As part of my Christmas baking this year, I made these pecan shortbread. They go by many names–Mexican Mice, Mexican Wedding Cookies, Russian Teacakes, Snow Balls.
I made them with pecans (some ground, some chopped) and a gluten-free flour blend. When they are hot, you carefully coat them with icing sugar. The steam from the cookies helps it stick. The last time I made them, over 15 years ago (!), my niece dubbed them Dusty Thingies, which fits.
This time, I used a different recipe–a version that increases the amount of nuts in the batter. I did like the increase in nuts. However, I also like the richness of my tried-and-true recipe (from Edna Staebler’s Food That Really Schmecks). I guess that means that I will be forced to make these again, after Christmas, to get the perfect butter:nut:flour ratio… Such is life.
When I was a kid, I loved a sandwich spread my mom used to make: grated radishes and cheddar cheese, with a bit of mayo to hold it together. I ate it as a sandwich filling, on toast and on crackers.
Now that I avoid bread products, I had been trying to come up with new ways to eat it. I think it would be lovely on a bed of lightly dressed greens. And it might be quite good blended with grated cabbage.
But, as I am always working on my quest to find new french fry toppings, it occurred to me that this spread might be fantastic on fries. The scientist in me demanded that I try it, and I can report that it was in fact fantastic. The radish and cheese mixture was nicely chilled, and it made a great contrast with the hot fries. I did four layers: fries, radish spread, fries, radish spread. It was really good and I highly recommend it.
How to make the spread: Grate equal parts of red radishes and old cheddar. Moisten as much as you like with mayonnaise or miracle whip. Add salt and pepper to taste. And that’s it. Enjoy it with the substrate of your choice.
One of my favourite brunch places is Over Easy. Both locations offer efficient service, endless hot coffee and delicious food. Their servers are top notch. But, thanks to the pandemic, Over Easy has been closed for over a year.
My favourite menu item is their Eggy Hammy Cheesy. Their version is described as “a halved & toasted English muffin topped w/ Dijon, three cheese sauce, off-the-bone baked ham, melted aged cheddar cheese & 2 eggs sunny side up, served w/ home fries.” I order it without the English muffin, and it is amazing.
Last week, I made my own version of it.
I started by cubing some ham and then browning it in a pan. Then I toasted a Glutino English muffin and spread grainy Dijon mustard on each half. I fried two eggs in butter and placed one on each muffin half. I reheated a generous amount of cheese sauce made with white Cheddar and poured it over both eggs. Then I sprinkled the crispy ham across the top.
My version was very good, but obviously not the same. I look forward to having the Over Easy version some day soon, in the middle of a bustling restaurant. Fingers crossed.
Some time ago, I bought a large jar of pickled eggplant. I like eggplant and was curious what the pickled version would be like. I had no idea how to use it, though, so I googled it. Of course, most of the answers involved bread products (sandwiches, crusty bread). And while I do use bought bread products occasionally, I try not to eat them too frequently.
I am also attempting to systematically use up items in my pantry. So that meant coming up with a non-bread way to use my eggplant. I like the idea of using it in a red Thai curry, and I like the idea of using it with pasta. I plan to try those later.
Yesterday, I decided to use it in a topping for french fries. I sliced up three small onions and fried them until they were just starting to turn golden. I added in about 1/4 cup each of pickled eggplant and pickled banana peppers. I put some fries in the oven to bake and let the onions, eggplant and peppers continue to cook together on medium low, and grated some old cheddar.
When the fries were done, I laid out a base layer on a plate. I added a layer of grated cheese, and then all of the onion topping. I added another layer of cheese and then placed the plate back in the hot oven for about five minutes to let the cheese melt.
The combination of flavours in the topping is fantastic. Cooking the vegetables together on the stove let the heat from the pickles infuse throughout the mixture. It was sweet, tangy and spicy. The acidity cut through the richness of the cheese nicely.
I think the combination would work well as a non-fry topping as well, either hot or cold. I am going to experiment with that next. It would be great to come up with an interesting vegan side dish. After all, I have a 750 mL jar of pickled eggplant to get through…
It occurred to me today that one of my guiding principles in the kitchen may simply be finding new ways to eat melted cheese.
Gluten-free living means eating far fewer sandwiches and more things that are free form, like dips.
I happened to have leftover buffalo wing sauce so, in the interests of using up leftovers, I made this dip. I sliced up four green onions, gently cooked two large chicken breasts in the microwave, and grated about two cups of old cheddar. I mixed a package of cream cheese with the leftover buffalo wing sauce, and added in the onions, shredded chicken and half the cheese. I put it all in a pie plate, sprinkled the rest of the cheese on top, and put in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.
