Sunday, January 27, 2008

Something Daring and Cheerful

In the Land of St. Honore’ the Yuletide has passed and the rains and snows of winter have settled in. The Queen of Hearts is having trouble waiting for February and her favorite holiday, Valentine’s Day.

So she calls for the Head Baker and says, “I grow weary of this poor weather and need a treat. Bake me something special, something sweet, something cheerful!”

The Head Baker returns to the kitchen and thinks and thinks and thinks. Then he begins to bake. Sugar, eggs and chocolate all are lovingly crafted into a beautiful dessert.

That evening, after the King and Queen and all the court in the Land of St. Honore’ have eaten their roast venison and root vegetables, the Head Baker grandly presented the dessert he had baked for the Queen.

She looked at the elegant ganache topping the chocolate layer cake with jam and fruit filling of the Sin City Cake and tasted it, then shook her head. “No, this is very nice, it is sweet and special, but it is not cheerful!” she said.

So the Head Baker returned to the kitchen and looked through his many cookbooks, looking for something special, something sweet, and something cheerful.

The next evening, after the King and Queen and all the court in the Land of St. Honore’ have eaten their dinner, the Head Baker hopefully presented the dessert he had made that day. It was Lemon Bars, dusted with powdered sugar. The Queen tasted one and shook her head. “This is sweet and cheerful, but it is not special” she said. “Bake me something special, something sweet, something cheerful. I grow weary of being disappointed.”

Well, the Head Baker knew what happened to people who made the Queen too weary, and he surely did not want to be one of those, oh no. Working for a royal pain, erm, person, was never easy. It was time for him to be daring.

So the next day he wrapped himself up in a warm coat and muffler and made his way to the home of Jen , the Canadian Baker. She took pity on him and shared her recipe for a dessert that is sweet, special and very cheerful. He worked all afternoon. The flour flew, eggs were separated, his arm almost fell off from all the stirring for the filling and he found that each element of this dessert was not too difficult, although the filling did weep a bit. It was such a delicate filling that as soon as a piece was cut and removed, the rest of the filling also started to gently slide toward the space where the piece had been. So he made another one.

That evening the Head Baker was quaking in his boots as he brought in the dessert after the dinner had been cleared.

The silver platter held a pie, crowned with puffs of meringue, made golden brown and firm in the oven. Hiding under that crown was a sunny, cheerful yellow filling, delicate, silky and sweet, but tangy with lemon. It was all held together by a delicious, flaky, buttery crust. The Queen took a bite of her slice as the Head Baker looked on anxiously. The Queen smiled, nodded, and said, “This is the perfect dessert for the winter. It is sweet, it is cheerful, and this gorgeous Lemon Meringue Pie is certainly special.”

The Head Baker breathed a sigh of relief and was pleased when the Queen passed a piece to him so that he could enjoy it, too. He only wondered what he would need to come up with for Valentine’s Day…but that’s next month.

To see what the other bakers in the Land of St. Honore’ have done with Jen’s recipe visit the other Daring Bakers using the Blogroll here. To see the recipe for this special Lemon Meringue Pie scroll down. Do try making this for your own King or Queen or Prince or Princess, or even for the local Firemen or Librarians. We can all use a little cheerful, sweet and delicious pie in the winter months.

The Head Baker used Meyer lemons picked from her very own tree by a dear friend, Pam. Perhaps that’s why the Queen found it so delicious, but it is probably just as tasty with any variety of lemon.

Lemon Meringue Pie
(from "Wanda's Pie in the Sky" by Wanda Beaver)
Daring Bakers Challenge #15: January 2008
Host: Jen (Canadian Baker)

Makes one 10" pie

For the Crust:
¾ cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces
2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt
⅓ cup (80 mL) ice water

For the Filling:
2 cups (475 mL) water
1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar
½ cup (120 mL) cornstarch
5 egg yolks, beaten
¼ cup (60 mL) butter
¾ cup (180 mL) fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon zest
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract

For the Meringue:
5 egg whites, room temperature
½ tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar
¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt
½ tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
¾ cup (180 mL) granulated sugar

For the Crust:
Make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible.
Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt. Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board (or countertop) roll the disk to a thickness of ⅛ inch (.3 cm). Cut a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under, leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about ½ inch (1.2 cm). Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line the crust with foil and fill with metal pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool completely before filling.

