Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cookie Swap: Grandma's Italian Lemon Cookies

I was so excited to be selected to participate in this year's Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. I've done a Soup Swap before, put on by Jenny, but not an official cookie swap!

This summer I realized I had my Gram's Lemon Cookie recipe. I had overlooked it because I always loved her Chocolate cookies more, but thought I'd give it a go. It turned out to be magical. The lemony goodness brought me back to a time when our family would gather for dinner at Mom's and eat Gram's cookies for dessert as we played Scrabble (ok, we ate them as appetizers too).

My Mom and Gram are both gone now and are deeply, deeply missed, so to have these memories come rushing back was a treat beyond the "treat".

For the cookie swap, I wanted to try a twist, so after reading that cardamom paired well with lemon, I tried a batch with cardamom. I was pleasantly surprised! The cardamom was subtle but enhanced the flavor.  So I sent 6 traditional and 6 Cardamom Lemon Cookies to Fran at Fran's Faves, Lacey at Small Town Cookie, and Adrianne at Bake Not Burn.

The cookies fit nicely in recycled Birchbox boxes. I wrapped the bottom with plastic wrap to keep the cookies fresh and wrapped the top with wrapping paper to make it look festive.

I also had a big red bow and was including some Sweet & Cute sugar cubes... but had a bit of a fiasco with shipping, trying to stay within budget. I found myself removing ribbons and sugar cubes and cramming to fit the small Priority Mail boxes. So I'm sure packages were not the epitome of cookie swap beauty I had envisioned, but hopefully stayed in tact and tasted good!

I also received some awesome cookies from Mercedes at Satisfy My Sweet Tooth, Amanda at Culinary Quirks, and Rosie (also my Gram's name!!) at ForkPenMouth. They were all adorable and delicious! Thank you Ladies!
Here is my Gram's recipe. It is the opposite of exact, but I'm lucky she at least could provide me something to go by, because after making them for 50+ years, she did not follow a recipe!

Grandma Rosie's Italian Lemon Cookies
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 egg
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp lemon extract
~ 1 1/4 cup flour

optional: 1 tsp cardamom (Tina's touch)

confectionary sugar, lemon extract, water (should be a bit runny and pretty lemony)

Gram gave me no instructions other than "Roll then shape into circles"...  so I just whisk together the oil, sugar, and milk, then whisk in each of the next ingredients: egg, baking powder, extract, then add in the flour and stir with a rubber spatula, adding more flour as needed until it makes a thick, not too sticky dough. I almost always have to add more flour than the recipe call for.

Roll into ~1" balls and bake at 350ยบ for about 10 minutes, let cool for a couple minutes, then transfer to wire rack.

Once cookies are cool, glaze and add sprinkles if desired - they add a nice crunch.

Once the cookies are dry, eat them, quickly. If not, store them in an airtight container. I save the parchment paper full of glaze runoff and, while eating them standing over the stove, I drag my cookie through to add EXTRA glaze.  It's both a sad and beautiful thing.

It has been a lot of fun to be part of the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap and I look forward to doing it again next year!

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Sweet and Cute

Getting better with the sugar cubes, packaged some up and sold them last weekend at the South Wedge Holiday Festival.

Everyone really loved tasting the samples except one girl - got "the disgusted face" from her!

Still some learnings - people seemed to prefer the jars with cubes over the larger adorably-molded ones.

Can't wait to try some new flavors - caramel and coconut.

Friday, November 09, 2012

How Sweet it is - Pumpkin Spice Sugar Cubes

I tried my hand at making homemade sugar cubes recently. Mainly because they are adorable, easy to use, and turns out, extremely easy to make.  I am now on a silicone mold-buying spree because the molded ones are exponentially cuter than the squares (but the squares are just as delicious).

Funny, as I decided I wanted to make pumpkin spice cubes, I looked online for a silicone pumpkin candy mold. Found perfect mold, but it was $7 plus shipping, so I skipped it (and made the squares you see in the pics). Then I popped into the dollar store to see what they had - LO AND BEHOLD, the EXACT pumpkin mold for A BUCK - $1.  I danced. The pumpkin cubes came out totes adorbs (I had that phrase, but it is fitting ;)

Here's how to make them if you feel so inclined:

To about 1 cup of white sugar, add about 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (I made my own with this recipe from Dollhouse Bake Shoppe) and about 1 tablespoon water.  You can play with the ratios, make sure it smells pretty pumpkin-spicy and is mushy but not too wet.

