30 March 2009

Peruvian Caramel Cookies - las galletas dulce de leche

I first made these cookies 10 or more years ago when DD#2 was in grade school and needed a food from South America to take in to her Spanish class. They have remained a favourite ever since. Served here on a vintage ivory Fiesta tray with a go-along chrome handle.

Peruvian Caramel Cookies - las galletas dulce de leche

1½ cups unsalted butter
1 cup confectioners' sugar + extra for dusting
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp almond extract
½ tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup ground almonds
3 cups flour

dulce de leche (caramel)
2 (14 oz) cans sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cream butter with 1 cup confectioners and granulated sugar until fluffy. Stir in remaining ingredients. (If the dough is too crumbly and won’t hold together, moisten carefully with a few drops of heavy cream. Be careful not to add too much.)

Shape dough into a 1” diameter roll and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 30 minutes or so. Unwrap and with a sharp knife cut in 1/8–1/4” slices; place on parchment or Silpat lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10-14 minutes, or until they are lightly browned around the edges. Remove from pan and cool cookies on wire rack. Cool cookie sheets between batches, if you need to reuse them.

Carefully (they're fragile cookies) spread some caramel on one cookie and top with another cookie. Dust tops with confectioners' sugar and enjoy immediately to have a crisp cookie-the way they were meant to be eaten. They will turn soft after setting. Alternatively the cookies can be filled with the rewarmed caramel as needed.

Dulce de leche: Pour both cans of condensed milk in the top of a double boiler over simmering water and simmer on very low heat 2-4 hours, stirring occasionally. Eventually the milk will thicken and brown. Cool well and it will thicken further. Refrigerate until needed.

Yield: about 4 dozen cookies

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These are such excellent cookies. Always a great hit at Christmas time, but delicious anytime. I always buy extra cranberries when they are fresh and put them in the freezer to use throughout the year.

Baked and spread with topping:

Turned out on a cutting board:

Cut and drizzled with chocolate:

On the bottom tray for a holiday party:

Originally from Gourmet, November 2001

For base:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter (3/4 cup) cut into 1/2" cubes

For topping:
2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup)
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (not thawed = 6 3/4 oz), coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups pecans (12 oz), toasted and cooled, then coarsely chopped

For decoration
2 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), very finely chopped (see Notes)

Special equipment: a candy thermometer

Make base: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 15x10" shallow baking pan (1" deep) with foil, leaving a 2" overhang on the 2 short sides. Butter all 4 sides (but not bottom).

Blend flour, brown sugar, and salt in a food processor, then add butter and pulse until mixture begins to form small (roughly pea-size) lumps. Sprinkle into baking pan, then press down firmly all over with a metal spatula to form an even layer. Bake in middle of oven until golden and firm to the touch, 15 to 17 minutes, then cool in pan on a rack.

Make topping: Melt butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat and stir in sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Boil over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until caramel registers 245°F on thermometer, about 8 minutes. Carefully stir in cranberries, then boil until caramel returns to 245°F. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, then stir in pecans until well coated. Working quickly, spread caramel topping over base, using a fork to distribute nuts and berries evenly. Cool completely.

Cut and decorate bars:
Lift bars in foil from pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 6 crosswise strips, then 6 lengthwise strips to form 36 bars.

Melt half of chocolate in top of a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove bowl from heat and add remaining chocolate, stirring until smooth. Transfer chocolate to a small heavy-duty sealable plastic bag. Seal bag and snip off a tiny piece of 1 corner to form a small hole, then pipe chocolate decoratively over bars. Let stand at room temperature until chocolate sets, about 1 hour.

Bars keep in an airtight container (use wax paper between layers) 1 week.

I like to make these smaller than suggested in the recipe. Typically I cut my bars into little rectangles about 1"x2". Then I melt the contents of an 11.5 oz bag of bittersweet chocolate chips and drizzle that over the bars.

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29 March 2009

Quiche Crust with Gouda Cheese

Quiche is always a welcome dish around here. The real men, real women and real teenagers all eat it. And quiche is such a versatile dish - you can use all kinds of mixtures of veggies, cheeses and proteins with the egg custard. A few years ago I ran across the original of this crust recipe on a foodie board. It originally called for cheddar cheese and that is very good. However, I most often find myself reaching for Gouda cheese when making this crust.

