Wednesday, October 27, 2010

a little self promotion

I got an email today that began like this:

"Hello Tracy Williams:

We've reviewed your contributions to Factoidz and selected you to become one of our Staff Writers. Staff Writers are the top writers and experts in our community who have proven their abilities and dedication to the mission and spirit of Factoidz... "

Is there fame or fortune involved? Nope. Is there money at all attached so we can finally move and have a life and friends where Connor can have friends over? Nope. Am I still tickled pink for no tangible reason except the random support from strangers? You betchya.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Sometimes you just need a Cornish Pasty

I’m feeling very, um, old school lately. I’m sick of the new diets, the new fads, vegan or gluten free food. I’m standing firm and looking straight back. I want meat pie, bangers and mash, millionaire shortbread and today; the Cornish pasty. There’s a long, hardworking, eat what’s available history to the Cornish pasty. I try to pay some homage to those women who made these for their husbands heading to the mines back in the day and try not to fancy it up at all. Sometimes good food is, quite simply, good food. The good food is local, seasonal and the very best of the best stuff to cook with. This is my version, I hope the Cornish wives would be proud.

Wandering Sprouts made me realize, delighted, it's winter vegetable time. I am about to sign up withJohnson's Backyard to enjoy the local goodness of my favorite time of year. I know a few people who are fans and luckily handoff the vegetables they can't identify to me! I simply have to sign up and get my own boxes. I think I prefer the winter veggies and am a fan of all of them. Austin doesn't give much Fall weather so I take advantage and cook up a storm when the season hits.

The most time consuming, active participation of this is the chopping. Put on a cool cd, your favorite radio station or plug your ipod into your head, it's not that long and you'll truly feel like you've been involved!

The Pastry;

I make it in a cuisinart because I can and because, well the Cornish wives would have too, if given the opportunity. I also weigh, sorry about that.

250 grams of flour

125 grams of butter/lard mixture

pinch of salt

1 extra large egg and a splash of milk, I’d guess 2 Tbsp.

I pulse the flour and salt, add the fat and pulse until it’s sandy looking then break in an egg and the milk and turn it on until it turns into a ball. Wrap in plastic and put in the fridge for a bit.

OR you can unroll a delicious package of the pre-made stuff.

The Filling

I will give you amounts I used today but you can simply adjust by what you like, it’s the percentage of half meat to veggies that’s really the only big deal. You can use ANY winter vegetable, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, pumpkin, kohlrabi. I used carrot, onion, swede, potato and leek because I love them and they were what was in the fridge.

1 small carrot

1 small onion

1/2 rhutabaga (swede)

1 large potato

1 leek (it’s my welsh heritage sneaking out, I’m passionate about them)

1.5 lbs chuck steak chopped small.

Chop everything small and mix. You can see the percentage of onion/leek to swede to potato. Keep the pieces tiny but not ground, season heavily with salt and pepper and when you think it’s seasoned enough, give it one more turn around.

Roll the pastry and cut into 6′ rounds.

Lay a line of the mixture down the middle and egg wash the entire circle, lift the sides and seal tightly along the top. Brush with egg and bake at 425 for 45 minutes. If they start to darken too much, lay foil loosely over them.

These are fantastic eaten warm or room temperature or cold. I always serve them with Heinz baked beans (in tomato sauce) which I get at my local import store. Some foods simply must be eaten together. I always have loads of filling left and I put it in a ziplock bag in the fridge. I will assembly line make more of these tomorrow, smaller for lunches or snacks and use up the filling. The pastry made 5 healthy pasties today and I simply wasn’t in the mood to make more. You CAN if you would like bake this in a large pie but I don’t think it’s nearly so good for some reason.

I hope you make these and enjoy these and remember that old school is the new cool kid in town. Go to wherever the vegetables are local and seasonal and you'll be delighted with the results.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

I, quite simply, like Quiche

I like quiche and I never ever make it. I'm always delighted to see it at 'mommy' gatherings, baby showers and at PTA functions. My friend made it for me for dinner the other night and I swear it was the best thing I ever ate. The fact that son and I were surrounded by a loving family and everyone was giggling and talking instead of sitting in stoic silence may have had something to do with it, as well as the fact someone ELSE cooked for ME which is a rarity. The fact the eggs came from the chickens in the backyard and it was made with love and was truly delicious is probably the main contributing factors!!

