Monday, January 30, 2012

Cinnamon Star Cookies with Maple Glaze and Canadian Trampolinists

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I've become very fond of titling my posts with the name of the food I made and something else that I'm going to write about. If it gets annoying, do tell me. It also makes for some pretty funny post titles if you ask me.

Maybe I should make them shorter.

Anyways, last week my Circus birthday. I've been working with the Circus for a year now and I've met some really really interesting people.

Neat things I've done this year because of my job:

Counted to six and said "I took a shower" in Romanian.
Walked across the LA Dodgers baseball field.
Done a forward roll on an aerial hoop.
Been yelled at in French.
Walked on stage in front of 2,000 people to help get a stranded aerialist down...twice.
Been on a jumbotron.
Tangoed with a 6'6" tall Uzbekistanian.
Thrown a tea party for a bunch of Brits and a lovely French girl.

And many other things. I've also made a bunch of friends and met some really interesting people. I've done a lot more cooking, and definitely picked peoples brains for ideas on what to do with my food. Having people with different cultures and different tastes can be helpful sometimes.

So when I decided I wanted to make some cookies with a maple syrup icing and my brain hit a wall on what the cookies should taste like, I did the only smart thing I could think of. I asked a Canadian. There is a Canadian trampolinist that works on my show who is a pretty avid cook himself with a really good food vocabulary. I wasn't expecting the answer I got though, regarding the cookies.

"Just put some cinnamon in them".

Yeah. I really should have come up with that one on my own. Freakin Canadians. I love the flavor of Maple Syrup and I urge you to splurge on some high quality stuff to have on hand. It usually keeps for a year.

This is based on a really simple butter cookie recipe. The reason mine are shaped like stars is that I got a bunch of star shaped cookie cutters for Christmas and I wanted an excuse to use them.

Cinnamon Star Cookies with Maple Icing
Inspired by How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson

For the cookies

3oz Butter
3.5oz Sugar
1 Egg
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla
7oz Flour
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Salt

Preheat the oven to 350F. Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the salt, vanilla, eggs and cinnamon. Then, mix in the baking powder and flour. Let the dough sit in the fridge for and hour to firm up, then roll out very thinly. Use cookie cutters or a floured glass to cut out the cookies. Bake for about 11 minutes until getting golden on the edges. Let cool before icing.

For the Icing

1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar
2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup

Warm the maple syrup slightly in a small saucepan, this will help it become runnier. Sift in the powdered sugar and mix. It should be runny enough that you can easily drizzle it on the cookies, but it should firm up very quickly. You can add more Maple Syrup if need be. Cover the cookies with the icing. Let set up for about half an hour.

Makes about 20 cookies.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sesame Green Beans and Cookbook Collections

I have to say, I adore cookbooks. I have a good collection going and I anticipate it getting even bigger. It's confined to one bookshelf for now, with a few books scattered around the apartment, but I feel as though pretty soon it will be spilling over. I read cookbooks cover to cover as though they are novels. I usually have at least a couple by my bed.

This Christmas I received three fantastic new books. One of them, from my Brother and Sister-in-Law (who on top of choosing great gifts are also being nice enough to make a new baby for me to fawn over), is called Sunday in the South. It's all about Southern food and Southern hospitality. It's one of those great books where you open it up and find you want to make at least every other recipe. Those tend to be my favorite kinds. It's also a very neat book in that the recipes in it are all parts of menu plans. You can pick and choose individual things or you can use the plans for dishes that go perfectly together.

There is so much in this book I long to tackle. There are chicken recipes and cornbread and cakes and pies and all sorts of wonderful things that remind me of Georgia. I think that's one of the reason I like the book so much.... it makes me think of Georgia and how much I miss Southern food and living in the South. It's also filled with stunning pictures of beautiful homes and ideas for setting gorgeous tables. It's inspiring really, it makes me long for the day when I've got my own house and my own garden, and I can have pretty table settings and people over for tea. Maybe I've just been watching too much Downton Abbey.

When John came home with some yummy fresh Green Beans to have as a side dish for dinner, it was to this book I turned to for recipes. Green Beans are so delightfully Southern. They also go wonderfully with Lamb and Potatoes, which were the other planned dinner components.

These green beans come together in ten minutes, and they have a great texture and a perfectly delicious nutty flavor from the sesame seeds.