As predicted, it was incredibly cheesy. And good. You can vary the heat by choosing how much hot sauce to add. My version had gratuitous butter, in the name of using up leftovers. This made it a bit richer than necessary, but it was still very tasty.
If we ever have potlucks again, this would be a good dish to take. And the heated up leftovers will make an awesome addition to an egg sandwich tomorrow morning.
I have memories of making a recipe for squares obsessively when I was a kid. I remember that they had butterscotch chips and nuts. I loved the squares, and I made them whenever I was allowed to.
Many years later, the obsessive part of my nature has not disappeared. I have been searching, on and off, for a recipe that seemed similar to what I remember for a few years now. I have a feeling that the recipe came from my mother’s old Good Housekeeping cookbook, which is now in storage. So, whenever I thought about, I would do a deep dive into the internet and see what I could find.
Well, I eventually found this recipe. Of course, I had to try it. I bought fresh pecans, which was the only critical ingredient I didn’t have on hand. I used a gluten-free flour blend for the crust, plus a little in the filling. They turned out beautifully. They are reminiscent of a butter tart—a loaded butter tart, that is. The nuts and coconut and butterscotch chips all boost the square into something that is very moreish. And snacking on them is easy, because they are so small. The recipe says you can get 64 squares out of a batch. I got 42 rectangles, none of which were huge.
I was a bit concerned that they might be really sweet—my tastes have changed since I was eight… But they were really great. The coconut and nuts tempered the sweetness. It probably helped that I used unsweetened coconut, too.
These would be great to take to a potluck, give as a gift or serve as a company dessert. And they were well-received by gluten eaters—my brother declared that they were “not maliciously gluten-free,” which is high praise coming from him.
I don’t know if this is the same recipe, but it sure seems pretty close. And I will be making them again. Conveniently, I have enough pecans for a second batch.
Since travel to warmer parts of the world is off the table right now, I thought I would bring a little piece of the tropics to me.
I mixed pineapple nectar, grenadine, lime juice and white rum to create this lovely drink. I made a large batch and am keeping it chilled in my fridge. Given the chilly weather outside right now, ice cubes seemed inappropriate. I do love the whimsy of this glassware, though. It certainly elevates this drink a little.
Sometimes I get obsessed with a recipe and cannot stop thinking about it until I have bought the ingredients. I saw this lovely rosti recipe earlier this week and instantly my brain was filled with thoughts of toasted parsnips and potatoes. The recipe suggests serving it with sour cream laced with caramelized onions, both of which are staples in my diet, so it seemed like a no-brainer.
I made the rosti (with grated potatoes and parsnips and finely sliced onions) in my cast iron pan. When it was fresh, I topped a slab of it with two sunny-side-up eggs, and it was glorious.
Today, I am enjoying leftovers. I sliced the cold rosti, heated it in the microwave and ate it smeared with the caramelized onion sour cream. Bliss. A comforting dish to help you fight the dark days of late December.
I just made this omelette and it was incredibly tasty. Its execution was far from technically perfect (I should have used a different pan), but my mouth couldn’t tell the difference.
I had some leftover mushrooms that had been fried in butter with garlic, salt and pepper and some leftover caramelized onions. I also had already grated pecorino romano, so with very little effort today, I got to both gain fridge space and eat a fantastic breakfast. Win-win.
There are certain activities that help keep me sane—such as walking, reading, taking photos, writing—and during the pandemic, I have been trying to make them a priority. One of these activities has always been creative cooking—me, in the kitchen, experimenting away. This blog was born purely so I could blend cooking, photography and writing all together.
I feel freest when I know I have the kitchen to myself for several hours and am free to make a complete mess as I create. Because of the lack of other spaces and places for everyone to be right now, it’s been harder to get a block of time in the kitchen lately. Well, yesterday, I finally had energy, time and a free kitchen. So this is what I made.
I have been wanting to roast a duck for a while now, so when I saw them on sale (and knew I would have the kitchen to myself), I had to buy one. I used this high-heat roasting method, rubbing the outside with just salt and pepper. While the duck was cooking, I made the sides. I made jasmine rice, adding chopped garlic to the cooking water. I made two sauces to go with the duck—a cream sauce with black pepper and caramelized onions and a marmalade sauce spiked with chili flakes and ground sichuan pepper. To round out the plate, I made my current favourite vegetable, whole green onions pan-fried in butter.
The meal was fabulous. The marmalade sauce was as good as I imagined it would be when I first thought of it a couple of months ago, and it went beautifully with the duck. The onion cream sauce was addictive (I only made it because I had leftover heavy cream to use up rather than because I thought it would go, but it was indeed a happy result).
Now my fridge is full of neatly stacked containers of leftovers for me to work my way through. And, most importantly, I got to play in the kitchen.