Secrets to Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

Let me in on some of my favorite tips for perfect chocolate chip cookies that will definitely be going in my own family cookbook:

  1. Resist temptation and let the dough sit for 36 hours in the fridge. This allows the liquids in the dough to penetrate the flour. Deeper penetration gives the chocolate chip cookies a richer flavor and a more consistent color and texture. Apparently all the great cookie bakeries in New York follow this advice.
  2. Six inches is the ideal size for chocolate chip cookies. It gives you three zones–the crunchier rim, the soft center, and that great in-between zone that has the most flavor. Any smaller and they lose those interior zones. Any bigger and I find them impossible to flip!
  3. Sprinkle some sea salt on top to give it added dimension right before baking.

Here are the ingredients listed in my personal recipe:

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour

1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract

1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or feves, at least 60 percent cacao content

Sea salt. Bake at 350° F for 18-20 minutes.

My advice is to forgo the chocolate disks if you can’t get them and just use good ol’ fashioned Nestle semi sweet chocolate chips.

Erin

woman getting fruit from fridge overlaid with text: "Inspiration for a healthier pantry and fridge"

Eat This, Not That – Inspiration for a Healthier Pantry & Fridge

I’ve been reading the book series “Eat This, Not That” by David Zinczenko of Men’s Health magazine. There are several books in the series, and all have eye-opening information about the foods we innocently eat.

What I’ve discovered from reading these books is that we should all be saying “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.”*

There are so many unnecessary calories, additives, and preservatives in our food that it is no wonder that America is sick with diabetes, heart ailments and such.

Did you know there are 79 ingredients and 1,330 calories in a Baskin-Robbins Oreo-layered sundae?

Some of the things I learned from reading “Eat This, Not That” books:

  • Read nutritional labels carefully.
  • “Reduced fat” is a bunch of hype and means nothing.
  • Pay attention to trans fats; they are killers (eat no more than 2.5 grams of trans fat a day)
  • Avoid ingesting high-fructose corn syrup (it’s in just about everything)
  • Grind your own sirloin to make hamburgers; don’t eat fast food hamburgers (most are processed with ammonia gas as a “processing agent”)
  • Be wary of restaurants and fast food spots; it’s a mystery how they can pack thousands of calories into a salad.
  • Use smaller dishes to keep portions under control.
  • Throw away your deep-fat fryer.
  • Go for whole grains (not multi-grains, which are nutritionally inferior).
  • Shop the outside rim of the supermarket where fresh produce, meats and dairy are located (instead of the center aisles of canned, packaged, processed foods)
  • Eat at home so you know what you are eating.
  • Prepare foods that are close to their natural form.
  • Spend a little more sometimes to buy a better quality food that is better for you.

I could go on about “Eat This, Not That,” but instead I’m inspired to eliminate all of the “bad” stuff from my pantry and refrigerator that I didn’t realize was causing for the pudge around my middle!

Let’s be realistic here. I’m responsible for buying and eating the stuff, but food manufacturers are responsible for the crap they put in it. I should know better, but I succumb to the marketing ploys just like everyone else. But the truth is, we are all able to boycott foods that are not healthy simply by not buying them.

Now to clean out that refrigerator and pantry and stock up on healthier foods.  Think I’ll also write the FDA and tell them “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to EAT it any more.”

Happy Cookbooking,
Erin

* From the 1976 movie “Network”

Acorn Treats For Squirrely Kids

I made these last year for Thanksgiving and they were such a hit.  I was asked to please, please make them for this year!  So here you go.  So simple!  You only need three ingredients to make these super simple Acorn Treats, and it made my kids, ahem, squirrely for more! 

TOTAL TIME: Prep: 35 min. + chilling

MAKES: 48 servings
Ingredients1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
48 milk chocolate kisses
48 Nutter Butter BitesNutritional Facts1 cookie equals 47 calories, 3 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 1 mg cholesterol, 16 mg sodium, 6 g carbohydrate, trace fiber, 1 g protein.
Ingredients1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
48 milk chocolate kisses
48 Nutter Butter BitesAdd to Shopping List
Nutritional Facts1 cookie equals 47 calories, 3 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 1 mg cholesterol, 16 mg sodium, 6 g carbohydrate, trace fiber, 1 g protein.
Directions In a microwave, melt chocolate chips; stir until smooth. Spread the flat side of each kiss with a small amount of melted chocolate; immediately attach each to a cookie.
Cut a small hole in the corner of a pastry or plastic bag; insert a small round tip. Fill with remaining melted chocolate. Pipe a stem onto each acorn. (I found it much easier to stick a chocolate chip or peanut butter chip to the top.) Place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets; refrigerate until set. Store in an airtight container. Yield: 4 dozen.

