Google Groups
Subscribe to The Culinary Creative
Visit this group

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Holiday Traditions

When it comes to holiday baking, Wendi certainly has me beat on volume and variety, but I managed to get a few things done this year. My favorite holiday baked goods are mini quick bread loaves. They make the perfect gift -- more than enough for one person to nosh on and (if they aren't greedy pigs like me) enough to share with a friend as well.

This year, I went back to my favorite gingerbread recipe. Out of a church cookbook, which when it comes to comfort foods, is really your best recipe source. This recipe calls for dark molasses and ginger in plentiful amountage, which gives it more than your token-nod-to-ginger taste and makes it a beautiful rich sable color. I didn't have time this go'round, but next year hope to make an orange-honey butter to go with it (mmm, drool).

Since I had some snacky leftovers from my annual soiree this year, I decided to whip up a batch salty-sweet treats. Chocolate-dipped Honey Wheat Pretzel Sticks. I would have taken a photos but was lost in a deep chocolate-salt daze and forgot. The messiest part of the process was rolling them in the sprinkles without getting sprinkles all over the counter. When you package them up in a decorated cellophane bag tied with a ribbon, they looked might pretty.

Another treat that looks like you spent hours, but didn't, are Meringue Pops. I used to make them with mini chocolate chips, but just by themselves they're pretty too (it's really all about the packaging). If I'd been feeling adventurous, I would have sprinkled some colored sugar on them before putting them in the oven, because seriously, can you have too much sugar at Christmas?

And finally, for the first-time ever, I made my Grandmother's Scottish Shortbread Cookies. Some years before she died, she sent each of us grandkids her recipe. Well, I hate to admit that that was nine years ago, but for my dad's Christmas gift this year, I decided to revise an old family tradition.

When I was growing up, every Christmas we'd get a box from MA and the first thing we'd do was tear it open to find the kleenex box. Now this wasn't any ordinary box, this was THE box. Grandma Kay always filled it with individually-wrapped shortbread cookies. The first thing we'd do once we got our greedy little mitts on the box was to stick in the freezer and wait until the cookies reached that perfect chilled state before doling them out like rare gold coins. It's one of my favorite Christmas memories from childhood.

Until now, I never gave much thought as to why she'd take the time to wrap each one up separately. These puppies would never survive banging up against each other in a kleenex box free-for-all. Rich and crumbly. The recipe calls for one stick of butter AND one stick of margarine and that's practically all. These are the very definition of melt-in-your-mouth and for those watching their weight, well, just keep moving along, nothing to eat here, these cookies are definitely not your friend, my friend.

I hope that everyone enjoyed revelling in their own Christmas (or non-Christmas, we try not to discriminate) traditions this year. The TCC wishes you all the very best for a Happy New Year and look forward to another year of trial and error and show and tell!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008


It's amazing what can happen when you follow a really good recipe. This year's baklava came out really well (thanks again Anna). Not only did it taste good. It's awfully pretty too!! :) (see below picture)

Today will be an almost bake free day. I have been entertaining the thought of making some pumpkin apple bread... it may actually happen. Also, between now and Christmas, I have to make the chocolate mousse torte... it will be part of the Christmas dessert package... I will also make a second one for the New Year's Eve celebration.

It IS the season for baking... I will be glad when it's over, and I can go back to cooking!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Who's the Slacker? I'm the Slacker!

Poor Wendi has been left to bear the brunt of keeping this blog interesting while I whiled away the time at work banging my head against a wall...I mean working. Haven't had much in the way of time for fun and important things like food, but did manage to come up with a new recipe --

K2's Totally Awesome Mixed Apple-Cranberry Crumb Top Pie! (tah dah)

No room for modesty, this thing rocks! I went into a pie-making craze after the last conference I helped put together. My job sometimes entails coming up with unique and inexpensive centerpieces for our dinners. So I used shelled nuts and mixed apples (real ones) as part of the decoration. Money-saving for the event, but with the added result of several pounds of apples sitting around the office. What to do, what to do...

