Archive | December, 2011

Christmas Baking Week!

19 Dec

Christmas baking has long been one of my favorite parts of the holiday. As a child, my mother always made three or four different kinds of cookies — generally standard chocolate chip, cinnamon and sugar jumbles, peanut butter “kiss” cookies and cut out sugar cookies. Every year I looked forward to helping her mix the dough (and stealing as many almost-too-hot-to-touch cookies from the cooling racks as I could while she wasn’t looking). Even after I moved into my own apartment, I would spend an evening drinking wine and putting up my little tabletop tree while break and bake chocolate chips baked in the oven.

The first Christmas that Steven and I were together was the Christmas that I first ventured into the territory of a cookie tray. I’ve done it every year since, and it continues to evolve as I try out new recipes and tinker with old ones. So far my record is eleven different kinds of cookie. This year I settled on seven recipes — two old standbys and five never-before tried ones — that I hope will turn out deliciously. I can’t take credit for any of the recipes I use, but in line with the Christmas spirit, I thought I would share.

1. Buckeyes

2. Trader Joe’s chocolate chip (recipe is also on the back of the TJ’s chocolate chip package)

3. Sugar cookies with lemon buttercream frosting

4. Gingerbread men

5. Pumpkin Gobs with Maple Cream Cheese Filling

6. Sweet Potato Pie Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting

7. White Chocolate Peppermint Brownies

Of course, all credit for the recipes goes to their original author. Can’t wait to sample them all!

Easy Maple Fried Apples

14 Dec

Last week I bought a tote of Cortland apples at a chain grocer, for a fairly inexpensive sum, only to get them home and discover that all but the top ones were deeply bruised — visibly marked with the fingerprints of someone who had handled them in the journey they took to get to my table. After a moment’s disappointment at the loss of a quick, fresh, grab-and-go snack, I started brainstorming for an easy use for nearly spoilt fruit.

One of my most loved rules of the kitchen is that no food should be wasted. I am the person who uses vegetable trimmings to make stock. Every scrap of fat or gristly cuts of meat go straight from our plates into our dogs’ mouths. The week before big grocery shopping I make “freezer stews” of a beef roast drowned in stock and the remnants of every less-than-a-meal’s-worth leftover frozen vegetables. Why waste good nutrition? It’s a truly modern American notion that any less than perfect piece of produce is damned to the trash; in any farmer’s kitchen these bruised apples would be trimmed down and recycled into another form, whether it be applesauce or apple dumplings.

And thus those apples met butter, maple syrup, and some wintery spices in a skillet to become a very tasty topping for sweet treats, or a great snack in their own right. I served mine warm over a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream dusted with graham cracker crumbs, but they’d also make a great companion for pancakes or french toast. No need to peel the apples — the skins will soften nicely and add a bit of texture.

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Ingredients

  • four large apples, cored and sliced into thin wedges
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bourbon extract

Preparation

  1. Melt butter in a large shallow skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add apples to hot skillet.
  3. Add remainder of ingredients to apples.
  4. Stirring occasionally, cook over medium heat until apples are soft (nearly falling apart) and sauce is thickened to syrup-like consistency, approximately 10-12 minutes.
Makes approximately four 1/2 cup servings.