2 Quick, Simple, Tasty Artichoke Recipes Anyone Will Like

Sometimes I wonder who first tried to eat an artichoke (and why). Was it some hungry creature searching for moisture in the artichoke being watched by an equally hungry caveman (no offense intended to the Geico Neanderthals)?  Either one must have been pretty desperate to rip off all those prickly artichoke leaves.

Nowadays, most people use a very sharp knife to cut through the fibrous artichoke leaves to remove the thorny leaf tips. Personally, I like to peel off any scruffy outer leaves from the artichoke, and then snip off the remaining artichoke leaf tips with my kitchen shears. (I find that I have better control and won’t slice my fingers in case I have a senior moment.)

Here are two quick, simple, tasty artichoke recipes (most) anyone will like:

1. STEAMED ARTICHOKES & LEAF DIP
My favorite way to eat an artichoke is steamed. Honestly, they aren’t much of a stomach filler. Just a “green” taste, really, and fun for party conversation. Although lots of people eat the steamed artichoke leaves dipped in melted butter, my version of a leaf dip is richer and a good excuse to eat something more satisfying.

Here’s How:
Steam trimmed artichokes until the heart is soft (when you can easily stick a fork into the bottom and feel no resistance). The cooking time will vary, depending on the size of the artichoke. Drain and set aside to cool. Serve artichokes on a salad plate (or small bowl) with Leaf Dip, as follows, on the side.

Leaf Dip:
Use about ½ cup of mayonnaise for every artichoke serving. For each serving, add garlic powder, ground oregano (or ground marjoram), lemon juice, and salt to taste.  Add enough of the garlic and oregano until you are scared you’ve added too much. Mix well. The dip should have a green tint to it. Let it sit and mellow while the artichokes cook. Serve in small dipping dishes with the artichoke. (Great for other vegetables, too.)

2. ARTICHOKE PASTA SALAD
This artichoke recipe is so easy, I shouldn’t even include it here. But we all need some quick, simple and tasty recipes once in awhile. I like this dish because pasta salad is usually so bland, and this “recipe” has a bright piquant flavor thanks to marinated artichoke hearts.

Make your favorite pasta salad recipe, using bow tie pasta, some capers, black olives and chopped roasted red pepper for color. Take a whole jar of marinated artichoke hearts (any size) and puree them in the blender. Pour over the pasta salad and toss. Instantly better, no matter how much dressing you had in it previously. (This is a great quick, simple, tasty sauce substitute for pesto or red tomato sauces, too.)

Try my artichoke recipe ideas next time you want to do an artichoke dish. If you like them, I wouldn’t mind if you want to add them to your family cookbook using the recipe template provided in our cookbook software.  Check out more artichoke recipes via your favorite search engine on the Internet.

Happy cookbooking,

Erin

 

 

14 Baking Tips & Techniques from a 1977 Collective Cookbook

In my ever-present quest to clear out “stuff,” as the late George Carlin used to say, I found one of my old collective fundraiser cookbooks that had some serious baking tips and techniques nestled in the “Cake” section of the cookbook.

Although the collective cookbook was published a mere 31 years ago, some of the ideas must have come from still farther back in time. Yet, the basic helpful wisdom of the cookbook’s contributors, long gone by now, still reaches out across the decades to anyone who cares to be the best baker possible.

You might find these baking tips and techniques as fascinating and amusing as I did.

Baking Tips & Techniques

1. Creaming butter and sugar: A little hot milk added will aid in the creaming process.

2. After using the oven, leave the door open until the oven is cool so that moisture will not condense and rust the metal.

3. To decorate a cake without a decorator, cut an envelope from one of the top corners to the middle of the bottom of the envelope. Cut a little piece off the corner.

4. An apple cut in half and placed in the cake box will keep the cake fresh several days longer.

5. When making a cake, always add 2 tablespoons of boiling water to the butter and sugar mixture. This makes a fine textured cake.

