Athena Magazine

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Dazzling Cookies December 18, 2009

by Julia Pantoga, resident Domestic Goddess

This year I made cookies to give away for the holidays.  I picked three recipes that travel well and are unbelievably delicious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Butter Jewels (Yield:  5 dozen)

2 cups butter (4 sticks!)
½ cup sugar
2 tsp almond extract
4 cups flour
1 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
12 oz. assorted brightly colored preserves (my choices are apricot and cherry)
  1.  Cream butter and sugar.
  2. Mix in almond extract.
  3. Add flour and mix.
  4. Roll into 1” balls.
  5. Indent in center (1/4 tsp measuring spoon works well for even indents, make sure the bottoms are not too thin, or the cookies will fall apart when moved)
  6. Fill center holes with jam. (if transporting, do not over-fill above top of cookie).
  7. Bake at 350° for 8 min.
  8. Cool thoroughly before moving.  (Refrigeration or a cold porch really helps them “set.”)
Notes: 
  • As with all cookies with no eggs, that are comprised largely of butter and flour, these cookies are extremely fragile, especially when hot.  Once they have cooled, they are fairly sturdy.
  • These cookies will not rise or change shape when baking.  That’s good because you don’t have to worry about cookies spreading and sticking together.  However, that means you need to be careful about the appearance before you bake them:  wipe off any errant jam and shape the cookies carefully.

 

Mexican Chocolate Butter Wafers (Yield:  5 dozen)

Note:  Once cool, these sturdy cookies are ideal for sending.  These are so delicious, they are TOTALLY worth all the steps and dirty dishes.

½ cup sliced almonds
1tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
½ stick (4 tbsp.) butter
½ cup cocoa powder
1 tsp espresso powder
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 tbsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
½ cup course grind sugar crystals
Confectioner’s sugar
  1. Over medium heat, toast almonds, cinnamon, and cayenne until fragrant (about 3 minutes).
  2. Grind almond mixture in food processor until very fine.  Set aside.
  3. Melt 4 tbsp butter over medium heat.  Add cocoa powder and espresso powder and stir until mixture forms smooth paste.  Set aside to cool
  4. In separate bowl, cream butter and sugar.
  5. Add cooled cocoa mixture and salt (if using).
  6. Add egg yolks and vanilla.  Mix until thoroughly combined.  Scrape bowl.
  7. Whisk nut/spice mixture into flour.
  8. Add and mix in flour/nuts/spices in three additions.  Mix thoroughly, but no more than necessary, scraping bowl after each addition.
  9. Shape dough into two logs 2 “ in diameter and 12” long .  Wrap in parchment or plastic wrap.
  10. Chill until very firm and cold, at least one hour.
  11. Roll chilled logs in decorative course grind sugar.
  12. Slice cookies ¼” thick and place on cookie sheets. 
  13. Bake 10 minutes at 375°.  Do not overbake.  Rotate baking sheet halfway through cooking time.  If cookies begin to darken on edges, they have overbaked.
  14. Cool 5 minutes.
  15. Dust with confectioners sugar.
  16. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

 

Molasses Cookies (Yield:  20 dozen)

1 ½ cup butter
2 cups sugar
½ cup molasses
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt
Additional sugar to coat formed cookies
  1. Cream butter and sugar.
  2. Add eggs one at a time, mix well.
  3. Add molasses, mix well.
  4. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt, Add to butter/sugar mixture
  5. Chill overnight.
  6. Taking @ 1 cup of dough out of the refrigerator at a time, shape in ½ inch balls.
  7. Roll cookie dough balls in sugar (at this point balls can be refrigerated for future baking).
  8. Bake for 6 minutes (8 minutes if cookie dough balls are frozen) at 375°.
  9. Cool on rack.

 Note:  When I freeze, rather than refrigerate ,cookie dough balls, the resulting cookies taste as good, but don’t look as nice.

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Easy, Elegant and Quick Salad November 9, 2009

Filed under: Budget Athena,Domestic Goddess,Food is Good — rebmas03 @ 2:54 pm
sample salad

baby spring greens, dried apricots, pine nuts and white cheddar

I have a formula for eight ingredients that always make an elegant salad – four for the salad and four for the dressing:

Salad

1 pound washed Greens

2 handfuls Dried Fruit

1 large handful Nuts

2 oz. Cheese

Dressing

4 tablespoons Olive Oil

1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar

½ teaspoon Salt

½ teaspoon Pepper

I have made this salad using arugula, dried apricots, pine nuts and feta cheese.  I have made this salad using romaine lettuce, raisins, chopped almonds and cheddar cheese.  The formula is simple and you can usually make it with what’s on hand at anyone’s house that you’re visiting.  In fact, I came up with this formula last year when I was visiting my sister and she asked me to come up with something to do with a bag of arugula that only had one or two days left.

