Having served its purpose…

I have decided to conclude this blog.

Properly keeping up on a blog of this nature requires a fair bit of commitment of my time and energy. I’ve taken on a position of responsibilty with a non-profit professional association and I have decided that in order to do it justice, I have to treat it like a part-time job. Of course, there are only so many hours in a day, so something has to give.

I started it as a way to ease myself into the idea of getting rid of something I hold dear: my collection of cookbooks. I have done that, I believe. I’ve given away a few, but more importantly, I’ve broken my perception of the NEED to have them in my life. I’ve discovered that while there are a couple that are prized posessions, I can always look up a recipe on the internet if I have a mind to try something new. I’ve discovered that I like the possibility that cookbooks hold, more than the use of them. I will continue to go through the process of trying and discarding them and I am quite certain that I will probably keep buying new ones occasionally. My Mum’s church bazaar will be the benefactor of those I give away from now on.

If there is anyone left to read this, after neglecting you for so long, I thank you very much for having been a reader.  I appreciate your time and input. Most of all, I thank Cheryl at WryandGinger for the inspiration and help in constructing the blog.

I raise my glass of Malbec to you all and  say, “BORK, BORK, BORK!”

Drumroll please…

And the winner is…

Tella!

Congratulations to you; I’ll mail off your cookbook tomorrow.

One more thing folks, I’ll be leaving for a conference in a couple of days, so big surprise, I probably won’t be doing much posting over the next week or so. Unless I find myself mysteriously in posession of more cookbooks.

Hit the Wall

It’s happened. I’ve finally found a cookbook that has beat me into submission. After trying two recipes that were okay, I’ve struggled to find a third that I even want to try, that I don’t already have in some other book that I know I’ll be keeping. There’s nothring wrong with the book, on the contrary, the photos are good, the ingredients readily available and the instructions easy enough.

Luckily for any readers I may have left after my long silences, that means it’s up for grabs! Between now and June 4th, all you have to do to enter is submit a comment on this post, or fire me an email at cookbookhoard@gmail.com

I’ll be drawing for the cookbook on Monday, June 4th and will send it in the mail once I get a mailing address. Open to all of humanity, no residential restrictions. Please note: this is a gently used cookbook, still in very good condition.

Shameful

I am ashamed.

I like to cook and bake.

We had a meeting scheduled at the office this morning and I said I’d make cookies for us.

I had meetings until 8pm last night.

I bought cookies at the supermarket on the way to work this morning.

I am ashamed.

Who doesn’t like lemon?

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like a lemon dessert. If I have room for dessert, I’ll go with something lemony if it’s on offer. It’s also a safe bet when bringing something for a house party. So I was pleased to see this recipe in the cookbook:

Recipe: Lemon Icebox Cookies

Book: Company’s Coming Most Loved Cookies

I’d never made icebox or refrigerator cookies before. I can only assume it’s because they weren’t a type of cookie that my family made. They certainly were easy, as long as you don’t mind starting it one day, and then finishing the next.

Super easy start: cream butter and sugar. Then add one egg at a time, then add lemon zest and beat until smooth.  Add the dry ingredients in batches, mixing until there is no loose flour each time. Dita takes all the work out of it for me, thank heavens, because it can tough on the arms to make it combine smoothly.

\

Then you split the batter into two chunks and roll into logs of aprox 8 inches long. Wrap in waxed paper and fire it in the fridge for 6 hours or overnight. Mine sat for 24 hours and I was a little alarmed that they were hard as rocks when I took them out. It was okay, they softened up quickish.

Because I was worried about them getting too soft, I cut them up from their oblong shape rather than take the time to make them more round, or square as the recipe suggested for some.

Next it was a delicate dance of making sure the cookies cooked just long enough and letting them sit on the cookie sheet for a bit before putting them on wire racks to finish cooling.

I have to admit I didn’t pay close enough attention to the instructions for the lemon drizzle that goes over the cookies. I used to much lemon juice, so the ‘icing’ wasnt icing. It puddled on the cookies initially, and then sank in. It should have made little zigzags like when there’s chocolate drizzle on something.

Instead they looked like this. Still yummy but not terribly pleasing, asthetically. AND THEN! I tried the ‘option’

Optional was to melt some semisweet squares of chocolate and dip the wee cookies partly into the chocolate…not hard, right? You’ve really got to watch the temperature and get it off the heat before it’s all quite melted.

Pour the chocolate into a custard-cup-sized container and dip some cookies in it that weren’t lemon glazed. They turned out to be pretty special.

Verdict: They remind me of shortbread cookies-no surprise since they’re similar. They were pretty good, and not a whole ton of work. It does make a LOT of cookies though, so I had to give batches away to friends. They enjoyed them but one remarked that they should have more lemon and I can’t disagree. I’ll have to do a better job with the glaze or drizzle or what-have-you next time.  Recipe–>Lemon Icebox Cookies

Milk Calendar Challenge, May Edition

For May’s challenge, I went looking for a way to use up some little steaks I’d bought on sale and it turned out that this was the prefect recipe for that!

