Posts Tagged ‘Comfort Food’

Post 4/13 – Snickerdoodles

January 9, 2012 2 comments

I love baking cookies during the holidays, but I think sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies are labor intensive. I enjoy making the cookie dough, but finishing the cookies isn’t my favorite part. With all the rolling, choosing cookie cutters, frosting them, and decorating, it takes time (Did I mention that I get bored easily and tend to bounce from task to task?!? Well, I do.) This year, we dialed down the holidays so I decided to try an easier cookie – snickerdoodles. Granted, I’d never made them before, but thought it was worth a try. Years ago, my friend Christine Teague gave me her Grandmother’s snickerdoodle recipe. I made a few changes to her original recipe: substituted butter for the shortening, added a bit more spice to the cookie dough, and added some vanilla. They were delicious!

Possible vegan option:  I haven’t tried this yet, but I think you could use vegetable shortening and an egg substitute and these would be fine as a vegan option. Ah, so much cooking and experimenting to do, so little time!

Here’s the tweaked recipe, hope you like them:

1 cup softened butter

1½ cups sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2¾ cups all-purpose flour, sifted

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, optional

¼ teaspoon cinnamon (or apple or pumpkin pie spice), optional

For rolling:

2 tablespoons white sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Cream together the butter and the sugar. Add the eggs and the vanilla. Blend in the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

Chill the dough. While the dough is chilling, mix the 2 tablespoons sugar and the 2 teaspoons cinnamon. Form the dough into balls about the size of walnuts and roll them in the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Preheat oven to 350º degrees F. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets and flatten slightly with your hand, a glass, something (this will make a crisper cookie)*. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until set but not too hard. Remove from baking sheets and cool on racks.

*I have a strange technique when making ball cookies or drop cookies…I really like crisp, flat cookies. So, not only do I flatten the balls but I also open the oven mid-way through cooking, pick up the cookie sheet (using a handy-dandy pot holder), and whack the cookie sheet on the oven rack so the cookies deflate. I know, you aren’t supposed to open the oven, but I’ve been doing it since I was a kid and some habits are too hard to change (and Matt says it works!).

Post 3/13 – Indian Lentils and Rice

January 8, 2012 4 comments

This is my go-to meal of choice.  It is similar to an Indian spicy and savory pongal.  It is quick, economical, healthy, tasty, and versatile!  It can be vegan, and it freezes well.  All in all, one of our favorite dishes at the Smith-Jordan house.  A few notes:

Fresh Curry Leaves: The recipe calls for fresh curry leaves, they are important to the dish.  However, you probably don’t have fresh curry leaves in your refrigerator.  Luckily, you can find them at your local Indian or Asian market.  They are typically stored in the refrigerated section.  It is best to keep them refrigerated, since they tend to oxidize and turn black.  They will stay fresh in the refrigerator for about 5 days if left on the stem.  The bags of leaves can be large, so I usually freeze the leftover leaves (removed from the stem) in a re-sealable plastic bag.  They aren’t quite as pungent when thawed, but they maintain their unique flavor that is essential to the dish.  

Curry powder:  It does not come from curry leaves.  Curry powder is actually a generic term for a blend of several different spices.  My former boss ( I miss her) told me that families in India each have their own unique blend.

Ghee:  Clarified butter, it is a staple in many Indian recipes.  You can make your own or you can buy it.  Locally, Garden Cove and Earth Fare usually carry glass jars of organic clarified butter.  

Trivia time and random factoids are over, now time for the recipe…

 ½ cup red lentils (or yellow split peas (chana dal) or moong dal)

2 cups rice (basmati is more flavorful, but delicate, jasmine rice works well)

1 cup dried, unsweetened coconut (not sweetened baking coconut)

6 cups water

¼ cup ghee or oil (coconut, safflower, or any oil of your choice)

2 teaspoons mustard seeds

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

4-6 cloves of garlic, minced

¾ teaspoon turmeric (heaping)

1½ teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons black pepper, freshly ground (or you can use Black & Red from Penzeys)

12-16 fresh curry leaves, thinly sliced with a few left whole for garnish

pinch of cayenne pepper, optional

Optional garnishes: thinly sliced hot peppers. additional whole fresh curry leaves, plain yogurt, lime pickles, chopped cashews or almonds, golden raisins, or toasted coconut

If you use split peas or large lentils, cover with water, let soak for 20 minutes, and then rinse.  Rinse the rice in a strainer until the water runs clear. 