If you use a bag of pre-washed lettuce, there is no washing of vegetables involved in making this salad.  The only chopping depends on the fruit, nuts and cheese you select.  I don’t even measure for the ingredients, I eyeball 4 parts oil to 1 part vinegar and add salt and pepper to taste.

About salad dressing.

Salad dressing is so easy to make, it’s one of the products people buy that I cannot understand.  The basic formula for salad dressing is: 4 parts oil to 1 part acid.  From there you can add flavors:  salt, pepper, mustard, garlic, finely chopped onions, sugar, etc.  For oil, I generally use olive oil, but any oil will do.  For acid, I usually use red wine vinegar, but balsamic, rice vinegar or lemon juice work fine.  To make salad dressing, you just put all your ingredients into a jar, shake vigorously and pour over your salad.

dressing jar - cropped

old jelly jar I use for mixing salad dressing

One of my favorite trivia facts is that the word “salad” comes from the Latin word “sal,” for salt.  That’s because the original salad dressing is salt.  When I am at a function where the only options for salad dressing are store-bought ones with too many ingredients for my taste, I use salt only to dress my salad and feel very “classic” in my food taste.

 

Holiday Prep – Already?!? October 31, 2009

Serving Hot CocoaBy Julia Pantoga

Don’t come complaining to me about those crowded mall parking lots in December. I’ll be home drinking hot chocolate or cranberry vodka with friends. You can be there too, with a little advance planning.

Last year I went all out to give you timely holiday prep tips and I have little to add this year, so here’s a list of all the holiday prep articles from last year:

holiday cookiesGiving Away Baked Goods

Holiday Roll-out Cookies – Part One
Holiday Roll-out Cookies – Part Two
Holiday Roll-out Cookies – Part Three

Packing for Holiday Travel

Holiday Entertaining Made Easy

Great Baking Gift Recipes

Decorating Your Home

Handmade Gift Ideas

Super Yummy Fast Fast Party Snacks

In order to kick back in December, here’s a list of things to start this week:
     
1. If you are going to give away baked goods:

             a. Decide what you are going to make (last year I gave away little gingerbread cakes, this year is all cookies, I’ll share my recipes with you in a few weeks.)
             b. Start collecting containers for putting the baked goods in (see photo below)
             c. Keep your eye out for sales on specialty ingredients (If you are using commercial candy in your holiday baking, you will probably find it on sale on Sunday, November 1, the day after Halloween)

gift containers

Containers I have accumulated so far, for less than $30

     2. If you are going to make decorated holiday sugar cookies, make the dough and freeze it now.

     3. If you are going to send holiday cards:
              a. Go through your list to make sure you have complete addresses for the entire list.
              b. Pick out the holiday cards you are going to use (I KNOW you have them because you bought them right after the holidays last year like I told you, right?) Put the card box next to where you sit to watch TV. Put a pen in the box and print out a list of everyone you will be sending cards to. During commercials, address the envelopes. Be sure to put the pen back in the box. I have learned over the years that addressing the envelopes is a big job and there is no reason you can’t do it in advance and make writing cards that much more pleasant.

Finally, it is never too early to begin making bags of Super Yummy Fast Fast Party Snacks and start storing them in your freezer to grab on your way to a party!

 

Domestic Goddess – Old School October 12, 2009

Filed under: Domestic Goddess,Food is Good,The Real Stuff,Worldly women — rebmas03 @ 9:58 pm
Tags: , ,

Julia Child portrait 

By Julia Pantoga

You may harbor the fantasy that your domestic goddess spends her days cooking and reading cookbooks (I sometimes entertain that fantasy, too), but that is far from the case. Actually, I am in graduate school and I spend most of my time reading and writing. Truthfully, those of you with children or spouses at home probably spend more time cooking and planning meals than I do.

