Friday, December 1, 2017

Grandma's Persimmon Cookies

These are a different kind of cookie than what I've posted before. Somewhere between a cookie and a spice bread with a fluffy crumb interior but enough sugar to get a caramelized crispy edges.



 I grew up with frozen persimmons in the freezer ready to be thawed just for these cookies. I didn't know until I was an adult that there are two types of persimmons - firm flat ones that you can eat like an apple fresh, and the ones with the "pointy" bottoms that are used for cooking and cookies when they are incredible soft and squishy. 


How soft should your persimmons be? Soft enough that the pulp slips from the skin with very little encouragement and plops into the bowl below.


The recipe notes that the "Grandma" was my Great-Grandma Giva.

What you need

1 cup persimmon pulp
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup nutmeats (typically I use walnuts)
1 cup raisins (I think dried cranberries would be good too)
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves (optional, says the original recipe - but I why I can't fathom!)

Git 'er Done

Preheat the oven 375 degrees

Into that lovely bowl of persimmon pulp, mix in the baking soda.

Like a typical cookie recipe, cream butter and sugar, then add the egg and mix.

UNLIKE a typical cookie recipe, add the nutmeats and raisins at this point and mix.

Mix together the remaining dry ingredients and then add to the creamed mixture, stirring in.

Add the persimmon-soda mix. Surprise! It's like jelly now! Mix until blended.


Drop batter onto ungreased cookie sheet in large spoonfuls and then (VERY IMPORTANT), spread cookies out to flat cookie shaped objects with a fork. If you don't do this, you will end up with tall, dense cookies you have no one but yourself to blame for.


"Bake until cookies are golden brown, with fairly dark edges".

The original recipe doesn't give a baking time. Unlike the other cookie recipes I've posted here there's lots of lee-way on the cookie time. They don't overbrown and burn if cooked 1 minute too long. In fact, I cooked one batch of cookies for ummmm...30 or 40 minutes. Completely forgot about them. Took them out and they were BROWN. As the cookies sit they soften up and they were perfectly edible and delicious - better than the batch that was barely brown at ~15 minutes. I think a good range is 20-25 minutes, check them at 15 minutes.

  • Do NOT take them out too early
  • Error on the side of more brown
  • Let them sit and cool and soften before making judgements
  • Don't throw out "burnt" cookies without letting them have a chance. 
On the left is a 15 min baked cookie. On the right is a...ummm..30 or 40 or 45 min baked cookie. Something in between is your goal! You want the edges brown like the right hand cookies, but the middle will be closer to the left hand cookie.
What about freezing? Because they have to be mashed flat, they don't lend themselves to being rolled into balls and freezing, then they have to be pretty thawed to flatten out. My solution has been to freeze them in flat "sheets" in quart size ziplocks at approximately the thickness of the cookies. To bake, I cut the ziplock off my cookie dough slab and then break into pieces and put on a cookie sheet.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Kitchen Sink Fried Rice

I have a couple of "kitchen sink" recipes - the versatile recipes that I can throw left over vegetables +/- meat into at the end of the week so that nothing goes to waste. The fried rice is perfect for this.

Before making my own at home, I wasn't a fried rice fan. I never ate it in restaurant and it never dawned on me that it would be something I would be interested in actually making or eating. The color was off putting (why was it brown?), the name horrifying (frying something that was already a simple carb?), and the vegetables and meat unimpressive (what was that speck of orange and green?).

Simply recipe's dish looked so simple and straight forward I gave it a try.  (also and I saw that the color was from soy sauce, and it wasn't fried as much as sauteed). The first time I made it I used left over chicken, and stuck closely to recipe. After that the field was wide open and I've made several variations - all of them good. I can stuff almost any left over vegetable into this recipe which is probably why I've made this weekly since I discovered the recipe.

