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My Favorite Oatmeal Cookies

20 Jul

I love oatmeal cookies. They pair well with lots of different additions, but are also delicious left perfectly plain with a hint of spice. You can do fun things with the texture too. Make them thin and lacy, thick and cake-y, crunchy, or chewy and soft. But my favorite oatmeal cookies, combine lots of textures and have deep dark spice and caramel flavors. The recipe has gone through many iterations as I tried to find the combination of ingredients that gave me the nutty, chewy, crunchy, spicy-sweet cookie I was seeking. I really like where it’s at now, but you know I’d never promise not to play around with the recipe in the future. My imagination is already running off…

I digress. Back to the treats at hand. These are a really special little bite despite their innocent appearance. Let’s fill up the cookie jar!

Toasted Oatmeal, Pecan, and Coconut Cookies

  • ¾ cups rolled oats, toasted until fragrant*
  • ¾ cups quick cooking oats, toasted until fragrant
  • ¾ cup flour
  • ½ cup pecans, toasted and chopped
  • ½ cup (sweetened or unsweetened) shredded coconut, toasted until golden
  • ½ tsp. baking powder**
  • 2 oz. unsalted butter, softened
  • ¼ cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp.  cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Pinch fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1 large egg

*To toast the dry ingredients, just turn the oven to 350 degrees F and spread them out on separate baking sheets. The oats and nuts usually take 7-10 minutes and the coconut takes about 2-4 minutes.

** This weird thing happened when I started taking my medication for rheumatoid arthritis. I was finding that some of my baked goods tasted…off. There was this funny aftertaste that I could not get rid of and I had no idea what it was. I realized one day when I accidentally left some baking soda out of a recipe that OH, that’s that funny taste. This particular recipe can absolutely be made with ½ tsp. of baking soda or baking powder. Use what you have on hand.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

Combine the butter, shortening, brown sugar, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt, and beat until smooth and creamy.

Add the egg and beat until well combined, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Add the flour and baking powder and beat until incorporated.

Finally, stir in the oats, pecans, and coconut and beat until well distributed.

Use a small cookie scoop (mine is 2 tsp.) or spoon to drop the dough onto the sheets. I got three dozen this way and placed 18 per sheet. Gently press the cookies down with fingertips to flatten.


Bake for 11-12 minutes or until golden at the edges and lightly brown on the bottoms. Cool on a wire rack or eat them warm because YES.

So yes, I’ll admit there are some extra steps to this recipe, but they really are worth it to achieve all the crispy, chewy, crunchy goodness here. The warm spices make them a super comforting accompaniment to any cup of coffee, cocoa, or tea. Definitely a good evening porch-sitting cookie for summer.

Ciao for now,

Neen

Back in the Saddle: Nutty Blondes

30 Oct

One of the concepts that I think is the most difficult for me and my ego to accept is the idea that just because I have done something well once does not mean that I will do it well every time I attempt it. At a point, we like to thing we have a particular task mastered, right? Sure, I can reliably get into halasana (plough pose) 99% of the time, but there are some days where my back just says, “NO.” I’m getting better at listening to the mental cues, but they are always humbling. In a way, they are the messengers I dislike the most, and probably the ones I need the most at the same time.

It’s been that way with baking a lot lately. For a long time, baking was just that thing for me that I was reliably “good at.” But with going gluten-free, I’ve spent a lot of time lately feeling like a complete amateur. Every batter and dough is foreign, and every attempt is hopeful scientific experimentation mixed with prayers to the divine forces. This has been frustrating because for the first time in years, I haven’t been able to just wander into the kitchen and start throwing things together. I’ve had to measure and think about it all.

I felt so much resistance to it, because it felt like my sanctuary had been stolen. My ego kept throwing internal temper tantrums, wanting to stray from every recipe and make it my own. But just like learning to cook and bake the first time around, I kept reminding myself that you have to create the solid foundation before you can start playing with the details.

