Friday, December 25, 2009

An Overdue CSA Wrap-Up

CSA chicken - roasted

We finished off the last CSA chicken in the freezer (now only chicken parts for stock and a hunk of farm fresh butter remain), and it reminded me that I've been meaning to close out my 2009 CSA experience with a wrap-up of my favorite dishes from this year's adventure.

A lot of "Top 10" lists appear around each year's end, so I'll add mine to the mix and hope this season will make the timing seem appropriate, rather than belated. I do have more than 10 recipes to mention, though, so I won't be entirely traditional.

Jennette's 15 Favorite CSA Eats from 2009
(in alphabetical order, not in order of preference, because all of these dishes were amazing)

Kale Lovers' Pizza

1. 5-Cheese Pizza with Kale and Roasted Garlic (week 4).


2. Beet Lemon-limeade (week 3).

Beets, Blue Cheese Sauce, and Spiced Walnuts

3. Beets with Blue Cheese Sauce and Spiced Walnuts (week 18).

Green Bean Salad with soy-glazed almonds

4. Cold Green Bean Salad with Soy-Glazed Almonds (week 8).

5. David Chang's Brussels Sprouts with Mint (week 21).

Eggplant bread salad

6. Eggplant Bread Salad (week 12).

Fried Cucumbers

7. Fried cucumbers with Lemon Pulp (week 5).

Kale chips

8. Kale Chips (week 8).

North African Stuffed Purple Peppers

9. North African Stuffed Purple Bell Peppers in Feta Sauce (week 7).

Onions and beets
(pictured at bottom)

10. Peas a la Francaise (week 3).

Fried Green Tomatoes

11. Polenta-Crusted Fried Green Tomatoes (week 19).

Pommes de Terre Byron

12. Pommes de Terre Byron (week 14).

Stir Fry

13. Stir-fried Bok Choy with Anything Else (week 1, for starters).

Buttermilk Sweet Potato Pie slice

14. Sweet Potato Buttermilk Pie (week 21).

Chicken lettuce wraps with chili lime dipping sauce

15. Vietnamese Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Spicy Lime Dipping Sauce
(week 3).


I didn't sign up for a winter CSA share in time (maybe next year), but I have already indicated my interest in doing another spring-summer-fall share. I hope you'll join me (in a CSA or by mindful shopping habits) in enjoying seasonal, local vegetables and the many ways they can be eaten.

And thanks again for all of your support.

Hold up a sec!

Mid-afternoon snack

Wow, I really got behind in my blog posts this holiday season, didn't I? Do you mind waiting a minute while I tell you about a doughnut from a few weeks ago?

I totally forgot to mention to you that I tried my first Tim Horton's doughnut. A T.H. opened in the neighborhood in which I work, and my coworkers (Jeremy, Dave, and Ethan) kindly picked up one of the last (!) plain doughnuts available on the afternoon they stopped by. I guess the next batch hadn't come out of the oven yet.

It was good -- simple, sweet, and not at all stale. If they get their stock back up, I'll try more.

Tim Horton's

Constant Craving

M Noodle

Christmas lunch with my parents was lovely -- turkey, gravy, roasted Brussels sprouts, olives, strawberries, sausage and bread dressing, and mashed potatoes -- but as soon as I get home from these festive festivities I plan to relax with an order (or two) of chicken dumpling soup from M Noodle Shop. The scallion pancake (pictured above) wouldn't be a bad addition to the meal, but I've been dreaming about their soup since the first time I tried it. I've given in to the craving about once a week since that first time, and I can't seem to stop desiring it. Delish.

Egg Fairies

Neighborly Eggs

I can only assume the egg fairies knew I was almost out of eggs and left me this present outside my apartment door. I mean, logic might suggest that it was actually my neighbor, before he left town, but...I say fairies.

Merry Christmas Rolls


Many of the family members I've spoken to on the phone today have been celebrating this holiday morning with a breakfast of cinnamon rolls. What are you eating?

At our house, the tradition (which I mentioned here last year) is for Mom to make pecan rolls on Christmas Eve. We eat them warm, with sparkling cider or fizzy grape juice, as we each open one Christmas present that night after (or between) church services.

Leftover Pecan rolls have a place on Christmas morning, too, and are tasty with cocoa or orange juice. We eat more as the rest of the presents are unwrapped and declared over.