Dough patted out into two vintage Ovenserve shirred egg dishes:

I sliced and caramelised a Vidalia onion from the veggie box. Added a little home grown garlic to that. While the onion was cooling I mixed up 3 eggs, a little salt, 2 Tbsp half and half, and enough milk to make one cup. After dividing the onion between the two dishes, I poured in the egg mixture.

Baked at 350°F for about 35 minutes until the quiche puffed and began to brown. Served with Bloody Marys, my version of Broccoli Salad and canteloupe with blueberries for dessert.

All in all a great supper!

Quiche Crust with Gouda Cheese
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1 cup grated Gouda cheese
1/4 cup butter, melted

Mix flour, salt, mustard and cheese. Pour in melted butter and stir until mixed. Pat into a 9 inch pie shell.

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25 March 2009

Donors, transplant and other medical stuff

Monday's Nashville trip yielded an unexpected result. Neither of my siblings matched me to be a donor. I was prepared for that. What I wasn't prepared for was that since neither of them match me, I have to get the transplant somewhere other than the Sarah Cannon Institute. Apparently even though the doctors there have done this before many times at their previous places (MD Anderson, Harvard, Sloan Kettering), they don't have final approval to do it in Nashville. They had expected to be in the clear before now, but there are no guarantees as to when they will be able to do the type of transplant I need. And as it is not in my best interest to just wait, I need to go elsewhere.

Either UAB in Birmingham or Vanderbilt in Nashville are the two best choices. Yesterday I had an appointment with my doctor here in town. He had talked with the Nashville doc and I now have an appointment with a doctor at Vanderbilt on 14 April. This was made by a scheduler, so I need to call her back today and see if we can get that moved up. By not having the initial appointment there for three weeks, it is likely to severely delay when my transplant takes place.

The good news from yesterday is that my absolute neutrophil count was 0.8. While that is still below normal, the percentage of neutrophils to the rest of my white count is approaching normal. Not sure that means a lot, but it helps my psyche to see some of my tests look almost normal. :-) I had to get a platelet transfusion yesterday and am set up to get two units of red cells and another unit of platelets on Friday.

Stay tuned for more news later.

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22 March 2009

New Fiesta Colour ~ Lemongrass

Introduced by Homer Laughlin today at the International Housewares Show in Chicago:


Photo from Homer Laughlin China

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21 March 2009

Neutrophils and fresh flowers

Hooray! Yesterday my neutrophil count was up to 0.8. Little by little it is slowly creeping up. Thank you all for your continued help in visualising more of them for me. My doc says that as long as I am above 0.5 I can have fresh flowers around. That makes me so happy.

I love flowers. And one of the things my maternal grandmother instilled in me was a love of poetry. A particular verse I learned from her was:

If thou of fortune be bereft
And in thy store there be but left two loaves,
Sell one and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

This has been something I have lived by most of my adult life. When I was in high school and college, I worked part-time for our neighbor, who was a florist. Then after Mike and I got married I went through the Dallas School of Floral Design and worked as a florist out there for a while. Flowers were easy for me to come by then. Remember the Brooke Shields commercials about her and her Calvins? Like she would buy Calvins before she paid the rent? I haven't been that bad about fresh flowers, but even when I was a poor graduate student I worked flowers into my grocery budget.

On Thursday Abbey took me to Costco. This is part of the bounty we brought home. The vases holding the flowers are Fiesta in sapphire and chartreuse.

Happy Spring!
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20 March 2009

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken pot pie is such a comfort food. When we were growing up we did not buy a lot of prepared foods, but sometimes my Mom would get individual frozen chicken pot pies. We always liked the ones that had both a top and bottom crust.

Recently I was watching Food Network and saw a Throwdown with Bobby Flay. He challenged the Casserole Queens, caterers in Texas, who are famous for their Chicken Pot Pie. The pot pie the Casserole Queens made looked so creamy and tasty, I just had to try it.

Looking at the recipe and gathering ingredients. The vegetables were all from our CSA veggie box.