In a large saucepan, combine the lentils, rice, coconut, and water.  Cover, bring to a boil, stir a few times, then lower the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes until tender.

Meanwhile, while the rice is cooking, heat a small sauté pan on medium heat.  Toast the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, garlic, turmeric, salt, black pepper, peppers, and curry leaves in the ghee or oil.  Heat the mixture for about 2-5 minutes, until very aromatic.  Watch and stir frequently because it can burn quickly.  Set aside.  When rice/lentil mixture is cooked, gently stir in the spice mixture.  Sprinkle with chopped nuts, a few whole curry leaves, and it’s ready to serve.

Note:  It is delicious as it is, but I’ve been thinking about making a few changes…upping the lentil quantity to 1 full cup and increasing the water to 6½ cups.  I think the addition of more lentils might make it a heartier dish.  Also, I’m thinking about adding some grated ginger.  Not certain how the ginger would play with the curry leaves, so I might omit the curry leaves.  

Post 1/13 – Panettone French Toast

January 6, 2012 11 comments

January 6th has different meanings for different folks.  For some, it signifies the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas and is a holy Christian festival.  For others, it means it is time to take down the tree and burn the Christmas greens.  Some take a humorous view of Epiphany and use it as a time for the Great Fruitcake Toss.  A cheeky way to close out the holidays by lobbing fruitcakes at people dressed like kings for a food bank fundraiser in Manitou Springs, CO.  In many countries, it is a chance for children to get gifts in their socks or shoes.  In parts of the Southern United States, Epiphany is the start of Carnival season.  Love the internet!

For me personally, epiphany is about revelations.  Specifically, revelations about this blog…I am a bad blogger.  I’ve hinted at it before, but it is true.  I sometimes get intimidated by a blank page, especially a blank computer screen, and I almost always dislike rejection.  Ok, I always dislike rejection.  I submitted a blog post to two professional sites and they were rejected.  The reason:  because the photography was not up to their standard, the composition was “too tight.”  It seems their standards are very subjective.  I could’ve submitted them again, but I just let it go, and haven’t put myself out there.  Then, I realized that this blog is not a means for me to be published, it is a way to share recipes and little stories with friends and family.  These stories and recipes might one day become a self-published cookbook, but that’s not even the real goal.  Connecting and sharing my love of cooking is the goal.

I am testing new recipes and working on my photography.  I used an Amazon birthday gift certificate to buy a food photography book and a recipe-writing book.  Yes, there are books about these specific topics, actually lots of books.  I narrowed it down to these two titles:  Food Photography – From Snapshots to Great Shots and The Recipe Writer’s Handbook.  Both are good books.  Also, I bought a new tripod for only $6 at our church’s recent fundraising auction!  That has helped tremendously with my photos, still need to work on composition and styling, but at least they aren’t quite as blurry.  

I don’t really make New Year’s resolution, but I do have goals.  This year, one of my goals is to write 50 blog entries.  I will kick-start my goal with a Baker’s Dozen Blitz of Blog posts!  Yep, 13 posts in 13 days, starting today. 

Speaking about resolutions…I know most folks make resolutions to eat healthier, lose weight, etc. in the New Year.  Sorry, but many of these first recipes are not very healthy.  Several are dishes I cooked over the holidays and used them to practice my food photography.  More healthy recipes will be coming soon.

Post 1/13 – Panettone French Toast

This is a perfect recipe for using leftover Panettone and Eggnog.  We had both ingredients available after our holiday festivities.  Thought it might be a good idea to combine the two.  Luckily, it worked.

1 lb. loaf panettone bread, parchment paper removed

6 large eggs

1½ cups eggnog (or milk, cream, half & half – any combination)

Pinch of cinnamon (optional)

Dash of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

1 teaspoon of vanilla (optional)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Powdered sugar, for dusting

Trim the bottom crust from the panettone.  Use a serrated knife to cut the loaf into ¾ inch thick slices.  If you slice it crosswise, you get nice rounds that can be cut into two.  Thought of this too late and sliced it like a regular loaf of bread.  The slices weren’t as pretty but they tasted fine!

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs.  Add the eggnog (or milk, cream, ½ & ½) and beat until frothy.  If you want, whisk in vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Butter a large nonstick griddle over medium heat.  Dip slices of panettone into the egg mixture, turning to allow both sides to absorb the custard.  Grill the soaked panettone slices until they are golden brown, about 3-5 minutes per side.  You can keep the French toast warm, in a low, preheated oven, while you grill the rest of the panettone.  

