Category Archives: food

Cinnamon swirl cookies

A vision came to me. It was a cinnamon-bun-meets-cookie vision. To make this vision a reality, I used the dough recipe for “Fig Pinwheels” from Martha Stewart’s Cookies (page 101) and the butter-sugar-cinnamon filling for the cinnamon roll recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks (page 37).

This isn’t the type of recipe you can whip up in a snap, not because it’s difficult but because the dough has to chill three separate times: twice for an hour each, once for half an hour. You could definitely make the dough the day before and chill it overnight, but – hold on to your hats – that does mean starting a day earlier (i.e. you have to know you will want cookies tomorrow. Then again…when is that ever not the case?).

Step one is to make the dough – butter, brown sugar, white sugar, flour, baking soda, salt – then split it in half, wrap each half in plastic, and chill for an hour.

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Step two is to roll out each ball of dough into a rectangular shape on a floured piece of parchment paper, then chill for a half hour.

Step three, melt the butter for the filling and have the sugar and cinnamon to hand. PW’s cinnamon roll recipe is scaled to feed hungry cowboys, and it’s decadent; for the cookies, I used just 1/2 stick of butter, 1/4 cup of sugar, and 1.5 tsp cinnamon.

Step four, spread melted butter on each rectangle, then sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon over the butter. Roll each rectangle into a log, and chill the logs for another hour, turning occasionally so they don’t flatten on one side. (Then again, this is according to Martha Stewart; not all of us are as keen on perfect appearance. Most of us figure staying out of jail is a good enough appearance. But I digress.)

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Not perfect circles, but they came out fine!

Finally, slice the chilled logs and put the cookies on a baking sheet; bake at 350 F for about 15 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets halfway through. Remove to a rack to cool; store in plastic containers with parchment paper between layers of cookies. (Martha says the cookies will keep for three days.)

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Appearance-wise, they turned out great; they look like little snails, but unlike real snails, I will eat these. I was worried that the filling wasn’t thick enough (the original recipe calls for a homemade fig spread, or failing that – and yes, failing is the right word, thank you, Martha – a store-bought jam), but it turned out fine. They might be a tiny bit on the bland side, but I bet the butter-sugar-cinnamon filling made them a lot easier to handle; a fig or other jam filling would have been slippery and sticky.

We’re bringing half this batch to a fellow Hampshire alum who has invited us to tour her farm this weekend; I couldn’t go empty-handed. Must remember to pick up some carrots for the horses on the way! (Sudo’s staying home. As much as I’d love to see what would happen if she met a goat face to face…)

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Beer croutons

Once upon a time at the Draft Barn in Brooklyn, I tasted beer croutons. And they were marvelous. So I decided to try to re-create them at home, with some advice with my friend (and baking/beer expert) Tim. Here’s what I did:

DSC07658Ingredients:

5-6 Tbsp beer
5-6 Tbsp unsalted butter
6 cups cubed bread
1 tsp salt
fresh black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F. Melt butter and mix it with beer and salt in a large bowl, then toss the cubed bread in the butter-beer mixture until it’s coated. Once the bread cubes are thoroughly coated, spread them on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, turning occasionally, until they are golden brown and crisp and delicious.

Next time, I might try with pumpernickel or dark rye, and another tablespoon or two of butter. But this first attempt was relatively successful. (So successful, in fact, that I have no pictures of the finished croutons.)

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Simple onion barley soup

Chicken soup is the usual prescription for those who are under the weather, but chicken has always been my least favorite part of chicken soup; it’s usually tough, stringy, chewy, and flavorless. When I’m sick, I like to make a stripped-down version of cock-a-leekie soup, with just onions, broth (from bouillon cubes), and barley. It’s easy and relatively quick to make, reheats well (though it thickens as the barley absorbs more of the broth; you can add more broth, or just water), and is flavorful and soothing.

6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 Tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped
1 cup barley
salt & pepper to taste

Saute chopped onion in butter on medium heat in a pan or pot. In a separate soup pot, bring the broth to a boil, and add the barley. (Barley cooking time will vary; check the package for directions. I used Trader Joe’s “Ten Minute” barley, which always needs longer than ten minutes.) A few minutes before the barley is ready, add the buttery onions to the soup pot and stir.

onionbarleysoup

 

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Our Trip to Portland, Part 2

After our ill-fated first attempt, we did actually make it to Portland the last weekend in August. Here’s the story in pictures and captions.

Brunch at The Front Room, with a view of industrial-sized kitchen equipment.

Brunch at The Front Room, with a view of industrial-sized kitchen equipment.

A tasting at the Maine Mead Works meadery.

A tasting at the Maine Mead Works meadery.

Spot the grammatical error on the Freedom Trail plaque!

Spot the grammatical error on the Freedom Trail plaque!

A church parking lot with a sense of humor.

A church parking lot with a sense of humor.

The garden behind the Wadsworth-Longfellow House.

The garden behind the Wadsworth-Longfellow House.

Taking a break in the garden.

Taking a break in the garden.

There were some real gems in the Maine Historical Society gift shop.

There were some real gems in the Maine Historical Society gift shop.

A visit to the excellent Portland Museum of Art, including a great Richard Estes exhibit.