Boiling the potatoes and sautéing the carrots, red bell pepper and onion:

Added the shredded chicken:

All ingredients in the skillet:

Cooked till thickened and ready to put in the crust:

Pastry in the chicken baker:

Filling added:

Edges of crust folded over to make a rustic pie:

Into the oven they go:

Baked and ready to eat:

Casserole Queen Pot Pie - my version

* pastry dough for double crust pie
* 2 tablespoons butter
* 1 1/2 cups sliced or diced carrots
* 1/4 cup chopped red sweet pepper
* 1/4 cup sliced green onions
* 1 rotisserie chicken, shredded
* 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
* 3/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon, crushed
* 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
* 2 cups milk
* 1 cup heavy cream
* 1/3 cup dry white wine (I use Kendall Jackson Vintners Reserve Chardonnay)
* 1 1/2 cups frozen green peas
* 2 potatoes, peeled, diced, and boiled

Preheat oven to 350°F. Divide pastry in half and roll out both pieces into circles.

Melt butter over medium-high heat in a large deep skillet and sauté carrots for about 5 minutes. Add the red bell pepper and green onions, cooking another 5 minutes. Stir frequently. Stir in flour, salt, tarragon, and black pepper. Add milk and cream all at once. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Stir in wine, peas and potatoes; heat thoroughly.

Use larger piece of pastry to line a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish. Pour chicken mixture in the pastry. Place smaller piece of pastry over the hot chicken mixture in casserole. Make a few slits to allow steam to escape. Bake in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes or until crust is a nice golden brown.

1. Used an herb/white wine rotisserie chicken from Fresh Market.
2. Carrots, onion, bell pepper and potatoes came from the veggie box. I did not peel the potatoes as they were the creamer type with thin tender skin.
3. Instead of the one casserole dish, I used my individual chicken bakers.
4. Used Pillsbury pie crusts as I didn't have the energy to start from scratch. The Casserole Queens did not have a bottom crust and they topped their pot pie with puff pastry.
5. In each dish I made the crust more rustic by lining the dish with the pastry and then folding the edges back over the top before baking. (Used half the chicken mixture for 2 pies so will need more pastry next time.)
6. Garnished each pie with sprigs of fresh thyme.

This really is an excellent chicken pot pie. The filling is nice and creamy with a great flavour. We liked having the chicken shredded, rather than cut in little cubes. Next time I make this I will use thyme in place of the tarragon, as I think it will go better with the herbs used on the chicken. I will also plan to use half & half instead of the cream. Each one of these chicken bakers made enough for three servings at our house.
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Vernal Equinox

Yea for today! The days are getting longer and now it is officially spring. Wasn't nearly as warm today as it was earlier in the week, but that's OK. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

An equinox happens twice each year, in the spring and in the fall. On an equinox the tilt of the earth's axis is neither toward, nor away from the sun. The word equinox comes from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night), because around the equinox, the night and day are approximately equally long.

In spring in the Northern Hemisphere, the equinox typically happens on 20 or 21 March. Also, the equinox is not a whole day, it is a specific point in time. It happens when the centre of sun can be observed directly over the earth's equator. Here it happened at 7:44a.m. CDT. It's made me happy all day to think about it.
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18 March 2009

Belated St. Patrick's Day Dinner

St. Patrick's Day. Another wonderful holiday to celebrate. At least for us of Irish Catholic extraction. I love holidays. I love dishes. For many of the holidays I have special dishes just for the occasion. St. Patrick's Day is no different.

The holiday dishes are always packed away until it is time to use them. Because we have not been home at St. Patrick's Day for so many years, I have never gotten to use my shamrock decalled Fiesta before this year. I was excited! Not only was I getting to use my dishes for the first time, the weather has been gorgeous for the last couple of days. We decided to dine al fresco on our deck.

We only had one small glitch. We had our holiday dinner a day late due to medical treatments on Tuesday. No matter. Dinner on Wednesday worked out great.

To start we had some assorted Irish cheeses, thin sliced Irish soda bread and green beer.

I sometimes like to use the smaller Fiesta bread trays when serving cheeses, fruit, etc.

Every year for Christmas my Mom gives Mike and me iGourmet's Cheese-of-the-Month Club. This is a great gift for us as we adore cheese. And in March we always get a selection of Irish cheeses. This year the choices are: Dubliner, Ivernia and Aged Cheddar with Irish Whiskey.