For the Filling:
Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the mixture gradually to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated.

Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. The mixture will be very thick. Add about 1 cup (240 mL) of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, whisking until smooth. Whisking vigorously, add the warmed yolks to the pot and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in butter until incorporated. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla, stirring until combined. Pour into the prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the surface, and cool to room temperature.

For the Meringue:
Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually, beating until it forms stiff, glossy peaks. Pile onto the cooled pie, bringing the meringue all the way over to the edge of the crust to seal it completely. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack. Serve within 6 hours to avoid a soggy crust.

Daring Bakers Extra Challenge
Free-Style Lemon Tartlets

Prepare the recipe as above but complete the following steps:
To roll out tartlet dough, slice the dough into 6 pieces. On lightly floured surface, roll each circle of dough into a 5 inch disk. Stack the disks, separated by pieces of plastic wrap, on a plate, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
To bake the dough, position rack in oven to the centre of oven and preheat to 350ºF (180ºC). Place the disks of dough, evenly spaced, on a baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely.
To finish tartlets, first place oven rack in the upper third of the oven and increase heat to 425ºF.
Divide the lemon filling equally among the disks, mounding it in the centre and leaving a 1-inch border all the way around.
Spoon the meringue decoratively over each tartlet, right to the edges, in dramatic swirling peaks. Return tartlets to oven and bake for about 5 minutes, until the meringue is golden brown.
You can make one pie or tartlets (in a tin or free-form)
You can compliment your pie with a sauce. For example, you can serve it with raspberry or white chocolate sauce.
You can use a piping bag to apply the meringue if you like.
Decoration is up to you - lemon zest or fruit are totally acceptable.

Pie recipe courtesy of Wanda’s Pie in the Sky by Wanda Beaver, 2002
Tartlet recipe courtesy of Ripe for Dessert by David Lebovitz, 2003

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cookbook Corner - A Winter Muffin

I suppose that there are plenty of people who love to cook who don't collect cookbooks...but I've never met one. The internet may change things, but for me one of the joys of Christmas is that I usually receive at least one delightful cookbook.

So for todays' Cookbook Corner we are looking at Baking in America, Traditional and Contemporary Favorites from the Past 200 years, by Greg Patent. It was a gift from my good friends Lori and Phil. Since they live near by, they often benefit from my baking adventures, so it is a smart move to get me thinking about what to bake next.

The recipes are broken down by chapter into fairly obvious categories like sweet yeast bread, savory yeast bread, quick breads, a few chapters on different types of cakes, one on cookies, on on pies and tarts, one on fruit desserts. What makes this book so nice is that each chapter bigins with some history. For example, the one on quick breads goes into the substances used as leaveners (other than yeast) in the past and when commercial baking powders became available, and even a tidbit about litigation surrounding baking powders. The recipes are also fun - a combination of favorite traditional recipes and some ones with new twists.

I was happy to see that this author loves persimmons and that there were a number of recipes using persimmons. The last of the ripe persimmons...the ones that stayed on the tree despite gale force winds a few weeks ago...have been calling to me each day when I walked down to get the newspaper in the morning. They look like dark orange lanters hung on the bare branches. The birds have been feasting on some, but there are still a few to bake with. When peeled and mashed, they look like jewels. See for yourself!

Here is what I did with the last persimmons of the season. This muffin is moist, just slightly sweet and does not need a thing (including butter) added to it. It was good warm, but I liked it best at room temperature along with a cup of hot tea. The perfect winter snack could just be this Persimmon Pecan Muffin. I have to confess, however, that I couldn't find the pecans so I used chopped walnuts and the muffins were wonderful.

