October 24, 2013

The Inspiration of Julia Child

The Julia Child Facebook page recently shared a Slate article detailing a letter written by Child to her cookbook publisher. Apparently, Child and her coauthors were in the last stages of an arduous publishing process. Having labored for years on this project despite rejection by other publishers, she finally found herself ready to name the book. 

Letter page 1 from Slate's article crediting the Ransom Center Archives © 2012

October 17, 2013

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

I distinctly remember the first pumpkin whoopie pie I ever ate. A friend's fall wedding had brought me to her hometown of Lancaster, PA, and her mother graciously treated us out-of-towners to whoopie pies, both the traditional ones and the pumpkin ones. She had a large bowl full of both varieties, all individually packaged with plastic wrap.

I had almost forgotten about pumpkin whoopie pies since immediately after my friend's wedding I met the marvelous man that would become my husband. It was a happy coincidence a year later when, after my own wedding, another friend from the Northeast shared her pumpkin whoopie pie recipe. I made them immediately, and they have since become a fall tradition for our little family.

October 3, 2013

Thrifty Thursday: Cinnamon Sticks

It's about to get ugly on this blog! That's because for this post I'm leaving the safety of precise recipes and carefully styled photographs. I've gone out into the wild of grocery store land to document some great savings and am back to report.

I just adore whole spices such as cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and star anise. Adding whole spices to a dish always intensifies the seasoning and enhances the overall flavor. However, buying whole cinnamon hits the wallet pretty hard for just being one ingredient. What to do? Time to put that home cook DIY spirit and thrifty know-how to use!

September 29, 2013

Indian Summer Part 2: Lemon-Yogurt Mousse

I'm pushing the limits of an Indian summer theme here, seeing as how it's nearly October! Blame it on a hectic move this weekend. Then again, Indian summers seem to be obsolete in Texas. We'll enjoy 80° days well into November here whereas back home they've already gotten their first frost. So, maybe it doesn't matter that I'm posting a summery dessert at the end of September! Whatever the case, Indian summers mark my favorite time of year, a final heat wave before autumn reaches its peak and quickly declines into winter. And a refreshingly light dessert seems an ideal way to salute the end of the season. 

So, let's say you're squeezing in one last cookout--burgers, steaks, buns, potato and pasta salads. Heavy food. Yummy but still quite dense. It hurts my tummy just thinking of eating layer cake on top of all that cookout fare! Trust me, you and I both will enjoy more than our share of holiday baking in the next three months. Why not see the warm, sunny weather out with something less dense?

September 24, 2013

Indian Summer Part 1: Petticoat Tails

I really should wait to share these petticoat tails until I finish my Indian summer post, but I just couldn't help myself. I just had to sneak in these crumbly shortbread wedges a wee bit early!

In the past the closest I had come to shortbread was those tinned butter cookies gifted around the holidays. Since we don't have any Scottish blood in our family, I suppose it's no surprise that I'm not familiar with shortbread. I decided to give it a go, however, because I wanted something subtle and slightly sweet to pair with other sweet things (fresh fruit, airy mousses, etc.). And shortbread turned out to be just what I I needed.

September 12, 2013

Gingered Apple-Pear Crisp

The advent of pumpkin spice lattes has signaled the arrival of fall. In days gone by it was the harvesting of crops, turning of leaves, and cooling of temperatures that got me excited about fall. But when your climate doesn't provide such delightful seasonal variation, autumn becomes more a state of mind than an actuality. Thus, in keeping a thankful view on things, I'm taking advantage of the pears and apples being harvested, and I'm choosing to stir the mood of fall.

I was determined to do something with apples and pears but reluctant to do a crisp. Crisps are usually the only dessert that I can actually refuse. They just don't do much for me. My problem, though, was that the process of elimination wasn't leaving me any other options. I didn't feel like rolling out a crust which meant no pie, tarte, or dumpling recipes. I also wasn't in the mood for cake or quick breads. But a crisp?

August 28, 2013

Herb Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Wilted Green Beans

There are few scenarios that rain on a home cook's parade like fixing dinner after an exhausting day of work. In my experience weeknight cooking has not been the hobby type of pull-every-gadget-out-and-labor-hours cooking but the I-just-got-home-and-everyone-is-hungry-NOW type of cooking. Oh, yeah. Been there, survived that.

With the back-to-school bustle underway, this herb stuffed chicken breast recipe is a great solution to quick weeknight cooking. I've only made it a handful of times, but it's so simple that I don't even use the recipe anymore. You can easily play around with different herbs and specialty goat cheeses. (I recently tried a peppadew variety on closeout at Kroger.) And if you're not up for experimenting, the recipe (click here for the original) will do just fine. 

Now, is this a first class dish? No, it's not. I would love to tout this picture perfect meal otherwise, but I've been let down by the hoity toity descriptions of too many recipes to likewise disappoint (ahem, deceive) other home cooks. What I can say is that it's a great standby. It feeds hungry tummies. It uses ingredients you may already have on hand. And it can be thrown together in about 30 minutes. Oh, and since it's from Cooking Light, it's around 300 calories per serving. 

August 10, 2013

Vanilla Cream-Filled Doughnuts

Nothing says Saturday morning like doughnuts. 

Growing up, Saturdays meant catching up on chores and errands that had been put off during the work week. This was particularly true for Dad. He could often be seen hauling firewood up to the woodshed, repairing the tractor, or puzzling over a project in the granary. Occasionally, we'd all chip in with bigger  projects like chucking wood off the wagon just returned from the woods. 

July 25, 2013

Breakfast Power Sandwich

If you're like me, you need a hearty breakfast to pull you through a busy morning. Boxed cereal just doesn't cut it! My go-to power breakfast food usually involves eggs. Thankfully, around here there are always a few eggs close by.

The ducks and three breeds of chicken in our backyard keep the egg supply flowing. Each morning the eggs are gathered, up to 3 or 4 eggs daily as of late. The variety of fowl accounts for a beautiful array of shells. I suspect that the different colors are due to the difference in breed, but I couldn't say for sure. 

July 16, 2013

Old-fashioned Tomato Pie

It's hard to say much good about Texas summers. I've learned to tolerate and endure them but not look forward to them. While I can't say I enjoy this sultry season, it's brought me to appreciate certain things. One of those things, thanks to my gracious hosts, is the early arrival of garden vegetables. I've been tasked with harvesting Mary's tomatoes and have been quite pleased to reap the rewards of her year-round efforts.

I've noticed that these home-grown tomatoes are less pulpy than the store-bought variety. Less juice was released than when I normally cut tomatoes. Their cross sections were beautiful, too, and held together marvelously when processed.