Saturday, December 25, 2010

December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas! Christmas part I was a virtual Christmas with the Howards & Olsons in California. Here's the 360 view of the kids posing with their last present of the morning!
December 24, 2010

It's lonely going to work on Christmas Eve....but it's so nice to work half a day and not burn any vacation!
December 23, 2010

A bit of Austin funky to get us started today. No one knows why the cedar trees on 360 get decorated at this time of year. The only guideline that seems to be followed is the tackier the decorations, the better. The display this year has definitely been stepped up - in this section it's hard to find a tree that's NOT decorated! Everything from plastic bottles painted to look like bees to pink flamingos - you'll see it here. Magically at the end of the season, all the decorating elves make it back out to take down their decorations until next year....
Today's cookie is the Apricot and Nut with Amaretto Icing. I made the dough in advance and had it in the fridge. I found the dough to be soft and a bit sticky, even after 36 hours in the refrigerator. So I simply put the dough log in the freezer for twenty minutes and the cookie sliced up nicely. I do think I will add another half a cup of flour the next time I make these.
The icing s strong and looks a little wavy because I made them late at night and covered them with plastic wrap overnight. I think the icing could be thinned a bit with water and be more of a glaze as it's pretty strong. The almond liquor does add a really wonderful aroma so I wouldn't cut it out completely.
December 22, 2010

Today's cookie is my take on a Linzer cookie. Usually Linzer cookies are a butter-hazelnut cookie sandwich with jam in between. I'm a bit lazy and so I just use a traditional sugar cookie instead of toasting the hazelnuts and making a butter cookie. The only catch is that you need to roll out the sugar cookies a bit thin because otherwise they will spread too much when baking and obliterate the cut out shape. I also heat the jam to make it a bit more thin and spreadable. It's best to put a bit of jam in the center and not all the way out to the edges. If you spread the jam to the edges, it will just seep out the sides when you press the top down.
December 21, 2010

The week of cookies continues! Today I made one of my favorites - the pear spice cookie. I found this recipe in a holiday cookie magazine back in 1999 or 2000 and I've been working with it ever since.
The original recipe is as follows:

Pear Spice Drops
1/2 C Butter
2/3 C Granulated Sugar
2/3C Packed Brown Sugar
1 t Cinnamon
1/2 t Baking Soda
1/2 t Nutmeg
1/8 t Cloves
1 Egg
1/4 C Pear Nectar
2 C Flour
1 C Chopped Fresh Pear
1 C Chopped Walnuts

Beat the butter and add sugars and spices and beat until combined. Beat in egg and pear juice. Beat in flour, chopped pear and walnuts. Drop rounded teaspoons of tough 2" apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Cool and spread with icing.

Powdered Sugar Icing
1/4 C Butter
4 C Sifted Powdered Sugar
1 t Vanilla
2-3 t Milk

Beat butter until soft. Gradually add 2 C of sugar, beating well. Slowly beat in milk and vanilla. Slowly beat in remaining sugar. Beat in additional milk if necessary.

I generally find that I need to add at least 1/2 C -1 C more flour to make this recipe work. This time I forgot to add in the pear juice and it turned out perfect.....except it didn't have as much pear flavor.

The powdered sugar icing is pretty strong in flavor as well as super sweet. So you need the strong pear flavor to balance out the taste. I've tried both fresh pear and canned pears and the recipe turns out fairly similarly, but I like to use fresh pears. Of course you're going to need to crack a can of pears to get the pear nectar anyway so for convenience you might just want to use the canned versions.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

December 20, 2010

Today's cookie is the ginger snap. I got this recipe at a cookie exchange about 3 years ago and have been wanting to try it. Just as delicious as I remember. I had to make a few modifications to come up with the little gems you see at the bottom of the post, but here is the original
Grandma Lampe's Sparkling Ginger Snaps

3/4C Butter or Margarine
1 Egg
1 C Sugar
1/4 C Molasses
2 C Flour
1/2 t Salt
1/2 t Cloves
2 t baking soda
1/2 t Ginger
1 t Cinnamon

Cream until fluffy butter and sugar. Beat in egg and molasses. Sift together flour, salt, cloves, baking soda, ginger and cinnamon. Chill dough. Shape into balls. Roll in sugar. Bake on an un-greased sheet 12-15 min at 350 degrees.

