Monday, February 11, 2013

Pink Cookies for Valentine's Day, and a Dutch Baby

We used to have the neatest bookstore here in Memphis.  It was about halfway between downtown and East Memphis and it was actually an old movie theatre that Elvis Presley used to frequent.  It had a big upper balcony that - from what I've heard - he used to rent out completely and then invite all of his buddies to watch movies with him.  Here is a neat link that suggests the term "Elvis has left the building" may have been shouted here for the first time.  Here's another link, if you're interested in the history.

So, back to the bookstore.  We loved frequenting this place because it was one of the few bookstores within the loosely defined midtown limits (read: less than a 10 minute drive from our house).  Plus, it was independently owned and my husband was always able to find great poetry there.  Considering our great love of this store, we were devastated when it was announced that it would be closing in late 2010.  Mad sales ensued, so we made sure to stop in every weekend or so to see what sort of deals we could grab.  Surprisingly, I found Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life in a discount pile by the door, marked at 50% off the already reduced price - down to $3.  Since I've been following her blog for awhile now, and was surely convinced that everyone around me did too and knew who she was, I was surprised that no one had snatched it up yet. 

That was in 2010.  I read the book cover to cover in about a day and a half - the writing is captivating, the stories are heartfelt and genuine, and she writes about food the way that I feel about it - that it's not just food; it's a link to our past, to our ancestry.  It's about building memories, and passing on traditions.  I feverishly bookmarked almost all of the recipes that she includes in the book, and...then I put it away.  And didn't actually make any of those recipes.  Until yesterday.

Because one of those recipes stuck with me.  Does that ever happen to you?  You have that one recipe that's been in the back of your mind, always hovering, whispering to be made.  For me, that recipe was Jimmy's Pink Cookies (and here).  The cookie dough recipe didn't strike me as anything particularly fancy, but the pink cream cheese icing, with hints of cherry or kirsch flavoring, is what sealed the deal.  I even went out and bought pure cherry extract a few weeks after reading the book, in anticipating of making the recipe soon.  I had good intentions, alright, but no follow through back then. 

These cookies also came about because I am stuck on the idea that now I have a son, I really need to make more of an effort to celebrate each holiday and these cookies seemed like the perfect treat for that.  (Don't worry, the baby didn't get any cookies this year.  I'm just gearing up for when he will!).  These cookies were made in small, drawn out, baby-friendly steps.  I mixed up the dough on Saturday, rolled and cut them out on Sunday morning, stuck them in the fridge on the baking sheets, and then baked them on Sunday night.  They are currently in my freezer, waiting to be iced.  (Side note: don't be like me and insist on using a barely 2" wide mini heart cookie cutter.  I ended up with, I don't know, 75 or more small hearts, and icing each one of them is going to be exhausting!.  I love mini cookies, but I don't love making them.  Hopefully their adorable-ness will be worth it).  I have yet to make the icing, but I will report back once I have them fully assembled and will let you know the result.  If any of you have small babies, you'll understand why this is a big undertaking.

Also of note: I ended up making Wizenberg's Dutch baby on Sunday morning.  Since I had pulled out her book to make the pink cookies, I found myself rereading the stories and recipes and was thrilled to see the Dutch baby one.  Weirdly enough, I had pulled another Dutch baby recipe to make that morning, but I didn't want to use my 10" cast iron skillet and the apples seemed like way too much work before 10 am.  This ended up being one of those ridiculously perfect recipes for that exact moment, because I had everything I needed, the Dutch baby batter came together in a matter of minutes, it fit into my 8" cast iron skillet, and the recipe was written for 2 servings.  Perfect for my husband and me (and baby - kidding!  No Dutch baby for him yet.  Can you tell that I just cannot wait for him to be able to eat real food with us?).  The recipe I linked to mentions using clarified butter for the topping, but you really don't need it.  I even skipped the lemon juice because I was lazy, but I'm sure it would be spectacular with that.  For us, all it needed was a liberal sprinkling of powdered sugar, and to be paired with a few pieces of salty bacon and a strong cup of coffee.  Sunday morning bliss, I tell you.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Ginger, Pear, and Walnut Cake

Feed me!

This girl is so happy to be eating again.  I unfortunately fell victim to the norovirus (or food poisoning? Does it matter?) last weekend and thought I'd never be able to eat anything again.  Nothing sounded good and the things that I did manage to choke down all tasted like cardboard.  Not fun.  Also not fun when you're breastfeeding a baby. 

But not this weekend!  I felt a million times better and couldn't get my hands on enough food.  I took advantage of little A's good mood on Saturday afternoon and simultaneously prepped ingredients for dinner and a dessert.  Also, can I mention how good my baby is?  If he's not hungry, he'll sit contentedly with me in the kitchen, watching my every move and cooing softly while I cook and bake.  It's a lovely time.  I'm hoping that some of this will rub off on him and he'll share my love of food.

Back to the food.  I had bookmarked this recipe for pork chops and scallion dressing awhile ago and decided this weekend was a great one to try it.  I ended up sautéing the scallions, ginger, and the leftover marinade in the pan with a big handful of mushrooms, and served that alongside the chops, all on a bed of napa cabbage and shredded carrots.  I'll be honest, I think the marinade was lacking in flavor - either that or I just didn't marinade it long enough.  We skipped the sweet potato fries because someone does not like them (I think he's crazy).

As for the dessert, I've been on such a ginger kick lately (I almost always have fresh ginger in our vegetable drawer, specifically for recipes like the one above!  Or, this one).  So it only made sense to bake this Ginger, Pear and Walnut cake (with some tweaks, of course).  I subbed in apples for the pears, and thought I'd be clever and bake it in two loaf pans instead of a bundt pan - that way, we could slice it up and pretend that it's perfectly suitable to eat as a breakfast bread.   I discovered that it didn't quite make enough batter to fill two loaf pans (or at least mine, which I think are would probably work with pans that are 8x4), so I ended up with two short and stout loaves of crumbly (but amazingly good) gingery cake breakfast bread.  If you're like me, and can justify eating cake for breakfast, than I highly recommend this, despite the short loaves.  I may cut back on the sugar next time, but as is, the recipe is a keeper.

Sunday was almost as enjoyable as Saturday, despite the fact that a certain little baby seems to be going through a three month growth spurt and insisted on eating every. single. hour.  Exhausting for momma!  Between feedings and Skyping with my parents (not at the same time, ha!) I managed to make Baked Ziti for dinner.  I followed the recipe as is, and it was good, although could probably use some doctoring up - maybe more red pepper flakes, or a ton more basil.  Either way, a hot and bubbly meal on Sunday night is almost always the perfect way to end the weekend.

I'm already plotting my next lineup of weekend recipes...any suggestions?