My mom's recipe is made with "Tupperware Bread" dough and the glaze from the following Betty Crocker recipe. She does not use the Betty Crocker dough, though you could. I've included Mom's dough recipe after the B.C. version.

Butterscotch Pecan Rolls
from Betty Crocker's Cookbook (1986)
Sweet Roll Dough (recipe below)
1/2 c. + 4 T. margarine or butter, softened (divided)
1/2 c. sugar
4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. pecan halves
4 T. corn syrup

Sweet Roll Dough:
1 package regular or quick-acting active dry yeast
1/2 c. warm water (105 to 115 F)
1/2 c. lukewarm milk (scalded, then cooked)
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. shortening, margarine, or butter, softened
1 tsp. salt
1 egg
3 1/2 to 4 c. all-purpose flour (if using self-rising flour, omit salt)

For dough:
Dissolve the yeast in warm water in a 2 1/2 qt. bowl. Blend in the milk, sugar, shortening, salt, egg, and two cups of the flour. Stir until smooth, then stir in enough flour from the amount remaining until dough is easy to handle. Turn doough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until elastic and smooth (approx. 5 minutes). Put dough in a greased 2 1/2 qt. bowl. Turn the dough so the greased side is up. At this point, the dough in the greased bowl can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days, if you're making the dough ahead of time.

Cover dough and let rise in a warm environment until the dough has doubled (approx. 1 1/2 hours). The dough is ready if an indentation remains when the dough is poked lightly. Punch down and continue with recipe.

Pecan Glaze:
Melt 1/4 c. butter. Into this, stir brown sugar, pecan halves, and corn syrup. Spread in a greased sheet pan, or in greased muffin cups. If too thick to spread, microwave for 30-45 seconds.

Create Rolls:
Using your hands or a rolling pin, flatten the dough (on a lightly floured surface) into a rectangle that measures 15x9 inches. Spread with 4 T. butter. Mix sugar and cinnamon together, then sprinkle this over the rectangle. Roll up tightly, from the 15" side. Pinch the edge of the roll into itself to seal it well. Stretch the roll so that it is an even size. Cut (Mom uses a little thread) into 1 1/2-inch slices. Place in pan over glaze. Let rise until doubled (approx. 40 minutes).

Preheat oven to 375 F. Bake rolls until they are golden brown (approx. 25-30 minutes). Immediately invert the pan over a heatproof serving plate or tray. Let pan remain for a minute or so before removing.


My mom's Variation -- use this Tupperware Bread Dough instead of Betty Crocker's Sweet Roll dough. You'll only need half of this for the pecan rolls (or iced or glazed cinnamon rolls if you don't like pecans), but you can make two loaves of delicious bread with the other half of the dough.

9 c. flour
4 eggs
1/2 c. sugar
2 packages yeast
1 1/2 c. scalded milk
1 1/2 c. water
1 tsp salt
2 sticks margarine

Measure the flour into a large Tupperware bowl. Make a well in the center. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat 4 eggs with a fork or whisk. Add sugar and yeast. Stir in milk that has been cooled in the water. Add salt. Blend.

Pour wet ingredients into the well in the center of the flour. DO NOT MIX!!

Seal Tupperware bowl, "burp" it, and set the bowl in a sink full of warm water for 30 minutes. The seal should pop off, but if it pops before 30 minutes are up reseal it and leave it in the warm water for the remainder of the 30 minutes.

Melt 2 sticks of butter. After the 30 minutes are up, add the melted butter to the flour mixture. Mix well, then seal it, burp, and return it to the warm water for another 30 to 40 minutes.

When the seal has popped off the second time, knead 15 to 20 times, adding a little extra flour if you need to.

Divide and shape dough on floured surface -- half goes to 2 rolls of bread; half to pecan rolls. Let rise 15-20 minutes in a greased bread or cake pan. Bake in preheated 375 F oven for 30 minutes.

If you'd like to omit the pecans, here's an icing you can use to frost the baked and cooled cinnamon rolls (or use your favorite recipe):
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. powdered sugar
1/8 cup milk or more to thin mixture to desired consistency.


Whatever you're eating today -- and whether you're celebrating anything I hope you're eating well -- I'm aiming my best wishes at you through this website! Merry Christmas and happy times to us all.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Gift for Beloved Bakers

Peanut butter pusher

Here's a holiday gift idea that's coming a little late.