Waking up at 5am on a Sunday, although painful and ridiculous has one small advantage. The ability for me to cook on the weekend without any negative comments, looks or the ever popular "no, I don't want any" which seems to be the standard here now. I love to cook for other people, I just want a smile and a full tummy in response however I'm playing a dangerous game and am keeping track now...the last nine questions I asked (offering food) were answered with "no". Wow.

Today, I want quiche and I will enjoy it and I am having a lovely early morning in the kitchen. I am going to try really hard to not be crushed when no one else wants any.

I am cheating completely because sometimes (particularly at 5am on a Sunday) the last thing you want to do it make pastry. Enter the frozen crust which is now a staple in my freezer for just such an occasion.

I pulled the crust out of the freezer and sat it on the counter, turned on the oven to 375 and opened the fridge door (well, as far as I can open my fridge door, it only opens 80degrees which is a whole new kind of frustrating) to determine what on earth was going to fill my quiche today.


8 slices of bacon - cooked crisp and broken in chards
1/2 onion chopped small and fried in the bacon grease

In a large glass measuring cup (with the spout for ease of pouring)
3/4 cup cream
1 cup milk
4 eggs
salt and pepper
scratch of nutmeg (I use whole nutmeg and grate it just a pinch if you have already ground)
couple of shakes of Herbs d'Provence (or any dried herb you like)
a couple of tablespoons of fresh flatleaf parsley - chopped
1 cup grated old cheddar (I use white English cheddar)


In the almost thawed pie shell, crumble the bacon and evenly spread the fried onions, cover with the cheese and then pour the egg/milk mixture over. I grated a little extra cheese for the top and popped it into the oven, on a tray, on the lowest rack.

I checked at 20 minutes but it wasn't anywhere near done so I set it for another 20 and VOILA! It was puffed, golden and a knife came out clean when inserted into the center.

I think quiche is best at room temperature so it's on a rack on the counter, waiting, waiting, waiting. Its a little torturous not being able to eat it yet so I'm doing this instead. Did I mention it looks divine?

apparently son loved it too! *yay*


Monday, October 18, 2010

FAT chocolate chip cookies

I love a good chocolate chip cookie. I seriously doubt there's a person who doesn't like one! Well, I know one person but they don't like anything. The rest of us will be intoxicated by the smell of them baking and the warm gooey-ness of them straight out of the oven.

I will take this opportunity to draw my line in the sand; I strongly dislike thin, flat, crispy chocolate chip cookies. If you're a fan of those types [and I guess SOMEONE has to be] then I suggest you avert your eyes. We are going short, fat, chewy, slightly gooey here and although I try not to play in self-deprecation land, they're rather like me in that regard.

It's an old school, back in the day recipe. There's a reasons we revisit those recipes, they were good. They were easy and they were ab-so-lutely delicious. Take your "only pure butter will do" purist hat off, we're going into shortening land here, get a pen, you'll be making these shortly.

Thick Chocolate Chip Cookies

In a bowl/mixer blend

3/4 cup shortening (I'm a crisco girl here and don't even try to use butter flavor, it's a horrible acrid flavor)
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbs milk
2 tsp vanilla

When it's nicely blended, no need to whip or cream.

Add 1 egg

When it's incorporated, blend then add

1 3/4 cup a/p flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

When that's nicely mixed add

1 cup chocolate chips [semi sweet today but milk will do]

Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 375 for 12 minutes. Mine take 12 minutes because I make them small which, for me, justifies eating an entire plateful at a sitting "they just tiny". If you make them larger, adjust the cooking time, we want them just set in the middle so they stay soft. The shortening stops them from spreading too much so you can load up your sheet pan.

Old school, easy, delicious. Go make!

*and yes, I'm terribly terribly disturbed that this cookie looks as though it's sticking it's tongue out at me but will more than likely devour it anyway, from the other side of course!


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chicken Scallopini, that's what's for dinner

Ok, so HEB has split chicken breasts on sale for $1.00/lb again. Go, load up, it's crazy cheap and you can roast them with skin and bone or you can take the meat off and make my ridiculous cheap, tasty and easy chicken scallopini as well as about a million other recipes.

See me be lazy about it today, I'm going to send you back to to check out the details. I tried their slideshow option, let me know what you think.

