Russian tea cakes or Mexican wedding cookies?

I really love these cookies, I mean what’s not to love, butter, sugar and nuts. They are super easy to put together and rather quickly too. I don’t know why but they are generally only made around this time a year. Maybe because they look like a snowball?

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How cute are my fish teaspoons?

I have heard them called many things; Russian tea cakes, Mexican wedding cakes, Italian wedding cakes, snowballs, snowball cookies, and butterballs to name a few. Why so many names? Why called a cake when they clearly the size of a cookie?
IMG_3719.JPGIn doing a little research the names Russian versus Mexican seem to come from what nut you choose to use. Russian tea cakes use Hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts. And Mexican wedding cakes use pecans. The names snowballs and butterballs seem to be more of whatever your family has grown up using maybe? The cake versus cookie has a long explanation but I will try to condense it A LOT. Mexican weddings used to not have the typical tiered creations that we have here in the US instead they had tables with all kinds of confections for their guests and these were popular. The Mexican wedding cake cookies are known as polvorones. The Russian name is said that they were a popular treat at tea time for Europeans. 
IMG_3718.JPGPreheat oven to 325 – prepare 2 cookie sheets either with parchment, spray or silpat mat

2 cups whole pecans or walnuts, chopped fine
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened but cool
⅓ cups sugar
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups confectioners sugar for rolling cooled cookies

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Mix 1 cup chopped nuts, flour, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside
Place the remaining nuts in a food processor and process until they are the consistency of corneal, careful not to over process and make butter. Stir into the flour mixture and set aside.
IMG_3713.JPGCream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about a minute or two. Beat in the vanilla; scrape as needed. Add the flour mixture and beat on low until the dough just comes together; about 15-20 seconds. Scrape again as needed and process till dough has all come together a few more seconds.
IMG_3714.JPGWorking with 1 tablespoon at a time, use a cookie scoop if you have one to make them all the same size. Roll into a ball and place on a prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes; just until the tops are barely brown. Rotate halfway through cooking.
IMG_3716.JPGCool on the cookie sheet for about 2 minutes. Remove to a wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes or so. Roll cookies into confectioners sugar, gently shake off the excess. They can be stored in an airtight container up to 5 days, or frozen for a couple of months. Just before serving roll them again in confectioners sugar to coat again; tap off the excess.
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Recipe: Cook’s Illustrated

Buttermilk Biscuits

I have been writing this blog for several years now and while I enjoy writing and sharing with you all. You would think I would have a better game plan; I don’t I have been on vacation this past week and it didn’t occur to me to write this weeks blog or even make something worthy of sharing until 7:40 last night ugh! I literally had all week and I want to say we had cereal at least 2 nights and I think my husband made banana pancakes one night. It could have been a perfect week to try out some new recipes write up a few blogs so I didn’t add to the pressure of the holiday season. Nope not me let’s get up early and make something so I could take pictures and write it down for you. You’re welcome 🙂
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I have been wanting to make cookie dough for the freezer so I figured I would make some sort of cookie for you, then the fridge ingredients dictated that I needed to use up some of the buttermilk and we needed to eat something for breakfast; who doesn’t love biscuits; seriously I don’t know of anyone that doesn’t at least like biscuits.
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I have made this recipe several times and they never had really come out as advertised. I will go on record that it was all my fault. I used her recipe and made them my usual way which apparently was wrong; well not wrong I was just not going to get the same results as they showed in their pictures. So I decided to make them step by step according to the recipe which I will share with you, and you can decide if you want fluffy or flat biscuits, they taste the same to me. but the fluffy ones are beautiful to look at.

Buttermilk Biscuits
Spray a sheet pan lightly with nonstick spray or use a silpat mat like I did.
Preheat oven to 450°F.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping the dough
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
4 tablespoons (½ stick) cold unsalted butter
¾ cups cold cultured buttermilk

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Add the shortening and use your fingertips to pinch it completely into the flour mixture.