A visit to the excellent Portland Museum of Art, including a great Richard Estes exhibit.

This one speaks for itself.

This one speaks for itself.

A visit to the Maine Potters Market.

A visit to the Maine Potters Market.

The Bar of Chocolate, where we ate a delicious slice of cake and overheard the best conversation of the day.

The Bar of Chocolate, where we ate a delicious slice of cake and overheard the best conversation of the day.

Pizza at Otto for dinner.

Pizza at Otto for dinner.

I wonder how much the state of Maine spends on lobster stencils.

I wonder how much the state of Maine spends on lobster stencils.

 

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Strawberry Top Water

I meant to post this three months ago* when strawberry season was at its height, but here it is now: strawberry top water!

*”What with one thing and another, three years passed.” -William Goldman, The Princess Bride

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This is an idea I found via Clotilde Dusoulier’s blog Chocolate & Zucchini, and I have very little to add except that it is a delicious idea and you should make strawberry water any time you have strawberries in the house. It’s like that cucumber-infused water they have at spas, only a hundred times better. And it hits that sweet spot: it’s low effort, but looks/tastes impressive.

  • Rinse strawberries. Slice off the tops, put them in a jar of water, put the jar in the fridge for several hours (overnight is okay).
  • Drain the water and toss the berry tops. Drink delicious, pale pink strawberry water right away or store for 1-2 days in fridge.
  • If you have some fresh herbs around, especially basil or mint, a few leaves make a tasty addition. Same goes for a little sliver of lemon. Strawberry-lemon-mint water, anyone?

It’s quite refreshing. And of course, it’s a nice complement to whatever you plan to do with the rest of the strawberry.

 

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Homemade chocolate ice cream

Last summer we made a few flavors of ice cream using the Kitchen Aid ice cream maker attachment. We learned a few things:

  • Don’t even bother trying to make ice cream if it’s already over 80 degrees in the house. The ice cream will not get to a proper consistency no matter how long you churn it.
  • Small batches are better than large batches. Homemade ice cream doesn’t last as long as commercially manufactured ice cream, and it is very, very sad to have to throw it out.

This year, we checked out Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert Book from the library. Not that recipes online can’t be trusted (in fact, the peach ice cream we made last year was a Ben & Jerry’s recipe we found online), but the library had it, so why not?

The first recipe we tried (Jerry’s chocolate, with unsweetened chocolate cocoa powder) was a five-star success every step of the way; we have been enjoying it every evening since we made it. (I say “we” but I mean “Ben.” All I did was pour the batter into the bowl. And lick the bowl.) We followed the recipe exactly, except instead of adding the optional chocolate chips, we added Heath bar bits.

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Our friends gave us two excellent reusable containers made for storing ice cream. Before this I didn’t know such things existed, but if you’re making your own ice cream, I can’t recommend these highly enough.

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I suspect they might also be good for freezing soups in wintertime, but I’d be setting myself up for disappointment there: imagine opening a container that says “ice cream” and finding anything other than ice cream inside.

For now, it’s this. And it’s delicious.

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Our trip to Portland

This morning, we got in the car and headed to Portland, Maine, for a day trip. There can only be so many beautiful summer days left in the year, and we wanted to take advantage of this one. We planned to have brunch, go to the art museum, maybe Longfellow’s house; a meadery and a chocolate bar were also on the agenda, and perhaps some time sitting by the ocean; maybe a visit to the Maine potters market, and a peek into the impressive public library. Our friends had agreed to take care of the dog’s evening walk and dinner so we didn’t have to cut the day short. It was going to be great!

Let’s let the pictures tell the story.

Ben staring at his car, minus one functioning ball joint.

11:10am: Ben staring at his car, minus one functioning ball joint.

The lovely Adopt A Visibility Site, Georgetown, MA

The lovely Adopt A Visibility Site, Georgetown, MA. Who knew there was a Georgetown, MA? Or a Rowley?

Ben making friends with a caterpillar on a pine needle.

Ben making friends with a caterpillar on a pine needle while waiting for a tow truck to come.

A whole lot of pretty sky, and no tow truck.

A whole lot of pretty sky, and no tow truck.

Finally! After a mere three hours of waiting. Thanks, Liberty Mutual! Hate to think how long it would have been if it'd been snowing.

Finally! After a mere three hours of waiting. Thanks, Liberty Mutual! Hate to think how long it would have been if it’d been snowing.

The Independent in Union Square, Somerville, MA.

4:02pm: The Independent in Union Square, Somerville, MA.

So no, we didn’t get to Portland today. But on the plus side, if the car had to break down at all, this was pretty good timing: we had nowhere to be, no one to meet, the weather was as conducive as it could possibly be for spending three hours on a highway overpass. We had a frisbee and at least one of us had a book; I learned a lot about ball joints. And we got to have lunch (dinner?) in Union Square, where we never go because it’s inconvenient to get to, but it’s where our trusted auto mechanic is located (Mike!), and we were very hungry by four o’clock. (Thank you to the fine, fine folks at The Independent, who brought us tasty food speedily. Much appreciated.)

Maybe another time, Portland.

My day was great, thanks for asking.

My day was great, thanks for asking.

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