You can either smoosh the sugar into silicone molds, pop them out & let them air dry (or bake in the oven at lowest temp for a while) or you can do the squares.

To make sugar cube squares, smoosh the mixture evenly into a pan (I made a double batch and used an 8x8 pan).  Shoot for about 1/2" thickness. Score the mixture into squares by pulling a knife through - otherwise you won't get squares later (size them to your level of sweetness - I like coffee with my sugar, so I made them pretty big). Bake at lowest heat for 30min - 1hr until very dry, then break into squares.

Here are pics of the steps:

That's it, you should get delicious cubes (or pumpkins or any shape you like that is a decent size - not too small or too big) to add to your coffee or tea. You may want to play around with the amount of spice - I've been doing so.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Food TV Maps - A Website to Live By

I live and breathe by the Food Network and the Cooking Channel. I can't get enough of Chopped, Unique Sweets, Eat Street, Unwrapped, Worst Cooks in America, The Next Iron Chef, The Best Thing I Ever Ate and more, so while I was on vacation in Cape Cod this summer, I found myself doing an extensive Google search to see if there were any food spots that had been featured on tv.

With that, I found this fabulous website - Food TV Maps - it maps out by locale spots that have been featured on the various shows.  AAAAHHHH [angels singing] - my new favorite site...

We found that The Cabby Shack Clam Chowdah (yes, that's how it's spelled and pronounced) was featured on "The Best Thing I ever Ate" - chosen by Chef Beau MacMillan - who is from Plymouth.

I don't love chowder, but hubby does, so off we went. Well, after seeing the floating pool of buttery/oily goodness, I had to try it - it looked mouthwatering. WOW! It was delicious. Score!

So with that, I will never leave home without checking Food TV Maps - vacations will be won and lost by this website (whatever that means ;)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

It's Raining Cherry Tomatoes

This year I planted my first square foot garden. I planted peppers, jalapenos, eggplant, watermelon, plum tomatoes and cherry tomatoes.  I also planted spinach and lettuce, which never sprouted... so in their place, Zinnias may bloom before season's end.

Off the bat, we got a nice little crop of jalapenos, which hubby has been adding to his quesadillas. Also a couple cute little eggplants, which turned to mush when I did not cook them fast enough.

And now - cherry tomatoes galore! Hundreds of them. So I did what any normal person would do - googled for tomato recipes. The "Slow Roasted Tomatoes" sounded delicious... and this was the best article: Slow Roasted Tomatoes and 10 things to Do With Them. And BONUS: per this article, cooked tomatoes are better at fighting cancer to boot!

So I cut all the little suckers in half (this took forever, so the 3rd time I made them, I just left them whole and it worked pretty well too)... drizzled them with Olive Oil, sprinkled with some Kosher salt, pepper and threw on some cloves of unpeeled garlic (I used more than 6 as hubby requested extra garlic) and let them scent up the house for about 3 hours. On a second batch, I added some fresh Basil leaves I had also grown - even better!

I put some in a Weck jar because, yes, I have a complete & utter addiction to jars. Put anything in a jar and it's the closest an inanimate object will come to puppy-level cuteness.

Ok, not quite, but still..

The tomatoes came out soooo delicious, a great addition to our pasta.  I plan to slather them on some sliced baguette drizzled with olive oil and lightly toasted and have a fresh and delicious Bruschetta.

Up next... keeping an eye on the two adorable watermelons that are growing in the garden...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Pavlova, my Love

My love for baking and making treats has recently been reinvigorated... an addiction to Unique Sweets on the Cooking Channel helped it along. So I've been baking a bit. Somewhere along the way... on Pinterest perhaps... I found a recipe for Pavlova - which is essentially a large meringue cookie that you cover in whipped cream and sugar'd fruit.

It sounded really yummy, sooo... I gave it a go. 

Everything seemed to work out ok with the meringue (I was so very careful not to get a single drop of egg yolk in with the whites) and they came out as fluffy little white pillows.

The final assemblage - though I only used strawberries - looked very pretty. 

