December 31, 2009

The Year That Was - 2009

It was a very good year, and I'm glad it's over. My mom is great for starting family traditions around holidays. We have a couple for New Year's. Besides eating ham, black-eyed peas, and cabbage, we have a shell game where you draw your fortune for the year. Last year, she had us doing the flying wish paper.

Just so you know, I totally got my wish, so I think it works, and I'm doing it again for 2010.

And here's my year in cities again; unfortunately, the list isn't as exciting as 2008 or 2007. With a new job, it was kind of hard to get away, but I have high hopes that 2010 will be a better travel year. All the cities where I stayed at least one night in 2009:

Lubbock, TX
New York, NY
Fort Worth, TX
Richardson, TX
and Dalhart, TX


December 24, 2009

White Christmas

White Christmas

It appears that 2009 will go down in my book as a White Christmas... for two reasons. The first is that big, fluffy snowflakes started falling at 8:30 or so on the 23rd, and there are a couple of inches on the ground now. I have high expectations that the snow will last through Christmas day. If not, at least Christmas Eve is going to be beautiful.

The second reason we're having a White Christmas is that this week my sister got engaged to a man with the surname White.

Wendy Engagement

Wendy Engagement

A new baby and a new brother-in-law and a little excitement overload for me, but lots of wonderful things happening in my family lately.

And you know me, right away I wanted to gauge Wendy's fiancé's tastes and find out what foods he likes. So far, I know that he likes French Toast for breakfast. We celebrated his birthday (same as Nancy Kay's) and I found out he likes cheesecake better than layer cakes and isn't a big fan of chocolate or nuts. I can accommodate! He's very diplomatic about things, too. You know how I harass people about my cooking with "What do you think? What would make it better?," but he will not be nonplussed - simple, quick, polite answers and that's the end of it.

Pain Perdu Pain Perdu New York Cheesecake with Blueberries

I'm personally hoping for a few days of rest after Christmas to catch up on sleep. I usually do something memorably crazy when I go without sleep, like cutting open my finger while slicing bread, setting my wallet on top of my car and then forgetfully driving off without it (that's happened twice), etc. This week, Adam and I doubled with Sarah and John. We were playing Cranium, and then while trying to hand a game card to Sarah, I spilled a full mug of hot chocolate on the white carpet next to my date. Wow. He helped me clean up the mess, though. That's attractive.

There are budding snow drifts in my backyard. Snowball fight at my house tomorrow! followed by sledding on whatever hills or drainage ditches we can find. Merry Christmas!

December 21, 2009

Aunt Kimberly

Nancy Kay

My niece arrived at 5:42 pm. She weighed 8 pounds and was 20 inches long. Does she look like her mom or dad?

Katie1 Katie5

Porter7 Porter3

December 19, 2009

Airing of Grievances

I hope there is a market for my anger, because I've got a lot of it bottled up and ready to ship out. I have a lot of problems with you people, and now you're gonna hear about it!
Festivus 2009
My annual Festivus party was a typical disappointment. Serenity now!

This year the menu included a choice of three soups, a BIG salad, assorted breads (Marble Rye not among them), and Black and White Cookies.

I ain't no Challah-bread girl

Two races of flavor living side by side. Nothing mixes better than vanilla and chocolate, and yet somehow racial harmony eludes us. If people would only look to the cookie all our problems would be solved.

The Black and White Cookie is a New York classic, and if there's anything that inpsires my angry Festivus spirit, it's anything related to New York. It's a dirty, nasty, cynical place, the least happy state in the Union. I spent the worst weekend of 2009 there.

But these Black and Whites were quite tasty. One of my guests commented that they tasted like muffin tops. Top of the muffin, TO YOU! I used the King Arthur Flour recipe, which was good, but the white icing was a disappointment. I think I'll try the America's Test Kitchen Baking Book Black and White Cookie Recipe next, or perhaps the original Utica bakery recipe.

Happy Festivus to all! I made a donation in your name to the Human Fund - money for people.

December 14, 2009

Cassata Siciliana

I wrote this post a year ago. Seriously. But I figure this is a good holiday recipe, so without further adieu, I present Cassata Siciliana.