Sesame Green Beans
Adapted from Sunday in the South by Ginny McCormack

8 Ounces Green Beans
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Sesame Seeds

Top and tail the green beans, then boil them in water for five minutes. Drain them and put them in a skillet or shallow pan with the olive oil, salt and sesame seeds. Sautee on a medium to high heat for five minutes until the sesame seeds are golden and the beans are delicious.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Dark Chocolate Brownies and Nemesis Food

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I firmly believe that everyone has a nemesis food. Something that you've tried to make again and again and no matter how you tweak it and readjust and start over, it just never turns out. I have struggled with my nemesis food for years and years, but finally, after many trials and tribulations, struggles, cursing and tears, I have at last succeeded…. I have created Brownies!

I don't know what it is about them but they stick to the pan or they come out as soup or they are horribly dry. I really can turn brownies batter into anything except brownies.

So, when I owed a colleague at work some baked goods and he said brownies were his favorite, my heart sank. I figured I was probably going to have to wuss out and go to the store and buy some. But I decided it was worth one more try, and try I did. I found a really simple basic brownie recipe, mixed it up, put it in the oven and then ran away and refused to look at it. When the timer dinged (my timers ding, not beep, it makes me happy) I peeked in the oven and to my amazement, the brownies looked okay. I cooked them for two more minutes and then pulled them out of the oven.

Once they had cooled, I got everything out of the pan. There was a little bit of falling apart but I was able to smoosh them together. Then I used a thick chocolate peppermint ganache which helped to hold everything together. Then it was a couple of hours in the fridge to have everything set. They turned out to be perfect and yummy.

I'm so gosh darn proud of myself! So what is your nemesis food?

Dark Chocolate Brownies

Adapted from How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman

2.5 Ounces Good Dark Chocolate
8 Tablespoons Butter
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
2 Eggs
1/2 Cup Flour
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Pinch of Salt

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease an 8x8 Baking Pan with butter or cooking spray.
Put the butter and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat and stir until melted and combined. Mix this into the sugar and then add the vanilla and the eggs. Mix the flour, salt and baking powder together and mix very gently. Try not to overmix. Pour into the pan and bake for 30 minutes.

You can leave these plain or frost them. I like to make a thick ganache out of cream and dark chocolate and flavor it with a little peppermint.

Makes about 12 small brownies or 9 large.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Promises Promises

I promise recipes are coming. They are going to be yummy. I've got one for Chocolate Brownies with Peppermint Ganache, one for Sausage and Pepper Casserole, one for Cinnamon Star Cookies with Maple Glaze.

I swear I'll post them, but I needed to enjoy my day off with my guy. With Jenga and Bubble Tea and random puppy petting. Now it's time for Top Chef and Chicken Potpies (recipe by Tori from Eat Tori).

Oh, I'm on Twitter now. You can follow me at @saltedspoon and maybe chat a wee bit.

I'm so modern!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Herbed Pork Chops and Spice Collections

I have a really extensive array of spices in my house. One of my most coveted items is a spinning 48-jar spice rack that costs about $250. Even then, I'm not sure it would have enough jars. I was delighted when I got a spice stepper for Christmas because it really helped me clean up my kitchen counter. I used to have a bunch of spices in a rack that is supposed to be wall-mounted, but that I had to prop up under a kitchen cabinet. Frequently, my jars would make a bid for freedom and the whole thing would topple over.

I love playing with my own spice blends and when I'm away on vacation I often find myself coming back with some kind of local blend, or something that would cost me a fortune should I purchase it here in Vegas. When I was in Seattle last Spring, I found myself at the Pike Place Farmers Market and I managed to pick up a package of Herbes de Provence for less than a dollar. When I go to Atlanta I hit the Dekalb Farmers Market and I get enough curry spices to last several months, as well as new spices to try and other things to stock up on. I think I came away with about a dozen containers of spice for less than ten dollars.

Having an array of spices on hand makes it really easy for me to to play with flavor in food. Sometimes, when I don't really have too much in the pantry I can dive into my collection and come up with something simple and yummy.

Pork Chops with Herbes de Provence

This is such an easy recipe I almost feel as though it shouldn't count. I serve this with green beans and grilled tomato to make a tasty lunch that doesn't weigh me down for the rest of the day.

Herbes de Provence is a mix of Savory, Fennel, Thyme, Basil and Lavender. It goes beautifully with pork. The Lavender doesn't make it floral, it just punches up the flavor and makes the blend really work.