6. Do not grease the sides of cake pans. How would you like to climb a greased pole?

7. To cut a fresh cake, use a wet knife.

8. Do not discard rinds of grapefruit, oranges, or lemons. Grate the rinds first, put in a tightly-covered glass jar, and store in the refrigerator. Makes an excellent flavoring for cakes, frostings, and such.

9. When you do not want to heat your oven for a shortcake, make a short biscuit dough with a little sugar added to a thin batter and bake in a waffle iron.

10. A good, quick frosting is made by boiling a small potato, mashing it, and adding powdered sugar and vanilla.

11. To keep crisp cookies crisp, and soft cookies soft, place only one kind in a cookie jar.

12. Any cake will be greatly improved if a teaspoon of lemon juice is added to the butter and sugar. This makes a cake very light and shorter. Fresh milk makes cakes close-grained and more solid.

13. For a nice decoration on white frosting, shave colored gum-drops very thin and stick on. They will curl like little roses.

14. Baking pans:  For best results use correct size pan. The time and oven temperature should be adjusted to the type of pan being used. For shortening-type cakes, bake cup cakes at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes; layer cakes at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes; and loaf cakes at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

2019 Family Cookbook Making Hint: Ask family members for similar old baking tips and techniques and incorporate them into your own family cookbook. Use the “Recipe” tab in my cookbook software, select the field called “Choose this recipe’s type,” then select “Tips” from the drop down menu. You could create a whole section of tips about all kinds of cooking techniques that would add more family flavor to your cookbook.

Happy Cookbooking!

Erin

12 Quick Lessons from a 5-Star Chef

1. The best cuts of meat are the ones that scare you. Buy them anyway.
2. No milk in scrambled eggs. Creme friache, if you can, and if not then just butter.
3. Restaurant cookbooks dumb down recipes for you.
4. At fine restaurants, everything goes through a mesh sieve after leaving the pot or pan.
5. No matter how good the restaurant, in-season veggies will always taste better.
6. Don’t crowd your pots and pans! Put too much food in a single pan and it will decrease the heat more than you want.
7. Never let a sommelier push you into overpriced wine. He’s there to serve you, not be impressed by you.
8. Being a cook in a restaurant has little to do with creativity and much more to do with consistency, speed and efficiency.
9. One great knife is better than a whole block of mediocre knives.
10. Always keep lemons, onions, garlic, vinegar, oil, and butter in your kitchen. Especially butter.
11. We blanche green veggies to get them to stay green. It’s really the only way that they wont look grey and lifeless after they’re cooked.
12. Fat and salt are your friends. They can be healthy in moderation, and our palates are designed to love them.

Bonus: Keep some extra recipe cards around. Somehow scribbling a note on some scrap paper or emailing a recipe just doesn’t have that personal feel of a real, printed card. Writing it out by hand on a pretty card tells the recipient how much you value the recipe (and them!)

Recipes Can Inspire Creativity, If You Dare

How many of us really follow untried clipped-out recipes? I will try to follow a new recipe the first time exactly as written. I have a tendency to get creative and want to step out of the box, perhaps too often, so following a recipe exactly is pretty taxing for me. But, out of respect for the recipe’s creator, I will follow it, but only once.

After that, I am inspired to take license and go with the flow. Perhaps I don’t have any nutmeg to enhance the lobster thermidor. Well, allspice might just do. Or, maybe that particular day I prefer a different twist by adding jalapeno peppers to a cream cheese spread instead of the usual olives (because I forgot to stock up on them last time I went to market). A creative approach can often improve a timid recipe and make it outstanding enough to include in your family cookbook.

What kinds of creative spice substitutions can be successful? In general, it seems spices that we naturally associate with sweet dishes (cinnamon, nutmeg, Chinese 5-spice powder) can most likely be substituted for one another. Likewise for the savory-dish herbs, such as oregano, thyme, or marjoram, or something else from your spice rack.

(Product plug! Our adjustable spice rack lets you be especially creative with your spices!)

 

Of course, only your own taste buds will know for sure, but don’t be afraid to experiment. You may have a family winner to star in your next cookbook software creation.

Erin

Olives Make the World Go ‘Round

Last week I visited a fancy food market and was particularly impressed with the fine selection of olives available from around the world. There were 8-10 bowls laden with beautiful olives of all kinds in a special showcase devoted to olives and olive eating.

