Monday, November 30, 2015

The Bee's Knees

I am still trying to figure out what the hell happened on Doctor Who last night. Two billion years? All those skulls were the Doctor's? I felt like he got caught in a very unfunny version of "Groundhog Day" and I wasn't liking it at all. Why does Gallifrey remind me of Argo City? The only good moment in the whole damn hour was when Clara briefly appeared to tell him to get off his ass.

I've read a bunch of online reviews, and they all seem to be rhapsodizing about this episode. Look, I like Peter Capaldi as the Doctor - he is giving Chris Eccleston a run for his money as my reboot favorite, and as an actor, he outdistances all of the previous Doctors (if you have never seen the Torchwood mini-series The Children of Earth, you should. Why that face? Watch.) - but even a true fan like myself cannot take 47 minutes of unrelenting Twelfth Doctor hubris.  I think I fell asleep; whether that was the combination of the Methocarbamol and Meloxicam I'd been forced to take, or the mind-numbing repetition of the same 3 scenes over and over and over and fucking OVER again, well, take a guess.

I probably have to watch it a few more times. I had to watch "Blink" a half dozen times before I "got" it. Although every time I watch it, I end up wanting to slap that insufferable fishwife Martha right into next week.

Oh and by the way, I hate Gallifrey; if I was the Doctor, I would have run away from there as well.

The new companion? Well, next week is the series finale, and is Clara really dead? Stay tuned. Personally, I think it's time to bring back Captain Jack and River Song.

My fibromyalgia seems to be taking an new approach. Beside the heart palpitations, I've been having really bad pains in my knees. Both knees. One of the reasons I had gastric bypass surgery was because I was afraid those 150 extra pounds would wear out my poor knees a lot faster than God intended. I did not want to end up having to use a motorized cart in Publix or Walmart. Well, Walmart might have been fun, scooting through the frozen foods section, bumping into Walmartians, being at exactly the right level to scoop up all the Hershey's milk chocolate nuggets. All kidding aside I am not happy about this latest development. One cannot do tai chi Bird's Extensions when one's knees are for shit.  I have spent the last three days basically on my back.  No cheesy jokes please.

Now my left shoulder and arm hurt. And my back, but my back usually hurts.  I am so tired of this.

Alrighty then, I couldn't sleep, so I played around with the Bright House Wi Fi app that allegedly lets you watch television shows on your internet devices (so I could rewatch Satirday's episode of Doctor Who) and let me just say that the system sucks. Not sure why I am locked out of BBC America and Cooking Channel and trust me, this thing does not "stream like a dream." There's more wrong than right with how this works, and that necessitates a phone call to Bright House and you know how I hate to make phone calls, especially at 3:00 in the morning. With all that to bitch about, I did get to watch Men in Black 3. I thought it was going to be as godawful as Men in Black 2, but it was actually good, and I didn't see that ending coming; I thought something else was going to happen, on the order of Quantum Leap. Never mind, spoilers.

Over on my Facebook page, there is a lively discussion going on about the "new" methadology being used by protective investigators and case managers in assessing family safety. I politely declined "transformation" (meaning I skipped classes due to trials and just never rescheduled and hey, nobody caught it or if they did, they shrugged their shoulders and said, "she's passive-aggressive, let it go.") The whole thing came up because I posted an article about how the number of children in foster care has risen, which is exactly the result the new methadology was designed to prevent. Never should have hauled out that soapbox.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Just Wanted To Say Hello

Although I am trying really hard not to think about cooking, my brain strayed to Hanukkah and latkes (potato and cheese) and other fried things (okra fritters, anyone?), so I checked on the actual starting date, and guess what?

We are not going to be home for the holiday!  Instead, Robert and I are going to be sailing around the Bahamas, taking a well-deserved break from our daily routine.  You can't get FOX News on the Carnival Sensation, and even CNN is spotty.

We are into Pre-Tax Season, and with that comes the Pre-Tax Season Cruise, which we broke into two pieces.  First comes 4 days on the Sensation, which literally means 4 days on the Sensation. Heading to the Bahamas, and we don't get off the ship. Don't need to.

As much as I am thinking about cooking, I haven't done a damn thing because the fibro has landed me practically flat on my back.  Since Friday I have been practically useless. Maybe totally useless. Except Saturday morning I did go to my tai chi class. When I'm in tai chi class, I feel good. I can stand up, even on one foot, and my heart slows down to a more normal rate. Pretty cool. 

