Sunday, March 22, 2009

Who Frosts the Watchmen?

I may not document the cooking process for my recipes as well as Ree over at The Pioneer Woman Cooks.

And I may not bake such cutesy delectables as Bakerella.

But by golly, I can make a cookie to go with pretty much any literature discussion, Alan Moore's Watchmen included.

Sugar Cookies

1/2 c shortening
1/4 c butter
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

In a medium bowl, mix the shortening, butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla thoroughly with an electric mixer. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Blend the flour mixture into the shortening/sugar mixture. Put the dough into a plastic bag and chill at least one hour.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Divide the dough into thirds. Roll one third to 1/8"-thickness on a lightly floured surface (make sure to use enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the rolling pin and surface). Cut the rolled dough with a cookie cutter and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 6-8 minutes or until cookies are just starting to brown on the edges. Cool the cookies on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before removing them to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Frost the cookies with Butter Frosting. Let the frosting set overnight before putting the cookies in a container, with layers separated by waxed paper.

Butter Frosting

2 1/2 tbsp butter, softened
1 1/2 c powdered sugar
1 1/2 tbsp milk or cream
3/4 tsp vanilla

With an electric mixer, blend all the ingredients in a bowl until smooth. Add a tsp or two of milk if the frosting is too thick, and a tbsp or two of powdered sugar if it is too thin. Color the frosting as desired to decorate the cookies.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Grazing Food and a Recommended Read

Today, amidst all the thesis work -- and perhaps even because of it -- I had my first catering gig. About a week ago I got the request for a "grazing" menu from a favorite lit professor of mine; and after some initial wondering about how I could possibly be qualified for such a task, I accepted.

So, happily, I spent today cooking. I made my favorite onion tart, ever-popular pesto rolls, and an ale and cheese spread with toasted French bread for savoury options, and I rounded out the menu with fruit kabobs and a taffy apple dip and my mother's aunt's cherry cheesecake tarts. Everything smelled delicious, let me tell you. I hope all the party guests enjoy.

Before I leave you with the cherry cheesecake tart recipe -- one you'll surely want to try, especially as it gets warmer and more toward picnic season -- I want to recommend Molly at Orangette's fantastic new book. I've loved her blog since I started reading food blogs about a year ago, and I've tried a few of her recipes from Bon Appetit, so it's really no wonder I essentially devoured her food memoir. I cannot wait to try some of the recipes, all of which sound fabulous. Read it, I know you'll love it.

Cherry Cheesecake Tarts
from my mom's Auntie Emagene

vanilla wafers

cheesecake filling:
2 8-oz pkgs cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 c sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs

cherry pie filling

Put one vanilla wafer, flat side down, in the bottom of a paper liner in each cupcake pan section.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Add the sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla, mixing with an electric mixer until well blended. Blend in the eggs. Pour the cheesecake mixture over the vanilla wafers, filling each cup 1/2 to 2/3 full. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes.
Let the tarts cool completely before dalloping pie filling on the top of each. Chill until ready to serve.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Potluck on Paper

Back when this blog was only weeks old, I posted about random cookbooks. Two of the cookbooks I listed as part of my random cookbook collection are, in fact, community cookbooks, a genre I am exploring in one of the chapters of my thesis. I collected several community cookbooks, did a bit of research on their history... but still I was curious about the genre. So, being the industrious person I tend to be (maybe it's more like "biting off more than I can chew"), I decided to make my own.

And thus was born the idea for Beyond Alphabet Soup, the Honor Scholar community cookbook companion to my Honor Scholar thesis. The process was drawn-out and time-consuming, but I must say I am so proud of my final product. It's fun to flip through -- lots of good, creative recipes, as well as some fantastic illustrations by my aspiring cartoonist friend. And I had 150 copies printed so anyone in the Honor Scholar community can have one to cook from, as a memento of being at this university, etc.

And guess what? Now you can make a community cookbook, too!

Community Cookbook

recipes submitted by community members
editing skills
a working knowledge of recipe basics (e.g. soups require at least one liquid ingredient)
a computer with word processing and document formatting capabilities
food images and/or illustrations
funds to pay a printing service (unless you're going the self-publishing route)
patience (as needed throughout)

Collect your community members' submitted recipes and order them according to your liking. Read through each of the recipes for spelling, grammar, and logical errors. Once the recipes have been checked for accuracy, begin laying out the cookbook on the computer.
Assemble your images and/or illustrations and decide where they will be included in the cookbook; insert them into the cookbook layout file. Make sure your final layout file meets the specifications of your printing service, as each service may be different.
With your printing service, discuss your preferences for the cookbook's final appearance (types of paper, binding, etc.), agree on a payment plan, and submit your layout file for actual printing. Make sure the first copy comes out correctly.
Have the batch of cookbooks delivered, or pick them up on your own. Dive in.
Note: Leftovers will never go bad, so share with the community!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Auntie Fran's Cheese Log

Sorry for the delay, folks; I realize it's Tuesday night and I usually post Sundays. I have a good excuse, though: I was cat sitting with a friend for some professors. It was splendid. I broke past the minimum page requirement for my thesis (80 pages!!), read a lot, finished watching Arrested Development, and I wasn't even allergic to the cat! It was a weekend simultaneously busy and relaxing, and since I know you must have a lot going on weekends too, I'm sure you can excuse my tardiness concerning this week's post.

Especially since the recipe I'm offering you is a tried-and-true tasty hors d'oeuvre that's so so easy. It's my Auntie Fran's cheese log. Yes, cheese log, that quintessential American appetizer of cheese spread rolled in chopped nuts. I say it's quintessentially American for two reasons: 1) it's my Auntie Fran's recipe, and she was a Memphis cook through and through even after moving to Florida, which means she excelled at foods for potlucks and picnics; and 2) I made it for an event at which I knew an Australian woman would be present because I thought it a quirky food-based welcome to the US.

Why am I suddenly feeding random Australians, you ask? Well, first of all, let me sure you that this was no random Australian whom I shared hors d'oeuvre and conversation with this evening. The Australian woman is Anne Orford, Australian Professorial Fellow and Director of the Institute for International Law and the Humanities at the University of Melbourne and panelist at this weekend's Humanitarian Intervention Symposium at my university's ethics center. I read her book on humanitarian intervention in a class last semester, and several of my classmates got together this evening with Professor Orford, our class professor, and the former president of the university to discuss some of the issues in her book. And what's a little heavy conversation without snacks?

The event went well, and I'm greatly looking forward to this weekend's symposium. Professor Orford also enjoyed the cheese log (as well as the pesto crescents I made). I'm sure you will, too, as an Auntie Fran recipe simply cannot steer you wrong.

Auntie Fran's Cheese Log
from Fran Hunt

1 lb cheddar cheese, finely shredded
1 8-oz pkg cream cheese
1/2 tsp garlic, grated
1/4 tsp season salt
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 c chopped nuts

Cream together the cream cheese, garlic, season salt, and Worcestershire sauce. Beat in the cheddar cheese until the mixture is uniform. On a sheet of plastic wrap, form the cheese spread into a log shape; refrigerate 4-24 hours.
Before serving, remove the cheese log from the plastic wrap. Mix the chopped nuts with a bit of paprika, just enough to add a bit of flavor. Press the nut mixture into the cheese log. Serve the cheese log with a knife for slicing and an assortment of crackers (water crackers are my favorite).