Since olives are so versatile, it makes sense to use them often as both decorative and flavorful accents to many dishes. I use them quite often, and have been known to eat them off my fingertips when no one is looking. In fact, I am thinking about devoting a whole section in my family cookbook to recipes containing olives. It will be easy using the recipe template in my cookbook software.Continue reading

Holiday Parties on the Cheap

I have a friend who invites all her neighbors and friends over the day after Christmas to have a “leftovers” party!  She provides the beverages and they provide the potluck. How’s that for being ingenious in having a no-fuss holiday party on the cheap with a chance to see friends during the holidays without any hassles whatsoever.

If you are contemplating a last-minute gathering, it is perfectly okay during these tough economic times days to involve your guests in the plan. Here are three ideas to make your holiday party on the cheap quick and easy for everyone:

DESSERT HOLIDAY PARTY ON THE CHEAP
Limit the food group to desserts and coffee or bubbly and you have a smash hit. Have an Ice Cream Social with syrups and toppings (everyone loves ice cream, even when snow crunches underfoot). Or, ask everyone to bring their favorite brownies for a Best Brownie Tasting. Of course, there are various Christmas cookies, pies, cakes and fancy pastries to consider. Let your guests be your caterer on this one, and don’t be shy in telling them what to bring.

STONE SOUP HOLIDAY PARTY ON THE CHEAP
This is a lovely holiday party on the cheap because it is styled after the famous stone soup fable of sharing food, which is a perfect finale to the Christmas holiday. Ask guests to bring their choice of one of the following:

– Any fresh or frozen vegetable (onion, tomato, carrot, green beans, or potato, etc.)
– A small amount of raw meat, chicken or seafood (if desired)
– A favorite seasoning, such as garlic, celery, oregano, etc.
– A small amount of noodles, rice, barley, or canned beans

You provide the big pots, some chicken, vegetable or beef stock (at least 8 ounces per expected guest).  A hearty supply of bread, butter and wine is also recommended (all stuff guests can bring, too). As they arrive, have your guests dump their contributions into the soup pot.  In about an hour of festive cooking and catching up, you’ll have a great dish that everyone will love because they helped fix it!

FAR EAST HOLIDAY PARTY ON THE CHEAP
Make-your-own-eggrolls are a great and inexpensive dim sum food and party activity for your holiday party on the cheap.  Have all the eggroll ingredients ready (including the deep fat fryer), and instruct guests how to fill and roll large wonton wrappers with chopped bean sprouts, cabbage, shredded chicken (or pork), green onions, water chestnuts, and sauces. Guests can also be invited to bring side dishes such as fried rice, stir-fry vegetables, and even fortune cookies.

By the way, if you need a fun activity for your holiday party on the cheap while the food is being prepared, have your Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software open on your computer, and have everyone add a recipe to your family cookbook!

Happy Cookbooking!

Erin

The Christmas Orange

While shopping for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day supplies, I saw a beautiful display of Christmas oranges, polished and shining in the produce section of the supermarket. These were big, beautiful oranges, and made me recall the old story of the Christmas orange.

The Christmas orange story goes something like this:

A little girl who lived in an orphanage was excited to learn that there would be a beautiful Christmas tree in the great hall downstairs placed by Santa Claus himself! There was also a rumor going around the orphanage that each good child would receive a fresh juicy orange –a Christmas Orange — as a special Christmas gift.

Back then there were no toys, or electronic gadget, to anticipate; precious fruits and nuts from the exotic parts of the world were highly prized and a great delight for anyone who received them. A Christmas orange was like gold for most. But the little girl was so curious, and the stern supervisor of the orphanage would not allow any rules to be broken.

The little girl woke up in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve and crept downstairs to witness the Christmas miracle of Santa Claus delivering the tree. Unfortunately she was caught by the stern supervisor and banished to her bed with the promise of no Christmas orange for a bad little girl. She cried all the rest of the night, and did not join the other children at breakfast.

Suddenly a large robed figure placed an object wrapped in a napkin in her tiny hand. It was an orange! How could this be? It was a Christmas orange made up of ragged orange peeling and orange sections. The other children in the orphanage had each given a section of their orange so that she, too, could taste the joy of Christmas.

Merry Christmas & Happy Cookbooking,

Erin

Ripe Home Grown Tomatoes in Winter Mean Erin’s Christmas Tomato Pie

During the summer, I simply cannot eat enough fresh home grown tomatoes. The flavor of a just-picked tender home grown tomato is unsurpassed, and conjures a fond memory of grandma’s table with loads of fresh vegetables from her bountiful garden.