What you need

  • Some meat. Or none. A vegetarian option works here too. SR suggests 8 ounces of shrimp. I suggest you use whatever is in your fridge. Last night I used boneless skinless frozen thighs cut into generous chunks. 
  • Cornstarch
  • Black pepper and salt
  • Oil with high smoke point (not olive oil)
  • 3 beaten eggs
  • Other vegetables cut into bite sized chunks - such as broccoli, bok choy, celery, etc. 
  • An onion of some sort - green onion or regular yellow onion. I usually have both left over from the week and I prefer to use the green onion.
  • About 4 cups of left over rice. It fries better if it's a day old and slightly dried out. 
  • About 1 cup frozen or canned peas and carrot mix. I abhore carrots and peas, but use them here because it makes the dish look like fried rice, gives it color, and I can't taste them in it. 
  • Soy sauce
  • Sesame oil (optional)


How to Git 'er done

Lightly coat the meat with cornstarch (a teaspoon or two) and season with pepper and salt to taste. 

Heat some oil in a skillet until HOT. This is the theme of this recipe. You want to cook stuff HOT. 

Put the meat into the hot skillet in a single layer. Don't stir too much if you want a nice brown crust. Flip and stir as necessary until cooked. Remove from skillet. 

Add eggs and cook. Remove from skillet. If I don't have meat+cornstartch in the recipe I'll add a little cornstarch to the eggs after they are cooked. 

Cook other optional veggies (besides onion). Most of them just need a good sautee in the pan. Some like broccoli need to be sauteed, and then have some water added to the pan and cooked for a bit longer until they are tender enough. Remove from skillet. 

Add green or yellow onion. Sautee. Add rice and mix. Press the rice into a sheet across the bottom of the skillet and WAIT. The rice should be SIZZZLING. Yes, that is sizzzling with 3 "z's". If it wasn't, your skillet wasn't hot enough. 

Boo hoo. However, it will still work. It just might not be brown and chewy - instead it will be closer to what you are served in restaurants that they call fried rice.  

Flip the rice and let it brown on the other side. 

When your rice has been fried (or your patience run out) sprinkle soy sauce over the rice to taste and mix. add back in all the other ingredients and heat through until HOT. Finally, add seasame oil - just a bit - according to taste.

~Adapted from Simply Recipes (simplyrecipes.com)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Artisan Bread

About a year ago wheat and I made up.

It's a relationship with rules and boundaries, but the bottom line is that if I make it in my own oven and some moderation exists, we do OK.

Enter the easiest, best, homemade artisan bread recipe EVER if you are like me and...

  1. Do not have any time ever. 
  2. Have a career, have a kid, have hobbies (oh, never mind - this is just an extension of #1)
  3. Are cheap.
  4. Refuse to add any additional appliances to the kitchen
  5. Are bored/easily distractible/ADHD and have a hard time focusing even with timers. "Critical steps" and meeting exact time deadlines are not my friend. A forgiving recipe is...I've already lost my train of thought. 
I've made 8-10 loaves and 3 or 4 master "batches" so far in the last couple weeks. I don't think I've baked a loaf twice the same way and none have gone to waste. I've baked them for friends and mommy meet-ups and brought them to work. I've made cinnamon varieties for breakfast and savory herb mini-loaves for an old-fashion lunches. Wanna give it a try? 

Plain Boule with dried herbs on top.

Here's the basic recipe - further down I'll go through some of my favorite variations. 

The recipe
- adapted from the 5 min artisan bread method (click here)
- There is a ton of variations on this method and the one I linked above is darn close to what I do - what's funny is that it's not the recipe I initially followed, but once I made a bunch of modifications to suit me, it was very close to this source one. 

What you need
  • 3 cups water lukewarm 
  • 1 tablespoon yeast 
  • 1 tablespoon salt 
  • 6 1/2 cups (2 pounds) flour
What you do...
Mix everything together. Put in a container (covered, but not with a tight fitting lid) and let rise on your counter....or not. As you will see in the commentary further down, everything about this recipe, including ingredients and method can be a compromise :). 

