Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I CAN bake!

Over and over I have stated that I am not a baker. Cookies though are not too hard to do. When I was a kid I used to make Snickerdoodles a lot because they were yummy and the ingredients were so basic that we always had everything you need to make them on hand. I have not made them in YEARS though. I found this recipe on Slashfood It sounded interesting so I thought I would give it a try. I will have to say though that unlike regular snickerdoodles, you might have to stock up on spices to have the things you need on hand. I for one had to purchase Cardamon which is NOT cheap. I will be looking for some more recipes that call for that so that I can get my moneys worth before it gets too old sitting in my pantry. These cookies are sort of spicy and have a unique unexpected flavor. I was not sure I liked them at first but they really grew on me. I will say though that they were the absolutely best texture of cookie that I have ever baked!!!! They were very crispy on the outside and nice and soft on the inside. They kept a nice texture stored for about a week. Though they definitely were still good almost 2 weeks after baking. I did not get pictures of the cookies but I do have pictures of a nifty gift Idea for them. I placed the dry ingredients in 3 ziplock bags and put them into a Chinese take out Gift box. (You can purchase these at the craft stores)It is a tight fit but it can be done. I will be adding instructions and giving these as gifts to my friends. Kind of a variation on the Cookies in a Jar gift. I would definitely recommend giving these a try!
Chocolate Chai Snickerdoodles
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
2 ts vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
Preheat over to 350F. In large mixing bowl, stir together sugar and spices; set 1/2 cup of the mixture aside. Add butter to mixing bowl and cream with sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in cocoa powder, followed by the eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour and baking powder by hand or at low speed. Form dough into 1-inch balls and roll in reserved sugar mixture. Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes or until edges are firm. Cool on wire rack and store in an airtight container. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Cocktail Time!!

Friday night was my almost annual Christmas Cocktail party. I had a fabulous turn out of about 30 people coming and going. I had a brief moment of panic right before the party, thinking that I did not have enough food. I came up with a couple of back up plans that I could whip up really fast if it looked like the food was getting low but convinced myself that I always end up with WAY more food than I need.

I went for elegant this year. I sat up an official Bar AKA my desk and Made Roasted Pear and Cranberry Bellinis for the guests as they came in and there was lots of wine and liquor also.

I kept all of my serving dishes crystal (ok, mostly glass) or silver. I opted to use clear plastic plates but real glassware. It all turned out beautifully but man was that alot of dishes to do and my dishwasher, AKA my daughter, managed to skate out before clean up time came.

I came up with a fun idea that I am going to make a tradition. I put a guest book in the bathroom with a note encouraging people to leave me a message but never said a word about it. It made it a novelty rather than a boring task. I got some great, funny comments which is what I was going for. I hope that next time more people will find it and leave me their thoughts.

Only two minor mishaps #1 setting off the smoke detector when I tried to reheat the chicken on the same broiler pan that it was cooked on and #2 my Beautiful Ice bowl melted all over the table (what was I thinking?) But neither one put a damper on the party!

One of the most popular Hors d'Oeuvres was one of the easiest. I saw the recipe on Paula Dean. I don't make a lot of her dishes because they are a little too southern for my taste and usually contain alot of butter But this one caught my attention right away and I am very glad I made it. It is a little time consuming but very easy. I think it will be one of my staple party foods from now on. Everyone loved it and asked for the recipe so here it is.

Sweet Chicken Bacon Wraps

1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless, chicken breasts (about 4 breasts)

1 (1-pound) package sliced bacon

2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons chili powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut chicken breasts into 1-inch cubes. Cut each bacon slice into thirds. Wrap each chicken cube with bacon and secure with a wooden pick. Stir together brown sugar and chili powder. Dredge wrapped chicken in mixture. Coat a rack and broiler pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place chicken wrap on rack in broiler pan. Bake 350 for 30 to 35 minutes or until bacon is crisp.

Note: after 35 mins the bacon was still not crisp enough for my taste so I stuck them under the broiler for a few minutes. You know I had to change SOMETHING!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Food for thought

No fancy pictures today. If you happen to also read my Myspace blog then you can skip this one because its a repeat from there. After I read this post I realised that it belongs on here because after's about food. Two of my loves in life are cooking and writing which is why I have 2 blogs. I think I am much better at cooking than writing. I look at it as Cooking as something I do for other people to enjoy and writing for myself to enjoy. For the most part just venting of my feelings is what I am after but I love it when I feel like something I have written really captures what I am feeling.

My First Chakra
While delivering tins of goodies to the ER, my partner (for the day) asked "Why do you do this?" He went on to say I need to "stop being so nice." It was a compliment. This person knows that my ultimate goal is to start a catering business, to actually get paid to do what I love which is cook. It just so happens that a few other times he was my partner I was working on projects a wedding for a friend, making appetizers for friends events. He got the opportunity to taste test for me and keeps encouraging me to take steps to start the business.
But all that aside, it got me thinking about why DO I cook and give it away to others (a lot) ? I have come up with several reasons.
1. I just love to cook and it gives me opportunities to try out new recipes.
2. If I keep all of the stuff I cook in my house, I will be as BIG AS A HOUSE!
3. I enjoy getting compliments on my cooking.
4. Hopefully people tasting my food and knowing I am interested in cooking as a business will eventually lead to people hiring me to do it.

All of those things are true but there is something else too. A while back I read a really interesting book (hold on long title coming) " Invisble Acts of Power , Personal Choices that Create Miracles" buy Caroline Myss. It was a very spiritual and uplifting book that encompasses many religions and beliefs. It draws from and quotes Christianity, Judism ,Buddism as well as other religions.It talks about Karma and Chakra's I don't know if I really subscribe to all of that but I felt like it took the best from all beliefs and it was a book that really made me think more about things I do and what effect they have on other people. But I digress
One of the chapters in the book is titled Gifts of the Earth. Of course Food being a Gift of the Earth. I feel like 2 quotes from that chapter really hit the nail on the head when it comes to me ..and cooking and giving food. So, Bill here are my reasons.

" We can reach out to people through food because food is one gift of the heart that so easily can embrace the intention of the heart."

"A man once asked the prophet what was the best thing in Islam and the latter replied, It is to feed the hungry and to give the greeting of peace to those one knows and to those one does not know." - Hadith of Bukhari

Food for thought (Pun intended)- Hunger is not always a physical thing and the food is not always the actual gift.