Thursday, August 28, 2014

Best Lemon Sugar Cookies

I am so far behind in my blog posts. Witness the   snow outside in the picture! My initial sentence on this,when I first uploaded the picture, was, "For some reason, lemons give me hope for spring." Then I typed in the recipe and that was all she wrote, so to speak.

And now I already see leaves falling, and it's still August, though barely. This gives me a bad feeling about winter! My husband  always heaves a big sigh in July as soon as days start growing shorter and says, "winter's almost here."  He is an Eeyore, like his Dad. ("Oooh, Pooooh, I might as well crawl under the covers until Aaapril. There's noo point in getting up.")

These are my favorite lemon cookies. They are one of the things I want to make when spring is around the corner, as in fall when I want to make Chocolate Chip Gingerbread. I stumbled onto this wonderful cookie recipe on the Baker's Rack blog and have been making them for a few years. They have that wonderful sugar cookie texture and a bright lemon flavor from both the cookie and glaze. Divine. I sent them to my nephew the Marine for his birthday because they are one of his favorites and he is one of mine.

My minor changes are in parentheses.

Lemon Sugar Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, melted, cooled
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
(scant) 2 tsp. vanilla (plus 1 tsp. lemon extract)
1 tbsp. grated lemon peel
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup (or more*) powdered sugar
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. to 1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel

1. Heat oven to 375. Line 2 or 3 baking sheets with parchment paper (this is worth the time and expense for perfect cookies).

2. In medium bowl, whisk together butter, sugar and brown sugar. (I do this in the pan I used to melt the butter.) Whisk in eggs, vanilla (lemon extract) and the 1 tbsp. lemon peel until well-blended. In another medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Stir into butter mixture.

3. In small bowl, whisk together all glaze ingredients. You will glaze cookies while they are warm.

4. Use #16 cookie scoop or 1/4 cup measure to scoop dough; place on baking sheets, leaving at least 3 inches between cookies. Flatten gently into 3-inch rounds. (I make them smaller and haven't found it necessary to flatten them, leaving about 2 inches between each.)

5. Bake 10 to 12 minutes (start checking at 9 minutes, and at 7 if smaller) or until just barely  golden brown around the edges but still pale in center and slightly soft. Remove from oven; immediately slide parchment paper onto wire rack or counter. Cool for 5 or so minutes. Brush glaze over cookies (just use a teaspoon if you don't have a pastry brush or hate trying to clean them). Cool completely.

18 (4-inch) cookie (30 to 36 3-inch cookies)

*I admit I never measure for the icing, so I end up making extra as I even out the consistency. A little more lemon juice, a little more powdered sugar, etc. If I don't have more lemon juice to add, I use a little milk. It works. It all goes on the cookies, which doesn't hurt anything.

Found on Baker's Rack blog. . . her source: Cooking Pleasures Magazine October/November 2005

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Cauliflower Marranca

This standby is from Moosewood Cookbook by Molly Katzen.
It is simple but hearty and flavorful and the leftovers are just as good.

I turned to it when a friend was visiting with her teenagers, one of whom was skipping meat for a month for a science project. 

I have altered it to suit our tastes. Instead of the brown rice, the original recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups raw millet to be simmered in 2 1/2 cups water for 15 to 20 minutes, then fluffed. It also calls for only 2 cups of cheese and says it is optional. Not at our house!


3 to 4 cups cooked brown rice (still moist)
2 tbsp. butter or oil, or a mix
2 cups chopped onion
1 lb. mushrooms, sliced
Black pepper  to taste
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried basil
1 large cauliflower,  in 1-inch pieces or smaller
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 to 3 tbsp. lemon juice
3 cups or more grated cheese of your choice (I use a cheddar mix)

Preheat oven to 350. Oil a 13- by 9-inch pan.
Melt butter or heat oil in large skillet. Add onion, mushrooms and seasonings and saute about 5 minutes, till onions soften. Add cauliflower and garlic and saute about 10 minutes more, until cauliflower is tender. Add lemon juice.

Stir mixture into the rice along with most of the cheese and mix well. Spread into the prepared pan, sprinkle with remaining cheese, dust with paprika, and bake for 30 minutes.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Smoky Ham and Corn Chowder

 I make soup all year, though not as often in summer (Cold cantaloupe soup, vichyssoise, room temperature  vegetable stew with chickpeas). 

  But during Ohio's coldest months, I make a pot of soup about once a week.  The process is soothing, and we love eating it. I find it the perfect winter meal.

