Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I'm doing Kart Wheels!

I just have to share these cookies! I made them yesterday for a RecipeZaar event called Pick A Chef. Definitely a keeper! They're just so cute!

The recipe makes 6 large cookies or you can cut each dough portion in half & make smaller cookies, but I loved how quick & easy these were & we don't have a lot of extra cookies sitting around that we HAVE to eat. ;)
As it was, Bryan & I had to stop ourselves from eating them all before we told the kids about them! We saved one for each of them for after Sophie's nap.
I love how big & special these look, so in the future I'll double or even triple the recipe and still make the large cookies. The dough is super easy to make and handle. I started out making the impressions with a metal heart shaped measuring spoon (a beloved gift from my sis!) so the cookies would be round with a jelly heart in the center, but the impressions just weren't big enough that way and I had to make them bigger with my thumbs. I think next time I could make double the cookies (not the recipe) & make a Tablespoon heart impression in each smaller cookie, using less jam.
Today I used raspberry pie filling (a can I've been hanging onto for a VERY long time, but can't remember what I bought it for) and the 6 large cookies barely held one Tablespoon of that (I have plenty leftover to make more cookies! ).

From the A-Z Kids Cookbook (which I think I actually own...) but posted on RZ by JDame: Kart Wheels

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It's Made in America!

As parents, we do our best to stay vigilant when it comes to the toys our children play with. It's no surprise that recent news stories about toy manufacturing done in foreign countries, using toxic materials, has cast an ugly shadow over the entire toy industry. What was a surprise to me however, was reading an article with good news about a toy. As it turns out, one of my daughter's favorite toys can proudly wear the label, Made in America. The highly recognizable Little Tikes Cozy Coupe toddler car is made in Hudson, Ohio and when I stumbled on this article at MSNBC, Made in U.S.A. makes Cozy Coupe a Rarity, by Allison Linn, I felt proud to have been a loyal Little Tikes customer for the last 17 years. But what really made me feel good was when I saw the link asking for readers to submit photos of their loved ones and their Cozy Coupes. Every parent loves to show off photos of our kids and here was a chance to not only show off Sophie, but to show my support for a company whose ultimate goal continues to be one of building durable and safe toys for our children.
The submitted photos were posted this morning and I so enjoyed looking at every single one of them (the Cozy Coupe Drive-In being a favorite). I'm also proud that my little tot, cruisin' in her Cozy Coupe, made the cut. You can see all of these little sweeties and submit your own photos at Cozy Coupes - Made in America.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Mirro Cookie-Pastry Press

I borrowed my mom's Mirro brand Cookie-Pastry Press to make some spritz cookies; about 15 years ago. Periodically I wonder if she ever gets a craving and then curses me for never having returned her press. For the record, I'm usually really good about returning everything I borrow. Well, except for that hot air popcorn popper she loaned me...

Generally I tend to gravitate toward the new & improved things, but lately it seems that with kitchen gadgets I'm hanging on tighter than ever to some of the old ones. The faded brown and orange box of the cookie press has fascinated me for years. I love the 70's writing style on the box and the fact that the booklet of recipes and instructions spell the word cookie with a y instead of an ie. The Aluminum Goods Manufacturing Company was the result of a merger between two competing Wisconsin aluminum companies in 1893. They began producing kitchen equipment in 1917 when they launched their flagship line of products, the Mirro Aluminum brand, and quickly became one of the largest producers of aluminum products in the United States. During WWII they retooled their factories to make aluminum products for the military and when the war ended in 1954, the company looked for a new market and branched out into aluminum toys as well. By the 1960's the Mirro brand of cookware was flourishing and the company was renamed to the Mirro Aluminum Company.

I'm guessing that mom purchased this press sometime in the early 70's; based on the box design and the fact that she was an active Room Mother during my early school years. I carried on that tradition with my son during his early years and will again with my daughter when she starts school. When all is said and done, this humble gadget will have created hundreds of smiles.

Using a cookie press is a rather simple procedure of filling the tube of the press with cookie dough and turning a knob on top of the tube, or pulling a trigger, to extrude the dough through the decorative plates at the other end. However, there are a few tricks to ensure the proper dough consistency. Start with refrigerator temperature butter. Then gradually cream in the sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy but avoid over-creaming, as it will cause the mixture to increase in volume and become too soft to work with. If your dough becomes too soft while mixing, you can add a couple tablespoons of flour or refrigerate your empty press before filling it with the room temperature dough. Always form your spritz cookies directly onto a cool, ungreased cookie sheet and bake until they are just set or slightly brown. Not over-baking will produce cookies that are melt-in-your-mouth tender. While butter is traditionally used to make butter cookies, margarine or shortening can be substituted. Neither will provide the same butter flavor, but cookies made with shortening will hold their shape better in the oven. After baking, remove the cookies immediately and transfer to cooling racks. Spritz cookies are versatile, in that they can be sprinkled, iced, decorated with candies, dipped in chocolate or made with tinted dough to match any occasion.

While these tender, pressed cookies require extra care when storing, they freeze very well when stacked between layers of waxed paper. This makes them top considerations for holiday baking, school bake sales or church functions because they can be made ahead and frozen until the day you need them. As the name implies, the Mirro Cookie-Pastry Press isn't just for cookies. It also makes canapes, appetizers, cheese straws, crackers, meringue shells, cream puffs, eclairs and ladyfingers. If you have one of these overlooked kitchen gadgets sitting around, go ahead and pull it out; see how many smiles you can create!