2 Pork Chops
1 Teaspoon Herbes de Provence
Olive Oil

Salt and pepper both sides of the pork chops and then sprinkle each side with Herbs de Provence. Put a small amount of olive oil in a non-stick pan and, when the pan is hot, place the chops in the pan. Cook about four minutes on one side, then three minutes or so on the other until the chops are done. I used thin chops for this, you may need to cook them for longer is the chops are thicker.

Serves two as a light lunch with some fresh sides, or one for a main course with some boiled potatoes and asparagus.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


It is with a heavy heart and a lot of soul searching that I am announcing the inevitable.

I'm back on my diet.

This saddens me greatly, but so does the size of my tummy, so it must be done. I'm on a new work schedule that will cut into my free time quite a bit, so I doubt I'll be going to the gym as much as I should. Trust me, I plan to continue to eat delicious things, I just have to do a lot more portion control and a lot less snacking. Believe me, this will not effect how many recipes I deliver. It just means I'll only be eating one of the cookies instead of the entire batch.

One of the easiest parts about dieting for me though is consistency. You see, I eat the same thing for breakfast seven days a week, and I eat the same thing for lunch five days a week. What can I say, I like poached eggs and I like routine.

Breakfast is the same. I get up and make a cup of tea. An hour or so later I put on a pan of water with some salt, let it boil (usually while I potter around the apartment doing some cleaning), then when it's boiling I add in a splash of white vinegar and an egg. I slow poach my eggs, so in the four minutes or so that it takes I've usually managed to unload the dishwasher or clean the kitchen counters. Then I cut a thick slice of homemade bread (which I don't toast), and dump the egg on it. I mash is up with a fork so the yolk is spread everywhere, then a few good grinds of salt and pepper and I'm done. It's yummy and complete and it fills me up and keeps me happy. If I don't have a poached egg for breakfast, I tend to feel mildly unsettled.

5 days a week I eat lunch and dinner at work, and while dinner can vary, lunch tends to be the same. See, I don't like to have to prep too much to take to work so in my desk I keep a pack of flour tortillas and in the fridge I keep Italian Salad Dressing, Lettuce Mix and Shredded Cheese. I'll usually throw a tomato in my purse and at some point when I get hungry I'll just assemble myself a wrap at my desk and munch it down.

Every so often my lunch will change a little, particularly if I have some small tub of leftovers that I want to eat up. I'll often bring in a few snack items too, though those will mostly get cut out with the new diet.

For the most part though, everything tends to look pretty much the same on my work days.

So how about you? Is there something that you eat every day?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Potato Latkes, Memories, and Simple Things

I remember the first time I ever had a Latke. I was in New York on a mini vacation. I think we were staying there for about four days. We went to the same little cafe for breakfast every morning that was around the corner from the friends house that we were staying in. I don't remember much about that trip. I have no idea why my then boyfriend and I were there. I don't even remember the name of the friend of his that we stayed with other than that she believed in Ayurvedic nutrition and she had the cutest little apartment. I wish so much that I could remember what the name of it was, but this was before I had really discovered how much I love food. The one thing I do remember, though, was the Latkes. They were light, tasty, simple, and I think I ordered them three times in those four days. I had them with sour cream and with apple sauce. They had just the right amount of crisp around the edges. It's amazing how everything else about that trip was completely blurry, but those latkes shine through the fog of memory. I love that about food.

Sometimes you don't want to have to make anything complicated for lunch. Sometimes you want the world to go your way. There are little things that make me happy... like when the mail comes before I have to leave for work, and when my guy has left me just enough milk to make my tea in the morning instead of finishing it all. I like it when food is like that, refreshing, clean-tasting, and filled with simple little pleasure.

Latkes are so easy to make. They require ingredients that you almost always have in the pantry, just onions and potatoes. You don't have to add chives to them, but if you've got them I recommend it. These are also delicious when served with apple sauce.

Potato Latkes with Herbed Yogurt

1/4 Onion, diced
2 Large Potatoes, grated
2 Tablespoons Chives

1/4 Cup Plain Yogurt
1/8 Cup Parmesan
3 Tablespoons Chives

Grate the potatoes and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Sautee the onions in a little oil until they are translucent, then mix them in with the potatoes, salt and pepper. Chop the chives finely and add them in to the potato and onion mix. Put a little more oil in the pan and shape the mixture into thin palm sized patties. Place a few patties in the pan and cook for several minutes on each side until they are browned
and crispy around the edges.

Grate the parmesan and mix it in the yogurt with the chives to serve on top of the latkes.

Makes about four latkes.