Monday, December 31, 2012

Food Wrap-up, 2012

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . .
Here are my food highlights and low-lights of the year:
1. Worst canning idea of the year:  watermelon jelly.
2.  Best canning idea of the year:  pitted plums (on the right).  We had a glut of plums this year, way more than I needed for plum cakes, plum sauce, plum jam.  So I pulled out the cherry pitter and plopped them into jars.  Raw, they're a bit tart; canned with a light sugar/water syrup, their flavor snaps.  From now on I'll be fighting the squirrels for these plums with a little more urgency.
Runner-up:  Peach salsa.
Second runner-up:  Blackberry liqueur syrup.

3.  Best fun-to-read food book I read this year:  The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn.  Read more  about it here.
4.  Best straightforward, informative food book I read this year:  The Fruit and Vegetable Stand:  The Complete Guide to the Selection, Preparation and Nutrition of Fresh Produce by Barry Ballister.  Chock full of information about every type of produce you can imagine, straight from the mouth of a guy who's been in the business for years.
5.  Niftiest food-related product I've tried:  Ninja blender.  I got this a year ago for Christmas and have used it every single day since, often multiple times.  With six blades, it makes obsolete my need to crush up coffee ice cubes in the garage with a meat mallet.  (See mocha frappuccino recipe here.)  I can no longer live without this thing.
6.  Niftiest food-related product I've never tried:  bicycle-powered blender.  It just looks fun.
7.  Biggest garden-related disappointment of the year:  tomatoes. We got a few, but nothing like the scads we usually get.  We are hunkering down for a looooong winter with a paltry supply of roasted, dried, juiced tomatoes.  Weeping quietly here.
8.  Most innovative, scrumptious baked good of the year:  peach muffins with cream cheese centers.  Yowser.
9.  Craftiest food-related project I made this year:  embroidered tea towels.  I've been making variations of these for months.  You can finish one in about the amount of time it takes to listen to a San Francisco Giants' ballgame.  Yes, that would be the World Series champion San Francisco Giants.  Smiling now.
10.  Best new bread recipe of the year:  no-knead onion rolls.
11.  Biggest non-canning flop of the year:  making my own vinegar.  It ended up with little worm-like things floating on the top.  Ewwwwww.
12.  Best post that no one read but my mom (you did read this, didn't you, Ma?):   anchovy sauce.  True anchovy haters are excused.  But if you like them even a little bit, you gotta give this a try.

So there you have it.  My best and worst food discoveries of the year.  What about yours?  I would love to hear what worked and what didn't.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Baking

It's quiz time!  Also, Christmas baking time.   Also, time to bring out the elastic-waist pants.  Somehow they all seem to go together.
So here are some of the latest baking experiments going on here at the castle.  Which of the following do you think was the favorite, the one I'll be making again?
Was it these cinnamon stick cookies?
How about these Oreo - chocolate chip bars?
 Do you think it might be these frosted, macaroon-filled brownies?
Or maybe it's this cinnamon-swirled orange bread.
What do you think?  I'll whistle a Christmas tune while you make your best guess.
Whistle some more.
 Rejoice, rejoice, Em-man-u-elllllll.
Got your guess? 
Ok, here goes.
Well, it certainly wasn't the cinnamon sticks.  They looked like fish sticks and tasted like lard.  Lard, lard, lard.  When the recipe called for shortening, I should have known and used butter instead.  That one was a flop.  A big, fat flop.
The Oreo bars?
Oh yeah.  Chocolate deliciousness itself.  Crushed up Oreos for the crust, a quick topping of sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips, baked -- simple, with a resulting slightly crunchy brownie effect.  A new favorite.  Recipe to follow.
How about the frosted brownies with macaroon filling?  Sadly I must report . . . these were lots of work/would not come out of pan/too sweet/topped with frosting that got hard and cracked.  I had high hopes for these.  Most of them ended up in the garbage.  Sigh.
The orange bread with cinnamon swirl through it?  Very tasty.  I might make this again, but if I did, would tweak it.  The modest amount of orange juice and grated orange peel were not enough to provide an orange kick.  Maybe some orange extract and more orange peel would do the trick.
So there you have it.  Even with the best of plans, the highest hopes for kitchen deliciousness, we do not always achieve it.  But we press on nonetheless.  Tomorrow's another day.
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel.
(note:  if you have a blender, pull it out for pulverizing the Oreos.  I first tried crushing them by hand with a potato masher, but had much better luck with my super dee duper blender.
1 16-oz. package Oreo cookies, crushed
3/4 c. butter, melted
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 c. chocolate chips, divided

Combine crumbs and melted butter and pat into a 13 x 9-inch pan.  Combine sweetened condensed milk with 1 c. of the chocolate chips in microwave-safe bowl.   Nuke for about one minute, and stir until the chips are good and melted.  Pour over crust, sprinkle with remaining chips and bake at 350 degrees for 10 - 12 minutes, until chips are melted.  Makes about 48 rich little morsels.

So tell me what's baking at your house.  Any great recipes we all should  know about?  Feel free to leave a link.

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