Cranking through cookbooks again

Long-time readers will know that #1 gets the bulk of her excitement in life from food.  While some people enjoy eating the same (excellent) ~14 meals on rotation, I am too much of a food dilettante.  On top of that, we live in a relatively small town, so even going out can’t bring excitement to my life because we’ve already had everything our town has to offer until places go out of business and get replaced with the new crop of restaurants.  (And our latest and best beloved CSA went out of business a few months ago, so no being forced to try new veggie things.)

Which means that cook-books are a lifeline.  Yes, the internet is great, but the internet takes effort if you want to find something *new* and *different*.  It’s easy to use the internet to say, find the “best chocolate cake recipe” but not so easy to find something that you don’t yet know exists.

Some cookbooks are really amazing.  Here’s a list from 4 years ago of cookbooks we have loved.  I love taking a cookbook that is ~100% winning recipes and just trying them all, even if some of them sound a little weird (example:  egg and onion soup from Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen! turned out to be quick, simple, and delicious, much to our surprise).

Recently I’ve been on kind of a new American/comfort food kick.  (Part of this is because DC1 has started being a pickier eater for no good reason and DC2 has responded by being unable to handle even the smallest bit of spiciness.  American tends to suit both palates so long as we skip cheese and tomatoes.)   I just retired the Better Homes and Gardens 10 years of best recipes book I’d been digging through after realizing we had marked every recipe we’d tried from that book in the number of years we’ve owned it with “ok, nothing special” except for their cake recipes and a single chocolate chip cookie recipe (the other cookie recipes we tried all say, “meh” or “too cakey” or “nothing special”).  Better Homes and Gardens has good cake, but we don’t make cake that often.  Now I’ve dug out the Cooking Light book with the same theme– 10 years of five star recipes.  So far it’s been giving us better luck, especially when I cut down on sugar and switch out the non-fat ingredients with full-fat alternatives.

It’s possible that we need to get more kids’ cookbooks.  The Disney Princess Cookbook has surprisingly good meals, but not very many of them.  Kid Chef has more difficult recipes, but they’ve almost all been winners (we weren’t that crazy about the sesame bar cookies, but there are a number of recipes that were so amazing that they made our “make for other people” list).  We’ve had the kids’ fun and healthy cookbook for years and it’s been a reliable go-to.

Because DC1 is the pickiest eater, zie is now in charge of menu planning and we have been pushing hir to do more cooking (today the kids made monkey bread from the Disney cookbook… it uses an excellent buttery biscuit dough for the balls which are then dipped into butter and cinnamon sugars)… so I hope I’m passing some of this cooking excitement on to the next generation.  Maybe no-knead bread will be more enticing than drugz for them too.  ;)

What cookbooks do you think are worth cranking through?  Where do you find new recipes?  How do you deal with getting out of a cooking rut?  (Or do you prefer repetition?)

Cookbooks we have loved

My maternal grandma got a copy of The Old Fashioned Cookbook by Jan Carleton McBride for my father as a wedding present.  It’s full of wonderful American recipes from appetizer to dessert.  The cake section is especially amazing– I did not like cake at all before trying this book.  When my mom went to a low-fat diet, I was able to obtain ownership for our copy.

Another favorite from my parents’ is The Victory Garden Cookbook by Marian Morash. This fantastic book goes in and out of print all the time and has gone through a few editions and updates (now with microwave technology!). My parents would not part with theirs so we bought our own copy. If you belong to a CSA or have a garden of your own, you must get a copy of this book. It answers the question of, “What on earth are we going to do with all this X?” from basic preparation to elaborate recipes. And the recipes are delicious.

The New Laurel’s Kitchen book is fantastic if you’re trying to eat healthily and/or vegetarian. The recipes in it are creative and tasty, even though they only contain healthy stuff.  It’s a fun read too.  But very hippy-dippy.  What else would you expect from a cookbook coming out of a commune in the Berkeley area?  Additionally, if you want to bake with only whole grains, their bread book is not to be missed.  There are different techniques for baking with whole grain flour (which is “thirstier”) and The Laurel’s Bread Book covers them.

We’ve already talked about this duo of cookbooks from son Kevin and mother Nancy Mills. These are fantastic quick recipes for weeknights. We love them all.

The Cake Bible.  It is as advertised.

Baking with Julia. This cookbook encourages you to master a few basic recipes and use them with an array of different recipes. The weeks my partner spent mastering pie dough were wonderful indeed.

