Monthly Archives: December 2011

Tomatoes Two Ways

I hope everyone who celebrates Christmas had a very happy holiday. We had a relatively quiet holiday as our little cousins were sick (boo!), and I came down with a nice dose of allergies. That being said, the food was delicious (Thanks, Mom!!), and my Benedryl-induced naps were pretty awesome. For a low-key holiday, it wasn’t half bad. That being said, I think I prefer the usual chaos of Christmas and can’t wait to see the little ones when they are back in fighting form next weekend!

So during the hell period that was finals, I invented a couple of quick, mid-week dinners. I’m not going to lie, this was the result of my somewhat interesting finals-grocery-shopping and the subsequent attempts to use everything in my fridge before going home for the holidays. The sauce is extremely basic. Both dishes use essentially the same ingredients–the only real difference is that, in one case, the sauce is tossed with some pasta and a splash of pasta water, whereas in the other, it serves as a savory topping for some flaky salmon.

In any case, I consider this a testament to the magic of tomatoes and feta. Serve either of these dishes with a healthy serving of sauteed spinach or winter greens, and you’ll have a pretty well-balanced meal. Hope this helps you out in a pinch. Happy Eating!

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Christmas Cookies, Round 2

Happy holidays, everyone! It’s officially the most (albeit craziest) time of the year! Exams are over, shopping is more or less done, and the tree is set up. All we need is a little snow to officially get me into the holiday spirit. Unfortunately, the weatherman claims that we won’t be having a white Christmas this year. This may call for a snow dance.

As Megan already noted, nothing signifies the beginning of the holiday season like baking cookies.  My cookie list stays roughly the same every year. Megan actually gets quite a bit of credit for the cookies that make it onto my baking list! There are the chocolate ganache thumbprints and ginger cookies (which Megan introduced you to), plus Dorie Greenspan’s rugelach, lemony shortbread, coconut macaroons, and, my sister’s personal favorite, birds in a nest. To say that our house is overflowing with butter and sugar is an understatement. Most of these get boxed up and handed out to family friends, but I always keep a few rugelach for myself 😉

I’ve included links to most of the recipes below, but I’m typing out the full recipe for birds in a nest. This recipe comes from one of those old paperback cookbooks that they used to sell by the checkout lines at the grocery store. My mom picked it up when Liz and I were little, and my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe comes from this book as well. These cookies first made an appearance as a gift for Liz when she returned from studying abroad during the summer between 10th and 11th grade. She hated them. Ever the persistent sibling, I made them the following Christmas. I don’t know if it was guilt from the first round or a sudden revelation, but she’s loved them ever since.

Anyway, I hope Megan’s and my recipes are helpful this holiday season. Happy eating and happy holidays!!!

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Christmas Cookies

If you’re like me, you’re having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit.  We put up our Christmas tree over Thanksgiving weekend, and I’ve been listening to carols for weeks.  I’ve been to holiday parties and have enjoyed the Christmas hymns at church.  However, despite the music and shopping and cards, it just doesn’t seem like late December.  Oh wait, maybe it’s this ridiculous weather.  Right now, New York City is gross.  It’s rainy, warm, and muggy.  How can a girl dreaming of a white Christmas get into the holiday spirit with this disgusting weather?  Well, here’s how . . .

Last Friday was my last week of teaching for the year 2011, so this past weekend, I devoted my time to Christmas cookies.  I cleaned my kitchen, I bought my supplies, I blared my holiday tunes, and I baked . . . and baked and baked and baked.  In the end, I made hundreds of cookies . . .

And then, I boxed them all up—carefully, dividing the box into sections and placing the cookies into paper cupcake cups to make everything look fancy—and I sent them all to work with Brandon.  I do this every year.  Brandon receives a little popularity, I get to bake, and I get the calorie-filled, butter-and-sugar-stuffed treats out of my house.

Well, most of them.  I kept a dozen or so, and I’m officially addicted to the mint fudge I made for the first time this year.

Every year, for the most part, I make the same cookies.  I have three recipes that are top-notch—the best:  chocolate ganache thumbprints, cranberry-pistachio cornmeal biscotti, and giant ginger cookies.  The chocolate thumbprints—Brandon’s most favorite—are rich with a slight saltiness that makes them sinfully decadent.  The biscotti are crispy, light, and because they are filled with red cranberries and green pistachios, ultra Christmas-y.  Last, but certainly not least, are my chewy ginger cookies.  They might be the most popular:  soft, spicy, and enormous.

In addition to the favorites, I usually make a candy of some sort.  In years past, I’ve made peppermint bark, but this year, I opted for some peppermint fudge.  Whoa, I had no idea how great this fudge would turn out.  No candy thermometer required.  It’s smooth, rich, and refreshingly minty.