Perhaps that is why I still have a tomato bush, year in, year out. There is something compelling about home grown tomatoes. In fact, I once heard someone say that if you don’t know what to talk about with a stranger, even a famous one, the subject of home grown tomatoes always breaks the ice.

To make one of my favorite Christmas dinner dishes — a simple savory pie made with fresh home grown tomatoes, mayonnaise, cheese, and a pie shell — I have to plan ahead. Before the frost hits, I ceremoniously pick any remaining tomatoes on my vine (which typically are still green). I wrap up the tomatoes in newspaper or paper towels and place them in a lightweight container (like a Styrofoam cooler). Then I add one medium size apple (any kind) to the container, and cover it all with the lid.  Like a Christmas miracle, the home grown tomatoes will ripen slowly and burst with flavor as if they’d been kissed by the sun.

Below is a family recipe from my family cookbook for single-crust home grown tomato pie, a Christmas tradition in our house that is lovely served warm as a side dish, and just as wonderful all by itself.

Matilda’s Christmas Tomato Pie

frozen pie shell, baked 15 minutes according to package directions
5 ripe medium tomatoes, sliced thick
1 cup Best Foods mayonnaise (do not use Miracle Whip)
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Salt & pepper, to taste

Slice the ripe home grown tomatoes and fan the slices around the bottom of the partially cooked pie shell. Sprinkle tomatoes generously with salt and pepper. Combine mayonnaise and cheddar cheese, then spread this mixture evenly over the top, making sure all tomatoes are covered. Bake for 30-35 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Topping should be slightly browned. Slice and enjoy.

Some cooks, like Paula Deen, prefer their tomato pie with herbs and several cheeses, but I’m more of a purist and prefer the true tomato taste. See which one you like best, and by all means, please include this recipe in your family cookbook, if you so desire. Once you try home grown tomato pie, you’ll wonder how you’ve survived Christmas dinner without it.

Happy Cookbooking,

Erin

3 Ingredient Chocolate Peppermint Delicious Still Makes the Grade

When I was quite young (no cracks about how long ago that was), I remember helping make a simple recipe around Christmastime that made a wonderful, frozen dessert that we called chocolate peppermint delicious.  It blended the holiday flavors of chocolate, peppermint, and whipped cream into a deliciously creamy, and somewhat addicting, ice cream-like sweet.

Years later, I think a version of the simple chocolate peppermint delicious recipe was published in the now classic first edition of Better Homes & Gardens New Junior Cookbook.

Here’s what I remember about this simple recipe for chocolate peppermint delicious that is perfect for kids to make this Christmas:

Chocolate Peppermint Delicious

18 Chocolate wafer cookies, evenly crushed
6  Candy canes, finely crushed
1  Pint carton whipping cream

Place the chocolate wafer cookies in a brown paper bag (use a plastic bag now). Use a rolling pin (I think we actually used a hammer) to crush the chocolate wafer cookies into even crumbs. Do the same with the candy canes, but make sure they are finely crushed so the peppermint flavor will be distributed better than big chunks in the chocolate peppermint delicious.

Transfer chocolate wafer crumbs and crushed candy canes into a bowl and add the whipping cream direct from the carton (not whipped). Stir well and freeze in a shallow pan until solid. Before serving, take the pan out of the freezer so the chocolate peppermint delicious can be cut into squares more easily.

This was a favorite frozen dessert treat at Christmastime because we kids loved to crush up the wafers and candy canes, and considered this a traditional Christmas dish of our early years. I suppose the recipe could have been made any time of year using peppermint candies, but we weren’t as smart then.

I haven’t made this frozen dessert in at least 20 years, so I plan to try chocolate peppermint delicious again and maybe add it to my family cookbook as another option for Christmastime dessert. Won’t you join me and try it, too?

Happy cookbooking,

Erin

4 Things You Always Wanted to Know About That Mysterious Holiday Mincemeat But Were Afraid to Ask

No need to avoid mincemeat this holiday.

I know what you are thinking. Ick, I wouldn’t touch mincemeat pie with at 10 foot pole (what exactly is it anyway¦some weird combination of meat and fruit?). Well, yes, and no. It depends on where you are from. Ironically, many family cookbooks will have at least one recipe for mincemeat (even if no one in the family ever makes it).