A new favorite that we’ve been going through, Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick and Easy Indian Cooking.  It should be called, Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick, Easy, and Delicious Indian Cooking.  Also:  pretty sure it’s healthier than the stuff we get for take-out.

We have a few Best Recipe books, which are good go-to books when something isn’t in the Old-Fashioned Cookbook.  Our favorite is the Best Recipe Make-Ahead cookbook. It is great for making food in advance whether for a party, for someone with a new baby, or for yourself in the future.

What are your favorite cookbooks?

Baking

DH has done a lot less baking since gaining employment, but the kids have done some.  The kids have done less since school started, but there are some summer treats in there.  And DC1 now knows the difference between baking soda and baking powder!  Because sometimes you have to learn by making mistakes.

These are from our new cookbook, Time to Eat by Nadiya Hussain. We didn’t make the croissants– those are actually grocery store croissants, but the filling is homemade ricotta berry cheesecake and extremely good.

He’s been doing a lot of banana sourdoughs… when we don’t eat all the weekly bananas before they go bad he throws them in with some sourdough starter and makes a bread. The end result is only very mildly banana, unlike banana quick breads. This one has chocolate chips. It was very good.

Chocolate chocolate chip waffles.

Deep fried day old pizza dough balls.

Another recipe from Time to Eat by Nadiya Hussain. These are (store-bought) puff pastry with chocolate inside and cocoa powder on top. Extremely simple to make but they seem decadent.

DH felt like making drop biscuits. I assume these are from the Old Fashioned Cookbook since that’s our go-to drop biscuit recipe.

Chocolate chip cookies from his own recipe and an interesting citrus pudding from Time to Eat. It separates into cake on top and a citrus pudding sauce on the bottom.

Eggplant pizza from Williams Sonoma Pizza. We’ve been going through the recipes that we skipped the first time through. They have all been surprisingly good.

Focaccia. I think DH has been doing a lot more cooking without a recipe since unemployment hit. I think also he’s been mostly making things he’s made before rather than trying out new recipes (other than things I force on him from Time to Eat and My First Cookbook).

Marinated zucchini pizza from Williams Sonoma pizza. This was amazing. Even the kids were willing to eat it. Even DC1 who hates zucchini and is the reason we skipped this the first time through the book.

These were cheese cookies, I think from an online recipe. I liked them, but nobody else liked them enough to keep the recipe.

This was a pizza from Williams Sonoma Pizza. It was achingly sweet. DC1 isn’t a huge fan of oranges so didn’t eat much. DH and I found it too sweet. DC2, who liked it quite a bit, gradually got through it in a week of lunches.

I think this is a chocolate chip cookie cake from My First Cookbook by ATK. DC2 made it with help.

Chocolate cupcakes (Barefoot Contessa) with leftover lemon frosting (Cake Bible) from DC2’s birthday cake.

DC2 asked for a lemon cake from The Cake Bible for hir birthday.

A slice of DC2’s birthday cake.

We had extra pie dough that we needed to get rid of so these are some kind of empanada even though they aren’t really shaped like empanadas.

Random sour dough.

A pupusa from My First Cookbook by ATK.

I think this hunk is actually the few biscuits remaining from between when the biscuits came out of the oven and when I got the camera. I believe DC1 made these from hir baking book before school started.

Some kind of random bread.

This pizza from Williams Sonoma Pizza was AMAZING.

What is bread?

DC2 made these chocolate peanut butter rice crispy treats from My First Cookbook by ATK.

These are apple cinnamon donut-hole muffins from My first cookbook. DC2 made them.

Some kind of calzone from Williams Sonoma Pizza.

Must be bread.

DC1 made this streusel coffee cake.

Some kind of chocolate chocolate cookie.

DC1 made this raspberry Clafouti.

Cranberry nut bread.

DC2 made these ooey gooey butter cookies from one of MIL’s recipes. They use cake mix!

A fruit pizza from Williams Sonoma Pizza.

This bread got a little burned.

I don’t know…. some kind of cake.

This is a cabbage streudel from the Victory Garden cookbook. It is is one of my favorites.

One of the kids made these blueberry muffins. Probably DC1.

Bread?

DC1 made these berry scones.

