Archive for the 'cooking' Category

Advent Calendar – Day 19

What is in your cookie tins this festive season? I’ve been savoring chewy noel bars and peppermint chocolate pinwheels. In the past, I’ve had lovely treats (like in the photo below) from the bakery, but we’re doing home baking this year.

Photograph of two linser tart cookies with red jam on a blue and white floral plate, with a blue striped dish towel in background.
Photo of linzer tart cookies in the shape of hearts.

Here’s a link to a simple, easy recipe for noel bars:

My version has pecans, and I followed the Fannie Farmer Cookbook because it’s in my kitchen. 🙂

Facing overwhelmingness

snow drops for hint of spring

We’re all a little overwhelmed. My tipping point was trying to get in and out of a grocery store…. People 60 years and older were crowding against people. It was unsettling, after hearing all the warnings that healthy people could carry infection without symptoms.

I’d prefer kindness was catching, instead of the virus. We’re limited to waving at people across the street instead of running over to chat. I go for walks when the streets are quiet (it’s spring, and the sky is glorious). The churches are shut, with signs, but they have online services now. Things are better than they were in the past, but we’re still frozen looking at the tv or the online news, wondering what’s next. There’s even the eeriness of quiet streets and few planes.

Because I have the luxury of working from home, I’m not seeing as many people in real life – this is the whole point of social distancing. But it’s depressing: I like seeing people. I’m limiting trips to the shops for groceries. I’m calling relatives to see if they’re OK rather than driving over.

But there’s fun stuff: To keep myself from obsessing, I’m unplugging from social media in favor of reading poetry, walking around the block, knitting and watercoloring. I’ve been invited to a walk in a park, where I can be 6 feet away from friends, but still able to see each other. I’ve been discovering new recipes, which is fun. Current cookbooks on heavy rotation: Kimiko Barber’s Japanese Pure and Simple, Simon Bajada’s The New Nordic Cookbook and Rosemary Barron’s Flavors of Greece. I also have Julia Child’s two volumes, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and this might be the time to try a recipe. I hope you are finding a way to de-stress. Feel free to leave tips on how to practice kindness from a distance.

Jingling all the way

I’m sliding into the Christmas season with very few presents bought and no cookies waiting to be sent off to family and friends. However, the two concerts are behind me and I’ve attended one high school orchestra program (best suited to the relatives and adults interested in the happiness of specific teens, honestly…). My only singing engagement is some caroling later on in the month.

I know that soon I’ll be on holiday, with some time to handle the errands, and maybe even time to bake the saffron julbrot (here’s one recipe online, in German and English)  and roll out some more cookies. But I’m still scratching my head about what to get people, and hope I’ll find time to unearth the Christmas stationery tomorrow.

Happy holidays! If I’m not back by the weekend, I’ll be back after the holidays to talk about the latest book on my shelf.

Getting ready for the season

There are 2 concerts this weekend (tuxedo and formal shirt is over at the cleaner’s). I’ve got the ingredients for Moravian Christmas cookies on the kitchen counter and refrigerator (still not sure if I will just punt to the easier gingerbread). There are a lot of store bought kinds of “Moravian cookies” you can get from high-end stores. No, I’m not sure I get that. It’s an old recipe, and it makes about a gazillion.  If you get the ones from Winston Salem, stick to the ginger spice ones — that’s the closest to what the family recipe is. Sort of.

I was clever this time, and bought the molasses at the grocery during Thanksgiving shopping, when no one is thinking about it for their pantries (it’s gone today), and I think I picked up the last dark brown sugar the store has.

I’m fairly sure the store will stock shelves again.

But, I can’t be sure.

It took them since Thanksgiving to get unsalted butter back in the case.

There’s the normal mad crush of work prior to the Christmas week, when lots of people take off for the holidays. And I’m not sure when I’ll find time to actually Christmas shop. But… I have a stockpile of projects that I did earlier in the year for specific people. Hopefully on Saturday the weather will stay fine so I can have a blocking party prior to the concert.

So, I assume everyone else has their list sorted, and is settled in to the cozy part of things. If you’re not, and you’re like me… hail friend well met! This is the first year in years that I’ll have kitten help with giftwrapping. 🙂

The importance of pie crust

I’m not sure if it was Erma Bombeck or the 1965 version of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook or my mom* who taught me this, but:

If you make enough dough for a double crust pie, and you only use one of the crusts for your custard pie, flatten the rest into a disk and freeze it for later.