Well, first you take a pre-made deep dish pie crust (YES I can make pie crust from scratch and YES I know that some would consider this "cheating," but if it saves me time and still tastes good, the hell, I say), then peel, core and slice up a variety of yummy fall apples (usually need 6-7 small to medium-sized apples). I squished some lemon in amongst them while I was slicing because cutting the apples is probably the longest part of this process.

Toss in 1/4 cup of sugar and mix it all up. Chuck in a handful or two of cranberries (or for those who need specifics, the base recipe calls for 1/4 cup but I don't always think that's enough).

In a separate bowl, mix 1/2 cup of brown sugar (NOT packed), 1/2 cup of flour, and 1/2 cup (one stick) of cold butter. Using a pastry blender or a big honking fork, crumble the ingredients together (this is for the crumb topping, so "crumble" is key). Oh, there may be a smidge of salt in there too.

Once that is done, pour the apple mix in the uncooked, pre-made deep dish pie shell, it will mound up higher than the edge of the pie crust -- this is a good thing because the apples will cook down -- then spread the crumb topping mix over the top. I recommend putting something under the pie, like aluminum foil over a cookie sheet to catch the spillover and make clean up easier.

Toss it in the over, oh, preheated to, let's say 350 degrees and bake for 45-50 minutes. Your kitchen will smell totally mouth-wateringly delicious after about 25 minutes. Mmm, mmm good.

These make great presents...or at least they will. :) (Post-postnote: enthusiastic two-thumbs up from all pie recipients, seriously, gotta try this!)

With things slowing down, hopefully will be able to be better about keeping up the blog soon.


Tah Dah

...and we've managed to go and do the disappearing act again. I fear that we are perfecting it, for magicians, this is a good thing, for a blog, it is not.

New Year's resolutions:

1. Blog more often than once a month
2. Blog more culinary related information, and less apologies
3. Distract with pretty pictures

The holidays are always busy, I am currently in process of getting together the baked goods platter that I try to get to friends before my official vacation begins. It seems to be much harder this year, than it has in the past. The platters this year will contain the following (and pictures WILL be available at some point)

1. Baklava- new and improved, thanks to the many years of hard work Anna has put into the recipe. She is a very gracious woman, and had no hesitations to pass along to me, the recipe that year after year she has slaved over perfecting... and all I had to do was ask!!! (thanks Anna!!!!)

2. Gingersnaps- the famous great-grandma Woodard’s recipe. Crunchy gems... I think the best part of these this year... my mother has stepped in and made the dough, and is probably right in the middle of rolling, coating, and baking as I sit in my comfy little cubicle... (I at least gave her enough chain to get to the bathroom if she needed)

3. Fairy Footstools- which, I REALLY need to rename. The recipe came from a cricket magazine, I think I was a freshman in High School (the magazine was my little sister's), when I first discovered the recipe... I'm not going to date myself, but let's just say, I've been making these for quite awhile. I found that after going through a baking class, they were much easier :)

4. Spiced nuts- This recipe came from my friend David's wife. He had brought a little batch to me a few years back, and I couldn't get enough. I have tweaked it a bit (without noting what I've done differently... add that to the resolutions, start making notes when making changes in recipes!!!)

5. Peanut butter fudge- The easiest recipe in the world. I have no idea where I found it, but I haven't changed anything about the recipe!!

6. Snickerdoodles- Basic recipe... no changes that I know of. I don't make these too often, but the IT guy at work requested them at one point... and everybody knows, you should always try to make the IT guy happy.

7. Chocolate chip cookies- again, just a basic recipe... there is a recipe I tried from the NY Times, which is fairly incredible... but requires a rest time of 36 hours... or something crazy like that.

here's what I'm going to attempt to also make, time permitting:

1. Chocolate orange truffles- I found this recipe awhile back, so Steven could get extra credit in his French class (I think with this recipe he jumped from a B to an A+ in the class... I'm not even kidding). Very simple recipe, the only time consuming this is actually rolling them into their shapes.

2. Chocolate fudge- I always try new recipes for this one. One year I did a chocolate raspberry fudge.... ew, it was gross. I wish I could find one, and just stick to it!!

3. Peppermint bark... I just have to get some peppermint candies...

There is so much more that I wish I could get into the mix... but, apparently this is all that will happen this year.

I hope to have pictures to post tomorrow, see, I'm already working on my resolutions!!