Link love

My kids did menu planning and grocery ordering this week.  What did they choose for their menu? (Amazon links are affiliate.)
Cheese pupusas from My First Cookbook (ATK)– DC2 will be making these today with a side of grocery store slaw without the dressing and I got a hankering for plantains and plan to fry some up.
Chicken Tenders (they were going to make these, but then we realized we could just buy them already made from the freezer section. I’ll probably insist on a salad underneath.)
Black olive pizza from Williams Sonoma Pizza
Spicy Chinese pork from quick and easy Korean — DC1 will be making this tomorrow
Fancy fish in foil from my first cookbook (ATK)
Baked Macaroni and Cheese from my first cookbook (because DC2 has to try every macaroni and cheese recipe ever created).
Hamburgers

A woman’s personal experience with the discriminatory nature of Voter ID laws.  Please call your senators (again)!

TERFs and racists ruin everything.

This article takes forever to get to the point, but if you remember those mysterious Chinese seeds? (If you don’t, then read the article, it recaps it at LENGTH.)  tl/dr: Everyone who the reporter contacted found a forgotten previous seed order from Amazon from months prior.  Great investigative reporting, but needed some trimming.

I want this.

New-to-me French Toast Technique #LifeChanging

The Easter Bunny brought cookbooks and DC2 has started making something every week along with DC1.

DC2’s cookbook is from America’s Test Kitchen and is called, “My first cookbook.”  Technically it is hir second cookbook, but it is the first one zie has used with minimal parental help.  Zie has made ricotta toast and avocado toast and chocolate dipped things.  Next week zie is planning an oven roasted bbq chicken and broccoli one sheet meal, which we’re excited about (DC2 loves broccoli and dislikes cheese… I don’t understand but more power to hir).

This week’s was a revelation to me.

So basically the idea is you spray a jelly roll pan with cooking spray.  Then you mix up the custard/egg stuff.  Then… get this… you POUR THE CUSTARD INTO THE JELLYROLL PAN (!) (!) (!)  Then, working quickly, you put 8 pieces of bread into the jelly roll pan to cover it.  Then, starting from the top you turn them over.  Then you wait a minute.

After a minute, the egg mixture has completely been soaked up into the bread(!!!!!!)  This is AMAZING.  When I first saw the instructions, I was certain this was going to be a nightmare to clean up after with egg baked into the pan, but it wasn’t!

Then you bake it for 10 min on the bottom rack and then you broil it on the top rack for like a minute until it’s brown on top.  And you end up with perfect French toast. It’s not soggy in the middle. The bread is not dry.  It’s not burned. It just works!

Here’s a version of their recipe online (since I’m not going to violate copyright).  (But I will say you need another egg and 1/3 cup more milk if you use whole wheat or multi-grain bread instead of white bread.  And their recipe really needs nutmeg, that they did not list.)  If that link doesn’t work, here’s the google cache.

How do you make French toast?  Am I the only person who did this the fussy way with dipping and frying and occasionally baking after?

In which I collect things

As recent readers are aware, I recently swapped out desks.  Doing so gave me a chance to sort through my top desk drawer.

Drawer packed full of pens

This doesn’t really give an idea of the sheer *depth* of pens. I cannot fit the loose pens in the back into one fistful. That is at least two fistfuls of pens, not counting the pens in the front or the ones in packaging.

It turns out that I have a lot of pens.  I mean a LOT.  Jetpens during the pandemic is definitely part of the problem.  Trying to find the perfect pen for Postcards to Voters (Pilot Multiball, btw), and also starting a paper planner on nice Moleskine paper, these also contributed.

Pens I actually use (mostly just the Clena and Pilot G2, but the rest are useful for occasional planner stuff).

But before pens, it was hand sanitizer.  And masks.  I have more of either than I will ever use (though I did manage to give away a lot of the excess masks– I hope fancy hand sanitizer will still work as a class prize Fall semester…).

Lots of hand sanitizer.

Remember the ‘tizer.

I think I just have a problem!

I was talking to my friend who has a candle problem and asked what I should collect now that I owned all the hand sanitizer in the world and certainly did not need any more pens (and I’m allergic to candles and a lot of kinds of makeup).  It turns out that at some point in my life I have collected almost everything she suggested.

Purses:  that stopped in college when I lost all my IDs by leaving my purse in a classroom.
Shoes: I have not collected these but I am super picky and have to try them on.
Cat Decor: I did this most of elementary/middle school.
Video games: DH collects these and has more than he will ever be able to play.
Jewelry: I stopped this in middle school after my sister destroyed all of my necklaces and I was sad.
Dolls: My sister collected these. I had two.  This was another thing of mine she occasionally destroyed.
Stuffed animals: DC2 collects these.
Nail Polish: I had my phase in middle school.
Fish: I cannot keep anything alive that does not tell me when it is hungry. See also plants.
Actual cats: See Cat Saga.
Socks: This one is tempting and I’ve sort of started doing it. The problem is that I don’t actually wear socks much– I’m either in tights or sandals most of the time. I rarely wear tennis shoes or hiking boots, which are my only shoes that actually accommodate socks.

