Sunday, December 11, 2011

Me: Oh my my. I made gingerbread cookies this weekend.

Friday night I took it easy. A dear friend came over, and we made "snacks" (read: pasta bolognese) and gingerbread cookies. There was pretense; she vowed to not drink for 2 weeks while she cleaned up her slovenly ways, and I thought what better way to have good, clean fun than to spend the night rolling out gingerbread dough!?
When she got here, the dough was already resting in the fridge, so our "Friday Night Activity," cutting out shapes with butter knives (I don't have any cookie cutters... something I think I should change), was all set up for us ahead of time. We ate too-rich-for-me bolognese (read: I am not a real meat eater and never will be one) and watched Heathers. I felt like a good wholesome teenager!

I wasn't going to blog about these because really I didn't make the recipe up or do anything insanely adventurous. But then I realized I can't stop eating them and they're freaking perfect. So here they are. With one added special ingredient that I think was appreciated by all who tried them: Love. Just kidding. It's cayenne. The secret ingredient is cayenne.

Good night!

Gingerbread cookies with Royal Icing
adapted from know-it-all sources like Martha, and Joy of Baking, and even this one, that I love to hate
2 c unbleached flour
1 c whole wheat flour
1 t baking soda
2 t ground ginger
1 t cinnamon
1/8 t grated nutmeg
1 t ground cloves
1/2 t cayenne
1/4 t salt
1 stick softened unsalted butter
1/4 c nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening
1 c turbinado or brown sugar
2/3 c molasses
1 egg

In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients. Then, in the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter, shortening, and sugar. When light and fluffy, add molasses and egg. Mix until combined, then in thirds, add the dry mixture. Turn off mixer, and divide dough into two portions, patting each into a disc, and wrapping in plastic. Put in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight. Or you can freeze one disc, as I did, so you have it on hand in the future when you crave these.

When ready, roll out one disc of dough at a time to 1/4" thick. Cut out into desired shapes and place on parchment paper lined sheet. Bake at 350 for 7-8 minutes. Cool on a rack and frost with royal icing if desired (recipe below).

Royal Icing:
1 egg white
1 1/2 c confectioners sugar
1 T lemon juice

In a stand mixer or with an electric mixer, beat egg white until stiff. Add sugar and juice and continue to mix. That's it!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Look, there's just nothing like really good food. I'm not talking gourmet. I'm talking about how to put together a simple dish, with simple ingredients, and if they're seasonal, well then it's all that much better.

I'm temporarily supposed to be on a high potassium diet. What foods have potassium in them? Well, bananas (fortunately bananas and I are old friends who never get sick of each other), sweet potatoes, raisins, and a whole bunch of other things. But when I heard sweet potatoes are a good source of the potassium, I got excited. I got this idea in my head to make a simple seasonal dish: sweet potato/black bean/cotija tacos, with additional ingredients as garnishes, but no radical spices. This simple dish is about the vegetables that I have not celebrated enough yet this fall.

You can add and subtract components as you wish, but my final version of the fall constructed taco was perfect, in my opinion.

Here's the simple deal to simple good food, fall taco style:

What you need:
Corn tortillas
2 sweet potatoes, chopped
sweet dumpling squash, halved and seeded
cooked black beans (or canned)
1/2 an onion, cut into strips
1/2 a poblano pepper, seeds in for heat
a few leaves of swiss chard, steamed or sauteed
1-2 T cotija cheese (or feta if you can't find this)

In an oven preheated to 400, on an olive oiled baking sheet, spread potatoes in one layer and half or all of the squash (depending on your appetite) next to the potatoes. Bake at 400 for 20-30 min, until each the potatoes and squash are tender when pierced with a fork.
Meanwhile, saute onion and pepper in a small skillet with olive oil.
Warm tortillas, layer cooked potatoes, pieces of squash (skin removed), black beans, onions, peppers, chard, and cheese on top. Eat with a fork, if you are inept at eating tacos as I sometimes am, or pick it up and get messy! Go for it! You won't be disappointed.