At some point put in your fridge.

New batch of dough right after initial rise on counter, ready to be stored in fridge. 

At any time between now and 14 days from now, cut off a chunk of dough and shape. 

Let rise on the counter for 40min-2 hours or in the fridge overnight. Don't worry if it doesn't puff up like you are used to with other yeast bread methods. It will in the oven (I swear). You came this far, so you have a little trust right????
2 formed hamburger buns resting on the counter. Rest of dough ready to go back to the fridge.

Slice the top of the bread with a sharp knife in slashes prior to baking. It releases the bread to rise better in the oven (I swear). Slash it like you mean it, don't be a weanie. (This is actually a really critical step. If you don't slash it, the loaf will end up a hard little crusty bowling ball.)

Bake in a 450-500 degree oven either uncovered with a cup or 2 or boiling water in a shallow dish at the bottom of the oven to increase oven humidity 20-30 min, OR cook covered in a cast iron pot/container for the first 15-20 min, then uncovered for 10-15 min. 

It's hard to screw this up. Trust me. 
  • 3 cups lukewarm water? The original recipe I used didn't state this, and I used cold water from the tap. Turned out just fine. If you use warm water, it should be lukewarm "body temp". Not scalding bath water. If it feels hot, not warm - it's probably too hot. Using lukewarm water will make the initial rising process faster - or so the internet says. 
  • 1 tablespoon yeast....or whatever you have in your fridge. Original quantity was 1 1/2 tablespoons. I mis-read that on my first attempt and put in 1 1/2 teaspoons. Was totally fine. Did some reading and it takes longer for the dough to rise and to be able to use the first batch with less yeast, but it still does exactly what it needs to do, even at scant yeast amounts of 1/2 teaspoon. Some people like the flavor of dough that initially had less yeast in it (fast versus slow rise). I'm not sure I care, but since I don't want to waste my ingredients and I always refrigerate overnight, I've settled on 1 tablespoon. 
  • 1 tablespoon salt - I've seen recipes go up to 1 1/2 tablespoon, and the first time I made it, I used 1 1/2 teaspoons. I felt like it needed more salt so bumped it up to 1 tablespoon. This is based on individual taste, so feel free to increase or decrease as needed. 
  • Flour. I use regular all-purpose flour. Except for when I run out. Then I'll replace what I need with bread flour. Or wheat flour. Yes, you can use sourghdough starter, wheat flour, or whatever other variation you desire. I know that bread flour and wheat flour require a little more water (or less flour) to the above ratios. If you are going to do anything other than make up the difference with a little when you are short, you should probably do some research (start by exploring the website I linked above). For this recipe plain 'ole all-purpose is recommended over bread flour because it makes a better texture in the finished product. (May 29 2017 update - made a batch with almost 100% bread flour because I was short on time and needed to make some bread for a potluck. Result? I didn't notice much difference between the loaves with bread flour and those with all-purpose. Moral of the story - use what you have)
  • No time for the initial rise? First time I made it, it was 11pm at night and I read it on the internet and just HAD to try it. I mixed and put it in the fridge without any counter rising time. It was fine. 
  • Prebaking rise? It's better if I either put in fridge overnight, and then let sit on the counter for an hour to un-chill after forming, before baking. Or, let sit 1-2 hours on the counter before baking. HOWEVER, I've also gotten impatient and cooked directly out of the fridge, or let only sit on the counter for 20 min while the oven preheated and it was FINE. The air holes are less open, but perfectly edible. Trust me. Whatever time you have, make it work for you. This is not a fussy recipe. 
  • Cooking methods....Sheet versus pot versus foil loaf pan? All produce acceptable (delicious!) bread. After baking a lot of loaves, I think I slightly prefer the cast iron pot method, and I prefer keeping the lid on for 2/3 of the cooking time, instead of the first 1/2. I have more cast iron pots than sheets and so it's more convenient, and I like not having to deal with the water. (although for my oven, when I've tried the other methods and used hot water in the bottom of the oven I'm not sure it made a difference?). I'm still experimenting with time covered versus uncovered in the "pot method". Leaving the cover on longer and then uncovering just long enough to brown produces a thin crackly crust. Uncovered longer produces a thicker, more chewy crust. 
On to the fun stuff! Flavors!