What I found was the balls needed to be near marble size. I ended up rolling the dough into a log and slicing it to get even portions for the cookies. I also went a bit short on the cooking time as I think these are smaller than the recipe calls for - only 10 minutes. These cookies spread like crazy so don't crowd the pan.
December 19, 2010

This is really my picture from Sunday - doesn't Ginger look like the picture of comfort. At least the girls like to cuddle.
But my main Sunday project was to make Swedish Creams. Here is the recipe as written by my mother:

Judi learned how to do these and did them for years. Then she stopped because too much work. Janet picked up doing them.

I have never tried.

Swedish Cremes

1 cup butter

2 cups flour, sifted - cut in and gradually add cream

1/3 cup whip cream

Make like pie crust and then chill in refrigerator. It will form a ball.

Work with 1/3 dough at a time.

Roll out 1/8” thick.

Cut with 1.5” cookie cutter – round – coated with sugar. Prick. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet 7-9 minutes 375 degrees

Frosting sandwich.

¼ c soft butter, ¾ c powdered sugar, 1 egg yolk, 1 t vanilla Doesn’t sound like you melt the butter, just stir the whole thing together? I will ask her.

Color red or green sometimes.

And this is what I came away with. I had no problems getting the dough to roll out to 1/8" thick. Of course I accidentally didn't get enough butter in it and compensated with cream. It was OK, but a little tough. I found that docking the dough before I cut out the rounds was much more efficient than docking it after I cut the rounds. Though many at the office thought the dough was a cracker until they tasted it.
I think Auntie Janet must roll hers out a bit thicker than 1/8". But alls well that ends well, the cookies tasted good!
December 18, 2010

PJ Party at Precilla & Lyndsey's! A nice way to wrap up the holiday season of parties....I'm excited to finally NOT have a party to go to this Saturday night :)
December 17, 2010

Mmm doesn't this look tasty. I was waiting in line to purchase my megamillions ticket on Friday night and I saw this in the case by the checkout. I just had to take a picture. I met up with Mandy, Pete and the rest of Team Nevinz at the Alamo for Harry Potter and they reported this beverage was widely popular in "The Valley"

Monday, December 20, 2010

December 16, 2010

Theta dinner group at North in the Domain. I'm not sure what they put in this cheesy spread for the bread, but it's delicious! We had a great turn out of 10 for the week before Christmas. See everyone next month at Moonshine.
December 15, 2010

It's a haphazard display of lights in the neighborhood again this year. The new addition is the sparkling tree at the front entrance. The neighborhood association paid to have the whole tree decked out.
But I can't forget the neighborhood highlight....the Christmas countdown clock. There's only 9 more days left folks.
December 14, 2010

Some assembly required. Well when I planned to make this for the pot luck, I didn't think about the fact that it would travel so well. I didn't want to put the tomatoes in for fear they would water down the lettuce, basil is never good torn after 12 hours and you can't dress it before you leave. Anyway, I'm ending up taking a bajillion Gladwares into the office to make this work....
December 13, 2010

This weekend I caught the Ina Garten holiday special on Food Network. She went to London and checked out a bunch of foodie sights. The menu she came back with was eclectic and this salad caught my eye. I think I'll make it for the holiday potluck on Wednesday.

I took the photo and rotated it upside down for the Star Wars effect

Sunday, December 12, 2010

December 12, 2010

December 11, 2010

Gingerbread House Party! Can you believe it's the 11th annual already? Where does the time go? Classic Santa's snowy cabin takes the prize this year.
December 10, 2010

Staying at home today to work on recovering from this sinus infection. My two cube mates didn't mind my sneezing at all. They spent most of the day basking in the sun as it moved from room to room. In this pic, Zoe heard me get up, but it felt too good in the sun to actually come and see what I was doing.
December 9, 2010

The nice thing about this season is that even if you are uninspired, there are plenty of things to take pictures of. Here is one of the carousel ornaments on the garland in the family room.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

December 8, 2010

Horse tablets. Nothing like 875 mg of Amoxicillin to knock out a sinus infection. I hope to be feeling better soon!
December 7, 2010

Light reflections on my ceiling. I've got a garland of lights and faux evergreen on top of my cabinets and it bounces the most wonderful light on the ceiling at night.
December 6, 2010

Swrillies in my cup. Downing loads of hot water to help the voice and hydrate today. These were the little swrillies in my cup after I poured it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

December 5, 2010

Green Chili Pork Stew is one of my favorite dishes at the Roaring Fork. The recipe calls for a boatload of green chillies and as I was chopping my poblanos I ran across this interesting picture.