Book: Milk Calendar 2011 (January)

Recipe: Ginger Lemon Beef and Broccoli

Reasonable amount of ingredients: beef, broccoli, lemon (juice and zest), onion, ginger, pepper flakes, soy sauce, cornstarch, honey, butter and milk.

It’s a fairly quick cooking recipe, but like with any stir fry, the work is all in the prep. I like to make sure my broccoli is bite sized, that the onions are thinish and that my meat is in fairly evenly sized thin strips. 

Stir together the milk, soy sauce, cornstarch, zest, honey and pepper flakes and set aside. Shred the ginger and set aside.

Put half the butter over med heat in a non-stick pan, add the beef and cook until brown; just a couple of minutes. Remove meat from the pan. Add the rest of the butter and the onions to soften, then add the broccoli and ginger and stir fry for 3 minutes. Now you stir in the sauce (be sure to stir in the bowl before you pour into the pan, as cornstarch will separate when it’s left to sit). It takes a few minutes to heat through and thicken somewhat.

Off topic: I never know what is an acurate amount of lemon zest. If it calls for a teaspoon, are you supposed to have it loose-ish like tea leaves, or packed down like brown sugar? I split the difference and tamped it down just a bit.

Verdict: My mister thought the lemon added a wierd quirk to the flavour that it took a few bites to get used to. Grown son is not a fan of broccoli, but he was happy with the beef and noodles that I served it with. I enjoyed it well enough but would probably not make it again, in favour of one without the lemon. That being said, it was better the second day. Recipe–> Ginger-Lemon Beef & Broccoli

New Cookbook Time!

I’ve been faffing around long enough. It’s finally time to put another cookbook through it’s paces. On the block today is a Company’s Coming publication: Most Loved Cookies.

I read the forward, and still don’t know who got to decide which, of all the cookies there are in the world, are the Most Loved. I think “Most Loved” is a quantifiable statement, but it’s not backed up here with any fact. No mention of a survey, no sample-size, methodology, nothing! Beyond the presumptiousness of the title, (and my pompous ass-essment of it) there are over 75 recipes: something for everyone. There are refrigerator cookies, drop, rolled, pressed and even some holiday ones. It’s an oddly sized hardcover cookbook: larger than their usual 5 1/2 by 8″.

I decided on one of my favourites: a ginger one.

Cookbook: Company’s Coming; Most Loved Cookies

Recipe: Gingersnaps

Growing up, I believed that the sun rose on chocolate chip cookies, and set on christmas shortbreads. I didn’t really care about any other kinds. My Mum used to occasionally get a bag of storemade gingersnaps from the Ben’s bakery outlet. I wasn’t very impressed with them, but would eat a couple, dunked in orange juice, but only occasionally. I have since come to love ginger cookies, but still only have them occasionally-because I’d be as big as a house.

Ingredient list: flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, butter, egg, cinnamon, ground ginger and molasses. (recipe is at the end)

I enlisted the help of Dita (my gorgeous lipstick-red Kitchenaid mixer) who took all the work out of creaming together the butter and sugar, then egg and molasses and then adding the combined dry ingredients in batches. I do love her so.

Once everything was combined nicely, I made little balls of the raw dough and restrained myself from eating them long enough to roll them in a bowl of extra sugar. They were put on greased cookie sheets, with 2 inches or so between them, enough to leave room for spreading out.

My oven, in case I haven’t mentioned it, is a giant piece of crap. It super-heats every time, so I have to subtract about 75 degrees from the suggested temperature as well as shave off some of the estimated cooking time. I suspect that the thermometer is kaflooey. Our landlord is not a handy man. Neither is my mister. (He has other talents. He’s a writer, people, get your mind out of the gutter.)

I tell you this so that you will not be surprised when I tell you that one or two batches of my cookies did not turn out optimally. I don’t blame the recipe. It was all down to split second timing. Leave them in a moment too long: too dark; leave them on the cookie sheet to “set” for a minute too long: they stuck like they were epoxied.

Mind you, all the batches were tasty, just not all of the cookies were in one piece. I have still not overcome my misjudgement of an inch either. There were supposed to be 90 cookies. I made around 60.

Verdict: They were tasty, but mild-ish. I like my ginger to have some real kick to it. I think if I make them again, I’ll up the quantity of ground ginger or maybe add some finely-chopped candied ginger. Recipe here–> gingersnap cookies.

Easy like Sunday morning

And so it happens that we’re nearly through April before I realize I haven’t done a Milk Calendar challenge entry for this month. Oopsie.

It was time to try a new breakfast recipe because we’re in a pretty deep rut for breakfasts Chez Cookbookhoarder. Waffles. Every. Sunday.  We used to vary between pancakes, waffles and french toast…but everyone’s fave is waffles by a long shot. Time to change up our Sunday.

Recipe: Scrambled Western Quesadillas

Book: 2011 Milk Calendar

Quesadillas are a quick, easy treat that everyone enjoys in our house, so it didn’t seem like any kind of a stretch to try this recipe.  Eggs, milk, butter, onion, cheese, wraps, peppers, ham, salsa, sour cream are on this list.