Sadly, there are the legions of Americans who have never eaten, let alone tasted, any form of mincemeat in their entire lives. Those who have tried it aren’t so adverse. Men seem to like it particularly. Especially if it is topped with a brandy-laced hard sauce.

According to the Epicurious food dictionary, mincemeat is “A rich, spicy preserve made of fruit (usually chopped cherries, dried apricots, apples or pears, raisins and candied citrus peel), nuts, beef suet, various spices, and brandy or rum. Old-time mincemeats included minced, cooked lean meat (usually beef), hence the name.”

Back in the day, when sweet spices (such as nutmeg, cloves, allspice, cinnamon), became available, the spices and fruits were easily combined for a tasty dish to accompany meats. When both were combined into a pie is basically unknown, (perhaps as the first all in one entree-dessert leftover casserole?)  More likely, think of cooks adding sweet spices and fruits to mask the stench and taste of rotting meat, or to preserve it.

Today, it seems mincemeat is more misunderstood than in olden days. Following are 4 things you always wanted to know about that mysterious holiday mincemeat but were afraid to ask:

1. Meat or Fruit?
YES. Mincemeat can be both meat and fruit, or just fruit, which is the more modern interpretation. A traditional recipe would include:
– Meat, either pork, lamb, or beef
– Suet (hardened beef fat¦get those arteries primed)
– Available fruits, such as apples, raisins, currants, cranberries, sour cherries
– Spices and vinegar
– Sweetener, such as brown sugar or molasses
However, today a mincemeat pie in the British Isles is typically a savory dish made with two pastry crusts, ground (minced) beef, onion, and beef bouillon gravy with no fruit (think Shepherd’s Pie without the fluffy mashed potato topping).

2. Entree or Dessert?
DESSERT (in U.S). In the beginning, mincemeat pie was a main course because it contained more meat than fruits (which most likely were added as an extender to meat, which may have been scarce). Today in the United States, mincemeat pie is typically a dessert to a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal.

3. Pie or Topping?
PIE. You can buy mincemeat filling in jars to make your own pie, or buy ready-made pies in the frozen food section of the supermarket. Years ago, such frozen pies are were labeled mincemeat pie, but in an attempt to broaden the pie’s appeal to the uneducated masses, many brands have switched to the more common “mince” pie name (presumably so people will buy it).  A modern twist is to use mincemeat filling with ice cream as a topping or as a new version of the pie. Recipes for Mincemeat Ice Cream Pie includes mincemeat (some spiked with brandy), chopped nuts, French vanilla ice cream and whipping cream. Yum.
Mincemeat Ice-Cream Pie
Brandied Mincemeat Ice Cream Pie

4. Low calorie or high calorie?
HIGH CALORIE. Although a typical slice of sweet-tart mincemeat pie has fewer calories per slice (about 360) than apple pie (410) or pecan pie (480), it has an intense sweetness and is very rich. Depending upon the recipe, the pie’s sweetness is driven by raisins, currants, prunes, dates, candied fruits, with sugar, molasses, or fruit juices added.  Slivers of mincemeat pie instead of slabs may be preferred. The sweetness can also be tempered with whipped cream, ice cream or the favorite previously-mentioned hard sauce. (By the way, pumpkin pie weighs in at 180 calories a slice, without the whipped cream, mind you).  Mincemeat pie is not a light and fluffy ending to a meal, so you either hate it or love it.

So what is mincemeat?  Apparently anything you want it to be.
Mincemeat is nothing to shy away from, and just might be a fresh tradition to your holiday table.
Try it, you might like it, and add it to your family cookbook!

Learn more about mincemeat and its traditions:

Mincemeat Pie History

Happy cookbooking,

Erin

Leather Recipe Binder A Customer Photographed in January

Meant to post it before now! Don’t know how I forgot it so long! Click here to see this binder in our store. Or you can also just check out our whole collection of recipe binders.

Erin

Black Forest Cake Recipe

Six-step preparation of the Black Forest Cake. This cake is a variation on the traditional Black Forest Cake, which is all-chocolate. If you prefer, you can make an all-chocolate variety.

1. Yellow Cake Ingredients

  • 2-1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • Raspberry preserves (if not using Kirsch)
  • Morello/maraschino cherries or cherry topping for garnish
  • Shaved chocolate for garnish
    (Mini chips can be used—chocolate sprinkles can be substituted, but they don’t provide the same luxurious flavor and texture as real shaved or grated chocolate)

Yellow Cake Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
  2. Using an electric mixer on low speed with the paddle attachment, incorporate all ingredients slowly; mix until well-blended. Increase mixer speed to high; mix for two minutes more, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.
  3. Pour batter into pans. Bake for 25 minutes until cake springs to the touch.  Set aside to cool.