I have so much to do, but I have to be patient and wait until I feel well enough to do them.  The heart palpitations are a totally new twist, as the Inderal has kept them under control for the past 35 years. These knock the hell out of me, not that I had much hell left to knock around. I really want to get back on track with my cookie baking, and I simply can't. I have oysters to fry, damn it. Hell, I want to get up to make another cup of coffee and I can't do that, either.

If anyone wants to join me for Words with Friends, c'mon down.  

Friday, November 27, 2015

Santa Landed ... Holiday Menus and Recipe Links

... as he always does, right in front of Macy's in New York City. I always get excited, like a little kid, and there is something wrong with that picture because 1. I'm not a little kid and 2. I don't celebrate Christmas. Well, maybe I do, a little. I love the happy mood of the holiday. I love that billions of Christians are celebrating the birth of a little Jewish baby.  I love Christmas carols and the Christmas windows in the big New York department stores and the tree in Rockefeller Center. I love baking cookies for Christmas. The only things I don't like about Christmas are the crass commercialism and the fact that my birthday, which is the very next day, has always gotten lost in the rest of the Christmas holiday. I think I've gotten over it ... I'll be 63 next month ... but when I was a kid, it really hurt.  My parents could be really clueless at times.

Black-and-white cat on black-and-white cow on Black Friday
Anakin says, "Black-and-white lives matter"

Today is Black Friday, and I am as far away from the Florida Mall and the Mall of Millenia as I can possibly get.  I dislike malls at the best of times, and this ain't the best of times. I've often said that the internet was invented with me in mind - yes, I can be awfully egocentric - because any shopping I wish to do can be done from the same iPad I use to create this blog.  I am in bed wearing a comfortable robe, no shoes, no bra, no dentures to pinch me, and if I wanted to shop - which I don't - I'll head over to Amazon and wave my credit card around. Let all the shopping sadists and masochists have their fun. I have declared Walmart a no-fly zone until after New Years.

Our Thanksgiving was quiet and lovely and I am truly thankful that we spent it with my in-laws.  It reminds me that Rob and I were married on October 20, 1974, and just a month later, I invited both our families over for Thanksgiving dinner.  Pretty cheeky, since I didn't know how to cook.  Back then I was fearless (read: stupid) and ploughed ahead, relying on memories of my mother's kitchen, telephone consultations with both mothers, and the only cookbook I owned at the time, The Joy of Cooking. I had a great time and I've been cooking like a madwoman ever since.

With Christmas coming up in less than a month, I wanted to share most of my Thanksgiving recipes with you because, let's face it, the menus are practically interchangeable.  I seriously recommend Ina Garten's Virginia Ham (yes, I'm Jewish. Yes, I eat ham. And bacon, pork, sausage, shrimp, lobster, clams, oysters, mussels, cheeseburgers and beef stroganoff. People who keep kosher are not better Jews than I am, especially when they think they are. Oops. Let me tuck my soapbox back into its little old corner.)

Deviled Scotch Eggs  Here are the changes: For the sausage, I used premade sausage meatballs, two meatballs to cover each extra large egg.  For breading, I switched to panko crumbs and single breaded. And instead of frying, I baked them in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, turning them once halfway through. I am here to tell you that the baked version is better than the fried. Maybe it was the silpat. NOW - if you like, after you cut the eggs in half, remove the yolks and mash them together with your favorite deviled egg ingredients. Fill the egg halves, and finish with a stripe of Louisiana remoulade

Roast Turkey This time it was unstuffed, except for some oranges and lemon and fresh rosemary and sage. I rubbed the skin with mayonnaise (yes, mayonnaise. Hellmann's) and sprinkled with salt, pepper, granulated garlic and paprika. This 12-pound bird, unstuffed, took 3 hours and came out perfect. Surprised myself.

Stuffing  Of course I made some changes using 1 pound of Jimmy Dean's Italian sausage and a can of well-drained fruit cocktail.

Paula Deen's Sweet Potato Yams I could not find the recipe I prepared online, but if you have Paula's first cookbook you will find it there.  The link will lead you to another Paula Deen sweet potato recipe that includes bourbon. Bourbon rocks (for cooking, I don't drink the stuff).

