Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last Day of Freedom/Back to the Beginning

It's my last day to eat. Last day for candy and cookies and cakes--oh my! Last day before Slim Fast and fiber bars and endless parades of salads with low fat dressings. It's a necessity, I know. If appearance and health didn't matter to me, I would be the world's fattest woman, unable to leave my house, creaking the floorboards whenever I dared to rise from the sofa. Appetizing, huh? But it's true--I love food that much. But I also love feeling good, feeling healthy, and not shuddering whenever I pass a mirror. I love being attractive to my husband (who says I'm pretty even in my chunky phases but--let's face it--whose opinion would change were I to morph into a whale). So, back to the dietary drawing board. In 2009, I lost 25 pounds. With the beginning of grad school and the holiday season, I gained nearly 15 of them back. The holiday weight might be easier to lose--it's been there only briefly and shouldn't mind moving out--but the rest has simply got to go. Ideal weight, here I come. Whether I like it or not.

So--last day of freedom. What am I going to make for dinner? No idea. Maybe something with hollandaise sauce. That's a rare treat. For lunch, grilled ham and cheese (hopefully using the last of the holiday ham). But you know, I think I might go light. The woman who loves food might have had enough. With all the cookies and candies, cheeses and crackers of the holiday season, I might be done. So maybe I don't have to worry about becoming the world's fattest woman. Maybe I'll just be moderately chunky.

Strange talk for a food blog, eh? Well, I'm sort of a culinary Jekyll and Hyde, wrapped into one. The feaster and the dieter. The one who melts for butter and the one who loves turkey bacon.

BUT! Let me tell you. The new year is coming.

Last year, I started this blog for a reason. To have a solid reason to get in the kitchen with my husband every Sunday, to cook something together, and to keep a record of it. Write it down. Let you read it, if you like. Granted, my mother reads this blog. My husband's friends are aware of its existence. I'm not going to write anything scandalous or embarrassing. So it's more pots and pans than passion. And I'm not exactly the world's best cook. But that idea that I had--well, I need to get back to it. So I'm changing the title up there on the header, and I'm going back to my original intention.

Sundays in the Kitchen resumes January 3, 2010.

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Best Compliment Ever...

Just a quick note:

This Christmas, I received the best compliment ever. My dad told me that my grandmother would be proud of my divinity. And my pie crust. I just wish I had learned the recipes from her instead of my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook.

To all of you out there with cooking grandmothers: get in the kitchen with Grandma while you still can.

And thanks, Dad, for the compliment. It's still making me smile.

Fluffy White Frosting

So--I don't know if this recipe is in any books anywhere because it's something my mother and I sort of came up with. We made a version of it at Thanksgiving for a cake designed to celebrate my grandmother's birthday--it went between layers of lemon cake with a raspberry glaze and stewed berries. The outside of the cake was coated in whipped cream and topped with more stewed berries (raspberries and blackberries, stewed with a little water, some sugar, and raspberry liqueur). At Thanksgiving, we neglected to write any recipe down. For Christmas, however, I decided to use real measurements and record them. This time I used the frosting over a delectable chocolate cake, topped with crushed candy canes. I must tell you, this frosting is amazingly easy and so delicious, you just won't believe it.

Fluffy White Frosting

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup heavy cream, whipped with 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Cream the butter and the cream cheese together. Fold gently into the whipped cream. (Tip: don't fold the cream in when it's too cold, or the butter and cream cheese will seize up. Cream cheese must be at room temperature or it will clump up in the frosting.)

This frosting could be so versatile. Add cocoa powder, perhaps, or vanilla extract, or peppermint extract, rum extract--whatever you like! It would be excellent on a coconut cake, red velvet cake, white, yellow, chocolate--pick your favorite.

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Non-Candied Yams

One of my least favorite holiday foods--I like it, I suppose, but I definitely don't love it--is the holiday yam. Candied, with brown sugar, baby marshmallows on top. Yuck. It's just too sweet, frankly, but not quite a dessert. I love yams. Sweet potatoes. Whatever you want to call them. They have such wonderful natural flavor. Sweet potato chips, sweet potato fries, baked sweet potatoes--all are superb. But none seem fancy enough for a holiday meal. So this year, I improvised. I used a simple recipe.

1 yam (sweet potato) peeled and cubed
1 bulb fennel, cubed
1 large red onion, cubed
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs dried thyme
1/2 tbs dried parsley
salt and pepper

Toss all ingredients together and roast in a 375 degree (F) oven for 30-45 minutes, until soft and sweet.

It was absolutely amazing, I have to say. And what amazes me more is that it's relatively healthy. Cut back on the oil and it will work wonderfully come the New Year's diet. It's hearty, but not heavy. A revelation. I have a feeling this one will work its way into the regular rotation.

