Saturday, December 21, 2013

Bird's Nest Cookies

In the midst of all the chaos, there is still Christmas.  Maybe it's having a child of my own, maybe it's just that I've always been violently attached to traditions, but this year, I have no tolerance for change.  A few years ago, we overthrew the family bird's nest cookie recipe in favor of Ina Garten's Jam Thumbprints, which are delicious, rich, buttery and shortbready.  But this year, with my mother making a gluten-free version for my dad, I wanted nothing more than the original.  Of course, no one HAD the original. My mother had tossed the original recipe deeming it too fussy to deal with.  She claimed her brother might have a copy, but nope.  And the whole time I couldn't get the recipe out of my head.  I could picture it so clearly.  Why could I picture it so clearly?  Maybe because I had it all along.  Safely written in the cookbook my mom gave me full of family recipes, was our bird's nest cookie recipe.  So with my little one safely in my mother-in-law's arms, I whipped up a batch.  They are every bit as good as I remember.  They are also, a bit fussy in parts, but I'll try to help you through that.

Makes ~ 3 dozen
recipe courtesy of someone my mother's family once knew (a  little help on this mom?)

2 sticks of softened unsalted butter (this is 1 C)
1 C brown sugar, lightly packed
2 T vanilla extract
1/2 t almond extract
2 eggs (reserve the white of one, so you need 1 whole egg + 1 yolk for the cookie, 1 white for rolling)
2 C flour
1/2 t baking powder
2 C chopped nuts (I used a mix of walnuts and pecans)
assorted jams, jellies and marmalades

Preheat your oven to 350 F.
Cream together your butter and sugar. This was a bit harder than usual.  Maybe brown sugar is softer than white and can't break up the butter as well?  So maybe soften the butter properly (I am notoriously lazy and rarely soften the butter enough).  You don't want it to be liquid, but it should be soft to the touch.  Then add your eggs, mixing well after each. Next add the extracts and quickly mix again.  Finally, mix together your flour and baking powder and slowly add to the wet ingredients.

I used a mini-prep to chop my nuts.  They should be small so they stick, kind of like this:

Prepare to roll the cookies.  You'll need a small plate covered with nuts, a bowl with the egg white and an ungreased cookie sheet.  

First, create a small ball with the dough.  If you make them too small, it's hard to make an indentation for the jam. If you make them too big, well, you don't get as many, and it's a lot harder to fit in your mouth.  I think about 3/4" is the best which is a bit smaller than I usually make cookie balls.  

Next, dip the ball in the egg white.  Then roll it in nuts and place on the cookie sheet.
You may not need the full two cups of nuts and if you'd like to save nuts, I'd say only pour some on the plate and replenish periodically.  You can't save what's left on the plate after you've rolled because of the egg white.  Ew.

The balls should be 2" apart on the cookie sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. This baking thing is the other fussy part.  If you over bake it's extremely hard to make an indentation.  If you under bake, well, you have gross raw cookies.  So watch them carefully.  I had some take longer than 12, but most came in at 12 minutes.  My mom's recipe said 10.  In order to check for doneness, I wanted them to sort of slide off their spot when poked, have a light golden underside if checked.  When you pull them out, make a small indentation in each and allow to cool on a cooling rack.  You can make your indentation with your thumb (ow! hot!) or with the back of a teaspoon measure (which isn't great because it's more likely to make the edges of the cookie split apart).  Your call which you use.

When the cookies are cool, place a small amount (about a teaspoon) of jam into the indentation. I used blueberry, raspberry and apricot for these, but you can use whatever you like!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Hungry Hippo Gift Guide 2013

Happy Holidays! Oh, the hell with it.  Merry Christmas!  If you're Hanukkah shopping right now, you are more than a day late and a dollar short, so lets move it along.

Want to shop for your favorite kitchen loving pals?  Take a gander at what I've picked out for you this year!

1. Measuring Cubs - $36 at Anthropologie
If I weren't already in possession of the world cutest hedgehog measuring cups I would want these, badly.  Do you see the fish in his belly?  Adorable!!