My favorite tool while baking cookies (if we're talking smaller than a food processor)?

One of these push-up style measuring cups. They're perfect for measuring shortening, softened butter or vegan spread from tubs, peanut butter, and molasses. Less fuss, less mess, more push-pop action!

If your favorite baker doesn't have one, make a note for Christmas (etc.), 2010.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Poetry Tuesday: Around the Office, This Time of Year

Office gifts

At the office, Christmas looms, Hanukkah
Lingers in the rustling
Bags of sweet or spicy crispy chocolate
Pretzels cookies bread and nuts.
They're on the table, 'round the corner,
Perched upon Reception's shelf --
Cardless or carded, whisp'ring "Merry,"
"Happy," "Best" and "Eat Me Now."

BUT my vacation days call, too.
They say, "Use us. We don't roll over anymore,"
So, even as the treats call, "Linger."
I must flee from rolling chairs.
I take my leave from keyboards, lunch breaks,
Scheduled time. I've errands of my own.
I've celebrating naps to take.
I've fairy lights to ponder.

So I am gone now, into home and respite,
thinking of those sweet remains. They're
showing up in tissue, tins and
paper sacks without me there.
I know too well,
I see so clearly -- quickly, that's how
Tasty gifts of goodies from
The friendly folk I work with
Disappear, are eaten -- thoroughly and well.
It's as it should be, in this season,
But, alas, I won't be there.

Cookie Bag

Half Pretzel

Pretzel box

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cookie Party F.A.Q.

I didn't notice the waif in the bottom right-hand corner when I was taking this picture.

Essay Answer to Frequently Asked Questions about the Cookie Party:

If you're not familiar with my Cookie Party craziness [for a primer, view all Cookie Party posts on Snackreligious], here's the scoop. Feel free to comment with other questions you might have.

For this year's menu, see this post.

I started throwing my Annual Holiday Cookie Party (AKA, "Jenny and Dan's Holiday Cookie Party," once we got cookie-level-serious) in college, when I was living in Kansas. This year marked my 13th party. I have never missed a year. Traditionally, it is held in December, but one year I had it in January, due to travel plans.

Yes, this used to be called "Jenny's Annual Christmas Cookie Party," but then my friend and former co-worker Sarena gave me a dreidel cookie cutter and I changed the name to be more inclusive. I celebrate Christmas, but you don't have to!

The whole thing is based on the Open House my mom had before Christmas every year when I was growing up. Mom's party was held over several hours on a Sunday afternoon and she never asked anyone to RSVP. She made hundreds of cookies in advance and invited everyone in the church, my sister's and my friends, and close neighbors. My philosophy is similar, though I start receiving guests in the evening, and I never know how many people to expect. Usually there are between 30 and 50 attendees. Mom began baking in October, freezing everything, but she had a big chest freezer in the garage. I live in New York City in a small apartment (with a small freezer), so I have to do everything on a smaller scale -- and in just a few weeks. I also can't invite everyone I know, so my invite list is a little smaller (though not restrictive).

Yes, I bake them all myself. Though I'm happy to have friends come over to help (or keep me company), only Steph (last year's fudge) and Angela (during the Kansas years) have been extra hands in the kitchen (also, Rachel has been a big help during clean up, and I can already tell her young daughter is going to be a good sous-chef). This year, I started baking cookies for the party at the beginning of the second week of December. I made them whenever I had a free night -- usually 2 kinds per night -- including most of the nights last week and most of the day (and evening) on weekend days. I finished baking around midnight most nights, but occasionally stayed up until 1 or 2.

I would estimate that for this year's cookies I used around 15 pounds of flour, 12 pounds of butter, and more than 10 pounds of sugar (granulated, natural, brown, sanding, and powdered). Many of the recipes I use are my mom's. Others are from internet searches, blogs, cookbooks, magazines, and friends. I do tweak some of the recipes to my own needs/desires, but I have never created a cookie recipe from scratch. The menu is never the same. I haven't officially "retired" any cookies (except possibly the bacon cookies described below), but I do like to rotate what I make.

I don't have a favorite cookie, but I always make Snickerdoodles. They're a favorite from my childhood.

