Monday, January 31, 2011

Molasses Cookies :)

   My mother made these last weekend and I helped :) Translation: My mother gets 99% of the credit for this post (Thanks, Mama!!!) Other than being delicious, this recipe also has a story. My mother and I both have copies of the Rumford Complete Cook Book, which has been around for over 50 years. I found my copy at a garage sale, and my mother inherited her copy of the book from her grandmother, my great-grandmother, Myrtle. I never had the privilege of meeting this woman, who passed away a few years before I was born, but I am told she was hilarious, feisty but sweet, and quite the baker :) Tucked into the pages of the cookbook was a piece of paper with the following recipe, handwritten by my great-grandmother, which elevates it from *delicious* to *awesome*. Because not only is it a yummy cookie recipe, it is a piece of family history, and that's pretty darn cool :)

*Note: Gramma Myrtle's recipe did not include an oven temp or baking time, those were added by my mother.

Molasses Cookies
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup shortening (the original recipe calls for lard, that's not my groove, but if you're not opposed, go ahead)
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 cup molasses
- 1 cup hot water
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 5 cups flour
- sugar for dusting the tops of the cookies

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl (order doesn't really matter)
- Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet, sprinkle tops lightly with sugar
- Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until done (i.e. no longer gooey)
*WARNING* These cookies will burn on the bottom if you let them go too long, so watch them closely for that 10-12 minutes.

This cookie is pleasantly spicy and not overly sweet, which is a nice change. They are lovely with coffee, tea, and cold milk :) Crumbling them over vanilla ice cream with a drizzle of maple syrup wouldn't hurt either :)

Thanks Gramma, I hope you can see this :)


Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Lovely Evening at The Scotch and Sirloin :)

    (This post is a restaurant review, and therefore recipe-free, but don't worry, I'll be back tomorrow with a Molasses Cookie recipe :)

    Tonight, Michael and I went out to dinner to celebrate our 6-month Anniversary. We enjoyed a delicious dinner at The Scotch and Sirloin . There is one here in Syracuse, NY and another in Rochester, NY and they are both EXCELLENT. Every dining experience I have had at both locations has been a win/win with both food and service. Here are some reasons why:

- Perfect table service. And by that I mean knowledgeable, friendly, and attentive enough to feel well taken care-of, but never crossing the bridge into disruptive or annoying.

- Excellent pacing of the meal. The kitchen will not begin your entree until after you have been served your appetizer and/or you have visited the salad bar, which spreads the courses out nicely and minimizes that *my entree isn't even here yet and I'm stuffed* feeling. One never feels rushed in this restaurant. Michael and I lingered over our meal for two hours, savoring every bite. (don't worry, we're not campers, we ordered dessert and hot tea and we tip VERY well).

- Upscale rustic atmosphere. Classy, not fussy :)

- THE FOOD: Crisp lettuce, fresh bread and homemade dressings at the salad bar. Prime Rib and Top Sirloin Teriyaki both cooked a perfect medium-rare with crispy/fluffy baked potatoes. Homemade French Silk Pie and a Brownie Sundae with real hot fudge. This food is not pretentious, it is merely the best version of itself. The chefs here are true masters of their craft :) (The menu is much more extensive than this, I'm just listing what we ordered as an example)

Whether for an intimate dinner with a loved one or a large celebration, The Scotch and Sirloin will give you exactly what you are looking for :) Although we were there on a pleasantly quiet Sunday evening, be sure to take the extra insurance of making a reservation, because this place has been around since 1967, and their awesomeness hardly a secret :)



Sunday, January 23, 2011

Chicken Piccata: Part One

Happy Sunday!

  To me,one of the best parts of cooking is the improvisation. I love taking a base recipe and tweaking it, tinkering with it, making it my own. I'm sure many cooks would agree :)

 So that is where we begin today. A recipe that arrived in my hands via a co-worker of my mother's. The recipe is for a Chicken Piccata Pasta Toss, which my boyfriend and I made last night for my parents. For the first try, I followed the recipe virtually to the letter (minus the parsley and capers). What followed was a very good Chicken Piccata, but, admittedly, one that I feel could be improved in several ways. I am going to post the original recipe now, tweak it a bit, and then post my version of the recipe here in the coming weeks. Why post both? Why not just post my version later? Because recipes evolve, and it's not necessarily about getting everything perfect the first time. Cooking can be about trial and error, learning, experimenting, etc. At the risk of sounding too abstract, I'd like this post to be about the journey, not the destination. So here were are, Chicken Piccata Part One, Part Two to follow shortly :)

