Monday, December 29, 2014

Holiday Cookies

I went a little crazy and made almost 200 cookies last weekend. I was worried about not having enough, so I multiplied most of my recipes by 1.5 and didn't realize I would end up with quite so many! I like to give them out to coworkers and bring to holiday parties. We were certainly busy with holiday celebrations this December. This year's gatherings included a sign that we are getting older -- a party with multiple babies and congratulations to some newly pregnant friends! 

Pumpkin snicker doodles are one of my trademark cookies that I make most holidays, since I usually have homemade pumpkin puree in the freezer, and they are a unique treat. Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies are another good standby, though not necessarily very seasonal. 

Almond biscotti are a favorite of my parents, so I tucked a batch for them under the Christmas tree. Some years I make chocolate gingerbread cookies with cocoa powder, but I opted instead to jazz up a standard spicy gingerbread recipe with walnuts since my brother-in-law does not like chocolate. I actually adapted Simply Recipes'  gingerbread biscotti recipe into cookies, so they are not overly sweet and are also great alongside a morning coffee or tea. 

New to me this year were the coconut macaroons. I have been afraid to make macaroons since failing at them several years ago. I'm not sure what wrong previously, since they were easy to make and tasted delicious. In fact, Evan and I voted the macaroons as our favorite cookie in this holiday batch, so I'm going to make more for our New Year's Eve party. 

Note: One trick I like to employ after making dough is to form it into logs and stick it into the freezer. That way it can easily be sliced and baked into uniform cookies. Usually 30 minutes is enough. You can also store dough logs up to a few months in sealed plastic bags, which also gives you the option to slice off a few at a time and bake them in your toaster oven for portion control.

Gingerbread walnut cookies
(adapted from Simply Recipes - minus the fresh ginger, with walnuts instead of almonds. Bake for 10-15 minutes like a regular cookie instead of baking twice like biscotti. Makes approximately 30 cookies.)

Coconut macaroons
(via The Kitchn)

Peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies
(recipe here on Color Me Green)

Pumpkin snickerdoodle cookies
(recipe here on Color Me Green)

Almond biscotti
(recipe here on Color Me Green)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Turning Thirty

I turned 30 last month. I wanted to do something different from the usual gathering at bar, so I organized an open mic slash party. It was a very merry night in a bar squeezed full of friends and music. The Fifth Estate definitely lived up to its recommendation on FiPS as one of the best bars for party hosting in Park Slope. It was pretty ideal since we basically had the bar to ourselves without having to pay to reserve it, there is a music stage, and they let us play our own iPod music and set up tables with snacks. Everyone was surprised that I made my own birthday cake, but I didn't want to pass up an opportunity to bake pumpkin and chocolate beet cupcakes.

Frank made a hilarious song for my birthday - you should all take a listen (thanks Frank!).

We ended the evening with a family band - my husband, my sister and I covered Neutral Milk Hotel's "In the Aeroplane over the Sea" - same as the last song at our wedding.

Earlier that day, Evan treated us to brunch at home cooked by a private chef. Mirijana of Wild Feast on Kitchensurfing served us a delicious multi-course meal. She specializes in curing and smoking her own meats, so brunch started out with a charcuterie spread involving wild boar, duck and lamb, and went on from there to scones and pancakes and more. If you're looking to try out Kitchensurfing, I definitely recommend Mirijana for a splurgy, special meal.

Evan's gift to me was this leather clutch from Flux Productions, who sells on Etsy and at the Brooklyn Flea. Thanks husband, for knowing how much I appreciate quality goods that are handmade with care.

As for how it feels to be makes me realize that ten years of my adult life have already gone by doing the typical Brooklyn twenty-something lifestyle. Working and stressing about work, indulging in bars and restaurants, reading on the subway, going to the farmers market religiously. Always wishing I had more time to devote to writing and exercising. Around twenty five, I changed things up and pursued more things I was meant to be doing - moving to the environmental sector, playing in a band, bike commuting. But the general patterns have remained constant. I'm thinking a lot about what the next changes will be and what the next ten years might hold.  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Let's see if I can write about Thanksgiving before Christmas arrives. We had a white Thanksgiving this year, especially at my parents' house atop a mountain, which was laden with a foot of snow. As usual, I spent all of Wednesday cooking. I like to get things done early so I can sleep in and just reheat dishes on Thanksgiving. My mom made the turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing and cake. I made the rest of the sides, and other relatives brought more desserts.

Green bean, chickpea and carrot salad

Every year it's a challenge to find a way to prepare the green beans stored in the freezer from my mother's garden. They always tend to defrost mushier than expected. This salad worked, but next year I think I'll try a more traditional green bean casserole, which I've never done before.

Thinly slice half a red onion and sauté it on low heat until caramelized. Chop a few large carrots into small cubes and roast until lightly browned and tender. Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas. Chop a few handfuls of green beans into small 1-2 inch pieces. In batches, blanch the green beans by briefly steaming, placing in cold water and then draining. Whisk a dressing of red wine vinegar, olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper.  Gently combine all ingredients and stir in the dressing to lightly coat.

Roasted brussels sprouts

Such a family favorite that my grandfather mentioned them in his speech at my wedding!

Same salad salad as last year. This continues to be my favorite kale salad to make.

Roasted sweet potatoes with honey and sage

I tried to double the honey from last year's method for sage leaf sweet potatoes. What a mistake - the sugars quickly burned the pan and the bottoms of the sweet potatoes, while the potatoes were nowhere near cooked through. I was able to salvage them by slicing off the burned edges and coating in olive oil and a sprinkling of dried sage and then continuing to bake for a while. I want to find a new sweet potato recipe for next year. I like Rachel's idea of baking them whole first and then chopping and fancying them up with additional ingredients.

Whole wheat buttermilk biscuits

I usually make rolls but have always wanted to try my hand at biscuits. Through my research, I learned that biscuit dough should be made immediately before baking for maximum rise. And said biscuits should then be served immediately while warm and fresh, since they will turn somewhat stale by the next day. To avoid making a floury mess in the last hour before Thanksgiving dinner, when the kitchen is a flurry of people arriving, turkey carving and foods reheating, I chose to make them ahead and freeze them.

Working with the Kitchn's recipe, I grated a stick of frozen butter, soured milk with vinegar in place of buttermilk, and included 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour. Even though they were only frozen a day, it felt worth it to be able to easily pop the frozen biscuits on a pan to bake right before dinner. This method is not supposed to affect rise. However, my biscuits weren't as fluffy as ideal - but I don't know if that was because I used whole wheat flour, because I rolled them too thin, or from the freezing method.

My new joint Thanksgiving tradition with my husband tends to be a three day affair of food and fun, involving Thanksgiving with my parents, then a hunt and game bird feast on Friday (it was our first time back at the farm since our wedding in June), followed by birthday celebrations on Saturday. My mother-in-law and I happen to share our birthday at the end of Novemebr. 2014 is a milestone birthday for both of us, so this year we also had a big party for her over Thanksgiving weekend.