And though my ego still pouted in the corner, I began to feel the joy and excitement of the unknown return to my kitchen endeavors. In letting go of needing to maintain the identity of “a good baker,” I afforded myself the opportunity to really learn from the gluten-free cooking resources I’d gathered. I discovered that (at least so far), I don’t care much for sorghum flour in cookies, millet flour adds the perfect crunch to pizza dough, brown rice pasta dough needs more xanthan gum and some tapioca to give it the right tackiness for rolling, bean flour gives things an odd smell, and that at the end of the day…it’s still all about ratios (Thanks, Michael Ruhlman!).

Last night, I really felt like I was home again. Back in the saddle, just doing what I do. I took a moment and said I brief “thank-you” to the universe, because I know that I have a long way to go. This recipe is a special victory, because it’s the first gluten-free cookie recipe I’ve developed on my own. It’s also the first one I’ve taken a bite of and said, “I could open a bakery tomorrow and sell these.”

Yeah, they’re that good. For those of you reading from the Folger or who donated to me for Warrior Dash, these might sound familiar. The version I made then was full of pecans, coconut, and M&M candies. This version nixes the M&Ms, but only because I didn’t have any on hand and (gasp) wasn’t in the mood for chocolate. I have no doubt they’d be a welcome addition.

Brown Butter Pecan, and Coconut Cookies, aka “Nutty Blondes”

makes 2 dozen cookies

  • 1 ¼ cups Neen’s Gluten-Free Flour Blend for Cookies (recipe below)
  • ½ tsp. xanthan gum
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cream of tartar
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 90 grams unsalted butter (about 7 tbsp.)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup pecans, toasted and chopped
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted

Neen’s Gluten-Free Flour Blend for Cookies

Makes 9 cups

  • 2 ½ cups finely ground brown rice flour
  • 2 ½ cups super-fine sweet rice flour
  • 2 cups tapioca flour
  • 2 cups potato starch (not potato flour)
  • 1 tbsp. xanthan gum

Combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, xanthan gum, sugar, pecans, and coconut in the bowl of a stand mixer and set aside.

20131029_185542Brown the butter by placing it in a saucepan over medium heat. Stirring frequently, cook the butter until it is amber in color. Then move it to a small bowl and put in the freezer or refrigerator until it is still liquefied, but no longer hot to the touch.

20130906_233809With the mixer running, slowly add the egg, butter, and vanilla extract to the dry ingredients and mix until the batter is clumpy. If it feels dry, you can add a few drops of milk, water or egg white to get the dough to come together.

20131029_190424Scoop the dough out onto a piece of parchment paper and form into a log. Wrap in parchment paper and freeze or refrigerate until firm. I usually freeze the dough for 30 minutes to an hour. If you aren’t feeling particularly patient, you can make these as drop cookies, but the dough freezes exceptionally well. I like to make a bunch of dough logs, freeze them, and have them ready for holiday cookie baking and gift-giving.

20131029_19084920131029_191419Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Slice the chilled dough into ½ in. thick discs and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet with 1-2 in. of space in between them (they will spread slightly). Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the edges are just beginning to brown. Cool on a wire rack, eat, and share with friends for maximum enjoyment.

20131029_202026SNICKERDOODLES, too???

I thought that this dough would also make for excellent snickerdoodles, and since I was so determined to play, I approached it as I try to approach difficult arm or single-leg balances: If you fall and it’s ugly, at least you learned where the edge is! Fortunately, there was no such disaster and my intuition was right on in this case. To make these into sweet cinnamon-sugar delights, omit the pecans and coconut. In a small bowl, combine 3 tbsp. of sugar with 1 tsp. cinnamon. After freezing and slicing the dough log, toss the discs in the cinnamon sugar mixture and then bake on parchment-lined sheets. Voila! Now you have two distinctly different cookies from one simple method. Oh, the possibilities!

snickerdoodlesAnd suddenly, there it is. That inspiration and charge that sparks through me when I realize that there is something new and delicious to share with the world around me. The stress of “figuring it out” melts away and I remember why I love cooking: it’s a dare and a challenge, it’s a learning experience, it’s a love, and oh yes…

…it’s a joy.