Cooler weather and cheap chicken are too tempting for me and since Connor loves loves loves this meal, it's his favorite directly behind my schnitzel and buttered noodles, I think I'll make it for him soon. I have recently been making my ciabatta dough recipe, half of it and laying it as a big blob on parchment paper after it's initial rise. Poke finger holes in it, drizzle it with olive oil and hide minced garlic in the holes so it doesn't burn. Let it sit on the counter until the oven is 500 degrees and bake it off util it's cooked. It has a different texture and more a true foccacia than other recipes I've tried. It's a nice addition.

Anyway, Connor's had a rough time these last two weeks. Since today is mom/son night, maybe I'll do it as a special dinner for us to reconnect, talk about the pain in the butt that is middle school and be sure we're both still doing ok.

Let me know what you think about the recipe and slideshow - oh and go make it, it's crazy good!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Scones, more of the same and slightly different

I cooked today.

I looked for sultanas and currents but couldn't find them for my 'classic' scone. I made them with raisins which are far too big (for my taste) and next time I'll be sure to have sultanas here. I can't believe they seem to be a specialty item at my local grocery *ugh*.

They still turned out amazing. These suckers are 2 inches high. I glazed them with a little vanilla glaze. It made them better. Also the raspberry/lemon scones are the original recipe and size, i like these better. The orange got out the door before I got a shot of them.

I delivered them to the office, husband handed them out, less than 5 minutes, gone.

I'm trying to figure how to get into some other offices to sell the scones. If the cupcake people can do it, why on earth can't I? I mean everyone likes a cupcake every once in a while but show me a savory one *ick* and sometimes people want a little bit less sweet... yeah... I need to figure out how to do this.

I think a couple of offices, one delivery a day would suit just fine, fresh out of the oven, delivered and then still loads of time for the writing and volunteering and other things I love to do. (Loopers, how I miss you).

Ok, this is my mission, ideas??

In any event, here's what I did today:

/enjoy the pics, I'll post the raisin scone recipe next time, I have a 6th grade dance to chaperone.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

White Bread, single loaf

I'm back firmly (and widely) in the saddle, culinarily speaking. I have most definitely been inspired by the "cooler" temperatures, dry weather and early morning freedom that comes when husband heads off to work.

I don't do well standing around waiting for him to leave - don't people have offices? - and I am incapable of getting into anything while he is still here. That being said, I went on the ciabatta AND single white loaf kick. Both were done by noon and, frankly, delicious.

I tried a new morph for the single white loaf. Recently the loaves I do are too heavy and stodgy. I don't like heavy and stodgy. Son liked them and said they were "ok" but I wasn't happy. I've been playing with the single loaf for a while and, ta da!, I mastered it. I make this when we need sandwich bread. Son used to buy lunch, then take it and now he wants "good" cheese and home made bread, um, really? you're eleven for pete's sake - his wife's going to be annoyed with me.

I wrote the recipe and procedure out on my spot but here's some pics in a better size and format:
*each rise was about an hour in an oven with the light on.

I also played with my standard ciabatta recipe today but I left the loaves to rise much longer, I was futzing between ovens (yes I have two) so there was a longer delay and it turned out to be a good thing. I will definitely be adopting this the next time I make ciabatta!
*that first rise in the bowl took 30 minutes! the yeast was insane an apparently loves the weather as much as me!

Make bread. You'll be happy


Monday, October 4, 2010

Lasagna night

Tonight, it's lasagna night. It's finally cooling into the 50's in the morning here in Austin but still up to the 80's in the afternoon. I have a hankering and lasagna it is. A couple of quick supplies at the store, a jar of my favorite marinara, ricotta and mozzarella. I have frozen meat sauce, parmesan, eggs and noodles at the house. Lasagna has fallen into the "that which needs to be made when you have the whole day" and really, that's completely wrong. 45 minute drive to get home, walk in the door at 4:20, game on.

There are no amounts here because I don't know how much sauce you have in your freezer, how cheesy you like things and what size pan you feel like making.

I usually do this as roll ups but it was just quicker to do it as a more typical lasagna, next time I'll do the rollups and take pics because they're so much easier to handle after the fact and freeze in smaller portions so you can feed one or 20.

Here's tonight's game:

Put kettle on when I walk in the door, place large pan beside kettle and empty contents of lasagna noodle box into the pan. It's a 9x13 metal pan, this is merely a soaking vessel. I don't cook the full cook noodles before I assemble but rather let them soak in hot water until they become limp.

Turn oven to 400

Get sauce out of freezer and throw in microwave - get it to slightly warmer than room temperature.

DING, Kettle boiling! Pour the water in to cover the noodles, leave 15 minutes.