I found this recipe recently on NPR's website. My changes are noted parenthetically and involve convenience and some fat reduction. We were pretty happy with this, especially with Stilton Parmesan bread, though I would have liked to kick up the spice level rather than cut it back. But, alas, Joe can't handle the heat. And I couldn't handle life without Joe.


Serves 8 to 10 (or up to 20 small servings as part of a buffet)
4 slices thick smoky bacon cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick strips (I used about 6 oz. of a          thinner cut of applewood smoked bacon)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (I used 3)
1/2 pound good-quality smoked ham, cut into 1/2-inch dice (I skipped this and used extra smoked pork chops)
2 small boneless smoked pork chops, cut into 1/2-inch dice (I used 4 medium chops)
2 large yellow onions, cut into dice, about 4 cups (I used about 3 1/2 cups sweet onion)
2 to 4 minced jalapeno peppers, depending on how spicy you like your chowder (skipped)
2 red bell peppers, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used 1 orange pepper)
2 green bell peppers, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I substituted 2 zucchini)
5 medium red potatoes (about 2 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch dice, peeling optional (I used 4 bakers, peeled) 
2 fresh bay leaves (I used dried)
5 sprigs fresh thyme (I used 1 1/2 tsp. dried as my thyme is covered with snow)
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder, or substitute cayenne (I used 1/8 tsp. cayenne)
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (I used about 1/2 cup)
8 to 10 cups homemade chicken broth or best-quality commercial chicken broth (I used about 7 cups commercial broth)
1 (16-ounce) bag frozen roasted corn or regular frozen corn, thawed (I got my roasted corn at Trader Joe's)

1 cup heavy cream (I used 1 /2 cups of Land o' Lakes fat-free half and half)

Place the bacon in a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot and cook over medium heat until it begins to brown and render its fat, about 10 minutes.

 Add the butter, ham, and pork chops and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the meat is lightly browned. 

Stir in the onions and jalapeno peppers and saute, stirring often, until the onions are softened and translucent, about 8 minutes.

 Stir in the bell peppers, potatoes, bay leaves and thyme. Saute until the peppers and potatoes are slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the zucchini, if using, and salt, sweet and smoked paprika and the chipotle powder and stir to combine. Sprinkle in the flour, constantly stirring to prevent lumps from forming.
Pour in a cup of chicken broth and stir well to combine it with the flour. Gradually add an additional 6 to 9 cups of broth, depending on how thick you like your chowder. Cover the pot partially and simmer the chowder gently over low heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until all of the vegetables are tender. Stir in the corn and cream and cook until heated through. Ladle the chowder into bowls and serve immediately.
You can make the chowder a day in advance up to adding the corn and cream. Refrigerate the chowder in a tightly lidded container. When you are ready to finish the chowder, bring it to a simmer in a large pot. Add the corn and cream and heat through.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Morning Banana Cake


This is my favorite banana bread.  It's moist and has a rich  banana flavor. It doesn't hurt, psychologically, that the recipe title includes the words "morning cake." 

I found the recipe on an online index of bed and breakfasts; it's from Aravaipa Farms in Arizona. I usually skip the nuts  because of family preferences, and use dried cherries just because I love them.

This particular  morning I didn't see any of the wildlife found in the desert preserve where the inn is located, but I did have our Ohio bird guide handy (the blue book in the photo). I don't remember what I saw outside our sunroom that day, because this was months ago.  Yep, I am really behind in my posts. It's just that kind of year so far.

Anyway, on to tips for the "cake."
-- Tossing the dried fruit in a little bit of flour (maybe 1/4 cup) before stirring them into the batter helps to keep them from sinking straight to the bottom of the pan. You can tell I skipped that this time.  It's not a disaster to skip the flour; I kind of like scraping them off the bottom of the pan when my husband leaves the bottom crust behind. Yum.
-- I find it easiest to mash ripe bananas by smashing them down a bit with the beaters on my hand mixer, than mixing them on a low speed. I think it really helps to incorporate them into the batter.

 My changes are in parentheses.

Morning Banana Cake
from Aravaipa Farms

3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla (I like to use about 1 tbsp.)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 1/3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup melted butter (2 sticks)
1 cup dried cranberries (or cherries, chopped if they are large and tossed in a little flour)
1 cup pecans or walnuts (optional; you can add more cherries instead)

Mix mashed bananas and sugar well in a large bowl; a hand mixer makes quick work of this. Add vanilla and eggs; mix well. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and stir to incorporate.