It’s not about things, per-se, though it has been things during the pandemic to a much greater extent than usual.

I just like sets.  I like completing things.  I like trying things and trying them all.  I don’t actually need to own all the pens, but I wanted to try them out.  Libraries are great for this– I can try books and then only buy the ones I really liked and will read again.

We go through cookbooks systematically from start to finish. During the pandemic at the grocery story I will try one of every kind of a category. Like Fizzy water or chocolate with almonds or fancy ice creams. Sometimes I’ll just type in a word in the search like “pistachio” or “mango” and just get all the random stuff that comes up. Or like, “German” which is how I found my new favorite brand of muesli (that doesn’t come up when you look up Muesli because it’s spelled differently!).  I’ve tried most of the non-candy stuff at nuts.com (and pretty much all of the chocolate candy with nuts or fruit in it).

It is probably better to stick with gazingus pins that are edible or returnable.  To complete collections of experiences instead of things that clutter or drain the pocketbook.

I woke up with the certainty that I should start collecting cute paperclips.

In the mean time, the kids get to take fancy pens to school next Fall and I won’t be fussed if they lose them.

What do you collect?  Do you systematically go through anything?  Have these habits changed throughout the pandemic for you?

Unemployment baking

Haven’t done one of these since November– that means you get some holiday baking too.

Greek biscotti with wine and spices from Home Baking. IIRC these were very sophisticated and good by themselves or dipped into a hot beverage.

Partybrot from The Bread Book.  It was fun but dried out quickly.

Jamaican coconut pie. This was sweet and gooey.

Torta di testa di proscuitto e formaggio from The bread book. It was fine. Lightly flavored and the fillings kind of disappeared into the bread.

Peanut butter chocolate reindeer from an online recipe. They did not last long.

My Ginger Cookies from Alice Medrich’s Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy cookie book.

This one is smiling. (Pizza from Williams Sonoma Pizza book in the background)

Olive Panini from Home Baking

Muffins? These are Dec 12, so who knows.

Chocolate Decadence cake from Alice Medrich’s Cocolat: Extraordinary Chocolate Desserts

Chocolate Prune Bread… I think this is from the bread book?

Melting Snowman cookies from the internet

Ekmek from The Bread Book

Lavender cake from the internet

Probably from the Williams Sonoma pizza book. I don’t always get pictures of them, but we’ve been making a different one each week (give or take) for a few months now. We’re down to fruit pizza and calzones at this point (and a few we skipped because I don’t like tuna on pizza or we have trouble sourcing ingredients)

Buttermilk fruitcake from Home Baking

Burekas from Home Baking. So good.

Piadina from The Bread Book

Pide from The Bread Book

Probably banana bread. Who knows.

Torta al testo from The bread book. “Not at all worth the effort, could make a better pizza in a fraction of the time” is what it says in our book. It sure looks nice though.

Mystery December bread!

Pain d’Epice from The Bread Book. “Christmassy w/o being too sweet (but it is sweet)”

Nutty Yogurt Bread from The Bread Book  This was a really nice quick bread that doesn’t seem like a quick bread, you know?  Less soda-y than a soda bread, even though it kind of is one.

I’m guessing this is avocado toast using the nutty yogurt bread.

Shrimp Pizza with Sweet Paprika. From Williams Sonoma Pizza. I think we all liked it. Or at least, I sure did.

Ciambella mandorlata from The Bread Book. This looks nothing like the picture which is a flat ring. It was enormous and a bit dry, but overall did not last very long.

OMG these were AMAZING. They’re called Beirut Tahini Swirls and they’re from Home Baking (Dugood and Alfors) and… I can’t even describe how wonderful they are. They’re chewy but flaky, not too sweet, filling. I loved them so much. Kids… didn’t like them. More for me! We tried them again with chocolate peanut butter as a filling and it just didn’t work, partly because the chocolate peanut butter was pretty poor quality, and partly I think because it wasn’t oily enough to make the bread flaky. The peanut butter version was more bready and not anywhere near as magical (though the kids liked them better).

Fougasse from The Bread Book

Yet another excellent pizza.

