Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cookie Trials

Not a good day for me in the kitchen. Lately, I've been thinking a lot about cookies, trying to come up with a few novel mix-ins and combo's for the classics- also trying to make them over in a more healthful way without sacrificing taste. Cookies are not supposed to be healthful or healthy, they're supposed to be sweet and buttery and comforting and make you think of "home". These are my essential characteristics of a good homemade cookie. So unless home is a vegetarian kibbutz or a macrobiotic commune, wholewheat doesn't really cut it. The Peanut Butter Honey Cookies I made a week or so ago were good; chewy, sweet, and slightly peanutty. Next time I will make them peanuttier. This afternoon's Cinnamon Apple Oatmeal Cookies were a disappoinment. The flavor was OK. I think that the rough oats stand up admirably to wholewheat flour, and that the grated apples went well in the mix. They were a fright to look at though- bulbous and bloated and beige.
What's with the cookie preoccupation?..... I really need to get going on this cookbook I'm writing with Donz. And I'm stuck on having a small sub-chapter on afternoon tea/afterschool snack. A cozy and yummy sweet snack after getting home from school, when dinner is still a few hours away. I want to include a couple of classic cookie recipes with a healthier edge, combining wholewheat flour with regular flour, using honey and brown sugar, and reducing the butter without sacrificing flavor or cookie monster appeal. I also have a nice moroccan mint tea recipe that I would love to add, as well as a super-chocolatey hot cocoa recipe. A good and hearty scone recipe wouldn't go astray either.
I finally understand, after almost 37 years of living in this world, that if you want to accomplish something, if you want to realize a dream- you have to work for it. Work really hard. It's like the Yiddish saying: "If you have a dream- don't sleep". Only for the very fortunate few do things come easy, for everyone else it's effort, and perserverence, and the sweat off one's brow. And just the way the cookie crumbles.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Whipped Key Lime Pie in the Rye

Last night was a Very Special Book Club. To begin with, we read one of my all-time favorites "The Catcher In The Rye". That goddam book really had me going when I first read it in highschool, it really did. Old Holden Caufield and his three lost days in New York City. He killed me, he really did.

When I originally read the book, in tenth grade, it kind of changed my life. While living in my teenage world I would often wonder wwHd (what would Holden do?) or wwHs (what would Holden say) or wwHt (what would Holden think). Holden Caufield the patron saint of teenage angst. And as I said at Book Club last night, I owe a tiny little corner of my personality to him. I'm not kidding, I really do.

I made a whipped key lime pie for the occasion, which was well received- even by me. It was bright and sweet, but mostly tart (kind of like Holden). It's the texture that really did it for me- fluffy and light and smooth. A great non-phony summer dessert.

Whipped Key Lime Pie
Graham Cracker Crust: In a medium sized bowl combine 1 c. graham cracker crumbs and 3 tbsp. sugar. Add 1/4 c. melted butter and toss to coat. Press graham cracker crumbs evenly onto the bottom and sides of a pie plate. Cover and chill for about an hour.
Key Lime Filling: In bowl combine 14 oz. can of condensed milk, 1 tsp. of finely grated lime or key lime peel, and 1/2 c. key lime juice. In a seperate bowl with an electric mixer beat 1 c. heavy cream and 1 tsp vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Fold whipped cream into the key lime mixture. Spoon filling into the graham cracker crust. Cover and freeze 2 -3 hours until firm. Serve with whipped cream if desired.

Full disclosure: So that I won't be accused of being a phony, the picture was taken from Real Simple Recipes, my pie kinda sorta looked like that.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bake Therapy

This morning's bake-therapy session concluded with a batch of Honey Peanut Butter Cookies. I've decided that my kitchen is better than any therapist's couch, it's cheaper and yields better results. The act of creating something is restorative. Baking cookies is good for the soul. The warm and sweet aroma that flows from the kitchen works as well as any anti-depressant. Music is the same way- put on some Bob Marley and let the healing begin. Combine baking and music and a beautiful summer's morning? And the results are wonderful in the truest sense of the word.

