Sunday, September 27, 2015
These cookies were one of my Maw Maw's favorite recipes. The original version was written by a woman named Jane who at one time attended our church. I only remember from her time at a local nursing center that I often visited with my Girl Scout troop. She was a gentle lady, and she stands out in my memory because she carried around a stuffed gray kitten; it was her baby. I remember thinking what a wonderful grandmother she must have before she was unable to remember the life around her. If I close my eyes and think hard enough, I can still feel her frail shoulders and hear her tiny singsong yet unintelligible voice. There was a particular small giggle she would make when you paid attention to her kitten. It was sad and darling at the same time.
Interestingly enough, I remember making these the last Christmas season Maw Maw was able to communicate—she had also started to quickly lose the ability to talk because of her Alzheimer's diagnosis. She was so easily frustrated back then, and I can only imagine what it must be like to think something, to will your lips to move, yet be unable to make that happen. But we got along well in the kitchen, and making these cookies together will always be one of my fondest memories of her and of holiday baking.
It's unfortunate that sometimes our most vivid memories of someone are the ones tied to less pleasant moments. It can be hard to pull a silvery thread of happiness from the back of your mind, one tied to the moments where you can still hear your grandmother hum. But the more often I make these cookies, the easier it is to remember. They're literally a sweet reminder of two sweet women. I can only hope that one day when I'm old and gray that my granddaughter will remember our precious moments together, that she'll pull out this recipe and make cookies for her children, too.
Old-Fashioned Drop Sugar Cookies
By Confabulation in the Kitchen
These crisp, crumbly, buttery cookies are guaranteed to melt in your mouth. I tend to make them when the mercury just starts to drop, and I like to top them with seasonal sprinkles, which add a delicious pop of sugar when you chew. My husband, who's from Down East North Carolina, says his Aunt Carolyn also makes these (without the sprinkles), but she calls them tea cakes, which is a wonderful old Southern idea. (And hers are equally delicious!) Serve these cookies piled on a plate with a pot of hot coffee or tea.
4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1. Heat oven to 350 F.
2. In medium bowl, whisk together flour through salt.
3. In large bowl, cream butter and sugars until fluffy. Add oil, eggs, and vanilla and beat well.
4. Using a cookie scoop, drop mounds of dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Decorate if desired. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until cookies are brown on the edges and just golden on top. Let cool at least 3 minutes before moving to wire racks to completely cool. Store in an airtight container with wax paper between layers.
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
I have buyer's remorse waaaay too often. This is mostly the case with shoes. There's just something about those cute little mirrors in shoe stores—I think the angles make my ankles look too heavenly. Those little mirrors make me think sure, I can walk all day in these heels! When in reality I can barely walk down the hallway at home in the morning, much less to my car, across the parking lot, and all day around the office. Thus, every spring and summer I end up with several pairs of shoes that I wear once—and then leave in the closet to collect dust. Buyer's remorse.
I also occasionally have cook's regret. I spend waaaay too much on a tin of New Zealand Dried on the Backs of Endangered Calico Turtles Turquoise Sea Salt (yes, those caps are necessary) when in reality a pinch or two of good ol' budget-friendly Morton's coarse kosher salt will do. Cook's regret.
And I've often spent hours making a recipe that takes me waaaay too far out of my comfort zone—only to be left ordering Chinese takeout in the end. We've all been there. A recipe (usually on Pinterest) calls to me with a beautiful image, and before I know it I'm making a special grocery list just for a pasta dish I would never order in a restaurant, much less make at home. And this time was almost just like that. You see, I'm not crazy about these photos. There was too much pasta and too little sauce—except it was delicious. Excited for leftovers good. Totally gonna make it again with a few tweaks good.
Check your cook's remorse (and your turquoise sea salt) at the door good. You're welcome.
One-Pot Soy-Chili Noodles With Peanuts and Sauteed Chicken and Vegetables
Adapted from Domestic Superhero
Makes 6 servings.
1/2 pound linguine
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 chicken breasts, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
2 yellow summer squash, chopped
1/2 white onion, chopped
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp sweet chili sauce
Pinch of dried ginger
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
4 to 6 green onions, chopped
2 tbsp chopped peanuts
1. Pour olive oil into pot over medium heat. Add chicken and cook without stirring for about 2 minutes to get a good sear on bottom. Continue to cook another 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through. Set aside.