The weirdest cookie I ever made was a bacon cookie that turned out like a hard biscuit. Dan named them "German Wartime Treats." I don't plan to make those again, though I remain open to a bacon cookie in theory.

This year, my surprise temporary favorites were the Cornflake Pecan Honeys (made with local honey) and the Walnut Rum Errors. The latter are named that because I mis-read a Martha Stewart cookie recipe and didn't follow the directions correctly. The result was a sticky cookie dough that almost didn't survive the baking process. They came out fragile, flat, burnt-looking, and were hard to remove from the cookie sheet. But they are actually delicious!

How is it that all those cookies don't go stale? Each year, I freeze everything I make in airtight containers until my freezer is full. This year, when my freezer was at capacity I moved the next several batches into a friend's freezer (thanks, R!). When that was stuffed, and with the party less than a week away, I moved on to piling cookie containers into my fridge, storing items there for a couple of days. If there's no refrigerated room left in the inn, last minute items do well at room temperature during the final week, as long as they're in airtight containers.

People who attend the party should NOT bring cookies! They are invited to bring booze, if they want something special. I do make a couple of spike-able drinks available. It's not just cookies, either. I also make savory and sweet non-cookie items like meatballs, pralines, toffee, cheese puffs, etc.

A few years ago, Dan started printing out a menu for our guests to peruse. I make sure to note which cookies have nuts or peanuts, for those who may be allergic. I don't have many vegan guests, but I started making at least 2 or 3 items vegan each year, and most of the other dishes are vegetarian.

In recent years, I have added a "fresh" cookie option. I bake one kind of cookie (usually a chocolate chip with nuts) during the party, so that they can be eaten warm.

Here come meatballs!

This year I made 2,244 cookies (21 different varieties). I don't count "testers" eaten by Dan or me during the baking process. We don't eat a lot of them, though. Maybe 2 or 3 per batch -- unless a lot of them break or they're really fab. I also did not count the Mrs. Fields cookies baked during the party, but the recipe claimed it would make around 50 of them.

Yes, I love doing this. I drive myself a little crazy every year (I usually have 1-4 mini meltdowns, and I learn something from each one), and Dan helps a lot with the dishes and cleaning (and he always makes the Crispix Mix), but it is all worth the effort once I'm at the party. I think of it as a gift for all my treasured friends.

Kitchen, Jeremy included.

Real men eat cookies
(photo by unknown)

After Party
(photo by Dan)

Ah, the delicious aftermath.

Max's cookie
(photo by Dan)

Why choose just one?
(photo by Dan)

My 13th annual Holiday Cookie Party was last night. Once I finish the dishes (which may take a while), I'll get back to regular blogging -- and I'll share recipe links and photos for many of these items.

A number of my friends couldn't make it, but most of those who did attend are among my favorite people in the NYC area. About 50 friends and friendly strangers stopped by over the course of the evening, including two women from across the street, whom I'd never met, who just happened to be outside their home and were invited on a whim by one of my other guests.

Rosy cheeks at the cookie party
(photo by Dan)

Three children were in attendance this year (up from one last year and none the previous 11 years). They were delightful to be around, but I know that the party's evening start time doesn't work for parents whose kids have early bedtimes. Next year, I may have to throw a pre-Cookie Party event for the tots, with an emphasis on decoration, and then I could serve any uneaten creations at the classic evening party.

Cookie Party prep

Cookie Party Menu (2009)

1. Black and White Espresso Chip Cookies - NEW!
2. Chocolate Peppermint Snaps - NEW!
3. Chocolate Wakeups
4. Citrus Sizzlers
5. Coconut Joe Froggers (vegan)
6. Cornflake Pecan Honeys - IMPROVED!
7. Deluxe Sugar Cookies to decorate
8. Magnolia Peanut Butterscotch
9. Margarita Cookies
10. Mrs. Fields Cookies (walnuts)
11. Nutella Cranberry Crisps (hazelnut)
12. Cocoa Snowflakes (pistachios)
13. Salty Oatmeal Cookies
14. Shortbread Jammies - NEW!
15. Snickerdoodles
16. Spritz Cookies (contain almond extract)
17. Triple Ginger Spice Cookies (vegan)
18. Walnut Rum Errors (2 ways) - NEW!
19. World Peace Cookies - NEW!