Serve with a little extra butter, maple syrup, and powdered sugar, if you want.  Otherwise, they are delicious plain.

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream!

September 15, 2011 2 comments

Confession: I LOVE ice cream…I always have. When I was a kid, didn’t really care much for the cake, but I was all about the ice cream. As an adult, I still feel the same. A few years ago, a friend hosted a birthday dinner for me. For dessert, we had four different kinds of ice cream (no cake).  It was awesome.  My favorite ice cream that night was Dove Butter Pecan with Chocolate Ganache. I don’t think they make that flavor anymore, so I’ve attempted to re-create it. This is close; it even has an added salty element.

To help with my cooking endeavors, Matt bought us a Cuisinart ice cream freezer. Ever since, I’ve been experimenting with different frozen desserts. So far, I’ve made sorbet, frozen yogurt, and ice cream.  The best, by far, has been this salted pecan butterscotch ice cream.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Salted Pecan Butterscotch Ice Cream:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ cup dark brown sugar (lightly packed)
½ teaspoon salt
1¼ cup heavy cream
1½ cup whole milk (I substituted 1 cup half and half with a ½ cup water)
6 egg yolks*
½ teaspoon vanilla (generous ½ teaspoon)

Pour 1 cup of the cream into a 1 quart Pyrex measuring container or a medium bowl. Set a chinoise or sieve over the top (I prefer the Pyrex measuring container because it has a spout and makes it easier to pour the base it into the ice cream freezer). Prepare an ice bath in a larger bowl (I use my large KitchenAid mixing bowl or the sink).  Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  Add the dark brown sugar and the salt and whisk until smooth.  Whisk in remaining ¼ cup heavy cream and the milk.  Warm over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Meanwhile whisk the egg yolks in a small bowl.

When the milk and sugar mixture is hot, pour a small amount into the egg yolks while whisking the yolks constantly.  Pour the tempered egg mixture back into the pan and whisk together.  Heat until the mixture thickens into a custard-like consistency (it should coat the back of a wooden spoon).

Pour through the sieve into the bowl with the remaining cream.  Add the vanilla and whisk together.  Cool by placing the bowl into the ice bath or cold water, being careful not to let any water get into the mixture.  Cover with plastic wrap, touching the surface, to prevent a skin from forming.  Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Churn the ice cream according to your machine’s instructions.  During the last few minutes of churning, add the buttered pecans.

*Note: If you don’t want to deal with the leftover egg whites, you can use three whole eggs. It does not produce the same rich and creamy ice cream, but it is still delicious.

Salted Butter Pecans:
1½ tablespoons unsalted butter
1½ cup pecan halves
¼ teaspoon sea salt (Kosher or Maldon flake are also good)

Preheat the oven to 300ºF. Melt the butter in a medium frying pan. When melted remove from the heat and toss in the pecans, stirring so they are coated. Sprinkle the salt over the top and stir again. Spread the pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet bake for 10-12 minutes, stirring once in the middle. Cool pecan before chopping them into pieces. I usually keep a few “pretty” ones for garnish.

Magic Dark Chocolate Shell:
4 oz of dark chocolate, roughly chopped+
1 tablespoon coconut oil

Place chocolate and coconut oil in a Mason jar or other heat-proof bowl.  You can heat it two ways:  1) In a double-boiler over water on medium high heat, stirring frequently until melted or 2) Use a microwave.  Heat it 20 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until fully melted.

Store in air-tight container in the refrigerator. Heat in microwave for 20 seconds before use or re-heat it in a double-boiler.

+Note: I used Trader Joe’s bittersweet.  You can use milk or semisweet chocolate, whatever you prefer.

For something different, you can use roasted salted mixed nuts (macadamia, pecan, and/or almonds are delicious), with toasted coconut and chocolate flakes.

Welcome to The Flaming Pot Holder

July 30, 2011 25 comments

Evolution of the Flaming Pot Holder:
I’m not a chef.  I simply love to cook. The Flaming Pot Holder is my attempt to record and share recipes with others. I adore cookbooks, even collect them, but I rarely use them. I don’t like being confined by a recipe, although I like the inspiration cookbooks provide. Friends sometime ask for recipes; however, I usually don’t have anything to give them. With this blog, I will attempt to write my recipes, take a few photos, and share both good and bad results.

