Shaping by Hand

Of all the cookie recipes I’ve baked one of my favorites is Homemade Fig Newtons. Perhaps it is the gooey fig center of dried figs moistened with fresh orange juice. Or maybe I can’t resist the little pastry wings that bake onto the edges of these homemade Fig Newtons. It could be the satisfaction of making something you typically buy, but which has the bonus of tasting even better than the store-bought version. Or simply the alchemy of nostalgia mixed with butter, sugar and figs.  However you slice it up, this recipe should definitely be in your recipe box, filed under Yummy.

Homemade Fig Newtons

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My Favorite Shared Meal & Give Away

Today is Maundy Thursday, which means tonight was my favorite church service of the year – probably due in large part to the fact it involves a shared meal.

Maundy Thursday service

Several years ago our rector started a Maundy Thursday service she called a Journey to Cavalry. We begin outside the church and “travel” inside, stopping for hand washing (I know foot washing is traditional, but…), followed by an agape meal, the eucharist, and finally ending up in the “Garden of Gethsemane” which has been set up in the parlors. Different members of the congregation take turns in the garden, praying and staying up all night.

Agape meal

When we started this tradition the agape meal consisted of us milling around a small table sharing the food with each other. We still share the food, however as the service has grown we’ve added tables down the center isle of the church and more radiating into the transepts. Various parishioners provide the colorful tablecloths and china, and this year my husband added dozens of red oak candle holders which he made. We filled the candle holders with votives and candles left over from All Saints day and the midnight Christmas mass. Remembering, reusing, recycling, followed by rejoicing on Easter Sunday.

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Not Too Sweet

Hilary and Missy knitting

The women in my knitting group have something in common besides knitting. They all follow a gluten free diet. Which makes me the odd duck of the group, wheat eater that I am. So once a month I try to come up with a yummy GF recipe. Not that our endless cups of tea, comradery, and gentle clicking of needles needs much sweetening, but it’s an excuse to explore new recipes. Besides my friends are a willing group of guinea pigs taste testers.

If you’ve read this blog before you know the idea behind it are the stories of how I came across/found/or was given each recipe. A large part of the fun is about the route I took to get the recipe. A map as it were, between biting into something delicious and where I was before I even knew I wanted to bite into that morsel of food in the first place. This tracing of a recipe back to its source is intriguing for me – especially when it comes to the interweb and folks I’ve never met.

Occaionally Eggs gluten free chocolate cookies

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Favorite Tool #19 – Scoops

Stacks of cake pans

There are things in my basement no normal cook has. Graduated sets of round, oval, square, and hexagonal cake tins; four hundred and seventy-three cookie cutters; a brain-shaped Jell-O mold; and fourteen trigger release ice cream scoops in various sizes to name but a few. Tools of the trade from my food styling days, when one job might require a six-inch cake tin for a dense flourless chocolate torte, while another job would call for an eight-inch pan to bake a classic buttery Scottish shortbread in, and a month later I’d have to haul out a fourteen-inch cake pan to use for a party-size spanakopita featured in a brunch spread. For the most part these uniquely sized tools and cookware sit forlornly on the shelves waiting to be used again, gathering dust or serving as spots for spiders to weave their webs. Too special to donate to the church tag sale, yet not ordinary enough to live in the kitchen and be used for everyday cooking, these tools tell the story of a well-prepared food stylist. Ready for any recipe a food editor or art director might present me with. Occasionally I will go down into the basement and grab one of these oddball kitchen tools because it is just what I need to get the job done.

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Pita Bread – Puffy and Flat

Not winter; not spring

Last fall when I got my hands on two new cookbooks Soframiz and Molly on the Range, I was cooking out of both non-stop. Unfortunately the family (myself included) was eating the various recipes faster than I could whip out my iPhone. Everything was just too good. As winter is playing her pre-spring dance with us – where one day it is 16° and you need to dig through the mitten box to find scarves, hats and gloves, but the next day can be 50°, followed by an ice storm where you don’t want to leave the house at all – it’s an excellent time of year to cook and camera. I’m planning on remaking some of our favorites and taking pictures this time.

Molly on the Range and Soframiz cookbooks

I acquired both cookbooks within a week of each other, which of course lead to comparing them. Interesting to note all the recipes they had in common – homemade hummus, meat to top off aforementioned hummus, pita bread, za’atar bread, and pistachio cake. Flipping through the pages, reading the recipes and looking at the pictures was a pavlovian exercise at best. Flip, flip, drool. Then repeat.

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