Ciao for now,

Neen

Recipe Megapost: FRACAS 2012

6 Dec

Each winter I go completely overboard and cook a bizarre amount of food in the span of 2-3 days for the Folger Recycled Arts and Crafts Annual Show (FRACAS). The Green Committee holds the event each December and displays creative art pieces made from recycled objects by Folger employees, family, and friends.

After I’m home from the first ingredient run, I have a brief “you are out of your mind” moment, get that five minute panic out of the way, and then move forward. Once prep lists are made and I’ve worked out what needs to be done when / how things should be stored, it’s go time.

I may not be a trained chef, but I’ve been cooking for groups since I was old enough to reach the counter. One of the benefits of being the location of choice for most family holidays was / is getting to spend days in the kitchen working on party food with my family. We put on music, everyone picks a task, and sometimes a bottle of wine even starts floating around. Sometimes grandmothers or aunts even appear, ready to help. We’ve been a pizzelle factory, ravioli assembly line, cookie shapers, manicotti fillers and just about everything in between.

It’s different to do it alone. Fortunately, I never feel alone, because when I’m in the kitchen my family is with me whether they’re physically there or not. There may be several less pairs of hands, but all of their experience sticks right with me. So when this once-a-year madness comes around I go at it with everything I’ve got.

This year, the FRACAS tasting plates were primarily influenced by dishes from France and the Mediterranean. I was inspired by the spirit of our Green Committee to think about being a responsible steward of the earth and used each ingredient in as many ways as possible. I also considered the sustainability and seasonality of what was planned and consulted with friends from the local Arlington County Farmer’s Market in order to prepare a thoughtful, respectful group of dishes. My most sincere thanks go to those purveyors for making available the many local herbs, meats, vegetables, and preserved foods (i.e. dried cherries and strawberry jam). Special thanks to the fine folks at Smith Meadows, Cibola Farms, Toigo Orchards, and Twin Springs.

We begin with the plate of tapenades, spreads, and rillettes…

Smoked Salmon Rillettes
adapted from David Lebovitz

  • 8 oz. wild salmon filet, bones removed.
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Juice of half of one lemon
  • 2 tbsp. fresh chives, chopped.
  • 4 oz. of smoked salmon, cut into thin strips and then diced.
  • ¼ tsp. smoked paprika

Season the fresh salmon lightly with salt and steam for 8 minutes or until cooked through. Set aside to cool. In a medium-sized bowl, mash together the olive oil and butter until very smooth and then stir in the lemon juice, chives, and smoked salmon.

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Remove the skin and flake the cooked, fresh salmon over the top of the mixture then fold it in gently until well combined. Season with chili powder and salt if needed. My smoked salmon was quite salty and so I did not add any extra salt.

Cover and chill for at least two hours. Allow the rillettes to come to room temperature before serving them. They will stay fresh covered in the refrigerator for up to three days or tightly wrapped in the freezer for up to two months.
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Pork Rillettes
adapted from Michael Ruhlman

  • 3 lbs. fatty pork shoulder
  • 8 oz. rendered pork fat (lard)
  • 1 leek, thoroughly washed and split lengthwise, leaving one inch intact at the root end.
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 small bunch fresh thyme
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 5 cloves
  • 2 qt. water or veal stock

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Dice the pork into 1 in. cubes and place in a pot. Cover with water by 2 in., bring to a boil, and drain the pork. Return the pork to the clean pot.

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Stuff the thyme and bay leaves into the split leek. Take the celery stalk and put it alongside the leek, then tie everything together with a piece of cotton twine. This is called a bouquet garni.

Stud the onion with the cloves.

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Add 2 qts. of water or stock to the pot with the pork in it, add the bouquet garni and clove studded onion, then bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover the pot and place it in the oven. Cook until the pork is very tender and falls apart when poked with a fork.

Remove the pork from the cooking pot and transfer it to a plate to cool. Strain the cooking liquid into a bowl and set aside.

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Once the pork has cooled to slightly above room temperature, put it in a mixing bowl and mix on low speed, adding reserved cooking liquid as needed until it is a smooth, spreadable consistency. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.

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Put the spread into individual containers and refrigerate until chilled.

