Thursday, December 24, 2015

Spoonie Does Roll That Way - Maple Pecan Sugar Cookie Cups

Thursday - As you may have guessed, it is becoming more difficult for me to type and publish a daily blog post (insert frownie face here). My wrists are hurting fairly often, my head is fuzzy, and I am frankly exhausted. So although this is Tuesday's post about Monday, I have stepped into the space-time continuum to jump ahead to Thursday because in a few hours it will be Christmas Eve, one of my favorites, and I want to wish all my Christian friends the very best, and may all the blessings of the holiday be yours. I especially want to send love and happiness to our dear friends Kathy and Al, and to say a heartfelt "thank you" for sharing your Christmas Eves with us for so many years - from the year you got married to the last Christmas before we moved to Florida. In your honor, I am preparing shrimp scampi for dinner (insert smiley face here).

These present times can be unrelentlessly grim, but as long as I have such rich and happy memories to cherish, life ain't so bad.

Tuesday - The Magic beat the Knicks at Madison Square Garden last night.  Sorry, Phil (Jackson), but I needed that win after a crazy afternoon in a strange Walmart (oxymoronic, I know), and after dealing with the kind of traffic that drives lesser mortals (non-New Yorkers) insane. People were stopping in the oddest places, blocking aisles and herding children. None of the other customers spoke English. Nor Spanish. Nor German, French, Italian, Portugeuse, or Korean. I felt like Someone had picked me up and dropped me in a very foreign country. The people were not rude, but they seemed cheerfully confused by the bounty laid out on the shelves.  I cover the aisles in Walmart in a well-established pattern, and these happy, snappy Slavic types were messing with my mind. When I finally finished shopping and paying, it was dark outside. Now I got really freaked out, because I was having a Bad Vision Day.

But you know what? Yesterday was a good day, because I got out of the house, saw the therapist, did my shopping, and got home in one piece, even if it did take me an hour and a half to get from the corner of John Young Parkway and Sand Lake Road to my house, normally a 20 minute ride. Oh, and before all that, I'd baked up the Maple Pecan Sugar Cookie Cups, taken them out of the tins to cool on racks, and generally speaking, spent my spoons wisely. My pain was contained, like ISIL (at least according to President Obama).

But that was yesterday and this is today, and I've got a different bunch of spoons to spend. I've been up and about since 7:30, which is unusual for me, at least these days. I sauteed some greens I picked up at Trader Joe's, and then I tackled today's Big Project: Potato Latkes. Yes, I know Hanukkah is over, but so what? It's December. Christmas is this Friday. My birthday is this Saturday. Who needs an excuse to eat potato latkes? And who doesn't need another miracle?

Making latkes is a cooking project I generally enjoy, as long as I'm not being rushed. Once I get into the rhythm of frying, it is very soothing, and frying up a tall tower of golden-brown, oniony, crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside perfect potato pancakes, it becomes entirely clear why I was born Jewish, in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, my back and legs are protesting the long hours on my feet, so I'm 3 Advil down and ready for more. I'm also chucking the idea of using the remaining hot oil to fry some corn fritters; I'd be squandering good spoons on a dish we don't really need right now.

I'd like to give you today's recipe - I really would - but I've been making potato latkes at least twice a year for over 40 years, and I've never really made it the same way twice. So much depends on the precise size and water content of each potato, what kind of onion is used, and whether or not it's Passover. You have to look at the bowl of mixed ingredients and use your judgment. Let's face it, my judgment is different from everyone else's. I was taught to cook by someone who did not own a set of measuring cups or measuring spoons, who cooked with kosher salt before it became popular, who thought Log Cabin was better than real maple syrup (it is) , and rarely fried anything, and then only in Mazola corn oil. Again, this was long before everybody got nuts about hydrogenated fats and high cholesterol. My mother was an excellent home cook of strong opinions. There is a reason I only use Hellmann's mayonnaise and Heinz ketchup, and that reason just happened to have had a personality disorder (my therapist insists Mom had narcissistic personality disorder, but I stand firmly behind my diagnosis of borderline personality disorder.) I wonder if you carry your personality disorders with you into the Afterlife?  I sincerely hope not.      

No Tai Chi class tonight, as my instructor is out of town. I have to admit, I threw around today's spoons with gay abandon, but I saved a few just for class, and I am sorry to miss it.  The next few weeks are going to be crazy when it comes to missing two important linchpins of my tenuous sanity, namely my therapist and my Tai Chi class, but I am determined to hang on, Sloopy, Sloopy hang on. You don't have to thank me for the earworm. Besides, I have a 5-day cruise on the Carnival Sunshine coming up. That should make me right as rain, or left as Bernie Sanders.

Maple Pecan Sugar Cookie Cups

2-16 oz. flat packages Pillsbury sugar cookies
48 pecan halves

3 extra large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup Log Cabin syrup
1/2 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 48 miniature muffin tins with Pam for baking. Place one piece of cookie dough in each muffin cup, and leave at room temperature just until soft enough to press the dough into and up the sides of the cup. The best way to do this is to use the handle end of a large wooden spoon or wooden mallet. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove and allow the cups to cool. They puff up in the oven, but they will sink down and act like a proper pie crust once they cool. Place one pecan half in each little cup, using the slightest pressure.Set aside while you prepare the filling.

In a medium bowl, using low speed throughout, beat the eggs just to mix. Add the sugar, Log Cain, flour, and salt. Beat together until combined, then stir in the melted butter. Divide the mixture among the 48 cups, filling close to but not all the way to the top, 2-3 teaspoons each cup. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, reversing the pan front to back halfway through. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then carefully loosen each cookie using the tip of a small, sharp knife, and remove to a wire rack to finish cooling. These should be held in the refrigerator, and they can be frozen for other occasions. The shell will absorb some of the filling, so the texture and appearance will be different from a traditional pecan tassie, but who cares when something is this delicious? Not me, pilgrim, not me.

If you simply cannot bring yourself to use Log Cabin, do not try it with real maple syrup - instead, use an equal amout of light corn syrup, which is what the oringal recipe (my recipe for Southern Pecan Pie) uses.  Log Cabin is nothing more than maple-flavored corn syrup, so I felt comfortable in substituting with Log Cabin.

Towards the end of the day I crashed, hard. Standing on my feet for hours, something I used to do every day in court, has set my nerve endings on fire. Perhaps I should not have done all that kitchen hand washing after frying the latkes. Aw, hell.

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