Almond Crackle Cookies

AlmondCookies2I avoid cookie-making.  Now that our kids are long-since gone and our grandchildren are infrequent visitors, I figure I don’t have the patience or desire to bake cookies.  However (HOWEVER) I am now in love with Almond Crackle Cookies from Dorie Greenspan (whose new cookbook, Dorie’s Cookies just won a James Beard award).  The recipe is unusual, simple, and the cookies are delicious. Of course, I love all nuts (both human and non! 🙂  And,  in case you’re avoiding flour, they’re gluten free.  Plus, they freeze well and, put into a plastic zip-lock bag, will stay crisp and perfect for at least 3 days (no need to refrigerate).

Almond Crackle Cookies

  • Servings: 18 to 20 cookies
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Adapted from Dorie Greenspan

Ingredients

  • 6 T sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 cups sliced blanched almonds

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Line 2 bakings sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.  Whisk the sugar and egg together well, then add the almonds and stir until the almonds are evenly coated.  Do not let it sit long before using and stir it occasionally while spooning the batter onto the sheets.

Use a 1 T measuring spoon and fill it almost to the top (2+ teaspoons worth).  Spoon that onto the baking sheet (go ahead – use your really clean fingers to scrape out the tablespoon measurer!) and flatten the cookie dough slightly.  Proceed with the remaining dough, leaving about 2″ between each mound of batter.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until the cookies looked brown on the edges and crispy/crackled on top.  Transfer the baking sheets to a rack and let the cookies cool for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes use a spatula to remove each cookie from the sheet.

Recipe provided by Big Little Meals and Andy and Ann

Best of the Besties: Pork and Brussels Sprouts w/Chile Lime Sauce

Pork_SwPotato_BSproutsOur first Best of the Besties’ recipe posting comes from Janet and Larry who sent (via USPS!) a whole packet of their favorite recipes…just when we needed them most.    A great suggestion when fixing this easy dinner is that you can easily make substitutions for the pork tenderloin.  For example, use boneless chicken or salmon or perhaps pork loin, instead of the tenderloin (did you know that pork tenderloin and pork loin come from entirely different parts of the pig?  I didn’t until I read up on it yesterday).

Pork and Brussels Sprouts with Chile Lime Sauce

  • Servings: 4
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adapted from Chef Gregory Gourdet

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 # brussels sprouts, stems removed and halved
  • 1 # sweet potatoes, cut into about 3/4″ x 4″ wedges
  • 1 small red onion, quartered
  • 1 pork tenderloin (or substitute boneless chicken or salmon)
  • 1/2 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/2 tsp pepper, divided
  • 5 T olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 c – 3/4 c cilantro, chopped for serving

Sauce

  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1/4 c lime juice
  • 2 tsp of very finely minced ginger
  • 1 or 2 Fresno chiles, roughly chopped (if you can’t find these red chiles, substitute jalapenos, reducing the amount slightly; and A&A recommend taking out the seeds)
  • 1 or 2 T of soy sauce or teriyaki sauce (or try fish sauce)

Put all the sauce ingredients into a blender, mix, and set aside.

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Put the brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes in a lidded- container, add half the olive oil and 1/4 tsp each of the salt and pepper, put the lid on the container and shake gently to coat.  Then spread the veggies on a “Pam-ed” baking sheet. Put the onion, round part down, on the sheet and gently pour some drops of olive oil on them.  It’s best to put the brussels sprouts cut side down and not stir them as they roast. Put the veggies in the oven and roast for about 30-45 minutes, gently turning the sweet potatoes once or twice.

While the veggies roast, rub the tenderloin with the remainder of the salt, pepper, and olive oil.  About 15-20 minutes before the veggies are to come out of the oven, heat a skillet until hot, then add the pork tenderloin and brown it on all sides, then lower the heat and cook until it is done – a total of 10 to 15 minutes. You want the pork done but still juicy (which can be tricky with tenderloins).

