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Monthly Archives: December 2013

Christmas Cookies Round Two

The cookie baking marathon continues. This time I am striving to make thin crispy buttery sugar cookies, similar to my mom’s.

I used the Bon Appetit Ultimate Sugar Cookie recipe, with a few very slight modifications.

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My first sheet of cookies. A little thicker than I wanted. But, they have a really good taste so I soldier on, learning to make them thinner and getting into a rhythm so as not to have them stick to the paper.

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The dough starts out as one that is pretty difficult to roll, unless you get it to just the right temperature. I had quite a few messy cookies, and of course, we make ugly ones to eat (just to see how they taste).

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I like that one in the middle that looks like the state of Indiana. Cookie blobs, made specifically to taste, are part of the fun of baking for the holidays.

Finally …

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… a container with about three dozen for us and friends, and a separate container of the best, to give to my mom.

She called today and we talked about her cookies. Hers are made with margarine, and I just can’t bring myself to use it. This recipe is the closest tasting to hers, the right balance of sugar. I don’t frost my cookies, just use the sprinkles on them.

Up tomorrow, the chocolate pistachio cookies from the same Bon Appetit. They are chilling in the fridge overnight.

Finally, there will be gingerbread. And, maybe some chocolate toffee bark if I have time.

Getting in the spirit now. Three days to go.

hocofood@@@

Not A White Christmas

Well, the snow was pretty while it lasted, but these warm temperatures are making it go away rather quickly.

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This Sunday we may see temps near seventy degrees, and maybe a thunderstorm. All on the first day of winter.

It is one of the more endearing aspects of living here. The weather can take a rollercoaster ride, from below freezing to short sleeve weather. All in the same week.

I gather we are above our rainfall requirements. That is good for the water table, and our wells should be healthy for the time being.

I have to admit, around here, it is never dull. We have the hawks back. The bluebirds visited the bird bath during the freezing weather last week. The robins are all over the lawn now that the snow has melted.

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We are overrun with deer again. Although they seem to be getting hit by cars on a weekly basis not far from our house. They also are starting to eat the tips of our azaleas, a sure sign they are having difficulty finding enough food.

Enough about the weather. This is the final weekend before Christmas. Time to finish the shopping, wrapping, cooking and keep the Christmas music as the background as I work.

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Only a few days left. Have a safe holiday. And, do something nice for someone who doesn’t expect it.

The. End.

Of the fall season CSA. It feels so final, to not have a guaranteed source of organic, fresh, amazing vegetables available, from week to week.

You get used to it.

Hopefully, the winter CSA over at MOM’s Jessup will get enough sign ups.

As for today, what a great final haul of goodness.

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The Lancaster Farm non profit cooperative delivers amazingly fresh items to us. Like these. Even at the end of the season.

We got:
popcorn
sliced white mushrooms
Portobello mushrooms
Jerusalem artichokes
red beets
Brussels sprouts
rutabagas (I swapped for green cabbage)
russet potatoes
Yukon gold potatoes
Celery root

Red beets will be roasted tomorrow. The potatoes are hanging on a hook in the garage, waiting for their transfer to the kitchen to cook. There will be brown butter Brussels sprouts soon.

I love making the popcorn while watching movies.

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This is the first week we got flaxseed rye bread. Should be really great with the mushroom pate I made last week. And, I have enough to make more this weekend.

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Crossing my fingers that the winter CSA will be stocked enough to happen. I can’t believe how much we get every week, and all of it so great tasting.

hocofood@@@

Last Minute Gifts

We’re a week away from Christmas. Six more shopping days.

Have you found the perfect gifts yet? How about a few locally inspired/small business/non profit suggestions?

Even some of the more unusual items. Like gifts of food, or a CSA membership. Or, head over to the Howard County Conservancy or Robinson Nature Center gift shops to pick up stocking stuffers.

How about toys made in the USA, that Clark’s Farm has in their gift shop? They are open Saturdays from noon to three. The Enchanted Forest book, maybe, as a gift to someone who grew up here and has memories of visits and parties there.

