Monday, December 30, 2013


I am trying to organize my cookbooks...not sure if I have a system nailed down or not.  I've got:

36 canning/food preservation books
35 celebrity chef cookbooks, NYT Cookbooks
4 Christmas baking
11 books on pressure cooking or crock pot cooking
18 books on camp cookery or cooking wild or foraged foods
61 cookbooks that I consider "the standards" - i.e. Joy of Cooking, Farm Journal, Cooks Illustrated, BH&G
15 vegetarian
11 various and sundry cookbooks like candy making, soups, Jello etc
6 books on BBQ and meat smoking
5 cooking reference books - i.e. McGee, etc
13 ethnic food cookbooks - many of them Polish food
37 Michigan cookbooks
20 American region cookbooks, most of them Southern or Amish
67 vintage cookbooks that don't fit into the above categories
at least 5 (but there are more, I just haven't gone through all my books to find them and reshelve, about cooking i.e. Laurie Colwin, Ruth Reichl, etc

That's 344 and counting!  I don't have very many of them cataloged yet in Eat Your Books, but I hope to get it done some day. It's a great tool to keep track of all your recipes in all your cookbooks.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Cinnamon Rolls for Christmas

Last night (Christmas Eve) was busy for me – I sang in the choir at 7:30 pm Mass, and I made a lasagna to cook while we were at church for a late supper before we opened our gifts.  the teenagers now like to sleep in on Christmas morning.   I remember the days when they wanted to get up really early to see what Santa brought.   So as the midnight hour approached, I contemplated Christmas breakfast….what to make?   Cinnamon rolls sounded awfully good, but I wasn’t in the mood to make the dough.  I have become a big fan of combining leaveners in bread to get a quicker result – the combination of three kinds of leavening in “bridal” or “angel” biscuits is the secret to the world famous Loveless CafĂ© biscuits in Nashville.   So when I saw a recipe in Cook's Country for a quick cinnamon roll, I decided to give it a shot.    There’s only 2 minutes of kneading and 30 minutes of rising!  Perfect for Christmas morning.  I am always the first to get up anyway.   Here's my take on their recipe....these were fantastic!  My son said they are better than Cinnabon - and they only took about an hour and a half, start to finish, to make.  

Christmas Cinnamon Rolls

1 1/4 cups milk
4 teaspoons instant yeast (aka bread machine yeast)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons salt
6 tablespoons butter, melted

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted

Melt 10 tablespoons butter in the microwave in a measuring cup.

Grease 9-inch round cake pan, line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper, and grease parchment. Pour ¼ cup milk in small bowl and microwave  15 to 20 seconds. Stir in yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar and let sit until mixture is bubbly, about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, make the filling - combine brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and salt in bowl. Stir in melted butter and vanilla until mixture resembles wet sand; set aside.   Returning to the dough - whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining 5 teaspoons sugar together in large bowl.  Stir in 2 tablespoons butter, yeast mixture, and remaining 1 cup milk until dough forms (dough will be sticky). Transfer dough to well-floured counter and knead until smooth ball forms, about 2 minutes.

Roll dough into 12 by 9-inch rectangle, with long side parallel to counter edge. Brush dough all over with 2 tablespoons butter, leaving ½-inch border on far edge. Sprinkle dough evenly with filling, then press filling firmly into dough. Using bench scraper or metal spatula, loosen dough from counter. Roll dough away from you into tight log and pinch seam to seal. Don’t be afraid to pinch it hard.  Roll log seam side down and cut into 8 equal pieces.   Start by cutting the roll in half, and then the halves in half, and then the quarters in half and then they will be even thickness.  Stand rolls on end and gently re-form ends that were pinched during cutting.   Repinch any pinches that have started to unravel. Place 1 bun in center of prepared pan and others around perimeter of pan, seam sides facing in. Brush tops of buns with remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Cover rolls loosely with plastic wrap.

Use your microwave as a proofing box! I learned this trick from Christopher Kimball’s The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook. I'm not sure why they don’t tell you to do this in the ATK magazines, but this trick works like a charm.  It revolutionized my bread baking for sure!  Heat a measuring cup with about a half cup of water in it in the microwave for 2 minutes.  Leave the cup of steaming water in the oven – move it to the back corner and put the pan of rolls in the oven and shut the door, and let rise for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile preheat the oven to 375 degrees and put the rack on the bottom position. 