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Melt the lard over low heat and then pour a 1/8 in. layer of it on top of each container of rillettes. This seals the containers and keeps the rillettes fresh. Put the rillettes back into the refrigerator and chill until the layer of fat has solidified. Remove from the refrigerator two hours before serving.

Covered, they will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week and in the freezer for up to a month.

Mediterranean Olive and Vegetable Rillettes
adapted from Michael Ruhlman

  • 1 zucchini, cut into ½ in. discs.
  • 1 yellow squash, cut into ½ in. discs.
  • 4 oz. mushrooms, quartered.
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes, quartered and seeded.
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 cup kalamata olives, pits removed.
  • 1 onion, diced.
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced.
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup basil, chiffonade cut.
  • Salt and black pepper

Broil or grill the red and yellow peppers until the skin is black all over. Put them in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow them to cool.

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Once cool enough to handle, remove the skin, core, and seeds and then ½ in. dice.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, and tomatoes with ¼ cup olive oil, spread on a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes.

Saute the onion and garlic in 2tbsp. of the olive oil until soft, but not browned and then set aside to cool slightly.

Process the olives, garlic, and onions into a puree. Fold in the balsamic vinegar, roasted vegetables, peppers, and basil.

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Season to taste. Cover and refrigerate for up to a week.

Fig and Olive Tapenade
adapted from David Lebovitz

  • 1/2 cup dried black mission figs
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup nicoise or kalamata olives, rinsed and pitted.
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tsp. stone ground mustard
  • 1 small garlic clove, peeled and smashed.
  • 1/2 tablespoon capers, rinsed and patted dry.
  • 1 tsp. finely diced rosemary
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and black pepper

In a medium-sized pot, simmer the figs in the water until they are soft and the cooking liquid becomes syrupy. Remove the figs from the water with a slotted spoon and reserve the excess cooking liquid.

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In a food processor, pulse together the olives, mustard, lemon juice, garlic, figs, capers, rosemary until a chunky paste forms. Add the olive oil until the mixture is spreadable.

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The reserved liquid from the figs can be used to thin the spread if needed. Season to taste. Refrigerate for at least one day prior to serving. Covered, it will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Roasted Garlic with Marinated Dried Tomatoes

  • 1 cup dried tomatoes
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 heads garlic
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Salt and black pepper

Combine the tomatoes and olive oil and set aside for at least 30 minutes or until the tomatoes have softened slightly. If you have trouble getting the tomatoes to soften, you can put the mixture over very low heat for 5 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Split the heads of garlic in half horizontally and drizzle olive oil on each half. Put the garlic back together and bundle tightly in aluminum foil. Roast the garlic for 40-45 minutes or until soft and lightly caramelized. Set aside to cool.

Squeeze the softened garlic out of the peel and mash in a bowl. Drain and roughly chop the tomatoes, then mix them into the garlic with the lemon juice and thyme. If you like a chunky texture, stop and season here. If you prefer more of a spreadable consistency, you can puree this in a food processor. Season to taste. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

fracas2

…The second plate was full of cured pork tenderloin and parma ham accompanied by a few young cheeses and special condiments to brighten everything up. Everything here mixes and matches pretty well, but my favorite was a toast topped with the cured tenderloin and mustard fruit. Salty, sweet, and a little tangy, yum!

Sage and Thyme Cured Pork Tenderloin

  • 4 lb. pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat and sinew.
  • ½ gallon water
  • 1 cup salt
  • 5 tbsp. DQ Cure #1, also known as pink salt or Instacure
  • 1 cup sugar (you can use a mixture of brown and white)
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 bunch fresh sage

Combine the water, herbs, salt, curing salt and sugar in a pot and bring to a boil. Set aside and chill until cold in a container large enough to hold the tenderloin.

Add the pork to the container of brine and place a plate on top of it to keep it submerged. Allow this to sit in the refrigerator for 48 hours.

Remove the pork from the brine, rinse and pat dry. Set it on a wire rack over a baking sheet and refrigerate uncovered for 12 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Roast the pork until it reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees, rest, and then wrap and chill. Slice thin on the bias to serve.

