After a December of catch-as-catch-can meals and travel I’m back to cooking. It feels great. For previous months’ notes, click on the “Cooking Notes” link in the sidebar. I didn’t get back in town until January 9th. The roads were a disaster for the next several days due to a snow storm in our town full of Southerners who don’t know how to drive on ice. That week’s cooking stayed pretty simple using more canned foods and items I had stocked in the fridge than usual. I’m finally back in the swing of things this week. As usual, I’ll be updating these cooking notes throughout the month.
- Cream-Cheese Brownies – Tasty, but different than I expected. The top came out almost chewy or caramelized, not sure why.
- Pecan Shortbread Cookies – We received The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook as a wedding gift, but I’ve also included a link to the recipe out on the Food Network site. It’s the first time I’ve tried these cookies. They almost didn’t make it into the oven because I kept scarfing the delicious vanilla, almond, and pecan scented cookie dough. This batch is going to Afghanistan. I chose shortbread because they’re a harder, longer lasting baked good that should last through the several weeks journey to Afghanistan. I freeze the cookies as soon as they’ve cooled from the oven, then double-ziploc them, put them in a tin, pad any empty space, and seal with tape. Not quite vacuum sealing, but the best I can manage.
- Baking Powder Biscuits – I’ve always used the recipe from Joy of Cooking but they never came out like my mother’s. Over vacation I found out she follows the recipe from Beard on Bread, and used it this time around. It’s only slightly different, but tiny differences matter in baking. I love biscuits and how versatile they are – covered in sausage gravy for breakfast, with cheese for a lunch, on the side of your plate with a bowl of soup for dinner, spread with some jam or honey for dessert. Not to be confused with a British biscuit, of course, which I think is the same thing as an American cookie.
- Chocolate-Chip Banana Bread – A couple bananas on the counter were getting overripe. I usually use the Joy of Cooking recipe for banana bread and throw in 2/3 cup chocolate chips. It’s a reliable recipe that turns out well every time.
- Bread – The basic recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Love that book.
- Baked Sausage n’ Apples – Good filling comfort food for a winter storm.
- Quesadillas – Snow Storm easy cooking, part two.
- Black Bean and Beef Burritos – Snow Storm easy cooking, part three: ground beef from the freezer, canned black beans from the pantry, tomato paste and taco seasoning for flavor, tortillas from the fridge.
- French Toast – Snow Storm easy cooking, part four. Not that I really need an excuse for breakfast for dinner – I’d love it at any time. As evidenced by the fact that I had eggs and bacon another night.
- Scrambled Egg Tacos – Can you tell yet that I had a big package of tortillas in the fridge when the storm hit?
- Potato Leek Soup with Spinach – From Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. You might expect any recipe from a book on French food to be complex, time-consuming, and full of expensive ingredients, but honestly it’s easier than your average “can of this, can of that, add some chicken” recipe you get in one of those 15 minute suppers magazines in the checkout line. This is my easy go-to soup. Peel and slice a pound of potatoes and about three cups of leeks. Boil with a tablespoon of salt in two quarts of water for forty minutes. Puree. Add in about six tablespoons of cream, and a sprinkling of pepper if desired. Despite its simplicity this is an incredibly flavorful and luxurious dish – the leeks make it. She also gives directions for stirring in additional vegetables if desired, so I tried it with spinach for the first time this week. If I add spinach again I’ll chop it finely first. Lesson learned.
- Provencal Roasted Tomatoes from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook with Pan-Fried Potatoes and Bacon on the side. The roasted tomatoes recipe is definitely a keeper – quick to whip up with ingredients from the cupboard and quite delicious. I’ll be going back to it often.
- Natchitoches Meat Pies – We became completely addicted to these during our weekend in Louisiana earlier this year. They’re small self-contained pies, full of rich seasoned meat, vegetables, and savory gravy. This filling in this recipe turned out very close to the authentic Louisiana version, but I had some trouble with the crust. Possibly that’s just because I substituted butter for the lard. I also baked the pies as suggested by this recipe rather than deep frying them.
- Eggs Filled with Sour Cream and Sauce – from The Art of Romanian Cooking by Galia Sperber, this recipe is also listed as “oua umplute cu sos de smantina”
- Beef Stew – My Mom made this while I was visiting. I liked her version so much I stole the recipe, but can only identify the cookbook as “that one that’s been used so much it’s 500 individual sheets of paper loosely stacked in a pile”. She usually makes parsleyed dumplings from The Joy of Cooking to go with them, but I ran out of time and skipped that step. The recipe makes a huge amount – a few days’ meals went in the fridge, the rest to the freezer.
- Tomato Cucumber Salad – A favorite fast easy salad. Peel a cucumber, and slice into thin half-moon slivers. Seed two or three tomatoes and chop into half inch chunks. Toss vegetables together in a bowl. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic salt. Stir together with a tablespoon or two of sour cream until coated.
- Chorizo and Egg Tortillas – Anything with chorizo has to taste good.
- Stir Fry of Beef with Snow Peas – Delicious. I had to fudge a bit – ground ginger instead of fresh because the grocery store was out and red wine instead of sherry (yes, I know, they’re totally different), but it still tasted good. Next time I’ll follow her advice and use low-sodium soy sauce instead of regular. The snow peas were a revelation. I’ve always hated them because I would choke on them whenever my Mom cooked them. Nothing puts you off a food like the feeling of suffocation, and I’ve avoided snow peas religiously for years. The trick the Pioneer Woman mentioned about pulling the string off each pea resolved the problem and I was able to enjoy the dish.