2. In same pot, heat water and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
2. Coat same pot with cooking spray, lightly scramble eggs, and set aside with pasta.
3. Pour olive oil into same pot over medium-high heat. Add squash and onions; cook about 7 minutes, or until vegetables are soft and just beginning to brown.
4. Meanwhile, in small bowl, whisk together brown sugar, soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, dried ginger, and red pepper flakes.
5. Remove vegetables from heat. Stir in chicken, pasta, and eggs. Add sauce and toss to coat. Serve immediately topped with green onions and peanuts.
Wednesday, September 02, 2015
There are a lot of things I like about being an adult. Dessert first. Donuts for lunch. Bravo TV. Booze. Last-minute travel. Cold pizza and coffee for breakfast. Staying up way late. (OK, I used to like doing that.) Driving at night with the windows down, the stereo cranked, and the a/c blasting. Marriage (and the fun stuff that comes with it). And parenthood. Yes, I love my little boogers like nobody's business.
But there is one thing about parenthood that drives me nuts. Dinnertime with children. Y'all, I knew what I was getting into when I had kids. I knew life with kids would be loud and messy and emotional and sticky and sweet and heartbreaking—sometimes all of those things at once. But I was not prepared to lose my time in the kitchen, my calm dinners, my ability to have a conversation with my husband without punctuating each sentence with—take your pick—One hand in your lap, We don't eat with our hands, Stop using your shirt as a napkin, We sit while we eat, Stop blowing bubbles in your milk, You have to finish your fruit, You have to take at least one bite, and What do we say when we want to leave the table? No, we say May I be excused, not Can I.
Holy moly. Turning tiny cave people into responsible, upright adults is not. easy.
But last weekend I did it. I achieved (what passes in our house) for dinnertime nirvana. I fed the kids first. I bathed them. I popped them popcorn on the stove top and put it in cute red and white paper popcorn bags. I settled them down on the couch in front of The Cat in the Hat. And then I ate with my husband. At the table. Just the two of us! Pan-seared filet mignon with quick garlic-soy marinade over fresh iceberg lettuce—you gotta love that cold crunch. With roasted potatoes on the side. For a whole 30 minutes! And it was enough to recharge my batteries for Sunday lunch. "Please put your brother's pizza down. He's 4 now, and he doesn't need you to feed him." Next time I better include wine.
Pan-Seared Filet Mignon With Quick Garlic-Soy Marinade
Makes 2 servings.
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp honey
3 cloves garlic, minced (or more to taste)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 filet mignon steaks
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1. In small bowl, whisk together soy sauce through black pepper.
2. Place steaks in zip-top plastic bag, pour in marinade, and close bag. Place in refrigerator and marinate at least 10 minutes and up to 30 minutes.
3. Heat oil and butter in saute pan over high heat.
4. Remove one steak from marinade at a time, letting excess marinade drip off, and putting each steak directly into pan when foam from butter disappears. Discard marinade. Cook steaks about 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Let rest a few minutes before slicing. Serve warm.
Saturday, August 29, 2015
I'm not the kind of person who jump on bandwagons. I'm fairly questioning of most things I read. And I'm not quick to trust. But I am loyal. And faithful. And when I like something, I really like it. That especially applies to recipes. This Southern grits breakfast casserole is family favorite. This homemade beef stroganoff is one of our go-to meals. And I've made this broccoli casserole more times than I can count. I know a good thing when I make it.
I'm also not one of those people who tends to plan, shop, prep, and cook enough food for a month. First, it's because I don't think end times are upon us. Second, it's because I like to eat fresh food, not thawed, rehydrated, and heated food. And third, it's because I get tired of eating the same thing again and again. (Unlike my children because oh my gravy they want the same things all the time. Just a moment of honesty from a mom who's made 7,659 PBJs in the last year.) I'm sure it's convenient to have food made and ready to go, but I think those people are looking at cooking all wrong. It should be joyful to spend time preparing a meal. It should be a reliever of stress, not a creator. Cooking should make your house smell good. Cooking should make you anticipate the pleasure of a fresh pie, a golden roasted chicken, or a big pot of bubbly, homemade spaghetti sauce.
And finally, I'm not one of those people who closes the weekend with a day of activity. I still believe Sundays are a day of rest. Sunday afternoons are meant to be low-key. They're when I like to tackle new recipes and flip through magazines, looking for inspiration. And they're for slowly roasting a pork roast so that it glistens with delicious fat, pops with flavor, slices with a fork, and pulls your family to the kitchen to ask, What's that smell? And perhaps your oven-roasted pork will also feed you for a few days. Cook once, eat three times, some say. So if this is how you do that, count me in.