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Using a box grater, grate the cold butter into the flour. Toss until all of the pieces are coated. We have some butter we keep in the freezer so mine was frozen.
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Lightly coat your work surface with nonstick cooking spray, then flour. (The spray keeps the flour in place.) Add the buttermilk to the flour mixture. Gently mix the dough with a rubber spatula until there are no dry bits of flour left. The dough should be slightly sticky. I really did this step to the letter and I think the dough is a little more than slightly sticky.
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Transfer dough to the prepared work surface. Lightly coat your hands with flour and gently press the dough with the heels of your hands to form it into a smooth flat rectangle, 1/2-inch thick. Sprinkle the dough with flour, then fold it into thirds (like a letter). Press the dough out again, sprinkle with a little flour, and fold it into thirds again. This time folding in the open ends first. Repeat one more time. Dough should no longer be sticky. again this is the first time doing this step and it worked and I get it!
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With a floured 2-inch biscuit cutter, cut out dough rounds. Flip the rounds over so that the smooth sides that were against the work surface face up and place on the prepared pan, 1-inch apart. Stack the scraps and press and cut again. Refrigerate until cold, about 15 minutes. I put mine in the fridge just long enough to clean up my mess.
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Bake until the tops are golden brown and crisp, about 16 minutes. I set the timer for 10 and only added 3 more minutes. You know your own oven so adjust the time. Let cool 5 minutes before serving hot. This step was killing my husband; he is pretty dramatic when it comes to food. He is always starving – not really!!!

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the ones in the back are the fluffy ones

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You can see the difference in size – so your choice follow the directions as written or have flat biscuits – both are delicious!

Recipe by Carla Hall

 

Thanksgiving Leftover Egg Roll

I hope you had a wonderful day/weekend however you spent your time! We had 9 for Thanksgiving dinner and today (Saturday) will be 11 for homemade pasta (another personal cooking class for my sister-in-law) and Bolognese.
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For as far back as I can remember my family took all the leftovers from Thanksgiving and made them into a casserole of sorts. Basically take a 9×13 container and fill it or several of them with a little bit of everything and then top it with gravy. I still love doing this but this year when the family was cleaning up after eating I asked them to put everything in their own containers. I wanted to try making a thanksgiving leftover egg roll after seeing something similar floating around on FB.

IMG_3658And I had recently had an appetizer couples cooking class and I had them making a typical egg roll; pork, cabbage, carrot and scallions; except I had them air fry them, for the only reason being that there were 6 of them and we had made a lot app’s and it was the last one we made. I was a little worried about all of us being around hot oil. Did I mention that they bring wine with them. Just didn’t think it would be a good idea.
IMG_3659They were good air fried but we all were in agreement that we should have fried them in oil especially since the definition of a egg roll is “a Chinese-style snack consisting of diced meat or shrimp and shredded vegetables wrapped in a dough made with egg and deep-fried.” So egg rolls have been on my mind.
IMG_3661The ones I made were super easy and a big hit with everyone. I made 20 egg rolls and there were 7 of us that made them basically disappear. There were 2 left and my daughter brought them to one of her co-workers who also thought they were awesome. I wasn’t too sure about dipping sauces but they are a must. They just add another level of flavor. I always have thai sweet chili sauce in the fridge, I wanted to use the leftover cranberry sauce I made but my husband threw it away grrrrr. Thankfully I had a can of whole berry sauce that I added some orange juice and sriracha too that made a really nice tart sauce with a little heat. And of course there is always leftover gravy that I didn’t get a picture of but everyone gobbled up all 3 sauces.
IMG_3663Thanksgiving Leftover Egg Roll

Egg roll wrappers
Leftover turkey chopped up
Leftover stuffing chopped up
Cranberry sauce
1 egg – beaten

Oil for frying
Yes it was that simple

Cranberry dipping sauce
whole berry cranberry sauce
splash of orange juice
sriracha to taste
place everything in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil for about a 2-3 minutes

A few comments from the crowd
“what a fun way to eat leftovers”, “you are just amazing”, “these are SO good”

IMG_3662On the back of the package of egg roll wrappers will tell you how to fill, wrap, seal  and fry.

Beef and Guinness Stew

I should be writing about something you can make for your Thanksgiving dinner but I made this for dinner last night and it is just too good not to share immediately and it might be something to make on the Sunday after the holiday when you have had enough of turkey leftovers.