Hot German Potato Salad I used baking potatoes this time, baking them off, letting them cool and then peeling them. Either potato works well; the petite reds make a "neat" potato salad, while the baking potatoes are a "messy" version.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Cinnamon Butternut Squash, Pecans and Cranberries What can I say, except "delicious?"

Guy Fieri's Grilled Cauliflower with Bacon and Brie  I oven-roasted the cauliflower. Also, I came up a trifle short on the brie, and made up the difference with some shredded mozzarella.

Roasted Garlic Creamed Spinach

Cranberry Raspberry Orange Mini Muffins I made half the recipe, using one box of the Jiffy cake mix and one box of their raspberry muffins. I substituted chopped cranberries (mine were frozen) for the blueberries, and orange rind for the lemon. As to the liquid, I squeezed the orange, which yielded about 1/4 cup, and also 3/4 cup sour cream. I baked them in mini muffin tins, but I was so tired I seriously  overfilled the little cups.  Major muffin tops!

If I may, let me remind you that this blog contains around 500 recipes and a pretty adequate search engine. I am reasonably sure you will be able to find any number of vegetable and side dishes, breads and desserts, and even main dishes for your holiday tables. Let's all resolve to continue in the holiday spirit as we move towards Hanukkah and Christmas; to be grateful for family and friends and food on our tables; and to pray for peace.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Giving thanks for Thanksgiving

The past few days have been a whirlwind of cooking punctuated by short breaks for swallowing rather copious amounts of Advil.  I was depressed to think this might be my last Thanksgiving cooking binge, because I really felt the effects of the fibromyalgia during this one.  One year from now, who knows what sort of physical condition I will be in.

All this cooking and kitchen-cleaning has absorbed whatever time I might have had for blogging, so even though this is a cooking blog, I have no recipes to share, just some pictures. Even now, I have to crawl out of my nice, warm, supportive bed and finish my preparations before loading up the car to head over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope your day is filled with love, family, and friends, and food to share. 

I will be spending Black Friday as I always have - at home. If you are one of those people who bring your sleeping bag so you can stake out a first-in-line spot in front of Toys R Us or Best Buy, good luck.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"We are at war." Said everybody except the President ... Roasted Garlic Creamed Spinach

I tried staying away from the news for a few days because it has been frankly frightening and nerve-shattering.  I hardly need my nerves shattered any more than they already are, but there is no way to avoid what is happening out there.  There are terrorists among us. Our President is unwilling to face the enormity of the danger.  There are reports that the White House has induced advisors to "cook the books" regarding the nature and import of available intelligence, and there are three different investigations ongoing. "Intelligence manipulation." Remember those two words.

Okay. If I go into it any further, my head will explode. 

Oh dearie dearie me. My Orlando Magic is playing tonight, away game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. You know, the team in the city that Lebron James calls home. We are screwed. I'm thinking about going back to FOX News. It's going to be a bloodbath, either way.

I continue to slog through the whole disability process - both of them, state and federal. Today, totally frustrated, I posted to my timeline on Facebook:

Today I officially applied for regular early retirement through the state.  Although my doctor has never been able to certify that I can go back to work after almost nine rather terrible months, he is unwilling to check the little box that says "permanently disabled." With that lack of support, I cannot proceed on an appeal of the Retirement Commission's decision. Seriously there are days I cannot get out of bed and other days that the pain borders on unbearable.  I didn't ask you to lie, doc ... I asked you to listen to me, and to take the time to educate yourself on fibromyalgia.

Going through this process I have come to believe that the people who understand fibromyalgia the least, and who have the least sympathy for fibromyalgia patients, are medical doctors. Fancy that.

So the Saga of State Disability is over. Stay tuned for the Federal Fandance. Oy!!!

Today, I also happened to get mail asking me to submit to a physical examination for purposes of social security disability determination, and that is happening because my doctor did not send my medical records as requested.  Proverbial last straw and all that, so yes, I will be changing primary doctors. This is my life we're talking about.

We are officially in the Interregnum of the Cookies. Normal cookie-baking is suspended while Thanksgiving planning and cooking takes place.  This is one of the dishes I will be making for our dinner.