And on top of that, I made sugar cut-outs.  I was dying to do a little decorative frosting, so I made these the day before I made the rest.  The dough was super easy, and the cookies turned out delicious.  To color the dough and frosting, I used food coloring gel—sometimes called paste.  This creates bright, saturated color—no pastel pinks and greens here—and doesn’t change the consistency of the dough or icing.  Mine is from Martha Stewart, but I know Wilton makes it, too.  Cake stores and other “fine kitchen stores” sell it.  It’s definitely worth seeking out, and, because you don’t need to use much, it lasts a long time.

Well, needless to say, all of this cookie baking (and giving) put me right into the Christmas spirit.  I promise, any of the following recipes will get you and your family ready for the holidays, too.  Enjoy, and happy holidays! Continue reading

Beef, Cheddar, and Stout Pie

Last weekend, Rosemary and I must have been on the same wavelength. She made boeuf bourguignon, and I made another stewed beef recipe.  The difference?  I used beer and cheese, and I tucked it into a puff pastry shell. Both recipes are hearty and terrific for a cold night in.  It is the time of year for comfort food.

This dinner was actually requested by my husband, Brandon:  “Why don’t we have some sort of meat pie tonight?”  That was all he needed to say.  I had seen a Jamie At Home episode where the ever-adorable Jamie Oliver made this fantastic looking English beef pie with stout.  And if that—covered in puff pastry and described in his all-too-cute British accent—didn’t sound good enough, he also threw in some sharp English cheddar!  I mean, give me a break.  How could this not be good?

Well, it is good.  Actually, it’s beyond good.  I had no idea that a beef pie could taste as complex and rich as this.  The beef—we used brisket—cooks down with stout and some veggies for two and a half hours.  It goes from a mostly-liquid mess to a dark, thick almost-gravy.  Then, you stir in some cheddar to thicken it further and pour it into a prepared puff pastry pie shell.  After topping it with a puff pastry lid, you bake it for another 45 minutes, until the pie is puffed, golden, and beautiful.  Num.

The craziest part?  When you slice into this pie, it stands right up—no pooling between slices.  The filling is sturdy and oh-so-rich.  I was really hungry before sitting down to dinner, but could only eat one slice. Brandon, however, ate half the pie in one sitting (and, soon after, laid down and fell asleep)—so abilities to withstand richness can differ.  This is why I list the yield at six to eight servings.  If you love rich food, and so do your friends and family, you may only get six (or, perhaps, four) slices out of this delightful pie.  However, if you are like me, you might be able to divvy it up into eight servings.  And, if you’re like Brandon, you might as well just cut the pie in two . . . and make sure you have a pillow close by.

Don’t be afraid of the lengthy cook time.  In all actuality, the cook time is your friend.  This dish takes all but 15 minutes to prepare, and then, you just let it cook.  Cook.  Stir.  Cook.  Stir.  Place filling in pie.  Cook.  Eat.  This pie uses a delicious all-butter, prepared puff pastry crust, so no cutting butter into flour is required.  Just throw it all in a pot, sit down with a glass of wine (or stout), wait, and enjoy! Continue reading

Boeuf Bourguignon

December is upon is. It seems as though D.C. weather finally took the hint, as temps dropped drastically this past week–going from 60-degree days to the 40s. Not that I’m complaining– I like winter to be cold. After all, it provides a perfect excuse to test a whole bunch of soup recipes and serves as a happy reminder that Christmas and, hopefully, a few snowflakes are just around the corner. The problem with December, however, is that it also brings final exams. In other words, I am going on a wee bit of a blogging hiatus. Don’t worry–Megan and Liz are still around, and I’ll be back with holiday cookie recipes galore after Dec. 17th.

As an apology gift, I give you this recipe for a delicious boeuf bourguignon. For those of you who know a thing or two about Julia Child, this was pretty much her dish. I’ve yet to tackle her recipe, but I did eat a great version of this dish when visiting Paris and have loved it ever since. It pretty much meets my requirement for a hearty stew, and it’s full of well-developed earthy flavors.

This recipe is simpler than Julia’s (which you can find here), but it’s pretty damn good. Most of the basics are the same. It’s just scaled down for a weeknight meal. The best part (other than how it tastes) is how wonderful your apartment will smell while it cooks. Nothing motivates a law student to outline Contracts like the smell of beef stew in the oven (well, minus the promise of more wine).

This is by no means a “quick-cooking” recipe, but it is easy to put together and to throw in the oven. Go do laundry, read a book, or wrap some presents while this cooks. It is totally worth it.

Happy Eating 🙂

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