 

2. Chocolate Cake Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1-3/4 cups sugar
  • 1-1/4 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 large eggs

Chocolate Cake Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans; dust with cocoa.
  2. Using an electric mixer, on low speed with the paddle attachment, incorporate all ingredients slowly; mix until well-blended.
  3. Increase mixer speed to high; mix for two more minutes, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.
  4. Pour batter into pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes until cake springs to the touch. Set aside to cool.

3. Cherry Filling Ingredients

Brandy or rum can be substituted for the Kirsch.

  • Two 16-ounce cans pitted tart cherries in
    water
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons Kirsch (optional)

Cherry Filling Preparation

  1. Drain liquid from canned cherries, reserving 1 cup liquid.
  2. In a 2-quart saucepan, combine brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, reserved cherry liquid and 1/3 cup sugar.
  3.  Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils and thickens, approximately 1 minute.
  4. Remove pan from heat, stir in butter and vanilla extract; fold in cherries.  Set aside to cool.

4. Kirsch Syrup Ingredients (Optional)

Make this syrup if you plan to use Kirsch in the recipe.

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 water
  • 1/4 cup Kirsch

Kirsch Syrup Preparation

  1. Combine sugar and water in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Remove pan from heat and stir in Kirsch. Let cool.

 

5. Whipped Cream Ingredients

  • 1 quart heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar

Preparation

  1. During assembly (see below), whip cream with an electric mixer at high speed, using the paddle attachment.

6. Chocolate Whipped Cream Ingredients

  • 1/2 quart heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 3/4 cups cocoa powder

Preparation

  1. Using a small chilled bowl, whip ingredients together until soft peaks form. Set aside.

Now that you’ve baked and simmered and whipped all of the components to perfection, you’re ready for the final challenge: putting them all together into one picturesque masterpiece.

Assembly

  1. Using a serrated knife, cut each cake horizontally into 3 layers. Place 1 layer of chocolate cake on a cake plate or cardboard round. If you are using Kirsch syrup, brush the top with syrup.
  2. Using a metal spatula, spread a thin layer of chocolate whipped cream on top of cake.
  3. Using a pastry bag with an open tube, pipe 2 circles of chocolate whipped cream on the cake, one around the outer edge and one in the center of the cake.
  4. Using a pastry bag, pipe the cherry filling inside the chocolate circles.
  5. On top of the first layer, place the yellow cake and brush it with Kirsch syrup. If you are not using Kirsch syrup, spread a thin layer of raspberry preserves on the cake.
  6. Using an electric mixer, at high speed with the paddle attachment, whip together 1 quart heavy whipping cream and 1 cup confectioner’s sugar. Apply a thin layer of the whipped cream on top of the preserves.  Set aside the remaining cream.
  7. On top of the whipped cream, place the last chocolate cake layer and brush with Kirsch syrup. With the remaining whipped cream, coat sides and top of cake. Press chocolate shavings onto sides of cake.
  8. Spoon remaining whipped cream into a pastry bag, using a star-shaped tip. Pipe small rosettes around perimeter of cake. Decorate with a cherry on each rosette. (Or use other decorating ideas from this article.)
  9. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Customer Snapshot: Autumn Recipe Box

They included a photo of inside too!

Want to check this recipe box out? Take a look here. 

Erin

Appetizer Tree Brings Artistry to Christmas (or any time!)

Appetizer Trees are a great conversation piece, they take up very little space, they look beautiful, and your guests will think you’re a genius.

Wrap cone in plastic wrap so your food doesn’t touch the cone.  Get all your ingredients out, and cut the cheese/ham into cubes.  You can start at the top or the bottom, and you can insert the food any way you like.   You can also do one made with gumdrops.

This is what you will need:

  • plate or cake stand
  • styrofoam cone (the larger the party, the larger the cone)
  • tooth picks & a little shot glass for used tooth picks
  • plastic wrap
  • olives, pickles, cheese cubes , ham cubes or rolls, tomatoes, etc. (I used artichokes on the other one, use what you have.)

 

 

Enjoy!