Dried herbs

Simply topping a plain loaf with dried herbs such as rosemary, or a spice blend.


Nut and dried fruit
Made a Walnut and raisin boule as my first loaf and managed to eat the entire thing as dessert while watching TV on the couch. I'm out of nutmeats (serious sad face) but this simple combination is cliche for a reason - it's SO GOOD.


Cinnamon etc.
I love cinnamon! I've made a swirl loaf (spread out the dough like a thick pizza, prep with filling, roll into loaf shape) and cinnamon rolls (similar to above but cut into rolls) and gotten rave reviews from both. I initially did the predictable cinnamon+brown sugar+butter with a bit of cloves and salt thrown in.

It was good....but not divine.

I only thought it was divine because I hadn't tried....

- Cinnamon, lemon zest, chopped dates.

*drool*.

Now THAT is something binge worthy. The chopped dates cook down so tender that it's like magical craters of moist sweet deliciousness mixing with the bread and spices. Chopped dates might be my favorite dried fruit to put in bread.

I personally don't like my breads very sweet, so for a more traditional cinnamon roll that is sticky sweet, add frosting or glaze.


- Cinnamon, honey, chopped almonds

Just a hint of sweetness, nutty crunch from the almonds.



Chocolate chips
Fold them in, form a boule or flat sheet loaf. Always a huge hit. I'm not a huge chocolate lover so I'm sort of meh (give me cinnamon+dates anytime!) but for some people this is what they love.




Whole Garlic cloves
This is the one that surprised me the most. I threw in all my left over whole garlic cloves into a simple boule and after baking it was something really wonderful. The garlic flavor infused the entire loaf without being heavy, and the garlic cloves were soft and mild. Dried herbs (such as rosemary) on top compliment the flavor well.





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I'd love to hear your favorite flavor variations if you try this recipe!

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October 2017 update

When it's warm in the summer and I don't want the heat of the oven in the house, I like making bread on the BBQ.

It's definitely a different product than the oven bread, but I find it ideal for sandwich bread, english muffins, and rolls. If you want to try this method, here's my tips.

- Small rounds of dough patted flat.
- While they are resting fire up the BBQ with the lid down on high. It should be HOT.
- Once the BBQ is HOT, throw the dough on, turn it down to medium and close the lid. This part takes some experimentation because you want the heat low enough that it doesn't burn the bottom of the rolls before the rolls are cooked through.
- To finish the rolls, I flip them over and turn the BBQ off - but keep the lid closed. The heat inside the BBQ is enough to finish off the rolls.
- I've been experimenting with no flipping the rolls so they look more like dinner rolls instead of english muffins. I think the trick is to turn the heat down initially even lower, so that the rolls can stay on the grill even longer without burning while the overall heat inside the BBQ cooks the rolls like an oven.

The finished bread has a grilled taste that is just absolutely wonderful. It's a softer bread without the crusty chewy crust, but is still sturdy enough for sandwiches or burgers.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Hot Open-faced Roast Beef Sandwiches

This is a new-ish recipe that my husband has requested weekly since the first time I made it so I guess it's both a keeper and no longer new :).

It's easy, fast and delicious - perfect for a week-day dinner after work, but I think it's just fancy enough to serve to company too.

My husband is a rebel and puts a top on his a-la hot open-faced roast beef sandwich, puts cheese on it (hates horse-radish), AND insists on dipping it in some sort of broth, which works out nicely because there's always delicious liquid left from heating the roast beef lunch meat. Although why anyone would want to make a perfectly good sandwich soggy on purpose I do not understand. But, to each their own since he *refrains from making fun of me when I put too much horse-radish on mine and am blowing fire out my sinuses through my tears.