Bar Cookies and Other Sweets
20. Boy Scout Bars
Buttermilk Bacon Pralines - NEW!
Double Decker Peanut Butter Marbled Meltaway Fudge
English Toffee (peanuts)
Midnight Rum Balls (vegan)
21. Pecan Turtle Bars

Artichoke Dip and crackers
Baby Carrots and Hummus
Crispix Mix (pistachios) - Lime or Original
Dried Wasabi Peas
Herb Biscuits with filling (vegetarian)
Spicy Cheese Puffs
Turkey Meatballs
Veggie Booty

Fair Trade Hot Cocoa
Hot Buttered Rum
Hot Cranberry Tea (optional: with rum or bourbon)
Milk, Water, Assorted Teas
Wine (thanks to all the people who brought wine!)


If you attended, leave a comment letting me know what your favorite cookie was. And if you took any photos during the party, send them my way.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I'm dreaming of a green New Year's...

Favorite Breakfast

Dear airline companies,

Please lower the prices of tickets to Miami so that I can spend a few days in Florida eating avocados (with hot sauce) as they fall off the tree. This habit is expensive up north.

With love,

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I'm swamped, y'all.

Been too busy to post. Almost to busy to type this, but I miss you! I'll be back soon.

Salty Oatmeal Cookies
Salty Oatmeal

Citrus Sizzlers - far
Citrus Sizzlers

Black and White Espresso Chip Cookies
Black and White Espresso Chip

Pecan Turtle Cookies - far
Pecan Turtle Bars

Peanut Butterscotch
Peanut Butterscotch

Nutella Cranberry Crisps
Nutella Cranberry Crisps

Walnut Rum Errors - close
Walnut Rum Errors

Cookie Count: 1912

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A late night with the knitting triangle...

Guava Empanada

There are only three of us -- not enough to make a "knitting circle" -- and we never got around to doing much knitting (or watching the last two episodes in the first season of Twin Peaks, which we also intended to do), BUT I enjoyed both the company and watching Melissa prepare dessert empanadas with guava/cream cheese or coconut filling for us.

I enjoyed the eating, too. I'm not making many exceptions for "outside activities" during my season of cookie baking, so I'm glad this one was already on the books. The empanadas were really special.

p.s. The secret to Grandma's empanada dough? Wine! Melissa used Sherry. You might try this recipe for dough. It calls for white wine.

Cookie Count: 480

Snickerdoodles 09

Peppermint Snaps
[film: Meet Me In St. Louis]

Cocoa Snowflakes

Spritz 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Very Pear-y.


I bought a new flavor of ice cream -- Caramelized Pear and Toasted Pecan by Häagen-Dazs -- because it looked like a nice departure from my usual selection of "Anything with Chocolate and Peanut Butter and Cookie Dough and Fudge and Crunchy Bits."

This was a good decision; the flavor changed my pace. The pear and pecan pieces ring true throughout. There's something festive and warm about it, which works well during this winter holiday season, but it's light enough to work year-round. Usually, I like my ice cream to hit hard, but I appreciate a subtler sweet in the right moment.

Pear and pecan together aren't overwhelming or bossy. They're honest. I guess I'm saying this frozen treat tells it to you straight.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Real Ramen

Rai Rai Ken

Ramen is lots of things, and I've never had the pleasure of eating it in Japan or any country other than my own, so you could argue I've never had "really real" ramen. I won't fight you on that, but I do have fond associations with the "not really real" stuff. My high school boyfriend and I made many romantic lunches out of the packaged dehydrated noodles by Maruchan that came with flavor packets.

I don't mind the instant stuff in the paper cup, either. This was a staple for me in college, as it was the cheapest item that I could call a meal once purchased from the theater department's snack bar. "Creamy Chicken" is the best flavor, in my opinion, and I'm still willing to eat it from time to time.

Right now, for me, ramen is noodle soup from the tiny ramen shop called Rai Rai Ken, which friends Kate and Willow introduced to me a few years ago. I crave it from time to time, but rarely walk to the shop on my own. It took a while for me to consider that they might be willing to send a serving out to me.

Sometimes getting food delivered feels like a real triumph. I had RRK's Miso Ramen [the featured meat of this dish is chicken; they do not have vegetarian ramen on the menu] delivered to me at work the other day for a late afternoon pick-me up.

This soup goes well with some desk-side stretching and pleasant thoughts.

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