Specialty foods for the holidays? Like the handmade specialty sausages made for Copper Penny by Simply Sausage. If you go there this weekend, I may be fighting for those last packages of these treats. Particularly the chorizo and the kielbasa. Although I may be tempted by that Philippine longganisa.

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The same chorizo that they make for Jaleo chef Jose Andres.

Other local options. Wine from Black Ankle, Big Cork, Elk Run, Sugarloaf, Old Westminster, Serpent Ridge, all wineries very close to us and whose wines are available not only at the wineries but at many local liquor stores.

Greenbridge Pottery is another local place where awesome items are crafted right here in the county.

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Gift certificates to locally owned restaurants would be a nice present. How about Iron Bridge, Victoria Gastropub, Bistro Blanc, Aida Bistro and dozens more? Make a choice to give something local instead of a chain restaurant card.

Local farms like Breezy Willow have gift items, not just food, but crafted items like the alpaca woven clothing, felted soaps, RJs herbal soaps.

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Ice cream. Cheese. Local honey. Jam. Jellies. There are hundreds of possibilities.

Support Mother Nature’s off Snowden Parkway for your birding friends and relatives.

Crunch Daddy Popcorn of Columbia for those who love traditional and way out there flavors of popcorn.

Anything else you can think of? I have given you ideas from places where I have bought gifts, or visited, or dined at. What else is out there that supports the local economy?

hocoblogs@@@

Dreams vs Dreary

OK, after buying a ticket like millions of others, I didn’t win MegaMillions.

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It would have been nice, wouldn’t it? Maybe I could fix dreary Columbia!

If you haven’t followed the latest local drama, the “dissing” of Columbia Gateway as dreary, by a New York writer, then you have been out of the local news loop for sure.

Personally, I agree the Gateway area leaves a lot to be desired. Maybe the Columbia residents need to pressure businesses to stop calling something Columbia when it isn’t.

Me, I think I will continue to love my part of the county. Make cookies again tomorrow.

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Toll house, and then my mom’s sugar cookie recipe.

And, enjoy my tree from Greenway.

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I think I did an awesome job decorating it.

Oh, by the way, much of the area is pretty dreary in the winter. Unless you love sunrises and sunsets, which are the heart and soul of the solstice.

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Lovely, isn’t it? And, no, we didn’t win the money.

hocoblogs@@@

Vanillekipfel

Vanilla Crescents. Grandmom’s cookies. Made with almonds.

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My mom made these for many years. Now, she doesn’t do them anymore, and I was determined to find the recipe and carry on this tradition.

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In my Time Life series of cookbooks. The Cooking of Vienna’s Empire. These are the cookies I remember from my childhood.

But, to make them the best, I had to find really good ingredients. Like these.

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All of the ingredients with the exception of the confectioners’ sugar came from Roots.

Trickling Springs butter. King Arthur Flour. Natural sugar. Vanilla extract. Blanched almonds. Oh, and flaked sea salt, not pictured.

You can taste the difference.

The recipe:

1/2 pound unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar

Cream the butter and sugar together in the stand mixer, until light and fluffy.

2 cups sifted all purpose flour, beaten into the butter/sugar mixture a 1/2 cup at a time.

1 1/4 cups ground almonds (I used blanched, the recipe calls for unblanched)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt

Add these three items to the mixer and continue to beat until slightly stiff.

I created a large disk of the dough and refrigerated it overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Break off pieces and shape into crescents on a floured work surface. Place on buttered cookie sheets, about a 1/2 inch apart.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until they are just becoming lightly browned.

Remove from oven, cool on pans, then transfer to a rack. Dust with confectioners’ sugar.

hocofood@@@

Way Too Much To Do …

… and not enough time to do it. Or, the weather doesn’t cooperate.

I was in cookie baking mode today, and also trying to decorate around the snow.

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I can’t get the deer into the ground, until the snow melts a little. I did get the greens up around the door.

One very important stop yesterday on my rounds of Christmas shopping was the Sysco outlet.

