Thursday, December 25, 2008

merry christmas to you

the boy and i just enjoyed caesar salad with pancetta and crab cakes (maryland style - the only kind worth eating IMO) and a few glasses of bubbly. what are you having?

it's a very quiet christmas for us here in alpharetta. i can't even remember the last time we were alone together for christmas; and i'm not complaining one bit because after last year's fiasco, we needed some peace and quiet for a change. i am totally enjoying it.

wishing you all the very best christmas, wherever you may be.

cin cin

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

some advice...

... when doing a quick clean with Easy Off on a non-self-cleaning oven, don't wipe down the inside with the oven light on, unless you want to pick up shards of glass from where your wet sponge hit the hot light bulb.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

salted butter caramels

So you’re feeling the need to make something en masse this Christmas but don’t know what to do? Make these.

These caramels are so easy to make, and so incredible. I’ve made them several times lately, for birthday gift boxes and Christmas gifts. The only thing that changes with each batch is the amount of salt I use. I don’t know why, but I can’t just say, “Use one tablespoon of kosher salt per batch”, because the next batch I make might be too salty. Or not salty enough. And the only variation I do is that I use unsalted butter; I don’t think I’ve ever bought salted butter, except while in France. This particular batch of caramels in the photograph above ended up not being as salty as I would have liked, so I sprinkled some fleur de sel on each one prior to wrapping. This seemed to bring the salt level up to make an absolutely perfect caramel.

Making the caramel won’t take you long; what does take time is cutting, rolling and wrapping them. make sure you watch something mindless on tv while doing this, as time will go by much more quickly.

I buy silver and gold candy wrappers from the craft store to wrap them in. I’m kinda lazy in the way that I don’t feel like cutting up bits of parchment to wrap them with, because my bits end up uneven and rather ugly. and who wants ugly? not me.

Monday, December 15, 2008

totally unrelated to food, but happy news

i'm an auntie again!

the boy's sister gave birth about a half hour ago to a 7 lb 4 oz baby boy, who came out with a full head of black hair (compared to my niece, his sister, who was born with a full head of red hair).


now back to our regularly scheduled program.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

just how big and gay our household gets at Christmastime

Discussion while putting ornaments on the Christmas tree last year:

The boy: who put those Dale ornaments up? I don’t want those. In fact, throw them out.
Me: what? But you love Dale. You LOVE DALE. When did you stop loving Dale?
Boy: no way. Not since he went to The Enemy.
Me: the enemy?
Boy: Hendrick.
Me: since when is Hendrick the enemy?
Boy: since they have cheaters on their team. Like Cheaty Johnson.
Me: huh? Cheaty Johnson? Oh, you mean Jimmie Johnson? I like him. He’s cute.
Boy: that’s what I said, Cheaty Johnson. He’s not cute, he’s a cheater.
Me: you don’t like him because he’s a winner.
Boy: I don’t like him because he and his crew chief are cheaters.
Me: so you mean to tell me that even though you were a huge Dale Jr fan that now you’re not? And these ornaments you insisted on buying last year, that you did a SONG and DANCE for at Target saying you couldn’t live without, they need to go in the trash?
Boy: yes.

Discussion while putting ornaments on the Christmas tree this year:

Boy: where are the #20 ornaments? How come they’re not on the tree?
Me: because a few months ago you decided you didn’t like Tony Stewart anymore since he’s going to The Enemy. They’re over there in that box.
Boy: yeah but Joey Logano will be the new #20, so we can put those up.
Me: dude, you’re killing me.
Boy: dude, don’t call me Dude.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

christmas goodies

and so it has begun, the mad dash to cram every single waking moment (when i'm not working) with all things Christmas. i normally don't start my candied apples until a few days later in the month, but i had a package to send out to my buddy charles (he who sends me the odd gifts), so this weekend i started out small and made just 4. two went to charles, one to MA and Ken, and i've one left in the fridge to whomever wants it (speak now or forever hold your peace). i've got a list from the boy of all his Chosen Ones, so i'll be making about 10 to 15 more in the next couple of weeks.

also in charles' package was a big tin full of coconut macaroons (not to be confused with macarons; i'll one day attempt), which i dipped in chocolate and topped with macadamia nuts. the thing about macadamia nuts is that nobody turns them down. they are so decadent and buttery (and kind of pricey), so they're perfect for this time of year when you're willing to be decadent and buttery yourself. i split up the rest of the cookies which didn't make it into charles' box and sent half with the boy to his workplace and half with me to mine. the boy said he set them out and came back a few minutes later to find them all gone and people scrounging for the macadamia bits out of the bottom of the container. and this is the reason i bake. i don't bake for me; i bake for other people. i don't have a huge sweet tooth, so when i do want something sweet i make a ton, eat one, and give the rest away. the visual i have of a bunch of guys fighting for the last crumbs of macadamia delights me to no end.

the recipe comes from Day 1 of the Twelve Days of Cookies newsletter from the Food Network. i signed up for it a few years ago and they automatically renew it every year. not all of the cookie recipes they send out appeal to me; i'd say maybe one or two every year if i'm lucky. i nicknamed these Evil Good because they really are that. just you see for yourself.

it totally pays to have a scale for this recipe, so break yours out when you start measuring out ingredients. don't eyeball anything.

alton brown's paradise macarooons (aka Evil Good)

2 (7 to 8 ounce) packages sweetened shredded coconut (or one big package)
2 ounces sweetened condensed milk
Pinch kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large egg whites at room temperature
5 ounces granulated sugar
12 ounces semisweet or milk chocolate chips
a couple of squirts of canola/vegetable oil
finely chopped dry-roasted macadamia nuts

preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Combine the coconut with the sweetened condensed milk, salt and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to whip the whites until medium peaks form, 6 to 7 minutes.

Gently fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture. Scoop tablespoon-sized mounds onto a parchment-lined half sheet pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. with a spatula, immediately transfer the macaroons to a cooling rack. if you don't get them off the sheet as soon as possible, they will harden and never ever come off. cool completely before topping.

melt the chocolate with a couple of squirts of the oil by however method works best for you (either microwave or melted in a Pyrex-type bowl over simmering water). Dip the cooled cookies in the chocolate mixture, sprinkle with the chopped macadamia nuts and return to the cooling racks to set. devour, or ship to whomever you want. macaroons ship particularly well if you package them correctly.

Friday, December 5, 2008

a bleak day for the french tart

i discovered, while attempting to buy something from their online store this morning, that the Mojo HD channel is no longer. and apparently they went off the air 5 days ago, so that tells you how behind the times i am. i feel a terrible void in my heart. what is a girl to do with no new episodes of three sheets or after hours with daniel to look forward to? zane lamprey succeeding in getting a frenchman to chug Cristal champagne is one of tv's most classic moments ever.

i will miss you dearly.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Not remotely food related

One of my cousins is pregnant with twins; this is pretty great news because she and her husband have been trying for years. She’s only a couple of months along, but waited to tell the whole family about it at Thanksgiving. Well, except for me; she told me a week earlier because I wasn’t going to be in California for Thanksgiving.

Fast forward to this past Friday. I’m on the phone with my mom. Before I could even say anything about the news, my mom says, “N has sure put on some weight!”

Me: “She’s pregnant. Didn’t she tell you?”
Mom: “Mais, bien sur she told us she was pregnant, but she didn’t have to go put on any extra weight, did she?”

This coming from the woman who probably weighed a buck oh five when she gave birth to me, which explains a lot.