This first post has been the most difficult. My husband, Matt, set up my blog site weeks ago. But I’ve been overcome with writer’s block.  So I haven’t posted anything for fear that it might not be good enough. Then I realized this is an evolving project and “perfection is not attainable” (thank you Vince Lombardi and Tin Cup – probably the only sports references you will ever see on this blog).  Best case, I finally record my recipes, folks enjoy the recipes, and I meet some fellow cooks along the way. Worst case, well, there really is no worst case.

This blog is called the Flaming Pot Holder because of my penchant for setting things on fire. Even “flame retardant” pot holders! Part of this is because I cook with wild abandon (messy) and part of it is that I am accident-prone (klutzy). Not a good combination.

Eventually I would like to branch out and include other things in the blog, like restaurant reviews, product recommendations, and healthy tips.  But for now, it will be enough to record my recipes so I can make them again or share them with others.

My Parents – Where it All Started:
My parents gave me the greatest gift when they plopped me on a chair in the kitchen when I was four.  The first thing I remember “cooking” was a salad. I got to tear the lettuce. Hey, I was four, it was a big deal!  I’m sure it was iceberg because I remember the sound the lettuce made when I tore it into pieces (plus, that’s typically what you ate back then in Alabama). It took me a few years to learn knife and oven skills. But by the time I was six, there was no stopping me. I caught the cooking bug!

Much of my cooking knowledge comes from my dad. He was a wonderful cook and rarely used a recipe. His gift was his ability to taste something, analyze it, and then replicate it. We had loads of fun doing this. It sounds kind of dorky, but looking back, this was a great bonding experience for us.

My mom was also a great cook, although she didn’t understand the allure of the “food detective” stuff.  She was more of a recipe-follower. The exception was when she cooked comfort food. When she made cornbread, Parker House rolls, purple hull peas, fried green tomatoes, stuffed grape leaves(!), creamed corns, and country fried steak she just mixed things together, and it typically worked. Long before those celebrity Southern chefs popularized it, Mom’s philosophy was, “If you add enough butter, most anything tastes better.”

I asked Mom for recipes, but she didn’t have many recorded. When I was younger, Mom told me to watch her cook and I’d figure out her “recipes.”  I watched for years, but never learned to make her cornbread. Mom died rather suddenly in December 2009 so I was never able to document her exact cornbread recipe.  Since she died, I have tried several times to replicate it, and this week came darned close. It seems fitting that this is my first blog post, on my 45th birthday, in honor of my mom.

My First Recipe – Mom’s Southern Cornbread:
1/4 cup butter (Mom would’ve used a whole stick, but that’s just not healthy!)
1 large egg
1 to 1-1/2 cups buttermilk
2 cups Martha White® Self-Rising White Corn Meal Mix (with Hot Rize®)*

1. Preheat the oven to 450º F.  Melt butter in a 7-9” ovenproof pan (preferably a well-seasoned and well-loved cast iron skillet). It takes about 5 to 8 minutes for the butter to melt and for the pan to heat (that’s how you get the nice crust).

2. Beat the egg in a medium bowl. Stir in about 1 cup of the buttermilk. Stir in the corn meal mix. Gently swirl the butter around to grease the sides of the pan. Then carefully pour the melted butter into the mixture. Stir to combine. Batter should be smooth and pourable. If it is too thick, gradually add some more buttermilk and pour into the prepared skillet or pan. Don’t overbeat or the cornbread will be tough.

3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

*I specify a brand name because this is part of Mom’s recipe that I remember and she was adamant about it.  I tried some other brands of cornmeal/cornbread mixes, and they were NOT the same.

Typical Disclaimer Stuff:
This blog is for my personal enjoyment. I am not an expert. I am just starting out with writing a blog. Typos might happen. This is bad because in another life, I am a Technical Writer. If you notice a mistake, please let me know so I can correct it.

As is evident by the name, cooking can be dangerous. Please use common sense when cooking with flames, fuel, and hot stuff (Even cold stuff, for that matter…who knows, you might drop a frozen turkey on your foot. Not that I would ever do anything that clumsy.).  The writer is not responsible for damages of any kind, including loss of life, limb, or happiness if something doesn’t turn out like expected. Blah. Blah. Blah. Think this is enough “legalese” to cover myself (I hope).