Domestics, Food and Drink

Mom’s Molasses Ginger Snap Cookies

An historic batch, circa Thanksgiving 2009
An historic batch, circa Thanksgiving 2009

Mom’s Molasses Ginger Snap Cookies

Ingredients:
¾ cup butter-flavored shortening
1 cup sugar
¼ cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups flour
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cloves
½ tsp ginger

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream shortening, add sugar, egg, molasses, then dry
ingredients. Form into a ball. Roll in sugar.

On a lightly greased cookie sheet, bake for 9 minutes at most. Check at 7 or 8 minutes. Cool on a rack. To keep them a little soft, store before cooling completely.

(This is a much less domestic blog than it used to be, but it’s a good place to save a recipe my family likes. We picked this one up at the first church I served. I’ve made a tweak or two and now claim the recipe as mine.)

Food and Drink, Mothering

Love Beets

“That’s a colorful salad,” LP commented appreciatively.

I’m finding this adjustment to permanently cooking for basically only two a challenge. LP eats dinner with her dad three times a week, and I am not good at making sure I eat a proper meal under those circumstances. I’m a little better at doing it for the two of us, but in recent weeks, with the busy of Lent upon me, my meal prep has been poor.

And my shopping has been worse.

And I feel guilty about it. I know better. I know if there is good food at home, we will eat it, and it will be better for us. I know there have been times I shopped and planned, for just the two of us, even in Lent.

So this afternoon we spent some time after school at Whole Foods, picking out things that looked both good and nutritious. Tonight we had bean and cheese burritos (organic beans, organic cheese, whole wheat tortillas, salsa) and a big salad of mixed greens, shredded carrots, avocado and sunflower seeds with a balsamic maple vinaigrette of my own composition.

LP, who acknowledges she needs to develop some kitchen skills, stirred beans and salsa in a small saucepan while I heated the tortillas in the large skillet. While we cooked we ate “Love Beets,” infused with balsamic and white wine vinegar. They were good for my mood, which had still been mildly defensive over a conversation about what we have at home that can be packed in a school lunch. After 25 years of motherhood, I’m tired of contending with packed lunches. And at almost 50, my goat can still be gotten by the implication that I am less than fully effective at that 25 year “career.”

Okay, maybe my mood was more than mildly defensive. I want to do everything well, and I can’t, and I get mad at myself about it.

The beats of parenting go on and on, and I know they won’t end when LP stops packing lunches and packs her bags for college in two years instead. They come in the Facebook chat box and after individualized rings on my iPhone. I look hope that despite the recent disarrangements, these children of mine will be okay. I remind myself that at the best of times, I am not the best-organized shopper or cooker and pray other things matter more.

I try to remember the Love Beats, the encounters infused with humor, and solemn affection. And then my mood lifts, if I’ll let it.

Food and Drink, Lectionary

About Salt

Today I made soup, from scratch.

I started with a chicken. I made up my mind to do this after LP and I enjoyed a thrown-together chicken soup the other night using a carton of chicken broth and some lasagna noodles from an open box in the cupboard and whatever else we saw fit to toss into the pot.

So I went to the store on Monday and picked up a chicken, and this morning, I looked for a recipe including at Pioneer Woman Cooks, because someone mentioned her the other day, and I know I’ve loved her recipes before. I got a huge description there of how to do the whole process, from cooking the chicken (how long, so it doesn’t get overcooked, for instance) and all sorts of little picky pieces of turning a chicken into stock and then turning stock into soup. I had a whole chicken, not a package of thighs, so I made a few adaptations along the way, including a friend’s recommendation to use fresh rosemary.

Snowman and I made soup the last couple of times he was home, but each time we didn’t seem to have the seasoning right, so I paid special attention to that part of the recipe. And I was astounded by the amount of salt called for: Lawry’s and Jane’s Mixed Up Salt and Celery Salt and all of that on top of Chicken Base, which is surely also salty.

I only have regular old Morton’s Salt on hand. And it’s a snow day. So I made do. And I put in more salt than I would ever think of doing, right from the beginning.

It made me a little uncomfortable. I grew up in one of those low salt households, because my daddy took those little red blood pressure pills, and my mother paid attention to the doctor’s instructions to watch his salt. She once expressed horror when she saw me put salt in water I had boiled to cook pasta. The look on her face felt like a slap.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.” (Matthew 5:13, NRSV)

When #1 Son was a sitting up baby, I went out to lunch with my mother-in-law, and we set him up in a high chair at the end of our table, and without thinking to ask, she opened a package of crackers–Waverly Wafers, I think–and gave him one. He picked it up and put it in his mouth, and his eyes got wide. It was the first time he had tasted anything really salty. He put his hand out for another.

Salt matters. Oh, yes, there can be too much. There can be. But salt brings out the other flavors and makes everything taste fuller and deeper.