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Ancho Chile Spiced Ricotta

Follow the recipe found here for making homemade ricotta. Once the curds have drained, add 1 tsp. ancho chile powder and mix thoroughly. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to a week.

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Queso Blanco with Roasted Piquillo Peppers

Follow the recipe found here for making homemade queso blanco. Prior to pressing the cheese, fold in 1/3 cup diced roasted piquillo peppers. Store well wrapped in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

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Mustard Fruit
adapted from Michael Symon

  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup stone ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 pear, peeled, cored, and chopped into ½ in. cubes
  • 1 dried sour cherries

Place the dried cherries and chopped pears in a clean, quart-sized mason jar and set aside. Cover and shake to mix.

Combine the wine, sugar, vinegar and salt in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in the mustard until thoroughly blended and then mix in the mustard seeds.

Gently pour the hot liquid over the fruit in the jar, cover, and shake gently to distribute the liquid. It should generously cover the fruit. Store in the refrigerator for at least two days and up to one month. The longer it is stored, the more pronounced the flavors will become. The dried cherries will also plump up a little bit and they are delicious.

Giardiniera
adapted from Michael Symon

  • 1 pound celery, peeled and sliced thin.
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, cut into thin rings.
  • 2-3 cherry peppers, diced.
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced.
  • 1 red onion, quartered and sliced thin.
  • 1 tsp. ancho chile powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. toasted, ground coriander
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped.
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Pack into a 1 quart mason jar. Store in the refrigerator for up to a month, shaking gently every so often to redistribute the liquid.

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Strawberry Jam Tart with Walnut Crust

Follow the recipe found here for making a strawberry jam tart, but replace the cornmeal with ½ cup finely ground walnuts.

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Chocolate Hazelnut Tart
adapted from the Noble Pig

Tart shell:

  • 12 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • Zest of one large orange

Filling:

  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup Nutella or other chocolate-hazelnut spread
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Chopped hazelnuts to garnish

Preheat the oven to 325o F.

Melt the 12 tbsp. of butter in a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat and brown just a touch. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the sugar, vanilla, salt, and orange zest until the sugar is mostly dissolved.

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Put the flour in a large bowl and add the butter mixture. Mix until a soft dough forms.

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To form the crust, roll the dough into a ball and then press it into an ungreased 10 in. tart pan with a removable bottom using the heel of your hand. Push the crust approximately ½ in. up the sides of the pan.

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Freeze the crust for 15 minutes and then bake it for 25 minutes or until the edges are just becoming golden. Set aside on a wire rack to cool slightly. Unlike many tart recipes, the crust does not have to be completely cool before the filling is added. It can be warm, but you should be able to touch the sides of the pan.

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Whisk the cornstarch with ¼ cup of the heavy cream. Make sure the cream is cold when you do this.

Combine the remaining 1 ¾ cups cream, chocolate-hazelnut spread, vanilla, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the cornstarch mixture and mix thoroughly.

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Whisking constantly, bring the filling to a boil and boil for one minute or until it thickens considerably.

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Pour the filling into the tart shell.

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Top with chopped hazelnuts and refrigerate until set for at least two hours before serving. Chilling it overnight is ideal for the very easiest cutting serving. Covered, the tart will keep for 2-3 days in the refrigerator.

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Here’s the whole spread waiting to be enjoyed in our photography department. As you can see, I was not the only one contributing delicious goodies. We have a very talented staff, what can I say?

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And that doesn’t even include all of the truly special artwork that was created for the event. Tote bags, planters, wreaths, mobiles, frames, dioramas, models, origami…you name it, my colleagues thought of a creative way to make it. A personal favorite was a giant paper crane made out of a proposed engineering plan. He was pretty cool looking. For my own FRACAS piece I wanted to find a way to save all of the beautiful greeting cards Joe and I received at our wedding, so I made this wreath out of those, fabric scraps left over from making a skirt, a bow from the groomer which Dioji no longer cared to wear, and a broken embroidery ring:

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Well, I hope that this post will sustain you through December, since I’m fairly sure that I’ll go MIA during Christmas baking season. (Dare I try to break the record of 114 dozen treats?) All I’ll say is that a certain grandma gave me a pizzelle iron at my bridal shower and that it’s been calling to me from the cupboard ever since I deemed it acceptable to begin thinking about Christmas.