The recipe is ridiculously unhelpful. I channeled all the experience I had reading my Mom's written recipes and came up with a fairly decent stew.

2 cups diced yellow onions

1 cup diced poblanos

2 lb. diced pork

2 Tbsp. minced garlic

2 Tbsp. cumin powder

2 Tbsp. ground coriander

2 Tbsp. jalapeño powder

5 Tbsp. green chili powder

2 Tbsp. onion powder

2 cups chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

In a stewing pot, sauté vegetables until tender.

Add diced pork. Add all dry ingredients.

Stir well for a couple of minutes, blend well. Add chicken stock and let simmer on low to medium heat for 11/2 hours or until fork tender.

Skim fat off surface as stew simmers. Season with salt and pepper just before service, only if needed, to your taste.

Serve in a bowl with pepper Jack cheese, roasted serrano pepper and warm, buttered flour tortillas.

I had to substitute regular chili powder instead of green chili powder because really, where am I going to find that in Austin??? It definitely affected the taste so I searched online and found a green chili power source. At like $5 per ounce I don't see me purchasing 5T worth!!

I then ran across this version of the recipe.....

Roaring Fork Green Chile

Source: Roaring Fork, Scottsdale, Arizona

2 tablespoons corn oil
2 pounds boneless country-style pork ribs, coarsely cut
Kosher salt, to taste
Cracked black pepper, to taste
2 cups yellow onion, diced
1/4 cup jalapeno chile, minced
1 cup dried New Mexico green chiles, seeded, stemmed and minced
1/4 cup garlic, minced
2 cups poblano chile, roasted, peeled and pureed
1 cup grated pepper jack cheese
24 (6-inch) flour tortillas

Over a fire or stove burner, heat corn oil in a cast-iron pot. Season the pork with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, add the pork, onion, jalapeno and New Mexico chiles and garlic. Cook until the pork is tender, about 1 1/2 hours.

Add the poblano chile puree and simmer for 45 minutes. When done, sprinkle with jack cheese and serve with tortillas.

Makes about 6 servings.

I still need to get a source green New Mexico chilis but it would probably be easier to find those than the powder. I'll let you know if I rally to the cause of this one might just be easier to go to the Roaring Fork!
December 4, 2010

Dessert bar at the holiday party. I went with a chocolate/peppermint theme and I think it turned out really stinking cute if I do say so myself. I printed the signs for each of the treats and had to go treat boxes for everyone to take home. Fun!

December 3, 2010

More holiday party prep, this time with a cup of Starbrite mints. Mmm peppermint-y
December 2, 2010

Thursday night book club where we don't read books. Technically we've been working on the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for about four months now but we're waiting for everyone to finish before we discuss. We may be waiting for another four months at this rate.
We put it aside for this month in honor of a white elephant party. This wasn't like any other white elephant party I've ever been to - everyone brought a nice gift and there was hardly any stealing!
After the party back to my place for some quick chocolate barking! Gotta get started on the party prep for Saturday's Theta holiday party.
December 1, 2010

It's the first of December and so that must mean it's time to hang all the Christmas lights. Thanks to Mom, I've already got a big head start with the tree fully installed. Now I just have to put all the ornaments on and get all the lights in the windows. Oh and take down the Thanksgiving decorations....
November 30, 2010

So after nearly a year of successful flying monkey promotion at trade shows, we're looking for our next great marketing idea. We immediately went with the idea of flying pigs and even picked up a sample. Unfortunately it doesn't come with a cape for easy patch ironing AND the sample we got oinked one time and then stopped. How are we supposed to test it out without the noise?
Here is Billy performing pig surgery to review the sound box to see if we could repair it. Tragically the pig still doesn't oink....
November 29, 2010

The Tampico waits for your return.