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Loved the oven roasted potatoes

A few week ago a couple of girlfriends and I went on a road trip to Simon Pearce a handmade glassware company; its about an hour and half from my house in Quechee, VT. This is my second visit to the combination store, glass blowing workshop, restaurant and bar.

My first visit was on Mother’s Day which happened to be a lovely day in May when my husband and I were on our way back from a weekend in Montreal. It was an unexpected treat. The property is on the river and there is a beautiful covered bridge and waterfall which you can enjoy while eating your meal.

May Simon Pearce

our May visit

I would suggest if you want to eat here; and you should; put your name in for a table and then walk around the store and glass blowing workshop. Learn from our mistake, well mistake is a little harsh. It just gave us more time to walk around.

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I’m a dork I used a clothespin because I couldn’t figure out my daughters stand – till this morning

Both times my food was excellent and I would go back again; although after talking with our waiter and him bringing over a copy of the latest book that has some of the recipes included in it and of course I ended up buying it. Between me and my daughter (mostly my daughter) we are going to need a library just for our cookbooks/magazines.

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I had a 4 pound chuck roast I cut up

IMG_3647So I had their beef stew and the depth of flavor was so intense I figured it had to have been on the stove or in the oven for hours. I was pleasantly surprised that we were eating in just about 2 hours and most of it was the pot simmering on the stove.

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all the love on the bottom of the pan – scrape it up when you add the liquid

IMG_3650My daughter came home after work and reheated a bowl for herself and said it was ridiculously good and worth buying the book for.
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after an hour and half

Beef and Guinness Stew with oven-roasted potatoes
This is exactly how their recipe – I will also share how I made mine

Ingredients:
2 & 1/2 pounds of beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. black pepper
3 tbsp. olive oil

Instructions:
Season the beef with salt and pepper. In a large stewpot, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and brown the beef in batches, adding 1 tablespoon olive oil to each batch, over medium high heat. Using slotted spoon, remove the beef from the pot and set aside.

3 carrots, peeled and sliced (blanch and set aside)

1 large onion
2-3 cloves garlic
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp. Flour
1 bottle Guinness Stout
2-3 cups beef stock
(I used my carrot water and added a tablespoon of beef base plus a container of unsalted beef broth so mine was a little less thick than there’s)

Add onions and a small amount of olive oil to the stewpot and cook over medium heat until translucent. Once the onions are caramelized, add garlic, thyme, and bay leaf and cook for 5 minutes. Add flour and mix well. Add the browned beef back to the pot and add the Guinness. Bring to a boil and add beef stock. Bring the mixture back to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 1 & 1/2 hours, or until the beef is tender. Add the carrots and adjust the seasonings before serving

Ingredients:
2 pounds small red potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp. Paprika

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the Paprika added a little heat – which was nice!

IMG_3652Instructions:
Cut potatoes in quarters.  In a bowl, toss potatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper, and paprika. Spread potatoes on a baking sheet in one layer (do not overcrowd). Roast for at least 1 hour in 400 degree F oven or until brown and crisp. Flip twice during cooking to brown every.

Recipe from the Simon Pearce Restaurants

Roast Chicken with Bread and Arugula Salad

I did it again; I made something that needs to be shared and didn’t take pictures. Why do I do this to myself? I often wonder if it is so I have to make it again? I doubt it I think I was a little pressed for time; who makes a new roasted chicken recipe during the week for friends? This girl does!
IMG_3634.JPGI knew it was going to be good since it was an Ina Garten recipe and she is a rockstar in the kitchen. And roasted chicken is her thang. Yes I wrote thang on purpose. I can’t be certain how many ways there are to roast a chicken, or how many different ways I have roasted chicken or even how many of them were Ina’s recipes. But everyone should have at least one favorite way to do so and make it often. This one is a keeper, very moist full of flavor and pairs perfectly with the arugula salad.

I actually roasted 2 chickens in two separate pans; one cast iron as instructed and the other in a stainless steel. The bread I used was not thick enough for the cast iron and came out too burned for me. It worked perfectly in the stainless. Thank you KP for asking if I was going to take a picture so I actually have a couple to share just before we dug in.
IMG_3633.JPGRoasted chicken for me is home, warmth, comfort, family and friends. What dish brings you home?

