Lavender, its not just for perfume or soap anymore

As my earlier post described I participated in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. It was awesome! I really enjoyed being creative and sending people my successes. It’s a nice surprise to now feel like I have 6 new cooking buddies somewhere out in cyber space, or maybe just sprinkled across the United States. As much as I love sending my cookies out to people, it was exciting to come home wondering if today there was box full of  cookies for me. Nothing like a little pre-Christmas anticipation.

My first batch of cookies was from Justine at http://ahalfbakedlife.blogspot.com/. She sent me Mostaccioli, a twist on an Italian chocolate spiced cookie. They were amazing, so amazing that I forgot to take a picture before I ate all of them. They were so soft, chocolate-y, spicy and flavorful without being overly sweet. I’m definitely going to make them.

I got the other two batches on the same day!

The first box I opened were Cinna-Mas Roll Cookies from Nicole at http://lifesabatch.com/. They even look like little cinnamon rolls…

See! Aren't they cute?

They even came individually wrapped so I wouldn’t have to eat them all at once. If a shortbread cookie and a cinnamon roll had a baby together, this would be the outcome. I think I might have one left. It won’t survive very long. Check out her blog because she does some really amazing work with ice and actually making her cookies look pretty as well as tasting awesome!

My final batch of cookies came from Kisha at http://kishaskitchen.com. Butter toffee cookies in a very cute little gingerbread man tin. It seems like every chewy bite had a little surprise of a piece of toffee. They were really amazing with hot chocolate!

Oh happy little gingerbread man do you have cookies inside you?

Poor little lonely cookie all by itself

Finally my cookie recipe for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. Sorry everyone I’m posting this a day late, but better late than never.  I got this recipe from a good friend, Genise Choy, when I was in AmeriCorps in Providence, RI.

Lavender Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients:
1 cup butter
½ cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp lavender
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp almond or vanilla extract (optional)

Procedure:
Cream butter and sugar.  Mix in flour, lavender, salt, and vanilla. The dough will be dry, but you should form the dough into two logs and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 2 hr.  Slice dough when its nice and cold from the refrigerator about 1/8 inch thick. If the dough gets too warm or you want to make the ends look pretty just wrap it back up and put it back in the fridge for a couple of hours. Finally bake at 350°, 10-15 min. Make sure to rest the cooling cookies on a ventilated tray or they won’t be quite as crisp.

My pretty little lavender cookies

I encourage trying them with tea!

I sent my cookies to:

Joanna at http://meatlessmostdays.com/.

Sarah at http://cookergirl.blogspot.com/.

Lea at http://healthycoconutblog.com/.

So check them out too!

Overall it was a really wonderful experience and I’m looking forward to the swap again next year. Hopefully by then I’ll have some other new and exciting recipes to try.

Finally special thanks to my lab here for taste-testing the first batch of these cookies.

Until later life is short, lick the spoon!

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Apology

I’m sorry, I haven’t posted my recipe for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. I will post it tomorrow after my exam. I will also tag all everyone’s blogs, both those who sent me cookies and those I sent cookies.

Sorry again!

Sweetness!

With great undue influence from my friend at Brave New Food I’m going to participate in (cue drum roll):


I love to introduce people to my favorite recipes and of course try new recipes of my own. My poor friends have been subjected to try most of my new recipes. It’s not uncommon I show up at their house after calling 5 minutes earlier, saying I made too many… (cookies, muffins, buns, whatever your favorite dish is)… please eat them! Though now I have a new group of unsuspecting subjects, grad students.

All that being said, I feel like my cookie recipes need some inspiration, one might say some new blood. I will be sending off 3 dozen cookies to 3 separate bloggers, a dozen each. Then a couple of weeks later I will be posting my recipe. Now those of you reading this probably won’t be receiving my cookies, but I have faith that you’ll be able to follow the recipe to re-create them on your own. I just have to decide what cookies to make.

Until later, life is short, lick the spoon!

Full Fall means Squash

Its fall so that is the end of tomatoes, blue berries, peach, and most fresh produce. Sigh… Now there are fresh root veggies, squash & pumpkins, and apples. I don’t really like squash nor pumpkin, including pumpkin pie, yes I do realize that  many people think this is a sin against humanity. All that being said,  I felt like experimenting with squash, so my mother and I attempted ravioli.  They were amazing and really rich, not that is a surprise with the amount of butter in this recipe.

