Thursday, February 15, 2007

Don't Panic Soup

The weather here recently has been lovely. Highs have been in the high 60s and low 70s. California weather. Shorts and long sleeves weather. Perfect weather. The skies have been blue and the sun has been shining, and I have been feeling awfully sorry for all those people enduring record freezing temperatures with sleet and snow as I sip lemonade with the windows open. I wanted to tell y'all that you should all move down here. I was going to say that I would meet you at the airport, and to bring a beach book.

That was, until, I got what my smug mug deserved for all that gloating. The cold! The bitterness! Overnight, it will get below freezing! You laugh, yes. But this is the Deep South, and we no likey cold weather. I am told that it once snowed here in 1989. I remember it snowing that year back home, at an near-equal latitude on the opposite side of the state. I built a tiny snowman on the back of my mom's mauve station wagon and we still have a tupperware container of that snow in the deep freezer. So it snowed here that year too and they closed the causeway to the mainland and that would have been about the time that I freaked the hell out.

Should it ever snow here again, I have the remedy for the stranded snowbird whose island has suddenly become very small. Elise's Friend Claire's Roasted Red Pepper Potato Soup is warm and comforting and actually quite healthy. I would imagine that you could sip on this soup and totally forget that you are on a small land mass surrounded by ocean with no immediate prospects of getting off without being shot in the process. It's the hotness on a cold night like this one, or on every night if you live somewhere insane like, say, Atlanta. I used soy milk in place of the cream to save calories and two lactose-induced sick days, but using cream or milk with lots of fat and calories can only make it better. You probably need to bulk up for that blizzard anyway.

This is also my contribution to February's Soup's On, hosted by A Veggie Venture, where you'll find lots of warm fuzzy soup recipes this month.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies

At a little party this weekend, my friend M made two batches of cookies: the first soft and chewy, the second brown and crispy. Wasn't that thoughtful of her? Which batch would you want? I much prefer my cookies well done and crisp around the edges. I want my cookies Kate Bosworth thin, bordering on burning. Take your mushy soft baked goods elsewhere. And by "elsewhere" I mean "leave them with me and I'll make sure they don't go to waste."

These cookies are about as crispy as it gets. In under 30 minutes prep time and using only ingredients I already had on hand, I had these delicious little throwbacks to Fall. But guess what else? They're from Fitness magazine, y'all. 94 calories each. You won't believe that when you have one, but it's true. Squee! I am serious about the squee, they are goooooood and my house smells like awesomeness.

Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies from Fitness

3/4 c. old fashioned oatmeal
3/4 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
3 tbsp. apple butter
3/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, combine oats, flour, baking powder, salt and connamon; set aside. In a large bowl, blend butter, apple butter, and sugars until smooth. Add egg and vanilla; belnd. Add oat mixture; blend. Drop batter, 1 tablespoon at a time, onto parchment lined baking sheets. Bake 18 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly on baking sheets, then cool completely on racks. Makes 24 cookies.

Sunday, February 4, 2007


When I heard that the pot-luck Superbowl party I was attending would have a Mexican theme, I was nervous. Number one, would I be expected to perform my world famous rendition of Un Elefante Se Balanceaba? And number two, how unacceptable would it be to just bring a bag full of Taco Bell? What about with extra mild sauce?

I'd literally never cooked a single Mexican dish before in my life. I wanted my contributions to be worthy of what
would prove to be a life-changing halftime show (seriously, I'll never be the same), but I am just horribly inept when it comes to the caliente. What I wound up putting together involved no tortillas, cheese, or meat, and would probably have been of questionable authenticity to my companions had they not drowned it all in Corona.

I decided to make The Homesick Texan's Texas Caviar. This stuff is so good, and it only gets better the longer it sits in your fridge. I love me some black eyed peas, and I basically made it according to her recipe except that I added about 400 times the cilantro. I also love me some cilantro. I can get behind any recipe where the instructions are "mix everything together."

Of course, I also managed to zero in on the single appropriately-themed recipe in Martha's Baking Handbook: Mexican Wedding Cookies. I love love love wedding cookies. You know those Danish wedding cookies that come in the giant pink box? Ridiculous. At my own wedding someday, I am planning to serve those with a side of more of those, followed by a special dessert made of stacks of those with a cup of more and more and more of those. Anyway, these are like that, except more...Mexicany.

Finally, I deep-fried a bunch of buttery dough and then rolled it around in cinnamon sugar. I am told these are called "churros" in Mexico, but I call them "worth the triple bypass."


Texas caviar From the Homesick Texan

4 cups of cooked black-eyed peas (or 2 16-oz cans), drained and rinsed of all juice
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, green part only
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
3 canned or fresh jalapeño chiles, chopped
1 can Rotel tomatoes or 1 ripe, chopped tomato
3/4 cup olive oil
Juice from one lime
1 yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
3 cloves fresh garlic, pressed or minced

Mix everything together, chill for four hours. Serve with tortill
a or corn chips.

Churros Adapted from Food & Wine

2 sticks unsalted butter ( 1/2 pound)
Kosher salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 large egg white
1 cup sugar
1 quart vegetable oil, for frying
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1. In a large saucepan, bring 1 3/4 cups of water to a boil with the butter and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Remove from the heat, add the flour and stir vigorously until incorporated. Return to moderate heat and cook, stirring, until the dough pulls away from the side, 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
2. Using an electric mixer, beat the dough at low speed for 1 minute, just until slightly cooled. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat in the eggs and egg white, one at a time. Transfer the dough to a bowl, press a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface and refrigerate until cooled to room temperature, about 15 minutes.
3. In a large saucepan, heat the oil to 375°. Set a rack on a large baking sheet and cover with paper towels. In a pie plate, combine the cup of sugar with the cinnamon. Scoop the dough into a large pastry bag fitted with a large star tip.
5. Working quickly, squeeze 6-inch lengths of the dough into the hot oil, cutting them off with a knife. Fry no more than 8 churros at a time; they expand a bit as they cook. Fry over moderately high heat, turning once or twice, until browned, about 8 minutes. Drain the churros on the rack for 2 minutes, then toss with the cinnamon sugar in the pie plate.

Mexican Wedding Cookies
from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook
Makes 6 dozen

1 c. pecan halves
2 c. confectioners' sugar
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350ºF, with racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. In a food processor, combine pecans with 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar; pulse until nuts are finely ground. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar-nut mixture, flour and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until the dough just comes together.

Roll dough into 3/4 inch balls; place about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake, rotating the sheets halfway through, until cookies are pale on top and lightly browned on the bottom, 10-12 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and cool. Place remaining confectioners' sugar in a shallow bowl and roll cookies in it to coat completely.