Pan de Meurto.

I think this pie was from Cook’s Country. Not entirely sure. January, man, so long ago.

Uzbek layered walnut confection from Home Baking. Not quite as good as it looks (the bread part itself is a bit cardboardy), but still pretty good.

Parker house rolls from cook’s country. I think we didn’t like these as much as the Old Fashioned Cookbook version, but they went fast and were good with jam.

Danish log from Home Baking. It’s got a nice marzipanny thing going. The first one lasted almost no time at all since the kids devoured it. The second one stuck around a bit longer.

British tea bread from an online recipe again.

Chocolate Bread Batons from Home Baking. I LOVED these. The kids were less enthusiastic. Maybe not sweet enough? I thought they were substantial and not too sweet.

Cherry strudel from Home Baking. Excellent.

A small portion of the Large batch whole wheat pan loaves from Home Baking. These were fine, but not special. Very similar to other decent whole wheat loaves, but made a huge amount. The kids went through a lot of jam with these and their loafy breathren.

Curried Fruit and Cream Pizza from Williams Sonoma Pizza. Very popular!

Peanut butter chocolate ganache brownies from cooks country. DC2 made these with a little help from DH.

Tender potato bread from Home Baking. Not our best potato bread recipe (I think Old fashioned is better) and boy was it way bigger than the loaf pan.

This is a foccacia version of the potato bread dough overflowing its pan. It was better, though not the most amazing foccacia we’ve made (probably the Bread Book’s is the best so far).

Carrot cake! From the internet. Using America’s Test Kitchen’s American Classics cream cheese frosting which is the best.

La Brioche Cake from the Cake Bible. It didn’t turn out as advertised, but was still a good brioche. And it was good soaked in rum. And it was good slathered with gianduja. Still not as good as the brioche from Pure Dessert, but all around a good solid brioche. Not the worst we’ve made either.

DH is back to making granola.

Challah. Not sure which recipe though.

Mystery bread loaf

Mystery pie

I think this was from the Laurel’s bread book, but I can’t say for sure.

I have no idea.

You would think I would know what this is, but I don’t!

We are missing some pictures.  One is of Double Chocolate banana bread from Cook’s Country which was AMAZING.  Definitely recommend.

Another was of Quark stollen, which we didn’t like as much as regular stollen.

There’s other banana breads and daily loafs and pizzas that are also missing.  It’s weird, I’ve been trying to take a picture of the recipe after taking a picture of the bread, but for some of the breads, only the picture of the recipe saved in my pictures (I tend to text both pictures).

A snapshot of DH’s unemployment chores list

  1. Get and install curtains for the office.  [Ed:  this is my requested Christmas present this year so my face isn’t half blindingly white while zooming]
      1. Rod hanging style
        1. We do not want a curtain rod that attaches inside the door frame, because that will interfere with the screen door.
        2. We could use inside mount brackets and mount the curtain to both side walls, but then there would be a long rod sticking out over the filing cabinets for no reason.
        3. We could use an inside mount bracket on the side wall by the desk, and a normal bracket (to the window’s wall) on the other side, but that’s going to look asymmetrical.
        4. I think we use a normal rod attached to the same wall as the window, and it equally extends on either side of the door frame, which will put the end next to the desk almost up against the side wall, and put about 12” of space between the edge of the window and the end of the rod on each side.  To get the bracket close to the side wall next to the desk, let’s use the blackout rods that curve back into the wall.
          1. It would also be nice to minimize the depth, so the curtain is close to the wall.
      2. “Door” width 70.5” including the molding.
        1. Add 24” -> 94.5” wide curtain.
          1. Divide by 2 panels -> 48” panel width.
        2. Add ~10” -> 80.5” rod.
      3. 4.5” from the outside edge of the molding to the nearest wall.
      4. Do we need two panels or just one?
        1. I think 2 panels would look better.  We could get a single panel 100” wide, but I think when the curtains are open they will look better framing the door.
      5. Door height: 83.25” from floor to molding.
        1. So an 84” long panel? Then we set it above the top of the door and it won’t puddle on the ground.
      6. For curtain color, I think anything light or black is too extreme. Probably best to just go with brown.
  2. Fix the broken fence board.
  3. Clean the guest bedroom. [Ed:  this used to be DH’s office]
  4. Use the copper test kit.  [Ed:  Our water was strikingly blue for a little while.  We turned the whole house filter back on.]
  5. Clean the junk on the floor in front of the printer. [I suspect he means his 3d printer which is on the floor of the guest bedroom]
  6. Get the car inspected and registered.
  7. Clean out my work desk drawer.
  8. Keep the wooden boxes currently in the garage, break them down, or get rid of them. [Ed: More work stuff]
  9. Cash bonds.  [Ed: Both of our families bought us small savings bonds that have stopped accruing interest back in the early 1980s when there was a sale]
  10. Glue “Baking with Julia”.  [Ed: Wonderful cookbook, terrible binding]
  11. Ant hill by corner.  [Ed: Red ants are evil]
  12. Fix gate.  [Ed: I’m not sure what gate he means since the one to our dogrun just sort of fell over and we removed it and it’s no longer a dog run… we now have a more open concept backyard.  Come to think of it, there’s a gate on the other side that we never use that is under a bunch of wisteria, so maybe that’s what he means.]
  13. Replace the lightbulb in the refrigerator.  [Ed: One of MANY lightbulbs that heard DH was going to have a bunch of free time and decided to die]
    1. Ordered replacement.