Sour Cream Spritz Cookies

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Discovering Egypt: Part 1

The simple and most basic of culinary or medicinal tools are the mortar and pestle. Evidence of their use, before the times of hunting and fishing, indicate that it’s quite possibly the oldest kitchen gadget known.
A mortar is a bowl-like receptacle that holds herbs, spices, grains, meats or other substances that need to be ground into powder or a paste. A pestle is the rod, rock or stick that is used to mash or grind the food into the bottom and sides of the mortar, until the ingredient is reduced to the desired texture. Although there are two individual pieces, the whole of them is commonly described as a singular item. The mortar and pestle has always been, and continues to be, used for both cooking and medicinal purposes. Due to the toxicity of some herbs, the same mortar and pestle that has been used for medicine is not used for cooking.
There are many different forms for the mortar and pestle, but the basic shapes and ideas do not differ. Evidence found in China, dating back to 3000 B.C; show that the simplest mortar was a depression in the earth. The ingredients to be ground were dropped into the earthen pit and the pestle could be operated by hand as well as by foot. The material the mortar and pestle is constructed of will also vary, depending on what is being processed. For medicinal purposes the pieces needed to be easily and thoroughly cleaned between each use. This led to the invention of the porcelain mortar and pestle. The mortar and pestle has also been molded, carved or dug out of everything from dirt and tree limbs to volcanic rock and marble.
In Egypt, the earliest mortar and pestle use occurred around 5000 BC and was used to grind grain into flour. Besides bread, the Egyptian cuisine consists of many spices, herbs and garlic that make the mortar and pestle an absolute essential in the Egyptian household. Because the natural aroma of the spice won’t burn off with only the minimal friction created by hand crushing, some chefs still prefer using the mortar and pestle to a food processor or grinder.
Since I’ve been researching Egypt, I’ve been experimenting with recipes that are representative of that cuisine. This recipe for Egyptian Spiced Prawns was a delicious blend of flavors, but not spicy hot. My toddler was even able to enjoy them. The cumin really stands out, but not overpoweringly. The original recipe was found at recipes4us in the UK but I made alterations to the ingredients to suit our tastes while still remaining true to the Egyptian cuisine. Serve with some hot rice and a green salad for a quick and easy dinner.

Egyptian Spiced Prawns

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ginger, fresh grated
1 1/2 lbs large shrimp, raw & shelled (Shrimp)
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped (cilantro)

Heat the oil in a large skillet; add the garlic and sauté gently for 2-3 minutes. Add the paprika, cumin and ginger; stir to combine. Stir in prawns, salt and cilantro. Stir-fry for 5 minutes or until the prawns turn pink. Serve over hot rice. Serves 4
Prep time: 5 minutes, Cook time: 10 minutes

Discovering Egypt: Part 2

The fig is a fruit that I’ve never given much thought to. I’d love to tell you that I tried figs for the first time just last week, but that would be a lie. Because as I was enjoying them in this delicious Egyptian chicken recipe, I realized that they had a very familiar flavor. I tried to put it into words for my husband, Bryan, who would eat the chicken but was afraid of the figs, by describing them as a cross between a cherry, a cranberry and a raisin. I popped another into my mouth and came up with an even easier description for him: Fruit Roll-Up. Now I’d got him laughing, at Fruit Roll-Up Chicken, but he still wouldn’t try one. I gave up on convincing him the conventional way and resorted to the passive aggressive approach. It was actually at this moment I realized why the figs were so familiar to me. I remember as a kid that dad would have Fig Newton cookies around all the time. Or Oreos, but that’s a story for another day. So, I started to tell Bryan what was going on in my head, “Hey! Figs aren’t scary! If they make good cookies then they can’t possibly be scary, right?” He gave me the obligatory, “Hmm, Hmm, sure, Honey.”, as he found a suitable spot for his dinner dishes in the dishwasher. Bryan has always been game to try everything I make, and there have been some doozies, so I figure he’s earned himself an out.
The fig is called a fruit but it’s actually the flower of a deciduous tree. Fig trees grow in a variety of climates but an area with hot, dry summers and cool, moist winters is perfect. Figs are one of the most versatile fruits, in that they can be paired with a multitude of sweet and savory foods. Egyptians found the fig to be delicious as well as having healthful properties. Figs are rich in calcium, iron, potassium, fiber and the highest mineral content of all the common fruits. Not only that, but they have no fat, no sodium and no cholesterol. The fig was a staple in Egyptian cuisine, where it was used to sweeten recipes because sugar was not yet known to them.
Eventually, Fig trees were imported and cultivated in places all over the Asian/European continent and up into the southwestern United States. The Franciscan missionaries are thought to be the first to introduce California to the fig tree in 1769. The aptly named Mission figs were the first fig trees to be planted in California, at the garden of the mission at San Diego. Currently, California is the third largest producer of figs in the world.
I hope you give this recipe a try. It’s super easy for a weeknight meal. The chicken is tender and the figs are sweet but the lemon and thyme balance it all out quite nicely.

Egyptian Lemon Chicken with Figs
6-8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 lemons
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 ounces white wine vinegar
2 ounces water
3/4 lb dried figs (I buy them in the bulk section of the grocery store)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons thyme (fresh or dried)
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
Preheat the oven to 400°.

Squeeze the juice from one of the lemons into a small bowl; add the brown sugar, vinegar and water. Mix well and set aside. Slice the remaining lemon and arrange evenly, along with the figs in a 13x9 baking dish. Place the chicken thighs on top in a single layer, then drizzle the vinegar mixture over the chicken. Sprinkle with the thyme and salt. Bake at 400° for about 40 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink in the middle and juices run clear, basting half-way through cook time. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve immediately. Serves 4
Prep time: 10 minutes, Cook time: 40 minutes
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TinksTreats by Lorilyn Tenney is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License