Persimmon Pecan Muffins

1 ¾ cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground allspice
1 large egg
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mashed ripe Hachiya persimmon pulp (from 2-3 persimmons)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
½ cup chopped pecans (I used walnuts)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with cupcake papers, or grease lightly.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice together into a large bowl.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, sugar, and vanilla together for 1 minute. Whisk in the persimmon pulp and the melted butter. Scrape this mixture over the flour mixture, add the chopped nuts, and fold together with a rubber spatula just to moisten the dry ingredients. Divide the mixture evenly between the 12 muffin cups.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the muffins are golden brown and spring back when gently pressed. Cool the muffins in their cups for 1 minute, then carefully transfer them to cooling racks. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. Makes 12 muffins.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Orange You Glad You Heard About This Salad? I Am!

I was sitting across from my friend Paula at a restaurant last week and we were waiting for our order to be taken. We were talking about cooking dinner later and she described her favorite winter salad and how to make it.

The history behind it was an eleven year old she had gone to visit a girlfriend for an overnight and the friend's mom made this salad. She wasn't all that interested in food, so Paula's mom was surprised when she came home the next day and raved about the salad and asked her to fix it. It became a family favorite and is still one of Paula's. It might become one of your favorites, too.

This orange salad is simple and easy to make, fresh, has the zing of fresh oranges, has lots of healthy greens, some sweetness from the raisins & coconut, and just a bit of mellow from the mayo. It is very colorful and can be made ahead on individual plates and kept chilled until you serve it. You don't need any additional dressing. This is a knife and fork salad. The juice from the oranges as you cut into them acts as a dressing on the greens.

We made it with and without the coconut. Next time I might leave off the coconut and add some finely chopped walnuts or pecans...or even macadamia nuts. The original recipe calls for a maraschino cherry in the middle, but somehow mine have become lost in the move, along with all my extracts...vanilla was even in a big bottle!...and honey and steak sauce and Worcestershire sauce and who knows what else. This is one of the big downsides of moving everything out of the house...getting it back in the house :)

Paula's Winter Salad

For each portion, on a salad plate spread out about a cup of greens. We used mesclun mix, but baby spinach is great, also butter lettuce.

Peel one large navel orange for each two servings. Slice in six slices, slicing through the middle of the orange, with the stem end and navel end to each side. Look at the photos to see what I mean.

Place three orange slices (half of the orange) one each plate, over the greens. Place a dab of mayonnaise (I used fat free) in the center of each slice. Place a maraschino cherry half in the middle of each plate.

Sprinkle each place with about a tablespoon of golden raisins and a tablespoon of regular raisins. Sprinkle about a tablespoon of shredded, moist coconut over each plate.

That's it. Each plate serves one, so make as many plates up as you have people to serve. serve chilled.

By coincidence, a few days before that lunch, I began a watercolor still life with oranges. Here is how it looks so far.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Glad That's Over

Well, 'camp' was fun, but glad that the house tenting is over.

The Forest Paradise house we stayed in was tucked into the tall redwoods, had a cozy golden pine interior and tropical decor...which actually went well together. Every possible thing we could want was provided from a choice of kinds of bed pillows to dozens of movies on DVDs, a full kitchen, comfy furniture in three relaxation areas, lots of TVs and a wood stove, plus central heat so we didn't have to make a fire unless we wanted to. In better weather we would probably have spent a lot of time on the deck enjoying the redwood trees towering above us. As it was we enjoyed Food Network shows and watched Green Bay paste the Seahawks on Saturday. It's for rent if you ever get a hankering to do deluxe 'camping' just west of Occidental, CA. On Saturday during the day we drove over to Bodega Bay and watched the surfers and ran the dog on the beach a bit. It's a short drive (about 20 minutes) away from our rental. E-mail me for contact info. This is a photo I took when I first checked out this for renting when we decided to tent the house.