 

I have no questions.  But it is nice having a highly qualified personal assistant!

Christmas Gifts this year

So…. this year DH’s family departed deeply from tradition and decided to draw lots for Christmas.  We pulled DH’s sister, hir oldest girl, and both preemie twins.  All Amazon links are affiliate links.

DH’s sister‘s Amazon wishlist usually, in the past, pre-preemies, has had things for hir work as a teacher which I love buying because it feels like we’re donating to the school, and random trinkets for herself (like jewelry or cosmetics).  DH, from what I can tell, randomly picks stuff off her list until he gets to $50.  This year is very different.  Hir list has more necessities and fewer luxuries.  Clothing, bathroom supplies, kitchen supplies, and so on, with notes about how they need to replace things that have been lost or are worn out.  So… with the twins and maternity leave (such as it is) we suspect they’re short on cash whereas they’d been doing well before. [Update:  The actual drain on their budget is that they’ve put both older kids in face-to-face schooling at a private school since the public schools are all remote except for special education.]  I have made an executive decision to pick the silverware option and we will be getting her silverware from liberty flatware, probably the Annapolis pattern (Update:  NOT this one– in person it looks like somewhat higher quality versions of cafeteria spoons), unless they end up being too big (we’ve ordered a sample).  (Looking through I really really want the American Garden pattern for ourselves, but we already have a full set of the Martha Washington which is also nicer quality.  There’s just something about flowers on kitchen stuff that is very nostalgic for me.  But the Martha Washington pattern is also nostalgic!  And we don’t need a second set of flatware.  Nor do we need their adorable Christmas flatware.)  Update:  DH ended up getting a full set in the flame pattern.  They are a bit bigger than what we have, but DH’s sister’s family is also much bigger (not just in numbers!) than I am so they can handle European-sized silverware.

There are about a bazillion baby sitter skipper and other baby related items on the list for niece (at $20/each too!), and a bunch of make-up kits (she’s in kindergarten)… we got *one* of the barbie sets (we chose veterinarian) and then got most of the books, which are from the If you give a Mouse a Cookie series and the Llama Llama series, both of which are great sets of kids books.  I’m disappointed we don’t have the oldest kid, because he’s the same age as our youngest and there’s a lot of really good fun science/engineering/etc. stuff on his wishlist.  DH’s family is still unconsciously into gender roles.  I did sneak in The Most Magnificent Thing.

We asked about the twins and were told that they “don’t need anything” which we think is code for “we have enough clothes/toys etc, please give us gift cards.”  At least that’s how we’re going to take it.  So we got a couple of cute Target giftcards with little Christmas puppies on them.

Then we had to decide whether or not to give gifts to DH’s parents despite the names drawing that they breached.  Cabela’s was having an interesting gift card sale where you got the card at a discount so long as it only got used after Christmas.  So we got FIL one of those.  For MIL, DH and the kids are making a Christmas themed shadow box kit that incorporates all 8 grandkids.  DH is hoping for packages with names or tiny tree ornaments, but I think two rows of 4 named stockings would be cute.  We’re going to let the kids choose based on their paperworking skills.  We’re also sending a copy of an instapot cookbook that MIL had on her amazon wishlist but then went out of stock before she could get a copy– we happened to buy a copy after we finished the wonderful Indian food instapot book we had and when we got it were like, we will never use this because we already make these new American things without the instapot, so… it’s kind of like regifting?  (We got ourselves a different Urvashi Pitre instapot book instead— she is THE BEST.)