Roasted Garlic Creamed Spinach

This is a variation on the creamed spinach recipe my mother in law gave me over 40 years ago, which had exactly two ingredients - frozen chopped spinach and cream cheese. I cannot count how many times I have prepared the original recipe. It is one of those no-fail recipes every young bride should have in her back pocket: heat together 2-10 oz. packages frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and well-drained, with 1-8 oz. bar of good quality cream cheese. Stir until the cream cheese is melted and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

I recently decided to tamper with perfection by adding roasted garlic, which can't help but improve anything it is added to. The amount of roasted garlic is completely adjustable, as is the heavy cream. Or you can add another half of a bar of cream cheese instead of the cream.  Creamed spinach is a favorite around these parts, and in fact was part of my Last Supper at the Yachtsman Steakhouse just before my gastric bypass surgery in 2003.  Of that fabulous meal, the only food I can still eat is - you guessed it - creamed spinach.

1-6 oz. jar peeled garlic cloves (Spice World brand)
olive oil
3-10 oz. boxes frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and well-drained (press out excess liquid)
1-8 oz. bar cream cheese
1 cup heavy cream, divided
kosher salt
black pepper

First prepare the garlic. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Empty the entire jar of garlic cloves into a shallow baking pan so that they are in a single layer. Add just enough olive oil to coat all of the garlic cloves. Season with some salt and pepper, and place in the oven. Roast the garlic for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and turn all of the cloves. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes or until the garlic is soft and fragrant.  Avoid allowing the garlic to turn brown.  Mash the roasted garlic with a fork and set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, begin to soften the cream cheese. Add as much of the mashed garlic as you wish (I used all of it, which comes to about 1/2 cup) and 1/2 cup of the heavy cream. Stir constantly until the cream cheese is almost completely smooth. Start adding in the spinach, stirring well to incorporate it into the cream cheese sauce.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

I did all that and then piled it into a pretty little Corningware  casserole dish, and then I took a picture to show my cousin Steve Schneider that I occasionally do serve food in something other than aluminum pans. (Love you, Cousin Steve.)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Random Thoughts - Mandarin Orange Cookies

Sunday - My heart rate does not bear counting. I just know, by the wild and crazy flutter in my chest that it is much too fast.  Let's hope the Inderal works its magic, and quickly, quickly.

The Magic lost last night, having played badly throughout the entire game.  I suspect Coach Skiles took them all back for a team ass-whooping after that performance. As if that wasn't bad enough, last night's Doctor Who saw the onscreen death of the Doctor's longtime companion, Clara Oswald.  And I was just beginning to like her. The day started very well with an 8:00 AM Tai chi class, but it was downhill after that. Especially for Clara.

I haven't really discussed Thanksgiving, just 4 days from now, and I wonder who among my readers still prepares a traditional Thanksgiving dinner? Someone please correct my notion that an entire generation of adults pride themselves on not knowing how to cook. Anyway, I had my menu planned out, and then as always happened, while walking through BJ's and Publix and letting my fingers do the walking through the Internet, a couple of dishes get added.  There is going to be a lot of leftovers, which is the idea.

New recipes to try, newly developed recipes to test, and a bunch of old favorites and I am excited about all of them. Does that make me old-fashioned? And me one of the original feminists, hammering at that glass ceiling. Young women, it's okay to cook for your family. Better than okay, it is wonderful. You cherish and nourish your family all at the same time.

So today I planned on baking a batch of Chinese Almond Cookies, and took out the butter and lard with that project in mind, but a very few hours shopping have knocked me out and I'm sitting on my ass instead.  I hurt, damn it.

I do, however, have those four cookie recipes in reserve, and I would like to start sharing them with you, especially since cookie-baking is scheduled to take a back seat to Thanksgiving cooking for the remainder of the week. This is one of my favorites - I am a freak for citrus - from Camilla Saulsbury. Go to Amazon and buy her book. Seriously.

Mandarin Orange Cookies

1 - 18.25 oz. package yellow cake mix
1/3 cup canola oil
1 extra large egg
grated zest of one large orange
1 - 11 oz. can Mandarin oranges, well-drained and coarsely chopped (I used kitchen scissors)

There are a few minor changes from the original recipe, based on what I actually did. Also, I did not bother with the icing.  Too much work and too sweet for me and my family. Besides, the unadorned cookie is fabulous as is.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Silpat or no-stick spray your cookie sheets.

In a large mixing bowl combine half of the cake mix with the oil, egg, and orange zest. With an electric mixer (I used hand-held) beat on medium-high for 1-2 minutes. Stir in the remaining cake mix with a wooden spoon and/or rubber spatula until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Gently fold in the chopped Mandarin oranges.