We ate this roast at three meals. The first day we topped runny eggs with slices of just-cooked pork—simple perfection. The second day we ate it sliced on biscuits, with a side of buttery, peppery grits. And on the third day we at it chopped in flour tortillas, topped with cheddar, avocado, and scrambled eggs. Also, note that this recipe is easily doubled or tripled to accommodate a larger pork roast. In general, roast your pork one hour per pound, or until internal temperature reaches 190 F.
Oven-Roasted Pork With Homemade Spice Rub
Makes 6 servings.
1 tsp seasoned salt
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp dry mustard
Pinch of cumin powder
Pinch of ginger powder
2-lb pork ham roast, thawed
1/4 cup honey mustard
1. Heat oven to 250 F. Cover bottom and sides of roasting pan with foil.
2. Meanwhile, in small bowl, combine seasoned salt through ginger powder.
3. Pat roast dry with paper towels. Coat meat with honey mustard, and then cover with rub.
4. Place fat-side up in roasting pan. Place uncovered in oven and let cook, undisturbed, for two hours. Remove from oven, and using a meat thermometer, check temperature. Meat should reach 190 F when done.
5. When meat is done, remove pan from oven. Pull sides of foil tightly around meat, cover with towel, and let meat rest for an hour. After resting, chop or slice meat and serve.
Sunday, August 23, 2015
An alternate title for this recipe could be Can't Make Up My Mind Peach Pie. Because, you see, my boys started school last week, which means the calendar is pushing September. And it's closer to the time of year Southern weather isn't so thick you can fill a water gun without turning on the hose. So while the delicious farmers-market North Carolina peaches my dad dropped off were calling my name—I wasn't all that interested in a mid-summer double-crust peach pie. I wanted a bit of crunch. I wanted cinnamon. I demanded a taste of fall (a whole month before it's scheduled to arrive). Enter this Peach Pie With Oatmeal Crumble Topping, a crumble you might typically see on an apple pie in the fall. (I seem to have had this affliction before. Life is cyclical, so they say.)
I found the no-roll easy crust recipe on Pinterest. I admit I never saw Maw Maw make a pie crust this way. Hers were always light, flaky, and rolled by hand. But when you're short on time and you have ridiculously warm hands (the better to pat baby butts to sleep) that melt butter in a second, it's a lifesaver. It reminds me of the crust I use to make my Broccoli, Sour Cream, and Bacon Quiche, but it's easier. But I go a step further. Instead of pie weights, I prick the crust all over with a fork to keep it from bubbling, and then I bake it to prevent sogginess once the fruit is poured in. This is a trick called blind baking, but I didn't know that until I was older. I just knew it as something Mama and Maw Maw always did when baking pies.
This pie doesn't need to be served warm to be enjoyed. It's just as good for breakfast on Monday—at room temperature—as it is warm from the oven at Sunday dinner. And it doesn't need ice cream, but a big ol' scoop of that never hurt anybody, now did it? So serve it warm. Serve it with ice cream. And serve it with a spoon, like I always do. Because when the crust is gone and the fruit is slurped, a spoon will come in handy for scooping up every bit of that sweet, left-behind peach-pie nectar that tastes like summer—with a good dose of fall thrown in.
Peach Pie With Oatmeal Crumble Topping
Makes 8 servings.
1 pie crust
6 small to medium ripe peaches
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
For crumble topping:
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp oatmeal
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp cold unsalted butter
1. Heat oven to 400 F.
2. Make the pie crust. Once crust is pressed into pie plate, prick it all over with fork, and bake it for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
3. Meanwhile, peel and slice peaches. Place in strainer set over a bowl. Pour 1/4 cup sugar over fruit, gently stir, and let sit 30 minutes.
4. Make crumble topping. In medium bowl, combine all ingredients except butter. Add butter, and using a fork or pastry blender, combine until crumbly. Refrigerate until ready to use.
5. Pour peach juice out of bowl and save for another use. Then pour peaches back into bowl, and gently stir in remaining sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Sprinkle 2 tbsp flour over bottom of crust. Pour fruit into crust, and top with crumble mixture.
6. Bake pie for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 F and bake another 30 minutes, or until fruit is bubbling. If crust or fruit tips are becoming too brown, top with piece of foil until end of baking. Remove from oven and let cool a few minutes to let fruit set before serving.