DH got his relative a bunch of different kinds of pens for people with arthritis because he’s been complaining about how hard it is to write when things get bad.  We didn’t send them earlier because he switched doctors and got on a medication that was helping, but this seemed like a good time.

My mom is getting a Barnes and Noble books gift card.

My sister has asked for a big cast iron skillet.  So she will get that, and some flaxseed oil because it is miraculous at seasoning a pan.  If you have an iron skillet and have to keep re-seasoning it, get some organic flaxseed oil and use this method.

For our own kids… their amazon wishlists are full of books they’ve read from the library that they want their own copies of.  It’s hard to know what to get for DC1 who will be turning 14 right after Christmas.  Last year the theramin kit (and arduino) and lockpick sets went over really well and got a lot of use during the Spring and summer along with a subscription to an adobe video editing software.  But school has started for real again and zie has no time for hobbies that aren’t directly related to school work.  We’d been kicking around the idea of a unicycle for a while and finally got one.  Maybe zie needs a fancy computer chair?  But we asked and zie said no.  We’ll have to come up with something for hir birthday, even if it’s just a giftcard to one of the magic websites [update:  we have settled on cold hard cash].  DC1 has a number of smaller things on hir amazon wishlist, like villainous expansions, and US classic historical novels, but we already get enough complaints from people about there not being enough on there that I figure we’ll have to wait until people have finished their shopping (though it’s hard because my family often puts off shopping past the last minute).

In addition to books, DC2 wants various balls.  We’ve already got a basketball and a four square ball (which when I was growing up we just called a “school ball”… or a “kick ball”– you know, one of those big rubber balls that don’t hurt too much when used inappropriately at recess).  But DC2 wants a volleyball and a soccer ball and so on.  Zie will also be getting more sketch pads.  For hir “big” present, zie has asked for a scooter.

For stocking stuffers, DC2 wants a fidget spinner that spins, and DC1 needs something with a hinge that zie can break without upsetting other people in the family (see, for example, the ipad holder that used to have a little protective thing over the plug area until DC1 worried it off).  I went with a smaller number (1 each) of expensive items that aren’t full of “this came broken/leaves sparkly bits on my fingers/etc.” reviews rather than a larger number of cheaper fidget toys with such reviews.  Hopefully we will get the right items…

Have you been getting interesting things for friends and family?

Stress Baking R Us

With DH’s company going under and all their work mostly being done, DH has had a lot of time for stress baking. Also he’s gotten a couple of dessert books (including one on cookies that MIL got him for Christmas!) (All Amazon links are affiliate)

Fruit and nut powerpack from Home Baking by Alford and Duguid.  This was a hearty dried fruit and hazelnut bread.

Nigella-date hearth bread from Home Baking by Alford and Duguid. I have decided I love nigella seeds–they taste like everything bagels all by themselves. This bread was soft and sweet and oniony and I loved it SO much. It doesn’t really need the dates, but it definitely needs the nigella seeds. (Also called charnushka if you’re getting them from Penzey’s, I think.)

These are chocolate tuilles from DH’s new cookie book that he got for Christmas: Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy by Alice Medrich. I found them a bit overly sweet. They were super crispy day one and still crispy day 2, but kind of got sad day 3. They’re really the kind of cookie I expect with something like ice cream or pudding at a fancy restaurant, but not on its own, you know?  They were also a bit of a pain to make so halfway through DH gave up and just made two giant sheets.

This is Pane con Pomodori e cipolle rosse from bread by Treuille and Ferrigno. OMG I loved this one so much. It’s a tomato onion bread, which meant DC1 refused to even try it, so it lasted a couple days. It was still good at the end! It’s I dunno, it seems more like a meal than bread. It’s savory and wonderful and very good with melty butter.

These are coconut sticks from Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy by Medrich. My notes: Wonderful, amazing, coconutty but not too much. What the coconut cookie in the Danish tin wishes it could be.

I think this is just a plain white loaf from Treuille and Ferrigno, which may be the first recipe in the book. DH was looking for something not ostentatious that would be a good vehicle for jam after doing a bunch of fancy breads. He’s made this one a few times, but not as twisty. I could be wrong though. This could be some other bread. Who knows!

Gorgonzola and Walnut Pizza from Pizza by Williams Sonoma. It’s advertised as a savory dessert pizza and I think it would do very well. It’s super easy to make too and quite impressive. Like, just pizza dough, blue cheese, walnuts, and some kind of citrus zest on top. Super easy and very fancy.