Dinner while out at Camp Meeker was at the Union Hotel in Occidental, a historic eatery going back to the late 1800's. We ate in the cozy pizza area, but had sophisticated, and non-pizza, dinners. Sweetie had delectable fried calamari (squid) and some sauteed mushrooms with herbs and I had a special of the day, chicken pot pie which had large tender chunks of chicken, lots of vegetables, a light, well seasoned cream sauce and a gorgeous cap of puff pastry, golden and flaky. We sat at a table with a red checked table cloth lit by a candle in a Chianti bottle, with liberal drips of wax down the Lady and the romantic! Fortunately there wasn't a violinist or other music, just lots of families all around eating pizza and making family noises...nice. No photos because the camera was 'lost' in all of the moving of stuff. Sorry.

Our house has been tented, the little critter are apparently vanquished, and I've decided to re-organize my cupboards and pantry since they are almost empty.

Tonight I finally had some fun in the kitchen again. I made a variation of a recipe from the delightful Mediterranean Diet Cookbook by Nancy Harmon Jenkins.

It is a full flavored and easy chicken dish using one of winter's great ingredients, the orange. The recipe called for olives in addition to what is listed below, but I'm not a big olive fan. If you like olives, add 6 fat green Italian or Greek olives, pitted and coarsely chopped to the pepper mixture right before you put it into the casserole.

The amounts given are for what I cooked, which was mostly 1/2 the recipe except for the peppers (I didn't have 4) and the sauce. I'm glad I kept that to the full amount for the full recipe for the sauce because some cooked off and it is a delicious sauce.

This is the kind of dish that tastes good made a day or so in advance and reheated. I served it with brown rice and a combination of sugar snap and green beans steamed vegetables.

Pollo Al Chilindron ~ Spanish Chicken with Sweet Peppers
4 skinless chicken thighs
freshly ground pepper to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil or grapeseed oil
a red and a yellow sweet bell pepper (the recipe calls for twice this amount for 1/2)
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, sliced
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried, crumbled
1/2 cup amontillado sherry
1/2 cup water or chicken stock (I used water)
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice...only use fresh, not canned or frozen concentrate
(I also added 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest)

Cut away any visible fat. You can also use boneless, or other chicken pieces...but chicken breast will likely be a bit dry. Sprinkle pieces liberally with pepper. In a large skillet over medium heat, fry the chicken pieces in 2 tablespoons of oil until they are golden brown on all sides, 5 - 7 minutes to a side.

Meanwhile slice the peppers lengthwise about 1/2 inch thick.

When the chicken is done, remove it from the skillet and set aside to drain. Discard the cooking fat and wipe out the pan. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan and gently saute' the onions and garlic over medium-low hear, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are very soft but not beginning to brown - about 10 - 15 minutes. Add the thyme and the pepper strips and continue cooking and stirring until the peppers are soft and limp, about 15 minutes. Mix in the olives at this point if using.

Put the chicken in an ovenproof casserole or dish. Pile the pepper and onion mixture over the chicken pieces to cover them thoroughly. Add the sherry, stock or water, orange juice and zest to the skillet, raise the heat to medium-high, and boil, scraping up any brown bits left in the bottom of the pan. Pour the liquid over the peppers.

Bake the chicken for about 30 minute (20 minutes for skinless, boneless breasts) or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and the sauce is sizzling. Makes 4 servings.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Until We Meet Again

Who knew that getting ready to have a house tented to treat for termites could be so exhausting? My daughter laughed when I expressed those sentiments...she said it was like moving, only you return to the same house. Since I hate moving, that explains a lot.

So, dear friends, signing off for a few days. Going off into the woods to Camp Meeker to a lovely vacation home after work tomorrow. Except for a lunch in town on Friday, I will read and sleep and take walks with the dog and clear my brain. No cell phone service, nor Internet. Let's just hope that the power is back on there by the time I finish working. I know it's called Camp Meeker, but I'm not really wanting to camp out with lanterns.

If I had been smart, I would have put this casserole by Shirley Walker, a friend of mine, together to bake up tomorrow night at "camp". It needs to chill for a while (8-36 hours) to meld the flavors. Try it with multi-grain bread, too. Sorry no photo for this one, but you can well imagine the green of the broccoli, brown of the bread and mushrooms, the bubbly yellow orange cheddar cheese, with some of those great browned bits, too. Mmmm.