Notes: Season the chicken 24 to 48 hours before you roast it
I hate reading a recipe and get excited about making it and then find out I should have started it a day or so before. 

Roast Chicken with Bread & Arugula Salad
Ingredients

1 (4-4½ pound) whole chicken (try finding a Bell & Evans)
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 large garlic cloves, smashed flat
1 lemon, quartered
2 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 or 4 thick slices of country bread – ¾ in thick
Olive oil
Arugula salad (see below)

Directions
Place the chicken in a baking dish, Using your fingers, gently loosen the skin from the breasts without breaking the skin. Carefully slide the sprigs of thyme and the garlic under the skin. Put the lemon in the cavity. Ina ties the legs together and tuck the wings under the body. I didn’t do either of those thing and it worked out for me. You do you!
Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of salt and pepper. Cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 or 48 hours.

Preheat the oven to 500’F, take the chicken out of the fridge to warm up a bit. Place the bread in a medium 10” cast iron skillet in a single layer. Pour a little olive oil over the bird and place the bird breast side up on the bread. Roast for 30 minutes, turn the bird over and roast for another 15 minutes, or until the juices run clear. Wrap the skillet tightly with aluminum foil and allow the chicken to rest at room temperature for a full 30 minutes. The bread will be almost burnt on the bottom and soft with the pan drippings on top.

Place the dressed arugula salad in a large, shallow serving platter. Put the chicken and bread on a cutting board. Cut the bread into 1 inch squares and sprinkle it on top of the salad. Carve the chicken into thick slices and place it on top of the salad. Spoon the juices over the chicken, sprinkle it with sea salt and serve warm.

Salad ingredients
¼ cup Champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
½ cup olive oil
½ cup thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts
2 tablespoons dried currants
6 cups baby arugula, lightly packed (6 to 8 ounces)

Directions
Whisk the vinegar, mustard, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper together in a mason jar, or small bowl. Whisk in the olive oil, stir in the scallions and currants, and set aside.

Place the arugula in a large bowl, add the vinaigrette, and toss well.

Recipe: Ina Garten make it ahead

Cranberry-Pistachio Cookie Bar

So last week I mentioned having some cookie bars cooling while I was writing. They are all gone, no I didn’t eat them all by myself I had some help. Actually it is kinda funny that my son who doesn’t live here anymore but works with my husband so is here most mornings does a drive-by of the stove and immediately looks to see what might be packaged up to snack on.
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My name is Donna and I am a snack-a-holic. (stop laughing KP) we have not one but two snack drawers and anything homemade goes on the shelf above the stove, mostly to keep my dog from counter surfing. Which he has done a few times.

IMG_3615Back to the cookie bars. I am going to blame the magazines I was going through to try to get rid of a few. Out of a half dozen or so I think I got rid of two. That is not how you clean out your magazines/catalogs. While going through them I came across one that they had me at the title Cranberry-Pistachio bars. One of my most favorite combination of sweet and salty is cranberries, pistachios and white chocolate. I have made cookies, biscotti’s and bark with these three magical ingredients and have NEVER been disappointed.
IMG_3622.JPGThese bars are thick, dense and chewy; not too sweet or salty just the right amount I think. Though they did not list white chocolate I had to add a drizzle of some of it melted on top.

Cranberry-Pistachios cookie bars
Preheat oven to 350’F – line a 9×13 pan with foil, spray non-stick spray

Ingredients
¾ cup butter, melted
1¼ cups light brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated white sugar
½ cup honey
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cup salted pistachios, chopped
1 cup dried cranberries

Directions

In a stand mixer bowl, beat the melted butter, sugars and honey on medium until fluffy about 3-4 minutes. Scrape as needed. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Beat in the vanilla.
IMG_3616IMG_3617In a small bowl, whisk the flour and salt. Add them to the wet mixture, beating until combined. Add pistachios and cranberries till combined.
IMG_3618IMG_3620Press batter into pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes until a wooden toothpick comes out slightly sticky. Let cool completely in the pan. Optional drizzle of white chocolate. I took a handful of chips and in a Pyrex measuring cup; melted them in the microwave for about a minute. Then drizzled them on the cooled bars. Slice and enjoy!
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Recipe adapted from Southern Lady magazine

