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Posts Tagged ‘recipes’

Boston Brown Bread Muffins

It is officially feeling like winter here—the kitchen is forbiddingly chilly, and the pantry doubles as a walk-in refrigerator.  My motivation, right on cue, seems to have flown south for the winter.  Still, I remind myself, using the kitchen is a good way to warm it up a bit, and I have been craving these muffins.  They’re the perfect antidote for the cold.

I made them recently to go with a Christmas ham, but time for documenting was a bit short.  They were quite well received though, and I made a mental note to make them again soon.  Not only are they a great comfort food, but they’re easy to make, even if your motivation has deserted you for warmer climes.

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Make the batter the night before and fry them in the morning, or fry them the day before and warm before serving.

Having some overnight guests for New Years?  Here’s one of my favorite easy-yet-elegant breakfasts: crepes.  The batter and filling (and even the crepes themselves) can be made in advance, and they can be dressed up in any number of ways.  You can easily offer several options of filling to please different tastes.

Don’t think you’ll be up to frying crepes first thing New Years Day?  They keep well—just fry them in advance, pop the whole stack into a ziplock bag, and refrigerate up to a couple of days.  Reheat for about thirty seconds on each side in a hot skillet or a few seconds (no more than ten on high) in the microwave.

The trickiest part about crepes is getting the skillet temperature just right.  Too hot, and they will have a coarse, pebbly texture; not hot enough, and they will not be as tender and flexible as they should be.  It usually takes me a few crepes to get it just right, but you know what?  The ‘duds’ are still tasty—just eat the evidence.

It’s even easier to make up a filling in advance—then, you need only assemble the crepes the morning you plan to serve them.  The fillings I use most often are cream cheese, ricotta cheese or cottage cheese, depending on what I have to work with.  The cream cheese goes especially well with stronger flavors, such as apple or pumpkin butter, while the ricotta is good with delicate flavors such as pear.

Ricotta cheese filling, just add crepes.

The filling can really be anything that you want it to—whipped cream and a pile of fresh fruit work well, too.

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Smoked Oyster Dip

This is something that I always make this time of year, usually more than once.  It is just the right combination of easy-to-make, ingredients that are easy to keep on hand, and crowd-pleasingly delicious.  Just the right tonic for holiday stress. (Well, ok, there are stronger tonics you might argue for—but you probably want something to eat with that, right?)

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Apricot Cream Cheese Cookies

‘Thumbprint Cookies’—that’s official cookie jargon for cookies with directions that are a variation on, “Shape dough into balls; flatten slightly, and indent the center.  Fill with preserves.”  I’ve always had a particular weakness for them.  But I’ve also always noticed a particular weakness in them—there is never enough filling.  So, I long ago dispensed with the thumb approach and went to using a knuckle to hollow out those little centers to a more respectable capacity.

Knuckle cookies?  It doesn’t sound so nice and dainty as ‘Thumbprint’, does it? But that’s okay, because I’ve figured out what I’ve really been trying to achieve all this time, and there’s a term for it: ‘Tarts’.

Okay, perhaps I exaggerate.  But only slightly.

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Black Walnut Bars

Back when my Other Half and I were just embarking on the long-distance relationship that would ultimately lead to us keeping all our cookbooks under one roof, he confessed a deep nostalgic fondness for the taste of black walnuts. He had told me about the black walnut tree that was by the driveway when he was growing up. And he had related how they used to shell the nuts by the expedient of first driving the car over them to remove the outer husk, then using a nutcracker on the hard inner shell—black walnuts are the proverbial tough nut to crack!

So when (during that first holiday season, which we spent 1500 miles apart) I decided to make and send him a package of Christmas cookies, I thought of black walnuts. After looking around at various recipes, I settled on a recipe for Pecan Bars in The Southern Living Cookbook (my old copy, about which, more here—the recipe in the new edition is somewhat different). I intended to merely substitute black walnuts for the pecans, but I ended up making another inadvertent substitution as well.

The original recipe called for dark corn syrup, and when I looked in my (somewhat neglected at that time) larder for ingredients, sure enough, there was a bottle of dark syrup that I took to be the thing. It was only after stirring the syrup in with the rest of the ingredients that I noticed (to my dismay) that what I’d just added wasn’t plain dark corn syrup at all. It was something called King Po-T-Rik, which, on examination of the ingredients, turned out to be predominately made up of molasses and dark corn syrup. Oh.

Whether I had originally acquired the bottle thinking that it was corn syrup, or molasses, history does not relate.

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Dried orange peels and Orange Shortbread Cookies

Well, it’s been a busy and citrus-filled week here at A Month of Sundries—from fruit to zest to juice, to the main event, the candied peels— but I’ve got one more little bonus trick to make further use of those orange peels that we zested.

Once zested, the peels are no longer suited to candying, but that doesn’t mean they need be thrown away. They can be dried out and used for all sorts of creative applications. I know, I know, all week I’ve been saying things like “The pith is bitter,” and “Avoid the pith,” and now here I am suggesting that you preserve it. Well, yes. And yes. Fresh pith can make your face try to turn itself inside out, but drying mellows it, and it can impart a unique orangey flavor that is different than you get from the zest. And dried peels can also make a fragrant material for use in various craft projects, if you’re so inclined.

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Candied Grapefruit

Here we are at last—the big day. We’ve looked at sectioning citrus, and zesting citrus, and making luscious citrus syrup. Now, finally, we’re ready to candy all those peels that we’ve saved (well, not the ones that we zested, but stick around and I’ll even show you a bonus way to use those—tomorrow).

Candied citrus peels are one of my favorite holiday confections (and quite popular among my list of recipients). There are a lot of steps involved, but as candy making goes, they’re relatively easy—you don’t even need a candy thermometer. I use the recipe found in The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, with only very minor alteration.

The hardest part is saving enough to give as gifts!

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