Warmest holiday wishes to all of you. Remember that what you always have is what you carry in your heart and head, so make it something fun!

Ciao for now,
Neen

Tastier than a Gold Medal

31 Jul

If you haven’t noticed, the Olympics are on! London being six hours ahead combined with the Internet being the Internet means that I’ve had almost every swimming event spoiled ahead of time, but it’s still fun to watch the races. Sometimes miss those multi-day swim meets. There’s something about sitting around a gym waiting for your race with a bunch of other chlorine-laden people that fosters camaraderie.

The U.S. has already had some pretty shining performances. Most notable to me was Dana Vollmer’s incredible 100 butterfly gold medal finish with a time of 55.98 seconds! She’s got a pretty wild back story too:

In 2003, at the age of 15, Vollmer was training for a chance at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. She battled dizzy spells and light-headedness. In addition, her heart rate was abnormally high and would be very slow to return to normal after her training sessions.

Her parents took her to see a doctor, then a cardiologist, and Vollmer was diagnosed with a heart condition called supraventricular tachycardia. Without getting into too much medical vernacular, this caused Vollmer’s rapid heart rate.  At the age of 15, Vollmer underwent heart surgery.

However, during the surgery, the doctors found a more daunting issue with her heart. Vollmer had the symptoms of long Q-T Syndrome, which is an abnormality where irregular electrical impulses can be sent to the heart. (From Bleacherreport.com)

Rather than undergo more surgery, she elected instead to have an external defibrillator available during training sessions in case of an emergency. She went on to win a gold medal in the 4×200 freestyle relay at the 2004 games, but failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Here she is in 2012 back with a vengeance swimming butterfly like no woman ever has. What a champion!

So it’s only appropriate that Neen’s Notes shares its own favorite little gold medals this week, and that means buttery, nutty blondies. A good friend (also an excellent photographer whose work you can find here) brought me roasted, salted macadamia nuts back from her recent honeymoon trip to Hawaii and I’ve been putting them in everything. Pretty sure Joe is glad that I’ve now gone through the whole bag because he’s so tired of hearing “Oh my god these are the best thing EVER.” I even stowed a few in my pocket for Sunday’s 5.5 mile Reagan airport-and-back run.

I love any baking recipe that makes very few dishes to wash, so I’ve now made these three times. Lest you think I am gluttonous, the latter two batches were donated to coffee time at work.

Gold Medals: Macadamia Nut Brown-Butter Blondies

  • 4 oz. unsalted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp. vanilla butter & nut flavoring (vanilla extract works too, but I love this stuff.)
  • 2/3 cup roasted, salted macadamia nuts
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line an 8 in. square pan with parchment paper or buttered foil. Parchment works a lot better for these, so if you have it use it.

Grind the macadamia nuts in a food processor until they resemble a coarse meal. They’ll stick together a little bit, but don’t process them all the way to a paste.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once it begins to foam, swirl the pan every so often and cook just until it begins to brown. Remove the pot from the heat.

Add the brown sugar to the butter and whisk until thoroughly combined. Resist pouring this directly from the pot into your mouth. Mix in the egg and extract/flavoring until smooth, and then stir in the flour just until no dry spots remain. Fold in 2/3 of the macadamia nuts.

Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan, top with the remaining nuts, and bake for 25 minutes. The top will look shiny and the edges will be lightly golden. These are fudgier and less cake-y, so don’t be afraid of under baking them too much.

Extremely difficult part: Let the blondies cool in the pan on a wire rack for one hour. Using the parchment paper, gently lift them out of the pan and cool for another 15 minutes before cutting into squares. I’ve found that a long knife with a scalloped edge or a very sharp chef’s knife does the best job.

Now you can enjoy your very own gold medals, and while not as shiny, I can almost guarantee that they will be much tastier than the ones Olympians receive.

“I just swam my brains out, can I please have a snack?”

Enjoy the games everyone!

Ciao for now,

Neen