Tasty, quick quiche

Tasty, quick quiche

Today, the pie dough I froze in November was used to make a quiche. Our neighborhood has been hit by more drenching ice, sleet, and freezing rain, so there was no hope of catching a quick dinner at a local restaurant. Luckily we had enough eggs, milk, asparagus, mushrooms and cheddar. Along with a loaf of bread bought during the buy one, get one half off sale on Sunday after the last storm.

To everyone on the east coast: hang tight. I’ve heard a rumor that Spring is around the corner.

*It probably was Mom. She was a dietitian with a streak of practicality. Wrap the pastry well, in a double wrap of plastic wrap or wax paper, and put it in a plastic freezer bag.

Quince rosehip jelly

Now that all recipients have received their gifts…

Peel and core 5 large quinces. Cover with water. Add 10 dried rosehips from the garden (after removing the stems and the dried sepals, and giving them a quick rinse).

Boil/simmer for an hour. Mash the pulp once it is soft.

Drain through a strainer into a bowl. Cover so no cat hair gets in the strainer (maybe that’s just my house). Use a nonreactive strainer like a jelly bag. The next morning, measure out how much juice you’ve gotten, and pour into a nonreactive pot. Add about half the same amount of sugar (i.e., 1/2 cup of sugar to 1 cup of juice) and the juice of one lemon. Watch carefully, and once it hits the jelly stage (I used a candy thermometer for this, as well as the cold spoon and dropping a little into cold water to see the pattern it makes) take it off the heat and put into prepared canning jars with sterilized lids.

It turned out lovely.

I have other fruit in the refrigerator, and I hope to make it into something useful later.


6 jars of jelly


5 presents wrapped

4 last-minute robocalls (yes, I already gave…)

3 curious cats (they’ve seen the tree)

2 cookie batches (sugar cookies, Moravian Christmas Cookies… and Jul Konfekt, which is chocolate, but not a cookie)

And one heck of a Christmas tree.

I’m wishing you and yours a beautiful Christmas Eve, a happy Christmas day, and a happy and a healthy New Year! We’re going to celebrate, now that the work is over.

Getting ready – 22 December

… otherwise known as the importance of ground cloves.


Moravian Christmas Cookies, made with a recipe from Winston-Salem, NC. Thank heavens Mom already did the math and reduced the amount of flour, molasses, etc. used (although I think I flubbed on the amount of spicing –> it really should be 1 Tbs each of ground ginger, cloves, and cinnamon. Kids, don’t try to make Christmas cookies after 9 PM after a full day of work.). So they’re subtly flavored, and not rolled thin enough. Next year, I’ll use the northern recipe. It’s a bit easier for me to handle. Christmas prep continues. Yes, there are socks that will not be done in time. (Cookie countdown: 2 varieties. Possibly 1 more to go, and the fast and easy Danish chocolates.)

Shopping small 4: For the cook

You don’t have time to make dishcloths to go with chichi soap for the kitchen, especially when you’re stuck on the second sock for a family member (but it’s really not about me). But you still want to do something for that person in your life who lives to cook. Instead of going to that fancy chain at the mall, or that other one (we happen to have two), you might want to try shopping at one of the small, independent cooking stores.

Fantes in Philadelphia has:

  • Cake pans: How about an adorable airplane tin cake pan? (squee)
  • Cookie cutters and springerle pans: How about an adorable springerle owl? Or the 12 days of Christmas springerle boards that you can hang on the wall? (At over $200, it’s not a stocking stuffer.)
  • Choose cookbooks and accessories with a theme, like the Vedge cookbook, a mushroom-themed apron, a mushroom scrub brush, or a vegetable peeler, and you’re done.

If your recipient is in Chicago, how about a cooking class at The Wooden Spoon ? (January has some great classes, including one on Basque Cuisine)

Compleat Lifestyles out in Colorado offers things for foodies who have their own herb garden, or access to a green grocer:

They don’t have much online. I’d check the store itself to see if there’s something your cook can’t do without (or never knew existed).

Happy hunting!

Woman vs. squash

1. The squash — a blue-skinned pumpkin

bluesquash2. Halves

squashhalves3.  A pie, after steaming and pulverizing the pumpkin, then making the filling. Pie crust my normal butter crust. We ended up getting a pie and a deep-dish tiny pie.

bluepumpkinpieIt’s 1 AM. I have a freezer with enough steamed pumpkin for 2 more pies. My kitchen is a mess, but I’m going to sleep happy. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. And to those outside the USA, the best of days with lots of gratitude.


Flickr Photos