DH woke up one morning and said, what if I made snickerdoodles but with cardamom instead of cinnamon? So he made snickerdoodles from the Old Fashioned Cookbook by Jan MacBride Carleton and half of them had cardamom sugar and the other half cinnamon sugar. It was a brilliant idea. Cardamom sugar works really well with a snickerdoodle dough. Try it sometime!

Zopf, which is a swiss braided loaf from bread by Treuille and Ferrigno. DH notes, “Great, but it’s really just challah.”

Doesn’t that hot gooey mozarella/gorgonzola mixture look amazing? It was. This is Foccia Farcita from bread by Treuille and Ferrigno. It was spectacular. This is how much was left after I got out of class. Luckily they saved both pieces for me (I had one for lunch and then one the next day.)

I think this is a modified bean bread that DH made from the Laurel’s Kitchen Bread book. One of my work colleagues knows I really like red bean paste so sometimes she drops some off with me, and this time DH made bread with it.

Hot cross buns from The Old Fashioned Cookbook by Jan MacBride Carleton. These are so good. Like, if I got them at a super expensive bakery in the city I would not be disappointed at all. They’re rich with nutmeg and the dough is just perfect. There are little presents (but not too many) of candied fruit and dried fruit (thank you nuts.com) inside. They’re just wonderful. These are the unfrosted version.  (You can see the red bean container in the back there with the green lid.)

Hot cross buns with frosting. The frosting itself is a wonderful complement but I can’t have too much. Generally what I did was take an unfrosted bun and scrape off a little frosting from the pan where it dripped. These are so so good. Unbelievably good.

… some kind of bread. Probably from Treuille and Ferrigno, but some of them look alike after a while.

What a lovely looking bread that DH made on October 28th. Do I remember what it was? Nope!  Maybe Pain de campagne from Treuille and Ferrigno?

Focaccia con olive from Treuille and Ferrigno. This was super yummy. Very soft and fluffy. Did not last long.

Well, what a nice looking loaf this is. Do I recognize what kind? Nope. Is this from back in October, yep. I would eat a slice now. I bet it is good with butter.  AHA!  It is South African Seed Bread from Treuille and Ferrigno.  It was good with butter.

DH made one of the fruitcakes in the Old Fashioned Cookbook. This was the only one we hadn’t made yet because it was pounds and pounds of candied and dried fruits and nuts and it just seemed like a lot. Boy was it a lot. But DC1 took a liking to it and it disappeared in a few days. I prefer a fruitcake with a bit higher bread to stuff ratio. I found this one a bit overwhelming. (Don’t get me wrong, I love fruitcake, but this one wasn’t my favorite.)

This is probably irish soda bread. DH often gets a hankering for it and just bakes it. We have three different recipes he rotates between, but I’m not sure which one this is, other than I don’t think it’s the one from the old fashioned cookbook which looks lighter.

Pumpkin cookies from the recipe DH’s mom uses (probably from the back of a pumpkin can several decades ago) in their unfrosted state and some kind of onion flatbread I’m not immediately finding in Treuille and Ferrigno.  But maybe it’s a pizza from Williams Sonoma?

Barefoot Contessa brownies.

Pretty sure this is a pizza from Pizza by Williams Sonoma.

Pumpkin Pie. We used the old fashioned cookbook recipe because that’s my go-to. I think I actually made this one, though DH did the pie crust.

Pain aux Noix, from Treuille and Ferrigno. This is Walnut bread.

DH bought himself a cake book. This does not have any chocolate in it, but it is from a book called Chocolat by Alice Medrich. It was pretty amazing. This is an apricot souffle. It was a multiple step process.

This is what a slice of the apricot souffle looked like.

French Apple tart from Home Baking. Yum.

An olive hearth bread from Treuille and Ferrigno. This did not last very long.

Pumpkin bread from Treuille and Ferrigno.

Italian Cherry Torte from Chocolat by Medrich. This is the unfrosted version.

This the frosted version.  We loved it and said it was even better day two.

Chocolate hazlenut torte from Chocolat by Medrich. Divine.

Some kind of fruit crumble but we can’t remember where it was from. Maybe Cook’s Country? September is a long time ago.

Cornbread?

This is tea sandwich bread from made in a pullman loaf pan from an online recipe. (Which we got one year when I wanted English tea really badly but could not get it.)

 

What looks good?  Do you have anything exciting planned for Thanksgiving eating?