Remove the veggies from the oven.  Slice the meat into chunks, and put them on a nice big serving platter.  Put the veggies around the pork, sprinkle the chopped cilantro over everything and pour the sauce over it all.  Serve.

from A&A: I just read an article in Fine Cooking mag that reminds us that pork is now safe if a little pink remains.  And, if you’re reheating the meal, just put everything into a covered skillet over low heat.  Also, we used an O’Henry sweet potato; that’s why it’s yellow-ish rather than the more expected orange-ish.  Recipe brought to you by Janet and Larry – and Big Little Meals

Chile Verde

ChileVerde1

Our daughter, Sara, and son-in-law, Joe Hargrave, own several Tacolicious restaurants in the San Francisco Bay area. I adapted this from their Tacolicious cookbook, which Andy and I recommend highly…especially since we helped test recipes for it 🙂

Chile Verde

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients

  • 5 tomatillos, hulls removed and chopped
  • 1 jalapeno (or more if you’re daring), stemmed, SEEDED, and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 c cilantro, chopped
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, chopped or sliced, whichever is easier for you
  • 1 poblano chile, stemmed, seeded, and cut into strips – about 1/2″ by 2″ (don’t worry about exact size!)
  • 1 T kosher salt
  • 4 c water
  • 2 1/2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into about 1 1/2″ cubes.

Directions


Put the tomatillos, jalapeno, garlic, and cilantro into a blender or food processor and puree until almost smooth, adding a touch of water if necessary.

In a large, heavy pot (Staub? La Creuset? cast iron? Gotta have one of those!) heat the oil. Add the onions and Poblano chile and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened. Add the tomatillo mixture and saute, stirring, for 3-4 more minutes. Then add the water and cubes of pork. Return the mixture to a boil; then turn the heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer for 2-3 hours. OR a still simpler way: if your pot and lid are oven-proof, put it on a low rack of the oven, covered, and roast at 275 degrees for about 3 hours. You want the pork to end up so tender that you can pull it apart with forks.

If you’re using the pork and broth later, let the mixture cool and then chill it, so the fat accumulates at the top and can be easily removed.  Or, if you’re using just the pork for tacos or burritos, remove it from the broth and shred it, moistening it with a bit of broth. Then refrigerate or freeze the broth.

Now you’ve got this d-lish pork dish that can go so many directions: you can put the meat in a corn tortilla, add a little cabbage, cilantro, onion, lime and have a simple taco – or put it in a flour tortilla with some beans and have a burrito; you can serve the broth and pork over rice (adding a touch of lime juice and some chopped onions and/or cilantro makes it even better!); or you can add some chicken broth and some canned hominy and shredded cabbage, and you’ve got a take on posole. Yum yum yum.

As with everything we send your way, it will be good warmed up and freezes well too.

Recipe provided by Big Little Meals and Andy and Ann

Sweet Potatoes

SweetPotato1

I cannot possibly tell you how obsessed we are with sweet potatoes – but not just any kind or variety.  We have to have either Beauregard (a variety developed at LSU) or O’Henry.  In fact, we’re so crazy about them that Katie, our 87-year-old friend in Baton Rouge, routinely ships Beauregard potatoes to us from Louisiana.  And she puts them in a USPS flat rate box that gets so heavy that she has to have someone take her to the post office and carry them in for her (do you think we could be called abusive friends?).  And why the obsession?  Well, we can pop them in a hot oven (400 degrees) for less than an hour after absolutely no preparation, then slice them, add some butter and salt, and have the perfect baked veggie side-dish.  Then we use the leftovers for mashed sweet potatoes, warmed in the microwave – or sweet potato/black bean/cabbage, lime, and cilantro tacos – or my new favorite muffin, Sweet Potato Ginger Muffins, from Deborah Madison’s most-wonderful Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

And FYI – that’s an O’Henry pictured above.  It’s readily available – at least in Glen Ellen. It’s long, often thin with a very light skin color and yellow-ish flesh – very different than the ubiquitous Garnet (dark reddish skin, super dark orange flesh).  And, yes, Louisianans may call them yams.  But they’re not.