Then I chomped in... mmmm, Heaven! It was delicious! Like Strawberry Shortcake on sugar steroids!

I ended up mish-mashing two recipes and also adding vanilla, here's where I netted out:

NOTE: Almost no two Pavlova recipes are the same! In reading many recipes both in cookbooks and online, they vary quite a bit. Some call for lemon juice while others call for vinegar. Some use salt, some don't. Some say to fold in the vinegar and cornstarch at the end, barely mixing afterward, some say to beat the meringue for 5-10 minutes after adding them. Almost none call for vanilla, but I couldn't imagine how bland they'd be without it.  The baking temps and times are all over the map too. 

I'm not sure if that means it's hard to screw it up - or if it's hard to get a successful meringue. All signs point to the latter... though I think mine tasted pretty damn good.

3 eggs
1 cup superfine sugar (I processed regular sugar in food proc)
2 tsp cornstarch
3/4 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla

Cut up your favorite fruit, sprinkle with 1 tsp - 1 tablespoon of sugar and let it "marinade" from an hour to overnight.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line cookie sheet(s) with parchment paper.

First, whisk eggs to soft, wet peaks. Slowly add 1 tablespoon of sugar at a time, beating in between to get sugar to dissolve. Save 1 tablespoon of sugar to mix with cornstarch and vinegar - mix those together and add to the mixture, then add the vanilla. Whisk for another 5-10 minutes - to get nice stiff and glossy meringue. 

To ensure the sugar is dissolved, you can rub the meringue between your fingers - you should not feel any graininess. I did this and time and time again, felt graininess, until I finally gave up, decided it was as good as it was going to get, and baked it anyway! I think the key here is castor or superfine sugar, which should blend better.

Spread meringue onto parchment paper in circles about 4" diameter, 1" high. (All the other recipes say to draw circles on the parchment... I find that unnecessary as I tend to be a "winger" wherever I can :)

Bake for 25 minutes at 300 degrees, then turn off oven but leave in for another 25 minutes (again, many other recipes call for longer times, lower oven, etc... but this worked well for the size I cooked).

Once the meringues are completely cool, top with whipped cream and fruit. Dig in!

Best to eat them within a day or two. 

I think I could eat this every day, especially with the abundance of fresh fruit this time of year... 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Subscriptions are the New Black

I can't get over all the new "subscription" services. I mean, I remember the Panty of the Month Club (I wasn't a member, but how do you forget something like that) - so it's not new, it's just being taken to new heights with some very creative business models.

I was ecstatic when I got a card last November informing me that my very dear friend Daniela had gotten me a gift subscription to Birchbox for my birthday.  Birchbox sends you an array of deluxe beauty samples. HELLLOOOO, speaking to my heart as someone who chooses a hotel based on the toiletries they offer!

But not only do they send awesome sample, they make it adorable. That pink tissue paper just makes me smile and I have yet to recycle one of the boxes, I save them - for what, I'm not sure, they're just too nice to part with.

And then I learned about Love With Food - again, samples of delicious treats delivered to your door. I still think about the Pecan Divinity that was in the box a while back.

Now you can get all kinds of things via monthly subscription - from kids' craft projects to man stuff (oh, and Birchbox now has a monthly box for men... makes me wonder, does anyone use the term Metrosexual anymore?) - you can find it all.  

And if you can't find it... well, perhaps you have yourself a business opportunity right there!  And guess what - there's a site for that too! will help you manage your own subscription service.

Monday, April 23, 2012

I've a Very Manly Muppet

We watched the Muppet Movie this weekend, it was really adorable... but it caused an Earworm.  Lauren and I could not stop singing "Am I a MAAAANNNN  or am I a MUPPET?" She sang it over and over while doing her homework. I grabbed a little video.

Here's the actual song from the movie, with an awesome cameo by Jim Parsons.

And now that I've watched the videos and written this post... it's BACK... the EARWORM!


Thank you Academy Award winner Bret Mckenzie.  I love you anyway.  Long live FOTC.


As we were eating breakfast for dinner last night, I again explained to Lauren that bacon comes from pigs.  I told her that some people don't eat meat because they don't like that animals have to be killed for meat. She looked up at me very sincere and in the most pathetic voice, with a big sigh and said, "but I loooooovvve bacon."