In large bowl, combine the ricotta (36oz container) a handful of parmesan, a handful of mozzarella and an egg. Stir like heck and add pepper, nutmeg and raw baby spinach chopped up small - yummy.

Open jar of marinara, insert spoon and place on assembly bar. Pour large glass of wine and enjoy a sampling, you've had a rough day and this is a good pause spot.

DING, the sauce is warm, noodles sufficiently soaked, let's party!

Layer in a 9x13 glass dish, sauce, noodles, cheese, meat sauce, parmesan, noodles, marinara, mozzarella. Repeat as many times as you like, convention says 3 layers - yeah, I do 4.

Cover the whole thing with the remaining marinara and cover liberally and luxuriously with mozzarella and parmesan.

Cover with tinfoil, place on sheetpan (this WILL bubble everywhere) and shove into the oven. It should be bubbling all over within about 35-40 minutes, remove the foil and let it go another 15 or so till it's brown and gooey. I add more cheese for the last 15 because this isn't diet food, now matter how big a salad you serve with it.

Pour another glass of wine, tidy up the counters. Text with your friend, check your Facebook or read a blog, relax. Within 29 minutes, dinner is in the oven and you're off duty for the rest of the night.

As I type this, I'm waiting for it to come out of the oven so more pics will follow. Oh and the wine is a Chilean Merlot - Frontera.

Husband texted me he was going to be late so I sent him these pictures. I'm kind of sweet like that and son had two servings. We are solidly in preteen land.

ya, it was that good. Make it, in the middle of the week, you'll be happy.


Friday, October 1, 2010

It makes me wonder - why only the cupcake people?

It's a Friday morning, I have sent two batches of scones, one raspberry lemon, one orange, with husband to work to share with his cubicle-mates. The orange, by the way, might just be my new favorite, I simply added some orange zest into the dough and glazed with an orange juice/powdered sugar mix and bingo, a rather delicious scone. I used a fresh orange, used most of the zest and half of the juice and ate the other half while I waited for them to bake. It counted as breakfast.

I just threw another batch of raspberry lemon into the oven - I have another request for a batch at a business.

I was half joking when I said I should sell them, I thought the people were joking when they said they'd buy them, am I starting something here?

17 minutes is too much free time for my mind these days - I wonder what a scone would taste like if you rolled it out, slathered it with cinnamon, sugar and butter (like a cinnamon bun) then folded it, cut it and baked it. Then drizzled it with a cream cheese icing, loose enough to drizzle? I could pretend it's research and I think I have just enough half and half. To heck with another coffee, sometimes you just have to take one for the team and I'll do it, all in the name of a cinnamon bun scone.

Yeah, that's where we are going now - sometimes abundant groceries in the house leads to too much freedom. I'll let you know how it goes.


OH MY GOD. I made them. I ate one. I walked out of the kitchen, apparently I cannot be trusted. Yes, they are insanely delicious and the added butter through the middle gives them a crispier texture, they are crazy good. Here it is:


2 cups a/p flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 Tbsp baking powder

cut in:
1/2 stick butter mixed

mix in with a knife
3/4 cup half and half mixed with
1 healthy tsp vanilla

it's a shaggy, wet dough, don't over-mix.

Dump it onto heavily floured parchment paper (trust me here, it's so much easier) and pull it together into a semi-cohesive ball. Flatten with floured hands, lightly, and roll it out to a rectangle approx 1/2 thick and approx 9x13 ish.

Spread the dough lightly with softened butter. Dust a light coating of brown sugar and shake a little cinnamon over it evenly. No measurements here because it depends on the size of your rectangle, just a light coating of each.

Fold the rectangle, length-ways, twice - into thirds basically. Use a heavily floured knife (I use a bench scraper) to cut into triangles.

Gently separate the triangles and transfer the parchment onto a sheetpan, bake for 20 minutes at 375. Remove the scones after they've rested a few minutes onto a rack and drizzle them with this:


2 oz softened cream cheese
1 Tbsp softened unsalted butter
drizzle of vanilla
3/4 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup squeeze of orange juice

Mix until a thick-ish drizzling consistency. Add water if it's too thick and a little more icing sugar if it's too thin...

Drizzle, eat, get a cup of coffee and a book and take a few minutes to just indulge. I'm backing out of the kitchen now, I've done enough damage for the day ;-) Good thing it's happy hour after school today, it'll keep me out of here!