Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bring Back the Cocktail Hour

I am a huge fan of the TV show Mad Men.  I love the sets, clothes and general air of 60's sophistication.  Oh, and did I mention my love for Don Draper???  But I digress.  One of the things about the show that I find so amusing is the way they all sit around and drink cocktails all day and night.  I'm telling you what.  If I sat around drinking cocktails at my office like those characters do, well let's just say there wouldn't be much work done.

I do like the idea of a cocktail hour though.  I have read a number of articles in my cooking magazines about the resurrection of that tradition and that some of the old cocktails have been making a comeback.  We're talking real honest-to-God martinis, not appletinis or peachtinis, but gin, vermouth and a couple of nice green olives.  Another old classic is the Manhattan.  This is a drink that perhaps I've had a sip of, but have never understood its components.

Today I decided to shake one up and give it whirl.  I didn't have any sweet vermouth, but according to my Playboy recipe book of cocktails (where on earth did I ever get that book, I wondered today?) one can use dry vermouth and it's just called a dry Manhattan. Not being a fan of sweet drinks, I thought it would do just fine.   It tasted good as far as whiskey based drinks go.  Next time I make one though, I will make sure to get some sweet vermouth and ascertain the differences between the two.

Dry Manhattan

1/2 oz. dry vermouth
2 oz. blended whiskey
1 dash of bitters
1 marashino cherry for garnish

Mix all of the alcohol in a shaker with 6-8 ice cubes.  Shake 60 times.  Pour into an martini glass or cocktail glass. Garnish with the cherry and think of Don Draper!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday Candy Making

No elaborate holiday candy making for me this year.  Here is a version of the no-fail chocolate fudge made with marshmallow creme and evaporated milk, also known as million dollar fudge. If memory serves me correctly, it was made famous by one of the first ladies but I'm too lazy right now to research the Internet to find out.

I added a couple more ingredients to make it a bit more faniciful and turned it into Rocky Road Fudge.  You know, if you have walnuts and mini-marshmallows in the cupboard, why not?  This is the last of the Christmas treats.  Only a week left until the big day and I must spend the next few days frantically writing out Christmas cards and wrapping presents.  Oh how I dread the wrapping presents.  Perhaps a trip to the Dollar Store for some cheap gift bags should be on my agenda this week.

To everyone, a safe and wonderful Christmas!

Rocky Road Fudge

1 12 oz. package semisweet chocolate chips
1 7 oz. jar marshmallow creme
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
1 stick butter
4 cups sugar
2 cups coarsely cup nuts
2 cups minature marshmallows

Butter a 9 x 13 inch pan and set aside.  In a heavy 4 quart saucepan, combine milk, butter and sugar.  Place over medium heat and stir occasionally with a wooden spoon until mixutre comes to a boil.  Boil, stirring occasionally, for 6 minutes.

Take off heat and add chocolate chips and marshmallow creme.  Using a wooden spoon, beat until mixture is creamy.  Stir in the nuts and minature marshmallows.  Pour fudge into prepared pan. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours.  Cut into 1 inch squares.  Keeps well for several weeks in the refrigerator. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Enough With The Dried Cranberries

I realize as I post this entry that this is the third recipe in a month or so that I have used dried cranberries.  Well, I got such a deal on them and they have to be used up and they're so good!  Continuing with my holiday baking theme,  I chose to make white chocolate chip/dried cranberry cookies.  I used the original Nestle Toll House chocolate chip recipe but replaced the chocolate chips with white chocolate chips and cranberries.  "Yum" as my friend Patti always likes to say. 

I promise, this is the last recipe I will make with dried cranberries for a long time to come!

White Chocolate Chip/Dried Cranberry Cookies

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 sticks butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup white granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.  Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Gradually beat in flour mixture.  Stir chocolate and cranberries by hand.  Drop by rounded tablespoon onto baking sheets.

Bake in oven for 9-11 minutes or until golden brown.  Let stand for 2 minutes on sheets and then place on wire racks to cool completely.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Better Butter Part Two

Remember when I made the compound butter of lemon zest and chives? I only used half of the cube on our salmon dinner so what to do with the other half, placed securely in the freezer for another time?What about a roast chicken basted in the golden goodness? I foraged around the freezer and found the little saran wrap package of butter and stuck it in the microwave for a few minutes to melt and then basted my bird every half hour until the chicken was perfectly browned and succulent. With the chicken I served the melange of potatoes I had picked up at the farmers market. Aren't those purple potatoes something to behold? They got cut and put in the roasting pan with the chicken so they could all happily cook together. Easy Peasy. It was a great Sunday dinner.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Rice Pudding and Poetry

"What is the matter with Mary Jane?
She's perfectly well and she hasn't a pain,
And it's lovely rice pudding for dinner again!
What is the matter with Mary Jane?"

My brothers and sisters and I grew up on the poems of A.A. Milne, the author of Winnie the Pooh and wonderful books of poems such as Now We Are Six and When We Were Very Young.  One of my favorites was called Rice Pudding, with the last stanza quoted above.  What was the matter with Mary Jane not absolutely loving rice pudding???

The pudding I made today was baked for three hours and the results were tremendous.  After mixing all the ingredients in a bowl, it was just a matter of going in every 20 minutes or so while it was baking and giving it a stir.  This ensured that the rice didn't all float to the top and a brown crust didn't form.  The recipe I used called for raisins but I opted for dried cranberries for a different twist. The pudding was creamy and sweet with just a hint of the nutmeg and cinnamon spices coming through.  Let me tell you Mary Jane, you don't know what your missing!

Baked Rice Pudding

1/3 cup long grain, uncooked rice
4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup dried raisins (or cranberries, or wouldn't dried cherries be good too??)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Butter a 1 1/2 quart baking dish.  Pour in all of the ingredients and mix well.  Place in oven for 3 hours, stirring with a fork for the first 2 1/2 hours every 20-30  minutes.  Leave alone during the last 30 minutes of cooking.  Let cool on a wire rack and serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Some Local Ink

How nice to get some publicity in one of our local newspapers here in Salem, Oregon, The Salem Monthly.  Written by a fellow community blogger, Salem Man talks about the use of the Internet for finding recipes and interviews myself and another local food blogger about our blogs and their content.  Check it out at this site.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and now onto Christmas!