Filling:

  • 1 medium butternut squash that has been seeded, split and roasted in the oven for an hour (at about 350)
  • ~ 4 medium onions roughly chopped
  • 1 bottle of brown beer (I used Natty Green’s Old Town Brown)
  • 1/2 c blue cheese, chopped of a hunk but not pressed
  • About half a Nutmeg, ground
  • Pepper (both black & white pepper)
  • Salt
  • Butter

1 recipe of fresh pasta dough

Sauce

  • ~ 3 T of Butter
  • fresh Sage roughly chopped (leaves only but about 2 stems worth)
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup Walnuts
  • More blue cheese to sprinkle on top

 

Roast the squash, scoop it out of the skin, and mush it in a bowl. Grind about half a nutmeg into the squash and mix. Caramelize the onions with a little salt over low heat in some butter and as they start to brown add about 2/3 of the beer, I drank the rest.  Just cook the onions down until they become sticky. This takes around an hour. Mix most of the onions (expect about 1/4 c) into the squash. Salt and pepper to taste. Let the filling cool completely before adding the 1/4 to 1/2 c of blue cheese, you don’t want the cheese to melt into the filling.

Roll out the pasta dough.  Put a healthy teaspoon in the middle of the dough. Paint around the edges of the dough with either water or egg and fold pasta over. Like with the pot stickers you need you seal the edges and make sure to get all the air out. The you’ll need to cut the ravioli apart. I’ve found that a biscuit cutter is good for this. Make sure to double-check the seals after cutting.  Cook the ravioli in salted water.  The only take 2-3 minutes to cook.

For the sauce throw ~3 T of butter into a skillet. Just before the butter is starts to brown throw in the sage and the walnuts. Just as the sage is starting to brown add the ends of the onions. Spoon the sauce over the hot ravioli and sprinkle with a little more blue cheese.

Overall it made just over 30 ravioli and we still had some dough left over to make linguini. Only cook the ravioli that you will eat, I ate 6, because you can freeze them individually and then pull them out of the freezer when you need a snazzy dinner. You can also freeze other pasta for other future snazzy dinners.

We had it with a fresh salad with pears and cranberries.

What kind of ravioli do you like? Any fresh pasta ideas?

Until later, life is short, lick the spoon!

Has fall come?

Its been far too long since I’ve posted.  It has chilled into fall here. I haven’t been in school for years, but fall still feels like the beginning of a new year. It make me think about the past year the good, the bad, and of course the ever constant changes. Speaking of changes,  I’ve got some lovely new recipes which will be brought up in future post, many late from the summer.  Until then I’ll bring up one of my favorite foods: Potstickers!

Potstickers are so amazing! There are so many amazing things you can stuff inside. Pork, veggies, cheese, and  my favorite, shrimp! They are so very easy to make and so versatile.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package wonton wrappers (or if you are feeling fancy you can make your own)
  • 15 shrimp, peeled and minced almost into a paste
  • 8-10 cloves of garlic – peeled and chopped
  • 1 1/2 T sesame oil
  • 2 T light  soy sauce
  • 1 egg
  • canola/vegetable oil

Mix the shrimp, garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce, and egg in a bowl. It is supposed to look like grey gobbledygook, minced shrimp is never pretty. Lay out 8-10 wrappers on a cutting board or the counter. Cover wonton wrappers with a damp paper towel, or they will dry out.  Put about a teaspoon of the filling in the middle of the wrapper. Make sure not to over fill it.  Then dip your fingertip or brush into a small bowl of cool water and trace around the outside edges of the wrapper.  Make sure not to soak the wrapper only slightly dampen it.

The following directions for folding are for square wrappers:

  • Pull diagonal corners together and squeeze all the way down both sides to make a triangle (specifically a right triangle)
  • Make sure there aren’t any gaps in the seam or air bubbles in the dumpling
  • Then pull the two small corners together to help it stand up like a hat, if you need dab a tiny bit of water to help the two stick together.
  • Finally double check there aren’t any splits or gaping seams, if there are just squeeze it closed with a bit of water

Here’s a website to give different ideas for folding: http://www.homemade-chinese-soups.com/how-to-fold-wontons.html. The closest to mine is number 4, but I think anyway to keep all the yummy-ness inside is good.