*Or at least, mostly just rolls his eyes and doesn't actually verbalizes his opinion?

-Originally adapted from a Blue Apron recipe

What you need

  • French Baguette loaf, sliced lengthwise and then into reasonable sandwich lengths. 
  • 1 pound roast beef lunch meat. This is enough for me to have a portion, my husband to eat many portions for dinner, my daughter to waste half a portion, and there still be a portion left over for his lunch the next day. 
  • Beef bullion
  • mushrooms, 6-8 ounces sliced
  • Shallot, thinly sliced. Onion will work too, but shallots are a better texture in the final dish
For sauce
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt or mayo
  • Juice of a lemon (but it's fine without if you forget like I did last night)
  • horse-radish to taste
Git 'er Done
Heat roast beef in a pan with a bit of beef bullion to keep moist. Save liquid for dipping if desired (weirdo). 

Butter and toast the baguette halves. 

Cook mushrooms and shallot with oil until softened. 

Assemble sandwiches - slather cut side of baguette with sauce. Add roast beef. Add mushroom/shallot mixture. Top with additional sauce. 

Serve open faced (and be prepared to get your hands messy) or topped with another piece of baguette (a-la Mel's husband). 

Heart of Darkness Blackening Rub

Once upon a time I got an excellent deal on some salmon and I knew I wanted/needed/had to grill it. But what to season it with? I didn't have time to marinate it (and let's face it, when you have a nice chunky thick salmon fillet it does *not* want to be marinated) but I wanted something fancier than my usual "salt and pepper".

Enter "The Heart of Darkness" Blackening Rub. Shamelessly *stolen without modification from Zinczenko's and Goulding's "Cook This Not That - Kitchen survival guide", but so divine I had to share it here.

*I did substitute smoked paprika for regular paprika. I don't have *have* regular paprika in my pantry. Once we tried smoked paprika we were instantly hooked. 

When I mix up seasonings, I make enough for 2-3 uses and store in a mason jar. The first time I tasted this it was so unique, so.....party on my taste buds that I knew I would be posting it here. But, I waited until I tried it again. Just as good. It's a keeper.

Heart of Darkness

Mix together...


  • 1 part cumin
  • 1 part smoked paprika (original recipe calls for regular paprika. Use smoked paprika. It's worth it)
  • 1 part cayenne (yes it makes it spicy when you lick the seasoning off your fingers, but somehow when I eat it as part of the meat it just provides flavor, not spiciness. Just try it, and if you just can't handle it, reduce it by half next time)
  • 1 part oregano
  • 1 part black pepper
  • 1 part salt


The suggestion is to use it on fish and poultry.

I can't speak for chicken, but on grilled salmon it is absolutely fabulous. Compliments the flavor, texture, and experience of grilled salmon perfectly.

- I liberally cover both sides of the salmon fillet with rub, place on a medium hot grill that has been wiped with an oiled papertowel, and grill skin side down until crispy (~8-10 min-ish). Flip and cook for 5 ish minutes more. I like my Salmon barely cooked in the middle. If it flakes, we are good. Your preference may vary. 

Buttermilk pancakes

This is for my friend H*, who has never cooked pancakes from scratch. With a little practice these really are just as easy as the mix, and the light fluffy tender pancakes are well worth it.


I used to make this recipe with a buttermilk substitute (such as soured milk - milk+lemon juice) and it works just fine, but nothing is quite as good as the real thing. Pick up a small carton of buttermilk and keep it on hand - you won't regret it. There is modifications you can do to the baking soda/baking powder ratios in order to use regular milk, but I consider the final product quite blah and no one has time for blah food right?

These are the pancakes I serve at least once a week to my husband for a quick pre-work (and pre-dawn) breakfast.