Chicken Piccata Pasta Toss
- 2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 11/3 lbs chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
-1 1/2 tbsp. butter
- 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 2 good sized shallots, chopped
- 2 tbsp. flour
- 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
- 1 lemon, juiced, or 1/3 cup lemon juice 
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 3 tbsp. capers, rinsed and drained (I didn't have any capers, so I left these out)
- 1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped (again, I didn't have any fresh parsley, so I had to leave this out)
- 1 cup (or one small jar) quartered artichoke hearts in brine (drained and squeezed well)
- 1lb penne rigate pasta, cooked al dente

 - cook pasta to al dente, keep warm and set aside
- heat large, deep nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add about one tbsp. of EVOO and the chicken to the pan. Season chicken with salt and pepper and brown until lightly golden all over. Remove the chicken from the pan and keep warm. (I put it on a tray in a 185 degree oven).
- Reduce heat to medium and add the other tbsp. of EVOO to the pan along with the one tbsp. of butter and the garlic and shallots. Saute for about 3 minutes, keep an eye on the garlic so that it doesn't burn.
- Add the flour and cook for two minutes
- Whisk in the wine and reduce liquid for about 1 minute
- Whisk in the lemon juice and broth, stir in artichokes, capers and parsley (if using)
- When the sauce starts to bubble, add remaining 1/2 tbsp of butter Add chicken and heat through
- Toss with hot pasta

I very excited to tweak this and then compare the two :)


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hummus Double-Take :)

Greetings, My Hungry Friends :)

  For this week's offering, I submit to you what my friend Liz calls (with my enthusiastic agreement) *Sex in a Bowl*, or, for those of you who have not yet had the pleasure: Hummus (or, as some would spell it, Humos).

  Hummus is one of those foods that transports me. Hummus with pita or veggies will always take me instantly, in my mind at least, to the Mediterranean, along with my other great loves, dolmades and tzatziki, but that's another blog. Ahh, hummus, earthy, spicy (if you want it to be), unctuous,and.....wait for it.....healthy?!?!  I'm there :) Another thing I love about hummus is its blank canvas quality, one base recipe can be flavored virtually any way you want.

 This latest hummus making adventure was for a Greek-themed potluck dinner with a large group of my friends. The base recipe was taken from *The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook*, written by the venerable Ina Garten. This lady knows her stuff. Not a single one of her recipes has ever let me down. Ever. Her cookbooks are an excellent investment that you will turn to again and again. I really only made one adjustment to her base recipe, which was to oven- roast the garlic before adding it to the other ingredients. You don't know how to roast garlic, you say? Miss Lynn is here to help :)

Oven Roasted Garlic
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 medium sized bulb of garlic (or however many you want to roast)

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Peel as much of the papery-white outer skin off the garlic bulb as you can, while still leaving the bulb intact.
- Carefully cut off the top 1/2 inch of the garlic bulb (the pointy part), so that tops of the individual garlic cloves are exposed.
- Drizzle the olive oil over the exposed cloves and rub the oil into the garlic cloves so that each one is lightly coated
- Place the garlic bulb(s) on a sheet pan and cover with aluminum foil. (You could also wrap the bulb in aluminum foil and place on the sheet pan.
- Roast garlic at 350 degrees for approximately 30-35 minutes, or until cloves are golden brown and soft.
- When garlic is cool enough to handle safely, gently squeeze the cloves from the bulb. Add to recipe, or, alternatively, spread on bread or use to flavor dipping oil, YUMYUMYUMYUM!  Added bonus: roasting garlic will make your house smell AWESOME!!!

And now, on to the hummus :)
 Hummus with Lemon and Roasted Garlic
( Note: I doubled the quantity of this recipe, since I was feeding 12 people, but here are the original proportions. Obviously, it can be easily doubled or even tripled)
- 2 cups canned chickpeas (sometimes labeled as garbanzo beans) drained, liquid reserved
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 4 roasted garlic cloves, or to taste (I used an entire bulb of garlic in my double batch, but I realize that might not appeal to everyone)
- 1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste) It can usually be found in the ethnic section of your grocery store, with other Mediterranean ingredients)
- 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about two lemons). *the lemon juice HAS to be fresh, the bottled stuff tastes too bitter and chemical-y and will ruin the flavor of the hummus.
- 2 tablespoons of water or the reserved liquid from the chickpeas.
- 8 dashes of hot sauce ( the original recipe calls for Tabasco sauce, but all I had on hand was Frank's Red Hot sauce, and it worked great).

- Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until the hummus is coarsely pureed. Taste for seasoning. This can be served chilled or at room temperature. Drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil and serve with pita bread and/or veggies for dipping.

