Sunday, December 26, 2010

Baking waiting to be eaten

Now that Christmas is past, it is time to eat up all the cookies and bars which were made.
 Although it never snowed here, we have had some amazing days of frost filled trees.
 Some of my favorite Christmas cookies to make and eat are ones I learned to make from my mom, grandma or when I was living abroad.  The photo above is this year's lebkuchen which I learned to bake in Germany.  They have been giving me some problems at high altitude, but this year they turned out perfect!  I attribute that perfection to better being able to adapt recipes for high altitude as well as the oblaten that I found at the German grocery store which makes them stick to the white wafers instead of my cookie sheets.  These cookies in particular are fabulous as they have no flour in them...just sugar, eggs, nuts and flavors.  Yum!  They definitely won't last long at my house!
These next two are also easy to make and turn out great for any chocolate lovers.  Again due to my lack of being able to follow directions even if I have made these a ton of time, the above chocolately gooey bars didn't turn out as planned, but they still taste and look good.  They should have a more consistent bar base as well as some of the crust sprinkled on the top.  However different my directions the day I made them, they still have the rich chocolate fudge-like layer which draws the eater in never to turn down another one.
The last of the Christmas cookies that were made this year are these O'Henry bars which have a tender oatmeal and sugar crust which is then baked to firm it up.  Then you simply melt chocolate and peanut butter together and smear it across the top for a sweet finish to these delectable bars.

I didn't get as many baked as I would have liked, but after giving some away and sharing more with friends, I am glad there aren't more to eat!  Now that Christmas is past, on to hearty meals with less sweets.  I hope you all enjoyed the holiday past and will enjoy the upcoming New Year's feasts and parties.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Let it frost....

Since we have been too warm for snow to stick around, it was a pleasure to wake up to a white freezing frost fog which had covered everything in the night.  The perfect crystals were everywhere making the world a lovely frost wonderland.

The last few days I have been trying to finish up my holiday baking and I think that I may have succeeded with the last of the cookie / bars being finished.

 Start with excellent ingredients...check!  I have other plans for this flour sack as well.  I was so excited to find that you are still able to find flour in a sack.  My grandma would buy them and embroider them for drying dishes.  Next step...add delicious unsalted butter.  It even has a beautiful creamy glow to it.
 Then add various ingredients to your butter...sugar, oats, nuts, spices.
 Mix it all up and make sticky rounds of cookie dough to bake up.  This set includes making wells so you can later fill them up with dark chocolate.
 Bake them up.  Cool them off and they are ready for your melted chocolate.

The baking of the bars and other Christmas cookies...repeat with slightly different ingredients to make other sweets to give away and to enjoy for yourself.  Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

What to do with leftovers?

So with Thanksgiving past and Christmas staring us in the face, I figured it was time to get rid of the last turkey and actually use it all up as I usually intend and don't always do.  So, yesterday there was turkey chili and today there is turkey stock.  If I had thought about it I would have reversed the two days so I could have used homemade stock in my chili, but that just means I have to be cooking with more stock in the next week or two!

Making stock is a lot easier than anyone would think.  You need aromatic vegetables and some bones with meat on them.  In this one there is about a cup of onion, a cup of carrots and about half a cup of celery.  In addition to a few pounds of turkey bones with meat still on them, you add about 16 cups water and seasonings like a bay leaf, fresh parsley and thyme.
All you do is bring it to a boil, reduce heat and let it simmer for several hours.  Once the meat is falling off the bones, you strain all the ingredients and squeeze the juice from the meat.  By the end of the hours of simmering, the stock has been reduced and you can use it as you would any already prepared stock.  You can also add salt or other seasonings after the stock has been boiled.  Once it cools, you need to skim the fat off the surface and use within 4-5 days or freeze or reboil.

Cold winter meals - White Chicken Chile

When the weather turns cold, it makes me want to cook and bake good hearty soups and roasts.  Yesterday, it turned colder, becoming more like Christmas type weather and I decided after all my errands, I should cook up a hearty chili.  So this is a twist on a recipe my aunt gave me for White Chili.
White Chili is comprised of:
2 pounds of chicken
3 cans white beans (like canelli, great northern, kidney)
12 oz. drained green chilies (3 x 4oz. cans)
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1-2 Tablespoon cilantro
1 1/2 teaspoon oregano
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1 medium onion chopped
2 tsp garlic
about 1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 cups chicken broth
1 tsp salt
6-8 oz sour cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream (or evaporated milk)

Saute chicken, onions and garlic powder in oil until chicken is no longer pink.  Add beans, chicken broth, chilies and seasoning.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and add cream (or evaporated milk) and sour cream.  Serve immediately.  Serves 4-6.
It looks thinner than it is.  It is a hearty, slightly spicy chili.  Because I had leftovers from Thanksgiving, I used leftover turkey instead of the chicken in this version and it was also very good.  The sour cream adds a thickness and creamy texture that fills and satisfies you.  I also used fresh roasted green chilies.  I was not sure how spicy they would turn out to be as each chili is a little different, but the spiciness will be cut with the addition of the milk products.

It is delicious with bread or tortillas as well.  Enjoy!

Christmas is coming...

With Christmas on it's way, there are many traditions that come with it.  One of my favorite is Christmas baking!  Yesterday I started on one of the many bar-type Christmas cookies.  This one is derived from a 7 layer bar where you just layer the ingredients and bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes.  The only problem was as I was layering, I realized that I only had 6 of the 7 ingredients.  So this is a 6 layer bar which is layered with butter, graham cracker crumbs, coconut, chocolate chips, pecans, and sweetened condensed milk....Yum!
This one also varied in that I had a few walnuts leftover and used them in addition to pecans, which adds a more complex nutty flavor to the bars.  I am a walnut purest in that I don't like them in baked goods, but the treats went over very well.
Chocolate and nutty goodness!  Happy Christmas baking!