Quick note: I've also been known to make a savory version - sprinkling cheddar cheese and rosemary on the uncooked top before flipping. Pancakes are usually served sweet in my region, but with a little creativity, herbs, and aromatics, and maybe a scoop of plain yogurt on the side, these don't have to be yet another sugar-ladened breakfast food. 

Buttermilk Pancakes
-barely adapted from Better Homes and Garden cookbook.

What you need

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. Buttermilk - I have successfully replaced it with half regular milk and not modified anything else and had the pancakes come out almost indistinguishable from full-buttermilk. 
  • 2 tablespoons oil or melted butter (ie, some sort of fat in liquid form). I usually use olive oil.
  • 1 tablespoon of something sweet - I prefer honey or maple syrup. The original recipe called for plain white sugar. 
How to git 'er done

Mix the dry ingredients. If you are using sugar instead of a liquid sweetener, mix it at this step. 

Add the wet ingredients. The original recipe called for the egg to be beaten prior to adding. I'm lazy and hate doing extra dishes. I add the (unbeaten) egg in with all the wet stuff and then sorta poke it with a fork a couple of times before mixing the wet and dry ingredients together. 

Mix everything together until just moistened and mixed - there should be lumps. 

If it's too thick add buttermilk until you have the consistency you want. It *will* be thicker than the mixes in my experience. It's ok!!!!!  My batter sorta gloups out of the bowl into the skillet. 

Heat a skillet on medium high heat. I use a cast iron skillet and find myself turning it down as I go along because it retains heat - you don't want to burn the outside of the griddle cake before the middle is done. 

A trick I learned as a kid to tell when it's ready to flip is to watch the bubbles form on the surface of the raw top. *About half the bubbles should pop and stay sorta dry and open, and the edge of the pancake should look dry. If your pancake is getting too dark on the first side before this happens and it's flipped, turn the heat down. 

*I find that this buttermilk recipe doesn't form as many bubbles as a regular mix (too thick?), so I tend to use how the edge of the griddle cake looks, and just keep an eye on the bubbles without using them as an indicator quite as much. 

Original recipe said it yielded 8 pancakes. LMOA. More like 5-6 medium sized, perfectly reasonably sized pancakes. 


Monday, April 17, 2017

Brownies

Yes, it's another dessert recipe and I promised something different....but here's the thing. When it's been raining for 40 days and 40 nights all I want to do is sit inside and bake stuff like this - an incredibly simple, no fuss brownie.




This is the brownie recipe I grew up baking. It's simple, delicious, and can be made with regular ingredients in the cupboard without special grocery trips.

I'm not a huge chocolate fan but when I was flipping through the recipes tonight I kept coming back to the brownies.

Make us......MAKE US.....

So I did. It's been at least a decade since I've made these and I had forgotten how simple and delicious they were. The forgotten brownie amidst the overly sweet and complicated world of boxed brownies with too many layers of decadence.

My mother always added walnuts to the batter. Tonight I topped half with sliced almonds, leaving 1/2 of the pan un-contaminated by nuts for the nut-hating husband.



What you need:


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 2 unbeaten eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
Nuts for mixing or topping if you wish. 

Git 'er done

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 

Mix together sugar and cocoa. Stir in melted butter. Stir in eggs and vanilla extract. Make sure everything is mixed really well. 

Sift together or otherwise mix the remaining dry ingredients together really well....then combine with the wet mixture. 

Mix in nuts if desired.

Pour into a greased 8x8 baking pan. 

Top with nuts if desired. 

Bake 20-25 minutes, until the edges start to slightly pull away. DO NOT OVER BAKE. In fact....just go ahead and pull it out of the oven at designated time. You will then panic when it appears completely unbaked in the center....but trust me. It will be perfectly cooked as it sets and then you will have chewy perfectly baked brownies instead of crunchy little chocolate-like brownie cardboard.