With a cookie scoop (I used the 2 tablespoon scoop I favor for cookies) place the dough on the cookie sheet, 2 inches apart.  Bake for 11-14 minutes until the cookies are set at the edges but barely set at the center.  The bottoms of the cookies should be an even golden brown.  Cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet, then using a metal spatula, move the cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Yield: 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Short, Sweet, and Savory Sausage Bread Pudding

Saturday - Yesterday I was resolved to bake multiple batches of cookies. Thursday evening I went to my tai chi class and was feeling pretty good.  I even had a positive mental attitude! So come Friday, bake I did.  Stand on my feet for 6 hours I did. Knocked out 4 different recipes I did. Knocked myself out in the process, but it was worth it. Mandarin Orange Cookies, Pine Nut Cookies, Peanut Butter Rebels (Wookie Cookies), and Paradise Cookies. Recipes, you say? Why yes, I got 'em, but I've got to gather the energy to type them up. You may have noticed I've missed posting to the blog here and there, and that's just part of the fibromyalgia, which I find pretty damn depressing. I look forward to my daily posts, and being limited in even that is infuriating.

I seem to be shopping for food every day, and I am finding that tiring and painful.  I am determined to prepare a "proper" Thanksgiving dinner for my family, "proper" requiring hours and hours of cooking and baking. In some ways, Thanksgiving is what I live for. My favorite cooking holiday of all, even though the big family gatherings are a thing of the past.  I used to cook for 20; now it is just five. People move away, people pass away, and couples divorce, fracturing the family dynamic. Still, I want every Thanksgiving dinner to be special, and this year involves both turkey and spiral-cut ham.  Stay tuned.

In the middle of all my planning, I had a brainstorm and proceeded to put together a recipe for a breakfast casserole that my husband insists on eating for dinner.  We used to call them "stratas" which tells you nothing, but I prefer to think of this as a savory bread pudding.  No matter what you call it, I think you will love it

Savory Sausage Bread Pudding

About 15 slices buttercrust bread, torn into smaller pieces (from a 20 oz. package)
1 pound roll of pork sausage (Jimmy Dean's, Tennessee Pride, Publix) - I used maple for this
1 large onion, chopped
canola oil
kosher salt
ground black pepper
sweet paprika
dried thyme
1 - 7 oz can chopped green chiles (fire roasted and peeled), drained

5 cups whole milk
8 eggs
Kosher salt
ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon Crystal hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon maple syrup

1 pound shredded cheese (I used 8 oz. each of sharp cheddar and hot jalapeno & habanero jack cheeses)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put the bread pieces on a baking sheet and into the preheated oven for several minutes until the bread dries out, without toasting them.  Set the bread aside.

In a large skillet, heat a very small amount of canola oil and add the sausage.  Break the sausage apart as it brown, and about halfway through, add the chopped onions. salt, pepper, paprika, and thyme.  Cook until the sausage is done and the onions are well-softened. Stir in the drained chiles. Set the skillet aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs together. add the milk, salt, pepper, hot sauce and maple syrup and whisk until well-blended.

Grease or no-stick spray a large baking dish. Layer the ingredients in this order: one-third of the bread, then one-half of the sausage mixture, then one-third of the combined cheeses. Repeat one time, then add the last of the bread. Carefully pour the egg and milk mixture over the entire casserole, and finish with the remaining cheese and a sprinkle of paprika.  Bake for 60 - 75 minutes until the cheese is melted and the casserole is puffy. Check the internal temperature, which should read at least 125 degrees.

You can serve it immediately or at room temperature, plain, with more maple syrup, or some sour cream. So good. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Fear and Loathing in Disney World - Queen's Cakes

When in danger, or in doubt
Run in circles, scream and shout

Thursday - Yesterday it occurred to me that all of this week's tragedies are designed to move us all one step closer to worldwide jihad.  This is not just about France; what the Islamic State wants is to provoke all the non-Islamic countries to the point of another World War. Why else issue specific threats against the U.S. while bringing down a Russian plane over the Sinai peninsula and publishing photos of beheaded prisoners from China and Norway? In simple terms, ISIS wants to piss off everybody. The Syrian refugee crisis is, to ISIS, just another means of causing great dissension among and within the western nations facing the terrible question of whether to bring the refugees within their borders. Either way, ISIS wins; the debate over humanitarian aid versus strict security enforcement is setting Americans at bitter odds with each other.  If the President gets his way, we run the risk of admitting an unknown number of ISIS terrorists. If the Governors of over 30 states get their way, the outrage among the pro-refugee Americans will cause yet another rip in the fabric of our culture.