 

 

Anyhow, once every two weeks or so, about six of us students take a break from our studying and watch two episodes of “The French Chef” starring Julia Child, from the DVD set I was given for my birthday. This is high entertainment, especially for those of us who scrutinize cooking shows regularly and spend a fair amount of time in our own kitchens.

 french chef DVD cover

The first thing I noticed when we started watching is that the age spots on Julia Child’s hands are plainly visible. Does the Food Network use hand models or do all their actor-cooks have perfect hands? The next thing I noticed is how Julia Child dresses in the kitchen:  she wears her glasses and an apron and tucks a towel into her apron ties.  Hey, that’s how I look in the kitchen!  I thought I was the only one who doesn’t wear fashionable clothes that flatter my figure and reveal cleavage when I bend down to taste the broth.

 

Speaking of tasting, we just about died laughing when Julia Child tasted her potato dish, then returned her tasting spoon to the drawer!

Julia Child in the kitchen 

Not only does Julia Child wear a sensible apron in the kitchen, she wipes onion juice off the counter, splashes milk on the stovetop when she pours it and has to put a casserole on the dryer to cool because she has run out of counter space. Remember, this was the first cooking TV show, before the invention of such familiar TV tricks as turning the camera off for clean-ups, multiple takes and advance space planning.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

The best cooking show on TV today (in my opinion) is America’s Test Kitchen (ATK). Although the chefs wear appropriate attire in the kitchen, even they edit out their mistakes. I once saw one of the ATK chefs live at a bookstore, where she was promoting a cookbook and she summed it up this way: “Of course we always cook 10 of the same things at once. Turkeys are cheap. Television crews are not.”

 ATK-Group-Photo

You wouldn’t watch “The French Chef” today to learn how to cook; it’s really dated. For example, no one, but the most skilled professional, would cut ten cups of onions by hand today. Most of us would drag our food processors out. The amount of butter and cream used is laughable to our cholesterol conscious eyes and Child talks at length about how to take care of a carbide steel knife, which I have never even seen. But these old shows are amusing and I can pick up tips from watching anyone in the kitchen. (Did you know you can poach eggs ahead of time and store them in water in the refrigerator for future use?) Most of all, it was terribly re-assuring for me to see that other people look a bit dorky in the kitchen and spill, drop and splatter things too.

 

Fix furniture nicks in a flash July 6, 2009

guardsmanI’ve been moving a lot lately, as I transition from an apartment into a house, and the moving invariably involves a lot of stressing about furniture protection. It seems that no matter what you do, something always gets nicked, particularly nice wood pieces. I may be the last to know, but I recently discovered a cool repair trick. Guardsman makes a nick repair magic marker in all shades of brown, plus black and even white. It’s the coolest—you just color in the knick with a marker that matches your wood (test on a hidden area first.). Voila, stress gone and many dollars saved in refinishing costs. Buy Guardsman markers here ($5 for a multicolored 3-pack) or at Bed, Bath and Beyond stores.

 

Domestic Goddess Reads: Home Cooking April 27, 2009

homecooking_By Julia Pantoga

 

The other day I took my favorite book off my cookbook shelf to show to someone. This book is my favorite book—not just my favorite food memoir. The book is Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin, who died suddenly and completely unexpectedly at age 48 in 1992. Of course, I’ve read the chapters with recipes that I use all the time often enough to have memorized them, but when I showed the book to my friend, I realized that I hadn’t read the entire book in about a decade. So, I’ve been reading my favorite book again. If you read this book now, I have no doubt that you will say to yourself, “Aha! The original Domestic Goddess!” It is uncanny for me to realize how much my life has turned out to be modeled after hers. I’m a writer who likes to hang out in the kitchen, too. I prefer to stay home vs. travel, too. Like Colwin, I’m always looking for the easiest way to get the most credit for the domestic skills that I have .

When Colwin advises the novice cook to call an experienced cook, take his or her advice about a dish that works, then stick with that dish, I hope that you will say to yourself, “Where have I heard that before?” If you cook, or have ever tried to cook, I dare you to try not to laugh out loud when you take the two hours it takes to read this book. Her recipes are introduced with statements such as, “Here’s an amazing dish that you will never want to serve to your cardiologist …” When I reread her chapter on cooking disasters, after wiping the tears of laughter from my cheek, I thought, “Clearly, I do not take enough risks in the kitchen …” More later, I have a lot stored in my head for you. These days I am thinking about cheesecloth and pastry bags.