Stir together buttermilk and melted butter and add to batter, stirring well. Stir in dried fruit/nuts.
Butter and flour 10-inch tube pan (I prefer to use two loaf pans; that way I can freeze or share one). Pour in batter and bake about 1 hour at 350 degrees until pick comes out of the center clean and cake pulls away from sides of pan (Start checking at 45 minutes). When completely cool, invert cake to remove from pan. (If the crust starts to brown too much before the middle is done, cover loosely with foil.) Cool.

It's great warm, but it will crumble (not that you will care in your rush to see if it tastes as good as it smells).

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Lucky Stew (or Golden Hominy and Corn Stew with Cornmeal Dumplings)

I adapted this a few years ago from James McNair's Corn Cookbook for my husband, who lived in Alabama at the start of his journalism career. He had related to me how Southern cooks greet the new year with collards and black-eyed peas to ensure good luck.

Now, neither of us are superstitious, but food traditions are fun and interesting, and sometimes help with menu planning. And this is good stuff. 

I add collards for color, nutrition, fiber (oh, and, um, luck). I also add additional broth because the dumplings soak up some of it as they cook. That's also why I don't drain the tomatoes. I usually use potato (I used cauliflower once and was pleased) instead of turnip or rutabaga.  Don't forget to soak the dried beans/peas the night before. My changes and notations are in parentheses.

You can make the stew a day ahead, as I did this weekend because of our schedule, and reheat it to a simmer before adding the dumplings. I reheated it in a saute pan to allow more space for the dumplings, which worked well.

Also great from this cookbook (and I recommend all of his) is the Smothered Cajun Corn, or Maque Choux.

Golden Hominy and Corn Stew with Cornmeal Dumplings (and Collard Greens)

1 cup dried baby lima or French flageolet beans (black-eyed peas)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onion (1 large white onion)
1 tbsp. minced or pressed garlic
4 or 5 whole cloves (1/2 tsp. ground cloves. . . didn't want to bite into on of those suckers)
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp. minced fresh thyme or 1 tbsp dried thyme
2 quarts homemade vegetable or chicken stock or canned chicken broth (add 2 cups)
1 can (16 oz.) golden hominy, drained
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup peeled, diced turnip or rutabaga (substitute potato or cauliflower florets)
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley (I forgot it this time)
1 cup peeled, seeded, chopped ripe or drained canned tomato (28-oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained)
2 cups fresh, drained canned or thawed frozen yellow corn (I used frozen white shoepeg corn this time)
(1 to 1 1/2 lbs. fresh collard greens, tough stems removed and discarded, greens rinsed well and roughly chopped)
(1 cup or so of diced ham or cooked chicken, optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
Ground cayenne (I skip this so my husband will eat it)

Corn Dumplings:

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup cake flour (all-purpose works, but dumplings aren't quite as cakey)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup milk
1 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup cooked corn (you can skip this)

Carefully pick over beans (peas) to remove any shriveled ones and foreign matter (such as rocks or an errant lentil). Place in bowl, cover with water, cover bowl and soak overnight.

Drain and reserve beans (peas).

Heat oil in a stainless-steel* stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute until soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 1 more minute. Add the drained beans (peas), cloves, bay leaves, thyme and stock or broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the drained hominy, carrot, chosen vegetables, parsley, tomato and half the collards (only half because you need them to cook down before you can add more). Simmer until the vegetables are nearly tender, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rest of the collards when there is room.

When the stew is in its last 30 minutes of simmering, mix the dumpling batter:
In a bowl combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt and sugar; mix well. Add egg, milk, butter and corn and stir until blended. Let stand about 10 minutes before cooking to allow cornmeal to absorb the liquids.

Stir the 2 cups of corn into the stew and season to taste with salt and peppers. (Make sure it is just simmering before adding the dumplings; boiling can break dumplings apart.) For each dumpling, drop a heaping tablespoon of batter onto stew. When all of the batter has been added, cover the pot and cook until a toothpick inserted into a dumpling comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Serve hot, scooping dumplings alongside some of the stew in a bowl.

Serves 6 hungry people. Nice with a green salad.

Note: Reheats well as far as flavor, but any dumplings already in the stew will break apart a bit.

*(Stainless steel is nonreactive; the acid in the tomatoes won't react with it, as it can with aluminum, changing the color of the stew or imparting a metallic taste.)