Apple Galette – Rustic Tart

I am in a bad way! I have not only been craving baked goods; containing flour, sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla etc. I have been making way too many of them; which also means eating them.
IMG_3610.JPGLast weekend I made 2 different kinds of dessert, as I write there is a pan of cookie bars cooling on the stove. It is a little early to be packing on my winter weight. Yeah like that’s what it is; well that is what we call it when our pants get a little tighter and the baggy sweaters come out.
IMG_3612.JPGMy sister-law was up for the weekend and I had bought some apples the week before that were still in the bowl on the counter. So I decided we were going to make something with them. I can’t be certain but I do not recall ever making a galette and I have always wanted to. What I didn’t know was my sister-in-law had never made a homemade dough before. So many people; including me on occasion; buy pre-made dough from the store; making one from scratch can be well worth the extra 10-20  minutes. Plus it takes me longer to run to the store than to just make a simple crust.
IMG_3600So I held a little cooking class in my kitchen that was enjoyed by everyone. I enjoy showing/making, she enjoyed learning and everyone else enjoyed eating.
IMG_3601IMG_3602A galette is a simply a fancy word for a rustic tart. I mean if you were going to present or try to sell one. I mean you could probably get $3 for a slice of a rustic tart; but by calling it a galette you could probably get $5.

Tart dough
1½ cups (6¾ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon table salt
11 tablespoons (5½ ounces) cold, unsalted butter – grated or cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
3 tablespoons milk

Fruit Filling
5-7 Granny Smith – 4 cups of apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Cinnamon
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In a stand mixer add the flour, sugar and salt. Using the paddle attachment combine the dry ingredients for a about 30 seconds. On low speed add the cold butter to the flour mixture until the flour is no longer white and it can hold together when you squeeze it together in your hand. Around 1-3 minutes. If there are any butter pieces larger than a pea squeeze them to break them up.
IMG_3604In a small bowl mix the egg yolk and milk and then add them to the flour mixture. On low speed mix until the dough just comes together, about 20 seconds. The dough will look crumbly and dry. Dump the dough onto a clean lightly floured surface. Working it with the heel of your hand, push and smear it away from you, gather it back up and repeat until the dough come together and is pliable.
IMG_3607Press it into a disc and wrap it in plastic wrap; let it rest in the fridge for 15-20 minutes. The dough can last up to 4 days in the fridge or a couple of months in the freezer. Place it in the fridge overnight to defrost. Let the dough sit on the counter for 15 minutes before the next step. Preheat the oven to 350’F
IMG_3608While the dough is resting prepare the fruit. Peel, core and slice the apples, add the sugar and cinnamon and some flour. Taste an apple and if it needs more sugar now is the time to add it. Roll the dough on a floured surface into a 13-14 inch circle. It does have to be a circle It doesn’t have to be perfect, remember it is called a rustic tart.
IMG_3609On a sheet pan covered with tin foil or a silpat mat. Place the round dough and add the apples to the center of the dough. If you want to make it pretty line up some of the apples that will be seen through the open part of the top. Fold the edges of the dough over some of the fruit to create a rim about 2 inches wide. Working your way around the dough pleating as you go.
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Make an egg wash by beating a whole egg in a small bowl with a fork. Using a pastry brush, brush the pleated dough evenly with some of the egg wash. Sprinkle with whatever sugar you have on hand. I used sugar in the raw.

Bake until the pleats of the dough are golden brown, about an hour. Once done transfer to a rack to cool. When cool enough to handle, transfer to a cutting board or plate and slice. Serve it warm or at room temperature. Top with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

If you want to make a smaller tart you can quarter the dough into four separate disks and wrap each one in plastic wrap. When you roll out the dough into 7 inch circle. When you pleat the dough it should have a 1 inch rim.

When the tart’s ( we each made one) were in the oven I showed my sister-in-law the first dough I was shown how to make when I was a kid. Flour, water and oil. which I still make. I am glad I showed her the galette dough first the second is so easy though not as flaky and buttery but is the only dough I make when making curly cues. Dough rolled out covered with butter cinnamon and sugar rolled up and sliced into 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces.