Friday, December 27, 2013

Sugar Cookies with grated orange!

The first time I made these sugar cookies, I was in my teens and being a teen, decided not to follow the recipe. It was the grated orange rind that confounded me. It didn't sound very appetizing, so I omitted the rind and the orange juice. At the time, I didn't understand that baking is more of a science. That if something is left out, then something else similar needs to go in its place.  The cookies turned out hard as rocks and would have broken my teeth,  had they not been fortified with Mr. Lindberg's raw milk from his small farm across the street.

This is my mother's recipe, I don't know where she got it, but needless to say, I follow it to the letter, with one exception, I use butter instead of shortening. But that is okay, because it is replacing one like thing for another. Years ago after moving to Texas, I wanted to make these cookies. I asked Mom to send me the recipe. Here it is, hand written and perfect.

These cookies have great flavor. They are moist and easy to roll out.

Mom's handwritten recipe. Thanks Mom.
2/3 cup shortening (I use unsalted butter, allow butter to sit out for a while)
1 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
2 eggs
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
grated one 1 orange rind
1 tablespoon orange juice (squeezed from the zested orange)

Cream shortening (butter), sugar and egg together. Shift flour, salt, baking powder and add to the first mixture add orange rind and juice and make into a smooth ball. It should be just a little tacky to the touch. Chill in the fridge for an hour or longer.
When your dough is chilled, take it out of the fridge. Roll it out on a flat floured surface. Select a cookie cutter or several. Punch out the cookies. Put them on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake in moderate preheated oven at 325 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. When you see the cookies getting golden at the edge, it is time to take them out. (the card says 60 cookies, I made about 25. So much depends on the size of the cookies. The ones in the picture are about 3 inches across.)

These cookies do not change color on the top, but the edges will get golden. This is the underside of how they look.

Butter cream frosting works just fine. The good news about the cookies, they can be eaten with our without frosting, but they are fun to frost and decorate to your hearts content. They are also fun to make for Valentine's Day.

Quote of the day:
“Cookies were much better eaten then sold, and they were best homemade.” 
― Jesse HaubertWe Found a Horse and Other Stories

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

What do Bacon, Dark Chocolate and Macadamian Nuts have in common...

they all taste good all by themselves, but put them all together and they are off the charts good.
My neighbor Mary Michael found this recipe in Diane Sanfillipo's New York Times bestseller "Practical Paleo".  Here is the recipe and Mary Michael's notes.

1 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup toasted nuts-- chopped into small pieces, if larger nuts (recipe calls    for hazelnuts. I used macadamia nuts and thought it was a great choice).
4 pieces crisp bacon -- crumbled into small pieces
1 tsp. bacon grease
1/2 tsp. sea salt (smoked sea salt is called for, but I didn't have that)

You can melt chocolate in a double-boiler, but I didn't have one, so I used the microwave, which is also suggested. Put about 1/8 to 1/4 cup of chips in a microwave-safe bowl with the 1 tsp bacon grease. Coat the chips, and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir to break down the chips, and then add increments of chips, about 1/8 to 1/4 cup at a time, microwaving for 10 to 15 seconds between each addition of chips, so that you can melt the chocolate without burning it. I stirred between each microwaving.

When chocolate is melted, pour mixture on parchment paper on a baking sheet. You want it thin, but not like paper. 

Recipe says to add nuts and chopped bacon when mixture has somewhat cooled. I personally found it better to add bacon, nuts, and salt while the chocolate was still hot, so that the bacon/nuts would be firmly in place and wouldn't fall off. 

Put it fridge and let cool (30 minutes?), and then break into pieces. I found one of these broke into enough pieces (12-14?)  to make enough "goodie" bags for 2-3 people, depending on how much you want to give to each person. 

My macadamia nuts came in halves, so  I cut the halves into thirds, so they'd be smaller. Then I toasted them for about 7 minutes on 350 -- just until they were a nice, warm brown."  Mary Michael

This is good chocolate. I love the flavor combination. Thank you Mary Michael for making it and sharing it with your neighbors. Glad I live next door. 

Quote of the Day:

“There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.”
Linda Grayson

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Tiny Boxwood made me think of "Tiny Dancer"....

...and I saw some tiny dancers on the lawn at Tiny Boxwood. Sisters, ages 4 and 7, I would guess, dressed in fancy polka dotted dresses dancing to the music of Ella Fitzgerald. They were so pure in their movement and enjoyment of the moment.  I wished I would have snapped their picture, but that may have disturbed the sweet enchantment of their dancing.

What a pleasant way to spend a delightful meal with good friends, sitting outside on Tiny Boxwood's patio, on a hardly humid cool Houston evening. I went with Bob and Flora. We all had pizza. Happy palettes all around for the choice. Three waiters brought the pizzas to the table, cutters ready, but first a picture, then the cutting.  I felt like I was in the dining scene of Hello Dolly and the waiters would break out in song, so synchronized and graceful they were.

I had the Fall Pizza with fresh figs, prosciutto, goat cheese and reduced balsamic vinegar. It was a perfect combination.

Bob had the buffalo mozzarella pizza with basil and tomatoes.

Flora had the calabrese salami pizza. Flora had wanted a pepperoni pizza, but they did not have pepperoni, so calabrese salami was substituted and she was a happy girl!!!

The crust is very thin and crisp. I love that. Tiny Boxwood attributes that to its wood burning pizza over. They use Texas Oak and only Texas Oak. The oven is totally wood burning, the only completely wood burning Pizza Oven in Houston. This information was relayed to us by our oil well named waiter.

The menu is small, select, seasonal, local and fresh and nicely presented.

Tiny Boxwood
3614 W Alabama St  Houston, TX 77027
(713) 622-4224

Tiny Boxwood's Mission:

To create food that can be enjoyed in an environment, that together create a reaction that's contagious to all and forgotten by no one. (from their Web site)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Pizza L'Vino knows how to make the pizza pies!!!

This pizza to go joint is on Waugh Drive at Damico Street. The shop is the brain child of Dan Barnett, the great mind behind Star Pizza, so I guess he knows a few things about how to make a good pizza. L'Vino will not disappoint. I ordered my pizza to-go-for-pick-up. They also deliver.

I don't eat pizza often, but when I do I like thin crust with a tangy flavorful tomato sauce. That is exactly what I got along with pepperoni, Italian sausage, onion, green pepper and sauteed mushrooms. I opted out of the cheese, lactose intolerant, but by no means did that detract from tastiness of this pizza. It was exactly what my taste buds wanted. It is so nice when that happens.

They offer up different dough, which is made fresh on site, unbleached white or whole wheat flour and for the 12" pizzas you can get gluten free. The crust is formed in three different ways, NY hand tossed, ultra thin crust and deep dish. This is definitely a great place to get pizza. They also offer wine and beer to go. Salads and cannolis, zitti, sandwiches, too.

Learn more about Pizza L'Vino at their Web site

Pizza L'Vino
544 Waugh Drive
Houston, TX 77019

Quote of the Day: "You better cut the pizza in four pieces, because I'm not hungry enough to eat six"
Yogi Berra

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The World's Best Cream Puff.....Spoof or Puff???

I would have to say the proof is in the puff. Beard Papa's to be exact. This cream puff packs a tasty punch. The origins of this lovely mound of delight started in Osaka, Japan. The word has spread and so has their real estate.  I found a store on the Upper West Side of Manhattan (on Broadway in between W 76th and 77th Streets) and so glad I did. The sign outside is what pulled me in. Who would boast such a thing, world's best cream puff?   Bold, Brazen, Bonkers??? Perhaps.  I have had a lot of great cream puffs in my day, so it was impossible to pass up the opportunity to have the worlds' best.  My fascination with cream puffs started in fourth grade, reading a story about a court jester juggling them. In the story, the cream puffs were light as a feather, with a sweet creamy center,  juggling them was easy, floating through the air with the greatest of ease.  The Jester juggled at least a dozen.
Eating them was as much fun as juggling them, or so the story goes as best as I can remember.  I like cream puffs for much the same reason, light savory outside and a sweet creamy inside. Most kids were probably interested in the juggling, not me.

Beard Papa's cream puffs are delicious. Don't know if they are in fact the world's best, but they are exceptionally excellent. I think what sets their cream puffs apart from others, is in the simplicity of them. Quality double layered choux pastry dough, made and baked in the shop, the cream, a vanilla custard, is  infused into the puff when you order one, so the cream puff is fresh. It doesn't sit in a refrigerated case, getting soggy. Bitting into a Beard Papa's cream puff is wonderful with its crispy savory outside and cool custard oozing out of the center. Be prepared with a napkin to help catch the over flow or just lap it up with your tongue. They are a bit messy, but that adds to their charm.
Puffs going into the oven.

Puffs, loads of freshly baked puffs, oh my.
Custard being infused.

I had two of these puffs in the span of six days. The first time I had one, it was just a puff with the custard, the next time I ordered a puff with the dark chocolate on the top. What a nice addition to an already delightful treat.
A puff with a light dusting of powdered sugar.

Chocolate eclair puff
Keeping it simple.
 Daily Quote: "Look, I eat really well and I work out, but I also indulge when I want to. I don't starve myself in an extremist way. You're not taking away my coffee or my dairy or my glass of wine, because I would be devastated." Jennifer Anniston

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Happy Birthday Cake to Me...with Duke's Mayo....

Chocolate, Coconut, Mousse and Cream Cheese to boot. Make a wish!!!

I decided that I have made cakes for other people on their birthdays, but I had never made one for me. It was about time!!!
I fell prey to advertising, which doesn't happen all that often, but I saw an advertisement for Duke's Mayonnaise, using it to make a chocolate cake. I was intrigued and decided right then, to make that cake for my birthday. I bought a jar of Duke's on sale, kept it unopened until I was ready to make the cake, two months later.
Normally, I don't turn my oven on in the summer, but I made an exception, because it was for my birthday after all.
The cake I made wasn't exactly like the one in the commercial. I put chocolate mousse between the layers and frosted it with coconut icing. A variation on the theme, so to speak. I'm sure any mayo would work, but I need to give credit where credit is due.

Duke’s Chocolate Cake: Ingredients
6 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
3 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ cups Mayo
1 ½ tsp. Vanilla Extract (I just used 1 tsp.)
1 ½ cups cold water ( I used 1 cup cold water and ½ cup coconut milk)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease and flour two 8” cake pans.
Shift cocoa, flour, baking soda, salt and sugar into a medium bow, mix well. Combine mayonnaise,  vanilla, water, Use and electric mixer at low speed. Once smooth, slowly add in dry mixture until just incorporated (do not over beat). Pour batter into cake pans and bake for 30 minutes or until done. (This cake took longer than 30 minutes, it might have something to do with the humidity or being close to sea level, but it took about 40 minutes to bake.) Cool on Wire racks.
Mix together dry ingredients

Shift dry ingredients

Mix mayo, water, vanilla

Slowly add dry ingredients to wet

put batter in greased & floured pans

bake until beautifully done

put on wire racks until cool
 The filling is chocolate mousse. I have to tell you that my mousse didn't set up quite right, because the whipped cream didn't whip as tightly as I needed it, but I put it in between the cake layers any way. It oozed out a bit, so when I put the frosting on, it mixed with it to give it a marbled effect. Not planned, but welcomed, because it tasted so good.

Chocolate Mousse

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 eggs, separated
¼ cup sugar
½ cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract (I use brandy or cognac)

1. Place a double boiler or small saucepan over low heat, and melt butter and chocolate together. Just before chocolate finishes melting, remove pan from stove and beat chocolate with a wooden spoon until smooth.

2. Transfer chocolate mixture to a bowl and beat in egg yolks with a whisk. Place bowl in refrigerator.

3.  Beat egg whites with half the sugar until they hold stiff peaks but are not dry. Set aside. Beat cream with the remaining sugar and vanilla until it holds peaks.

4. Stir a couple of spoonfuls of egg whites into chocolate mixture to lighten it a bit, then fold in remaining egg whites thoroughly but gently. Fold in cream and refrigerate until chilled. If you are in a hurry divide mousse in individual dishes.. It will chill much faster.
Serve with in a day or two of making it.

Yield: 4 servings.

The frosting was a bit more free wheeling.
1 cup organic shredded coconut
1 stick unsalted butter
1 8oz package cream cheese
1 cup or so of powered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

This cake is extremely moist. It was a great birthday cake!!!
Quote of the day: "Let's face it, a nice creamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people; it does for me." Audrey Hepburn

And making your own cake, you get to lick the beaters, oh my!!!

I was able to share this cake with friends, not all at the same time, but that made it kind of fun, too. I took pieces of it to breakfast, to lunch and dinner and afternoon tea. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Baking Soda tempers smelly armpits...

no matter the heat.

After I went through menopause, I could not control the horrendously bad odor wafting out from my armpits.  Trying not to raise my arms or stand near people only worked when I was alone, lying on my sofa watching old movies. Antiperspirants didn't even work, something I had managed to avoid using for a few years, but thought needed a second look.  Antiperspirants are not so good for my body, they clog up my armpit pores and make unsightly stains on white shirts. That is a whole other issue for another day.  Anyway, I did some poking around on the Web and found mention of baking soda as a alternative to deodorant. I was thinking, baking soda comes in handy for so many things, why not, but then, I was like how do you get it to stay under your arms. After a little experimenting, I discovered that it doesn't require a lot of baking soda to quell that strong offensive smell. Just a hint will do.

Pour just a little in your hand,

dust it off

and what remains on your hands,
pat it onto your arm pit.
I still perspire, but I don't stink to high heaven. It's economical, too, which is always a plus!!!

Quote of the Day: "Success is a great deodorant." Elizabeth Taylor

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Honey, will you come into the bathroom.....

and wash my hair?
This actually works. I read about it online, alternatives to shampoo. Honey was one of the suggestions. Washing hair with honey seemed to make sense. It has to be raw honey. Raw honey keeps all that good stuff that helps fight infections. The stuff that comes out of the hives without processing is called phytonutrients. It gets destroyed during processing, because they use heat. It is said the best honey is local, purchased directly from the hive or at farmers markets.

I have tried this a couple of different ways. Take a teaspoon of honey and dissolve it in warm water, not hot, a cup of water will do, pour it on your hair, rub it all around and rinse. I let it stay on my hair for a few minutes just for good measure. There will not be that squeaky feeling that shampoo gives, it will feel almost oily. Because of that feeling, I skipped the conditioner, too. My hair is old and needs some extra help with dryness and friz, the honey made a difference.
It also restored some of the natural curl. I also no longer need conditioner. I have only been doing this for a short while, but it is worth a try, don't you think?

I have also taken a large tablespoon of honey and rubbed it all over my hair before showering, letting it stay on for a few minutes before rinsing it. It works equally as well, however, a bit messier.

Honey has so many uses. It's worth doing a bit of research to find out more about it.

Quote of the Day: I think acts of kindness are signs of heroism.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Pizzeria Solario is okay in my book.....

and here's why. It's cheery, comfortable, and TASTY!!!!!! There is outside seating that looks very nice, waiting for cooler weather to give the patio a try.

My friend David recommended the place. I was skeptical, because sometimes his choices are a bit limiting, but he hit the mark with this place. The first time I went, I met David and Lisa. The  6" lunch pizza was offered up as the way to go by David, but I looked at the menu and opted for the Smoked Salmon on flatbread. It is a delightful sandwich, toasted flatbread with smoked salmon, roma tomatoes, arugula, balsamic vinegar and feta. I optioned out of the feta due to lactose problems, but Lisa had the exact same sandwich with the feta and she said it was excellent. I thought it was excellent without it. So there you go. David stayed with the 6" pizza and I have to say it looked mighty appealing, so when David and I met for lunch today, I decided to give the pizza a try.

 It is cooked in a wood burning oven, so it's hard to go wrong there.

There are four choices for the lunch pizza: Margherita, Marinara, Pepperoni, Bianca. Of course, if you are not having the lunch pizza, there is a much wider ranch of toppings. The good thing about the lunch pizza, for $9 you get a great pizza, a salad and a soft drink or tea. I have to tell you not to miss out on their salad. It is mixed greens with the most heavenly vinaigrette. The greens are fresh, downright perky, the dressing is made in house out of roasted garlic, olive oil and lemon. I could drink the stuff, actually took my pizza crust and sopped up some of it. Oh my, how nice.

A quick note about the crust. It is not a thin crust, but not a thick thick crust either. It is well prepared and perfect in its form. The sauce is thick and stands to attention on the crust. I had the pepperoni pizza without cheese, of course. David had cheese on his.

This is David's with cheese.
 He's crazy about the place. I am in agreement.

Back to the Smoked Salmon flatbread sandwich, David told me that the smoked salmon was caught in the pool of water on the patio. If you can catch salmon in Yemen, why not smoked salmon in Houston. You never know.

This is David. Great hair!!!

This might be a great place to go before or after a movie at Edwards or after shopping at Costco. Heck, it's worth a trip, just to enjoy lunch with my friend David on a Sunday.

Check out their Web site
Pizzeria Solario
3333 Weslayan #100
Houston, TX 77027

Here is their tag line: If pizza and wine is your religion, Pizzeria Solario is your Sistine Chapel.

Quote of the Day: When the moon hits you eye like a big pizza pie
That's amore
When the world seems to shine like you've had too much wine
That's amore
Bells will ring ting-a-ling-a-ling, ting-a-ling-a-ling
And you'll sing "Vita bella"
lyrics by Jack Brooks.