scratch has all sisters, no brothers, so the total opposite of me.   I was a little worried about how the transition would go.  After all it's kinda like being the new kid at school again, you never really know how its going to go. This was my first Holiday with the family and it went really well.  We all brought side dishes and desserts to add to the turkey and ham that was the main dish.  I brought several things including a spinach artichoke dip (always a crowd pleaser), a green salad with berries and red wine vinaigrette, fudge, and a strawberry cheesecake dessert.  I also made gingerbread dough and royal icing so I could make gingerbread cookies with my new little nieces.  Maybe with the oldest of the bunch only being four, it may not have been the smartest idea I have ever had, but it was a lot of fun, messy, really, really messy, but a lot of fun.  The girls were excited to leave their creations out for Santa's Visit.  We had fun, and the girls loved decorating, and also having the dog lick the icing brush between cookies (It took me a few minutes to realize that was going on), so Santa's cookies are indeed very special this year.

Christmas is always a time of food and family, and I am very blessed with the family that I have.  I wish I had taken photos of the finished cookies, in all the mess I forgot to, but this recipe is a definite keeper and will help you create as many memories as we did with it.

Gingerbread Cookie Recipe
Ingredients
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup shortening, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup molasses
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 cups flour
Directions
Sift together the flour, baking powder, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon; set aside.

  Mix together the shortening, molasses, brown sugar, water, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients, until they are completely absorbed. Divide dough into 3 pieces, pat down to 1 1/2 inch thickness, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Then roll & cut into desired shapes.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven @ 350 F. Enjoy the memories to come!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

So Many Different Cookbooks, So Little Time, What I Have Been Reading Wednesday.

Yay!  Its another cookbook review, it seems like ages since I did my last one.  Cook Like a Rock Star is a book that I was really excited to see come into print.  Now I have to disclose my bias, I am a huge Anne Burrell fan, I love her way of cooking and I love her way of teaching and direction.  Some of us have seen her on Worst Cooks in America, Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, or most recently, The Next Iron Chef, Super Chefs, which incidentally I was completely rooting for her to win.

One of the reasons why I love her programs so much is because I think she has a skill that a lot of TV chefs do not have, and that is the skill of being a master teacher.  Don't get me wrong, there are some truly brilliant chefs out there who are doing amazing things, but it is obvious that they are not able to convey that skill set to us as an audience.  Plain and simple if you do what Anne says, you will get a spectacular result.  Chef Burrell taught at The Institute of Culinary Education, and that is evident in all that she does.  She explains proper techniques, history of  foods, how to make substitutions, how to be more efficient in the kitchen.  Really cooking with her is a very pleasurable and educational experience.  Throughout the entire book you can hear her voice telling you what to do and how to do it.

Chef Burrell is noted for doing her own thing in the life and in the kitchen, she cooks everyday in a skirt in the kitchen with her trademark blonde spiky hair.  I love the nonconformity of her, this is who she is, take it or leave it.  I personally like to cook in heels and vintage aprons and pearls, so I guess we all have our own way of doing things.  In the kitchen Chef Burrell is all about mise en place, anyone who has seen her shows knows that this is the case.  Literally it means to "put in place" or "setup", Chef Burrell is insistent on an orderly and logical work station and when mise en place is followed, not only is the work station cleaner, the recipe usually moves along quicker and easier.  It takes awhile to get adjusted to the idea of setting out everything first and having things just so before even starting to cook, but you will begin to appreciate this order especially when you no longer start cooking a recipe to find out that you don't have an ingredient.  That frustration is virtually eliminated.

In short, I really can't say a enough good things about this cookbook.  This is the cookbook I would give to any of my friends, it works with all skill levels, but I would particularly recommend it to those who are starting out on their own and want exceptional food, just don't know how to get it.  This will tell you how to get it.  Step by step it will help you get a rave result and this cookbook I really feel is one that will help build your confidence in your skill sets and help the home chef to branch out and try more things.  Buy this cookbook, you will use it I guarantee it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It is Beginning to look a lot like Christmas....

Here we are, less than 3 weeks away from Christmas.  Can you believe it, or are you too, as I overwhelmed by the Holidays?  As you all I know I got married last month, I am working very hard to make it the perfect Christmas for both of us, and trying to start some family traditions of our own.  So many traditions of Christmas begin with food, and the smells of the season, not just the sounds of the season.  For me one of the prettiest sights of the season is my humble little Christmas tree.

My tree isn't the tallest, or the fullest or the fanciest, but to me my tree is magical none the less.  Each ornament has a story and a meaning behind it.  Mr Love from Scratch and I were lucky enough to add a few special holiday items this year.  Several people gave us Holiday ornaments and such which are now proudly displayed on our tree.  Together Me Love From Scratch and I have had an amazing year and we are very excited for what 2012 has in store for us.  One of the traditions I hold dear is my annual Wedgewood Ornament.  Now here is my disclaimer, I am in no way shape or form affiliated with the company, just a devoted admirer, however if anyone from Wedgewood ever needs a product review or anything of that sort, send anything at all my way, and I am sure you will get rave reviews. There is something so serene and delicate about the Wedgewood Ornaments, this is the ornament for this year, its special for us, since its clearly commemorating our wedding day.  Take a look at their ornaments, they are truly beautiful!

For Thanksgiving Mr. Love from Scratch and I had the opportunity to go visit my parents.  It was so nice to be with them for the Holidays, and of course it brought up so many memories.  I always remember spending the Holidays with my Mother's parents, and I miss that they are no longer around to celebrate with.  I remember the traditional recipes my Grandma had, and I remember my Mom's devotion to those traditions.  Call it a family trait, but I too hold tightly to those recipes of old. 

When I was little, my mother would make our "neighbor treat plates", you know the plates of goodies that you give to the neighbors.  I may be biased, but my mother's were by far always the best in the neighborhood, there wasn't even a close second.  Heads and shoulders above the rest.  The favorite of the plate for everyone was always Penoche.  Now be warned, this is an addictive recipe, and a fattening recipe, trying to make substitutions on this recipe will not work, it is what it is.  It is worth every calorie, and the extra time at the gym.  Its also a very budget friendly treat to make to share with others, which in today's world is definitely a welcome sight.  Try this recipe, you will fall in love with it just as I did as a little girl in my mother's kitchen.

Penoche

Ingredients:

1 stick butter (NO SUBSTITUTIONS)
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/3 cup evaporated milk
2 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

Boil and stir 2 minutes exactly the butter and brown sugar.

Add evaporated milk and bring to boil again, remove from heat and beat until lukewarm, then add 2 cups powdered sugar.

Place in greased 9x13 pan

*note cut into small squares, it is very rich so small squares are the way to go.