Hack: instead of ham, I used kielbasa; instead of just green pepper, I added some red too. Actual recipe here –> Scrambled Western Quesadillas

Saute onions, peppers and ham in butter, until softened a little, then add eggs that have been beaten with salt, pepper and milk. Scramble the mixture just until the eggs are cooked.

Remove from pan, and wipe pan. Spread out the tortillas, sprinkling half of each with a total of half the cheese . Divide the egg mixture among the wraps. Sprinkle remaining cheese on egg and fold over flat (halfmoon shape).

Return to med heat in the pan to briefly toast both sides (and melt the cheese inside)

Cut into wedges and serve with salsa and sour cream.

Verdict: Delish!! My mister an I both enjoyed them very much and plan to have them again.

A Plethora of Pies

I mentioned in my last post that there was more than one type of pie made on the first day the machine crossed our threshold. I actually made three types of pie. A grand total of 14 mini pies. In the week that has followed I have not made any more just yet, much to the chagrin of at least one pie fan.

I thought I’d share with you the other ones that I made. All were with my standard pastry recipe from the Purity cookbook.

First was Pear, Lime and Ginger pie. There are recipes in the book for Pear and Lime pies…and Plum and Ginger pies. I thought it would be kinda special to recombine that a little bit, so I hacked the pear and lime recipe to reflect the fact that I was adding a bit of sugar to counteract the lime, but not too much, since I was using candied (sugared) ginger. Canned pears, the pear juice, fresh lime juice, sugar, cornstarch and water went with the 4 tsp of candied ginger I used. RECIPE here–>Pear and Lime Pies 

As with the chicken and leek pies, the work is in the front end, cooking (and then cooling) the filling before putting it into the shell just before cooking. Bring the fuit and juice to a simmer, then stir in the cornstarch and water to thicken for a bit.

It really paid off. These were delicious. Big Red loved them too. It suggests serving with cream and powdered sugar. We didn’t feel that was necessary. I don’t know why it looks like the pastry isn’t quite done in the photo below. It was flaky and cooked just right.

Second was Pecan pies. This recipe made 6 bottom-shell-only pies. (think pecan butter tarts)

They went over really well and disappeared really fast. Not much in them: pecans, corn syrup, brown sugar, butter, salt and eggs. RECIPE here–> Pecan Pie Tart

These ones didn’t require any pre-cooking, so that made them even better in my eyes because you literally can just mix up the ingredients and fire them into the pastry just before you want to cook and eat them. These are a particular favourite of my Mister.

As you can guess, everyone is happy with the new acquisition, even Buster.

Oh. My. Pie.

I can not believe it took such a short time for Airmiles to send this to me!!! I took a vacation day on Monday and it came while I was home, which cancelled all the rest of my plans for the day. Who really needs doorknobs when you have a piemaker?

I danced around for a bit, shouting/singing “PIE!” “We will have pie!” It was all very exciting. It just so happens that a local fabulous kitchen shop (Cucina Moderna if you’re interested) had have them on sale last week now for $69 80.  I happen to think I got a great bargain, getting this beast for airmiles only.

Quite the piece of machinery. It promises to cook mini pies in about 10 minutes. So shiny…

Look at the top part, this is going to make such a cute finish on pies! Professional looking, even.

Of course I read the entire instructional booklet and followed directions about wiping it down, what to do the first time you use it, etc and discovered that there are RECIPES in the booklet. 15 recipes actually. I chose a couple, made a grocery list and made a bee-line to the nearest grocery store.

First up: Chicken and Leek pies. Ingredients: butter, leek, parsley, chicken, chicken stock, cornstarch, water, salt & pepper and pastry. (See bottom of post for recipe)  Hack: it called for phyllo pastry. I used my usual Purity cookbook pastry recipe.

The secret to being able to cook pies in such a short time is that you pre-cook the fillings, for the most part. Here, I sauteed the leeks in butter, added parsley, chicken, and stock and boil. Mix cornstarch with water and stir in, until boils again and thickens somewhat. Season with salt and pepper and allow to cool before putting in the piecrusts.

I rolled out the pastry to 1/8″, and used the special tool to cut out 4 tops and 4 bottoms. I set rolled up the scraps of pastry and set aside in plastic wrap because you know this is not the only pies I made this day.

One of the parts of the special tool actually tamps down the bottom part of the pie shell so you avoid burned fingers, and can safely have a nice hollow to put in the filling. 1/3 of a cup of filling is all they recomend adding and it certainly looked sufficient. There was some left over so I froze it because I think it’ll be kind of yummy heated up on toast.

Then you just sit the top lid pastry on top and close the lid. It takes 8-12 minutes depending on the filling and thickness of pastry. You can check it and then re-close it if you have to.

Taadaaaaa!!! Adorable little chicken and leek pies! Add a wee salad or just some cut veggies and you have a fabulous lunch.  I’m so pleased with this, it’s ridiculous. They were very tasty. Grown son even tried one, even though he doesn’t like leeks, and he liked it too. Recipe: Chicken and Leek mini pies