Broccoli Mushroom Strata
by Shirley Walker

1 loaf (1 pound size, ½ inch thick slices) whole-wheat bread, crusts trimmed
¼ cup (1/8 lb.) butter or margarine, divided
1 large onion, diced
½ pound mushrooms, rinsed and sliced
3 cups cooked broccoli flowerets OR 1 package (16 oz) thawed frozen broccoli spears
2 tablespons dry basil leaves
1 teaspoon pepper
1 pound Cheddar cheese, shredded, divided
6 large eggs
3 cups milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Line the bottom snugly with a single layer of bread, cut to fit (edges can overlap slightly). Make another layer of bread to fit on top, then lift out an set aside.

In a medium frying pan over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter and ad onion and mushrooms. Stir often until liquid evaporates and mushrooms are lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Spoon into a bowl.

Chop the broccoli. Melt the remaining butter in the frying pan and add the broccoli; stir often until broccoli is very dry. In the frying pan, stir together broccoli, basil, pepper, and onion mixture.

Distribute half the vegetable mixture over the bread layer, then cover evenly with half the cheese. Cover with the reserved bread; repeat to make the top layer.

Beat the eggs and milk until blended and pour over the casserole, moistening evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and chill 8 to 36 hours.

Bake, uncovered in preheated oven until edges of casserole are lightly browned and center is firm when gently touched, about 45 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes on a rack. Cut into rectangles.

Serves 6-8
Note: Different kinds of whole-wheat breads can be used in this dish. Choose a standard, whole-wheat, one with wheat berries, or try a multi-grain bread.

Happy trails to you, until we meet again.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Fudge Debate

The best fudge as far as I'm concerned was made by my Dad. It was the kind that used sugar and heavy cream and baking chocolate. It required some candy making skills and attention to temperature. Every time I tried to make it it ended up a crumby mess. Guess I didn't pay enough attention to when it had cooled enough to add the butter or stir or something. His version sometimes included black walnuts. That was my favorite. My brother now makes the best fudge, a skill he inherited from Dad. Plus, he pays attention.

Recently Sweetie, my daughter and I visited friends for Christmas. They served their favorite fudge, the kind made with marshmallow cream and evaporated milk. It was good fudge, but not quite as good as the kind my brother makes. Of course, I'm biased.

As a gift for a friend, I recently made a super easy fudge using sweetened condensed milk. I think that a lot of the part that I do wrong had already been done by the milk manufacturer. The fudge wasn't as good as Dad's, but seemed just as good as the marshmallow cream version, and very, very easy. It comes to us from the fabulous Patricia at Technicolor Kitchen.

Fabulous Five-minute Fudge

2 cups (12oz/336g) semisweet chocolate pieces
2/3 cup sweetened
condensed milk (196g/one-half of a 14-ounce can)
1 tablespoon water
¾ cup (90g) chopped walnuts, toasted if desired
1 teaspoon vanilla

Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper; set aside. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine chocolate pieces, sweetened condensed milk, and water.

Microwave, uncovered, on 100% power (high) for 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 1 minute more, or until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth, stirring every 30 seconds.

Stir in nuts and vanilla. Pour mixture onto prepared cookie sheet and spread it into a 22x15cm* (9x6-inch) rectangle, or drop mixture by rounded teaspoons onto prepared cookie sheet.

Chill fudge about 30 minutes or until firm. Cut into 3.5cm (approx. 1-1/2-inch) squares

Makes 24 pieces

* (Patricia says) I used a 27x15 cm baking sheet and spread the fudge completely inside it – I got 28 squares.

From Technicolor Kitchen 11-07

So which kind of fudge do you say is best? Do you have a recipe that is killer? Join the debate, but try Patricia's version'll be glad you did.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Everything Old is New Again - with Verjus

Somehow in the confusion of the family gathering the day after Christmas, a gift was left under the tree, with no tag, and never opened that day. I found it a few days later and was thrilled to find, after opening it, that we were now in possession of a lovely bottle of Verjus. Thank you whomever gave us this lovely condiment!