Honey Peanut Butter Cookies
Preheat oven to 350F. In large mixing bowl mix 1/2 c. softened butter, 1 c. creamy peanut butter, 1 c. honey. Add 2 lightly beaten eggs and 1 tsp. vanilla extract to the mixture and mix well. In a separate smaller bowl combine 1 1/2 c. wholewheat flour, 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, 1 c. brown sugar, 1 1/2 tsp. baking soad, 1 tsp. baking powder, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Gradually add to peanut butter batter and mix well. Scoop up cookie batter with a kitchen tablespoon and roll into balls and place on baking sheets, flatten with a fork dipped in flour. Bake for 10-15 minutes depending on your personal cookie preference (soft and chewy vs. crispy and crunchy)
Post scipt: The next incarnation of these cookies will have 1/4 c. more peanut butter and a 1/4 c. less brown sugar.

Monday, July 5, 2010

July 4th

It was a wonderful Fourth of July. Hub, realizing I needed a bit of a pick-me-up, booked a weekend stay for us, kids included, at the Rittenhouse in Philly. Since almost all our family lives far away, the idea of spending the holiday alone seemed interminably depressing. And Philly was the perfect 4th of July destination.

To begin with the hotel was, as always, perfect. A stay there softens the rough edges of daily life. From the chocolate dipped strawberries and flutes of champagne graciously offered at check-in, to the toy chest filled with awesome toys that the kiddles had their pick of, and of course we won't forget the tray of milk and fresh baked cookies that arrived in our spacious room soon after we did. My entire being let out a sigh of relief and gratitude as soon as I entered our room. My tension was eased magically by this hotel, which seems to me an establishment that time forgot-in the best way possible. Old fashioned civility and customer service reign supreme at the Rittenhouse, and that it's off of Rittenhouse Square a city park/promenade right out of the pages of a Henry James novel adds to it's old world charm.

After dinner on friday night we walked over to Independence Hall to hear the Philly Pops play an assortment of American Classics by Copland, Bernstein, Gershwin, John Williams as well as the theme from "Rocky". American flags were handed out to all and at some points I really felt like I could have been a mother and wife from centuries past enjoying some contructive recreation with my family on the green in front of the great Independence Hall.

After a good night's sleep, no doubt facilitated by our trek across the city and back. We awoke and headed downstairs to La Croix, the Rittenhouse's restaurant, for breakfast. My coffee was good to the last drop, and made perfect by the serene setting as well as the beautiful clean design of the cup and saucer. For me, it's the small details that go into a great cup of coffee, and I believe a truly great establishment understands this: a great cup of coffee/tea is as much a state of mind as proportions and ratios.

The kiddles and Hub visited an old synagogue that was reportedly quite impressive as I strolled and window shopped on Walnut and Sansone Streets. After lunch everyone napped as I read my novel on a bench in Rittenhouse Square, the weather was perfect and scenes of weekend relaxation and frivolity played out all around. I felt as I was being restored by the bright and warm sun as well as the displays of friendship, love and camaraderie that surrounded me.

Girlette and I had a reservation for tea at 4:00 p.m. at The Mary Cassatt Room at the Hotel. I always have tea when I stay at The Rittenhouse, it being just the kind of anachronistic fantasy that I long for, and enjoying tea with almost 6 year old uber-girly Girlette was just perfect. Again, I marvelled at the lemon curd and the currant scones, as Girlette nibbled her chocolate covered strawberries and sipped her hot chocolate.

After the business of Afternoon Tea was done with, we all walked over to Penn's Landing to secure a spot to watch the fireworks and Philadelphia Orchestra on the riverfront. The music was stirring and patriotic, and the fireworks were spectacular!

Sunday, July 4th, began at the Liberty Bell, moved on to Market Street where we watched the colorful and festive Parade march by, and ended in front of the Art Museum were there was a fair with music and food and eventually fireworks which we missed, deciding to beat the traffic home and be satisfied with the fireworks of the previous evening. We arrived home just in time for a bed time story on the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a truly wonderful 4th of July weekend that hopefully the kiddles will always remember- I know I will.