2. Fridge Phrases - $15
Perhaps your favorite chef also has a fridge.  One that things stick to (this is getting increasingly hard to find, my fridge is wood paneled, bizarrely enough).  Maybe that friend also lives on the east coast and needs a regionally specific set of fridge magnets.  Clearly, I would choose the Boston edition myself.
3. Maptote $17
You know your foodie friends are shopping for local organically grown produce at the farmer's market and would love a made in the USA cloth bag to use to carry their groceries home.  I have Seattle and Cape Cod.  I need to add Paris, Boston and Philadelphia to my collection.  Available in a range of places and styles.

We're getting to the point where just about everyone knows someone who is gluten-free.  My father, who knows good food better than just about anyone I know, heartily endorses this cookbook as the best source of gluten-free baked goods.  I've sampled them and let me tell you, they're not just good for something that's gluten-free, they're actually delicious.  

I think my nana is on a one woman mission to convince the world that this is the best pan ever.  If you live alone, or enjoying eating one egg, it really might be.  The egg turns out the perfect shape (really! no squiggly edges!). Plus the pan is so small and easy to wash! 


Look, I don't know if this is the best waffle maker on the market.  All I know is that I need a waffle maker.  I have always wanted a waffle maker.  I have never had space for a waffle maker.  Currently, I have space for a waffle maker.  Also, I would greatly appreciate it if you threw in someone to operate the waffle maker.  That would be truly exceptional. 

NB: Although I know next to nothing about waffles I do know that they should be square. Not round.  

It's only too bad these are fox terriers not welshies.  I'm sure there's a joke in there somewhere about terriers and caffeine delivery devices but I am entirely too exhausted to work it out for you.  

I have no clue whether or not this works, all I know is that I never have the foggiest notion how much spaghetti to make.  

9. Blossom Trivet 2 for $19.50
Look, I haven't a clue how it does all those other things it says it can, but it's still pretty cool for a trivet. Plus, it seems like it would be fun to play with.  Functional + toy = win!

My math skills are decent, but cooking (particularly baking) isn't exactly a place to be taking chance.  And fractional division is far from my mathematical strong point.  So why not make life easier with a recipe divider magnet (Who cares if it's magnetic? IT DOES MATH).  I know my husband* would love to no longer hear "Babe? What's a third of three quarters?"echoing from the kitchen in frenzied tones.

*this is in no way intended to read as "girls are dumb at math and need to ask boys for help".  My husband is a human calculator freak.  It's just so much faster to ask him.  At your house, it's entirely possible that the lady of the house is the one with the math skillz.  The only relevant fact is whether the person who cooks (regardless of gender) is also the person in possession of the ability to quickly and accurately divide fractions.  If not, helloooo recipe divider!

What's on your kitchen wish list?  Let me know in the comments!  I think I need #3 (in any one of the cities named), #6 (or similar, WAFFLES!!! WAFFFFFFFFFLESSSSSSS!) and #7.

Interested in last year's list?  Many items are still available!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Dooooo It

This is not a recipe, this is a public service announcement.  In the mad dash to use up the Thanksgiving leftovers  I found my self staring into a container of leftover stuffing.  We're partial to the cornbread/sausage variety around here, and my mother had made a delicious batch of it for us.  But days after Thanksgiving (or more accurately, after days of Thanksgiving leftovers) even my favorite treat was looking hard to swallow.

So I did what any self-respecting desperate person would do.

I added an egg - I had maybe a cup to a cup and a half of stuffing left.
I rolled it into balls.
I gently rolled those balls in flour (you could use cornstarch).
And I dropped them into hot oil.

Mine are a bit on the, erm, dark side shall we say?  That's what comes of not using a thermometer for your oil and generally being distracted while cooking.  Not recommended.

If you use a thermometer, keep your oil at about 350 and cook your balls for only a minute or two per side.

The result was so good.  Like a sausage-y hush puppy.  Like a ball of corn dog.*

Stuffing wins.

*what does cornbread have to do with dogs?  No really.  I'm asking.

PS - You all know by now that the salad greens are purely an effort to pacify my husband.  I just used lettuce, apple, carrot, pecans and a dressing of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup and salt and pepper.  It did nothing to detract from the fried stuffingy goodness.


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