Think of it - with all the great nations of the world in a confused uproar, without the leadership normally provided by the United States, ISIS is in the perfect position to attack. They already live among us, pretending to be westerners, recruiting our children, spreading their cancerous tentacles deeper into our country and our culture.

If we are to learn anything from history, it is that no war has ever been resolved by anything but brute force. That is a terrible thing to realize, but all the high-level discussions and negotiations never solved a damn thing in the geopolitical universe. Obviously ISIS knows that, and is rubbing its collective hand in glee at the thought of world jihad, or as I tend to think of it, Armageddon.

The latest ISIS threat is an attack on Times Square in New York City, but I have no reason to believe that they will not simultaneously attack other "soft" targets like Madison Square Garden, Grand Central Station, Kennedy Airport, the Statue of Liberty and even the Museum of Modern Art.  I also have no reason to believe that other cities are safe, and living as I do in one of the biggest tourist areas in the world, I share the fear that we will be targeted - Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, Orlando International Airport, Amway Center, Gatorland, Kennedy Space Center on the east coast, Busch Gardens on the west - think about it. Because I am dead certain that they have.

Well - the usual aches and pains mixed with a healthy dose of sadness, and here I am still sitting on the bed, unwilling to fire up any additional nerve endings with a trip downstairs. I've not had breakfast (nor lunch - yeah, it's that late) nor coffee, and I'm not sure I care. Well, maybe about the coffee.

Yesterday was not a bad day, as days go.  Found a new route to the therapist's office, wandered a bit near Bay Hill where the rich athletes live, checked out a brand-spanking-new Publix, baked a big batch of Queen's Cakes. Oh, and if you heard any screaming around 9:58 PM, that was me after Evan Fournier sank a 3 point shot just half a second before the buzzer sounded at the end of overtime. The Magic never win in overtime, except last night they did, tied 101-101 with the Timberwolves, and then Fournier did what he did.  I love those guys, especially Coach Scott Skiles.  The rest of the world is falling apart, but the Orlando Magic have risen from the ashes left behind by Dwight Howard, Jacques Vaughn, and Otis Smith.

Today, however, is not a good day. I tried to eat some of the fabulous pasta salad I'd put together 2 days ago, and it is delicious, but apparently eating normal food is not going to be one of the day's accomplishments. The coffee is not working its usual magic. I had a rather sudden nosebleed, splashing blood all over me and my keyboard and nosebleeds always depress me under any circumstances.

Let's talk about cookies. One cannot be depressed, despite the stabbing pain on the left side of one's back, when one is contemplating fresh, homemade cookies, can one?  I've been working my way through my list, trying new recipes but always going back for a batch of old favorites. This recipe for Queen's Cakes is from The Joy of Cookies by Sharon Tyler Herbst, copyright 1987 which makes it as old as my son. Ha. You will need some miniature muffin tins; I have 4 tins, each baking 12 mini-muffins, that I bought in 1976 to make the Nut Cup recipe I got from a coworker.  Just this past month, I found a 48 mini-muffin pan, really well-made by Wilton, and I treated myself.  Heck, I was in Walmart, it was reasonably priced. I've also seen 24 mini-muffin tins there.  If you like to bake, mini-muffin pans are something of a necessity, in my opinion.

Robert loves the way they taste, as do I, but I also love the fact that they are called Queen's Cakes.  I have a special bond with Queen Elizabeth II, although she is unaware of it - she was crowned in 1952, the year I was born, so in case Alex Trebek ever gives me that answer, I have the question. Royalty for $400? God save the Queen!

Queen's Cakes

3 cups all-purpose flour
scant 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
scant 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup dried currants
1/2 cup finely chopped maraschino cherries, blotted well on paper towels
coarse decorating sugar (I used turbinado)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease or no-stick spray 48 miniature muffin tins. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter, sugar and extracts together until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the sour cream, then stir in the flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time, blending well after each addition.  Stir in the currants and cherries (I like to use a rubber spatula to fold them into the dough).