Sweetie wasn't as thrilled initially...wondering what the heck verjus was, mostly. A quick spin on Google gave us the information needed, plus some really great recipes using verjus. So here is why something old is new again:

Verjus, literally green juice, has been made since Medieval times, perhaps even earlier. One source of the grapes for this vinegar was the green, unripe grapes that were culled from the vines of wine grapes to allow for better ripening of those grapes left on the vine. Since good fruit was not to be wasted, a acidulated condiment was made called verjus. It adds fruity flavor and a nice sourness to sauces. It has been popular for centuries in classic French cooking, but only recently has been commercially available in the U.S. from what I can tell. Now it is seen as a very exciting new ingredient, especially valuable since it combines well with wine and doesn't clash, something that regular vinegars have trouble doing.

Our slender, elegant bottle comes from Terra Sonoma, a local company, located in Geyserville. Their website is also where I found the recipe for the salad. I almost made it as wirtten, although I couldn't find my dried apricots, so I substituted dried cherries. The aroma of the verjus is fruity, almost pear like, and mild. Combined with the walnut oil it was the perfect salad for winter. A nice addition would have been the thinly sliced ripe pear, as the recipe suggests, or tart apple, but I was all out. Next time I'll make sure to add one or the other.

Apricot & Walnut Fresh Green Salad with VerJus Vinaigrette

Bowl of mixed greens
1/2 cup of Dried Apricot
1/2 cup Walnuts (fresh & cracked) (toasted is nice, too)
1/4 Nashi Pear (or what you have locally)

3/4 cup Terra Sonoma VerJus
1/4 cup Walnut Oil

Chop the dried apricots into thin slices. Coarsely chop the walnuts. Remove the skin from the Nashi pears and slice into thin pieces. Blend the fresh greens, apricots, walnuts, and pears in a bowl. Add the dressing just before serving. Toss to coat.

Serves 4.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

A fresh slate, new ideas, new things to cook. Such a rush of energy accompanies the first days of January.

In that spirit, I've decided to devote a little more attention to some of my favorite cookbooks. My collection isn't as extensive as some people I know, but it fills a number of shelves in my kitchen island, plus I'm always borrowing cookbooks from the library. I use them often as references, but maybe making a recipe as written in the cookbook will expand my knowledge and skills. Can't hurt. Recipes will come from retro cookbooks, library cookbooks, old favorites in baking, vegetables, regional cooking and more. We might visit with Julia Child or James Beard from days gone by, or Alice Medrich' new book Pure Desserts or the fabulous Dorie Greenspan's Baking, From My Home to Yours from right now.

If I were the kind of person who made actual New Years Resolutions *TahDah!*, I'd promise to visit Cookbook Corner once a month. As it is, the visits will be more or less frequent than that, depending on free time, ingredients, and what sounds good at the time.

If you have a hankering to do some cooking from cookbooks, too, feel free to use the 'logo', but then could you link to this post? Excellent! Let's get cooking.

A cookbook that has been sitting almost unused came in very handy today. We were having barbecue pork sandwiches for an easy dinner and I like mine with coleslaw. I bought some cabbage, but forgot to get any coleslaw dressing. Then I remembered that The Good Home Cookbook is excellent for basic recipes. The link tells how I came to have this cookbook. It had a delicious sounding creamy dressing recipe for coleslaw. I only made minimal changes: I used Dijon prepared mustard instead of dry mustard and substituted 1/4 cup fat free sour cream for 1/4 cup of the used fat free mayo. Sweetie was very appreciative of the coleslaw, especially the dressing, so I can recommend it to you, too. It goes together very easily and used ingredients that are usually on hand.

Creamy Coleslaw Dressing
from The Good Home Cookbook, edited by Richard J. Perry

3/4 cup mayonnaise (or 1/2 cup mayonnaise and 1/4 cup sour cream)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dry mustard (I used 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch celery salt

Combine the ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. (If the dressing is too stiff, thin with a little milk if desired.)

Pour over a head of shredded cabbage mixed with some grated carrots and, if desired, minced celery and sweet onion. Stir to coat the vegetables with the dressing. Serve salad chilled.
Serves 6-8