Erin

10 Cooking Class Tips with a Splash

Went to a cooking show last night and it was so much fun. The cooking demonstrator onstage created 10 different recipes over two hours, including appetizers, entrees and desserts:

APPETIZERS
Fall Harvest Salad
Smoked Salmon & Chives Cheesecake (also great as a party food)

PARTY FOODS & MUNCHIES
Snickerdoodle Chex® mix
Fresh fruit centerpiece

ENTREES
Cheesy Vegetable Chowder (smaller portions make a good appetizer, too)
Stuffed Manicotti with Spicy Sausage & Fresh Marinara Sauce
Mini Kentucky Hot Browns (can also be party food)
Stuffed Flank Steak Santa Fe

DESSERTS
Caramel Apple Twist (also great for breakfast)
Harlequin Cake

10 GREAT COOKING TIPS
The cooking demonstrator also offered several helpful tips that I am passing along to you:

1. Use 7-Up beverage instead of lemon juice to keep chopped apples from browning. (It has to be 7-Up; other lemon-lime drinks don’t do as well.)

2. Snip fresh herbs inside a plastic cup with kitchen shears to hasten clean-up.

3. Use stretchable silicone bands instead of string to truss a bird or stuffed steak.

4. Use slow cooker liners to avoid scrubbing. They are found on the plastic wrap aisle in the supermarket.

5. A wet paper towel underneath a thin flexible plastic cutting surface will help keep the cutting board from sliding on a polished counter.

6. Decorate food with chocolate leaves for fall; paint melted chocolate over washed fresh leaves and put in refrigerator. Peel chocolate off when leaves are cold. Use as garnish.

7. Try Head Chef cooking utensils for kids. They are adorable.

8. When oil and vinegar don’t stay mixed, use an emulsifier (such as cream) to blend and bind the two together so they won’t separate. Use equal parts oil and vinegar (1/4 cup each) and add twice the half-and-half (1/2 cup). Shake.

9. To make buttermilk when you don’t have any, measure one tablespoon vinegar and then fill up the same measuring cup with enough milk to equal one cup. Refrigerate. You should have homemade buttermilk in about 15 minutes.

10. Freeze cake lightly to cut down on crumbs getting mixed up in the frosting.
Wouldn’t you know it. Ruth came with me to the cooking show and was so enthralled by the onstage cooking production that she neglected to visit the ladies room until it was almost too late.  She was in a bit of a hurry once inside the single restroom, but got sidetracked by a puzzling development: she had no place to put her purse! (Oh my, never on the dirty floor!!)  There was a large pedestal sink, no hooks anywhere, and no drop-down panel for packages. What to do?

Nearly desperate for relief, Ruth flung her purse into the sink and proceeded about her business. All of a sudden, the automatic water faucet cheerily filled her purse with several measures of water.

Shall we say Ruth certainly made a splash?

Happy cookbooking,

Erin

Create A Recipe Binder with Your Kids in Mind!

It’s always fun to cook and bake with your kids, especially when they’re little. Plus, the experience can be very educational.

The whole process of preparing different foods is a great way to have kids practice many of the skills that they’ll need when they enter school. Besides teaching kids to do things like sort and count, cooking can help young children build up the fine motor skills they’ll need to write.

So, as you gather favorite family recipes into your recipe binder, be sure to include some finger-exercising fun with recipes that even the youngest member of your brood can pitch in to make. In other words, have recipes that require some kneading, and remember: the gooier, the better.

One food that works great for this activity is meatloaf because it’s so easy and versatile. Almost any meatloaf recipe will do – even those that don’t require meat, and the finished product can be formed into almost any shape that the kids can come up with – from a simple loaf-pan shape to a mummy body with strategically placed catsup details.

To make the meatloaf, just put all of the ingredients into a bowl for the kids to mush together until the texture is even or their arms are tired. Then, the kids can plop the mixture into a pan and shape it anyway they want to, like play dough.

Once it’s formed, put the meatloaf into the oven and bake it as usual, but pay careful attention to any narrow edges of the loaf. Cover them with a bit of foil to prevent overcooking until the last 10 minutes or so of cooking.

When dinner time comes around, the kids will love showing off – and eating -their creation.  And you’ll enjoy seeing the pride on their faces as you announce what a wonderful job they did making such a delicious dinner.  Mmm Mmm good!

For a great selection of recipe binders, recipe boxes and recipe cards for your favorite recipes, visit our store.