I tasted the stock before I added the carrots and celery and onions to begin making it really soup, and I knew the truth. It needed just a little more.

I poured a little salt into my hand and let it fly into the pot.

And it was good.

Christmas, Food and Drink

Paté

I used to see my father-in-law and my sister-in-law from the first marital go-round whip up something with the livers while our holiday turkey cooked slowly in the oven. I knew they made pate, but what they did to make it appear remained as much a mystery to me as getting an accent mark over the final "e" in this blog post (cut-and-paste worked for the title). 

paté — there it is, but I can't seem to paste it where I want and I get a different font and when I do paste it, I'm sent back to the beginning of the post.

[return]

Cooking by myself, with only the assistance of my children, feels sort of like that. I have ideas, and I paid attention to *some* things, but now that we don't do the holidays themselves with certain parts of the family, I am on my own if I want to make

paté — here we go again.

I looked it up online: turkey liver

paté — sigh —

one message board discouraged the use of turkey liver for such a purpose, as it has too strong a flavor. A blog suggested using such massive amounts of butter that I felt sure eating the product would be unwise.

Finally I decided to fake it, based on what I remembered as best I could, and #1 Son offered to help, since he was in the kitchen helping bring about Christmas dinner anyway. It seemed appropriate that #1 Son should help me, since I ate my first

paté

(that's getting tiresome now)

while
pregnant with him. After that I craved it, and I remember making a
homemade version in the blender. It was 1986 or 7, and it would be many
years before I had a food processor. I don't know if this version
really meets the definition.

paté — yes, the cursor went back to the start again, but here we go with the recipe:

Ingredients for Turkey Liver Pate (just imagine the accent mark this time)–

turkey livers as found in your bird, chopped in small pieces

one onion, chopped small (ours was medium)

half a stick of butter

one apple, peeled and chopped coarsely

We put all of this in a saute pan (not even going there on the accent mark, I hope you understand) and cooked until the livers were medium well, by my standards, then added a little red wine.

So

1/4 cup red wine

There were some spices, too:

Salt

Ground pepper

Cinnamon (a sprinkle)

Nutmeg (a little less even)

Fennel seeds–I had nothing to do with this, it happened behind my back and the only measurement admitted by #1 Son was "a few seeds."

I guess these were all actually there before the wine.

We brought this to a boil, then took it off the heat and added

1/4 cup half and half (though I must admit these liquid measurements are approximate)

We put it all into the food processor and let fly!

Then we put it in a bowl, because there are no small terrines here, Santa. You might want to consider that next year. We refrigerated it about an hour.

paté — wow, it was a long way back that time — was served along with cheese and crackers before Christmas dinner and declared delicious by all — well, except maybe Pure Luck, who ate some when I told him to close his eyes and then gave it to him on a cracker. "It's not anything I would seek out on my own."

Oh well.

This whole Christmas felt like a return to "home," as I realized I was doing things not to suit anyone else but because they were things *I* liked to do. I ironed a tablecloth, and I chose particular glasses that made one of my children laugh and another ask how to pick up such a long-stemmed contraption. I made gravy the way my former sister-in-law taught me, but fixed stuffing from a box just like my mother. We had a good meal and a rousing game of Apples to Apples over dessert.

We were six, my husband and I and the three children and their father.

We laughed until tears came into my eyes, more than once. We read the Christmas cards from far and near and looked at pictures of weddings and babies and cousins and friends and the grandchildren of schoolmates (well, not my schoolmates).

And it felt like 

paté

not what everyone else would seek out on a Christmas night, but somehow right for us.

Food and Drink

Joanna’s Molasses Ginger Snap Cookies

***I made cookies for tomorrow's fair at Large Church, where they have a Cookie Walk. Over the years I sold Christmas stockings and ornaments with the Mother's Group, and even worked as the lunch cashier with Baby LP on my back. I hope they have a successful day tomorrow and that these cookies are a hit.***

This recipe came from a treasured member of Small Church; in my recipe file, they carry her name. A double batch made about six dozen.

¾ cup shortening (I used the butter-flavored Crisco this time–delicious!)
1 cup sugar
¼ cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups flour
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cloves
½ tsp ginger

Cream shortening, add sugar, egg, molasses, then dry ingredients.  Form into a ball.  Roll in sugar.

Bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet at 375 degrees, for 9 minutes at most.  (Check at 7 or 8 minutes.)

Chez Songbird, Children, Crazy Busy, Food and Drink

Slow Cooking

Because I've worked every day since I returned from vacation, I took off early yesterday and have a full day off today. All three of my children are here, as well as #1 Son's new friend, Pretty Poet. She arrived by bus from Slice of the Big Apple yesterday.  We spent part of the afternoon looking at his baby pictures and most of the rest cooking another ridiculously complicated and delicious dinner. #1 Son is clearly his grandfather's grandson. Papa has always cooked for pleasure, studying with James Beard years ago in a class at Beard's brownstone, making every family meal an event. #1 Son and I thought up the menu, and he expanded it by including everything in the refrigerator that could possibly be a part of it.