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The outlet is north of Rte. 175 on US 1. Near the flea market. It is where I get my basic baking supplies, and my cookie sheets. I was there yesterday to get a few new utensils, and some spices, and while there, I considered a couple more baking sheets. These sheets work very well. They are a light color, heavy and easy to clean.

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I did more molasses cookies, like these, and I got my Viennese almond crescents done. I still need to do the sugar cookies. And the chocolate chip.

We don’t need any more snow, thank you very much! We have more than enough out there and I really did want to decorate the evergreens, if they ever lose their snow covering.

Tomorrow, the tree goes up in the living room, and more cookies get baked. We are running out of days to get it all done. I still need a few more presents.

Do I sound stressed? I should go relax, watch the football game and have a pastis.

hocofood@@@

Perfecting the Pate

With all the holiday parties coming up, and with three containers of musheooms sitting around, I went searching for a new non-dairy version of mushroom pate.

I used the Roots ingredient list as a starting point and went off to find what may use shiitake, cremini and Portobello mushrooms. Found a couple of candidates, but I wanted a creamier version than the recipes gave me.

These ended up being the “secret” indredients.

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A cream cheese alternative. Maple syrup. Tamari.

This is what I used.

12 oz. total of the mushrooms, about equal between the cremini, shiitake and the Portobello.

These were put in a pan with about 2 tbsp. of olive oil. A little salt and pepper, 1/2 tsp of thyme and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Cooked until browned. Cooled.

Then, mixed in the food processor with 1/4 cup of toasted walnut pieces. Four cloves of roasted garlic. 1 tsp of lemon juice. 1/2 tsp of tamari. 1 tbsp. of maple syrup. 4 ounces of the non dairy cheese.

It came out looking like this.

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Tastes almost like the Roots version but made just a bit different with the addition of that cheese.

This is a winner. It will be taken to a few parties.

hocofood@@@

Hoe! Hoe! Hoe!

Getting into the Christmas spirit using local farms for inspiration and products.

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Like my poinsettias from Greenway Farms.

We headed out to the tree cutting site on Rte. 144 west of Cooksville after a visit to the landfill to rid ourselves of all the downed tree limbs.

I only wanted to get my poinsettias and maybe a really tiny tree. Turns out I really want a tree in the living room, so we succumbed and cut a five foot high white pine.

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It is sitting in a bucket in the garage waiting for tomorrow to be put into place.

We also got a small basil for my kitchen window. They also have little rosemary trees, if you want a specialty tree for a table.

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Keeping in the Buy Local spirit, tomorrow I am heading out to Copper Penny for a ham, and Breezy Willow for alpaca gifts.

Then, home to decorate while watching my favorite football game.

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Christmas, only 11 more days to go.

hocoblogs@@@

Fall CSA Week Six, The End is Near

Week Six of Seven. Next week is the last delivery. Just in time for Christmas cooking.

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This was a very good selection of food. Almost all will work in soups and stews.

We got:
1 bag carrots
1 bag Yukon gold potatoes
1 bag sweet potatoes
1 bag garlic
1 bag watermelon radishes
1 bag red beets
1 piece celeriac
1 bag parsnips
1 container cremini mushrooms
3 leeks\
1 green cabbage

The bread this week was an Italian boule. Perfect for the chili I will be making this weekend.

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I really enjoy these one pound loaves of bread. Lots of variety and just the right size for us.

I already roasted the beets and the radishes tonight, to use in salads. The root vegetables will keep. I have a large paper bag hanging from a hook in the garage, keeping the potatoes fresher longer.

Tonight for dinner I found a good recipe to use up last week’s cabbage.

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A simple braised cabbage. Made with a small head of green cabbage, a sliced carrot, an onion, some chicken stock, salt and pepper. Roasted for two hours, covered with foil. Then finished for 20 minutes to caramelize. I served it with Copper Penny Farm garlic sausage.

Enough left for lunch, probably Sunday.

One more week to go, and two chickens coming next week. Here’s crossing my fingers that the winter CSA starting the end of January gets enough members for the MOM’s Jessup pick up site.

hocofood@@@