Discard plastic and bake until edges are well browned,  about 25-30 minutes. Loosen rolls from sides of pan with paring knife and let cool for 5 minutes. Invert large plate over cake pan. Using potholders, flip plate and pan upside down; remove pan and parchment. Reinvert buns onto wire rack, set wire rack inside parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, and let cool for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the glaze.  Place cream cheese in small bowl and whisk in the butter that is left, milk, vanilla, and salt until smooth. Whisk in sugar until smooth. Pour glaze evenly over tops of buns, spreading with spatula to cover.

These cinnamon rolls were wonderful!  Merry Christmas and happy cooking. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Gift Idea: Hot Cocoa

Here is a Christmas gift I want to try this year...saw this all over Pinterest. but I am going to make it with a hot cocoa recipe I saw in The America's Test Kitchen DIY Cookbook

The cookbook suggests mixing it with milk, but I'd do it with water if I was also using Baileys.  I'd also make it in pint jar, so it could make one serving.  

Makes 10 jars

10 pint jars
10 "airplane sized" bottles of Bailey's
1.5 cups nonfat dry milk
1 cups confectioners' sugar
3/4  cups Dutch-processed cocoa powder
3/4 cups white chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon Salt
bag of mini marshmallows

Combine ingredients in large bowl. Pulse ingredients in food processor until chocolate is finely ground.  Put 1/3 cup hot cocoa mix in each jar, top with marshmallows.  To make hot cocoa, stir contents of the jar into 1 cup of hot water, add Baileys.

The SodaStream Experiment

the start of the snowstorm
On Friday, there were dire predictions of a big snowstorm, but we were taking it with a grain of salt since so often the TV news likes to whip up a weather frenzy.    I decided it was time to experiment with my new kitchen gadget, the SodaStream Genesis.   The good people of SodaStream sent me one to evaluate last month, and I was curious about them because I couldn't see why they were flying off the shelves at the stores.  Do people really need a soda water maker?  I lived in an old house in Hancock when I was in grad school, and it had a vintage seltzer water bottle in the bar.    In the days before a person could buy club soda in a bottle or can, you'd have to make your own.    Plus, I have always wanted to try my hand at making my own tonic water for vodka and tonics, but have yet to figure out where I can get the cinchona bark to make my own quinine.   But I am getting ahead of myself...

The snowstorm was late - it was supposed to start at 9 pm.  I was nervous to let the teenagers drive to the movies to see the new Hobbit, but since the snow wasn't happening yet, common sense prevailed.   As it happened, my son saw the actual start of the snowstorm when he returned after midnight.   So much for meteorological predictions!   The SodaStream people had sent me tons of syrups to evaluate, and so far, so good.  Their cola tastes surprisingly good, and it's very fizzy.  I decided to make my own syrup for this holiday cocktail (shown above) by using cranberry juice concentrate - the frozen stuff in a can.  It worked out fantastic!

Cranberry Fizz

1 oz. cranberry juice concentrate
1 shot vodka
Club soda (either storebought or home made)
Lime wedge

Add cranberry juice concentrate and vodka to glass, stir.  Add soda and ice, stir.  Garnish with lime wedge.

Making the cocktail this way reduces the calories, and thus the WW points for this cocktail to just 3, which is great for a cocktail. 

So, I had to sit down and "do the math" on whether it's actually worth it to buy a SodaStream.  The cost of my Genesis is around $100.   I thought that I'd have to buy a new SodaStream CO2 cartridge after it was used up (it can make 60 L of soda) but I found out yesterday when I was at Costco it can be refilled at Home Depot for about $5, but SodaStream doesn't recommend that.  Instead, you can exchange it at Target, Home Depot, Kohls, etc. for a recharged cartridge for about $15. 

I prefer to buy my soda in 10 oz. glass bottles, instead of larger plastic bottles.  At my local grocery store, I pay $4.99 for 6 10 oz bottles, but I could make it for over a $1 less with the soda stream, including the cost of the machine.   All in all, the SodaStream is well worth it.  I am looking forward to taking less returnables back to the store, which is a good thing.    The snowstorm actually DID still is happening in fact.  We got a total of 6 inches here....

....and here is the view from the front door....

Glad we are going to have a white Christmas this year!