Once you have a couple dozen folded, we’ll cook them! There are many ways to cook these beautiful jewels. You can poach them in broth for 5-10 minutes depending on the filling. You can deep fry them, but they get so greasy. You can steam them in a metal steamer or bamboo for 10-15 minutes, which are lovely but I do enjoy a little crispy crunch. I think the best way to cook them at home is to pan fry and steam them.

To pan fry and steam the potstickers:

  • Get out a large skillet.
  • Heat to Medium-High (7 out of 10) with some vegetable/canola oil
  • You want enough oil to coat the bottom and swirl around like a small pond (I can’t tell you how much because it depends on the size of your skillet)
  • Put the potstickers in the pan with the oil, they can touch but don’t crowd them, they’ll expand as they cook
  • Cook for 1-2 minute, not any longer because you are just browning the bottom (and don’t lift them up, even if you are tempted to)
  • Add 1-2 cups of water until you cover the filling.
  • Cover the skillet and cook for 10-12  minutes
  • Uncover and the water should have disappeared

Serve hot with soy sauce, dipping sauce, or the traditional chilies in oil.

One of the best things about potstickers is you can freeze them. They are awesome to pull out of the freezer when you get home late from work and have fast and tasty dinner. To freeze them just put on wax paper or parchment paper,  not touching,a nd place in the freezer for 6-12 hours. Peel them from the paper and place in container for easy storage. When you want to eat them just pull them out without defrosting them and cook as usual. They do take a little longer to cook, but overall they are still awesome!

Next I will post a dessert! Its been way too long since one of those came up.

Until later, life is short, lick the spoon!

Too Darn Hot!

Seriously, its hot, annoyingly so. Many people think because I live in the South everywhere has AC, sad to say they are wrong.  I live in the mountains.  Shockingly there are mountains in the South and they do get snow in the winter.  Anyways because of all the snow and the usually mild summers very few of the houses have AC, so when we have those 3 days when we might want AC we just sweat it out.  Well this year, like much of the South East, we’ve had a heat wave.  So without AC we do out best to combat the heat in old southern ways like cold meals, sitting in the shade, open windows, and cold drinks.

Around 4 or 5 it’s still hot and humid, and its time for a drink and dinner prep.  So I have started making Shandies!  The short and simple description is shandies are lemonade (or ginger ale) and beer.  It sounds bizarre if you’ve never heard of it before, but once you try the refreshingly tart lemon with fizzy beer you will understand.  I’ve made this with just minute maid lemonade and beer, but this is sooo much better.

Shandy

Shandy:

  • 1 c lemon or lemon & lime juice (I prefer to squeeze it myself)
  • 1 c white sugar
  • 1 light and crisp beer –  frequently a Lager (I chose PBR)
  • Water

*Note this recipe makes enough lemonade for more than 1 Shandy – I got about 6-8 out of this recipe

Squeeze the lemons and make sure to get out the seeds. I left in the pulp because it doesn’t bother me, but if you don’t like it just pour the juice through a strainer.  In a small sauce pan on the stove dissolve 1 c of sugar and 1 c of water.  Just heat the mixture over med-low heat while stirring until you cannot see or feel the grains of sugar. It only takes about 5 minutes.  Congratulations you have just made a simple syrup. So easy and useful when making mixed drinks. Now chill the simple syrup in the fridge. It will last there for at least 1 month if you seal it well.  Pick your glass (I used a traditional pint glass), fill about 1/3 full of lemon juice, fill the rest of the glass with beer leaving 1/2 inch to 1 inch at the top. You’ll have to taste test to see how much simple syrup. I used just under 1/4 cup because I like them sour. After adding the simple syrup stir the drink gently with the spoon, remember the beer will still foam if you agitate it too much.  Now sit back, relax , and watch the hot and hazy evening pass on by.

Until later, life is short, lick the spoon!

Dragon Fruit!

So about a month ago I was at my favorite Asian market in Durham with some friends, and we saw this amazing fruit. I had to try it!

Well lets see what is inside:

So you can only eat the white, so you have to scoop it all out.

It tasted like kiwi and cucumbers together.

I’m going to have to try it again in a fruit salad. I know it is also very popular in smoothies and mixed drinks.

Next time there will be a recipe posting.

Until later life is short, lick the spoon!