Sweet Potato Ginger Muffins

  • Servings: 12 muffins - though I actually made 16 with the batter; maybe we like small muffins?
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Adapted from Deborah Madison

Ingredients

  • 1/3 c finely chopped candied ginger (the original recipe says dates and raisins may be substituted – but I love the ginger in it)
  • 1/4 c oil (canola or peanut works fine)
  • 1/3 c molasses (I wouldn’t want to tell you how long I’ve had this molasses.  Do you think it gets old?)
  • 1 c mashed baked sweet potatoes
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 c buttermilk
  • 1/2 c brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 1 3/4 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease 12 muffin tins (or line with paper liners). Mix together the ginger, oil, molasses, sweet potatoes, eggs, buttermilk, and brown sugar, stirring until the batter is smooth .  In another bowl combine the flour, soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon; use a whisk to mix the flour mixture well.  Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and stir but don’t beat.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, filling each about 2/3 full.  Bake for 22- 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.  After they’ve cooled for a few minutes, lift each muffin out and turn it carefully onto its side in the tin and let it continue to cool – or move them all to a cooling rack.  Serve slightly  warm. These sweet potato muffins will freeze well and will keep (not refrigerated) for several days.

Recipe provided by Big Little Meals and Andy & Ann

Pho-ish Chicken

‾‾Our daughter, Sara, just got back from a 10-day trip to Vietnam. According to her, one of the highlights of the trip was a boat ride through the fascinating and lovely Mekong Delta. Now I know I’m going to really date myself here, but I’m of the generation that has trouble not thinking of the Mekong Delta as the place where John Kerry commanded a Swift boat, patrolling those waterways and seeking out “hostile forces” and getting shot at. What a joy to think it’s now a much-heralded spot to visit.

Anyway, after hearing Sara rave about that fabulous food of Vietnam, I’m determined to make some for Andy and me. I love Sara’s Banh Mi recipe from her Picnics cookbook (shameless pitch), but I want soup on this chilly day, not a sandwich. We love beef Pho but have never tried chicken Pho, so here we go. I got my ideas from a Smitten Kitchen post and she got her ideas from Charles Phan of SF’s Slanted Door. And I also used ideas from a blog by Nadia Lim.

Pho-ish Chicken

  • Servings: 4
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This is a very simplified way to fix a Chicken Pho (pronounced Fuh, not Pho. It rhymes with Duh, not Dough. Obviously, homemade chicken stock is better, but we're in a hurry.

Ingredients

  • 2 unpeeled yellow onions, quartered
  • 1 ½” piece of ginger, cut into 3 pieces and smashed
  • 6-8 c good quality chicken broth or stock
  • 3 whole star anise
  • ½ cinnamon stick (about 3”)
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I used Mary’s chicken – 7 thighs were in a pound, but the only reason that matters is that the cooking time might need to be increased with bigger thighs).
  • 1 T (or to taste) fish sauce (I use Red Boat)
  • 8 oz thin dried rice noodles, cooked according to package directions
  • Garnishes: Your choice of sliced green onions, bean sprouts, torn basil leaves (Thai basil is perfect but regular works too), chopped cilantro leaves, thinly sliced jalapenos.
  • Serve with quartered limes and sriracha sauce and/or hoisin sauce

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a pan with aluminum foil, place the onions, cut side down, and the ginger on the foil and roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Rinse the onions to cool and then peel off outer layer and cut off tops and bottoms.   Add the onions and the ginger to the chicken broth. Add the anise, cinnamon, coriander, and sugar, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon or small strainer, remove the chunky things from the broth. Add the chicken thighs to the strained broth and simmer for another 15 -20 minutes or until the thighs are just cooked. Remove the thighs and either cut up or shred with forks.   If you want a clear broth, as is typical in pho, you should strain the broth, using a fine mesh strainer.

Add about half of the cut-up thighs back into the broth and stir in the fish sauce.  Reheat, if necessary.

Dish up the cooked noodles into soup bowls; add the chicken and broth and top with the garnishes of your choice (see above).

Save the remainder of the chicken for a Banh Mi sandwich, a chicken salad, or fried rice. Freeze leftover Pho for another day.

Recipe provided by Big Little Meals and Andy and Ann
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