Dubliner is described as a mixture between Cheddar and Parmigiano Reggiano. This description is quite accurate. Dubliner is a robust, aged cow's milk cheese with a bit of a hard texture similar to a Cheddar. In one bite you can taste the diversity of flavours - from nutty to sharp to sweet. What might seem ambiguous is actually a well-balanced mix of cheese cultures and naturally occurring amino acids. This diversity pays off in its ability to be served alongside a full-bodied Cabernet, a freshly pulled pint of Guinness, or simply melted between a few slices of crusty brown bread.

Ivernia is the ancient, lyrical name for Ireland which underlines the cheese's origins. Kerrygold Ivernia is a ripe, hard cheese. Aged for three years, it is rich in elegant and complex flavors. Cut, grate, slice or shred Ivernia. It can be used similarly to any Italian hard cheese - in a salad of baby greens, topping a bowl of fragrant pasta, sprinkled over soup or on homemade pizza. It is also delicious simply served with crusty fresh bread.

Infused with the robust flavor of whiskey, Kerrygold's rich and creamy Aged Cheddar now has unique undertones of the smooth, woody and nutty taste of pure Irish Whiskey. Entrenched in the history and traditions of Ireland, Cheddar and Whiskey, are now together in one spirited cheese. This tasty combination is the perfect complement to your cheese platter.

In this photo the Ivernia is the triangular cut, the Dubliner is the rectangular cut and the aged Cheddar with Irish Whiskey is the square cut. Grandma Collins' Irish Soda Bread, sliced thinly, was a perfect accompaniment.

The main course was Citrus Glazed Irish Boiling Bacon. Sides included cabbage and Irish Fried Potato Farls. We also had more soda bread and green beer.

Dinner is served:

And plated:

We were so full we delayed dessert for a couple of hours. It was well worth the wait! Baileys Irish Cream Ice Cream with Strawberry Fans, shortbread cookies, and coffee with Baileys was a wonderful way to end our St. Patrick's Day celebration. Even if we did have it a day late.

Tis Irish I am and tis proud I am of it.
Though far I wander Killarney's my home.
I love her green meadows, her lakes, and her colleens,
And wear her shamrock where ever I roam.

Then sing we mightily, "Erin Go Bragh!"
Patricks and Bridgets, Irish they're all.
Though rocky the road as it leads up to town,
It never can keep a good Irishman down!

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Baileys Irish Cream Ice Cream

"I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream." - a little ditty I remember from my childhood. Interestingly I am not a huge fan of ice cream. Most of the time the commercial varieties are too rich and sweet for me. But I do enjoy homemade ice cream. And a Cuisinart ice cream maker has made it so easy to just decide to make ice cream and in half an hour it's ready.

Looking through my files for a St. Patrick's Day dessert, I ran across this recipe. I haven't made it in a long time, but it seemed like just the thing to end the holiday dinner.

First let's gather the ingredients:

Here are the first five ingredients in a 4 cup measuring cup:

All of the ingredients in a shamrock Fiesta mixing bowl, being mixed together with a stick blender:

Mixture poured into the frozen bowl of the Cuisinart ice cream maker and the dasher installed:

Now the clear lid is installed and the freezer turned on:

About 20 minutes later we have ice cream:

Strawberry fans:

Ready to serve (using seamist and decalled shamrock Fiesta) with shortbread cookies, coffee and more Baileys to top off the coffee (if desired):

Baileys Irish Cream Ice Cream

1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup Baileys Irish Cream Liqueur
3 eggs, beaten
enough milk to mix with above ingredients to bring to 1 quart
1 quart half & half
fresh strawberry fans for garnishing

Put sugars, Baileys and beaten eggs into a four cup measuring cup. Add enough milk to make 4 cups and blend. In a large bowl stir together the milk mixture with the half & half. Freeze in ice cream freezer according to manufacturers directions. Place in another container to store in freezer.

To serve, scoop into serving bowls and garnish with strawberry fans.

1. I use a Cuisinart ice cream machine that has the bowl you store in the freezer. And it is for recipes like this one that I have an extra bowl. I divided the mixture in half and put half in one bowl to freeze. While it was freezing, I put the other half of the mixture in the refrigerator to stay cold. Then I froze it in the second bowl.
2. This ice cream has a very light texture and is just delicious. If you have ever had snow ice cream, that is the best description I can give of how this tastes. With the Baileys' flavour, of course.
3. The FDA & the USDA do not recommend that the young, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems eat raw eggs. Please use pasturised eggs in this recipe if you choose to make it.

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