After making this initial batch, I had some base ingredients left over. After a pantry search I found a jar of roasted red peppers, and altered the above recipe slightly to make some Roasted Red Pepper Hummus.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
- Make the above hummus base recipe with the following substitutions:
 OMIT: -the roasted garlic
 ADD: -1 jar of roasted red peppers and their juice
          - 4 cloves regular garlic or to taste
          - a few splashes of liquid from a jar of hot peppers (I used the liquid from homemade hot pepper/olive salad, which you can also get at the olive bar or salad bar of most grocery stores. Drain some of the liquid off of that if you have it on hand, it'll give the hummus a nice kick:)
          -Taste for seasonings
          - Serve as above, room temperature or chilled with a drizzle of olive oil, pita and/or veggies for dipping.

Oh Yeah :)

Until Next Time!
Lynn <3



Saturday, January 8, 2011

Idiot Proof Pot Roast

Hello Hello and Happy New Year!!!

    With my various performances closing or on a break and the holidays completed, I'm absolutely thrilled to come back to my Food Blog! As I stated on my other Blog, (<-- I  FINALLY  figured out how to  insert text links, yay!!!!) one of my goals for 2011 is to write in each of my blogs at least once a week. Obviously, I'm going to aim for more than that, but I think that shooting for once a week is a good place to start. I would have blogged earlier in the week than this, but I had a nasty sinus infection, and I am just in the last few days feeling better, thank goodness. I've missed this so much, and I can't wait to get started again :)

  For my first offering of the New Year, I turn once again to what is becoming one of my favorite *Idiot Proof* cooking tools, the Crock Pot :) I believe I sang its praises a few entries back when I made lasagna in the Crock Pot (OMG YUM). Seriously, this is another one of those recipes where (unless you care to brown the meat first) you literally just pile everything in the Crock Pot, turn it on, and then walk away from it for 6-8 hours, and the days is yours; work, shop, read a book, do absolutely nothing, or, in my case, make a few pies, but that's another blog post :)

  This is also useful in a *clean out the crisper* kind of way, I put in the veggies that I like with my Pot Roast but, really, if you like different ones, throw them in too/instead. I actually made this for the first time several years ago for a friend's birthday party, and was brought back to it a few days ago when making a low-stress holiday dinner for some dear friends :) This is pretty high up on the *Winter Comfort Food* List. Gather some friends around your table and Enjoy :)

Idiot Proof Pot Roast

- Chuck Roast ( for 4-6 people, use about 2lbs, scale up or down for number of people and their appetites:)
- a few carrots, cleaned and rough chopped
- a few stalks of celery, cleaned and rough chopped
- a few onions (or 1 large, it depends on how much onion flavor you like)
- 1 jar of tomato sauce, or one can of tomato paste, tomato puree, etc. Really, what you're looking for here is anything that will add a tomato base flavor. Yes, ketchup will work in a pinch, but you'll basically never see me willingly use ketchup in a recipe.
- An equivalent amount of water to the tomato (i.e. if you used one jar of tomato sauce, fill the same jar up with water)
- whatever other flavors you like in your pot roast, Wine ( my personal fave), Worcestershire Sauce, Steak Sauce, some people swear by Cream of Mushroom Soup (though I've never tried it myself), whatever you like :)
- whatever seasonings you like, I used salt and pepper (a given), a little bit of parsley and some French Thyme.

-  (If browning the meat, brown in a large saute pan ,cut into smaller pieces if necessary, add to Crock Pot with rest of ingredients)
- Add meat, veggies, tomato, water, flavorings and seasonings to Crock Pot (order doesn't really matter)
- Turn Crock Pot to High and let cook for 6-8 hours
- Tranfer meat and veggies to a serving platter. The cooking liquid can be served on the side as au jus. This is what I usually do, if you like you can turn the Crock Pot to Low and just leave the au jus in the and serve it with a ladle. Or you can thicken it into a gravy with a little flour and a little butter. Serve.

- This would be lovely with mashed potatoes, but we actually served it with roasted potatoes. We quartered potatoes, coated them with canola oil, salt, pepper and Penzey's Pasta Sprinkle (which is good on everything, not just pasta) and roasted them at 475 degrees for about 50 minutes until golden.
- NOM :)


Oh! P.S. What do you think of the template? It's one of the stock background options that Blogger offers. I though the paint splatters went with the whole *Kitchen as Canvas* idea, but I don't want it to look too busy. Anyone feel like teaching me how to custom design my own template? Later Gators :)