Pan di Spagna Cooking Class

One of the best things I did during my visit to New York was attend a cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education taught by a sweet little Sicilian lady. The theme of the class was Pan di Spagna (yeah, that links to Italian Wikipedia), which is Italian sponge cake, and it's useful for any number of desserts: cupcakes, biscotti, tiramisu. In class, we broke into small groups and each group made a different recipe using the Pan di Spagna recipe as the base. I made Cassata Siciliana.

I didn't get a lot out of the class in the way of new cooking skills or techniques, but it was a lot of fun, and I did get this recipe.

Basic Pan Di Spagna Sponge Cake
6 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon Fiori de Sicilia (available at King Arthur) or vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 teaspoons baking powder

Separate the egg whites and the yolks. Beat the egg whites with 1/2 cup of the sugar until stiff. Using the same beaters, beat the egg yolks with the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar until thick. Add the Fiori de Sicilia or vanilla and fold in the flour with one-third of the whites to lighten the batter. Fold in the rest of the beaten egg whites, spoon into two 8- or 9-inch layer cake pans and bake in a 350°F oven for 20 to 30 minutes.

Cassata Siciliana
*You will need to increase the Basic Pan di Spagna recipe by half for the Cassata Siciliana. We used three tart pans, instead of two cake pans.

Ricotta Filling
5 cups fresh ricotta
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup candied fruits, chopped
4 ounces chopped milk or semi-sweet chocolate or small chocolate morsels
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Beat the ricotta and the sugar with an electric beater until silken smooth. Place 1 cup of the ricotta in a bowl and set aside for the icing. Divide the rest of the ricotta between 2 other bowls and add the candied fruits to one and the chocolate and cinnamon to the other to make the two fillings.

Ricotta Icing
1 cup reserved ricotta
2 cups confectioners' sugar

Beat the ricotta and the sugar until smooth and of spreading consistency. Set aside.

Assembly and Decorating
3 layers of Pan di Spagna
1 1/2 to 2 cups Marsala wine
1/4 cup each red and green candied cherries, sliced in half
1 cup sliced blanched almonds

Place one cake layer on a serving platter or cake plate. Place the Marsala in a small spray bottle, and spray one-third of the wine on the first layer. Spread the ricotta and fruit filling on top of the cake layer. Place the second layer on top of the ricotta filling, and spray with another third of the Marsala wine. Spread the ricotta and chocolate filling on the second layer, top with the third layer, spray it with the rest of the Marsala wine, and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Spread the icing on the top and on the sides of the cake. Press the sliced almonds lightly all over the side of the cake. Place the cherries cut side down in a pattern around the top of the cake alternating red and green. Chill until ready to serve. This is a rich cake, and a small portion is very satisfying. Serves 16 to 20 or more.

Pan di Spagna Cooking Class

Pan di Spagna Cooking Class

I definitely recommend doing something like this if you have an interest in cooking at all. Nice change of pace after doing lots of touristy stuff in New York, and it was fun to meet different people and cook with them - probably the only time I'll play nice in the kitchen. I made the cake again once I got home.

Cassata Siciliana Cassata Siciliana

December 1, 2009

Breakfast of Champions, er, Champurrado

Winter weather is finally here! Not that I'm not a big fan of cold weather, but I like snow in December. It puts me in a holiday spirit. The rest of the season, the frigid air and short days are a little depressing. But I was very happy to see big, fluffy snowflakes falling this morning.

If the weather outside is frightful, and you need a beverage to warm you, why not try Champurrado?


Never heard of it?
Champurrado is a chocolate-based atole, a warm and thick Mexican drink, based on masa (hominy flour), piloncillo, water or milk and occasionally containing cinnamon, anise seed and or vanilla bean (tasting somewhat like a thick chai tea). - Wikipedia
I used my Indonesian cinnamon (Korintje Cassia) from Kalustyan's. Maybe that makes it less Mexican, but it works.

Champurrado Champurrado

And I threw in a snowman truffle for good measure.

Recipe from Homesick Texan