A Cookbook Gift

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Right after my daughter got married, a bit over 7 years ago, I did something that I’m very happy I did. I wrote a cookbook for her. Not just because she was married, or because she’d reached a certain age. It’s just that as she got older and busier, we didn’t really cook together much anymore, and I had so much I wanted to share.

I’m pretty much 99% self-taught, so I learned the hard way how to cook. I had no Grandma in the kitchen with me showing me the ropes, which is fine, but that’s what I mean about learning the hard way. I read recipes, and cooked. And I made mistakes.

When I made the decision to write the cookbook, I purchased a metal-ring binder kind of book. (There are many options on Amazon.com.”) It came with dividers, and pages I could put through my printer. I also used plastic-lined blank pages, so there was lots of room for pictures, drawings, and personal notes.

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A lot of the pictures I glued were pages I’d saved from Chefs Illustrated – they have the most beautifully illustrated tutorials, like on boning a chicken, for example. And I had copies of helpful reference charts, like how long it takes to steam different vegetables, or at what temperature to remove meat from the oven.

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I ended up being so happy with my “cookbook” that I made a duplicate for my younger daughter, and gave both girls the cookbooks at Christmas.
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Although I rarely cook the same thing twice, I still do have my favorite recipes, and these are in the cookbook. My Favorite Barbecue Sauce, for example. Or a recipe for White Sauce. I remember once thinking once that only chefs in fancy restaurants could make white sauce. How silly is that?!!!

My older daughter, who cooks often, has told me that she has referenced my cookbook quite often over the last few years. Of course, You Tube is available now for just about anything, but I think she likes having me “talking” her way through some helpful instructions.

I especially love that both of my daughters cook beans. They figured out how easy it is to cook a dollar’s worth of dried beans and make spectacular meals. I know adults who have never cooked beans from scratch! And, I credit my cookbook for encouraging this, because I simply showed how easy it is. It’s easier for young people to jump into cooking without any pre-conceived notions as to how difficult some of it might be. And honestly, as we all know, home cooking is quite straight forward and easy. It aint’ rocket science!

So I’m not writing this post to pat myself on my head. This is not a cookbook that I will be sharing with anyone else. I designed it just for my daughters, who both enjoy cooking and eating, so that they might not learn some things the hard way.

I wanted to pass this idea along to any of you who hadn’t thought about it, so you can gift your children a cookbook from your heart and soul. (Or anybody, really!)

Even if your children are young, it’s something you can plan for the future, gathering culinary tidbits here and there, maybe keeping track of the meal you made on every birthday and a photo to go along with the meal. Or a special section just on holiday menus that were enjoyed by all.

They grow up fast so plan ahead!

But I do know one thing. They will treasure your cookbook always.

Holiday Brownies and a Santa Timer

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I was never a huge fan of brownies. Maybe because the only ones I tasted came from a boxed mix. But once I started making them myself from scratch, especially with good chocolate, my viewpoint changed.

Over the years, mostly for the holidays, I enjoy making brownies with various ingredients, which is what makes baking them so much fun. Of course there are nuts, and chocolate and toffee bits, but also additions of liqueurs, like Amarula or Bailey’s. I’ve even made excessively rich brownies with layers of fig and raspberry jams. Almost too sweet, but really festive.

In any case, two things happened recently. Now that the holiday season has begun, I decided I would test out a recipe for brownies that I’ve been eyeing a long time. It’s very chocolatey, using only bittersweet chocolate, and there’s a topping of dried cranberries, pistachios, and candied ginger. Isn’t that intriguing?!!

Also, I received a lovely gift of a Santa Timer. I immediately fell in love with this little guy, mostly because I adore anything Christmas, but I also thought how much fun children would have with this timer.

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If you check out the link to the Holiday Timers website, there are other holiday timers, and they’re available on Amazon.

The timer isn’t only cute, but when the alarm goes off, Santa talks and Christmas music plays. Oh, and it has a magnetic back. Fun!

So here is this holiday’s brownie recipe, inspired by a recipe from Bon Appetit.
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Holiday Brownies with Dried Cranberries, Pistachios, and Ginger

1 stick, or 4 ounces unsalted butter
24 ounces bittersweet chocolate, divided
Two oranges
3 ounces dried cranberries, preferably non-sweetened
3 ounces whole pistachios
1 1/2 ounces fine, crystallized ginger
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup white flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line a 11.5 x 7″ baking dish with foil, leaving an overhang.

Butter the foil using the end of the butter stick. Then place the butter and 8 ounces of the chocolate in a pot placed over a pot of hot but not boiling water.

Melt the butter and chocolate, and when it’s smooth, remove the pan and let the chocolate mixture cool. The best advice I ever read about the process for tempering/melting chocolate, is that you are not cooking the chocolate, you are slowly melting it. If you haven’t tempered before, take your time and do it over the lowest heat.

Once it’s smooth, remove the pan from the water and set aside to cool, stirring occasionally.

With the remaining 16 ounces of chocolate, chop the bars somewhat finely and place 8 ounces onto two squares of foil. You will have two piles of chocolate, at 8 ounces each. Set aside.

Zest the oranges, and place on a piece of foil or a small bowl. Set aside.
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Place the cranberries, pistachios and crystallized ginger in a medium bowl and set aside.
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Using an electric mixer, beat eggs, sugar, brown sugar, and the salt in a large bowl, until light and fluffy. This should take about 4-5 minutes.


On low speed, gradually beat in the chocolate mixture, and then the zest.

Add the flour and fold it in just until blended, using a spatula, then fold in approximately 8 ounces of chopped chocolate.


Spread batter in pan and smooth it as best you can. Bake for 25 minutes. And you can bet I used the Santa Timer!

Remove the baking dish from the oven and immediately sprinkle the top with the remaining 8 ounces of chopped chocolate.
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Let sit for a few minutes to allow the chocolate to soften, then add sprinkle on the cranberries, pistachios, and ginger.
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Let the brownies cool completely and set, for at least 3 hours. Then slice carefully.

The original recipe called for melted white chocolate to be drizzled over the top of the brownies, but I thought that a bit too much chocolate, although it would be pretty. I guess you could use a caramel drizzle as well.
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But I didn’t think a drizzle was necessary!

Be aware, however, that these brownies are sweet, rich, and gooey.