Monday, December 26, 2011

"Sinterklaas Kapoentje"

Dear Santa,

I just wanted to write a letter and thank you for all the wonderful presents you brought.
I really enjoyed the all the belly laughs, peanut brittle, and of course the college books and tuition.

I'm hoping you enjoyed a nice rest today and that you spent every hour in your pajamas eating candy and watching Doctor Who (like I did).

Happy Boxing day!

Love, Mags

Thursday, December 22, 2011

"Like Gingerbread Houses For Lazy People"

I've gotten really into s'mores lately. I know it's totally the time of year to focus on things like buche de noel and gingerbread houses buuuuut here's the thing. They are soo much work. Okay fine. You're right. I don't know anything about buche de noel (other than it sounds fancy. Buche!) but I do know this, gingerbread houses are out.

You know why s'mores are better than gingerbread houses ( I honestly keep typing gingerdread houses)? Because you can eat the whole thing without any of that worry about destroying beauty because there's melted marshmallow all over everything anyway.

I know, join me on this one.

Okay, all right, I don't hate the idea of gingerbread houses. They are in fact very lovely works of edible art buuuuut, here's the trouble; when you make a gingerbread house it usually goes one of two ways.

1) you are in the first/second/third grade making a gingerbread house out of random candy with a milk carton of questionable hygiene as a base, and in the end don't actually eat any of it (because really, ew!).


2) you're a crafty artist type and you meticulously blueprint, bake up, and assemble an entirely edible masterful work of art that you then destroy by eating. Or you don't eat it at all (ever!) you just leave it in your house to act as a temporary air freshener.

Weird. It's just weirdness all around. People, don't waste candy. Make s'mores. This is happening.

I know right now that you're thinking of s'mores as a boring one trick pony for summer camps and 9 year olds, but dream with me a little. You know that urge you have to play with the Christmas candy? It is more than welcome here.

There are endless ways to dress up s'mores, it's much more than just marshmallow and chocolate. Think Reese's cups, think Andes mints, think pretzel twists. Oh yeaahh.

Want a little more hands on? Make your own graham crackers!  Feeling saucy?  Cut them into some fun shapes (I went for a button design).

What's that? No open flames around to toast your marshmallows? Make friends with your broiler (you won't be sorry).

Wash it down with some milk, drag out your favorite board game and you've got yourself one totally relaxing winter night.

Gingerbread houses.... pffft...

Monday, December 12, 2011

"Tale Of Tins, Biscuits and Bandits" Or "The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!"

This is a story of cookie tins, biscotti and how santa can suck it. 
Let's start with the cookie tin part.

You know what's a wonderfully old timey, awesomely retro thing to do this time of year? Mail somebody cookies! I have always wanted to do it, the idea seems so romantic to me, it makes me think of care packages, and military wives, and moms with kids off at college. And every year about this time, when they start putting out all the cute little cookie tins, and spices go on sale, and I'll Be Home For Christmas starts playing, I get this little twinge of disappointment when I realize that most of the people that I could give cookies to, live just around the corner. I know, poor me right?

Enter the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.

Around the end of October Lindsay of Love And Olive Oil mentioned the idea of having a cookie swap between food bloggers. This instantly struck me as an amazing idea. I did not however, sign up. I didn't even think to. My first thought was how interesting it would be to watch how it all turned out.With my blog only a year old and in many ways still basically a fetus, I figured it was something best left up to the seasoned cooks. But sure enough as the days passed and the October pumpkins made way for the siren song of Christmas tins, I started to reconsider. 

How amazing would it be to step a toe over the line between the interwebz and reality. To actually share the taste of the food we've all been making instead of just the pictures. It was terrifying, and exhilarating and giggle inducing all at once.  I headed back to Lindsay's page to find the signup sheet still open. I typed in my name, hit enter, and that was that.

Cue the biscotti...

As soon as I signed up I knew that this was the perfect opportunity to bake up those deliciously indestructible nutty delights, what better cookie to send through the mail?! It's like training wheels for first time cookie shippers. And believe me, I am a first timer.

I'd been wanting to bake my own biscotti for a while, something about it always seemed intriguing and fancy and cutesy, you know, because it's made for dipping in coffee. But I never got around to it before, a recipe more fancy or more chocolaty or more french would come along and make a supremely crunchy cookie seem like a project best suited to take the back burner. But it remained on my baking bucket list, and I thought about it from time to time, whenever I watched a warm mug of coffee send its lonely wisps of steam into the air, friendless...cookie-less...

Biscotti my love! Your time has come!

I chose a lovely old chocolate orange recipe from Bon Apetit  to guide me on my way to biscotti bliss, and one of the things that makes this particular batch of cookies so enticing ( apart from the dipping. Mmmm coffee) is that it's made with bittersweet chocolate and orange extract, so it totally tastes like a Terry's Chocolate Orange! Which, in case you didn't know, is also cutesy to the max. Match made in heaven, right?

Can we just take a minute and talk about these chocolate oranges? I'd never even heard of them until I my late teens (you couldn't even get them in the U.S. for the longest time), but when I finally tried one Ugh! They were so amazing!  And so weird! Even the commercials are weird (I love them almost as much as I love the candy)

Back to the cookies, one of the things I noticed when baking my own biscotti was that it was worlds away from the teeth cracking boulders I remember eating ( and enjoying, am I weird?). In fact they were a heavenly level of crispy, almost shortbread-like which makes me wonder how they'd fare snorkeling in a cup of coffee (and in hindsight makes me hope with fingers crossed that they arrived to their loving homes in one piece ?!). Yes, okay didn't actually try them with coffee. I know, what's wrong with me? That's the whole point, right? Out of the two batches I ended up making, I crunched down one or two (baker's spoils, you know ) three dozen were sent away in the mail, and the final ten were stolen away in the night by what I can only assume was Santa on a practice run. Or my boyfriend. But I'm leaning toward the Santa theory.

I wasn't cookie-less for long though, as part of the cookie swap I got three dozen more cookies in the mail (snickerdoodles, coco-choco-mini blondies, and peanut butter cookies mmmm) that were ALL crazy good! So good in fact that I stashed them away in the night to a secret hiding spot where Santa would NEVER find them. Give me coal all you want, dude, but you ain't gettin your furry mittens on my delicious noms. No sir!

Thank you ladies for sending me your delicious treasures, thank you Lindsay and Julie for hosting such an amazing event, and as for Santa... move along... nothing to see here...guy.

Chocolate Orange Biscotti
Originally Bon Appetit via Epicurious

Makes 2 dozen

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons orange liqueur or 1 1/2 tsp orange extract
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1 cup pecans, lightly toasted, coarsely chopped
6 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, chopped
print a shopping list for this recipe

Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl to blend. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then orange extract and orange peel. Add flour mixture and beat until blended. Stir in pecans and chocolate. Gather dough together; divide in half. Wrap in plastic and freeze 20 minutes to firm.

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Using floured hands, form each dough piece into 14-inch-long, 2 1/2-inch-wide log. Transfer logs to prepared baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until light golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer parchment with logs to rack. Cool 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.

Place 1 log on cutting board. Using serrated knife, cut log on diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Stand slices upright on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining log.

Bake biscotti until dry to touch and pale golden, about 30 minutes. Cool completely on rack. (Can be made 1 week ahead. Store in airtight container.)