Bon Appetit!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Oh, Fudge! The Conclusion

The fudge turned out! It's just as smooth and creamy as it was before it went into the freezer. The brittle turned out, too--still crisp and delicious. The fudge did leave little drops of chocolatey water at the bottom of the Ziploc bag, and it's not quite as beautiful as it was fresh from the pan (mainly because the squares were not laid evenly in the bag, more tossed in every which way) but the taste is the same. Success was never so sweet!

Oh, Fudge!

I read in my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook that fudge, along with other candies, can be frozen for up to 2 months. Based on this information (alongside the fact that Ian and I are hosting both our sets of parents for Christmas this year and want to make sure there are treats enough for all) I made a batch of fudge and a batch of pecan brittle (just like peanut brittle, but with pecans instead of peanuts), put them in Ziploc bags and froze them. They're sitting on my counter right now, slowly warming through. I'm crossing my fingers that they defrost OK because a lot of time and sugar went into those candies. For the first time ever, my fudge didn't turn out grainy, and my theory is that instead of wussing out on the final beating that fudge must receive, I braved my tendinitis and beat that chocolate concoction half to death. My elbows were sore, but my fudge was smooth.

So now I just have to wait and see. And protect my bags of candy from my cat, who seems very interested in their presence on the counter. Thankfully, she's really only interested in the plastic bag. She eats plastic like nobody's business, but sweets are generally snubbed. Let's just hope my guests don't snub them!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gingerbread Construction Tips

Last year, I tried to make a gingerbread house. Tried. It failed. It fell into itself in a spectacular mess of cookie crumbs and royal icing. I had measured all the pieces exactly, but they still came out wonky. I used buckets full of icing and still nothing would stick. It was not the holly-jolliest part of my holiday season.

This year, however, I have succeeded! I feel I can safely say that, since Ian and I made the house last night and this morning, it is still standing. So, unless the cat gets a sweet tooth or tries to sit on the roof, we have a gingerbread house! It doesn't have the traditional sloping roof (one of the biggest architectural problems I encountered last year)--it's more Flintstones style--but it has four walls, a gumdrop snowman, and a cinnamon disc path. So if you want to make a gingerbread house without using the store-bought, cookie-cutter kit, here are some tips:

1. Have a gingerbread cookie recipe that makes for nice, stiff cookies.

2. Roll out your dough directly on a piece of parchment paper that will go directly on your cookie sheet (peeling dough off the countertop will only deform your pieces). A dough cutter/kitchen scraper works nicely for making straight edges.

3. Don't roll your pieces too thick: the heavier the pieces are, the more likely they are to fall in on themselves.

4. Use a basic powdered sugar and milk icing, and make it as thick as it can be while still being spreadable.

5. Have two sets of hands available: one to hold the walls and another to apply the icing.

6. Don't stress if it doesn't work. Don't stress if it isn't perfect (mine most certainly is not!). It's a fun activity, more than anything. And it's just gingerbread. And you can always eat the ruins!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Yes, I'm skipping Thanksgiving. (Gasp!) Let's face it, it's long gone and I was too busy stuffing my face with turkey and yams to write anything about it. Sometimes enjoying life (to me) is more important than writing about it (crazy, perhaps, for an aspiring author--but true.)

So last night, Ian and I made quiche. It was our first time. The most amazing part, I think, is that I got Ian to eat eggs for dinner. He is one of those rare people who hates breakfast food, who wants a Reuben for breakfast, who got angry when the dining hall in his dormitory served pancakes for dinner. But he ate eggs for dinner. Of course, a few weeks ago he ate a souffle, which is basically eggs--but quiche? Quiche actually looks like eggs. So how did it happen?

First of all, two words: pie crust. I'm starting to think that anything is better in a pie crust. And I make a pretty good pie crust, and not just when I'm using Nigella's super-awesome part-butter, part-shortening recipe (How to Be A Domestic Goddess...if you don't have it, make sure to ask Santa) but also when I just use the flour, shortening, salt deal from my red checkered Better Homes & Gardens book. I think I've figured it out, too. I don't worry about it. Plus, as my aunt Phyllis told me last Christmas (a comment I did not appreciate at the time but am now grateful for), you only roll out a pie crust once. Otherwise, it gets tough. Only roll it out once! OK--I've broken this rule and still had awesome pie crust. The main idea behind that, though, is not to overwork it. Don't develop the glutens too far. And you will have lovely pie crust.

Second of all: ham. The addition of ham to the quiche recipe makes it seem more like a sandwich? Ask Ian. He can tell you.

Third of all: spinach, sour cream, cheese, half and half, and all those yummy, fattening things you whip into the filling. And (as Paula Deen--among others--says), "FAT EQUALS FLAVOR!"

Find some excellent quiche recipes at or