 

Homemade Soup Stock: Mystery solved March 5, 2009

finished-soup-stockBy Julia Pantoga

One of the ways to “trick” people into thinking that you’re really a pro when it comes to cooking is to make the same thing over and over again and stock your freezer with it. This is what I do with soup stock. I’ve been making soup stock from the same two recipes for years now; and since I make soup once a week, I end up making soup stock over and over again.

Making soup stock isn’t really easy, but it isn’t really hard either. The word I’d use is “satisfying.” Making soup stock involves chopping, making a mess and squishing vegetables with your hands, all good things in my book. In the end, you have at least three quarts of homemade stock in your freezer, which I guarantee will gain you instant domestic goddess (or god) status.

Vegetarian cookbooks of the seventies will have you believe that all you have to do to make vegetarian soup stock is save the cuttings from your vegetables and boil them. I haven’t found that to be true. For one thing, your stock will always taste different depending on the scraps you have. For another thing, it’s just not likely that, in these days of packaged bite-sized carrots, you will ever have enough carrot scraps. Most importantly though is that soup stock made from a recipe is an awesome addition to soup; it makes a huge difference flavor-wise.

What follows are recipes for stock, not broth. What is the difference, you might ask.  Stock is an ingredient in soup, broth can be eaten alone.

The first step to making soup stock is assembling the equipment. When I tell you what you will need, you may think this is going to be complicated. This is where doing the same thing over and over comes in handy—after you do this once you will always have the equipment on hand.

Here’s what you’re going to need: 2 eight-quart stock pots, a colander or strainer that fits on the top of one of your stock pots without falling in, cheese cloth (enough to generously line the colander) and containers to store 3 or 4 quarts of stock. The two types of stock I make are vegetable and chicken, which look exactly alike, so I also have packing tape and a permanent marker on hand to label each container “V” or “C”.

Here are the recipes I use:

Chicken Stock

4 carrots – chopped into 2 inch pieces
4 stalks of celery – chopped into 2 inch pieces
4 onions – cut into eight pieces each
15 parsley stems
2 bay leaves
10 peppercorns
1 small chicken

In addition to the equipment listed above, you will need two bowls for sorting the chicken from the bones.

sorting-the-chicken1

sorted chicken

1.     Put all the ingredients in a pot and cover with water.
2.    Bring to a boil and skim off the foam that rises to the surface. Reduce heat and simmer for four hours.
3.    Turn the heat off and let cool.
4.    This is the messy part. Put your extra stock pot in the sink. Put your colander on top of the pot and line the colander with cheese cloth. Go change into a T-shirt that you can splatter chicken grease on and wash your hands. When the stock is cool enough to put your hands into, pull the chicken out and plop it into the colander. I’ve tried using tongs, big spoons and other devices to remove the chicken from the pot and found that good old hands work best. Over the colander, to catch any broth that drips off the chicken, separate the chicken meat from the skin and bones. This step is a mess, but totally worth it. The chicken you will gather is great shredded chicken for chicken salad and/or to put in soups.

5.    Once you recover from that step by throwing the chicken bones away, putting the shredded chicken in the refrigerator and washing your hands again, strain the rest of the stock by pouring vegetables through the cheese cloth and colander. Squeeze the cooked vegetables with your hands to get the juices out. Wrap the (now smashed and sorry) vegetables in the cheese cloth, give the whole thing a final squeeze and throw them away. At this point, I move the stock pot to the counter, wash my hands again and have a cup of coffee.
6.    Pour the finished stock into freezer containers, label and freeze.

 

straining-the-vegetables

straining the vegetables

Vegetable Stock
(much neater, but involves more shopping and chopping – and no great shredded chicken leftovers to show for your efforts)

3 tablespoons butter (for vegan broth, use olive oil)
3 large onions
3 big carrots
1 broccoli stalk
1 large leek
2 stalks celery
1 small zucchini
1 ¼ cup white wine
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove – cut in half
1 whole clove

1.     Cut the onions into rings and sauté in butter.
2.    Add broccoli, leek. Carrots, celery and zucchini and sauté.
3.    Add wine and 4 quarts of water.
4.    Add thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, garlic and clove.
5.    Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours.
7.    Put your extra stock pot in the sink. Put your colander on top of the pot and line the colander with cheese cloth. Strain the stock by pouring vegetables through the cheese cloth and colander. Squeeze the cooked vegetables with your hands to get the juices out. Wrap the (now smashed and sorry) vegetables in the cheese cloth, give the whole thing a final squeeze and throw them away.
6.    Pour the finished stock into freezer containers, label and freeze.