Divide the dough evenly among the 48 miniature muffin tins. (I used a scoop. No kidding.) The tins will be almost full. Sprinkle lightly with the decorating sugar. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until the cookies are baked through and the sides and bottom are golden brown.  Remove the cookies from the tin and transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Spoonie Got Scoops - Exotic Spice Cookies

Flags at half-mast, downtown Kissimmee. Viva la France.

Once and for all we have to resolve the matter of scoops.  But first, Tai Chi.

When my son was just 11 years old, he started studying martial arts.  Not, as you might think, in taekwando, but in kung fu. His instructor, Sifu Tony Juron, started Cory on a path that contributed all sorts of positive things to his childhood (along with Senior Master Casco, his taekwando instructor and mentor) and helped make him the really fine adult he turned out to be.

Tonight, watching Cory finish teaching taekwando class at ATA Mass Defense in St. Cloud, I can only imagine that Sifu Tony felt some well-earned pride. Even though it has been years since Cory took formal classes with Tony, he says that Tony is still teaching him.

Why was Sifu Tony at the taekwando school? And why was I at the school, when I'd had to stop doing taekwando several years before because of fibromyalgia? (I have a black belt - hard to believe, I know. It only took me 12 years.)  Without going through a long and interesting (to me, anyway) story, Tony has come to an agreement with Mrs. Massey, the owner and chief instructor at ATA Mass Defense (and without whom I would not have made it as far as I did in taekwando; talk about having patience!) to teach tai chi. And tai chi is something I can do; there is no impact to jar my nerve endings. Tai chi is all about calmness, light movements, and positive energy, all the things I need in my life.

Walking in to my home dojo after so long, and being able to take lessons was a joy. Yesterday was the second class, and I enjoyed it and appreciated the underlying philosophy.  For the first time since the fibromyalgia changed my life, I think I am capable of regaining some degree of control over my body.  It felt good to be able to move with purpose and discipline, and Tony is (still) a marvelous instructor.  I just have to get into the habit of saving some spoons for my 7:00 PM classes on my tai chi days.

Spoonie Got Scoops

Scoops.  I mention them all the time in my recipes.  Scoops for meatballs, scoops for cookies, scoops for cupcakes and muffins.  Give me liberty or give me scoops. I don't know how I made meatballs or cookies before scoops; I did, I just don't know how.

I have 4 different size scoops; the ice cream scoop with the wooden handle belonged to my grandmother-who-raised-me.  Besides ice cream, I use it to portion those massive Italian meatballs, 2 scoops per meatball. I've used the second from the left to make Swedish meatballs, as well as certain cookies.  The third from the left is my go-to cookie scoop - it holds 2 tablespoons and is perfect for most cookies and for miniature muffins and cupcakes.  The last one is also used for certain tiny cookies.  Scoops are awesome helpers in the kitchen, and which scoop you use is entirely up to you.  The advantage to using scoops is the uniformity of size and ease of release. If the dough or meatball mixture doesn't release easily, give the scoop a shot of no-stick spray.  And that's all I have to say about scoops.  Use them. Love them. Embrace the scoop. Thank you.

Exotic Spice Cookies 

These are easy. Having said that, let me warn that they are not pretty when baked, and you will surely stare at the bowl and swear at The Great Goddess of Cookies (me) that there is not enough dough to cover the chips and nuts.  Trust me, there is but just barely. These take 12 to 13 minutes to bake, but you have to watch them like a hawk so the edges don't turn into carbon. The yield is 2 1/2 dozen, although the original recipe, using a 1/4 cup measure, makes only twelve.  I'm glad I made them smaller with the third scoop from the left, because my husband and a guest scarfed up a handful each before I could get them to the freezer. Neither one noticed the cookies were not pretty because they were too busy loving the taste. The recipe is my riff on another gem from Camilla Saulsbury. I used cashews instead of macadamia nuts, and went glazeless.

1 - 16.5 oz. roll refrigerated sugar cookie dough, softened
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 cup cashew halves and pieces
1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Break up the cookie dough into a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients.  Mix well (I used a rubber spatula) until blended. Chill for at least 20 minutes.

Now use a scoop to portion out the dough, and roll the cookie between your palms (like you roll a meatball). Place onto an ungreased cookie sheet (I used the silpat) leaving 3 inches between the cookies.  Bakes for 13 to 17 minutes until edges are golden brown.  Cool for at least 5 minutes on the cookie sheet. Move the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

These are sublime ...

The photo is a bit darker than the actual cookies

Into the freezer with the first batch