After reading Michael Pollan's article in the NY Times Magazine (online version, I admit) and then hearing the interview with him on Fresh Air last week, I want to cook more. I want to be part of a movement to keep cooking alive! But wow! Really cooking things takes a lot of time. The big meals we cooked this week reminded me of cooking on holidays. They felt like Summer Festivals of Dinner!

When we played D&D the other night with the kids and Snowman's good friend, Underhill, I planned to cook, but Pure Luck suggested pizza instead. Why? Because if we cooked, the boys and I, he could see we would never get around to playing!

Hubert Chopping things takes time (unless you are working with Hubert Keller).

Cooking sauce instead of simply heating it takes time.

Yesterday we made pesto to serve on tortellini, as well as red sauce with vidalia onion and grape tomatoes and fresh basil to serve over linguini. #1 Son created a vegetable dish of rainbow chard and baby carrots and more vidalia, with chili powder and red pepper flakes. We bought the chicken sausage and a big crusty loaf, and we didn't even make dessert, but the whole thing took hours. We sat down to the meal as if finally going to a long-awaited party, and every bite tasted delicious.

Washing up takes a long time, too, when you have spun greens in the salad spinner and used the food processor and cooked in every pot you own and served the dishes family style at the table. I got a load into the dishwasher last night then came down to finish cleaning up this morning.

I was, you see, exhausted, and the young people had gone out to a concert.

Another load is washing now, and I washed all the knives by hand and returned them to the knife block. A few stray pot lids remain in the sink.

I loved cooking with them, and I think one of the factors Pollan didn't mention is that in the old slow-cooking days, when you had to catch the chicken and butcher it yourself before you could eat it, people cooked together. Life centered around the home. Most of the time more than one person helped prepare the meals, at all levels of society. Now, not only do people commute and work long hours outside our homes, which means we take and perhaps need short-cuts in our more solitary cooking, we seem to be losing the art of the family dinner. I'm not sure how to overcome this trend. LP and I, when we are the only two at home, will sit in front of whatever is on The Learning Channel and eat together. Our kitchen table functions as my home office, and the big dining room table feels, well, big for two people. We're cozier perched on the sofa.

I'd like to thing it's eating together that matters most, but I'm beginning to feel cooking together counts, too. I'm glad my sons both know how to cook and enjoy doing it. Now we just need to bring LP along, too. Maybe we need to hand her a knife and let her simply start chopping.

Blogger Meet-Ups, Food and Drink

What We Cooked

After a busy morning in which I preached, then raced to my other church to hear Maine Celt preach, too (she did a great job!), Mary Beth, Light Princess and I came home for a post-church brunch with MaineCelt and her partner, the Piper, and God_Guurrlll who came in to hear both of us preach. (Pure Luck made himself scarce for this highly church-geeky meal, but Sam kept an eye on all of us from under the dining room table.)

At brunch we enjoyed the ginger scones MaineCelt brought along and also cooked the recipes below. Tonight we braised rainbow chard with red onion and roasted potatoes with shallots to go along with garden burgers and salad. Strawberry shortcake will follow soon.

But these I wanted to share with you, because they are so delightful.

Mary Beth's Mama's Magnificent Egg Bake

Ingredients:
2 cups milk
6 eggs
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dry mustard
2 slices cubed bread (We had delicious Old Fashioned White from the Big Sky Bread Company.)
1 lb. Jimmy Dean Sausage (We used turkey breakfast sausage instead, to meet LP's requirements, but I enjoyed typing the words "Jimmy Dean.")
1 cup cheddar, sharp (I had some organic four cheese mix from Whole Foods handy.)

Beat eggs, add milk, salt and mustard.
Layer bread, sausage and cheese in greased 9 x 13 pan, pour eggs over, refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 45 minutes.

Splendiferous!

And we tried this, which I found at Barking Dog Shoes:

Pat's Blueberry Buckle

•    Preheat oven to 375.
•    Cream 3/4 c. sugar and 1/4 c. butter
•    Add 1 egg and 1/2 c. milk, mix well.
•    Blend together 2 c. flour, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt. Add to creamed mixture and mix.
•    Add 2 c. fresh blueberries and stir gently.
•    Spread into 9×9 pan that has been greased and dusted lightly with flour
•    Crumb topping: cut in 1/4 c. butter to 1/2 c. sugar, 1/3 c. flour and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon. Spread over top.
•    Bake 45-50 min. Cool  or serve warm with vanilla ice cream or cool-whip…and strong, dark coffee 🙂

I had beautiful Maine blueberries, but they were frozen. I'm not sure if the 8 x 8 pan or the frozen berries caused the trouble, but we had to bake it considerably longer than 45 minutes. Nevertheless, yummy!